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OLD PANAMA IN 1609--From a plan in the State archives, Panama.
(Scale approximately 600 feet to 1 inch.)
in America for a hundred years after Pizarro Life in discovered Peru. And life could not have been Old Panama. dull there. Ships were constantly arriving
from the north and south coasts of America, and from the Orient; the semiannual exodus of merchants to the fair at Porto Bello was an event of importance, not less interesting because each time some of the traders were sure to die there, so unhealthful was that place; the officials were always quarreling with one another; the slaves were running away and preying upon the pack-trains; there were many periods of want for food, because the colony was not self-sustaining, and depended upon Peru for foodstuffs. There were constantly recurring civil wars; the city was partially destroyed by revolutionists four times during its first century. Finally there was a flourishing illicit trade, and that is always exciting, as the tourist will find, when he tries to smuggle Panama hats through the United States custom house. Indeed the destruction of the old city was a result of this trade.
A Dutch apothecary named Esquemeling accompanied Henry Morgan on his expeditions from Jamaica during 1668–71, and going home to Holland wrote his story, which was published under the title, “Buccaniers of America." This book is interesting here principally because it tells of the taking of Porto Bello in 1668, of Fort San Lorenzo at the mouth of the Chagres River in 1670, and Old Panama in 1671.
After the fall of Fort San Lorenzo, Morgan and 1400 followers set out for Panama on January 9, 1671, taking the river, route to Cruces. In circumstantial manner the druggistauthor tells of the advance up the river, how the Spanish outposts were deserted, all the food was destroyed or hidden, and the pirates were reduced to such hunger that they ate leather. All this in a journey through a forest that must have been alive with monkeys and birds, if not with wild hogs and other animals. After six days they arrived at Cruces, where they left the canoes. After one day's rest they marched toward Panama and appeared before that city at sunset of the ninth day. The narrative continues :
"On the tenth day (January 19, 1671), betimes in the morning, they put all their men to convenient order, and with drums and
trumpets sounding, continued their march directly Attack towards the city. But one of the guides desired Begun. aptain Morgan not to take the common highway
that led thither fearing lest they should find in it much resistance and many ambuscades. He presently took his
advice, and chose another way that went through the wood, although very irksome and difficult. Thus the Spaniards, perceiving the Pirates had taken another way, which they scare had thought on or believed, were compelled to leave their stops and batteries, and come out to meet them. The Governor of Panama put his forces in order consisting of two squadrons, four regiments of foot, and a huge number of wild bulls, which were driven by a great number of Indians, with some negroes and others, to help them.
The Pirates, being now upon their march, came to the top of a little hill, whence they had a large prospect of the city and campaign (champaign) country underneath. Here they discovered the forces of the people of Panama, extended in battle array and when they perceived them to be so numerous, they were suddenly surprized with great fear, much doubting the fortune of the day. Yea, few or none there were but wished themselves at home, or at least free from the obligation of that engagement, wherein they perceived their lives must be so narrowly concerned.
Having been some time at a stand, in a wavering condition of mind, they at last reflected upon the straits they had brought themselves into; and that now they ought of necessity either to fight resolutely or die, for no quarter could be expected from an enemy against whom they had committed so many cruelties on all occasions. Hereupon they encouraged one another, and resolved either to conquer, or spend the very last drop of blood in their bodies. Afterwards they divided themselves into three battalions, or troops, sending before them one or two hundred buccaneers, which sort of people are infinitely dextrous at shooting with guns. Thus the Pirates left the hill and descended marching directly towards the Spaniards, who were posted in a spacious field, waiting for their coming.
As soon as they drew near them, the Spaniards began to shout, and cry, Vita el Rey! God save the King! and immediately their
horse began to move against the Pirates. But the Battle Before field being full of quags and very soft under foot, they the City.
could not ply to and fro and wheel about, as they
desired. The two hundred buccaneers who went before, every one putting one knee to the ground, gave them a full volley of shot, wherewith the battle was instantly kindled very hot.
The Spaniards defended themselves very courageously, acting all they could possibly perform, to disorder the Pirates. Their foot, in like manner, endeavoured to second the horse, but were constrained by the Pirates to separate from them. Thus finding themselves frustrated of their designs, they attempted to drive the bulls against them at their backs, and by this means put them into disorder, but the greatest part of the wild cattle ran away, being frightened with the noise of the battle, and some few that broke through the English companies did no other harm than to tear the colours in pieces whereas the buccaneers shooting them dead, left not one to trouble them thereabouts.
The battle having now continued for the space of two hours, at the end thereof the greatest part of the Spanish horse was ruined
and almost all killed. The rest fed away, which Prisoners being perceived by the foot, and that they could not Killed. possibly prevail, they discharged the shot they had in
their muskets, and throwing them on the ground, betook themselves to fight, every one which way he could run. The Pirates could not possibly follow them, as being too much harrassed and wearied with the long journey they had lately made. Many of them, not being able to fly whither they desired, hid themselves for that present among the shrubs of the sea-side. But very unfortunately, for most of them being found out by the Pirates, were instantly killed, without giving quarter to any. Some religious men were brought prisoners before Captain Morgan, but he being deaf to their cries and lamentations, commanded them all to be immediately pistoled, which was immediately done.
