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BEHOLD them now, these Buccaneers, with a great fleet of upwards of fifty sail, with several thousand men, desperadoes all, each bearded like a pard and armed to the teeth, with carbine slung across his back, two brace of pistols in his belt, and heavy cutlass swinging at his side, cutting loose from all governments and determined to conquer for themselves. No longer are they satisfied with the plunder of Spanish ships. They are resolved to carry their exploits still further. At Jamaica they have learned that they can fight on land as well as on sea, and are not slow to improve by the knowledge thus gained. Shortly after the Jamaica expedition, there was a grand rendezvous at Tortuga, a mass meeting of cut-throats and leading Buccaneers to set forth the necessity of unity, the need of discipline and of a commander. Ballots were taken, and one Mansvelt, a Dutchman, was almost unanimously elected their commander-in-chief. At once he prepared for a considerable exploit; nothing less than an attempt to found colonies and establish fortifications on the mainland. Before this time, L'Olonnais and Michel Le Basque had taken Maracaibo and Gibraltar in the Gulf of Venezuela, with a plunder of four hundred thousand crowns. But their expeditions were simple raids, designed merely to gratify the passing needs of the moment. The purpose of Mansvelt looked much further into the future, being a design for conquest and permanent occupancy.


All the forces of the Buccaneers were summoned, and with fifteen vessels and nine hundred men Mansvelt left Tortuga on his conquering expedition. He started for the mainland, designing first to subject to Buccaneer control what territory he could on the continent, and then to found permanent colonies or settlements. There was much deliberation as to the proper point to attack, for it was desirable that some region should be chosen where the booty was likely to be abundant, and in the second place that the country should have natural advantages that would commend it to permanent occupation. The choice of the majority fell on Costa Rica, which was therefore selected as the objective point.

It being important to have a base of operations, for the invasion was to be conducted in true military style, the Island of St. Catherine near the coast was attacked in order that it might be used as a rendezvous, and as it was at no great distance from Costa Rica it could be made a convenient place from which operations against the Spanish might be conducted. The Spanish garrison of the place made a defense, but the overwhelming numbers of the Buccaneers prevailed and soon drove the Spaniards to the mainland. Leaving a party of men at St. Catherine's to guard the island against Spanish attack, Mansvelt sailed up the coast seeking for a proper point on which to make a descent, but everywhere the inhabitants were on their guard and presented so formidable a front that at no place did the Buccaneer commander venture to land his men. Unable to accomplish anything he returned to St. Catherine's and was agreeably surprised to find that his deputy during his absence had erected strong fortifications, so strong in fact as to render the place practically impregnable, since a hostile fleet, owing to the nature of the harbor, was compelled to lie beyond cannon-shot and could only attack the island with boats.

Resolved to hold so favorable a station, Mansvelt went to Jamaica for assistance for his projected raid on the mainland, hoping to secure enough English troops and vessels to enable him to land at any point he pleased in Costa Rica. But the governor, while willing enough to keep the Buccaneers in Jamaica, was not favorable to their scheme of independence. A Buccaneer state in or near the Caribbean Sea might in time prove a formidable menace to English power; so he refused assistance and carried his opposition to the extent of declining to allow Mansvelt to recruit his forces from British volunteers for the proposed raid on the Spanish territory. Sorely disappointed the pirate chief returned to Tortuga to summon all the Buccaneers to assist in his expedition, but on the way to the robber stronghold he died of a fever contracted on the coast of Costa Rica and was succeeded in the command by one of the most remarkable men of that or any other age.


Henry Morgan, in some respects the greatest of robber chiefs, when a boy, inspired by tales he heard and read of the doings of the Buccaneers, ran away from home to seek his fortune on the seas. When a youth of fourteen he joined the Buccaneers at Tortuga in the capacity of an engagé. This at that time was the best recognized method of obtaining a standing among the freebooters. A youth seeking to join their bands must first act as the servant of a Buccaneer in good standing. The applicant was enlisted as a servant, and did a servant's work. The hardest labor fell to his lot, for the Buccaneer believed in severe training. The work of the engage was incessant, and his treatment brutal. On one occasion an engage remonstrated with his master at being required to do Sunday labor, and recited for that worthy the commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." "Six days shall thou labor, and do all thy work." With a fierce oath and a blow, the outlaw turned upon his servant, "but I say unto you six days shalt thou labor and skin steers, and on the seventh shalt thou carry the skins to the shore."


