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MORGAN SETS OUT FOR PANAMA
CAPT. MORGAN perceived that fortune favored his arms, by giving good success to all his enterprises, which occasioned him, as it is usual in human affairs, to aspire to greater things, trusting she would always be constant to him. Such was the burning of Panama; wherein fortune failed not to assist him, in like manner as she had done before, crowning the event of his actions with victory, howbeit she had led him thereto through thousands of difficulties. The history hereof, I shall now begin to relate, as being so very remarkable in all its circumstances that per-adventure nothing more deserving memory may occur to be read by future ages.
Not long after Capt. Morgan arrived at Jamaica, he found many of his chief officers and soldiers reduced to their former state of indigence through their immoderate vices and debauchery. Hence they ceased not to importune him for new invasions and exploits, thereby to get something to expend anew in wine, as they had already wasted what was secured so shortly before. Capt. Morgan being willing to follow fortune while she called him, hereupon stopped the mouths of many of the inhabitants of Jamaica, who were creditors to his men of large sums of money, with the hope and promise he gave them of greater achievements than ever, by a new expedition he was going about. This being done, he needed not give himself much trouble to levy men for this or any other enterprise, his name being now so famous through all those islands, that that alone would readily bring him in more men than he could well employ. He undertook therefor to equip a new fleet of ships; for which purpose he assigned the south side of the isle of Tortuga, as a place of rendezvous. With this resolution, he wrote divers letters to all the ancient and expert Pirates there inhabiting, as also to the Governor of said isle, and to the planters and hunters of Hispaniola (Hayti), giving them to understand his intentions, and desiring their appearance at the said place, in case they intended to go with him. All these people had no sooner understood his designs than they flocked to the place assigned, in huge numbers, with ships, canoes and boats, being desirous to obey his commands. Many, who had not the convenience of coming to him by sea, traversed the woods of Hispaniola, and with no small difficulties arrived there by land. Thus all were present at the place assigned and in readiness, against the 24th day of October, 1670.1
Capt. Morgan was not wanting to be there according to his punctual custom, who came in his ship to the same side of the island, to a port called by the French, Port Coullon, over against the island De la Vaca, this being a place which he had assigned to others. Having now gathered the greater part of his feet, he called a council to deliberate the means of finding provisions sufficient for so many people. Here they concluded to send four ships and one boat, manned with four hundred men, over to the continent, to the intent they should rifle some country towns and villages, and in these get all the corn or maize they could gather. They set sail for the continent, towards the river, De la Hacha, with design to assault a small village called La Rancheria, where is usually to be found the greatest quantity of maize of all these parts thereabouts. In the meanwhile Capt. Morgan sent another party of his men to hunt in the woods, who killed there a huge number of beasts, and salted them. The rest of his companions remained in the ships, to clean, fit and rig them out to sea, so that at the return of those who were sent abroad, all things might be in readiness to weight anchor, and follow the course of their designs.
1 Upon the conclusion of a treaty of peace in 1670 between England and Spain, which confirmed the former in her possessions in the West Indies, but forbade her subjects to trade to any Spanish port without a license; a proclamation was issued in pursuance of such arrangement, which greatly exasperated the freebooting community, and the direct result of which was an assemblage of the largest fleet ever brought together by the buccaneers, amounting to 37 ships of all sizes, manned by more than 2,000 pirates. They met in December, 1670, at Cape Tiburon, Gulf of Uraba, and held a council to decide whether their forces should be directed upon Cartagena, Vera Cruz, or Panama. The last was chosen as being the richest, and Morgan was elected admiral.
The four ships above mentioned, after they had set sail from Hispaniola, steered their course till they came within sight of the river, De la Hacha, where they were suddenly overtaken with a tedious calm. Being thus within sight of land becalmed for some days, the Spaniards inhabiting along the coast, who had perceived them to be enemies, had sufficient time to prepare themselves for the assault, at least to hide the best part of their goods, to the end that, without any care of preserving them, they might be in readiness to retire, when they found themselves unable to resist the force of the Pirates, by whose frequent attempts upon those coasts they had already learnt what they had to do, in such cases. There was in the river at that present a good ship, which was come from Cartagena to lade maize, and was now when the Pirates came almost ready to depart. The men belonging to this ship endeavoured to escape, but not being able to do it, both they and the vessel fell into their hands. This was a fit booty for their mind, as being good part of what they came to seek for with so much care and toil.
The next morning about the break of day they came with their ships toward the shore, and landed their men, although the Spaniards made huge resistance from a battery which they had raised on that side, where of necessity they had to land, but notwithstanding what defence they could make, they were forced to retire towards a village, to which the Pirates followed them. Here the Spainiards, rallying again, fell upon them with great fury, and maintained a strong combat, which lasted till night