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Captain Morgan leaves the Island of Hispaniola, and goes to that of St. Catharine, which he takes.
CAPTAIN MORGAN and his companions weighed anchor from the Cape of Tiburon, the 16th day of December in the year 1670. Four days after they arrived within sight of the Isle of St. Catharine, which was now in possession of the Spaniards again, as was said in the Second Part of this history, and to which they commonly banish all the malefactors of the Spanish dominions in the West Indies. In this island are found huge quantities of pigeons at certain seasons of the year; it Is watered continually by four rivulets or brooks, whereof two are always dry in the summer season. Here is no manner of trade nor commerce exercised by the inhabitants, neither do they give themselves the trouble to plant more fruits than what are necessary for the sustentation of human life; howbeit the country would be sufficient to make very good plantations of tobacco, which might render considerable profit, were it cultivated for that use.
As soon as Captain Morgan came near the island with his fleet, he sent before one of his best sailing vessels to view the entry of the river and see if any other ships were there who might hinder him from landing; as also fearing lest they should give intelligence of his arrival to the inhabitants of the island, and they by this means prevent his designs.
The next day before sunrise, all the fleet came to anchor near the island, in a certain bay called Aguada Grande: upon this bay the Spaniards had lately built a battery, mounted with four pieces of cannon. Captain Morgan landed with a thousand men, more or less, and disposed them into squadrons, beginning his march through the woods, although they had no other guides than some few of his own men who had been there before when Mansvelt took and ransacked the island. The same day they came to a certain place where the Governor at other times kept his ordinary residence: here they found a battery called The Platform, but nobody in it, the Spaniards having retired to the lesser island, which, as was said before, is so near the great one that a short bridge only may conjoin them.
This lesser island aforesaid was so well fortified with forts and batteries round it as might seem impregnable. Hereupon, as soon as the Spaniards perceived the pirates to approach, they began to fire upon them so furiously that they could advance nothing that day, but were contented to retreat a little, and take up their rest upon the grass in the open fields, which afforded no strange beds to these people, as being sufficiently used to such kind of repose: what most afflicted them was hunger, having not eaten the least thing that whole day. About midnight it began to rain so hard that those miserable people had much ado to resist so much hardship, the greatest part of them having no other clothes than a pair of seaman's trousers or breeches, and a shirt, without either shoes or stockings. Thus finding themselves in great extremity, they began to pull down a few thatched houses to make fires withal: in a word, they were in such condition that one hundred men, indifferently well armed, might easily that night have torn them all in pieces. The next morning about break of day the rain ceased, at which time they began to dry their arms, which were entirely wet, and proceed on their march. But not long after, the rain commenced anew, rather harder than before, as if the skies were melted into waters, which caused them to cease from advancing towards the forts, whence the Spaniards continually fired at the Pirates, seeing them to approach.
The Pirates were now reduced to great affliction and danger of their lives through the hardness of the weather, their own nakedness, and the great hunger they sustained. For a small relief hereof, they happened to find in the fields an old horse, which was both lean and full of scabs and blotches, with galled back and sides. This horrid animal they instantly killed and flayed, and divided into small pieces among themselves as far as it would reach, for many could not obtain one morsel, which they roasted and devoured without either salt or bread, more like ravenous wolves than men. The rain as yet ceased not to fall, and Captain Morgan perceived their minds to relent, hearing many of them say they would return on board the ships. Amongst these fatigues both of mind and body, he thought it convenient to use some sudden and almost unexpected remedy: to this effect he commanded a canoe to be rigged in all haste, and the colours of truce to be hanged out of it. This canoe he sent to the Spanish governor of the island with this message: That if within a few hours he delivered not himself and all his men into his hands, he did by that messenger swear to him, and all those that were in his company, he would most certainly put them all to the sword, without granting quarter to any.
After noon the canoe returned with this answer: That the Governor desired two hours' time to deliberate with his officers in a full council about that affair; which being past, he would give his positive answer to the message. The time now being elapsed, the said Governor sent two canoes with white colours, and two persons, to treat with Captain Morgan; but before they landed, they demanded of the Pirates two persons as hostages of their security. These were readily granted by Captain Morgan, who delivered to them two of his captains, for a mutual pledge of the security required. With this the Spaniards propounded to Captain Morgan, that their Governor in a full assembly had resolved to deliver up the island, not being provided with sufficient forces to defend it against such an armada or fleet. But withal he desired that Captain Morgan would be pleased to use a certain stratagem of war, for the better saving of his own credit, and the reputation of his officers both abroad and at home, which should be as follows: That Captain Morgan would come with his troops by night, near the bridge that joined the lesser island to the great one, and there attack the fort of St. Jerome: that at the same time all the ships of his fleet would draw near the castle of Santa Teresa, and attack it by sea, landing in the meanwhile some more troops, near the battery called St. Matthew: that these troops which were newly landed should by this means intercept the Governor by the way, as he endeavoured to pass to St. Jerome's fort, and then take him prisoner, using the formality, as if they forced him to deliver the said castle; and that he would lead the English into it, under the fraud of being his own troops; that on one side and the other there should be continual firing at one another, but without bullets, or at least into the air, so that no side might receive any harm by this device; that thus having obtained two such considerable forts, the chief of the isle, he needed not take care for the rest, which of necessity must fall by course into his hands.
