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Captain Morgan sends several canoes and boats to the South Sea. He sets fire to the City of Panama. Robberies and cruelties committed there by the Pirates till their return to the Castle of Chagre.
CAPTAIN MORGAN, as soon as he had placed guards at several quarters where he thought necessary, both within and without the city of Panama, immediately commanded twenty-five men to seize a great boat, which had stuck in the mud of the port for want of water at a low tide, so that she could not put out to sea. The same day, about noon, he caused certain men privately to set fire to several great edifices of the city, nobody knowing whence the fire proceeded nor who were the authors thereof, much less what motives persuaded Captain Morgan thereto, which are as yet unknown to this day. The fire increased so fast that before night the greatest part of the city was in a flame. Captain Morgan endeavoured to make the public believe the Spaniards had been the cause thereof, which suspicions he surmised among his own people, perceiving they reflected upon him for that action. Many of the Spaniards, as also some of the Pirates, used all the means possible either to extinguish the flame, or by blowing up houses with gunpowder, and pulling down others, to stop its progress. But all was in vain; for in less than half an hour it consumed a whole street. All the houses of this city were built with cedar, being of very curious and magnificent structure. and richly adorned within, especially with hangings and paintings, whereof part was already transported out of the Pirates way, and another great part was consumed by the voracity of the fire.
There belonged to this city (which is also the head of a bishopric) eight monasteries, whereof seven were for men and one for women, two stately churches and one hospital. The churches and monasteries were all richly adorned with altar-pieces and paintings, huge quantity of gold and silver, with other precious things; all which the ecclesiastics had hidden and concealed. Besides which ornaments, here were to be seen two thousand houses of magnificent and prodigious building, being all or the greatest part inhabited by merchants of that country, who are vastly rich. For the rest of the inhabitants of lesser quality and tradesmen, this city contained five thousand houses more. Here were also great number of stables, which served for the horses and mules, that carry all the plate, belonging as well to the King of Spain as to private men, towards the coast of the North Sea. The neighbouring fields belonging to this city are all cultivated with fertile. plantations and pleasant gardens, which afford delicious prospects to the inhabitants the whole year long.
The Genoese had in this city of Panama a stately and magnificent house, belonging to their trade and commerce of negroes. This building likewise was commanded by Captain Morgan to be set on fire; whereby it was burnt to the very ground. Besides which pile of building, there were consumed to the number of two hundred warehouses, and great number of slaves, who had hid themselves therein, together with an infinite multitude of sacks of meal. The fire of all which houses and buildings was seen to continue four weeks after the day it began. The Pirates in the meanwhile, at least the greatest parts of them, camped some time without the city, fearing and expecting that the Spaniards would come and fight them anew. For it was known that they had an incomparable number of men more than the Pirates were. This occasioned them to keep the field, thereby to preserve their forces united, which now were very much diminished by the losses of the preceding battles; as also because they had a great many wounded, all which they had put into one of the churches which alone remained standing, the rest being consumed by the fire. Moreover, beside these decreases of their men, Captain Morgan had sent a convoy one hundred and fifty men to the Castle of Chagre, to carry the news of his victory obtained against Panama
They saw many times whole troops of Spaniards cruize to and fro in the campaign fields, which gave them occasion to suspect their rallying anew. Yet they never had the courage to attempt anything against the Pirates. In the afternoon of this fatal day Captain Morgan reentered again the city with his troops, to the intent that every one might take up his lodgings, which now they could hardly find, very few houses having escaped the desolation of the fire. Soon after they fell to seeking very carefully among the ruins and ashes for utensils of plate or gold, which peradventure were not quite wasted by the flames. And of such things they found no small number in several places, especially in wells and cisterns, where the Spaniards had hid them from the covetous search of the Pirates.
