Departure of the Free-Booters:
By Raveneau de Lussan
On the 22d, of November, in the Year 1684. we departed from Pettit-Guaves, on the Coast of St. Domingo, to the number of 120 Men on Board a Prize taken some time before by Captain Laurence de Graff, from the Spaniards, which they sent as an Advice-boat from Carthagena on the Terra Firma of America, to Spain.
Our Design was to go and join ourselves with a Fleet of Free-Booters, which we were in hopes to meet with before the Havana, a great City in the Isle of Cuba to the North, and about fourteen Leagues distant from St. Domingo.
We anchored on the 4th of December at the Tortoise Island to take in Water, and on the 6th sailed away in order to return to the Coast of St. Domingo, which is but Three Leagues off. We arrived the 12th, casting Anchor at Cape Francis, where we took in our full Store of Water and Wood. We left this Place on the 17th, and were taken with a North-wind two Leagues from the Road in such a manner, that we lost our Shalloop, which was too big to be put upon our Gibbet. Towards Evening we sailed back to a Place of Safety, where we were obliged to stay Two Days waiting for a Canoe we had sent to buy at the Cape, from whence we came, such things as we wanted for making up the Loss of our Chaloop.
On the twentieth we made ready to endeavour to rejoin the Victorious, a Ship that came with us from the Cape, belonging to Nantes, and bound to the Isles of the Wind, which had on Board the Commander of St. Laurence, Lieutenant-General of the French Islands and the Coasts of the Terra Firma of America, and Monsieur Begon Intendant of Justice Policy, and the Finances of that Country, to who we served as Convoy, left they should have been attacked by the Spanish Pirogues that Cruise there abouts. And indeed we had a great deal of Reason to be concerned for the Safety of those Gentlemen who were in much Esteem with all the Colonies of these Islands, because of the good Orders they kept, the exact Justice they administred, and the Tranquility the People enjoyed under them; but we could not possibly set sight on this Ship, as not knowing what Course she steered.
The three and twentieth we steered our own Course and in the Evening discovered a Ship to Leeward of us, to whom we gave Chase, but she braced to wait for us; and when we were come up her, we found it was Captain le Suer of Deep, who commanded a Flute called the Amerantha, whom quickly left, keeping our own Course.
But on the Five and twentieth, which was Christmas-day, we had a great Calm till next day, when the Wind proving contrary, obliged us to put back to the Port Platta, on the Coast of St. Domingo, where we to the end of the Month.
On the First of January in the New Year, 1685 we doubled Cape St. Francis, and next day by in the Morning did the same by Cape Cabrott, we doubled that of Savona towards Noon, they being all situated on the same Coast, and that day one of our Men died.
On the Fourth we sailed in sight of la Mona, next day coasted the Isle of Puerto Rico, and la Savona and then steered South-East and by South, till the Eleventh, when we discovered the Isles, of Ave, to towards which we bore till the Evening, and doubled them on the Twelfth about Eleven in the Morning, keeping still the same Course till we came to the Isle de la Roca; where there was also another Rendezvous of our Men of War to be, which we were going to seek out.
On the Thirteenth, at Seven in the Morning, we discovered the main Land of America, and were becalmed next Day, which continued to the Fifteenth at Noon, when we had a fresh Gale, and steered North North-East till the Seventeenth, when about Moon-setting we descried Two Ships and Four Boats to Windward of us, about a Cannon-Shot's Distance, that had the Cape of us, which brought us upon Deck to make all ready.
One of those Boats on the Eighteenth by break of Day, being a Tartane commanded by Captain John Rose, as not knowing us presently, came up and halted us; and as our Captain had a Commission from the Lord High Admiral of France, the Count of Tholouse, we made answer from Paris, and put out our Flag; But Rose who would not know us so, believing we had no other Intention in feigning our selves to be a King's Ship, than to get clear off him, gave Two Guns to make us strike, insomuch that taking him really for a Spaniard, we knocked out the Head of Two Barrels of Powder, in order to burn ourselves, and blow up the Ship, rather than fall into the Hands of those People, who never gave us Quarter, but were wont to make us suffer all imaginable Torments, they beginning usually with the Captain, whom they hang with his Commission about his Neck: But one of the Two Ships came up with us in a Moment, and knowing what we were, gave us a Signal, which was so much the more Satisfaction to us, that instead of Enemies, which we took them to be, they proved to be not only Friends, but those very Ships we were in quest of, which obliged us to put in at the Cape, and spend that Day to visit one another.
