The King of Pirates
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Being at London, it was but a very few Months before several of us met again, as I have said we agreed to do. And being true to our first Design of going back to our Comrades, we had several close Conferences about the Manner and Figure in which we should make the Attempt, and we had some very great Difficulties appear’d in our Way: First, to have fitted up a small Vessel, it would be of no Service to us, but be the same Thing as the Sloop we came in; and if we pretended to a great Ship, our Money would not hold out; so we were quite at a Stand in our Councils what to do, or what Course to take, till at length our Money still wasting, we grew less able to execute any Thing we should project.
This made us all desperate; when as desperate Distempers call for desperate Cures, I started a Proposal which pleas’d them all, and this was, that I would endeavour among my Acquaintance, and with what Money I had left, (which was still sixteen or seventeen hundred Pound) to get the Command of a good Ship, bearing a quarter Part, or thereabout, myself; and so having gat into the Ship, and got a Freight, the rest of our Gang should all enter on Board as Seamen, and whatever Voyage we went, or wheresoever we were bound, we would run away with the Ship and all the Goods, and so go to our Friends as we had promis’d.
I made several Attempts of this Kind, and once bought a very good Ship, call’d, The Griffin, of one Snelgrove a Shipwright, and engag’d the Persons concern’d to hold a Share in her and fit her out, on a Voyage for Leghorn and Venice; when it was very probable the Cargo, to be shipp’d on Board casually by the Merchant, would be very rich; but Providence, and the good Fortune of the Owner prevented this Bargain, for without any Objection against me, or Discovery of my Design in the least, he told me afterwards his Wife had an ugly Dream or two about the Ship; once, that it was set on Fire by Lightning, and he had lost all he had in it; another Time, that the Men had mutiny’d and conspir’d to kill him; and that his Wife was so averse to his being concern’d in it, that it had always been an unlucky Ship, and that therefore his Mind was chang’d; that he would sell the whole Ship, if I would, but he would not hold any Part of it himself.
Tho’ I was very much disappointed at this, yet I put a very good Face upon it, and told him, I was very glad to hear him tell me the Particulars of his Dissatisfaction; for if there was any Thing in Dreams, and his Wife’s Dream had any Signification at all, it seem’d to concern me (more than him) who was to go the Voyage, and command the Ship; and whether the Ship was to be burnt, or the Men to mutiny, tho’ Part of the Loss might be his, who was to stay on Shore, all the Danger was to be mine, who was to be at Sea in her; and then, as he had said, she had been an unlucky Ship to him, it was very likely she would be so to me; and therefore I thank’d him for the Discovery, and told him I would not meddle with her.
The Man was uneasy, and began to waver in his Resolution, and had it not been for the continu’d Importunities of his Wife, I believe would have come on again; for People generally encline to a Thing that is rejected, when they would reject the same Thing when profer’d: But I knew it was not my Business to let myself be blow’d upon, so I kept to my Resolution, and wholly declin’d that Affair, on Pretence of its having got an ill Name for an unlucky Ship; and that Name stuck so to her, that the Owners could never sell her, and, as I have been inform’d since, were oblig’d to break her up at last.
It was a great while I spent with hunting after a Ship, but was every Way disappointed, till Money grew short, and the Number of my Men lessen’d apace, and at last we were reduc’d to seven, when an Opportunity happen’d in my Way to go Chief-Mate on Board a stout Ship bound from London to…
[N.B. In Things so modern, it is no Way convenient to write to you particular Circumstances and Names of Persons, Ships, or Places, because those Things being in themselves criminal, may be call’d up in Question in a judicial Way; and therefore I warn the Reader to observe, that not only all the Names are omitted, but even the Scene of Action in this criminal Part, is not laid exactly as Things were acted; least I should give Justice a Clew to unravel my Story by, which no Body will blame me for avoiding.]
It is enough to tell the Reader, that being put out to Sea, and being for Conveniency of Wind and Weather come to an Anchor on the Coast of Spain, my seven Companions having resolv’d upon our Measures, and having brought three more of the Men to confederate with us, we took up Arms in the middle of the Night, secur’d the Captain, the Gunner, and the Carpenter, and after that, all the rest of the Men, and declar’d our Intention: The Captain and nine Men refus’d to come into our projected Roguery, (for we gave them their Choice to go with us, or go on Shore) so we put them on Shore very civilly, gave the Master his Books, and every Thing he could carry with him; and all the rest of the Men agreed to go along with us.
As I had resolv’d, before I went on Board, upon what I purpos’d to do, so I had laid out all the Money I had left in such Things as I knew I should want, and had caus’d one of my Men to pretend he was going to – to build or buy a Ship there, and that he wanted Freight for a great deal of Cordage, Anchors, eight Guns, Powder and Ball, with about 20 Tun of Lead and other bulky Goods, which were all put on Board as Merchandize.