The next day Captain Morgan dispatched away two troops of Pirates, of one hundred and fifty men each, being all very stout soldiers and well armed, with orders to seek for the inhabitants of Panama who were escaped from the hands of their enemies. These men, having made several excursions up and down the campaign fields, woods and mountains, adjoining to Panama, returned after two days' time, bringing with them above two hundred prisoners, between men, women and slaves. The same day returned also the boat above mentioned, which Captain Morgan had sent into the South Sea; bringing with her three other boats, which they had taken in a little while. But all these prizes they could willingly have given, yea, although they had employed greater labour into the bargain, for one certain galleon, which miraculously escaped their industry, being very richly laden with all the King's plate and great quantity of riches of gold, pearl, jewels and other most precious goods, of all the best and richest merchants of Panama. On board of this galleon were also the religious women, belonging to the nunnery of the said city, who had embarked with them all the ornaments of their church, consisting in great quantity of gold, plate and other things of great value.
The strength of this galleon was nothing considerable, as having only seven guns, and ten or twelve muskets for its whole defence, being on the other side very ill provided of victuals and other necessaries, with great want of fresh water, and having no more sails than the uppermost sails of the main mast. This description of the said ship, the Pirates received from certain persons, who had spoken with seven mariners belonging to the galleon, at such time as they came ashore in the cock-boat, to take in fresh water. Hence they concluded for certain they might easily have taken the said vessel, had they given her chase, and pursued her, as they ought to have done, especially considering the said galleon could not long subsist abroad at sea. Bat they were impeded from following this vastly rich prize, by gluttony and drunkenness, having plentifully debauched themselves with several sorts of rich wines they found there ready to their hands. So that they chose rather to satiate their apatite with the things abovementioned, than to lay hold on the occasion of such a huge advantage, although this only prize would certainly have been of far greater value and consequence to them than all they secured at Panama, and other places thereabouts. The next day, repenting of their negligence, and being totally wearied of the vices and debaucheries aforesaid, they sent forth to sea another boat well armed, to pursue with all speed imaginable the said galleon. But their present care and diligence was in vain, the Spaniards who were on board the said ship having received intelligence of the danger they were in one or two days before, while the Pirates were cruizing so near them, whereupon they fled to places more remote and unknown to their enemies.
Notwithstanding, the Pirates found in the ports of the islands of Tavoga and Tavogilla several boats that were laden with many sorts of very good merchandize: all which they took and brought to Panama; where, being arrived, they made an exact relation of all that had passed while they were abroad to Captain Morgan. The prisoners confirmed what the Pirates had said, adding thereto, that they undoubtedly knew whereabouts the said galleon might be at that present, but that it was very probable they had been relieved before now from other places. These relations stirred up Captain Morgan anew to send forth all the boats that were in the port of Panama, with design to seek and pursue the said galleon till they could find her. The boats aforesaid, being in all four, set sail from Panama, and having spent eight days in cruizing to and fro, and searching several ports and creeks, they lost all their hopes of finding what they so earnestly sought for. Hereupon they resolved to return to the isles of Tavoga and Tavogilla. Here they found a reasonable good ship, that was newly come from Payta, being laden with cloth, soap, sugar and biscuit, with twenty thousand pieces of eight in ready money. This vessel they instantly seized, not finding the least resistance from any person within her. Near to the said ship was also a boat, whereof in like manner they possessed themselves. Upon the boat they laded great part of the merchandizes they had found in the ship, together with some slaves they had taken in the said islands. With this purchase they returned to Panama, something better satisfied of their voyage, yet withal much discontented they could not meet with the galleon.
The convoy which Captain Morgan had sent to the castle of Chagre returned much abcut the same time, bringing with them very good news. For while Captain Morgan was upon his journey to Panama, those he had left in the castle of Chagre had sent forth to sea two boats to exercise piracy. These happened to meet with a Spanish ship, which they began to chase within sight of the castle. This being perceived by the Pirates that were in the castle, they put forth Spanish colours, thereby to allure and deceive the ship that fled before the boats. Thus the poor Spaniards, thinking to refuge themselves under the castle and the guns thereof, by flying into the port, were caught in a snare and made prisoners, where they thought to find defence. The cargo which was found on board the said vessel, consisted in victuals and provisions, that were all eatable things. Nothing could be more opportune than this prize for the castle, where they had begun already to experience great scarcity of things of this kind.
