From that moment they determined to carry the fort or die to a man upon the spot.
Continuing Buccaneers Sack Panama,
our selection from History of the Pirates by Johann W. Von Archenholz published in 1803. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Buccaneers Sack Panama.
Place: Panama City
In the execution of this design, which stupefied the New World, they displayed equal prudence and cruelty. Previous to the adoption of any other measure, it was necessary that the pirates should get possession of Fort St. Laurent, which was situated on the banks of the river Chagres. With this view, Morgan detached four ships, with four hundred men, under the command of the intrepid Brodely, who had happily succeeded in victualling the fleet, and who was intimately acquainted with the country. Morgan continued at the island of St. Catharine with the rest of his forces.
His plan was to dissemble his vast projects against Panama as long as it was possible, and to cause the pillage of Fort St. Laurent to be regarded as a common expedition to which he would confine himself. Brodely discharged his commission with equal courage and success. That castle was situated on a lofty mountain, at the mouth of the river, and was inaccessible on almost every side. The first attempts were fruitless; and the freebooters, who advanced openly, without any other arms than their fusees and sabres, at first lost many of their comrades; for the Spaniards not only made use of all their artillery and musketry against them, but were also seconded by the Indians that were with them in the fort and whose arrows were far more fatal than the bullets.
The assailants saw their companions-in-arms fall by their side without being able to avenge them. The danger of their present situation and the nature of their arms seemed to render the enterprise altogether impracticable. Their courage began to waver, their ranks were thrown into disorder, and they already thought of retiring, when the provocations of the Spaniards inspired them with new vigor. “You heretic dogs,” cried they in a triumphant tone; “you cursed English, possessed by the devil! Ah, you will go to Panama, will you? No, no; that you shall not; you shall all bite the dust here, and all your comrades shall share the same fate.”
From these insulting speeches the pirates learned that the design of their expedition was discovered; and from that moment they determined to carry the fort or die to a man upon the spot. They immediately commenced the assault in defiance of the shower of arrows that were discharged against them, and undismayed by the loss of their commander, both of whose legs had been carried away by a cannon-ball. One of the pirates, in whose shoulder an arrow was deeply fixed, tore it out himself, exclaiming: “Patience, comrades, an idea strikes me; all the Spaniards are lost!” He tore some cotton out of his pocket, with which he covered his ramrod, set the cotton on fire, and shot this burning material, in lieu of bullets, at the houses of the fort, which were covered with light wood and the leaves of palm trees. His companions collected together the arrows which were strewed around them upon the ground, and employed them in a similar manner. The effect of this novel mode of attack was most rapid; many of the houses caught fire; a powder-wagon blew up. The besieged, being thus diverted from their means of defense, thought only of stopping the progress of the fire. Night came on; under cover of the darkness the freebooters attempted also to set on fire the palisades, which were made of a kind of wood that was easily kindled. In this attempt likewise they were crowned with success. The soil, which the palisades supported, fell down for want of support, and filled up the ditch. The Spaniards nevertheless continued to defend themselves with much courage, being animated by the example of their commander, who fought till the very moment he received a mortal blow. The garrison had, throughout, the use of their cannon, which kept up a most violent fire; but the enemy had already made too much progress to be disconcerted with it; they persevered in their attack, until they at length became masters of the fort.
A great number of Spaniards, finding themselves deprived of all resource, precipitated themselves from the top of the walls into the river, that they might not fall alive into the hands of the freebooters, who made only twenty-four prisoners, and ten of these were wounded men, who had concealed themselves among the dead, in the hope of escaping their ferocious conquerors. These twenty-four men were all that remained of three hundred forty who had composed the garrison, which had shortly before been reinforced, for the President of Panama, having been apprised from Carthagena of the real object of the pirates’ expedition, came to encamp, with thirty-six hundred men, in the vicinity of the threatened city. This information was confirmed to the freebooters after the capture of the fort. At the same time they learned that among this body of troops there were four hundred horsemen, six hundred Indians, and two hundred mulat-toes; the last of whom, being very expert in hunting bulls, were intended, in case of necessity, to send two thousand of those animals among the freebooters.
It is scarcely credible that Brodely continued to command, notwithstanding the severity of his wounds; but he would not, by retiring, compromise the advantages which he had so dearly purchased; for out of four hundred men who had composed his little army, one hundred sixty had been killed, eighty wounded; and of these eighty, sixty were altogether out of the battle.
The bodies of the French and English were interred; but those of the Spaniards were thrown down from the top of the fort and remained in a heap at the foot of its walls. Brodely found much ammunition and abundance of provisions, with which he was the more satisfied, as he knew that the grand fleet was greatly in want of both those articles. He caused the fort to be rebuilt, as far as was practicable, in order that he might defend himself there in case the Spaniards should make a speedy attempt to retake it. In this situation he waited for Morgan, who in a short time appeared with his fleet.
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