FORTIFICATION OF THE ROBBER'S NEST.
The island lent itself with ease to the plan of defence. About twenty-five miles long by six in breadth, it is naturally defended on two sides by precipices high enough to prevent any attempt at scaling, and so abrupt in their descent, that for many miles not even the smallest wherry can find a shelf jutting into the sea where a landing can be effected. Any hostile efforts on these sides would be futile since a straggling party that might escape the giant breakers of the iron-bound coast and by herculean efforts climb the cliffs, would be unable to effect anything against the organized force of a body of freebooters. On the third side, Tortuga is naturally defended by a maze of reefs, shoals and quicksands, which the boldest navigator would not dare attempt to pass, and in which skill in seamanship would count for nothing. On the fourth is a large harbor, the only one in the island where a land-locked bay presents a beach so gradual, so sloping, that ships even of light draught must anchor at some distance from the land, and their crews can approach only in boats. The thousand isles of the Caribbean present no other spot so favorable as a home for outlaws, and here the robbers of the deep made their nest. Skilled engineers ran parallels, redoubts were thrown up on the enclosing points of land, heavy guns, captured from Spanish ships, were placed in position to command the entrance to the harbor, water batteries were erected to prevent landing by boats, large magazines were constructed and filled with stores, a garrison was trained to perform the work of defence quickly and well, and a French admiral, who had sailed around the world and examined the fortresses of every land, pronounced the position impregnable. Now were the sea rovers no longer homeless, but with a great fleet, a strong fortress and constantly increasing numbers, they were absolute masters of the sea, and woe befel every merchant vessel that by incautiousness or accident came into the waters over which the Buccaneers kept such careful watch.
The fleets of the pirates finally issued from the harbor of Tortuga, and being well provided with stores, set sail for the great water highways by which the Spanish galleons returned to Europe, laden with the spoils of the New World. The heavy Spanish vessels, unable to run away from the light ships of the freebooters, were captured by wholesale. Incredible were the spoils. From one vessel it is recorded that over three million dollars' worth of gold and gems were taken to say nothing of silver, which the Buccaneers did not value, as being a thing of little worth and too common to be carried away. Alarmed at the success of the Buccaneers, the Spanish armed their vessels with artillery and provided fire-arms and cutlasses for the crews, but to no purpose, since resistance only exasperated the freebooters, and where it was sufficiently desperate to be fatal to any of their number, they took a terrible revenge by making all their captives "walk the plank." Growing more bitter as the years passed on, and the enmity between themselves and the Spaniards always increasing, the pirates became more savage in the treatment of their prisoners. When a galleon
The Spanish Government finding it impossible for its ships to escape, adopted the policy of sending a fleet of men-of-war twice a year to protect the merchantmen, but even this plan was far from successful, since the Buccaneers were grown so bold that they feared a man-of-war no more than a merchant vessel, and the Spaniards, were become so timid that from terror of the Buccaneers' name, it not infrequently happened, the men-of-war would set sail and flee away, providing for their own safety and leaving the merchantmen they were sent to convoy a helpless prey to the dauntless pirates.
RECKLESS BRAVERY OF THE BUCCANEERS.
Nor was this timidity unjustified, for even during their early history the Buccaneers were absolutely without fear. While they were yet hunters, two of their number, a Frenchman and an Englishman, were surprised on the plains of Hayti by a party of fifty Spanish lancers all well mounted. The latter had sabres and lances, but no guns, while the two Buccaneers were armed with the best fire-arms that could then be bought for money. Taking their stand back to back, the two plucky men prepared for a desperate resistance. Summoned by the Spaniards to surrender, they answered that the first men who approached them would die. In vain the lancers argued the futility of resistance, the hunters had always but one answer, that they would kill the man who approached them. The cowardly Spaniards hesitated. Brave enough when dealing with timid and unarmed Indians, they were powerless before these two undaunted men. Not one among their number was willing to take the risk, for they were morally certain, that even should they make a rush, however quickly it was done, two of their number would bite the dust. Having exhausted their powers of persuasion to no purpose, they began to move off, when suddenly both the Buccaneers raised their pieces to their shoulders at which the lancers became seized by a sudden panic, and putting spurs to their horses they galloped off at full speedy frightened half to death at the fearless bearing of these two men.
CROMWELL'S DEFEAT OF CHARLES I.
While the affairs of the sea rovers were thus favorably progressing, events took place in Europe which brought the Buccaneers into yet greater national importance. The dissensions between Charles I and his Parliament had become too violent to be settled by amicable means, and after long negotiation, conducted on both sides with apparent
THE ENGLISH DRIVEN FROM THEIR DESIGNS ON HAYTI.
