Those innumerable groups of islands, keys and sandbanks, known as the West-Indies, are peculiarly adapted from their locality and formation, to be a favorite resort for pirates; many of them are composed of coral rocks, on which a few cocoa trees raise their lofty heads; where there is sufficient earth for vegetation between the interstices of the rocks, stunted brushwood grows. But a chief peculiarity of some of the islands, and which renders them suitable to those who frequent them as pirates, are the numerous caves with which the rocks are perforated; some of them are above high-water mark, but the majority with the sea water flowing in and out of them, in some cases merely rushing in at high-water filling deep pools, which are detached from each other when the tide recedes, in others with a sufficient depth of water to allow a large boat to float in. It is hardly necessary to observe how convenient the higher and dry caves are as receptacles for articles which are intended to be concealed, until an opportunity occurs to dispose of them. The Bahamas, themselves are a singular group of isles, reefs and quays; consisting of several hundred in number, and were the chief resort of pirates in old times, but now they are all rooted from them; they are low and not elevated, and are more than 600 miles in extent, cut up into numerous intricate passages and channels, full of sunken rocks and coral reefs. They afforded a sure retreat to desperadoes. Other islands are full of mountain fastnesses, where all pursuit can be eluded. Many of the low shores are skirted, and the islands covered by the mangrove, a singular tree, shooting fresh roots as it grows, which, when the tree is at its full age, may be found six or eight feet from the ground, to which the shoots gradually tend in regular succession; the leaf is very thick and stiff and about eight inches long and nine wide, the interval between the roots offer secure hiding places for those who are suddenly pursued. Another circumstance assists the pirate when pursued.--As the islands belong to several different nations, when pursued from one island he can pass to that under the jurisdiction of another power. And as permission must be got by those in pursuit of him, from the authorities of the island to land and take him, he thus gains time to secrete himself. A tropical climate is suited to a roving life, and liquor as well as dissolute women being in great abundance, to gratify him during his hours of relaxation, makes this a congenial region for the lawless.
In November 1821, the brig Cobbessecontee, Captain Jackson, sailed from Havana, on the morning of the 8th for Boston, and on the evening of the same day, about four miles from the Moro, was brought to by a piratical sloop containing about 30 men. A boat from her, with 10 men, came alongside, and soon after they got on board commenced plundering. They took nearly all the clothing from the captain and mate--all the cooking utensils and spare rigging--unrove part of the running rigging--cut the small cable--broke the compasses--cut the mast's coats to pieces--took from the captain his watch and four boxes cigars--and from the cargo three bales cochineal and six boxes cigars. They beat the mate unmercifully, and hung him up by the neck under the maintop. They also beat the captain severely--broke a large broad sword across his back, and ran a long knife through his thigh, so that he almost bled to death. Captain Jackson saw the sloop at Regla the day before.
Captain Jackson informs us, and we have also been informed by other persons from the Havana, that this system of piracy is openly countenanced by some of the inhabitants of that place--who say that it is a retaliation on the Americans for interfering against the Slave Trade.
About this time the ship Liverpool Packet, Ricker, of Portsmouth, N.H., was boarded off Cape St. Antonio, Cuba, by two piratical schooners; two barges containing thirty or forty men, robbed the vessel of every thing movable, even of her flags, rigging, and a boat which happened to be afloat, having a boy in it, which belonged to the ship. They held a consultation whether they should murder the crew, as they had done before, or not--in the mean time taking the ship into anchoring ground. On bringing her to anchor, the crew saw a brig close alongside, burnt to the water's edge, and three dead bodies floating near her. The pirates said they had burnt the brig the day before, and murdered all the crew! --and intended doing the same with them. They said "look at the turtles (meaning the dead bodies) you will soon be the same." They said the vessel was a Baltimore brig, which they had robbed and burnt, and murdered the crew as before stated, of which they had little doubt. Captain Ricker was most shockingly bruised by them. The mate was hung till he was supposed to be dead, but came to, and is now alive. They told the captain that they belonged in Regla, and should kill them all to prevent discovery.
