The Governor immediately ordered the cavalry to charge the enemy, and the wild bulls to be at the same time let loose upon them.
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
At this time the Spaniards were in the utmost confusion. The first defensive step which they deemed it advisable to take was to dispatch fifty horsemen for the purpose of reconnoitering the enemy. The detachment approached the camp within musket-shot and offered some insults to the freebooters, but speedily returned toward the city, exclaiming, “Perros, nos veromos!” (“You dogs, we will see you again!”) Shortly after a second detachment of two hundred men appeared, who occupied every pass, in order that, after the victory — which they considered as infallible — not one single pirate might escape. The freebooters, however, beheld with the utmost concern the measures which were adopted in order to block them up, and, previously to every other consideration, turned their attention toward their abundant supply of provision. As they were prohibited from kindling any fire, they devoured the meat they had brought with them entirely in a raw state. They could not conceive how the Spaniards could carry their neglect or their fancied security to such a length as not to disturb that repose of which they stood so greatly in need; nor how they could allow them the necessary leisure for recruiting their exhausted strength and thus become the more fit for battle. They availed themselves of this oversight and were perfectly at ease; after they had glutted themselves with animal food they lay down upon the grass and slept quietly. Throughout the night the Spaniards made their artillery roar without intermission, in order to display their vigilance.
On the ensuing day, which was the tenth of their march, January 27, 1671, the pirates advanced at a very early hour, with their military music, and took the road leading to Panama. By the advice, however, of one of their guides, they quitted the main road and went out of the way across a thick wood through which there was no footpath. For this the Spaniards were unprepared, having confined themselves to the erection of batteries and construction of redoubts on the highway. They soon perceived the inutility of this measure and were obliged to relinquish their guns in order to oppose their enemies on the contrary side; but not being able to take their cannons away from their batteries, they were, consequently, incapacitated from making use of one part of their defensive means.
After two hours’ march the freebooters discovered the hostile army, which was a very fine one, well equipped, and was advancing in battle array. The soldiers were clad in party-colored silk stuffs, and the horsemen were seated upon their mettlesome steeds as if they were going to a bull-fight. The President in person took the command of this body of troops, which was of considerable importance, both for the country and likewise for the forces supported there by Spain. He marched against the pirates with four regiments of the line consisting of infantry, besides twenty-four hundred foot-soldiers of another description, four hundred horsemen, and twenty-four hundred wild bulls under the conduct of several hundred Indians and negroes.
This army, which extended over the whole plain, was discovered by the pirates from the summit of a small eminence, and presented to them a most imposing appearance, insomuch that they were struck with a kind of terror. They now began to feel some anxiety as to the event of an engagement with forces so greatly superior to them in point of numbers, but they were soon convinced that they must actually conquer or die, and encouraged each other to fight till the very last drop of their blood was shed; a determination this, which, on the part of these intrepid men, was by no means a vain resolution.
They divided themselves into three bodies, placed two hundred of their best marksmen in the front, and marched boldly against the Spaniards, who were drawn up in order of battle on a very spacious plain. The Governor immediately ordered the cavalry to charge the enemy, and the wild bulls to be at the same time let loose upon them. But the ground was unfavorable for this purpose; the horsemen encountered nothing but marshes, behind which were posted the two hundred marksmen, who kept up such a continual and well-directed fire that horses and men fell in heaps beneath their shots before it was possible to effect a retreat. Fifty horsemen only escaped this formidable discharge of musketry.
The bulls, on whose services they had calculated so highly, it became impracticable to drive among the pirates. Hence such a confusion arose as to completely reverse the whole plan of the battle. The freebooters, in consequence, attacked the Spanish infantry with so much the greater vigor. They successively knelt on the ground, fired, and rose up again. While those who were on one knee directed their fire against the hostile army, which began to waver; the pirates, who continued standing, rapidly charged their fire-arms. Every man, on this occasion, evinced a dexterity and presence of mind which decided the fate of the battle. Almost every shot was fatal. The Spaniards, nevertheless, continued to defend themselves with much valor, which proved of little service against an exasperated enemy whose courage, inflamed by despair, derived additional strength from their successes. At length the Spaniards had recourse to their last expedient: the wild cattle were let loose upon the rear of the freebooters.
The buccaneers were in their element: by their shouts they intimidated the bulls, at the same time waving party-colored flags before them; fired on the animals and laid them all upon the ground, without exception. The engagement lasted two hours; and notwithstanding the Spaniards were so greatly superior, both in numbers and in arms, it terminated entirely in favor of the freebooters. The Spaniards lost the chief part of their cavalry, on which they had built their expectations of victory; the remainder returned to the charge repeatedly, but their efforts only tended to render their defeat the more complete. A very few horsemen only escaped, together with some few of the infantry who threw down their arms to facilitate the rapidity of their flight. Six hundred Spaniards lay dead on the field of battle; besides these, they sustained a very considerable loss in such as were wounded and taken prisoner.
Among the latter were some Franciscans who had exposed themselves to the greatest dangers in order that they might animate the combatants and afford the last consolations of religion to the dying. They were conducted into Morgan’s presence, who instantly pronounced sentence of death upon them. In vain did these hapless priests implore that pity which they might have expected from a less ferocious enemy. They were all killed by pistol-shots. Many Spaniards who were apprehensive lest they should be overtaken in their flight had concealed themselves in the flags and rushes along the banks of the river. They were mostly discovered and hacked to pieces by the merciless pirates.
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