Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
L’Ollonais equips a fleet to land upon the Spanish islands of America, with intent to rob, sack and burn whatever he met.
OF this his design L’Ollonais gave notice to all the Pirates who at that conjuncture of time were either at home or abroad. By which means he got together in a little while above four hundred men. Besides which, there was at that present in the Isle of Tortuga another Pirate, whose name was Michael de Basco. This man by his piracy had got riches sufficient to live at ease, and go no more abroad to sea; having withal the office of Major of the Island. Yet seeing the great preparations that L’Ollonais made for this expedition, he entered into a straight league of friendship with him, and proffered him that, in case he would make him his chief captain by land (seeing he knew the country very well and all its avenues), he would take part in his fortunes, and go along with him. They both agreed upon articles, with great joy of L’Ollonais, as knowing that Basco had performed great actions in Europe, and had gained the repute of a good soldier. He gave him therefore the command he desired, and the conduct of all his people by land. Thus they all embarked in eight vessels, that of L’Ollonais being the greatest, as having ten guns of various carriage.
All things being in readiness, and the whole company on board, they set sail together about the end of April, having a considerable number of men for those parts, that is in all six hundred and threescore persons. They directed their course towards that part which is called Bayala, situated on the North side of the Island o( Hispaniola. Here they also took into their company a certain number of French hunters, who voluntarily offered themselves to go along with them. And here likewise they provided themselves with victuals and other necessaries for that voyage.
Hence they set sail again the last day of July, and steered directly towards the Eastern Cape of the Isle, called Punta d' Espada. Hereabouts they suddenly espied a ship that was coming from Porto Rico, and bound for New Spain, being laden with cacao-nuts. L’Ollonais, the Admiral, presently commanded the rest of the fleet they should wait for him near the Isle of Savona, situate on the Eastern side of Cape Punta d' Espada, forasmuch as he alone intended to go and take the said vessel. The Spaniards, although they had been in sight now fully two hours, and knew them to be Pirates, yet they would not flee, but rather prepared to fight; as being well armed, and provided of all things necessary thereto. Thus the combat began between L’Ollonais and the Spanish vessel, which lasted three hours; and these being past, they surrendered to him. This ship was mounted with sixteen guns, and had fifty fighting men on board. They found in her one hundred and twenty thousand weight of cacao, forty thousand pieces of eight, and the value of ten thousand more in jewels. L'Ollonais sent the vessel presently to Tortuga to be unladed, with orders to return with the said ship as soon as possible to the Isle of Savona, where he would wait for their coming. In the meanwhile the rest of the fleet, being arrived at the said Island of Savona, met with another Spanish vessel that was coming from Comana with military provisions to the Isle of Hispaniola; and also with money to pay the garrisons of the said island. This vessel also they took without any resistance, although mounted with eight guns. Here were found seven thousand weight of powder, great number of muskets and other things of this kind, together with twelve thousand pieces of eight in ready money.
These forementioned events gave good encouragement to the Pirates, as judging them very good beginnings to the business they had in hand, especially finding their fleet pretty well recruited within a little while. For the first ship that was taken being arrived at Tortuga, the Governor ordered to be instantly unladen, and soon after sent her back with fresh provisions and other necessaries to L’Ollonais. This ship he chose for his own, and gave that which he commanded to his comrade Antony du Puis. Thus having received new recruits of men, in lieu of them he had lost in taking the prizes above-mentioned and by sickness, he found himself in a good condition to prosecute his voyage. All being well animated and full of courage, they set sail for Maracaibo, which port is situated in the province of New Venezuela, in the latitude of twelve degrees and some minutes North. This island is in length twenty leagues, and twelve in breadth. To this port also belong the Islands of Onega and Monges. The East side thereof is called Cape St. Roman, and the Western side Cape of Caquibacoa. The gulf is called by some the Gulf of Venezuela; but the Pirates usually call it the Bay of Maracaibo.