In 1822, the United States had several cruisers among the West-India islands, to keep the pirates in check. Much good was done but still many vessels were robbed and destroyed, together with their crews. This year the brave Lieutenant Allen fell by the hand of pirates; he was in the United States schooner Alligator, and receiving intelligence at Matanzas, that several vessels which had sailed from that port, had been taken by the pirates, and were then in the bay of Lejuapo. He hastened to their assistance. He arrived just in time to save five sail of vessels which he found in possession of a gang of pirates, 300 strong, established in the bay of Lejuapo, about 15 leagues east of this. He fell, pierced by two musket balls, in the van of a division of boats, attacking their principal vessel, a fine schooner of about eighty tons, with a long eighteen pounder on a pivot, and four smaller guns, with the bloody flag nailed to the mast . Himself, Captain Freeman of Marines, and twelve men, were in the boat, much in advance of his other boats, and even took possession of the schooner, after a desperate resistance, which nothing but a bravery almost too daring could have overcome. The pirates, all but one, escaped by taking to their boats and jumping overboard, before the Alligator's boat reached them. Two other schooners escaped by the use of their oars, the wind being light.
Captain Allen survived about four hours, during which his conversation evinced a composure and firmness of mind, and correctness of feeling, as honorable to his character, and more consoling to his friends, than even the dauntless bravery he before exhibited.
The surgeon of the Alligator in a letter to a friend, says, "He continued giving orders and conversing with Mr. Dale and the rest of us, until a few minutes before his death, with a degree of cheerfulness that was little to be expected from a man in his condition. He said he wished his relatives and his country to know that he had fought well, and added that he died in peace and good will towards all the world, and hoped for his reward in the next."
Lieutenant Allen had but few equals in the service. He was ardently devoted to the interest of his country, was brave, intelligent, and accomplished in his profession. He displayed, living and dying, a magnanimity that sheds lustre on his relatives, his friends, and his country.
The schooner Exertion, Captain Lincoln, sailed from Boston, bound for Trinidad de Cuba, Nov. 13th, 1821, with the following crew; Joshua Bracket, mate; David Warren, cook; and Thomas Young, Francis De Suze, and George Reed, seamen.
The cargo consisted of flour, beef, pork, lard, butter, fish, beans, onions, potatoes, apples, hams, furniture, sugar box shooks, &c., invoiced at about eight thousand dollars. Nothing remarkable occurred during the passage, except much bad weather, until my capture, which was as follows:--
Monday, December 17th, 1821, commenced with fine breezes from the eastward. At daybreak saw some of the islands northward of Cape Cruz, called Keys--stood along northwest; every thing now seemed favorable for a happy termination of our voyage. At 3 o'clock, P.M., saw a sail coming round one of the Keys, into a channel called Boca de Cavolone by the chart, nearly in latitude 20° 55' north, longitude 79° 55' west, she made directly for us with all sails set, sweeps on both sides (the wind being light) and was soon near enough for us to discover about forty men on her deck, armed with muskets, blunderbusses, cutlasses, long knives, dirks, &c., two carronades, one a twelve, the other a six pounder; she was a schooner, wearing the Patriot flag (blue, white and blue) of the Republic of Mexico. I thought it not prudent to resist them, should they be pirates, with a crew of seven men, and only five muskets; accordingly ordered the arms and ammunition to be immediately stowed away in as secret a place as possible, and suffer her to speak us, hoping and believing that a republican flag indicated both honor and friendship from those who wore it, and which we might expect even from Spaniards. But how great was my astonishment, when the schooner having approached very near us, hailed in English, and ordered me to heave my boat out immediately and come on board of her with my papers.--Accordingly my boat was hove out, but filled before I could get into her.--I was then ordered to tack ship and lay by for the pirates' boat to board me; which was done by Bolidar, their first lieutenant, with six or eight Spaniards armed with as many of the before mentioned weapons as they could well sling about their bodies. They drove me into the boat, and two of them rowed me to their privateer (as they called their vessel), where I shook hands with their commander, Captain Jonnia, a Spaniard, who before looking at my papers, ordered Bolidar, his lieutenant, to follow the Mexican in, back of the Key they had left, which was done. At 6 o'clock, P.M., the Exertion was anchored in eleven feet water, near this vessel, and an island, which they called Twelve League Key (called by the chart Key Largo), about thirty or thirty-five leagues from Trinidad. After this strange conduct they began examining my papers by a Scotchman who went by the name of Nickola, their sailing master.