We had not abundance of Bail Goods on Board, which I was glad of; not that I made any Conscience or Scruple of carrying them away, if the Ship had been full of them; but we had no Market for them: Our first Business was to get a larger Store of Provision on Board than we had, our Voyage being long; and having acquainted the Men with our Design, and promis’d the new Men a Share of the Wealth we had there, which made them very hearty to us, we set Sail: We took in some Beef and Fish, at – where we lay fifteen Days, but out of all Reach of the Castle or Fort; and having done our Business, sail’d away for the Canaries, where we took in some Butts of Wine, and some fresh Water: With the Guns the Ship had, and those eight I had put on Board as Merchandize, we had then two and thirty Guns mounted, bur were but slenderly Mann’d, tho’ we gat four English Seamen at the Canaries; but we made up the Loss at Fiall, where we made bold with three English Ships we found, and partly by fair Means, and partly by Force, shipp’d twelve Men there; after which, without any farther Stop for Men or Stores, we kept the Coast of Africa on Board ’till we pass’d the Line, and then stood off to St. Helena.
Here we took in fresh Water, and some fresh Provisions, and went directly for the Cape of Good Hope, which we pass’d, stopping only to fill about 22 Butts of Water, and with a fair Gale enter’d the Sea of Madagascar, and sailing up the West Shore, between the Island and the Coast of Africa, came to an Anchor over against our Settlement, about two Leagues Distance, and made the Signal of our Arrival, with firing twice seven Guns at the Distance of a Two-Minute Glass between the Seven; when, to our infinite Joy, the Fort answer’d us, and the Long-boat, the same that belong’d to our former Ship, came off to us.
We embrac’d one another with inexpressible Joy, and the next Morning I went on Shore, and our Men brought our Ship safe into Harbour, lying within the Defence of our Platform, and within two Cables length of the Shore, good soft Ground, and in eleven Fathom Water, having been three Months and eighteen Days on the Voyage, and almost three Years absent from the Place.
When I came to look about me here, I found our Men had encreas’d their Number, and that a Vessel which had been cruising, that is to say, Pirating on the Coast of Arabia, having seven Dutchmen, three Portuguese, and five Englishmen on Board, had been cast away upon the Northern Shore of that Island, and had been taken up and reliev’d by our Men, and liv’d among them. They told us also of another Crew of European Sailors, which lay, as we did, on the Main of the Island, and had lost their Ship and were, as the Islanders told them, above a hundred Men, but we heard nothing who they were.
Some of our Men were dead in the mean Time, I think about three; and the first Thing I did was to call a Muster, and see how Things stood as to Money: I found the Men had been very true to one another; there lay all the Money, in Chests piled up as I left it, and every Man’s Money having his Name upon it: Then acquainting the rest with the Promise I had made the Men that came with me, they all agreed to it; so the Money belonging to the dead Men, and to the rest of the forty Men who belong’d to the Sloop, was divided among the Men I brought with me, as well those who join’d at first, as those we took in at the Cape de Verd, and the Canaries: And the Bails of Goods which we found in the Ship, many of which were valuable for our own Use, we agreed to give them all to the fifteen Men mention’d above, who had been sav’d by our Men, and so to buy what we wanted of those Goods of them, which made their Hearts glad also.
And now we began to consult what Course to take in the World: As for going to England, tho’ our Men had a great Mind to be there, yet none of them knew how to get thither, notwithstanding I had brought them a Ship; but I, who had now made myself too publick to think any more of England, had given over all Views that Way, and began to cast about for farther Adventures; for tho’, as I said, we were immensely rich before, yet I abhorr’d lying still, and burying my self alive, as I call’d it, among Savages and Barbarians; besides, some of our Men were young in the Trade, and had seen nothing; and they lay at me every Day not to lie still in a Part of the World where, as they said, such vast Riches might be gain’d; and that the Dutchmen and Englishmen who were cast away, as above, and who our Men call’d the Comelings, were continually buzzing in my Ears what infinite Wealth was to be got, if I would but make one voyage to the Coast of Malabar, Coromandel, and the Bay of Bengale; nay, the three Portuguese Seamen offer’d themselves to attack and bring off one of their biggest Galleons, even out of the Road of Goa, on the Malabar Coast, the Capital of the Portuguese Factories in the Indies.
In a Word, I was overcome with these new Proposals, and told the rest of my People, I was resolv’d to go to Sea again, and try my good Fortune; I was sorry I had not another Ship or two, but if ever it lay in my Power to master a good Ship, I would not fail to bring her to them.
