« PreviousContinue »
fitted out by eminent merchants of the British metropolis, tó trade with the Spaniards, or Indians, in the South Seas, but meeting with a company of privateers, who had crossed the isthmus to seek a ship, his men compelled him to receive them on board, to which he consented, despairing of being able to execute the purpose of his voyage. There was likewise a bark that they had taken, which was commanded by Captain Harris, who had been their leader over land. The 2nd of November, in the evening they sent away 110 men to Paita, who landed at six o'clock on the following morning, about four miles to the southward of the town, and after a short struggle, without the loss of a single man, took possession of it, but they found it emptied both of money and goods, and even without a meal of victuals. For the ransom of the town they proposed a supply of provisions, which not being complied with, they set it on fire, and quitted the place. Their next attempt was upon Guiaquil, but in this they failed, from the want of spirit among the leaders, but they seized a bark, with cloth; and three others laden with 1000 negroes (young men and women.). Selecting forty of these to perform the laborious work of their ships, they turned the remainder on shore. Quitting this place, they proceeded for the river St. Jago to get canoes. Here they landed and ranged the country, without obtaining any thing of much value, but intercepted the packet boat, containing intelligence from the President of Panama, that the armada had arrived from Old Spain, and requesting the Plate fleet to hasten its departure from Lima.
This occurred on the 1st of January, 1685, and they immediately prepared to clear their ships, that they might be in readiness to engage the convoy. On the 14th of February they finished careening and sailed towards Panama. Their force consisted of the two ships, two small tenders, a fire-ship, and a prize. While at Tobago an attempt was made by an Englishman in the Spanish service to set them on fire, but through good fortune they escaped by cutting their cables. The following morning, while regaining their anchors, they were throwni into consternation at seeing a large fleet of canoes full of men advancing towards them. These proved to be Buccaneers, who had travelled over the Isthmus of Darien. 200 French, and 80 English, commanded by a Captain Gronet. The Englishmen joined themselves to the two ships, and the Frenchmen were ordered to man the prize. Shortly after this, another large party who had travelled the same road were received on-board, so that their force was augmented to 960 men in two ships, mounting great gans, and eight smaller vessels with fire arms. On the 28th of May, 1685, they discovered the Spanish fleet of fourteen sail, besides several periagos, rowing
with twelve or fourteen oats a piece. Six sail were large ships. The Admiral, forty-eight guns, 450 men. The Vice Admiral, forty guns, and 400 men. The Rear Admiral, thirty-six guns, 360 men. A ship of twenty-four guns, and 300 men; another of eight guns, 200 men. Two great fire-ships, six ships with small arms, having 800 men, besides 2 or 300 in the periagos.*
But this disparity did not daunt the courage of the privateers, who bore down upon the Spaniards, and exchanged broadsides till, night coming on, they forbore further engagement. Gronet, and his French crew (308 in number)disgracefully sheered off, without coming into action at all. Naval tactics were then in their infancy, and the art of maneuvring a fleet but little known; bowever, there appears to have been a most unpardonable neglect among the Buccaneers, and a degree of scientific ability displayed by the Spaniards, by getting the weather gage during the night. The next morning the Spaniards came down upon them; and now having the advantage, by being to windward, the privateers were glad to make all sail and be off, keeping up a running fight throughout the day, and making a complete sweep round the bay of Panama, they anchored again in the evening at the very place they had quitted in the morning. “ Thus (says Dampier) ended this day's work, and with it all that had been projecting for five or six months; when, instead of making ourselves masters of the Spanish fleet and treasure, we were glad to escape thein ; and owed that, too, in a great measure, to their want of courage to pursue their advantage. What loss they had I know not; we lost but one man.”
On the 30th, at day-break, they saw the Spanish fleet about three leagues to leeward, at anchor, and shortly after they got under weigh and went to Panama. Gronet excused his conduct, declaring his men would not let him engage; but this did not satisfy the others; he was consequently cashiered on their arrival at Quibo. Some were for taking away the ship they had generously given him ; but, at length, he was suffered to keep it with his cowardly crew, but they were sent away to another place.
The Buccaneers' hopes of enriching themselves by the Plate fleet being wholly annihilated, they determined on some land expedition; and while one party were constructing canoes for the purpose, 150 men were dispatched to attack Puebla Nova, where Sawkins fell in 1680. They took the town
• They became acquainted with this precise information of the strength of the enemy from the accounts of the prisoners whom they took afterwards.
+ There is a French account of this circumstance published, which, of course, materially differs from Dampier's.
with much ease, but found no provisions. On the 5th of July they were joined by another ship, under Captain Knight, who had been cruizing in a westerly direction, but had got nothing very valuable except a good ship. He had heard of the engagement, and came purposely to seek them.
On the 20th of July, having finished their canoes, they quitted Quibo in four smart ships, and four smaller vessels, with 640 men, purporting to make a descent at Rea Leja, and advance twenty miles into the country, to plunder the city of Leon. This place has been described by an early writer (Mr. Gage) as “ the pleasantest place in all America;" and he terms it" the Paradise of the Indies.” On the morning of the 9th of August, 520 men, in thirty-one canoes, quitted the ship about eight leagues from the shore. In the course of the day and following night, they encountered several heavy tornadoes, which had nearly proved fatal to their expedition; but escaping these dangers they landed at day-break, and at three o'clock in the afternoon, Captain Townly, who led the van, with only eighty men, entered the city. He was briskly charged by about 200 cavalry, who all retreated on seeing two or three of their number fall; and this example was followed by 500 infantry, leaving quiet possession to Townly and his little band. The other detachments shortly after arrived. One of their party, an old man, eighty-four years of age, who had served in Cromwell's army, had been compelled to remain on the road through fatigue. The valiant Spaniards discovered and surrounded him, but he refused to take quarter and discharged his gun, so they shot him dead from a distance.
