THE BUCCANEERS IN THE WEST INDIES IN THE XVII CENTURY

By C.H. Haring

CHAPTER IV


TORTUGA—1655-1664

When the Chevalier de Fontenay was driven from Tortuga in January 1654, the Spaniards left a small garrison to occupy the fort and prevent further settlements of French and English buccaneers. These troops possessed the island for about eighteen months, but on the approach of the expedition under Penn and Venables were ordered by the Conde de Penalva, President of S. Domingo, to demolish the fort, bury the artillery and other arms, and retire to his aid in Hispaniola.189  Some six months later an Englishman, Elias Watts,190 with his family and ten or twelve others, came from Jamaica in a shallop, re-settled the island, and raised a battery of four guns upon the ruins of the larger fort previously erected by the French. Watts received a commission for the island from General Brayne, who was then governor of Jamaica, and in a short time gathered about him a colony of about 150, both English and French. Among these new-comers was a "poor distressed gentleman" by the name of James Arundell, formerly a colonel in the Royalist army and now banished from England, who eventually married Watts' daughter and became the head of the colony.

It was while Watts was governor of Tortuga, if we are to believe the Jesuit, Dutertre, that the buccaneers determined to avenge the treachery of the Spaniards to a French vessel in that neighbourhood by plundering the city of St. Jago in Hispaniola. According to this historian, who from the style of the narrative seems to be reporting the words of an eye-witness, the buccaneers, including doubtless both hunters and corsairs, formed a party of 400 men under the leadership of four captains and obtained a commission for the enterprise from the English governor, who was very likely looking forward to a share  of the booty. Compelling the captain of a frigate which had just arrived from Nantes to lend his ship, they embarked in it and in two or three other boats found on the coast for Puerta de Plata, where they landed on Palm Sunday of 1659.191 St. Jago, which lay in a pleasant, fertile plain some fifteen or twenty leagues in the interior of Hispaniola, they approached through the woods on the night of Holy Wednesday, entered before daybreak, and surprised the governor in his bed. The buccaneers told him to prepare to die, whereupon he fell on his knees and prayed to such effect that they finally offered him his life for a ransom of 60,000 pieces of eight. They pillaged for twenty-four hours, taking even the bells, ornaments and sacred vessels of the churches, and after refreshing themselves with food and drink, retreated with their plunder and prisoners, including the governor and chief inhabitants. Meanwhile the alarm had been given for ten or twelve leagues round about. Men came in from all directions, and rallying with the inhabitants of the town till they amounted to about 1000 men, marched through the woods by a by-route, got ahead of the buccaneers and attacked them from ambush. The English and French stood their ground in spite of inferior numbers, for they were all good marksmen and every shot told. As the Spaniards persisted, however, they finally threatened to stab the governor and all the other prisoners, whereupon the Spaniards took counsel and retired to their homes. The invaders lost only ten killed and five or six wounded. They tarried on the coast several days waiting for the rest of the promised ransom, but as it failed to arrive they liberated the prisoners and returned to Tortuga, each adventurer receiving 300 crowns as his share of the pillage.192

 