The engagé served three years as a prentice pirate, and the only hope he had of earlier emancipation was by becoming a good shot. In the pirate crews a marksman was always valuable, and an apprentice pirate by proving his skill with rifle or pistol was soon freed from his bondage and admitted to the Buccaneer band with a servant of his own. Morgan was not long a servant, for so great was his dexterity with all kinds of arms that in a few months he emancipated himself and soon demonstrated his ability for leadership. When a Spanish ship was to be boarded, Morgan was the first to mount, with a cutlass between his teeth; when a cannon was to be fired, Morgan stood at the breech and took aim; when any service, however, desperate was to be performed, Morgan was the first to volunteer. He seemed to bear a charmed life. Time and again had he been struck by musket balls, but never more than slightly wounded, while he passed unscathed through a thousand perils. Before he was twenty years old, he was a petty officer in one of the best ships owned by the Buccaneers; at twenty-five he had a ship of his own; at thirty he was second in command to Mansvelt, and at the death of that leader became the supreme head of the pirate organization. He was a natural leader of men, and the desperadoes under his command looked up to him, in spite of his youth, for advice and counsel in all desperate straits. A man of great projects, he at once began to put into execution the schemes of conquest already commenced by his predecessor.


For some weeks after the death of Mansvelt, the headquarters at Tortuga presented a busy scene. Councils of war were continually held as the chiefs discussed various points along the Spanish coast; maps were consulted, slaves and captives were questioned as to the wealth, trade, population, fortifications and available strength of the different towns under consideration. At first, the general opinion was favorable to a continuation of Mansvelt's policy against Costa Rica, but to this Morgan was opposed, for he wished to do something that should bear the stamp of individuality and in a different line from what had before been attempted; so he was not sorry to learn by the arrival of a ship with a few half starved men, that the Spanish had cut off the retreat of the most of the Buccaneer force at St. Catherine's, and had retaken the island, only a few escaping in a small vessel. Further attempts in this direction were therefore useless, and Morgan turned his attention to Cuba. He formed the bold design of attacking Havana and sent spies to examine the forts, but these were found too strong for any force the freebooters could bring against them, and the Spaniards being on the alert -- for in some way intelligence had got abroad that a great design was under consideration -- the projected attack on the Cuban capital was abandoned. Other points were then discussed, and after obtaining the fullest possible information, Puerto del Principe, an inland city midway the island of Cuba, was selected for the raid.

Collecting all his forces, Morgan sailed from Tortuga, and one Saturday afternoon in August, 1667, the Buccaneer fleet arrived off Nuevitas, the port of Puerto del Principe. All the population were enjoying a holiday, but at sight of the twelve pirate ships in the harbor, the merriment was suspended. An hour later Nuevitas was deserted, its inhabitants had fled. Before night seven hundred pirates embarked on the beach and camped in the abandoned houses, but before their fires had begun to blaze, pale riders on horses weary with forty-five miles of mountain road, hurried through the gates of Puerto, bearing intelligence of the landing of the pirate forces. The rich and populous city was in a panic. "The pirates are coming," was the dread intelligence that passed from mouth to mouth. There was no rest that night; the men hurried to and fro preparing weapons and ammunition. Women packed their valuables on the backs of horses and mules for transportation to the mountains. All night long the exodus continued; by morning the city was deserted. Women, children and slaves had dispersed in every direction except those of Nuevitas; the men were marching toward the coast to repel the intruders, for Puerto was not to be won without a struggle.

The Spanish forces marched twenty miles toward the coast, and in a narrow defile in the mountains they halted, cut down trees, formed an abattis, threw up entrenchments, and waited for the pirates. Towards evening the head of the invading force appeared in the defile and was received with a lively fusilade. The Buccaneers halted; Morgan reconnoitred the situation of the defending force and found it too strong to be taken by direct attack. There was not a moment to be lost. As soon as night fell the pirate army left the road, made a long detour, and under the guidance of Indians who knew the country, crossed the mountains to the north of the Spaniards, climbing up and down the rocks, stumbling through the ravines, running against trees in the darkness, but still pressing onward, the whole body of the invaders left their enemies in the rear, and by dawn appeared on the plain before Puerto.