--He spoke good English, had a countenance rather pleasing, although his beard and mustachios had a frightful appearance--his face, apparently full of anxiety, indicated something in my favor; he gave me my papers, saying "take good care of them, for I am afraid you have fallen into bad hands." The pirates' boat was then sent to the Exertion with more men and arms; a part of them left on board her; the rest returning with three of my crew to their vessel; viz., Thomas Young, Thomas Goodall, and George Reed--they treated them with something to drink, and offered them equal shares with themselves, and some money, if they would enlist, but they could not prevail on them. I then requested permission to go on board my vessel which was granted, and further requested Nickola should go with me, but was refused by the captain, who vociferated in a harsh manner, "No, No, No." accompanied with a heavy stamp upon the deck. When I got on board, I was invited below by Bolidar, where I found they had emptied the case of liquors, and broken a cheese to pieces and crumbled it on the table and cabin floor; the pirates, elated with their prize (as they called it), had drank so much as to make them desperately abusive. I was permitted to lie down in my berth; but, reader, if you have ever been awakened by a gang of armed, desperadoes, who have taken possession of your habitation in the midnight hour, you can imagine my feelings.--Sleep was a stranger to me, and anxiety was my guest. Bolidar, however, pretended friendship, and flattered me with the prospect of being soon set at liberty. But I found him, as I suspected, a consummate hypocrite; indeed, his very looks indicated it. He was a stout and well built man, of a dark, swarthy complexion, with keen, ferocious eyes, huge whiskers, and beard under his chin and on his lips, four or five inches long; he was a Portuguese by birth, but had become a naturalized Frenchman--had a wife, if not children (as I was told) in France, and was well known there as commander of a first rate privateer. His appearance was truly terrific; he could talk some English, and had a most lion-like voice.
Tuesday, 18th.--Early this morning the captain of the pirates came on board the Exertion; took a look at the cabin stores, and cargo in the state rooms, and then ordered me back with him to his vessel, where he, with his crew, held a consultation for some time respecting the cargo. After which, the interpreter, Nickola, told me that "the captain had, or pretended to have, a commission under General Traspelascus, commander-in-chief of the republic of Mexico, authorizing him to take all cargoes whatever of provisions, bound to any royalist Spanish port--that my cargo being bound to an enemy's port, must be condemned; but that the vessel should be given up and be put into a fair channel for Trinidad, where I was bound." I requested him to examine the papers thoroughly, and perhaps he would be convinced to the contrary, and told him my cargo was all American property taken in at Boston, and consigned to an American gentleman, agent at Trinidad. But the captain would not take the trouble, but ordered both vessels under way immediately, and commenced beating up amongst the Keys through most of the day, the wind being very light. They now sent their boats on board the Exertion for stores, and commenced plundering her of bread, butter, lard, onions, potatoes, fish, beans, &c., took up some sugar box shocks that were on deck, and found the barrels of apples; selected the best of them and threw the rest overboard. They inquired for spirits, wine, cider, &c. and were told "they had already taken all that was on board." But not satisfied they proceeded to search the state rooms and forcastle, ripped up the floor of the later and found some boxes of bottled cider, which they carried to their vessel, gave three cheers, in an exulting manner to me, and then began drinking it with such freedom, that a violent quarrel arose between officers and men, which came very near ending in bloodshed. I was accused of falsehood, for saying they had got all the liquors that were on board, and I thought they had; the truth was, I never had any bill of lading of the cider, and consequently had no recollection of its being on board; yet it served them as an excuse for being insolent. In the evening peace was restored and they sung songs. I was suffered to go below for the night, and they placed a guard over me, stationed at the companion way.