In the latter part of 1659 a French gentleman, Jérémie Deschamps, seigneur du Rausset, who had been one of the first inhabitants of Tortuga under Levasseur and de Fontenay, repaired to England and had sufficient influence there to obtain an order from the Council of State to Colonel Doyley to give him a commission as governor of Tortuga, with such instructions as Doyley might think requisite.193 This same du Rausset, it seems, had received a French commission from Louis XIV. as early as November 1656.194 At any rate, he came to Jamaica in 1660 and obtained his commission from Doyley on condition that he held Tortuga in the English interest.195 Watts, it seems, had meanwhile learnt that he was to be superseded by a Frenchman, whereupon he embarked with his family and all his goods and sought refuge in New England. About two months later, according to one story, Doyley heard that Deschamps had given a commission to a privateer and committed insolences for which Doyley feared to be called to account. He sent to remonstrate with him, but Deschamps answered that he possessed a French commission and that he had better interest with the powers in England than had the governor of Jamaica. As there were more French than English on the island, Deschamps then proclaimed the King of France and set up the French colours.196 Doyley as yet had received no authority from the newly-restored king,  Charles II., and hesitated to use any force; but he did give permission to Arundell, Watts' son-in-law, to surprise Deschamps and carry him to Jamaica for trial. Deschamps was absent at the time at Santa Cruz, but Arundell, relying upon the friendship and esteem which the inhabitants had felt for his father-in-law, surprised the governor's nephew and deputy, the Sieur de la Place, and possessed himself of the island. By some mischance or neglect, however, he was disarmed by the French and sent back to Jamaica.197 This was not the end of his misfortunes. On the way to Jamaica he and his company were surprised by Spaniards in the bay of Matanzas in Cuba, and carried to Puerto Principe. There, after a month's imprisonment, Arundell and Barth. Cock, his shipmaster, were taken out by negroes into the bush and murdered, and their heads brought into the town.198 Deschamps later returned to France because of ill-health, leaving la Place to govern the island in his stead, and when the property of the French Antilles was vested in the new French West India Company in 1664 he was arrested and sent to the Bastille. The cause of his arrest is obscure, but it seems that he had been in correspondence with the English government, to whom he had offered to restore Tortuga on condition of being reimbursed with £6000 sterling. A few days in the Bastille made him think better of his resolution. He ceded his rights to the company for 15,000 livres, and was released from confinement in November.199

The fiasco of Arundell's attempt was not the only effort of the English to recover the island. In answer to a memorial presented by Lord Windsor before his departure for Jamaica, an Order in Council was delivered to him in  February 1662, empowering him to use his utmost endeavours to reduce Tortuga and its governor to obedience.200 The matter was taken up by the Jamaican Council in September, shortly after Windsor's arrival;201 and on 16th December an order was issued by deputy-governor Lyttleton to Captain Robert Munden of the "Charles" frigate for the transportation of Colonel Samuel Barry and Captain Langford to Tortuga, where Munden was to receive orders for reducing the island.202 The design miscarried again, however, probably because of ill-blood between Barry and Munden. Clement de Plenneville, who accompanied Barry, writes that "the expedition failed through treachery";203 and Beeston says in his Journal that Barry, approaching Tortuga on 30th January, found the French armed and ready to oppose him, whereupon he ordered Captain Munden to fire. Munden however refused, sailed away to Corydon in Hispaniola, where he put Barry and his men on shore, and then "went away about his merchandize."204 Barry made his way in a sloop to Jamaica where he arrived on 1st March. Langford, however, was sent to Petit-Goave, an island about the size of Tortuga in the cul-de-sac at the western end of Hispaniola, where he was chosen governor by the inhabitants and raised the first English standard. Petit-Goave had been frequented by buccaneers since 1659, and after d'Ogeron succeeded  du Rausset as governor for the French in those regions, it became with Tortuga one of their chief resorts. In the latter part of 1664 we find Langford in England petitioning the king for a commission as governor of Tortuga and the coast of Hispaniola, and for two ships to go and seize the smaller island.205 Such a design, however, with the direct sanction and aid of the English government, might have endangered a rupture with France. Charles preferred to leave such irregular warfare to his governor in Jamaica, whom he could support or disown as best suited the exigencies of the moment. Langford, moreover, seems not to have made a brilliant success of his short stay at Petit-Goave, and was probably distrusted by the authorities both in England and in the West Indies. When Modyford came as governor to Jamaica, the possibility of recovering Tortuga was still discussed, but no effort to effect it was ever made again.

Footnote 189: (return)

Dutertre, t. iii. p. 126; Add. MSS., 13,992, f. 499.

On 26th February 1656 there arrived at Jamaica a small vessel the master of which, touching at Tortuga, had found upon the deserted island two papers, one in Spanish, the other in "sorrie English" (Thurloe Papers, IV. p. 601). These papers were copies of a proclamation forbidding settlement on the island, and the English paper (Rawl. MSS., A. 29, f. 500) is printed in Firth's "Venables" as follows:—

"The Captane and Sarginge Mager Don Baltearsor Calderon and Spenoso, Nopte to the President that is now in the sity of Santo-domingo, and Captane of the gones of the sitye, and Governor and Lord Mare of this Island, and stranch of this Lland of Tortogo, and Chefe Comander of all for the Khinge of Spaine.

