At this sight, which announced the speedy termination of their miseries, they were transported with joy.
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
Morgan now determined to prosecute his march. After reviewing his companions-in-arms he found that they amounted to eleven hundred men. As he foresaw that they were apprehensive lest their lost comrade should betray the secret of their enterprise and the state of their forces, Morgan made them believe that he had not been taken; that he had only lost his way in the woods, but had now returned to the main body.
The freebooters were on the eighth day of their painful journey, and nothing but the hope of speedily terminating their labors could support them much longer, for they had now ascertained that they were on the way to Panama. An advanced guard of two hundred men was therefore formed, which was to watch the movements of the enemy. They marched onward for a whole day without perceiving any living object whatever, when suddenly a shower of three or four thousand arrows was discharged upon them from the top of a rock. For some minutes they were struck with astonishment; no enemy presented himself to their view. They beheld around them, at their feet, above their heads, nothing but steep rocks, trees, and abysses; and, without striking a single blow, they reckoned twenty of their comrades killed or wounded. This unexpected attack not being continued, they pursued their march across a forest, where, in a hollow way, they fell upon a large body of Indians who opposed their progress with much valor. In this engagement the freebooters were victorious, though they lost eight killed and ten wounded.
They made every possible effort to catch some of the fugitives, but these fled away with the velocity of stags across the rocks, with all the turnings and windings of which they were intimately acquainted. Not a single man fell into their hands; the Indian chieftain was wounded; and, notwithstanding he lay on the ground, he continued to fight most obstinately until he received a mortal blow. He wore a crown of party-colored feathers. His death made a great impression on the Indians and was the principal cause of their defeat. The ground on which they had attacked the pirates was so favorable that one hundred men would have been fully sufficient to have destroyed the whole troop of freebooters. The latter availed themselves of the inconceivable negligence of the Spaniards in not taking more effectual measures for the defense of such an important pass. They exerted all possible diligence to make their way out of this labyrinth of rocks, where a second attack of a similar kind would have been attended with consequences of the most fatal tendency to them, and to get into an open and level country.
On the ninth day they found themselves in a plain or spacious meadow, entirely divested of trees, so that nothing could shelter them against the ardor of the solar rays. It rained, however, most copiously at the moment of their arrival; and this circumstance added yet more to their difficulties. In a short time they were wetted to their skins. In case of a sudden attack their arms and ammunition would have afforded them but little assistance; while the Spaniards would be able most effectively to use their spears, which could not be damaged by the rain.
No human means could remedy this inconvenience. The pirates had only to abandon themselves to their fate. Morgan most ardently desired that some prisoner might fall into his hands, from whose confessions, either voluntary or involuntary, he might obtain some information by which to direct his march. With this intention, fifty men were detached in different directions, with a promised reward of three hundred piasters, out of the society’s stock, to the man who should bring in either a Spaniard or an Indian, exclusive of the share of booty to which he should be entitled.
About noon they ascended a steep hill, from whose summit they began to discover the Pacific. At this sight, which announced the speedy termination of their miseries, they were transported with joy. From the top of this eminence they also perceived six ships departing from Panama, and sailing toward the islands of Taroga and Tarogiela, which were situated in the vicinity of that city. Panama itself for the present escaped their observation; but how was their satisfaction increased on beholding, in a valley, a vast number of bulls, cows, horses, and particularly of asses, which were under the care of some Spaniards, who betook themselves to flight the moment they saw the formidable pirates approaching? To the latter no rencontre could be more desirable. They were ready to faint with famine and fatigue; the sustenance which they immediately devoured would contribute to give them that strength which every moment would become so necessary to them, and it is altogether inconceivable how the Spaniards could abandon such a prey to their famished enemies. This want of foresight can only be accounted for by the panic with which the Spaniards were seized.
The spot which had just been deserted was occupied for some hours by the freebooters; they stood in great need of rest, and were in much greater want of provisions. They rushed therefore on the animals that had been left behind, of which they killed a great number, and devoured their half-raw flesh with such avidity that the blood streamed in torrents from their lips over the whole of their bodies. What could not be consumed on the spot they carried away with them, for Morgan, apprehensive of an attack by the flower of the Spaniards’ troops, allowed them only a small space of time for repose. They resumed their march, but the uncertainty in which they had so long been involved was not yet at an end.
Notwithstanding all that chieftain’s experience, his spies could not succeed in taking a single prisoner — a circumstance, which seems almost incredible in a populous country — and after nine days’ march Morgan was deprived of every hint that was so essentially necessary to him. Further, the freebooters were utterly ignorant how near they were to Panama, when, from the summit of a hill, they discovered the towers of that city. They could not refrain from shouting for joy. The air reechoed with the sound of trumpets and cymbals; they threw up their caps in the air, vociferating, “Victory! victory!” In this place they halted and pitched their camp, with the firm determination of attacking Panama on the following day.
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