Wednesday, 19th, commenced with moderate easterly winds, beating towards the northeast, the pirate's boats frequently going on board the Exertion for potatoes, fish, beans, butter, &c. which were used with great waste and extravagance. They gave me food and drink, but of bad quality, more particularly the victuals, which was wretchedly cooked. The place assigned me to eat was covered with dirt and vermin. It appeared that their great object was to hurt my feelings with threats and observations, and to make my situation as unpleasant as circumstances would admit. We came to anchor near a Key, called by them Brigantine, where myself and mate were permitted to go on shore, but were guarded by several armed pirates. I soon returned to the Mexican and my mate to the Exertion, with George Reed, one of my crew; the other two being kept on board the Mexican. In the course of this day I had considerable conversation with Nickola, who appeared well disposed towards me. He lamented most deeply his own situation, for he was one of those men, whose early good impressions were not entirely effaced, although confederated with guilt. He told me "those who had taken me were no better than pirates, and their end would be the halter; but," he added, with peculiar emotion, "I will never be hung as a pirate," showing me a bottle of laudanum which he had found in my medicine chest, saying, "If we are taken, that shall cheat the hangman, before we are condemned." I endeavored to get it from him, but did not succeed. I then asked him how he came to be in such company, as he appeared to be dissatisfied. He stated, that he was at New Orleans last summer, out of employment, and became acquainted with one Captain August Orgamar, a Frenchman, who had bought a small schooner of about fifteen tons, and was going down to the bay of Mexico to get a commission under General Traspelascus, in order to go a privateering under the patriot flag. Capt. Orgamar made him liberal offers respecting shares, and promised him a sailing master's berth, which he accepted and embarked on board the schooner, without sufficiently reflecting on the danger of such an undertaking. Soon after she sailed from Mexico, where they got a commission, and the vessel was called Mexican. They made up a complement of twenty men, and after rendering the General some little service, in transporting his troops to a place called ---- proceeded on a cruise; took some small prizes off Campeachy; afterwards came on the south coast of Cuba, where they took other small prizes, and the one which we were now on board of. By this time the crew were increased to about forty, nearly one half Spaniards, the others Frenchmen and Portuguese. Several of them had sailed out of ports in the United States with American protections; but, I confidently believe, none are natives, especially of the northern states. I was careful in examining the men, being desirous of knowing if any of my countrymen were among this wretched crew; but am satisfied there were none, and my Scotch friend concurred in the opinion. And now, with a new vessel, which was the prize of these plunderers, they sailed up Manganeil bay; previously, however, they fell in with an American schooner, from which they bought four barrels of beef, and paid in tobacco. At the Bay was an English brig belonging to Jamaica, owned by Mr. John Louden of that place. On board of this vessel the Spanish part of the crew commenced their depredations as pirates, although Captain Orgamar and Nickola protested against it, and refused any participation; but they persisted, and like so many ferocious blood-hounds, boarded the brig, plundered the cabin, stores, furniture, captain's trunk, &c., took a hogshead of rum, one twelve pound carronade, some rigging and sails. One of them plundered the chest of a sailor, who made some resistance, so that the Spaniard took his cutlass, and beat and wounded him without mercy. Nickola asked him "why he did it?" the fellow answered, "I will let you know," and took up the cook's axe and gave him a cut on the head, which nearly deprived him of life. Then they ordered Captain Orgamar to leave his vessel, allowing him his trunk and turned him ashore, to seek for himself. Nickola begged them to dismiss him with his captain, but no, no, was the answer; for they had no complete navigator but him. After Captain Orgamar was gone, they put in his stead the present brave (or as I should call him cowardly) Captain Jonnia, who headed them in plundering the before mentioned brig, and made Bolidar their first lieutenant, and then proceeded down among those Keys or Islands, where I was captured. This is the amount of what my friend Nickola told me of their history.
Saturday, 22d.--Both vessels under way standing to the eastward, they ran the Exertion aground on a bar, but after throwing overboard most of her deck load of shooks, she floated off; a pilot was sent to her, and she was run into a narrow creek between two keys, where they moored her head and stern along side of the mangrove trees, set down her yards and topmasts, and covered her mast heads and shrouds with bushes to prevent her being seen by vessels which might pass that way. I was then suffered to go on board my own vessel, and found her in a very filthy condition; sails torn, rigging cut to pieces, and every thing in the cabin in waste and confusion. The swarms of moschetoes and sand-flies made it impossible to get any sleep or rest. The pirate's large boat was armed and manned under Bolidar, and sent off with letters to a merchant (as they called him) by the name of Dominico, residing in a town called Principe, on the main island of Cuba. I was told by one of them, who could speak English, that Principe was a very large and populous town, situated at the head of St. Maria, which was about twenty miles northeast from where we lay, and the Keys lying around us were called Cotton Keys.--The captain pressed into his service Francis de Suze, one of my crew, saying that he was one of his countrymen. Francis was very reluctant in going, and said to me, with tears in his eyes, "I shall do nothing but what I am obliged to do, and will not aid in the least to hurt you or the vessel; I am very sorry to leave you." He was immediately put on duty and Thomas Goodall sent back to the Exertion.