Their endeavours to procure a ransom for the town proving ineffectual, they set it on fire, and drew off their men to Rea Leja. Here they remained a week, when some of their destructive crew set fire to this place likewise, so they embarked and left it burning. Captain Davis and Captain Swan now broke off consortship, Davis intending to return to the coast of Peru, but Swan meaning to go further to the northward ; and here Dampier displays an instance of his desire of knowledge.
“ I had till this time been with Captain Davis, but now left him and went aboard of Captain Swan. It was not from any dislike to my old captain, but to get some knowledge of the northern parts of this continent of Mexico; and I knew that Captain Swan determined to coast it as far north as he thought convenient, and then pass over for the East Indies; which was a way very agreeable to my inclination."
Davis, with four sail, quitted them on the 27th ; but Swan remained some time longer to fill water, and cut fire-wood. They were all severely visited with fevers, supposed to have
been caught on shore, as this place had suffered much from a malignant distemper, a short time previous to their arrival. On the 3rd of September they sailed, with four vessels and 340 men, steering away to the NW. On the 7th of November they made Acapulco, having repeatedly landed in their voyage, for supplies of provision. Their intention, in the present instance, was to cut out a ship from the port of Acapulco, Captain Townly being much in want of one. Accordingly, with 140 men, in twelve canoes, he entered the harbour under cover of the night; and, after rowing in abreast the Lima ship, they deemed the project of carrying her out impracticable, so abandoned it, making sail again to the westward; and, on the 11th of December, were in sight of Cape Corientes. The intermediate time had been employed in ranging the coast and country with various success. At this period our author was attacked with a fever and ague, which afterward turned to a dropsy, a disease said to be prevalent in this part of the country:
Here they proposed cruising for the Manilla ship, occasionally sending from 100 to 200 men on shore, to procure food. In these excursions they were frequently attacked, sometimes losing three or four of their party in the encounter; but by dint of perseverance they contrived to cure sufficient beef for two months, and provide a tolerable quantity of maize.
At the commencement of January, 1686, Townly left them to return to the southward. Swan, continuing still to the northward, invaded the town of Santa Pecaque, to get provisions. They found considerable quantities, but owing to the want of subordination in the party, fifty of them were killed by the Spaniards; and among these was the ingenious · Ringrose,' the author of a History of the Buccaneers, and more particularly that part of it relating to the adventures of Captain Sharp.
After this disastrous event they attempted to reach California, but not being able to accomplish it, they run for the Marias, and careened. Fully sensible that all their golden visions were at an end, Swan proposed sailing to the East Indies, which, after some altercation, was agreed upon. Their stock of victuals for such a voyage was very small, consisting chiefly of maize; however, on the 31st of March, they took their departure from Cape Corientes, and, after undergoing the greatest privations during the passage, they happily saw Guam (one of the Ladrone islands) on the 20th of May, having only three days' scanty provision left. Here they obtained plentiful refreshment from the Spanish governor, and then pursued their course for St. John's, one of the Philippines. The principal of these islands is Luconia, where Magellan was slain by a poisoned arrow, in 1521. On this island stands the capital city,
Manilla. From St. John's they went to Mindanao, and we have a copious description of its productions, customs, government, &c. Those who had preserved their portion of plunder now found an opportunity of disposing of it very speedily, which they did not fail to take advantage of, till the improper conduct of Captain Swan, and the deceitful behaviour of the Sultan's brother, combined with the licentiousness of the men, (a great many living constantly on shore, squandering their money, and those who remained on board getting continually drunk) occasioned a mutiny among the people; who seized the ship and quitted the place, leaving * Captain Swan and some others behind, on the 14th of January, 1687. Dampier positively denies all previous knowledge of the plot, and devised various schemes to quit the vessel; which, however, he could not effect, and was compelled to continue with them nearly seventeen months ; during which they visited most of the numerous islands, from the coast of China to New Holland, sometimes rioting in luxury, at others, subsisting on a small portion of rice, and nearly reduced to a state of starvation. This roving from place to place afforded him an excellent opportunity of indulging his natural propensity, and appears to have been one great inducement for his remaining with this mutinous crew so long. The inhabitants on many of the islands they touched at, had never before seen Europeans; and no doubt this was the first discovery of these places, which appear like specks thickly.scattered on the face of the ocean. His account of them is extremely curious, but much too long to detail here; indeed scarcely any thing appears to have escaped the notice of our author, nor does he ever lose sight of objects beneficial to his profession as a mariner
On the 6th of May, 1688, Dampier quitted these marauders, at the Isle of Nicobar, and was joined by two English of the crew, and five others who had been taken prisoners. These seven purchased a canoe, about the size of a London wherry, in which they embarked on the 15th, and on the 20th arrived at Sumatra, suffering severely from storm during the passage, which brought on sickness and fever, so that they were scarcely able to stand.
At Acheen they were kindly received by their countrymen; and on his recovery, Dampier was persuaded to join a merchant ship, under a Captain Welden, trading among the islands and through the Straits of Malacca. In this employ he continued till March 1689, and then was compelled through illness to remain on shore at Acheen. In two months he was
* This unfortunate man was killed, some time afterward, by the natives, at the instigation of the Sultan's brother.