On the following day the freebooters made still less progress; want of food had totally exhausted them, and they were frequently obliged to rest.
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
After this repast the freebooters resumed their route, and arrived at Torna-Munni, where also they found an abandoned fortress. On the fifth day they reached Barbacoas; but still no place presented to their view either man, animal, or any kind of provisions whatever. Here likewise the Spaniards had taken the precaution of carrying away or destroying everything that could serve for food. Fortunately, however, they discovered in the hollow of a rock two sacks of flour, some fruit, and two large vessels filled with wine. This discovery would have transported with joy a less numerous troop; but, to so many famished men it presented only very feeble resource. Morgan, who did not suffer less from hunger than the rest, generously appropriated none of it to his own use, but caused this scanty supply to be distributed among those who were just ready to faint. Many, indeed, were almost dying. These were conveyed on board the boats, the charge of which was committed to them; while those who had hitherto had the care of the vessels, were reunited to the body that was travelling by land. Their march was very slow, both on account of the extreme weakness of these men, even after the very moderate refreshment they had just taken, as well as from the roughness and difficulties of the way; and during the fifth day the pirates had no other sustenance but the leaves of trees and the grass of the meadows.
On the following day the freebooters made still less progress; want of food had totally exhausted them, and they were frequently obliged to rest. At length they reached a plantation, where they found a vast quantity of maize in a granary that had just been abandoned. What a discovery was this to men whose appetites were sharpened by such long protractions! A great many of them devoured the grains in a raw state; the rest covered their shares with the leaves of the banana-tree, and thus cooked or roasted the maize. Reinvigorated by this food, they pursued their route; and, on the same day, they discovered a troop of Indians on the other side of the river, but those savages betook themselves to flight, so that it was impossible to reach them. The cruel freebooters fired on them and killed some of them; the rest escaped, exclaiming: “Come, you English dogs, come into the meadow; we will there wait for you.”
To this challenge the pirates were little tempted to answer. Their supply of maize was exhausted; and they were further obliged to lie down in the open air without eating anything. Hitherto, in the midst of privations the most severely painful, as well as of the most difficult labors, they had evinced an inexhaustible patience, but at length violent murmurs arose. Morgan and his rash enterprise became the object of their execrations: a great number of the freebooters were desirous of returning; but the rest, although discontented, declared that they would rather perish than not terminate an expedition so far advanced and which had cost them so much trouble.
On the following day they crossed the river and directed their march toward a place which they took for a town or, at all events, for a village, where, to their great satisfaction, they thought they perceived at a distance the smoke issuing from several chimneys. “There, at last,” said they, “we shall surely find both men and provisions.” Their expectations were completely frustrated; not a single individual appeared throughout the place. They found no other articles of sustenance but a leather sack full of bread, together with a few cats and dogs, which were instantly killed and devoured. The place where they had now arrived was the town of Cruces, at which were usually landed those commodities which were conveyed up the river Chagres, in order to be carried by land to Panama, which was eight French leagues distant. Here were some fine warehouses built of stone, and likewise some stables belonging to the King of Spain, which, at the moment of the pirates’ arrival, were the only buildings that remained untouched, all the inhabitants having betaken themselves to flight after they had set their houses on fire.
Every corner of these royal buildings was ransacked by the freebooters, who at length discovered seventeen large vessels full of Peruvian wine, which were immediately emptied. Scarcely, however, had they drunk this liquor, which was to recruit their exhausted strength, than they all fell ill. At first they thought the wine was poisoned; they were overwhelmed with consternation, and were fully persuaded that their last hour was come. Their terrors were unfounded; as their sudden indisposition was easily accounted for by the nature of the unwholesome food they had so recently taken, by the extreme diminution of their strength, and the avidity with which they had swallowed the wine; in fact, they found themselves much better on the following day.
As Morgan had been reduced to the necessity of removing, at this place, to a distance from all his ships, he was obliged to land all his men, not even excepting those who were most exhausted by weakness. The shallops alone, with sixty men, were sent to the spot where his vessels and largest ships had been left. A single shallop only was reserved to carry news, if occasion offered, to the flotilla. Morgan prohibited every man from going alone to any distance; and even required that they should not make excursions in troops amounting to less than a hundred men. Famine, however, compelled the freebooters to infringe this prohibition. Six of them went out to some distance in quest of food; the event justified the foresight of their chieftain. They were attacked by a large body of Spaniards, and could not without very great difficulty regain the village: they had also the mortification to see one of their comrades taken prisoner.
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