Sunday, 23d.--Early this morning a large number of the pirates came on board of the Exertion, threw out the long boat, broke open the hatches, and took out considerable of the cargo, in search of rum, gin, &c., still telling me "I had some and they would find it," uttering the most awful profaneness. In the afternoon their boat returned with a perough, having on board the captain, his first lieutenant and seven men of a patriot or piratical vessel that was chased ashore at Cape Cruz by a Spanish armed brig. These seven men made their escape in said boat, and after four days, found our pirates and joined them; the remainder of the crew being killed or taken prisoners.
Monday, 24th.--Their boat was manned and sent to the before-mentioned town.--I was informed by a line from Nickola, that the pirates had a man on board, a native of Principe, who, in the garb of a sailor, was a partner with Dominico, but I could not get sight of him. This lets us a little into the plans by which this atrocious system of piracy has been carried on. Merchants having partners on board of these pirates! thus pirates at sea and robbers on land are associated to destroy the peaceful trader. The willingness exhibited by the seven above-mentioned men, to join our gang of pirates, seems to look like a general understanding among them; and from there being merchants on shore so base as to encourage the plunder and vend the goods, I am persuaded there has been a systematic confederacy on the part of these unprincipled desperadoes, under cover of the patriot flag; and those on land are no better than those on the sea. If the governments to whom they belong know of the atrocities committed (and I have but little doubt they do) they deserve the execration of all mankind.
Thursday, 27th.--A gang of the pirates came and stripped our masts of the green bushes, saying, "she appeared more like a sail than trees"--took one barrel of bread and one of potatoes, using about one of each every day. I understood they were waiting for boats to take the cargo; for the principal merchant had gone to Trinidad.
Sunday, 30th.--The beginning of trouble! This day, which peculiarly reminds Christians of the high duties of compassion and benevolence, was never observed by these pirates. This, of course, we might expect, as they did not often know when the day came, and if they knew it, it was spent in gambling. The old saying among seamen, "no Sunday off soundings," was not thought of; and even this poor plea was not theirs, for they were on soundings and often at anchor.--Early this morning, the merchant, as they called him, came with a large boat for the cargo. I was immediately ordered into the boat with my crew, not allowed any breakfast, and carried about three miles to a small island out of sight of the Exertion, and left there by the side of a little pond of thick, muddy water, which proved to be very brackish, with nothing to eat but a few biscuits. One of the boat's men told us the merchant was afraid of being recognized, and when he had gone the boat would return for us; but we had great reason to apprehend they would deceive us, and therefore passed the day in the utmost anxiety. At night, however, the boats came and took us again on board the Exertion; when, to our surprise and astonishment, we found they had broken open the trunks and chests, and taken all our wearing apparel, not even leaving a shirt or pair of pantaloons, nor sparing a small miniature of my wife which was in my trunk. The little money I and my mate had, with some belonging to the owners, my mate had previously distributed about the cabin in three or four parcels, while I was on board the pirate, for we dare not keep it about us; one parcel in a butter pot they did not discover.--Amidst the hurry with which I was obliged to go to the before-mentioned island, I fortunately snatched by vessel's papers, and hid them in my bosom, which the reader will find was a happy circumstance for me. My writing desk, with papers, accounts, &c., all Mr. Lord's letters (the gentlemen to whom my cargo was consigned) and several others were taken and maliciously destroyed. My medicine chest, which I so much wanted, was kept for their own use. What their motive could be to take my papers I could not imagine, except they had hopes of finding bills of lading for some Spaniards, to clear them from piracy. Mr. Bracket had some notes and papers of consequence to him, which shared the same fate. My quadrant, charts, books and bedding were not yet taken, but I found it impossible to hide them, and they were soon gone from my sight.
Friday, 4th.--Commenced with light winds and hot sun, saw a boat coming from the Exertion, apparently loaded; she passed between two small Keys to northward, supposed to be bound for Cuba. At sunset a boat came and inquired if we wanted anything, but instead of adding to our provisions, took away our molasses, and pushed off. We found one of the Exertion's water casks, and several pieces of plank, which we carefully laid up, in hopes of getting enough to make a raft.
