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The Relation of the shipwreck, which Monsieur Bertram Ogeron, Governor of the Isle of Tortuga, suffered near the Isles of Guadanillas. How both he and his companions fell into the hands of the Spaniards. By what arts he escaped their hands, and preserved his life. The enterprize which he undertook against Porto Rico, to deliver his people. The unfortunate success of that design.
AFTER the expedition of Paliama abovementioned, the inhabitants of the French islands in America, in the year 1673 (while the war was so fierce in Europe between France and Holland) gathered a considerable fleet, to go and possess themselves of the islands belonging to the States-General of the United Provinces in the West Indies. To this effect, their admiral called together and levied all the Pirates and volunteers that would, by any inductions whatsoever, sit down under his colours. With the same design the Governor of Tortuga caused to be built in that island a good strong man-of-war, to which vessel he gave the name of Ogeron. This ship he provided very well with all sorts of ammunition, and manned with five hundred buccaneers, all resolute and courageous men, as being the vessel he designed for his own safety. Their first intention was to go and take the Isle of Curacoa, belonging to the said States of Holland. But this design met with very ill success, by reason of a shipwreck, which impeded the course of their voyage.
Monsieur Ogeron set sail from the port of Tortuga as soon as all things were in readiness, with intent to join the rest of the said fleet and pursue the enterprize aforementioned. Being arrived on the West side of the Island of St. John de Puerto Rico, he was suddenly surprized with a violent storm. This increased to such a degree, that it caused his new frigate to strike against the rocks that neighbour upon the islands, called Guadanillas, where the vessel broke into a thousand pieces. Yet being near the land of Porto Rico, all his men escaped, by saving their lives in boats, which they had at hand.
The next day, all being now got on shore, they were discovered by Spaniards who inhabit the island. These instantly took them to be French Pirates, whose intent was to take the said island anew, as they had done several times before. Hereupon they alarmed the whole country, and, gathering their forces together, marched out to their encounter. But they found them unprovided of all manner of arms, and consequently not able to make any defence, craving for mercy at their hands, and begging quarter for their lives, as the custom is. Yet notwithstanding, the Spaniards, remembering the horrible and cruel actions those Pirates had many times committed against them, would have no compassion on their condition. But answering them Ha! ye thievish dogs, here's no quarter for you; they assaulted them with all the fury imaginable, and killed the greatest part of the company. At last perceiving they made no resistance, nor had any arms to defend themselves, they began to relent in their cruelty, and stay their blows, taking prisoners as many as remained alive. Yet still they would not be persuaded but that those unfortunate were come thither with design to take again and ruin the island.
Hereupon they bound them with cords, by two and two or three and three together, and drove them through the woods, into the campaign, or open fields. Being come thus far with them, they asked them: What was become of their captain and leader? Unto these questions they constantly made answer: he was drowned in the shipwreck at sea; although they knew full well it was false. For Monsieur Ogeron, being unknown to the Spaniards, behaved himself among them as if he were a fool and had no common use of reason. Notwithstanding, the Spaniards, scarce believing what the prisoners had answered, used all the means they could possibly to find him, but could not compass their desires. For Monsieur Ogeron kept himself very close, to all the features and mimical actions that might become any innocent fool. Upon this account, he was not tied as the rest of his companions, but let loose, to serve the divertisement and laughter of the common soldiers. These now and then would give him scraps of bread and other victuals, whereas the rest of the prisoners had never sufficient wherewith to satisfy their hungry stomachs. For as to the allowance they had from the Spaniards, their enemies, it was scarce enough to preserve them alive.
It happened there was found among` the French Pirates a certain surgeon, who had done some remarkable service to the Spaniards. In consideration of -..these merits, he was unbound, and set at liberty, to go freely up and down, even as Monsieur Ogeron did. To this surgeon Monsieur Ogeron, having a lit opportunity thereto, declared his resolution of hazarding his life, to attempt an escape from the cruelty and hard usage of those enemies. After mature deliberation, they both performed it, by flying to the woods, with design there to make something or other that might be navigable, whereby to transport themselves elsewhere, although to this effect they neither had nor could obtain any other thing in the world that could be serviceable in building of vessels than one hatchet. Thus they joined company, and began their march towards the woods that lay nearest the sea-coast. Having travelled all day long, they came about evening to the sea-side almost unexpectedly. Here they found themselves without anything to eat, nor any secure place wherein to rest their wearied limbs.
At last they perceived nigh the shore a huge quantity of fishes, called by the Spaniards corlabados. These frequently approach the sands of the shore, in pursuit of other little fishes that serve them for their food. Of these they took as many as they thought necessary, and, by rubbing two sticks tediously together, they kindled fire, wherewith they made coals to roast them. The next day they began to cut down and prepare timber, wherewith to make a kind of small boat, in which they might pass over to the Isle of Santa Cruz, which belongs to the French.
While they were busied about their work, they discovered, at a great distance, a certain canoe, which steered directly towards the place where they were. This occasioned in their minds some fears lest they should be found, and taken again by the Spaniards; and hereupon they retired into the woods, till such time as they could see thence and distinguish what people were in the canoe. But at last, as their good fortune would have it, they perceived them to be no more than two men, who in their disposition and apparel seemed to be fishermen. Having made this discovery, they concluded unanimously betwixt themselves to hazard their lives, and overcome them, and afterwards seize the canoe. Soon after they perceived one of them,who was a mulatto, to go with several calabashes hanging at his back towards a spring, not far distant from the shore, to take in fresh water. The other, who was a Spaniard, remained behind, waiting for his return. Seeing them divided, they assaulted the mulatto first, and discharging a great blow on his head with the hatchet, they soon bereaved him of life. The Spaniard, hearing the noise, made instantly towards the canoe, thinking to escape. But this he could not perform so soon, without being overtaken by the two, and there massacred by their hands. Having now compassed their design, they went to seek for the corpse of the mulatto, which they carried on board the canoe. Their intent was to convey them into the middle of the sea, and there cast them overboard, to be consumed by the fish, and by this means conceal this fact from being known to the Spaniards, either at a short or long distance of time.