One of these Two Ships belonged to Captain Michael Landresson, and was called The Mutinous, but formerly The Peace; and the other to Captain Laurence de Graff, whose Name was The Neptune, but once The St. Francis, and which he had quitted, when he went in his Prize to St. Domingo to get a new Commission of the Governour, his own that he had being then expired. The first of these Ships carried Fifty Pieces of Cannon, and the other Forty four, and had both of them been Two Spanish Armadilla's, who the Year before coming out of Carthagena, to take the Ships commanded as well by the Captains, Laurence and Michael, as those of Captains, John Quet and le Sage, were themselves taken by those, whom they were about to become Masters of: And as for the four Boats, they were commanded by other Captains, whose Names were Rose, Vigneron, La Grade, and an English Traitor from Jamaica; By them we were informed that they were watching in that Place for the Patach of Marguerita, and a Squadron of Spanish Ships, which they expected would sail that way, in order to take them.
Isle of Curassol
On the Nineteenth we resolved to quit that Post, and did all we could to get up with the Isle of Curassol, a great part whereof belongs to the Hollanders. We sailed in sight of those of Bonuaira and Roube; and about Two in the Afternoon of the same Day, we chased a Flemish Boat that came from the Port of Guaira, on the Continent, and was returning to the Town of Curassol, Two Leagues to Leeward of which we anchored that Evening in the Port of Sancta Barba.
On the Twentieth we sent away a Boat, under the Command of La Garde, to the Town to ask the Governour leave to buy us Masts for Captain Laurence his Ship, that had lost them in an Hurricane near the Isle of St. Thomas. But this he absolutely refused, and shut up the Gates against us. Upon the Boat's Return, and Relation given us of the Governour's Refusal, I carried him a Copy of our Commission, hoping to engage him by that means to grant us our Request; But he still persisted to deny us while a part of our Crew scrupled not in the meantime to go ashore, and enter into the Town after having left their Swords behind them at the Gate.
On the Twenty third our Ships weighed Anchor, in order to sail for Sancta Crux, which stands seven Leagues to Leeward of this Town, and in our Passage by the Fort we saluted it, who returned us Gun for Gun. But the Governour finding we were two Hundred Men of us in the Town, informed us on the twenty fourth by beat of Drum, that it was his Pleasure we should be gone, and return forthwith on board our Ships, and that he would give us Shallops to carry us thither, provided we paid him two Pieces of Eight a Man, I presently discerned it was his Will we should not go back by Land, because we must for that purpose cross a Lake that stands at the foot of the Fort, which he had forbidden us to pass; And this made me go and tell him, we gave him thanks for his Shaloops, that if we were minded to go by Sea to rejoin our Ships, we had Pirogues to carry us thither; and that we had no other design to get to them by Land, but for a walk's sake: To which he answered, That the Inhabitants there scrupled to let us see their Island; but for all that, he would not let us pass over the Lake, and so we were two days before we could reach Sancta Crux, where our Ships were waiting for us.
We came afterwards to know the reason of the Governor's Displeasure against us, which was, that Capt. Laurence, and Captain Michael's Ships had taken two Dutch Ships before the Havana, that were fraught for the Spaniards, having two Hundred Thousand Pieces of Eight on board, whereof one half belonged to the Dutch Company, and the rest to the Spaniards.
Pieces of Eight
These last, with whom we were at War, being the only Persons that were pillaged, were pillaged, were indempnified by the Dutch, who had charge of the said Ships, and who shared with them the other one Hundred Thousand Pieces of Eight that belonged to their Company, which the Free-Booters medled not with, being at Peace with that Nation; And they easily persuaded their Principals that all had been taken from them, and so we were punished for the Knavery these Dutchmen practised towards their own People of St. Domingo, and produces the same sort of Fruits that the Land is almost level throughout, and the Country very naked because of the little Wood that grows there, but almost barren in several places, and produces little to the owners besides Maes and small Millet, yet it is watered with several Springs and Rivers.
The Town that stands upon it, is small but very near, being encompassed with an high though very thin Wall; There is a good and safe Port belongs to it, and the Fort that commands it as well as the Town is very regularly fortified; the Inhabitants are of several sorts of Religions, the exercise thereof being free, the chief of which is that of the Dutch, of the Jews, as well as of others; each of whom have their respective places of Worship in the Town.
The chief of their Trade consists in Sugar that grows there, and of Wool which comes from the Sheep which breed upon the place in great Numbers: Besides the Skins of these Animals, as also of a great many Oxen and Cows which they keep in the lowest and best watered Grounds of this Island, where it abounds in Pasture: they are altogether affected to the Spanish Nation, with whom they have the main of their Trade.