At the beginning of this gulf are two islands, which extend for the greatest part from East to West. That which lies towards the East is called Isla de las \'igilias, or the Watch Isle, because in the middle thereof is to be seen a high hill, upon which stands a house wherein dwells perpetually a watchman. The other is called Isla de las Palomas, or the Isle of Pigeons. Between these two islands runs a little sea, or rather a lake, of fresh water, being threescore leagues in length and thirty in breadth; which disgorges into the ocean, and dilates itself about the two islands afore-mentioned. Between them is found the best passage for ships, the channel of this passage being no broader than the light of a great gun of eight pound carriage, more or less. Upon the Isle of Pigeons stands a castle, to impede the entry of any vessels; all such as come in being necessitated to approach very near the castle, by reason of two banks of sand that lie on the other side, with only fourteen foot water. Many other banks of sand are also found in this lake, as that which is called El Tablazo, or The Great Table, which is no deeper than ten foot; but this lies forty leagues within the lake. Others there are that are no more than six, seven or eight foot in depth. All of them are very dangerous, especially to such mariners as are little acquainted with this lake. On the West side hereof is situated the city of Maracaibo, being very pleasant to the view, by reason its houses are built along the shore, having delicate prospects everywhere round about. The city may possibly contain three or four thousand persons, the slaves being included in this number; all which make a town of reasonable bigness. Among these are judged to be eight hundred persons, more or less, able to bear arms, all of them Spaniards. Here are also one Parish Church, of very good fabric and well adorned, four monasteries and one hospital. The city is governed by a Deputy-Governor, who is substituted here by the Governor of Caracas, as being his dependency. The commerce or trading here exercised consists for the greatest part in hides and tobacco. The inhabitants possess great numbers of cattle, and many plantations, which extend for the space of thirty leagues within the country; especially on that side that looks towards the great and populous town of Gibraltar. At which place are gathered huge quantities of cacao-nuts, and all other sorts of garden fruits; which greatly serve for the regalement and sustenance of the inhabitants of Maracaibo, whose territories are much drier than those of Gibraltar. To this place those of Maracaibo send great quantities of flesh; they making returns in oranges, lemons, and several other fruits. For the inhabitants of Gibraltar have great scarcity of provisions of flesh, their fields being not capable of feeding cows or sheep.
Before the city of Maracaibo lies a very spacious and secure port, wherein may be built all sort of vessels; as having great convenience of timber, which may be transported thither at very little charge. Near the town lies also a small island called Borrica, which serves them to feed great numbers of goats, of which cattle the inhabitants of Maracaibo make greater use of their skins than their flesh or milk; they making no great account of these two, unless while they are as yet but tender and young kids. In the fields about the town are fed some numbers of sheep, but of a very small size. In some of the islands that belong to the lake, and in other places hereabouts, inhabit many savage Indians, whom the Spaniards call Bravos, or Wild. These Indians could never agree as yet, nor be reduced to any accord with the Spaniards, by reason of their brutish and untamable nature. They dwell for the most part towards the Western side of the lake, in little huts that are built upon trees which grow in the water, the cause hereof being only to exempt themselves as much as possible from the innumerable quantity of mosquitos or gnats which infest those parts, and by which they are tormented night and day. Towards the East side of the said lake are also to be seen whole towns of fishermen, who likewise are constrained to live in huts, built upon trees, like the former. Another reason of thus dwelling is the frequent inundations of waters: for after great rains, the land is often overflowed for the space of two or three leagues, there being no less than five and twenty great rivers that feed this lake. The town of Gibraltar is also frequently drowned by these inundations, insomuch that the inhabitants are constrained to leave their houses and retire to their plantations.
Gibraltar is situated at the side of the lake, forty leagues or thereabouts within it, and receives its necessary provisions of flesh, as has been said, from Maracaibo. The town is inhabited by fifteen hundred persons, more or less, whereof four hundred may be capable of bearing arms. The greatest part of the inhabitants keep open shops, wherein they exercise one mechanic trade or other. All the adjacent fields about this town are cultivated with numerous plantations of sugar and cacao, in which are many tall and beautiful trees, of whose timber houses may be built, and also ships. Among these trees are found great store of handsome and proportionable cedars, being seven or eight foot in circumference, which serve there very commonly to build boats and ships. These they build after such manner as to bear only one great sail; and such vessels are called Piraguas. The whole country round about is sufficiently furnished with rivers and brooks, which are very useful to the inhabitants in time of droughts, they opening in that occasion many little channels, through which they lead the rivulets to water their fields and plantations. They plant in like manner great quantity of tobacco, which is much esteemed in Europe; and for its goodness, is called there Tabaco de Sacerdotes, or Priest's Tobacco. They enjoy nigh twenty leagues of jurisdiction, which is bounded and defended by very high mountains that are perpetually covered with snow. On the other side of these mountains is situated a great city called Merida, to which the town of Gibraltar is subject. All sort of merchandize is carried from this town to the aforesaid city, upon mules; and that but at one season of the year, by reason of the excessive cold endured in those high mountains. Upon the said mules great returns are made in flour of meal, which comes from towards Peru by the way of Estaffe.