Soon after they brought a captain to his presence, whom he examined very strictly about several things, particularly wherein consisted the forces of those of Panama. To which he answred: Their whole strength did consist in four hundred horse, twenty-four companies of foot, each being of one hundred men complete, sixty Indians and some negroes, who were to drive two thousand wild bulls and cause them to run over the English camp, and thus by breaking their files put them into a total disorder and confusion. He discovered more, that in the city, they had made trenches, and raised batteries in several places, in which they had placed many guns, and that at the entry of the highway which led to the city they had built a fort, which was mounted with eight great guns of brass, and de. fended by fifty men.
Captain Morgan, having heard this information, gave orders instantly they should march another way. But before setting forth, he made a review of all his men, whereof he found both killed and wounded a considerable number, and much greater than had been believed. Of the Spaniards were found six hundred dead upon the place, besides the wounded and prisoners. The Pirates were nothing discouraged, seeing their number so much diminished, but rather filled with greater pride than before, perceiving what huge advantage they had obtained against their enemies. Thus having rested themselves some while, they prepared to march courageously towards the city, plighting their oaths to one another in general they would fight till never a man was left alive. With this courage they recommenced their march, either to conquer or be conquered, carrying with them all the prisoners.
They found much difficulty in their approach to the city. For within the town the Spaniards had placed many great guns, at
several quarters thereof, some of which were charged Defense of with small pieces of iron, and others with musketthe City. bullets. With all these they saluted the Pirates
at their drawing nigh to the place, and gave them full and frequent broadsides, firing at them incessantly. Whence it came to pass that unavoidably they lost, at every step they advanced, great numbers of men. But neither these manifest dangers to their lives, nor the sight of so many of their own men dropping down continually at their sides, could deter them from advancing farther and gaining ground every moment upon the enemy. Thus, although the Spaniards never ceased to fire and act the best they could for their defence, yet notwithstanding they were forced to deliver the city after the space of three hours' combat.
The Pirates having now possessed themselves thereof, killed and destroyed as many as attempted to make the least opposition against them. The inhabitants had caused the best of their goods to be transported to more remote places.
As soon as the first fury of their entrance into the city was over, Capt. Morgan assembled all his men at a certain place which
he assigned, and there commanded them under very Burning great penalties that none of them should
are to of the drink or taste any wine. The reason he gave for this City.
injunction was, because he had received private
intelligence that it had been all poisoned by the Spainards. Howbeit it was the opinion of many that he gave these prudent orders to prevent the debauchery of his people, which he foresaw would be very great at the beginning, after so much hunger sustained by the way, fearing withal lest the Spainards, seeing them in wine, should rally their forces and fall upon the city, and use them as inhumanly as they had used the inhabitants before.
Capt. Morgan, as soon as he had placed guards at the several quarters where he thought necessary, both within and without the city of Panama, immediately commanded twenty-five men to seize a great boat, which had stuck in the port for want of water at a low tide, so that she could not put out to sea. The same day, about noon, he caused certain men privately to set fire to several great edifices of the city, nobody knowing whence the fire proceeded nor who were the authors thereof, much less what motives persuaded Capt. Morgan thereto, which are as yet unknown to this day. The fire increased so fast that before night the greatest part of the city was in flame.
Capt. Morgan endeavored to make the public believe the Spaniards had been the cause thereof, which suspicions he surmised among his own people, preceiving they reflected upon him for that action. Many of the Spaniards, as also some of the pirates, used all the means possible either to extinguish the flame, or by blowing up houses with gunpowder, and pulling down others, to stop the progress. But all was in vain for in less than an hour it consumed a whole street.
The fire of all the houses and buildings was seen to continue four days after the day it began. The Pirates in the menawhile, at least the greatest part of them, camped for some time without the city, fearing and expecting that the Spaniards would come and fight them anew. For it was known that they had an incomparable number of men more than the Parties had. This occasioned them to keep the field, thereby to preserve their forces united, which now were very much diminished by the losses of the preceding battles, as also because they had a great many wounded, all of which they had put into one of the churches which alone remained standing, the rest being consumed by the fire. Moreover, besides these decreases of their men Captain Morgan had sent a convoy of 150 men to the Castle of Chagre, to carry the news of his victory obtained against Panama.
They saw many times whole troops of Spaniards cruize to and fro in the campaign fields which gave them the occasion to suspect their rallying anew.
Yet they never had the courage to attempt anything against the Pirates. In the afternoon of this fatal day, Captain Morgan re-entered again the city with his troops, to the intent that every one might take up his lodgings, which now they could hardly find, very few houses having escaped the deso of the fire. Soon after they fell to seeking very carefully among the ruins and ashes for untensils of plate or gold which peradventure