Arrived in the West Indies, Penn formed the bold design of conquering and annexing to the British dominions the large and valuable island of Hayti and operations looking to this end were at once begun. The fleet proceeded along the coast, bombarded St. Domingo and other principal towns, and meeting with small resistance the English landed a large body of men and instituted an effort to make a permanent conquest. But though victorious on the sea, the attempts of the English on land were not to meet with such glorious success. The Spaniards, beaten from their towns, took refuge in the forests, and being pursued to their retreats, they formed ambuscades in which many of the English were destroyed; they resorted to every means known to annoy the invaders and were aided by the Haytians, whose cruel customs rival those of the most savage Indians; they placed poisoned thorns in the line of march; into the wells, springs and streams they threw leaves of a shrub so deadly in its effect that the English who drank never spoke again. Many thus miserably perished, while others died of the torrid heat, others of the fevers, which in that quarter of the globe prevail all the year round. Discouraged by the difficulties of the undertaking, Penn finally recalled his men from a task which seemed almost hopeless and resolved to look elsewhere for laurels.
Directing his fleet to rendezvous at Tortuga, he made careful enquiries of the Buccaneer leader as to the Spanish settlements in the Antilles, and determined to make his next effort on Jamaica. Being assured, however, that the strength of the fortifications and numbers of the garrison were more than a match for his own force, he engaged the Buccaneer fleet and force to co-operate with his own, and together the two fleets sailed from Tortuga on a voyage of conquest. It was the largest fleet that had ever manoeuvered in that part of the world against the Spaniards, consisting as it did of twenty-two English ships of the line and nearly thirty Buccaneer crafts, large and small.
A CONQUEST WITHOUT SPOILS.
All displayed the English flag, for during the expedition at least they were in the service of the British government. The effort was a signal success. Jamaica was taken, but to the rovers the result was a sore disappointment, for although they did most of the fighting and to their able assistance was due the credit of the conquest, they were not permitted to plunder, the Admiral commanding that private property should be respected. While this was strictly in accordance with the laws of civilized warfare, it was so signally in contradiction with all Buccaneer usage and tradition that it caused the most intense dissatisfaction. The rovers regarded Spaniards as beyond the bonds of civilization, and mindful of what their enemies had done to them, considered themselves quite justified not only in robbing a Spaniard of his money, but also in torturing him to make him tell where it was should he have taken the precaution to hide it. Not to be allowed to carry out their favorite practices was an unexpected hardship, but Penn was inflexible, the plundering propensities of his roguish assistants were restrained and he gave them to understand that he had employed them to fight, not to rob, and furthermore, hinted in plain language that any of them caught stealing would be summarily shot. This was not to be borne. In disgust and indignation the freebooters took their pay and sailed off, resolving to have nothing more to do with an English Admiral; but thenceforth to carry on business strictly on their own account.
The Jamaica conquest therefore formed an important epoch in the history of the Buccaneers, since it taught them their strength and the value of unity as an organization. From the year 1665, that of the Jamaica expedition, may be dated the rise of the leaders who carried the terror of the Buccaneer arms over every part of Central America and made the Spaniards tremble at the very mention of their name.
PETER THE GREAT.
There were many men among them whose names are noted in history, but in Buccaneer literature the chief qualification for prominence was to be more of a desperado than the worst of the band. Such was the doubtful distinction of a French pirate called, after the great Russian Czar, Peter the Great, who, originally a common sailor, acquired among these hardy cutthroats a reputation such as was enjoyed by but few of their number. It was Peter the Great who after cruising in vain for weeks without so much as a sign of a Spanish sail, suddenly found both provisions
SCUTTLING HIS SHIP AND CAPTURING A GALLEON.
But the pirates needed no such assistance. Coming alongside, they sprang, cutlass in hand, up the side and fell like demons on the Spanish crew. In five minutes they were masters of the ship, the Spaniards had escaped destruction by surrender, and the galleon was headed for Tortuga. Looking round for the vessel in which the pirates had come, the captain of the captured ship was dumfounded when nothing was to be seen. "Where's your boat?" he asked of Peter. "She had gone down. We had no further use for her and scuttled her before we came on board." But Peter the Great did not remain many years with the rovers. Growing tired of his life, he one day, while most of the Buccaneers were absent on an expedition, loaded a ship with booty obtained in several years of pillage, communicated his purpose to some other Frenchmen as tired of buccaneering as himself, took them on board and started for France. The Buccaneer fleet returned a few days after his departure, and angry at his desertion and the more so because it was believed he had not been particular as to whose booty he had taken when loading, but had indiscriminately piled on board all he could lay his hands on, the swindled pirates put off to sea in a hurry to overtake and make an example of him. They chased him half across the Atlantic, and came in sight of his sails one day, but the Great Peter having no mind to associate longer with such rogues, crowded on all the canvas he could carry, and with a brisk breeze soon left them far in the rear. He got safely to France, which was more than he deserved, and there he invested his money, bought a title, founded a noble family, several members of which a hundred years later were guillotined during the French Revolution, while the money that had come to him by robbery was speedily dissipated, and Peter's descendants were left as poor as Peter himself was when he ran away from Dieppe to become a pirate.