Thus far I thought it convenient to make a short description of the aforesaid lake of Maracaibo, and its situation; to the intent my reader might the better be enabled to comprehend what I shall say concerning what was acted by the Pirates in this place, the history whereof I shall presently begin.
As soon as L’Ollonais arrived at the Gulf of Venezuela, he cast anchor with his whole fleet, out of sight of the watch-tower of the Island of Vigilias, or Watch-Isle. The next day, very early, he set sail hence, with all his ships, for the lake of Maracaibo; where being arrived, they cast anchor the second time. Soon after, they landed all their men, with design to attack in the first place the castle or fortress that commanded the bar, and is therefore called De la Barra. This fort consists only of several great baskets of earth, placed upon a rising ground, upon which are planted sixteen great guns, with several other heaps of earth round about, for covering the men within. The Pirates having landed at the distance of a league from this fort, began to advance by degrees towards it. But the Governor thereof, having espied their landing, had placed an ambuscade of some of his men, with design to cut them off behind, while he meant to attack them in the front. This ambuscade was found out by the Pirates; and, hereupon getting before, they assaulted and defeated it so entirely that not one man could retreat to the castle. This obstacle being removed, L’Ollonais with all his companions advanced in great haste towards the fort And after a fight of almost three hours, wherein they behaved themselves with desperate courage, such as this sort of people are used to show, they became masters thereof, having made use of no other arms than their swords and pistols. And while they were fighting, those who were routed in the ambuscade, not being able to get into the castle, retired towards the city of Maracaibo in great confusion and disorder, crying: The Pirates will presently be here with two thousand men and more. This city having formerly been taken by such kind of people as these were, and sacked even to the remotest corners thereof, preserved still in its memory a fresh Idea of that misery. Hereupon, as soon as they heard this dismal news, they endeavoured to escape as fast as they could towards Gibraltar in their boats and canoes, carrying with them all the goods and money they could. Being come to Gibraltar, they dispersed the rumour that the fortress was taken, and that nothing had been saved, nor any persons able to escape the fury of the Pirates.
The castle being taken by the Pirates, as was said before, they presently made sign to the ships of the victory they had obtained; to the end they should come farther in, without apprehension of any danger. The rest of that day was spent in ruining and demolishing the said castle. They nailed the guns, and burnt as much as they could not carry away; burying also the dead, and sending on board the fleet such as were wounded. The next day very early in the morning they weighed anchor, and directed their course all together towards the city of Maracaibo, distant only six leagues more or less from the fort. But the wind being very scarce, that day they could advance but little, as being forced to expect the flowing of the tide. The next morning they came within sight of the town, and began to make preparations for landing under the protection of their own guns; being persuaded the Spaniards might have laid an ambuscade among the trees and woods. Thus they put their men into canoes, which for that purpose they brought with them, and landed where they thought most convenient, shooting in the meanwhile very furiously with their great guns. Of the people that were in the canoes, half only went on shore, the other half remained on board the said canoes. They fired with their guns from the ships as fast as was possible towards the woody part of the shore; but could see, and were answered by, nobody. Thus they marched in good order into the town, whose inhabitants, as I told you before, were all retired into the woods, and towards Gibraltar, with their wives, children and families. Their houses they left well provided with all sort of victuals, such as flour, bread, pork, brandy, wines and good store of poultry. With these things the Pirates fell to banqueting and making good cheer; for in four weeks before they had had no opportunity of filling their stomachs with such plenty.