The Spaniards missed them, and sent out scouts, who returned with intelligence of their whereabouts, and the Spanish force was put in motion, cavalry going first with movements slow and cautious, but still advancing so rapidly that the infantry were left in the rear. Scarcely had the Spanish horsemen emerged from the forest into the open ground when they were confronted by the Buccaneer army drawn up in the shape of a crescent, on the edge of a jungle impenetrable by cavalry. The Spanish commander did
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not hesitate; the trumpets sounded a charge, and the cavalry threw themselves on the serried ranks of the Buccaneers. The latter stood firm; there was not a word nor a shot till the Spanish horsemen advanced within fifty feet; then came a thunderous report, and a hundred horsemen reeled and fell. The remainder turned and galloped away. At a distance beyond gunshot they rallied and again charged, and then again, but to no purpose, for that deadly fire was not to be resisted, and after an hour of fruitless effort the remaining Spaniards sought safety in flight. By this time the infantry had come up, but finding the cavalry defeated, they retired within the city leaving the Buccaneers masters of the plain.

Puerto was not well fortified, for the city lay so far inland that there was no expectation of hostile attack. The Spaniards, however, made the best of the situation, and with extemporized fortifications fought so bravely that the freebooters began to despair. Night came on; the city was not taken, and every moment diminished the chances of Morgan and increased the hope of the Spaniards, for from their camp on the plain the freebooters could see signal fires blazing from every mountain top and the sentinels reported that re-enforcements were constantly arriving for the Spaniards in the beleaguered city. Something must be done, so in the darkness of night some barrels of gunpowder were rolled to one of the gates. A fuse was attached, the gate blown down by the explosion, the Buccaneers made a rush, and at last entrance was effected into the city. But the Spaniards were not beaten. They fought from house to house and contested every foot of ground. Every roof was a barricade, every corner concealed a foe, every window sent forth a bullet, and many Buccaneers perished in the street fight. Success was still doubtful, but Morgan set the city on fire, and the defenders driven out by, the flames, finally retired leaving the ruins of Puerto to the pirates.


Many prisoners having been taken, the process of forcing money from them now began, and all manner of torture was resorted to in order to accomplish the desired result. Some of the miserable captives were hung by the feet, others strung up by their hands; some were roasted to compel them to divulge their hidden treasures. Some of them exhibited marvellous powers of endurance before giving up their money, for one old Hidalgo after declaring that he had no money, was tortured in the peculiar way known as "swimming on air." Four ropes were procured, and the wretched man was suspended by one attached to each member from four
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upright posts. A heavy weight was placed on his body, and a pirate stood by, keeping the suspended prisoner in constant motion. No conceivable torture could be worse than this, and yet the old Spaniard stood it for four hours before acknowledging that he had five hundred pieces hidden under the pavement of his house. The pirates were confident that he had, a great deal more, so after this money was procured they singed his beard and burned off his hair in an effort to get the remainder. When he vowed he had no more, they began on his teeth, took them out one by one until all within easy reach were gone. Still he protested his poverty. By order of a pirate officer his ears were twisted off by hand, but all in vain, and when the freebooters concluded him incorrigible they determined to beat him to death and very nearly succeeded before he admitted the whereabouts of his funds, and being released, guided them to a spot where he had concealed fifty thousand dollars. Such scenes as this, and many far worse were witnessed in Puerto during the few days of Morgan's occupation. Finally, the ferocious bandit announced that unless a very large sum was paid for the ransom of all the captives, they would be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves. The wretched prisoners agreed to get all they could, and sent four of their number to raise the funds. These special messengers soon returned with the intelligence that the ransom money would be forthcoming in two weeks. This length of time was granted, and, the pirates gave themselves up to feasting, drunkenness and debauchery. Two days later a messenger was sent to the city authorities with letters: "Keep the pirates as long as you can," wrote the governor, "I am coming with large forces." At this alarming intelligence Morgan collected all his men and plunder, ordered the inhabitants to furnish five hundred beeves in lieu of the promised money, and these being delivered, marched back to Nuevitas, where he embarked and sailed to Tortuga to divide the spoils with his men, but a dispute occurred over an unfair division of the spoils, which led to a withdrawal of the French, who thereafter operated on their own account.