Saturday, 5th.--Pirates again in sight, coming from the
eastward; they beat up along side their prize, and commenced
loading. In the afternoon Nickola came to us, bringing with him two
more prisoners, which they had taken in a small sail boat coming
from Trinidad to Manganeil, one a Frenchman, the other a Scotchman,
with two Spaniards, who remained on board the pirate, and who
afterwards joined them. The back of one of these poor fellows was
extremely sore, having just suffered a cruel beating from Bolidar,
with the broad side of a cutlass. It appeared, that when the
officer asked him "where their money was, and how much," he
answered, "he was not certain but believed they had only two ounces
of gold"--Bolidar furiously swore he said "ten," and not finding
any more, gave him the beating. Nickola now related to me a
singular fact; which was, that the Spanish part of the crew were
determined to shoot him; that they tied him to the mast, and a man
was appointed for the purpose; but Lion, a Frenchman, his
particular friend, stepped up and told them, if they shot him they
must shoot several more; some of the Spaniards sided with him, and
he was released. Nickola told me, the reason for such treatment
was, that he continually objected to their conduct towards me, and
their opinion if he should escape, they would be discovered, as he
declared he would take no prize money. While with us he gave me a
letter written in great haste, which contains some particulars
respecting the cargo;--as follows:--
January 4th, 1822.
Sir,--We arrived here this morning, and before we came to anchor, had five canoes alongside ready to take your cargo, part of which we had in; and as I heard you express a wish to know what they took out of her, to this moment, you may depend upon this account of Jamieson for quality and quantity; if I have the same opportunity you will have an account of the whole. The villain who bought your cargo is from the town of Principe, his name is Dominico, as to that it is all that I can learn; they have taken your charts aboard the schooner Mexican, and I suppose mean to keep them, as the other captain has agreed to act the same infamous part in the tragedy of his life. Your clothes are here on board, but do not let me flatter you that you will get them back; it may be so, and it may not. Perhaps in your old age, when you recline with ease in a corner of your cottage, you will have the goodness to drop a tear of pleasure to the memory of him, whose highest ambition should have been to subscribe himself, though devoted to the gallows, your friend,
Excuse haste. NICKOLA MONACRE.
Sunday, 6th.--The pirates were under way at sunrise, with a full load of the Exertion's cargo, going to Principe again to sell a second freight, which was done readily for cash. I afterwards heard that the flour only fetched five dollars per barrel, when it was worth at Trinidad thirteen; so that the villain who bought my cargo at Principe, made very large profits by it.
Tuesday, 8th.--Early this morning the pirates in sight again, with fore top sail and top gallant sail set; beat up along side of the Exertion and commenced loading; having, as I supposed, sold and discharged her last freight among some of the inhabitants of Cuba. They appeared to load in great haste; and the song, "O he oh," which echoed from one vessel to the other, was distinctly heard by us. How wounding was this to me! How different was this sound from what it would have been, had I been permitted to pass unmolested by these lawless plunderers, and been favored with a safe arrival at the port of my destination, where my cargo would have found an excellent sale. Then would the "O he oh," on its discharging, have been a delightful sound to me. In the afternoon she sailed with the perough in tow, both with a full load, having chairs, which was part of the cargo, slung at her quarters.
Monday, 14th.--They again hove in sight, and beat up as usual, along-side their prize. While passing our solitary island, they laughed at our misery, which was almost insupportable--looking upon us as though we had committed some heinous crime, and they had not sufficiently punished us; they hallooed to us, crying out "Captain, Captain," accompanied with obscene motions and words, with which I shall not blacken these pages--yet I heard no check upon such conduct, nor could I expect it among such a gang, who have no idea of subordination on board, except when in chase of vessels, and even then but very little. My resentment was excited at such a malicious outrage, and I felt a disposition to revenge myself, should fortune ever favor me with an opportunity. It was beyond human nature not to feel and express some indignation at such treatment.--Soon after, Bolidar, with five men, well armed, came to us; he having a blunderbuss, cutlass, a long knife and pair of pistols--but for what purpose did he come? He took me by the hand, saying, "Captain, me speak with you, walk this way." I obeyed, and when at some distance from my fellow prisoners, (his men following) he said, "the captain send me for your wash" I pretended not to understand what he meant, and replied, "I have no clothes, nor any soap to wash with--you have taken them all," for I had kept my watch about me, hoping they would not discover it. He demanded it again as before; and was answered, "I have nothing to wash;" this raised his anger, and lifting his blunderbuss, he roared out, "what the d--l you call him that make clock? give it me." I considered it imprudent to contend any longer, and submitted to his unlawful demand. As he was going off, he gave me a small bundle, in which was a pair of linen drawers, sent to me by Nickola, and also the Rev. Mr. Brooks' "Family Prayer Book." This gave me great satisfaction. Soon after, he returned with his captain, who had one arm slung up, yet with as many implements of war, as his diminutive wicked self could conveniently carry; he told me (through an interpreter who was his prisoner.) "that on his cruize he had fallen in with two Spanish privateers, and beat them off; but had three of his men killed, and himself wounded in the arm"--Bolidar turned to me and said, "it is a d--n lie"--which words proved to be correct, for his arm was not wounded, and when I saw him again, which was soon afterwards, he had forgotten to sling it up. He further told me, "after tomorrow you shall go with your vessel, and we will accompany you towards Trinidad." This gave me some new hopes, and why I could not tell. They then left us without rendering any assistance.--This night we got some rest.