These things being done, they took in presently as much fresh water as they could, and set sail to seek some place of refuge. That day they steered along the coast of Porto Rico, and came to the cape called by the Spaniards Cabo Roxo. Hence they traversed directly to the Isle of Hispaniola, where so many of their own comrades and companions were to be found. Both the currents of the waters and winds were very favourable to this voyage, in so much that in a few days they arrived at a place called Samana, belonging to the said island, where they found a party of their own people.
Monsieur Ogeron, being landed at Samana, gave orders to the surgeon to levy all the people he could possibly in those parts, while he departed to revisit his government of Tortuga. Being arrived at the said port, he used all his endeavours to gather what vessels and men he could to his assistance. So that within a few days he compassed a good number of both, very well equipped and disposed to follow and execute his designs. These were to go to the Island of St. John de Puerto Rico, and deliver his fellow prisoners, whom he had left in the miserable condition as was said before. After having embarked all the people which the surgeon had levied at Samana, he made them a speech, exhorting them to have .good courage, and telling them: You may all expect great spoil and riches from Mis enterprise, and therefore let all fear and cowardice be set on side. On the contrary, fill your hearts with courage and valour, for thus you will find yourselves soon satisfied, of what, at present, bare hopes do promise. Every one relied much on these promises of Monsieur Ogeron, and, from his words, conceived no small joy in their minds. Thus they set sail from Tortuga, steering their course directly for the coasts of Porto Rico. Being come within sight of land, they made use only of their lower sails, to the intent they might not be discovered at so great a distance by the Spaniards, till they came somewhat near the place where they intended to land.
Tne Spaniards, notwithstanding this caution, had intelligence beforehand of their coming, and were prepared for a defence, having posted many troops of horse all along the coast, to watch the descent of the French Pirates. Monsieur Ogeron, perceiving their vigilance, gave order to the vessels to draw near the shore, and shoot off many great guns, whereby he forced the cavalry to retire to places more secure within the woods. Here lay concealed many companies of foot, who had prostrated themselves upon the ground. Meanwhile the Pirates made their descent at leisure, and began to enter among the trees, scarce suspecting any harm to be there, where the horsemen could do no service. But no sooner were they fallen into this ambuscade than the Spaniards arose with great fury, and assaulted the French so courageously that in a short while they destroyed great part of them. And thus leaving great numbers of dead on the place, the rest with difficulty escaped by retreating in all haste to their ships.
Monsieur Ogeron, although he escaped this danger, yet could willingly have perished in the fight, rather than suffer the shame and confusion the unfortunate success of this enterprize was like to bring upon his reputation, especially considering that those whom he had attempted to set at liberty were now cast into greater miseries through this misfortune. Hereupon they hastened to set sail, and go back to Tortuga the same way they came, with great confusion in their minds, much diminished in their number, and nothing laden with those spoils, the hopes whereof had possessed their hearts, and caused them readily to follow the promises of unfortunate Monsieur Ogeron. The Spaniards were very vigilant, and kept their posts near the sea-side, till such time as the fleet of Pirates was totally out of sight. In the meanwhile they made an end of killing such of their enemies as being desperately wounded could not escape by flight. In like manner, they cut off several limbs from the dead bodies, with design to show them to the former prisoners, for whose redemption these others had crossed the seas.
The fleet being departed, the Spaniards kindled bonfires all over the island, and made great demonstrations of joy for the victory they had obtained. But the French prisoners who were there before had more hardship showed them from that day than ever. Of their misery and misusage was a good eye witness, Jacob Binkes, Governor at that time in America for the States-General of the United Provinces. For he happened to arrive in that conjuncture at the Island of Porto Rico, with some men-of-war, to buy provisions and other necessaries for his fleet. His compassion on their misery was such as caused him to bring away by stealth five or six of the said prisoners, which served only to exasperate the minds of the Spaniards. For soon after they sent the rest of the prisoners to the chief city of the island, there to work and toil about the fortifications which then were making, forcing them to bring and carry stones and all sorts of materials belonging thereto. These being finished, the Governor transported them to Havana, where they employed them in like manner, in fortifying that city. Here they caused them to work in the day-time, and by night they shut them up as close prisoners, fearing lest they should enterprize upon the city. For of such attempts the Spaniards had had divers proofs on other occasions, which afforded them sufficient cause to use them after that manner.
Afterwards at several times, wherein ships arrived there from New Spain, they transported them by degrees into Europe, and landed them at the city of Cadiz. But notwithstanding this care of the Spaniards to disperse them, they soon after met almost all together in France, and resolved among themselves to return again to Tortuga with the first opportunity should proffer. To this effect, they assisted one another very lovingly with what necessaries they could spare, according to every one's condition: so that in a short while the greatest part of those Pirates had nested themselves again at Tortuga, their common place of rendezvous. Here, some time after, they equipped again a new fleet, to revenge their former misfortunes on the Spaniards, under the conduct of one Le Sieur Maintenon, a Frenchman by nation. With this fleet he arrived at the Island of Trinidad, situated between the Isle of Tobago and the neighbouring coasts of Paria. This island they sacked, and afterwards put to the ransom of ten thousand pieces of eight. Hence they departed, with design to take and pillage the city of Caracas, situated over against the Island of Curacoa, belonging to the Hollanders.