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Captain Sawkins, chief commander of the Buccaneers, is killed before Puebla Nueva. They are repulsed from the said place. Captain Sharp chosen to be their leader. Many more of their company leave them and return home overland.
WHILE we lay at anchor before Cayboa, our two chief commanders, Captain Sawkins and Captain Sharp, taking with them threescore men, more or less, went in the ship of Captain Cook to the mouth of the river where Puebla Nueva is situated. The day of this action, as I find it quoted in my journal, was May 22nd, 1679. When they came to the river's mouth, they put themselves into canoes, and were piloted up the river towards the town by a negro, who was one of our prisoners. I was chosen to be concerned in this action, but happened not to land, being commanded to remain in Captain Cook's ship while they went up to assault the town. But here at Puebla Nueva the inhabitants were too well prepared for the reception of our party, for at the distance of a mile below the town, they had cut down great trees, and laid them across the river, with design to hinder the ascent of any boats. In like manner on shore before the town itself, they had raised three strong breastworks, and made other things for their defence. Here therefore Captain Sawkins running up to the breastworks at the head of a few men was killed; a man who was as valiant and courageous as any could be, and likewise next to Captain Sharp, the best beloved of all our company, or the most part thereof. Neither was this love undeserved by him, for we ought justly to attribute to him the greatest honour we gained in our engagement before Panama, with the Spanish Armadilla, or Little Fleet, especially, considering that as has been said above, Captain Sharp was by accident absent at the time of that great and bloody fight.
We that remained behind on board the ship of Captain Cook carried her within the mouth of the river of Puebla Nueva, and entered close by the east shore, which here is crowned with a round hill. Here within two stone's cast of shore, we had four fathom water. Within the point opens a very large and fine river, which falls from a sandy bay, at a small distance from thence. But as we were getting in, being strangers to the place, we unwittingly ran our ship aground, nigh to a rock which lies on the westward shore: for the true channel of the said river is nearer to the east than the west shore. With Captain Sawkins, in the unfortunate assault of this place, there died two men more, and three were wounded in the retreat, which they performed to the canoes in pretty good order. On their way down the river, Captain Sharp took a ship, whose lading consisted of indigo, otto, manteca, or butter, and pitch, and likewise burnt two vessels more, as being of no value. With this he returned on board our ships, much troubled in his mind, and grieved for the loss of so bold and brave a partner in his adventures as Sawkins had constantly shown himself to be His death was much lamented, and occasioned another party of our men to mutiny, and leave us, returning overland, as Captain Coxon and his company had done before.
Three days after the death of Captain Sawkins, Captain Sharp, who was now Commander-in-Chief, gave the ship which he had taken in the river of Puebla Nueva which was of the burden of one hundred tons, more or less, to Captain Cook, to command and sail in. Ordering withal that the old vessel which he had, should go with those men that designed to leave us; their mutiny and our distraction being now grown very high. Here upon Captain Sharp coming on board La Trinidad, the greatest of our ships, asked our men in full council, who of them were willing to go or stay, and prosecute the design Captain Sawkins had undertaken, which was to remain in the South Sea, and there to make a complete voyage; after which, he intended to go home round about America, through the Straits of Magellan. He added withal, that he did not as yet fear, or doubt in the least, but to make each man who should stay with him, worth one thousand pounds, by the fruits he hoped to reap of that voyage. All those who had remained after the departure of Captain Coxon, for love of Captain Sawkins, and only to be in his company and under his conduct, thinking thereby to make their fortunes, would stay no longer, but pressed to depart. Among this number I acknowledge myself to have been one, being totally desirous in my mind, to quit those hazardous adventures, and return homewards with those who were now going to leave us. Yet being much afraid and averse to trust myself among wild Indians any farther, I chose rather to stay, though unwilling, and venture on that long and dangerous voyage. Besides which danger of the Indians, I considered that the rains were now already up, and it would be hard passing so many gullies, which of necessity would then be full of water, and consequently create more than one single peril to the undertakers of that journey. Yet notwithstanding, sixty-three men of our company were resolved to encounter all these hardships, and to depart from us. Hereunto they took their leave of us, and returned homewards, taking with them the Indian king's son, and the rest of the Indians for their guides overland.1 They had, as was said above the ship wherein Captain Cook sailed to carry them, and out of our provisions as much as would serve for treble their number.
Thus on the last day of May they departed, leaving us employed about taking in water and cutting down wood at the island of Cayboa afore-mentioned, where this mutiny happened. Here we caught very good tortoises and red deer. We killed also alligators of a very large size, some of them being above twenty feet in length. But we could not find but that they were very fearful of a man, and would fly from us very hastily when we hunted them. This island lies S.S.E. from the mouth of the river above-mentioned. On the south-east side of the island is a shoal or spit of sand, which stretches itself the space of a quarter of a league into the sea. Here therefore, just within this shoal, we anchored in fourteen fathom water. The island on this side thereof makes two great bays, in the first of which we watered, at a certain pond not distant above the cast of a stone from the bay. In this pond, as I was washing myself, and standing under a mancanilla tree, a small shower of rain happened to fall on the tree, and from thence dropped on my skin. These drops caused me to break out all over my body into red spots, of which I was not well for the space of a week after. Here I ate very large oysters, the biggest that ever I ate in my life, insomuch that I was forced to cut them into four pieces, each quarter of them being a good mouthful.
Three days after the departure of the mutineers, Captain Sharp ordered us to burn the ship that they hitherto had sailed in, only out of design to make use of the ironwork belonging to the said vessel. Withal, we put all the flour that was her lading into the last prize, taken in the river of Puebla Nueva, and Captain Cook, as was said before, was ordered to command her. But the men belonging to his company would not sail any longer under his command. Hereupon he quitted his vessel and came on board our Admiral, the great ship above-mentioned, called La Trinidad, determining to rule over such unruly company no longer. In his place was put one, whose name was John Cox, an inhabitant of New England, who forced kindred, as was thought, upon Captain Sharp, out of old acquaintance, in this conjuncture of time, only to advance himself. Thus he was made, as it were, Vice-Admiral to Captain Sharp. The next day three of our prisoners, viz. an Indian, who was Captain of a ship, and two mulattos, ran away from us, and made their escape.
After this it was thought convenient to send Captain Peralta prisoner in the Admiral, on board the ship of Mr. Cox. This was done to the intent he might not hinder the endeavours of Captain Juan, who was commander of the money-ship we took, as was mentioned at the island of Tavoga. For this man had now promised to do great things for us, by piloting and conducting us to several places of great riches, but more especially to Guayaquil, where he said we might lay down our silver, and lade our vessels with gold. This design was undertaken by Captain Sav, kins, and had not the head-strongness of his men brought him to the island of Cayboa, where he lost his life, he had certainly effected it before now. That night we had such thunder and lightning as I never had heard before in all my life. Our prisoners told us that in these parts it very often causes great damages both by sea and land. And my opinion led me to believe that our mainmast received some damage on this occasion. The rainy season being now entered, the wind for the most part was at N.W. though not without some calms.
1 There is again much want of precision in reckoning the number of buccaneers who finally stayed with Captain Sharp. Ringrose does not give the figures, but from another account it would appear that one hundred and forty-six in all remained to accompany Sharp in his voyage.