On the twenty seventh we made ready and steered our Course for Capella Vella, which is on the Continent of America, where we designed to fix ourselves in order to wait for the Patach of Marguerita, whereof I have already spoken: The same day Captain Vigneron's boat left us to return to the Coast of St. Domingo, because they had not Men enough to make any thing of the Enterprize, there being no more than twenty on board her.
Being come to the Cape by the thirtieth, we anchored there; and our next care was to set a Vigil or some Sentinels, to the Number of fifteen upon the top of it, to give us notice when they discovered the Patach but next day we thought it more advisable to pursue this following method to get Intelligence: We sent on the first of February Captain Rose's Boat to the Mouth of the River la Ache on the Continent, inhabited by Spaniards, and about twenty Leagues distant from the Cape where we then were, under pretence of trading with them, but in reality with a design to make some Prisoners, that to we might be informed whether the Patach was passed by that way or no; for it was usual for her to take in part of her lading in that River.
While we waited for the return of this Boat, I and some others went a shore to view and observe the Country about the Cape. I understood it was inhabited by a most cruel, barbarous and savage Indian Nation, who are neither Friends to, nor have Society with any other People whatsoever, no not even with the Spaniards themselves, who live round about them. They eat without any distinction whatever they can catch, and are afraid of nothing but Swords and the like Weapons; but as for Fire-Arms they matter them not at all; we were satisfied to have a sight of them as we returned, without having the Curiosity to make a trial of their Teeth, by going farther up into a Country, were there was nothing to be got.
I am not able to forbear in this place to give a strange Example of what land of what this People can do, whom I take to be the oldest am speaking, Free-Booters of America. The Marquiss of Maintenon, Governor of the Isle of Mary Gallant, who had the command of one of the King's Frigates called the Witch, having taken a Prize of fourteen Guns, which he went on Board, and finding himself one day separated from his own Ship, was constrained, in order to take in water, to cast Anchor at Boca del Drago on the Terra Firma of America, which was inhabited by the same Indian People as live at Cape la Vella. He brought his Ship as near the Shore as he could, and bringing all his Cannon to bear on one side, he sent under the Covert of them his Shalloop with two and twenty armed Men to fill their Casks with Water. Now those Savages lying in Ambush upon the Sea-side, did not give the Shalloop time to land, but throwing themselves head-long into the Water, and rushing upon them in spight of the continual Fire made upon them from the Cannon of the Man of War, they carried her with the two and twenty Men for above fifty Paces to Land, where after they had killed them, every one took his man upon his Back, and moved them off; then they returned, and swimming to cut the Cables of the Ship to make her drive ashore, they hoped also to serve those on board the same Sauce, but as good luck would have it, they had time to loose their Sails and to make ready to put farther off from the Shore.
On the second we put our Ships into a Careening-Posture, and on the eight Rose's Boat returned to us, and gave an account, that as soon as they had anchored at the Mouth of the River la Acha, they sent a small Canoe with six Englishmen in it a-shore, they being of our Crew, and at Peace then with the Spaniards, who agreed with them, that next Morning about Sun-rising, they would fire a Gun to give the other notice to come on board to traffick with them; That in the night they had put thirty men ashore to surprize those of the Spaniards that should pass to and fro; But that the Spaniards having discerned the Snare that was laid for them, fired all night, which gave all the Inhabitants the alarm; That next Morning our People fired their Cannon of Signal according to the Agreement, and put out English Colours, but it was to no purpose, for the Spaniards according to all appearance, had no inclination for those Goods they supposed we would trade with them in, so that our Men finding their design had miscarried, weighed Anchor and sailed away to join us.
As we were of opinion at last that there was no hopes the Patach would we held a Council on board our Ship about forming pass that way, another Design, but not being able to agree with Captain Laurence, (who was owner of two thirds of the Neptune) because he would have imposed upon us; there were four score and seven that quitted the Ship and went on board the Prize in which we came from St. Domingo, and so left him on the thirteenth. He weighed and steered his Course thitherward; Captain Michael, and Captain John Rose weighed also, and sailed for Carthagena, and we who were irresolute what way to take, followed the latter.
On the 25th we had a hard Easterly Breeze, which carried us beyond a River that runs on the Terra-Firma, and is by the Spaniards called Rio-grande, where we should have taken in Water which continues sweet within the Sea for three or four Leagues from the Mouth of it, for all it rains so little, and provided you take that which runs on the Superficies. About three of the same day in the Afternoon, we saw our Lady de la Poupla which is also on the Continent, and the 16th anchored at the Isles of St. Bernard, from whence we parted in the Eveninig with three Pirogues only, in order to get to windward of Carthagena, to endeavour to seek us some Provision which they continually carry to that place, and our Design had in effect the desired success.