They instantly possessed themselves of the best houses in the town, and placed sentries everywhere they thought convenient. The great church served them for their main corps du garde. The next day they sent a body of one hundred and sixty men to find out some of the inhabitants of the town, whom they understood were hidden in the woods not far thence. These returned that very night, bringing with them twenty thousand pieces of eight, several mules laden with household goods and merchandize, and twenty prisoners, between men, women and children. Some of these prisoners were put to the rack, only to make them confess where they had hidden the rest of their goods; but they could extort very little from them. L’Ollonais, who never used to make any great account of murdering, though in cold blood, ten or twelve Spaniards, drew his cutlass and hacked one to pieces in the presence of all the rest, saying: If you do not confess and declare where you have hidden the rest of your goods, I will do the like to all your companions. At last, amongst these horrible cruelties and inhuman threats, one was found who promised to conduct him and show the place where the rest of the Spaniards were hidden. But those that were fled, having intelligence that one had discovered their lurking holes to the Pirates, changed place, and buried all the remnant of their riches under ground; insomuch that the Pirates could not find them out, unless some other person of their own party should reveal them. Besides that the Spaniards, flying from one place to another every day and often changing woods, were jealous even of each other; insomuch as the father scarce presumed to trust his own son.
Finally, after that the Pirates had been fifteen days in Maracaibo, they resolved to go towards Gibraltar. But the inhabitants of this place, having received intelligence thereof beforehand, as also that they intended afterwards to go to Merida, gave notice of this design to the Governor thereof, who was a valiant soldier and had served his king in Flanders in many military offices. His answer was: He would have them take no care; for he hoped in a little while to exterminate the said Pirates. Whereupon he transferred himself immediately to Gibraltar, with four hundred men well armed, ordering at the same time the inhabitants of the said town to put themselves in arms; so that in all he made a body of eight hundred fighting men. With the same speed he commanded a battery to be raised towards the sea, whereon he mounted twenty guns, covering them all with great baskets of earth. Another battery likewise he placed in another place, mounted with eight guns. After this was done, he barricaded a highway or narrow passage into the town, through which the Pirates of necessity ought to pass; opening at the same time another, through much dirt and mud, in the wood, which was totally unknown to the Pirates.
The Pirates, not knowing anything of these preparations, having embarked all their prisoners and what they had robbed, took their way towards Gibraltar. Being come within sight of the place, they perceived the Royal standard hanging forth, and that those of the town had a mind to fight and defend their houses. L’Ollonais, seeing this resolution, called a council of war, to deliberate what he ought to do in such case; propounding withal to his officers and mariners, that the difficulty of such an enterprize was very great, seeing the Spaniards had had so much time to put themselves in a posture of defence, and had got a good body of men together, with many martial provisions. But notwithstanding, said he, have a good courage. We must either defend ourselves like good soldiers, or lose our lives with all the riches we have got. Do as I shall do, who am your Captain. At other times we have fought with fewer men than we have in our company at present, and yet we have overcome greater numbers than there possibly can be in this town. The more they are, the more glory we shall attribute unto our fortune, and the greater riches we shall increase unto it. The Pirates were under this suspicion, that all those riches which the inhabitants of Maracaibo had absconded, were transported to Gibraltar, or at least the greatest part thereof. After this speech they all promised to follow him and obey very exactly his commands. To whom L’Ollonais made answer: 'Tis well; but know ye withal that the first man who shall show any fear, or the least apprehension thereof, I will pistol him with my own hands.
With this resolution they cast anchor near the shore, at the distance of one quarter of a league from the town. The next clay, before sunrise, they were all landed, being to the number of three hundred and fourscore men, well provided, and armed every one with a cutlass and one or two pistols; and withal sufficient powder and bullet for thirty charges. Here, upon the shore, they all shook hands with one another in testimony of good courage, and began their march, L’Ollonais speaking these words to them: Come, my brothers, follow me, and have a good courage. They followed their way with a guide they had provided. But he, believing he led them well, brought them to the way which the Governor had obstructed with barricades. Through this not being able to pass, they went to the other, which was newly made in the wood among the mire, to which the Spaniards could shoot at pleasure. Notwithstanding, the Pirates being full of courage, cut down multitude of branches of trees, and threw them in the dirt upon the way, to the end they might not stick so fast in it. In the meanwhile, those of Gibraltar fired at them with their great guns so furiously that they could scarce hear or see one another through the noise and smoke. Being now past the wood, they came upon firm ground, where they met with a battery of six guns, which immediately the Spaniards discharged against them, all being loaded with small bullets and pieces of iron. After this, the Spaniards sallying forth set upon them with such fury, as caused the Pirates to give way and retire; very few of them daring to advance towards the fort. They continued still firing against the Pirates, of whom they had already killed and wounded many. This made them go back to seek some other way through the middle of the wood; but the Spaniards having cut down many trees to hinder the passage, they could find none, and thus were forced to return to that they had left. Here the Spaniards continued to fire as before; neither would they sally out of their batteries to attack the Pirates any more. Hereby L’Ollonais and his companions, not being able to grimp up the baskets of earth, were compelled to make use of an old stratagem; wherewith at last they deceived and overcame the Spaniards.