"Yoo moust understand that all pepell what soever that shall com to this Iland of the Khinge of Spaine Catholok wich is name is Don Pilep the Ostere the forth of this name, that with his harmes he hath put of Feleminge and French men and Englesh with lefee heare from the yeare of 1630 tell the yeare of thurty fouer and tell the yeare of fifte fouer in wich the Kinge of Spane uesenge all curtyse and given good quartell to all that was upon this Iland, after that came and with oute Recepet upon this Iland knowinge that the Kinge of Spane had planted upon it and fortified in the name of the Kinge came the forth time the 15th of Augost the last yeare French and Fleminges to govern this Iland the same Governeore that was heare befor his name was Themeleon hot man De founttana gentleman of the ourder of Guresalem for to take this Iland put if fources by se and land and forsed us to beate him oute of this place with a greate dale of shame, and be caues yoo shall take notes that wee have puelld doune the Casill and carid all the gonenes and have puelld doune all the houes and have lefte no thinge, the same Captane and Sargint-mager in the name of the Kinge wich God blesh hath given yoo notis that what souer nason souer that shall com to live upon this Iland that thare shall not a man mother or children cape of the sorde, thare fore I give notiss to all pepell that they shall have a care with out anye more notis for this is the order of the Kinge and with out fall you will not want yooer Pamente and this is the furst and second and thorde time, and this whe leave heare for them that comes hear to take notis, that when wee com upon you, you shall not pleate that you dod not know is riten the 25 of August 1656."

Baltesar Calderon y Espinosa

Por Mandado de Senor Gouor.

Pedro Franco de riva deney xasuss.


Footnote 190: (return)

In Dutertre's account the name is Eliazouard (Elias Ward).

Footnote 191: (return)

According to a Spanish account of the expedition the date was 1661. Brit. Mus., Add. MSS., 13,992, f. 499.

Footnote 192: (return)

Dutertre, tom. iii. pp. 130-34.

Footnote 193: (return)

Rawl. MSS., A. 347, ff. 31 and 36; S.P. Spain, vol. 47:—Deposition of Sir Charles Lyttleton; Margry, op. cit., p. 281.

Footnote 194: (return)

Charlevoix, op. cit., liv. vii. p. 36; Vaissière, op. cit., p. 10.

Footnote 195: (return)

According to Dutertre, Deschamps' commission extended only to the French inhabitants upon Tortuga, the French and English living thereafter under separate governments as at St. Kitts. Dutertre, t. iii. p. 135.

Footnote 196: (return)

Rawl. MSS., A. 347, f. 36.

According to Dutertre's version, Watts had scarcely forsaken the island when Deschamps arrived in the Road, and found that the French inhabitants had already made themselves masters of the colony and had substituted the French for the English standard. Dutertre, t. iii. p. 136.

Footnote 197: (return)

Rawl. MSS., A. 347, f. 36.

Footnote 198: (return)

C.S.P. Colon., 1661-68, No. 648.

Footnote 199: (return)

Dutertre, t. iii. p. 138; Vaissière, op. cit., p. 11, note 2.

Footnote 200: (return)

C.S.P. Colon., 1661-68, No. 233.

Footnote 201: (return)

Ibid., No. 364.

Footnote 202: (return)

Ibid., No. 390; cf. also No. 474 (1).

Footnote 203: (return)

Ibid., No. 475.

Footnote 204: (return)

Beeston's Journal, 1st March 1663.

According to Dutertre, some inhabitants of Tortuga ran away to Jamaica and persuaded the governor that they could no longer endure French domination, and that if an armed force was sent, it would find no obstacle in restoring the English king's authority. Accordingly Col. Barry was despatched to receive their allegiance, with orders to use no violence but only to accept their voluntary submission. When Barry landed on Tortuga, however, with no other support than a proclamation and a harangue, the French inhabitants laughed in his face, and he returned to Jamaica in shame and confusion. Dutertre, t. iii. pp. 137-38.

Footnote 205: (return)

C.S.P. Colon., 1661-68, Nos. 817-21.


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