This good fortune of the garrison of Chagre gave occasion to Captain Morgan to remain longer time than he had determined at Panama. And hereupon he ordered several new excursions to be made into the whole country round about the city. So that while the Pirates at Panama were employed in these expeditions, those at Chagre were busied in exercising piracy upon the North Sea. Captain Morgan used to send forth daily parties of two hundred men, to make inroads into all the fields and country thereabouts, and when one party came back, another consisting of two hundred more was ready to go forth. By this means they gathered in a short time a huge quantity of riches, and no lesser number of prisoners. These, being brought into the city, were presently put to the most exquisite tortures imaginable, to make them confess both other people's goods and their own. Here it happened, that one poor and miserable wretch was found in the house of a gentleman of great quality, who had put on, amidst that confusion of things, a pair of taffety breeches belonging to his master with a little silver key hanging at the strings thereof. This, being perceived by the Pirates they immediately asked him where was the cabinet of the said key? His answer was: he knew not what was become of it, but only that finding those breeches in his master's house, he had made bold to wear them. Not being able to extort any other confession out of him, they first put him upon the rack, wherewith they inhumanly disjointed his arms. After this, they twisted a cord about his forehead, which they wrung so hard, that his eyes appeared as big as eggs, and were ready to fall out of his skull. But neither with these torments could they obtain any positive answer to their demands. Whereupon they soon after hung him up, giving him infinite blows and stripes, while he was under that intolerable pain and posture of body. Afterwards they cut off his nose and ears, and singed his face with burning straw, till he could speak nor lament his misery no longer. Then losing all hopes of hearing any confession from his mouth, they commanded a negro to run him through with a lance, which put an end to his life and a period to their cruel and inhuman tortures. After this execrable manner did many other of those miserable prisoners finish their days, the common sport and recreation of these Pirates being these and other tragedies not inferior.
They spared, in these their cruelties, no sex nor condition whatsoever. For as to religious perscns and priests, they granted them less quarter than to others, unless they could produce a considerable sum of money, capable of being a sufficient ransom. Women themselves were no better used, and Captain Morgan, their leader and commander, gave them no good example in this point. For as soon as any beautiful woman was brought as a prisoner to his presence, he used all the means he could, both of rigour and mildness, to bend her to his pleasure: for a confirmation of which assertion, I shall here give my reader a short history of a lady, whose virtue and constancy ought to be transmitted to posterity, as a memorable example of her sex.
Among the prisoners that were brought by the Pirates from the islands of Tavoga and Tavogilla, there was found a gentlewoman of good quality, as also no less virtue and chastity, who was wife to one of the richest merchants of all those countries. Her years were but few, and her beauty so great as peradventure I may doubt whether in all Europe any could be found to surpass her perfections either of comeliness or honesty. Her husband, at that present, was absent from home, being gone as far as the kingdom of Peru, about great concerns of commerce and trade, wherein his employments did lie. This virtuous lady, likewise, hearing that Pirates were coming to assault the city of Panama, had absented herself thence in the company of other friends and relations, thereby to preserve her life, amidst the dangers which the cruelties and tyrannies of those hardhearted enemies did seem to menace to every citizen. But no sooner had she appeared in the presence of Captain Morgan than he commanded they should lodge her in a certain apartment by herself, giving her a negress, or black woman, to wait upon her, and that she should be treated with all the respect and regale due to her quality. The poor afflicted lady did beg, with multitude of sobs and tears, she might be suffered to lodge among the other prisoners, her relations, fearing lest that unexpected kindness of the commander might prove to be a design upon her chastity. But Captain Morgan would by no means hearken to her petition, and all he commanded, in answer thereto, was, she should be treated with more particular care than before, and have her victuals carried from his own table.
