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One of the
most famous of the early buccaneer commanders was Jean David Nau,
called L'Olonnois because he come from the district of Olonne
in France. As a young lad he embarked at La Rochelle as an indentured
servant to a plantation owner in the Indies, but soon after he
reached his destination he ran away and shipped aboard a pirate
vessel in Tortuga. in a very short time he was elected master
of a vessel, he took several small prizes, but lost everything
including his own ship in a storm. However he must have had a
very promising reputation because the governor of Tortuga, at
that time a M. De la Place, provided him with a new ship.
This second ship however was also wrecked, and L'Olonnois and
his men were cast ashore near Campeche. They were attacked by
Spaniards, but L'Olonnois escaped by hiding in a pile of dead
bodies. He is said to have later disguised himself in Spanish
clothes and walked through the town, he released some slaves with
whom he stole a canoe and sailed back to Tortuga. It is said that
his hatred of the Spaniards, which had always been strong, was
raised to an obsession by these experiences.
By craft and subtlety, says Exquemelin, he obtained another ship
in Tortuga, and after various adventures he joined forces with
Michel le Basque to plan an attack on Maracaibo. This town in
Venezuela stood at the head of a lake, which was joined to the
sea by a narrow channel dominated by a fort, and it became a regular
target of attack by the buccaneers.
L'Olonnois arrived of the coast at the head of a fleet of eight
ships. His flagship was a prize taken on the way, of 16 guns and
120 men, and the vice Admiral, Moses Vauclin had a ship of 10
guns and 90 men. Michel le Basque commanded the magazine ship,
which carried all the spare powder and shot as well as 20 guns
and 90 men, and L'Olonnnois's own ship, heavily armed with 20
guns, was in the charge of Anthony du puis. Pierre le Picard commanded
a brigantine with 40 men, and there was another vessel of 40 men
and two of 30, Every man was armed with a musket, a brace of pistols
and a sword.
Le Basque and L'Ollonois led a force ashore to silence the fort,
then they sailed up the channel into the lake, and landed their
men in canoes under cover of a bombardment from the ships. However,
they found the town empty and most of the valuables gone, and
although L'Ollonois put most of his prisoners on the rack and
tortured them to reveal where treasure was hidden he found only
20,000 pieces of eight. So the buccaneers sailed on across the
lake to the town of Gibralter, which they captured in a bloody
fight in which 500 of the 600 defenders were killed.
They spent six weeks in Gibraltar, eating, drinking, looting,
and putting the surrounding country to fire and sword. Then plague
began to spread through the ranks of the buccaneers, L'Ollonois
burnt the town, and sailed with his men back to Maracaibo, which
he ransomed. The total spoil was 260,000 pieces of eight in jewels
and money, 100,000 crowns worth of tobacco and church furniture.
But within weeks all L'Ollonois's money was spent, and he set
off on another expedition to the main, this time to Nicaragua.
He had a large Dutch Fluyt with 300 men, and five smaller vessels,
but at Cape Gracias a Dios the ships were caught by what the Spaniards
call a "furious calm", and the current carried them
all into the gulf of Honduras. They spent a month trying to beat
their way out of the gulf, and then decided to plunder round the
coast until the contrary winds had ceased.
In his advance on the town of San Pedro L'Ollonois showed his
customary brutality toward his Spanish prisoners. It was his custom
says Exquemelin, that having tormented any persons and they not
confessing he would instantly cut them in pieces with his hanger,
and pull out their tongues, desiring to do the same, if possible,
to every Spaniard in the world. Oftentimes it happened that some
of these prisoners being forced on the rack, would promise to
discover the places where the fugitive Spaniards lay hidden, which
not being able afterwards to perform, they were put to more enormous
and cruel deaths than they who were dead before.
The buccaneers fell into an ambush, and after they had fought
their war out, L'Ollonois asked his prisoners if there were not
another way they could take. Having asked them all, and finding
they could show him no other way, L'Ollonois grew outrageously
passionate, insomuch that he drew his sword, and with it cut open
the breast of one of those poor Spaniards and pulling out his
heart with his sacrilegious hands, began to bite and gnaw it with
his teeth, like a ravenous wolf, saying to the rest, 'I will serve
you all alike if you show me not another way'.
This gastly deed did not go unpunished long. The buccaneers took
the town, but found little spoil, and when they got back to their
ships Moses Vauclin and Pierre le Picard sailed away on their
own, and L'Ollonois's flyut ran aground on a sandbank. He and
other survivors swam ashore, where they were attacked constantly
by Indians, and finally the Indians took him prisoner and tore
him into pieces alive, throwing his body limb by limb into the
fire, and his ashes were thrown into the air, to the intent that
no trace or memory should remain of such an infamous, inhuman
Another Frenchman whose hatred of the Spaniards led him to wallow
in blood was Montbars, who gave himself the name "the exterminator".