While I was thus fitting out upon this new Undertaking, and the Ship lay ready to Sail, and all the Men who were design’d for the Voyage, were on Board, being 85 in Number; among which were all the Men I brought with me, the 15 Comelings, and the rest made up out of our old Number; I say, when I was just upon the Point of setting Sail, we were all surpriz’d just in the Grey of the Morning to spy a Sail at Sea; we knew not what to make of her, but found she was an European Ship; that she was not a very large Vessel, yet that she was a Ship of Force too: She seem’d to shorten Sail, as if she look’d out for some Harbour; at first Sight I thought she was English; immediately I resolv’d to slip Anchor and Cable and go out to Sea and speak with her, if I could, let her be what she would: As soon as I was got a little clear of the Land, I fir’d a Gun, and spread English Colours: She immediately brought too, fir’d three Guns, and mann’d out her Boat with a Flag of Truce: I did the like, and the two Boats spoke to one another in about two Hours, when, to our infinite Joy, we found they were our Comrades who we left in the South Seas, and to whom we gave the Fregate at the Isle of Juan Fernando.
Nothing of this Kind could have happen’d more to our mutual Satisfaction, for tho’ we had long ago given them over either for Lost, or Lost to us; and we had no great Need of Company, yet we were overjoy’d at meeting, and so were they too.
They were in some Distress for Provisions, and we had Plenty; so we brought their Ship in for them, gave them a present Supply, and when we had help’d them to moor and secure the Ship in the Harbour, we made them lock all their Hatches and Cabins up, and come on Shore, and there we feasted them five or six Days, for we had a Plenty of all Sorts of Provisions, not to be exhausted; and if we had wanted an hundred Head of fat Bullocks, we could have had them for asking for of the Natives, who treated us all along with all possible Courtesy and Freedom in their Way.
The History of the Adventures and Success of these Men, from the Time we left them to the Time of their Arrival at our new Plantation, was our whole Entertainment for some Days. I cannot pretend to give the Particulars by my Memory; but as they came to us Thieves, they improv’d in their Calling to a great Degree, and, next to ourselves, had the greatest Success of any of the Buccaneers whose Story has ever been made publick.
I shall not take upon me to vouch the whole Account of their Actions, neither will this Letter contain a full History of their Adventures; but if the Account which they gave us was true, you may take it thus:
First, that having met with good Success after they left us, and having taken some extraordinary Purchase, as well in some Vessels they took at Sea, as in the Plunder of some Towns on the Shore near Guyaquil, as I have already told you, they got Information of a large Ship which was loading the King’s Money at Puna, and had Orders to sail with it to Lima, in order to its being carry’d from thence to Panama by the Fleet, under the Convoy of the Flotilla, or Squadron of Men of War, which the King’s Governor at Panama had sent to prevent their being insulted by the Pirates, which they had Intelligence were on the Coast; by which, we suppose, they meant us who were gone, for they could have no Notion of these Men then.
Upon this Intelligence they cruis’d off and on upon the Coast for near a Month, keeping always to the Southward of Lima, because they would not fall in the Way of the said Flotilla, and so be overpower’d and miss of their Prize: At last they met with what they look’d for, that is to say, they met with the great Ship abovenam’d: But to their great Misfortune and Disappointment, (as they first thought it to be) she had with her a Man of War for her Convoy, and two other Merchant Ships in her Company.
The Buccaneers had with them the Sloop which they first sent to us for our Intelligence, and which they made a little Fregate of, carrying eight Guns, and some Patareroes: They had not long Time to consult, but in short they resolv’d to double man the Sloop, and let her attack the great Merchant-Ship, while the Fregate, which was the whole of their Fleet, held the Man of War in Play, or at least kept him from assisting her.
According to this Resolution, they put 50 Men on Board the Sloop, which was, in short, almost as many as would stand upon her Deck one by another; and with this Force they attack’d the great Merchant-Ship, which, besides its being well mann’d, had 16 good Guns, and about 30 Men on Board. While the Sloop thus began the unequal Fight, the Man of War bore down upon her to succour the Ship under her Convoy, but the Fregate thrusting in between, engag’d the Man of War, and began a very warm Fight with her, for the Man of War had both more Guns and more Men than the Fregate after she had parted with 50 Men on Board the Sloop: While the two Men of War, as we may now call them, were thus engag’d, the Sloop was in great Danger of being worsted by the Merchant-Ship, for the Force was too much for her, the Ship was great, and her Men fought a desperate and close Fight: Twice the Sloop-Men enter’d her, and were beaten off, and about nine of their Men kill’d, several other wounded, and an unlucky Shot taking the Sloop between Wind and Water, she was oblig’d to fall a-Stern, and heel her over to stop the Leek; during which the Spaniards steer’d away to assist the Man of War, and pour’d her Broadside in upon the Fregate, which tho’ but small, yet at a Time when she lay Yard-arm and Yard-arm close by the Side of the Spanish Man of War, was a great Extremity; however, the Fregate return’d her Broadside, and therewith made her sheer off, and, which was worse, shot her Main-mast thro’, tho’ it did not come presently by the Board.
