A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Chap. II.

Of Captain Martel, And his Crew.

Way to suppress Pyrates. The Increase of Pyrates accounted for. Where Martel learned his Trade. The Names of several Prizes taken, by him. His Strength at Sancta Cruz. His Manner of fortifying himself there. Is attack'd by the Scarborough Man of War. His defence by land and Sea. His desperate Escape. His miserable End, ib.

I Come now to the Pyrates that have rose since the Peace of Vtrecht; in War Time there is no room for any, because all those of a roving advent'rous Disposition find Employment in Privateers, so there is no Opportunity for Pyrates; like our Mobs in London, when they come to any Height, our Superiors order out the Train Bands, and when once they are raised, the others are suppressed of Course; I take the Reason of it to be, that the Mob go into the tame Army, and immediately from notorious Breakers of the Peace, become, by being put into order, solemn Preservers of it. And should our Legislators put some of the Pyrates into Authority, it would not only Iessen their Number, but, I imagine, set them upon the rest, and they would be the likeliest People to find them out, according to the Proverb, set a Thief to catch a Thief.

To bring this about, there needs no other Encouragement, but to give all the Effects taken aboard a Pyrate Vessel to the Captors; for in Case of Plunder and Gain, they like it as well from Friends, as Enemies, but are not fond, as Things are carry'd, of ruining poor Fellowes, say the Creoleans, with no Advantage to themselves.

The Multitude of Men and Vessels, employ'd this Way, in Time of War, in the West-Indies, is another Reason, for the Number of Pyrates in a Time of Peace: This cannot be supposed to be a Reflection on any of our American Governments, much less on the King himself, by whose Authority such Commissions are granted, because of the Reasona-bleness, and absolute Necessity, there is for the doing of it; yet the Observation is just, for so many idle People employing themselves in Privateers, for the sake of Plunder and Riches, which they always spend as fast as they get, that when the War is over, and they can have no farther Business in the Way of Life they have been used to, they too readily engage in Acts of Pyracy, which being but the same Practice without a Commission, they make very little Distinction betwixt the Lawfulness of one, and the Unlawfulness of the other.

I have not enquired so far back, as to know the Original of this Rover, but I believe he and his Gang, were some Privateer's Men belonging to the Island of Jamaica, in the preceeding War; his Story is but short, for his Reign was so; an End having been put to his Adventures in good Time, when he was growing strong and formidable. We find him Commander of a Pyrate Sloop of eight Guns, and 80 Men, in the Month of September, 1716, cruising off Jamaica, Cuba, &c. about which Time he took the Berkley Galley, Captain Saunders, and plundered him of 1000 l. in Money, and afterwards met with a Sloop call'd the King Solomon, from whom he took some Money, and Provisions, besides Goods, to a good Value.

They proceeded after this to the Port of Cavena, at the Island of Cuba, and in their Way took two Sloops, which they plundered, and let go; and off the Port fell in with a fine Galley, with 20 Guns, call'd the John and Martha, Captain Wilson, which they attacked under the pyratical Black-Flag, and made themselves Masters of her. They put some of the Men ashore, and others they detain'd, as they had done several Times, to encrease their Company; but Captain Martel, charged Captain Wilson, to advise his Owners, that their Ship would answer his Purpose exactly, by taking one Deck down, and as for the Cargo, which consisted chiefly of Logwood and Sugar, he would take Care it should be carry'd to a good Market.

Having fitted up the aforesaid Ship, as they design'd, they mounted her with 22 Guns, 100 Men, and left 25 Hands in the Sloop, and so proceeded to Cruize off the Leeward Islands, where they met with but too much Success. After the taking of a Sloop and a Brigantine, they gave Chase to a stout Ship, which they came up with, and, at Sight of the Pyrate's Flag, she struck to the Robbers, being a Ship of 20 Guns, call'd the Dolphin, bound for Newfoundland. Captain Martel made the Men Prisoners, and carry'd the Ship with him.

The middle of December the Pyrates took another Galley in her Voyage home from Jamaica, call'd the Kent, Captain Lawton, and shifted her Provisions aboard their own Ship, and let her go, which obliged her to Sail back to Jamaica for a Supply for her Voyage. After this they met with a small Ship and a Sloop, belonging to Barbadoes, out of both they took Provisions, and then parted with them, having first taken out some of their Hands, who were willing to be forced to go along with them. The Greyhound Galley of London, Captain Evans, from Guiney to Jamaica, was the next that had the Misfortune to fall in their Way, which they did not detain long, for as soon as they could get out all her Gold Dust, Elephant's Teeth, and 40 Slaves, they sent her onwards upon her Voyage.