This lady had formerly heard very strange reports concerning the Pirates, before their arrival at Panama, intimating to her, as if they were not men, but, as they said, heretics, who did neither invoke the Blessed Trinity, nor believe in Jesus Christ. But now she began to have better thoughts of them than ever before, having experienced the manifold civilities of Captain Morgan, especially hearing him many times to swear by the name of God, and of Jesus Christ, in whom, she was persuaded, they did not believe. Neither did she now think them to be so bad, or to have the shapes of beasts, as from the relations of several people she had oftentimes heard. For as to the name of robbers or thieves, which was commonly given them by others, she wondered not much at it, seeing, as she said, that among all nations of the universe, there were to be found some wicked men, who naturally coveted to possess the goods of others. Conformable to the persuasion of this lady was the opinion of another woman, of weak understanding, at Panama, who used to say, before the Pirates came thither, she desired very much and had a great curiosity to see one of those men called Pirates; for as much as her husband had often told her, that they were not men, like others, but rather irrational beasts. This silly woman, at last happened to. see the first of them, cried out aloud, saying: Jesus bless me! these thieves are like us Spaniards.
This false civility of Captain Morgan, wherewith he used this lady, was soon after changed into barbarous cruelty. For, three or four days being past, he came to see her, and the virtuous lady constantly repulsed him, with all the civility imaginable and many humble and modest expressions of her mind. But Captain Morgan still persisted in his disorderly request, presenting her withal with much pearl, gold and all that he had got that was precious and valuable in that voyage. But, the lady being in no manner willing to consent thereto, nor accept his presents, and showing herself in all respects like Susannah for constancy, he presently changed note, and began to speak to her in another tone, threatening her with a thousand cruelties and hard usages at his hands. To all these things she gave this resolute and positive answer, than which no other could be extorted from her: Sir, my life is in your hands; but as to my body, in relation to that which you would persuade me to, my soul shall sooner be separated from it, through the violence of your arms, then I shall condescend to your request. No sooner had Captain Morgan understood this heroic resolution of her mind than he commanded her to be stripped of the best of her apparel, and imprisoned in a darksome and stinking cellar. Here she had allowed her an extremely small quantity of meat and drink, wherewith she had much ado to sustain her life for a few days.
Under this hardship the constant and virtuous lady ceased not to pray daily to God Almighty, for constancy and patience against the cruelties of Captain Morgan. But he being now thoroughly convinced of her chaste resolutions, as also desirous to conceal the cause of her confinement and hard usage, since many of the Pirates, his companions, did compassionate her condition, laid many false accusations to her charge, giving to understand she held intelligence with the Spaniards, and corresponded with them by letters, abusing thereby his former lenity and kindness. I myself was an eye witness to these things here related, and could never have judged such constancy of mind and virtuous chastity to be found in the world, if my own eyes and ears had not informed me thereof. But of this incomparable lady I shall say something more hereafter in its proper place; whereupon I shall leave her at present, to continue my history.
Captain Morgan, having now been at Panama the full space of three weeks, commanded all things to be put in order for his departure. To this effect, he gave orders to every company of his men, to seek out for so many beasts of carriage as might suffice to convey the whole spoil of the city to the river where his canoes lay. About this time a great rumour was spread in the city, of a considerable number of Pirates who intended to leave Captain Morgan; and that, by taking a ship which was in the port, they determined to go and rob upon the South Sea till they had got as much as they thought fit, and then return homewards by the way of the East Indies into Europe. For which purpose, they had already gathered great quantity of provisions, which they had hidden in private places, with sufficient store of powder, bullets and all other sorts of ammunition: likewise some great guns, belonging to the town, muskets and other things, wherewith they designed not only to equip the said vessel but also to fortify themselves and raise batteries in some island or other, which might serve them for a place of refuge.