During this Time, the Sloop having many Hands, had stopp’d the Leak, was brought to rights again, and came up again to the Engagement, and at the first Broadside had the good Luck to bring the Ship’s Foremast by the Board, and thereby disabled her; but could not for all that lay her athwart, or carry her by Boarding, so that the Case began to be very doubtful; at which, the Captain of the Sloop, finding the Merchant Ship was disabled, and could not get away from them, resolv’d to leave her a while and assist the Fregate; which he did, and running a Longside our Fregate, he fairly laid the Man of War on Board just thwart his Hawser; and besides firing into her with his great Shot, he very fairly set her on Fire; and it was a great Chance but that they had been all three burnt together, but our Men helpt the Spaniards themselves to put out the Fire, and after some Time master’d it: But the Spaniards were in such a terrible Fright at the Apprehension of the Fire, that they made little Resistance afterwards, and in short, in about an Hour’s Fight more, the Spanish Man of War struck, and was taken; and after that the Merchant Ship also, with all the Wealth that was in her: And thus their Victory was as compleat as it was unexpected.
The Captain of the Spanish Man of War was kill’d in the Fight, and about 36 of his Men, and most of the rest wounded, which it seems happen’d upon the Sloop’s lying athwart her. This Man of War was a new Ship, and with some Alteration in her upper Work, made a very good Fregate for them, and they afterwards quitted their own Ship, and went all on Board the Spanish Ship, taking out the Main-mast of their own Ship, and making a new Fore-mast for the Spanish Ship, because her Fore-mast was also weaken’d with some Shot in her; this, however, cost them a great deal of Labour and Difficulty, and also some Time, when they came to a certain Creek, where they all went on Shore, and refresh’d themselves a while.
But if the taking the Man of War was an unexpected Victory to them, the Wealth of the Prize was much more so; for they found an amazing Treasure on Board her, both in Silver and Gold; and the Account they gave me was but imperfect, but I think they calculated the Pieces of Eight to be about 13 Tun in Weight, besides that they had 5 small Chests of Gold, some Emeralds, and, in a Word, a prodigious Booty.
They were not, however, so modest in their Prosperity as we were; for they never knew when to have done, but they must Cruise again to the Northward for more Booty, when to their great Surprize, they fell in with the Flotilla or Squadron of Men of War, which they had so studiously avoided before, and were so surrounded by them, that there was no Remedy but they must fight, and that in a Kind of Desperation, having no Prospect now but to sell their Lives as dear as they could.
This unlucky Accident befel them before they had chang’d their ship, so that they had now the Sloop and both the Men of War in Company, but they were but thinly mann’d; and as for the Booty, the greater Part of it was on Board the Sloop, that is to say, all the Gold and Emeralds, and near half the Silver.
When they saw the Necessity of fighting, they order’d the Sloop, if possible, to keep to Windward, that so she might as Night come on, make the best of her Way, and escape; but a Spanish Fregate of 18 Guns tended her so close, and sail’d so well, that the Sloop could by no Means get away from the rest; so she made up close to the Buccaneers Fregate, and maintain’d a Fight as well as she could, till in the Dusk of the Evening the Spaniards boarded and took her, but most of her Men gat away in her Boat, and some by swimming on Board the other Ship: They only left in her five wounded Englishmen, and six Spanish Negroes. The five English the barbarous Spaniards hang’d up immediately, wounded as they were.
This was good Notice to the other Men to tell them what they were to expect, and made them fight like desperate Men till Night, and kill’d the Spaniards a great many Men. It prov’d a very dark rainy Night, so that the Spaniards were oblig’d by Necessity to give over the Fight till the next Day, endeavouring, in the mean time, to keep as near them as they could: But the Buccaneers concerting their Measures where they should meet, resolv’d to make Use of the Darkness of the Night to get off if they could; and the Wind springing up a fresh Gale at S. S. W. they chang’d their Course, and, with all the Sail they could make, stood away to the N. N. W. slanting it to Seawards as nigh the Wind as they could; and getting clear away from the Spaniards, who they never saw more, they made no Stay till they pass’d the Line, and arriv’d in about 22 Days Sail on the Coast of California, where they were quite out of the Way of all Enquiry and Search of the Spaniards.
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