These propositions, every one, were granted by Captain Morgan, upon condition they should see them faithfully observed, for otherwise they should be used with all rigour imaginable: this they promised to do, and hereupon took their leaves, and returned to give account of their negotiation to the Governor. Presently after Captain Morgan commanded the whole fleet to enter the port, and his men to be in readiness to assault that night the castle of St. Jerome. Thus the false alarm or battle began, with incessant firing of great guns from both the castles against the ships, but without bullets, as was said before. Then the Pirates landed, and assaulted by night the lesser island, which they took, as' also possession of both the fortresses, forcing all the Spaniards, in appearance, to fly to the church. Before this assault, Captain Morgan had sent word to the Governor he should keep all his men together in a body, otherwise if the Pirates met any straggling Spaniards in the streets, they should certainly shoot them.
The island being taken by this unusual stratagem, and all things put in due order, the Pirates began to make a new war against the poultry, cattle and all sort of victuals they could find. This was their whole employ for some days, scarce thinking of anything else than to kill those animals, roast and eat, and make good cheer, as much as they could possibly attain unto. If wood was wanting, they presently fell upon the houses, and, pulling them down, made fires with the timber, as had been done before in the field. The next day they numbered all the prisoners they had taken upon the whole island, which were found to be in all four hundred and fifty persons, between men, women and children, viz., one hundred and ninety soldiers, belonging to the garrison; forty inhabitants, who were married; forty-three children; thirty-four slaves, belonging to the King, with eight children; eight banditti; thirty-nine negroes, belonging to private persons, with twenty-seven female blacks and thirty-four children. The Pirates disarmed all the Spaniards, and sent them out immediately to the plantations, to seek for provisions, leaving the women in the church, there to exercise their devotions.
Soon after they took a review of the whole island, and all the fortresses belonging thereunto, which they found to be nine in all, as follows: the fort of St. Jerome, nearest to the bridge, had eight great guns, of 12, 6 and 8 pound carriage, together with six pipes of muskets, every pipe containing ten muskets. Here they found still sixty muskets, with sufficient quantity of powder and all other sorts of ammunition. The second fortress, called St. Matthew, had three guns, of 8 pound carriage each. The third and chief among all the rest, named Santa Teresa, had twenty great guns, of 18, 12, 8 and 6 pound carriage, with ten pipes of muskets, like those we said before, and ninety muskets remaining, besides all other warlike ammunition. This castle was built with stone and mortar, with very thick walls on all sides, and a large ditch round about it of twenty foot depth, which although it was dry was very hard to get over. Here was no entry but through one door, which corresponded to the middle of the castle. Within it was a mount or hill, almost inaccessible, with four pieces of cannon at the top, whence they could shoot directly into the port. On the sea side this castle was impregnable, by reason of the rocks which surrounded it and the sea beating furiously upon them. In like manner, on the side of the land, it was so commodiously seated on a mountain that there was no access to it, but by a path of three or four foot broad. The fourth fortress was named St. Augustine, having three guns, of 8 and 6 pound carriage. The fifth, named La Plattaforma de la Concepcion, had only two guns, of eight pound carriage. The sixth, by name San Salvador, had likewise no more than two guns. The seventh, being called Plattaforma de los Artilleros, had also two guns. The eighth, called Santa Cruz, had three guns. The ninth, which was called St. Joseph's Fort, had six guns, of 12 and 8 pound carriage, besides two pipes of muskets and sufficient ammunition.
In the store-house were found above thirty thousand pounds of powder, with all other sorts of ammunition, which were transported by the Pirates on board the ships. All the guns were stopped and nailed, and the fortresses demolished, excepting that of St. Jerome, where the Pirates kept their guard and residence. Captain Morgan enquired if any banditti were there from Panama or Porto Bello; and hereupon three were brought before him, who pretended to be very expert in all the avenues of those parts. He asked them if they would be his guides, and show him the securest ways and passages to Panama; which, if they performed, he promised them equal shares in all they should pillage and rob in that expedition, and that afterwards he would set them at liberty, by transporting them to Jamaica. These propositions pleased the banditti very well, and they readily accepted his proffers, promising to serve him very faithfully in all he should desire; especially one of these three, who was the greatest rogue, thief and assassin among them, and who had deserved for his crimes rather to be broken alive upon the wheel than punished with serving in a garrison. This wicked fellow had a great ascendancy over the other two banditti, and could domineer and command over them as he pleased, they not daring to refuse obedience to his orders.
Hereupon Captain Morgan commanded four ships and one boat to be equipped and provided with all things necessary, to go and take the castle of Chagre, seated upon the river of that name. Neither would he go himself with his whole fleet, fearing lest the Spaniards should be jealous of his farther designs upon Panama. In these vessels he caused to embark four hundred men, who went to put in execution the orders of their chief commander Captain Morgan, while he himself remained behind in the Island of St. Catharine, with the rest of the fleet. expecting to hear the success of their arms.