This design had certainly taken effect as they intended, had not Captain Morgan had timely advice thereof given him by one of their comrades. Hereupon he instantly commanded the mainmast of the said ship should be cut down and burnt, together with all the other boats that were in the port. Hereby the intentions of all or most of his companions were totally frustrated. After this Captain Morgan sent forth many of the Spaniards into the adjoining fields and country, to seek for money wherewith to ransom not only themselves but also all the rest of the prisoners, as likewise the ecclesiastics, both secular and regular. Moreover he commanded all the artillery of the town to be spoiled, that is to say, nailed and stopped up. At the same time he sent out a strong company of men to seek for the Governor of Panama, of whom intelligence was brought that he had laid several ambuscades in the way, by which he ought to pass at his return. But those who were sent upon this design returned soon after, saying they had not found any sign or appearance of any such ambuscades; for a confirmation whereof, they brought with them some prisoners they had taken, who declared that the said Governor had had an intention of making some opposition by the way, but that the men whom he had designed to effect it were unwilling to undertake any such enterprize; so that for want of means, he could not put his design in execution.
On the 24th of February of the year 1671 Captain Morgan departed from the city of Panama, or rather from the place where the said city of Panama did stand; of the spoils whereof he carried with him one hundred and seventy-five beasts of carriage, laden with silver, gold and other precious things, besides six hundred prisoners, more or less, between men, women, children and slaves. That day they came to a river that passes through a delicious campaign field, at the distance of a league from Panama. Here Captain Morgan put all his forces into good order of martial array, in such manner that the prisoners were in the middle of the camp, surrounded on all sides with Pirates. At which present conjuncture nothing else was to be heard but lamentations, cries, shrieks and doleful sighs, of so many women and children, who were persuaded Captain Morgan designed to transport them all, and carry them into his own country for slaves. Besides that, among all those miserable prisoners, there was extreme hunger and thirst endured at that time; which hardship and misery Captain Morgan designedly caused them to sustain, with intent to excite them more earnestly to seek for money wherewith to ransom themselves, according to the tax he had set upon every one. Many of the women begged of Captain Morgan upon their knees, with infinite sighs and tears, he would permit them to return to Panama, there to live in company of their dear husbands and children, in little huts of straw which they would erect, seeing they had no houses until the rebuilding of the city. But his answer was: he came not thither to hear lamentations and cries, but rather to seek money. Therefore they ought to seek out for that in the first place, wherever it were to be had, and bring it to him, otherwise he would assuredly transport them all to such places whither they cared not to go.
The next day, when the march began, those lamentable cries and shrieks were renewed, in so much as it would have caused compassion in the hardest heart to hear them. But Captain Morgan, a man little given to mercy, was not moved therewith in the least. They marched in the same order as was said before; one party of the Pirates preceding in the van, the prisoners in the middle, and the rest of the Pirates in the rear-guard, by whom the miserable Spaniards were, at every step, punched and thrust in their backs and sides, with the blunt end of their arms, to make them march the faster. That beautiful and virtuous lady, of whom we made mention heretofore for her unparalleled constancy and chastity, was led prisoner by herself, between two Pirates who guarded her. Her lamentations now did pierce the skies, seeing herself carried away into foreign captivity, often crying to the Pirates, and telling them: That she had given order to two religious persons, ix whom she had relied, to go to a certain place, and fetch so much money as her ransom did amount to. That they had promised faithfully to do it, but having obtained the said money, instead of bringing it to her, they had employed it another way, to ransom some of their own and particular friends. This ill action of theirs was discovered by a slave, who brought a letter to the said lady. Her complaints, and the cause thereof, being brought to the ears of Captain Morgan, he thought fit to enquire thereinto. Having found the thing to be true, especially hearing it confirmed by the confession of the said religious men, though under some frivolous excuses, of having diverted the money but for a day or two, within which time they expected more sums to repay it, he gave liberty to the said lady, whom otherwise he designed to transport to Jamaica. But in the meanwhile he detained the said religious men, as prisoners in her place, using them according to the deserts of their incompassionate intrigues.
