The Origin of Captain Henry Morgan
The origin and descent of Captain Henry Morgan—His exploits, and the most remarkable actions of his life.
Captain Henry Morgan was born in Great Britain, in the principality of Wales; his father was a rich yeoman, or farmer, of good quality, even as most who bear that name in Wales are known to be. Morgan, when young, had no inclination to the calling of his father, and therefore left his country, and came towards the sea-coasts to seek some other employment more suitable to his aspiring humour; where he found several ships at anchor, bound for Barbadoes. With these he resolved to go in the service of one, who, according to the practice of those parts, sold him as soon as he came ashore. He served his time at Barbadoes, and obtaining his liberty, betook himself to Jamaica, there to seek new fortunes: here he found two vessels of pirates ready to go to sea; and being destitute of employment, he went with them, with intent to follow the exercises of that sort of people: he soon learned their manner of living, so exactly, that having performed three or four voyages with profit and success, he agreed with some of his comrades, who had got by the same voyages a little money, to join stocks, and buy a ship. The vessel being bought, they unanimously chose him captain and commander.
With this ship he set forth from Jamaica to cruise on the coasts of Campeche, in which voyage he took several ships, with which he returned triumphant. Here he found an old pirate, named Mansvelt (whom we have already mentioned), busied in equipping a considerable fleet, with design to land on the continent, and pillage whatever he could. Mansvelt seeing Captain Morgan return with so many prizes, judged him to be a man of courage, and chose him for his vice-admiral in that expedition: thus having fitted out fifteen ships, great and small, they sailed from Jamaica with five hundred men, Walloons and French. This fleet arrived, not long after, at the isle of St. Catherine, near the continent of Costa Rica, latitude 12 deg. 30 min. and distant thirty-five leagues from the river Chagres. Here they made their first descent, landing most of their men, who soon forced the garrison that kept the island to surrender all the forts and castles thereof; which they instantly demolished, except one, wherein they placed a hundred men of their own party, and all the slaves they had taken from the Spaniards: with the rest of their men they marched to another small island, so near St. Catherine's, that with a bridge they made in a few days, they passed thither, taking with them all the ordnance they had taken on the great island. Having ruined with fire and sword both the islands, leaving necessary orders at the said castle, they put to sea again, with their Spanish prisoners; yet these they set ashore not long after, on the firm land, near Puerto Velo: then they cruised on Costa Rica, till they came to the river Colla, designing to pillage all the towns in those parts, thence to pass to the village of Nata, to do the same.
The governor of Panama, on advice of their arrival, and of the hostilities they committed, thought it his duty to meet them with a body of men. His coming caused the pirates to retire suddenly, seeing the whole country was alarmed, and that their designs were known, and consequently defeated at that time. Hereupon, they returned to St. Catherine's, to visit the hundred men they left in garrison there. The governor of these men was a Frenchman, named Le Sieur Simon, who behaved himself very well in that charge, while Mansvelt was absent, having put the great island in a very good posture of defence, and the little one he had caused to be cultivated with many fertile plantations, sufficient to revictual the whole fleet, not only for the present, but also for a new voyage. Mansvelt was very much bent to keep the two islands in perpetual possession, being very commodiously situated for the pirates; being so near the Spanish dominions, and easily defended.
Hereupon, Mansvelt determined to return to Jamaica, to send recruits to St. Catherine's, that in case of an invasion the pirates might be provided for a defence. As soon as he arrived, he propounded his intentions to the governor there, who rejected his propositions, fearing to displease his master, the king of England; besides, that giving him the men he desired, and necessaries, he must of necessity diminish the forces of that island, whereof he was governor. Hereupon, Mansvelt, knowing that of himself he could not compass his designs, he went to Tortuga; but there, before he could put in execution what was intended, death surprised him, and put a period to his wicked life, leaving all things in suspense till the occasion I shall hereafter relate.