L’Ollonais retired suddenly with all his men, making show as if he fled. Hereupon the Spaniards, crying out, They flee, they flee; let us follow them, sallied forth with great disorder, to pursue the fugitive Pirates. After they had drawn them some distance from their batteries, which was their only design, they turned upon them unexpectedly with swords in hand, and killed above two hundred men. And thus fighting their way through those who remained alive, they possessed themselves of the batteries. The Spaniards that remained abroad gave themselves up for lost, and consequently took their flight to the woods. The other part that was in the battery of eight guns surrendered themselves upon conditions of obtaining quarter for their lives. The Pirates, being now become masters of the whole town, pulled down the Spanish colours, and set up their own, taking prisoners at the same time as many as they could find. These they carried to the great church, whither also they transferred many great guns, wherewith they raised a battery to defend themselves, fearing lest the Spaniards that were fled should rally more of their own party and come upon them again. But the next day, after they were all fortified, all their fears disappeared. They gathered all the dead, with intent to allow them burial, finding the number of above five hundred Spaniards killed, besides those that were wounded within the town and those that died of their wounds in the woods, where they sought for refuge. Besides which, the Pirates had in their custody above one hundred and fifty prisoners, and nigh five hundred slaves, many women and children.
Of their own companions the Pirates found only forty dead, and almost as many more wounded. Whereof the greatest part died afterwards, through the constitution of the air, which brought fevers and other accidents upon them. They put all the Spaniards that were slain into two great boats, and carrying them one quarter of a league within the sea, they sank the boats. These things being done, they gathered all the plate, household stuff and merchandize they could rob or thought convenient to carry away. But the Spaniards who had anything as yet left to them, hid it very carefully. Soon after, the Pirates, as if they were unsatisfied with the great riches they had got, began to seek for more goods and merchandize, not sparing those who lived in the fields, such as hunters and planters. They had scarce been eighteen days upon the place, when the greatest part of the prisoners they had taken died of hunger. For in the town very few provisions, especially of flesh, were to be found. Howbeit, they had some quantity of flour of meal although perhaps something less than what was sufficient. But this the Pirates had taken into their custody to make bread for themselves. As to the swine, cows, sheep and poultry that were found upon the place, they took them likewise for their own sustenance, without allowing any share thereof to the poor prisoners. For these they only provided some small quantity of mules' and asses' flesh, which they killed for that purpose. And such as could not eat of that loathsome provision were constrained to die of hunger, as many did, their stomachs not being accustomed to such unusual sustenance. Only some women were found, who were allowed better cheer by the Pirates, because they served them in their sensual delights, to which those robbers are hugely given. Among those women, some had been forced, others were volunteers; though almost all had rather taken up that vice through poverty and hunger, more than any other cause. Of the prisoners many also died under the torments they sustained, to make them confess where they had hidden their money or jewels. And of these, some because they had none nor knew of any, and others for denying what they knew, endured such horrible deaths.