They concluded now, that ’twas high Time to get into Harbour and refit, as well as to get Refreshments themselves, and wait an Opportunity to dispose of their Cargo; therefore ’twas resolved to make the best of their Way to Santa Crux, a small Island in the Lattitude of 18, 30, N. ten Mile long, and two broad, lying South-East of Porto Rico, belonging to the French Settlements. Here they thought they might lye privately enough for some Time, and fit themselves for further Mischief. They met with a Sloop by the Way, which they took along with them, and in the Beginning of the Year 1716-17, they arrived at their Port, having a Ship of 20 Guns, a Sloop of eight, and three Prizes, viz. another Ship of 20 Guns, a Sloop of four Guns, and another Sloop last taken; with this little Fleet, they got into a small Harbour, or Road, the N. W. Part of the Island, and warp'd up two Creeks, which were made by a little Island lying within the Bay; (I am the more particular now, because I shall take Leave of the Gentlemen, at this Place.) They had here bare 16 Foot Water, at the deepest, and but 13 or 14, at the shallowest, and nothing but Rocks and Sands without, which secured them from Wind and Sea, and likewise from any considerable Force coming against them.

When they had all got in, the first Thing they had to do, was to Guard themselves in the best Manner they could; they made a Battery of four Guns upon the Island, and another Battery of two Guns on the North Point of the Road, and warp'd in one of the Sloops with eight Guns, at the Mouth of the Channel, to hinder any Vessels from coming in; when this was done they went to Work on their Ship, unrigging, and unloading, in order to Clean, where I shall leave them a while, till I bring other Company to ’em.

In the Month of November, 1716, General Hamilton, Commander in chief of all the Leeward Carribee Islands, sent a Sloop Express to Captain Hume, at Barbadoes, Commander of his Majesty's Ship, Scarborough, of 30 Guns, and 140 Men, to acquaint him, that two Pyrate Sloops of 12 Guns each, molested the Colonies, having plun ered several Vessels. The Scarborough had bury'd twenty Men, and had near forty Sick, and therefore was but in ill State to go to Sea: However, Captain Hume left his sick Men behind, and sailed to the other Islands, for a supply of Men, taking 20 Soldiers from Antegoa; at Nevis, he took 10, and 10 at St. Christophers, and then sailed to the Island of Anguilla, where he learned, that some Time before, 2 such Sloops had been at Spanish-Town, otherwise called, one of the Virgin Islands: Accordingly, the next Day, the Scarborough came to Spanish-Town, but could hear no News of the Sloops, only, that they had been there about Christmas, (it being then the 15th of January.)

Captain Hume, finding no Account could be had of these Pyrates, designed to go back, the next Day, to Barbadoes; but, it happened, that Night, that a Boat anchor'd there from Santa Crux, and informed him, that he saw a Pyrate Ship of 22 or 24 Guns, with other Vessels, going in to the North West Part of the Island aforesaid. The Scarborough weigh'd immediately, and the next Morning came in Sight of the Rovers, and their Prizes, and stood to them, but the Pilot refused to venture in with the Ship; all the while the Pyrates fir'd red hot Bullets from the Shore. At length, the Ship came to an Anchor, along Side the Reef, near the Channel, and cannonaded for several Hours, both the Vessels and Batteries: About four in the Afternoon, the Sloop that guarded the Channel, was sunk by the Shot of the Man of War; then she cannonaded the Pyrate Ship of 22 Guns, that lay behind the Island. The next Night, viz. the 18th, it falling Calm, Captain Hume weigh'd, fearing he might fall on the Reef, and so stood off and on for a Day or two, to block them up. On the 20th, in the Evening, they observed the Man of War to stand off to Sea, and took the Opportunity to warp out, in order to slip away from the Island; but at Twelve o'Clock they run a-ground, and then seeing the Scarborough about, standing in again, as their Case was desperate, so they were put into the utmost Confusion; they quitted their Ship, and set her on Fire, with 20 Negroes in her, who were all burnt; 19 of the Pyrates made their Escape in a small Sloop, but the Captain and the rest, with 20 Negroes, betook to the Woods, where ’twas probable they might starve, for we never heard what became of ’em afterwards: Captain Hume released the Prisoners, with the Ship and Sloop that remained, and then went after the two Pyrate Sloops first mentioned.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:28