Le Sieur Simon, governor of St. Catherine's, receiving no news from Mansvelt, his admiral, was impatiently desirous to know the cause thereof: meanwhile, Don John Perez de Guzman, being newly come to the government of Costa Rica, thought it not convenient for the interest of Spain for that island to be in the hands of the pirates: hereupon, he equipped a considerable fleet, which he sent to retake it; but before he used violence, he writ a letter to Le Sieur Simon, telling him, that if he would surrender the island to his Catholic Majesty, he should be very well rewarded; but, in case of refusal, severely punished, when he had forced him to do it. Le Sieur Simon, seeing no probability of being able to defend it alone, nor any emolument that by so doing could accrue either to him, or his people, after some small resistance delivered it up to its true lord and master, under the same articles they had obtained it from the Spaniards; a few days after which surrender, there arrived from Jamaica an English ship, which the governor there had sent underhand, with a good supply of people, both men and women: the Spaniards from the castle having espied the ship, put forth English colours, and persuaded Le Sieur Simon to go aboard, and conduct the ship into a port they assigned him. This he performed and they were all made prisoners. A certain Spanish engineer has published in print an exact relation of the retaking of this isle by the Spaniards, which I have thought fit to insert here:
The Retaking of St. Catherine's
A true relation, and particular account of the victory obtained by the arms of his Catholic Majesty against the English pirates, by the direction and valour of Don John Perez de Guzman, knight of the order of St. James, governor and captain-general of Terra Firma, and the Province of Veraguas.
The kingdom of Terra Firma, which of itself is sufficiently strong to repel and destroy great fleets, especially the pirates of Jamaica, had several ways notice imparted to the governor thereof, that fourteen English vessels cruised on the coasts belonging to his Catholic Majesty. July 14, 1665, news came to Panama, that they were arrived at Puerto de Naos, and had forced the Spanish garrison of the isle of St. Catherine, whose governor was Don Estevan del Campo, and possessed themselves of the said island, taking prisoners the inhabitants, and destroying all that they met. About the same time, Don John Perez de Guzman received particular information of these robberies from some Spaniards who escaped out of the island (and whom he ordered to be conveyed to Puerto Velo), that the said pirates came into the island May 2, by night, without being perceived; and that the next day, after some skirmishes, they took the fortresses, and made prisoners all the inhabitants and soldiers that could not escape. Upon this, Don John called a council of war, wherein he declared the great progress the said pirates had made in the dominions of his Catholic Majesty; and propounded "that it was absolutely necessary to send some forces to the isle of St. Catherine, sufficient to retake it from the pirates, the honour and interest of his Majesty of Spain being very narrowly concerned herein; otherwise the pirates by such conquests might easily, in course of time, possess themselves of all the countries thereabouts." To this some made answer, "that the pirates, not being able to subsist in the said island, would of necessity consume and waste themselves, and be forced to quit it, without any necessity of retaking it: that consequently it was not worth the while to engage in so many expenses and troubles as this would cost." Notwithstanding which, Don John being an expert and valiant soldier, ordered that provisions should be conveyed to Puerto Velo for the use of the militia, and transported himself thither, with no small danger of his life. Here he arrived July 2, with most things necessary to the expedition in hand, where he found in the port a good ship, and well mounted, called the St. Vincent, that belonged to the company of the Negroes, which he manned and victualled very well, and sent to the isle of St. Catherine, constituting Captain Joseph Sanchez Ximenez, major of Puerto Velo, commander thereof. He carried with him two hundred and seventy soldiers, and thirty-seven prisoners of the same island, besides thirty-four Spaniards of the garrison of Puerto Velo, twenty-nine mulattoes of Panama, twelve Indians, very dexterous at shooting with bows and arrows, seven expert and able gunners, two lieutenants, two pilots, one surgeon, and one priest, of the order of St. Francis, for their chaplain.
Don John soon after gave orders to all the officers how to behave themselves, telling them that the governor of Carthagena would supply them with more men, boats, and all things else, necessary for that enterprise; to which effect he had already written to the said governor. July 24, Don John setting sail with a fair wind, he called before him all his people, and made them a speech, encouraging them to fight against the enemies of their country and religion, and especially against those inhuman pirates, who had committed so many horrid cruelties upon the subjects of his Catholic Majesty; withal, promising every one most liberal rewards, especially to such as should behave themselves well in the service of their king and country. Thus Don John bid them farewell, and the ship set sail under a favourable gale. The 22nd they arrived at Carthagena, and presented a letter to the governor thereof, from the noble and valiant Don John, who received it with testimonies of great affection to the person of Don John, and his Majesty's service: and seeing their resolution to be comfortable to his desires, he promised them his assistance, with one frigate, one galleon, one boat, and one hundred and twenty-six men; one half out of his own garrison, and the other half mulattoes. Thus being well provided with necessaries, they left the port of Carthagena, August 2, and the 10th they arrived in sight of St. Catherine's towards the western point thereof; and though the wind was contrary, yet they reached the port, and anchored within it, having lost one of their boats by foul weather, at the rock called Quita Signos.
