At length, on January 18th, he commenced his march toward Panama, with a chosen body of freebooters, who were thirteen hundred strong.
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
As the pirates approached, they beheld the English flag flying on the fort, and abandoned themselves to the most tumultuous joy and excessive drinking, without dreaming of the dangers occurring at the mouth of the river Chagres, beneath whose waters there was a sunken rock. The coasting pilots of those latitudes came to their assistance, but their intoxication and their impatience would not permit them to attend to the latter. This negligence was attended with most fatal consequences and cost them four ships, one of which was the admiral’s vessel. The crews, however, together with their ladings, were saved. This loss greatly affected Morgan, who was wholly intent upon his vast designs, but who, nevertheless, made his entrance into St. Laurent, where he left a garrison of five hundred men. He also detached from his body of troops one hundred fifty men for the purpose of seizing several Spanish vessels that were in the river.
The remainder of his forces Morgan directed to follow himself. They carried but a small supply of provisions, not only that his march might not be impeded, but also because the means of conveyance were very limited. Besides, he was apprehensive lest he should expose to famine the garrison he had left in the fort, which did not abound with provisions, and was cut off on every side from receiving supplies; and it was likewise necessary that he should leave sufficient for the support of all the prisoners and slaves, whose number amounted very nearly to one thousand.
After all these steps had been taken, Morgan briefly addressed his comrades, whom he exhorted to arm themselves with courage calculated to subdue every obstacle, that they might return to Jamaica with an increase of glory, and riches sufficient to supply all their wants for the rest of their lives. At length, on January 18th, he commenced his march toward Panama, with a chosen body of freebooters, who were thirteen hundred strong.
The greatest part of their journey was performed by water, following the course of the river. Five vessels were laden with the artillery; and the troops were placed in a very narrow compass on board thirty-two boats. One reason why they had brought only a small quantity of provisions was because they hoped to meet with a supply on their route; but on the very day of their arrival at Rio de los Bravos the expectations of the pirates were frustrated. At the place where they landed they literally found nothing: the terror which they everywhere inspired had preceded them; the Spaniards had betaken themselves to flight, and had carried with them all their cattle and even the very last article of their movables. They had cut the grain and pulse without waiting for their maturity, the roots of which were even torn out of the ground: the houses and stables were empty.
The first day of their voyage was spent in abstinence, tobacco affording them the only gratification that was not refused them. The second day was not more prosperous. In addition to the various impediments by which their passage was obstructed, want of rain had rendered the waters of the river very shallow, and a great number of trees had fallen into it, presenting almost insurmountable obstacles. On their arrival at the Cruz de Juan Gallego, they had no other alternative left but to abandon their boats and pursue their route by land; otherwise, they must have resigned themselves to the confusion necessarily consequent on retracing their steps.
Animated, however, by their chieftains, they determined to try the adventure. On the third day their way led them to a forest, where there was no beaten path, and the soil of which was marshy. But it was indispensably necessary that they should leave this wretched passage, in order that they might reach — with incredible difficulties, indeed — the town of Cedro Bueno. For all these excessive fatigues they found no indemnification whatever; there were no provisions, not even a single head of game.
These luckless adventurers at length saw themselves surrounded by all the horrors of famine. Many of them were reduced to devour the leaves of trees; the majority were altogether destitute of sustenance. In this state of severe privations, and with very light clothing, they passed the nights lying on the shore, benumbed with cold, incapable of enjoying, even in the smallest degree, the solace of sleep, and expecting with anxiety the return of day. Their courage was supported only with the hope of meeting some bodies of Spaniards, or some groups of fugitive inhabitants, and consequently of finding provisions, with an abundance of which the latter never failed to supply themselves when they abandoned their dwellings. Further, the pirates were obliged to continue their route at a small distance only from the river, as they had contrived to drag their canoes along with them, and, whenever the water was of sufficient depth, part of the men embarked on board them, while the remainder prosecuted their journey by land. They were preceded a few hundred paces by an advanced guard of thirty men under the direction of a guide who was intimately acquainted with the country; and the strictest silence was observed, in order that they might discover the ambuscades of the Spaniards, and, if it were possible, make some of them prisoners.
On the fourth day the freebooters reached Torna Cavellos, a kind of fortified place which also had been evacuated, the Spaniards having carried away with them everything that was portable and consumed the rest by fire. Their design was to leave the pirates neither movables nor utensils; in fact, this was the only resource left them by which they could reduce those formidable guests to such a state of privation as to compel them to retire. The only things which had not been burned or carried off were some large sacks of hides, which were to these freebooters objects of avidity, and which had almost occasioned a bloody dispute. Previously to devouring them, it was necessary to cut them into pieces with all possible equity. Thus divided, the leather was cut into small bits, these were scraped and violently beaten between two stones. It was then soaked in water, in order to become soft, after which it was roasted; nor, thus prepared, could it have been swallowed if they had not taken most copious draughts of water.
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