As soon as Captain Morgan arrived, upon his march, at the town called Cruz, situated on the banks of the river Chagre, as was mentioned before, he commanded an order to be published among the prisoners, that within the space of three days every one of them should bring in his ransom, under the penalty aforementioned of being transported to Jamaica. In the meanwhile he gave orders, for so much rice and maize to be collected thereabouts as was necessary for the victualling all his ships. At this place some of the prisoners were ransomed, but many others could not bring in their moneys in so short time. Hereupon he continued his voyage, leaving the village on the 5th day of March next following, and carrying with him all the spoil that ever he could transport. From this village he likewise led away some new prisoners, who were inhabitants of the said place. So that these prisoners were added to those of Panama who had not as yet paid their ransoms, and all transported. But the two religious men, who had diverted the money belonging to the lady, were ransomed three days after their imprisonment, by other persons who had more compassion for their condition than they had showed for hers. About the middle of the way to the castle of Chagre, Captain Morgan commanded them to be placed in due order, according to their custom, and caused every one to be sworn, that they had reserved nor concealed nothing privately to themselves, even not so much as the value of sixpence. This being done, Captain Morgan having had some experience that those lewd fellows would not much stickle to swear falsely in points of interest, he commanded every one to be searched very strictly, both in their clothes and satchels and everywhere it might be presumed they had reserved anything. Yea, to the intent this order might not be ill taken by his companions, he permitted himself to be searched, even to the very soles of his shoes. To this effect, by common consent, there was assigned one out of every company, to be the searchers of all the rest. The French Pirates that went on this expedition with Captain Morgan, were not well satisfied with this new custom of searching. Yet their number being less than that of the English, they were forced to submit to it, as well as the others had done before them. The search being over, they re-embarked in their canoes and boats, which attended them on the river, and arrived at the castle of Chagre on the 9th day of the said month of March. Here they found all things in good order, excepting the wounded men, whom they had left there at the time of their departure. For .of these the greatest number were dead, through the wounds they had received.
From Chagre, Captain Morgan sent presently after h;s arrival, a great boat to Porto Bello, wherein were all the prisoners he had taken at the Isle of St. Catharine, demanding by them a considerable ransom for the castle of Chagre, where he then was, threatening otherwise to ruin and demolish it even to the ground. To this message those of Porto Bello made answer: They would not give one farthing towards the ransom of the said castle, and that the English might do with it as they pleased. This answer being come, the dividend was made of all the spoil they had purchased in that voyage. Thus every company, and every particular person therein included, received their portion of what was got: or rather, what part thereof Captain Morgan was pleased to give them. For so it was, that the rest of his companions, even of his own nation, complained of his proceedings in this particular, and feared not to tell him openly to his face, that he had reserved the best jewels to himself. For they judged it impossible that no greater share should belong to them than two hundred pieces of eight per capita, of so many valuable booties and robberies as they had obtained. Which small sum they thought too little reward for so much labour and such huge and manifest dangers as they had so often exposed their lives to. But Captain Morgan was deaf to all these and many other complaints of this kind, having designed in his mind to cheat them of as much as he could.
At last Captain Morgan finding himself obnoxious to many obloquies and detractions among his people, began to fear the consequence thereof, and hereupon thinking it unsafe to remain any longer time at Chagre, he commanded the ordnance of the said castle to be carried on board his ship. Afterwards he caused the greatest part of the walls to be demolished and the edifices to be burnt, and as many other things spoiled and ruined as could conveniently be done in a short while. These orders being performed, he went secretly on board his own ship, without giving any notice of his departure to his companions, nor calling any council, as he used to do. Thus he set sail, and put out to sea, not bidding anybody adieu, being only followed by three or four vessels of the whole fleet. These were such (as the French Pirates believed) as went shares with Captain Morgan, towards the best and greatest part of the spoil which had been concealed from them in the dividend. The Frenchmen could very willingly have revenged this affront upon Captain Morgan and those that followed him, had they found themselves with sufficient means to encounter him at sea. But they were destitute of most things necessary thereto. Yea, they had much ado to find sufficient victuals and provisions for their voyage to Jamaica, he having left them totally unprovided of all things.