Finally, after having been in possession of the town four entire weeks, they sent four of the prisoners, remaining alive, to the Spaniards that were fled into the woods, demanding of them a ransom for not burning the town. The sum hereof they constituted ten thousand pieces of eight, which, unless it were sent to them, they threatened to fire and reduce into ashes the whole village. For bringing in of this money they allowed them only the space of two days. These being past, and the Spaniards not having been able to gather so punctually such a sum, the Pirates began to set fire to many places of the town. Thus the inhabitants, perceiving the Pirates to be in earnest, begged of them to help to extinguish the fire; and withal promised the ransom should be readily paid. The Pirates condescended to their petition, helping as much as they could to stop the progress of the fire. Yet, though they used the best endeavours they possibly could, one part of the town was ruined, especially the church belonging to the monastery, which was burnt even to dust. After they had received the sum above-mentioned, they carried on board their ships all the riches they had robbed, together with a great number of slaves which had not as yet paid their ransom. For all the prisoners had sums of money set upon them, and the slaves were also commanded to be redeemed. Hence they returned to Maracaibo, where being arrived they found a general consternation in the whole city. To which they sent three or four prisoners to tell the governor and inhabitants: They should bring them thirty thousand pieces of eight on board their ships, for a ransom of their houses; otherwise they should be entirely sacked anew and burnt.
Among these debates a certain party of Pirates came on shore to rob, and these carried away the images, the pictures and bells of the great church, on board the fleet. the Spaniards, who were sent to demand of those that were fled the sum afore-mentioned, returned with orders to make some agreement with the Pirates. This they performed, and concluded with the Pirates they would give for their ransom and liberty the sum of twenty thousand pieces of eight and five hundred cows. The condition hereof being that they should commit no farther acts of hostility against any person, but should depart thence presently after payment of the money and cattle. The one and the other being delivered, they set sail with the whole fleet, causing great joy to the inhabitants of Maracaibo to see themselves quit of this sort of people. Notwithstanding, three days after they resumed their fears and admiration, seeing the Pirates to appear again and re-enter the port they had left with all their ships. But these apprehensions soon vanished, by only hearing the errand of one of the Pirates, who came on shore to tell them from L’Ollonais: They should send him a skilful Pilot to conduct one of his greatest shifts over the dawrous bank that lies at the entry of the lake. Which petition, or rather command, was instantly granted.
The Pirates had now been full two months in those towns, wherein they committed those cruel and insolent actions we have told you of. Departing therefore thence, they took their course towards the island Hispaniola, and arrived thither in eight days, casting anchor in a port called Isla de la Vaca, or Cow Island. This isle is inhabited by French buccaneers, who most commonly sell the flesh they hunt to Pirates and others who now and then put in there with intent of victualling or trading with them. Here they unladed the whole cargo of riches they had robbed; the usual storehouse of the Pirates being commonly under the shelter of the buccaneers. Here also they made a dividend amongst them of all their prizes and gains, according to that order and degree which belonged to every one, as bath been mentioned above. Having cast up the account and made exact calculation of all they had purchased, they found in ready money two hundred and threescore thousand pieces of eight. Whereupon, this being divided, every one received to his share in money, and also in pieces of silk, linen and other commodities, the value of above one hundred pieces of eight. Those who had been wounded in this expedition received their part before all the rest; I mean, such recompences as I spoke of in the first Book, for the loss of their limbs which many sustained. Afterwards they weighed all the plate that was uncoined, reckoning after the rate of ten pieces of eight for every pound. The jewels were prized with much variety, either at too high or too low rates; being thus occasioned by their own ignorance. This being done, every one was put to his oath again, that he had not concealed anything nor subtracted from the common stock. Hence they proceeded to the dividend of what shares belonged to such as were dead amongst them, either in battle or otherwise. These shares were given to their friends to be kept entire for them, and to be delivered in due time to their nearest relations, or whomsoever should appear to be their lawful heirs.
The whole dividend being entirely finished, they set sail thence for the Isle of Tortuga. Here they arrived one month after, to the great joy of most that were upon the island. For as to the common Pirates, in three weeks they had scarce any money left them; having spent it all in things of little value, or at play either at cards or dice. Here also arrived, not long before them, two French ships laden with wine and brandy and other things of this kind; whereby these liquors, at the arrival of the Pirates, were sold indifferent cheap. But this lasted not long; for soon after they were enhanced extremely, a gallon of brandy being sold for four pieces of eight. The Governor of the island bought of the Pirates the whole cargo of the ship laden with cacao, giving them for that rich commodity scarce the twentieth part of what it was worth. Thus they made shift to lose and spend the riches they had got in much less time than they were purchased by robbing. The taverns, according to the custom of Pirates, got the greatest part thereof; insomuch that soon after they were constrained to seek more by the same unlawful means they had obtained the preceding.