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CHAPTER III.

They take the town of Santa Maria with no loss of men, and but small booty of what they fought for. Description of the place, country and river adjacent. They resolve to go and plunder for the second time the city of Panama.


THE next morning, which was Thursday, April 15th, about break of day, we heard from the town a small arm discharged, and after that a drum beating travailler. With this we were roused from our sleep, and taking up our arms we put ourselves in order and marched towards the town. As soon as we came out of the woods into the open ground, we were descried by the Spaniards, who had received intelligence before-hand of our coming, and were prepared to receive us, having already conveyed away all their treasure of gold, and sent it to Panama. They ran immediately into a large palisaded fort, having each pale or post twelve feet high, and began to fire very briskly at us as we came. But our vanguard ran up to the place, and pulling down two or three of their palisades, entered the fort incontinently and made themselves masters thereof. In this action not fifty of our men had come up before the fort was taken, and on our side only two were wounded, and not one killed. Notwithstanding within the place were found two hundred and threescore men, besides which number two hundred others were said to be absent, having gone up into the country to the mines to fetch down gold, or rather to convey away what was already in the town. This golden treasure comes down another branch of this river to Santa Maria, from the neighbouring mountains, where are thought to be the richest mines of the Indies, or, at least, of all these parts of the western world. Of the Spaniards we killed in the assault twenty-six, and wounded to the number of sixteen more. But their governor, their priest, and all, or most of their chief men, made their escape by flight.

Having taken the fort, we expected to find here a considerable town belonging to it. But it proved to be only some wild houses made of cane, the place being chiefly a garrison designed to keep in subjection the Indians, who bear a mortal hatred towards, and are often apt to rebel against, the Spaniards. But bad as the place was, our fortune was much worse. For we came only three days too late to meet with three hundred weight of gold, which was carried thence to Panama in a bark, that is sent thence twice or thrice every year, to fetch the gold brought to Santa Maria from the mountains. This river called by the name of the town, is hereabouts twice as broad as the river Thames at London, and flows above three score miles upwards, rising to the height of two fathom and a half at the town itself. As soon as we had taken the place, the Indians who belonged to our company, and had served us for guides, came up to the town. For whilst they heard the noise of the guns, they were in great consternation, and dared not approach the palisades, but hid themselves closely in a small hollow, so that the bullets, while we were fighting, flew over their heads.

Here we found and redeemed the eldest daughter of the King of Darien, of whom we made mention above. She had, as it should seem, been forced away from her father's house by one of the garrison (which rape had hugely incensed him against the Spaniards) and was with child by him. After the fight the Indians destroyed as many of the Spaniards as we had done in the assault. by taking them into the adjoining woods, and there stabbing them to death with their lances. But so soon as we learnt of this barbarous cruelty, we hindered them from taking any more out of the fort, where we confined them every one prisoners. Captain Sawkins, with a small party of ten more, put himself into a canoe, and went down the river, to pursue and stop, if it were possible, those that had escaped, for they were the chief people of the town and garrison. But now, our great expectations of taking a huge booty of gold at this place being totally vanished, we were unwilling to have come so far for nothing, or to go back empty-handed, especially considering what vast riches were to be had at no great distance. Hereupon, we resolved to go to Panama, which place, if we could take, we were assured we should get treasure enough to satisfy our hungry appetite for gold and riches, that city being the receptacle of all the plate, jewels, and gold that is dug out of the mines of all Potosi and Peru. For this purpose therefore, and to please the humours of some of our company, we made choice of Captain Coxon as our general or commander-in-chief. Before our departure, we sent back what small booty we had taken here by some prisoners, under the charge of twelve of our men to convey it to the ships.

Thus we prepared to go forward on that dangerous enterprise of Panama. But the Indians who had conducted us having got from us what knives, scissors, axes, needles and beads they could, would not stay any longer, but all, or the greater part of them, returned to their home. Which notwithstanding, the king himself, Captain Andrceas, Captain Antonio, the king's son, called by the Spaniards Bonete de Oro, or King Golden-cap, as also his kinsman, would not be persuaded by their falling off to leave us, but resolved to go to Panama, out of the desire they had to see that place taken and sacked. Yea, the king promised, if there should be occasion, to join fifty thousand men to our forces. Besides which promises, we had also another very considerable encouragement to undertake this journey. For the Spaniard who had forced away the king's daughter, as was mentioned above, fearing lest we should leave him to the mercy of the Indians, who would have but little on him, having shown themselves so crue to the rest of his companions, for the safety of his life had promised to lead us, not only into the town, but even to the very bedchamber door of the governor of Panama, and that we should take him by the hand and seize both him and the whole city, before we should be discovered by the Spaniards, either before or after our arrival.


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