Tuesday, 15th. The words "go after tomorrow," were used among our Spanish fellow prisoners, as though that happy tomorrow would never come--in what manner it came will soon be noticed.
Friday, 18th commenced with brighter prospects of liberty than ever. The pirates were employed in setting up our devoted schooner's shrouds, stays, &c. My condition now reminded me of the hungry man, chained in one corner of a room, while at another part was a table loaded with delicious food and fruits, the smell and sight of which he was continually to experience, but alas! his chains were never to be loosed that he might go and partake--at almost the same moment they were thus employed, the axe was applied with the greatest dexterity to both her masts and I saw them fall over the side! Here fell my hopes--I looked at my condition, and then thought of home.--Our Spanish fellow prisoners were so disappointed and alarmed that they recommended hiding ourselves, if possible, among the mangrove trees, believing, as they said, we should now certainly be put to death; or, what was worse, compelled to serve on board the Mexican as pirates. Little else it is true, seemed left for us; however, we kept a bright look out for them during the day, and at night "an anchor watch" as we called it, determined if we discovered their boats coming towards us, to adopt the plan of hiding, although starvation stared us in the face--yet preferred that to instant death. This night was passed in sufficient anxiety--I took the first watch.
Saturday, 19th.--The pirate's largest boat came for us--it being day-light, and supposing they could see us, determined to stand our ground and wait the result. They ordered us all into the boat, but left every thing else; they rowed towards the Exertion--I noticed a dejection of spirits in one of the pirates, and inquired of him where they were going to carry us? He shook his head and replied, "I do not know." I now had some hopes of visiting my vessel again--but the pirates made sail, ran down, took us in tow and stood out of the harbor. Bolidar afterwards took me, my mate and two of my men on board and gave us some coffee. On examination I found they had several additional light sails, made of the Exertion's. Almost every man, a pair of canvas trousers; and my colors cut up and made into belts to carry their money about them. My jolly boat was on deck, and I was informed, all my rigging was disposed of. Several of the pirates had on some of my clothes, and the captain one of my best shirts, a cleaner one, than I had ever seen him have on before.--He kept at a good distance from me, and forbid my friend Nickola's speaking to me.--I saw from the companion way in the captain's cabin my quadrant, spy glass and other things which belonged to us, and observed by the compass, that the course steered was about west by south,--distance nearly twenty miles, which brought them up with a cluster of islands called by some "Cayman Keys." Here they anchored and caught some fish, (one of which was named guard fish) of which we had a taste. I observed that my friend Mr. Bracket was somewhat dejected, and asked him in a low voice, what his opinion was with respects to our fate? He answered, "I cannot tell you, but it appears to me the worst is to come." I told him that I hoped not, but thought they would give us our small boat and liberate the prisoners. But mercy even in this shape was not left-for us. Soon after, saw the captain and officers whispering for some time in private conference. When over, their boat was manned under the commond of Bolidar, and went to one of those Islands or Keys before mentioned. On their return, another conference took place--whether it was a jury upon our lives we could not tell. I did not think conscience could be entirely extinguished in the human breast, or that men could become fiends. In the afternoon, while we knew not the doom which had been fixed for us, the captain was engaged with several of his men in gambling, in hopes to get back some of the five hundred dollars, they said, he lost but a few nights before; which had made his unusually fractious. A little before sunset he ordered all the prisoners into the large boat, with a supply of provisions and water, and to be put on shore. While we were getting into her, one of my fellow prisoners, a Spaniard, attempted with tears in his eyes to speak to the captain, but was refused with the answer. "I'll have nothing to say to any prisoner, go into the boat." In the mean time Nickola said to me, "My friend, I will give you your book," (being Mr. Colman's Sermons,) "it is the only thing of yours that is in my possession; I dare not attempt any thing more." But the captain forbid his giving it to me, and I stepped into the boat--at that moment Nickola said in a low voice, "never mind, I may see you again before I die." The small boat was well armed and manned, and both set off together for the island, where they had agreed to leave us to perish! The scene to us was a funereal scene. There were no arms in the prisoners