He was said to have come from one of the best families of the
Languedoc, but even as a boy he said he only wished to shoot well
that he might know how to kill a Spaniard. He was shipped aboard
a trading vessel commanded by his uncle, and in Caribbean waters
they took a Spanish ship, the boarders being led by the hothead
young Montbars. the plunder included 30,000 bales of cotton 2000
bales of silk, and a casket of diamonds.
Monbars could not restrain his lust to be after the Spaniards,
and he went ashore with the buccaneers of Hispaniola, they killed
many spanish cavalry in an ambush, and persuaded some Indians
who were with the cavalry to join them.
When he returned to the ships, the buccaneers and the Indians
insisted on remaining with Montbars, so his uncle gave him command
of the vessel they had captured, and the two sailed off in search
of more Spanish ships. A few days later, they were set upon by
four large vessels, the first of the plate fleet on their way
to rendezvous off Havana. The older Montbars was old and gouty,
and directed his ship from an armchair, after three hours of running
battle, he attacked his two adversaries so fiercely that he sank
both them and himself. The younger Montbars sank one of his attackers
and boarded the other, his Indians seeing him leap boldly aboard
the Spaniard at the stern, leaped into the water and swam to the
bow, and the ship was soon captured.
The Buccaneers were extending their influence all over the Indies
and the Main, but as they did so they found resistance to their
attacks strengthened, both on sea and on land, and it became increasingly
necessary for them to form themselves into fleets under the command
of an "Admiral".
One of the first to command a fleet of mixed nationalities, was
Edward Mansveld. In 1663 the governor of Jamaica listed 'eleven
frigates and briganteens belonging to Jamaica'. They comprised
740 men and 81 guns, and were under the command of Sir Thomas
Whetstone, and Captains Swart, Gaye, James, Cooper, Morris, Brenning,
Mansveld, Goodler, Blewfield and Herdre. They were manned by English,
Dutch and Indian, and four others. There were also three smaller
ships with 100 Jamaicans and 12 guns, under the command of the
Dutch Captain Senlove, and four boats from Tortuga, with 258 men,
All French, and 32 guns, under the command of Captains Davis,
Buckell, Colstree, and a Portuguese. then in March 1666, Sir Thomas
Modyford writes, our Privateers have chosen Capt. Edward Mansveld
their Admiral, and a fleet sailed from Jamaica, with privateers
commissions, their destination, Curacao.
Unable to take Curacao, Mansveld took the island of Santa Catalina
(then called Providence by the English) with the idea of establishing
a privateering base on the route of the treasure fleets from Portobello.
In August the Spanish recaptured the island, and Mansveld was
taken to Portobello and executed. His second in command, who took
over the title of Admiral, was Henry Morgan.
Sixteen years later, Governor General Admiral Sir Henry Morgan,
Justice of the Peace, Judge of the Vice Admiralty Court, Custos
Rotulorum, and the richest plantation owner in Jamaica, sued the
London publishers of an English translation of Exquemelin's book
for libel. He won his case, and later editions of the book carried
fulsome apologies, but nonetheless Exquemelin's is the only account
of Henry Morgan's early life and it seems probable that it is
Morgan was born in 1635, eldest son of Robert Morgan of Llanrhymney
in the county of Glamorgan. his uncle was Governor of Jersey,
and his uncle Edward became Governor of Jamaica in 1663. He left
school early and sailed to the West Indies. Possibly he sailed
with Penn and Venables in the expedition to capture Jamaica in
1655. He certainly claimed that he always sailed under commission
as a privateer, unlike many of his fellows. This was not the only
difference from them, Leslie, who wrote a history of Jamaica not
long after Morgan's death, said 'because he saw the excess and
debauchery of his fellows, and that they became reduced to the
lowest shifts by their lavish expenses on their arrival, he, having
vast designs in view, lived moderate and got together as much
money as would purchase a vessel for himself, and having got a
fine crew put to sea'.
After the setback at Santa Catalina, and the loss of Mansveld,
the new Admiral Morgan got together ten good ships and 500 buccaneers,
whom he landed on a deserted part of the coast of Cuba and marched
some thirty miles inland to the town of Puerto Principle (now
Camaguey). the town was so far from the coast that it had never
been attacked like this, and it was easily captured.
Puorto Principle was ransomed by its inhabitants to prevent it
being burnt to the ground, but the ransom was not large, and possibly
because of this, or perhaps because Morgan had turned his attention
to Portobello once again (which was a large fortified city with
a large and formidable garrison), the French buccaneers refused
to take any further part in the expedition.