The pirates, seeing our ships come to an anchor, gave them presently three guns with bullets, which were soon answered in the same coin. Hereupon, Major Joseph Sanchez Ximenez sent ashore to the pirates one of his officers to require them, in the name of the Catholic King his master, to surrender the island, seeing they had taken it in the midst of peace between the two crowns of Spain and England; and that if they would be obstinate, he would certainly put them all to the sword. The pirates made answer that the island had once before belonged unto the government and dominions of the king of England, and that instead of surrendering it, they preferred to lose their lives.
On Friday the 13th, three negroes, from the enemy, came swimming aboard our admiral; these brought intelligence that all the pirates upon the island were only seventy-two in number, and that they were under a great consternation, seeing such considerable forces come against them. With this intelligence, the Spaniards resolved to land, and advance towards the fortresses, which ceased not to fire as many great guns against them as they possibly could; which were answered in the same manner on our side, till dark night. On Sunday, the 15th, the day of the Assumption of our Lady, the weather being very calm and clear, the Spaniards began to advance thus: The ship St. Vincent, riding admiral, discharged two whole broadsides on the battery called the Conception; the ship St. Peter, that was vice-admiral, discharged likewise her guns against the other battery named St. James: meanwhile, our people landed in small boats, directing their course towards the point of the battery last mentioned, and thence they marched towards the gate called Cortadura. Lieutenant Francis de Cazeres, being desirous to view the strength of the enemy, with only fifteen men, was compelled to retreat in haste, by reason of the great guns, which played so furiously on the place where he stood; they shooting, not only pieces of iron, and small bullets, but also the organs of the church, discharging in every shot threescore pipes at a time.
Notwithstanding this heat of the enemy, Captain Don Joseph Ramirez de Leyva, with sixty men, made a strong attack, wherein they fought on both sides very desperately, till at last he overcame, and forced the pirates to surrender the fort.
On the other side, Captain John Galeno, with ninety men, passed over the hills, to advance that way towards the castle of St. Teresa. Meanwhile Major Don Joseph Sanchez Ximenes, as commander-in-chief, with the rest of his men, set forth from the battery of St. James, passing the port with four boats, and landing, in despite of the enemy. About this same time, Captain John Galeno began to advance with the men he led to the fore-mentioned fortress; so that our men made three attacks on three several sides, at one and the same time, with great courage; till the pirates seeing many of their men already killed, and that they could in no manner subsist any longer, retreated towards Cortadura, where they surrendered, themselves and the whole island, into our hands. Our people possessed themselves of all, and set up the Spanish colours, as soon as they had rendered thanks to God Almighty for the victory obtained on such a signalized day. The number of dead were six men of the enemies, with many wounded, and seventy prisoners: on our side was only one man killed, and four wounded.
There were found on the island eight hundred pounds of powder, two hundred and fifty pounds of small bullets, with many other military provisions. Among the prisoners were taken also, two Spaniards, who had bore arms under the English against his Catholic Majesty: these were shot to death the next day, by order of the major. The 10th clay of September arrived at the isle an English vessel, which being seen at a great distance by the major, he ordered Le Sieur Simon, who was a Frenchman, to go and visit the said ship, and tell them that were on board, that the island belonged still to the English. He performed the command, and found in the said ship only fourteen men, one woman and her daughter, who were all instantly made prisoners.
The English pirates were all transported to Puerto Velo, excepting three, who by order of the governor were carried to Panama, there to work in the castle of St. Jerome. This fortification is an excellent piece of workmanship, and very strong, being raised in the middle of the port of a quadrangular form, and of very hard stone: its height is eighty-eight geometrical feet, the wall being fourteen, and the curtains seventy-five feet diameter. It was built at the expense of several private persons, the governor of the city furnishing the greatest part of the money; so that it cost his Majesty nothing.