We returned on the 18th with seven Pirogues laden with Maes, made good Prize: By the Spaniards that were in them, we understood, that there were two Galleons at Carthagena, and that the Spanish Flota was at Porto Belo, and that two Ships, one carrying twenty and the other twenty four Guns would quickly put out from thence; but we did not think fit to wait for them, because they could not assign to us any determinate time when they should sail, for them, because they could not assign to us any determinate time when they should sail.
On the twenty second at Noon we weighed, and towards Evening discovered Point Picaron on the Continent, and the Isles of Palmas: About two Hours within the Night we doubled the greatest Point of these Islands. The next Morning, which was the twenty third, we found ourselves separated from Captain Michael and Captain Rose, and then it was we took a Resolution of attempting to cross over the Continent to the end we might get into the South-Sea: In order to which we sailed to the Bay of the Isle d'Or, which is inhabited by the Indians of Sambes, that so we might know of them (who were our Friends) what success the other Free-booters met with, who, we had been told, were gone thither some Months before.
From the twenty third at Night to the twenty fourth we kept to the Cape, being afraid of entring into the Gulf of Arian, and that Morning by break of Day we made nearer the Shore, to discover where we were, and upon trial we found it to be a Point of the Wind in that Gulph, which the Currents made us to double.
Between this Gulf and Cape Matance happened a very remarkable Adventure; we had on board our Ship a Soldier belonging to the Spanish Galleons, whom we had taken to windward of Carthagena, in one of the Pirogues whereof we found the Maes before spoken of, who out of a despair to find himself made a Prisoner, though he was very kindly used, took a Resolution, as appeared by what followed, to throw himself into the Sea, to which end he went five or six times upon Deck without being able to put his Design in execution, and that in all likelyhood, out of a secret resistance he found within himself to do it: But at last, after several Attempts, he effected the same, which exciting my Curiosity to enquire into the Circumstances thereof, I found he had put off a Scapulary or kind of Cloak he wore, and laid it under the Carriage of one of our Guns: And what is yet more extraordinary is, that contrary to what usually happens in such cases, the Body which fell down with full force into the Water, floated along time upon the Back by the Ship's side, though to our apprehension he did all he could to drown himself; But when out of Compassion to save his Life we threw out some of our Tackle for him to catch hold on, he not only refused to make use of them, but turned himself upon his Face and plunged to the bottom.
On the Twenty fifth at Eleven in the Morning we arriv'd and anchored at the Isle d'Or, or Goldeu Island and at the same time fired a Gun to give the Indian notice of our coming. Then we went ashore, to know what that Flag was we discovered at a distance from us, where we found three Men belonging to Captain Grognier and Captain Lescuier's Crew, who told us, that they had carried there because they would not go with the other Free-Booters, who were on their Journey to the South-Sea, under the Conduct of those two Captains, and that as soon as ever they saw us, they had set up that Flag, as a Signal for us to come up to them.
The Six and twentieth came some Indians with Letters on Board us, which were directed to the first Free-Booters that should Anchor in that Road, to give them notice, that they were gone, to the number of an hundred and seventy Men to that Sea, and some small time before them an hundred and fifteen English; Besides which they also set us some Instructions how to demean our selves towards the Indians through whose Territories we must pass, wherewith we were fully confirmed in the Project we had already formed of undertaking this Expedition: And though we were but fourscore and seven Men, yet we made our selves ready to be gone. In the mean time some other Indians came also on Board us, by whom we were informed, that Captain Grogniet and Captain Lescuier were still in their Territories, and not yet gone to the South Sea, which made us write to them by one of those two Indians, to let them know that we were coming to them.
On the Twenty seventh at Noon we saw Captain Mitchel and Captain Rose turn in to the same Port, which made us go presently on Board, to know what made them come in and Anchor in that Road. They told us they had been in Chase of a Spanish Ship named the Hardy come from St. Jago on the Coast of Cuba and bound for Carthagena, but not being able to come up with her, they were come into this Port, as being the nighest, to take in Water. Then we shewed them the Letters we had received, which wrought a Desire in many of them to come and increase our Number, insomuch that an hundred and eighteen Men quitted Mitchel's Ship, and the whole Crew of Captain Rose, being Sixty four Men, who burnt their Vessel, when they had paid the Owners the price of it: We were not then for delaying, but on the Twenty ninth quitted our Ships and went ashore, where we encamped to the Number of Two hundred sixty and four Persons; but as to the Ship belonging to our particular Crew we left her in the Hands of Captain Mitchel rather than burn her.
The French had established themselves on the western portion of the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga by 1659. In the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, Spain formally recognized French control of Tortuga Island and the western third of the island of Hispaniola.