boat, and, of course, all attempts to relieve ourselves would have been throwing our lives away, as Bolidar was near us, well armed. We were rowed about two miles north-easterly from the pirates, to a small low island, lonely and desolate. We arrived about sunset; and for the support of us eleven prisoners, they only left a ten gallon keg of water, and perhaps a few quarts, in another small vessel, which was very poor; part of a barrel of flour, a small keg of lard, one ham and some salt fish; a small kettle and an old broken pot; an old sail for a covering, and a small mattress and blanket, which was thrown out as the boats hastened away. One of the prisoners happened to have a little coffee in his pocket, and these comprehended all our means of sustaining life, and for what length of time we knew not. We now felt the need of water, and our supply was comparatively nothing. A man may live nearly twice as long without food, as without water. Look at us now, my friends, left benighted on a little spot of sand in the midst of the ocean, far from the usual track of vessels, and every appearance of a violent thunder tempest, and a boisterous night. Judge of my feelings, and the circumstances which our band of sufferers now witnessed. Perhaps you can and have pitied us. I assure you, we were very wretched; and to paint the scene, is not within my power. When the boats were moving from the shore, on recovering myself a little, I asked Bolidar, "If he was going to leave us so?"--he answered, "no, only two days--we go for water and wood, then come back, take you." I requested him to give us bread and other stores, for they had plenty in the boat, and at least one hundred barrels of flour in the Mexican. "No, no, suppose to-morrow morning me come, me give you bread," and hurried off to the vessel. This was the last time I saw him. We then turned our attention upon finding a spot most convenient for our comfort, and soon discovered a little roof supported by stakes driven into the sand; it was thatched with leaves of the cocoa-nut tree, considerable part of which was torn or blown off. After spreading the old sail over this roof, we placed our little stock of provisions under it. Soon after came on a heavy shower of rain which penetrated the canvas, and made it nearly as uncomfortable inside, as it would have been out. We were not prepared to catch water, having nothing to put it in. Our next object was to get fire, and after gathering some of the driest fuel to be found, and having a small piece of cotton wick-yarn, with flint and steel, we kindled a fire, which was never afterwards suffered to be extinguished. The night was very dark, but we found a piece of old rope, which when well lighted served for a candle. On examining the ground under the roof, we found perhaps thousands of creeping insects, scorpions, lizards, crickets, &c. After scraping them out as well as we could, the most of us having nothing but the damp earth for a bed, laid ourselves down in hopes of some rest; but it being so wet, gave many of us severe colds, and one of the Spaniards was quite sick for several days.
Sunday, 20th.--As soon as day-light came on, we proceeded to take a view of our little island, and found it to measure only one acre, of coarse, white sand; about two feet, and in some spots perhaps three feet above the surface of the ocean. On the highest part were growing some bushes and small mangroves, (the dry part of which was our fuel) and the wild castor oil beans. We were greatly disappointed in not finding the latter suitable food; likewise some of the prickly pear bushes, which gave us only a few pears about the size of our small button pear; the outside has thorns, which if applied to the fingers or lips, will remain there, and cause a severe smarting similar to the nettle; the inside a spungy substance, full of juice and seeds, which are red and a little tartish--had they been there in abundance, we should not have suffered so much for water--but alas! even this substitute was not for us. On the northerly side of the island was a hollow, where the tide penetrated the sand, leaving stagnant water. We presumed, in hurricanes the island was nearly overflowed. According to the best calculations I could make, we were about thirty-five miles from any part of Cuba, one hundred from Trinidad and forty from the usual track of American vessels, or others which might pass that way. No vessel of any considerable size, can safely pass among these Keys (or "Queen's Gardens," as the Spaniards call them) being a large number extending from Cape Cruz to Trinidad, one hundred and fifty miles distance; and many more than the charts have laid down, most of them very low and some covered at high water, which makes it very dangerous for navigators without a skilful pilot. After taking this view of our condition, which was very gloomy, we began to suspect we were left on this desolate island by those merciless plunderers to perish. Of this I am now fully convinced; still we looked anxiously for the pirate's boat to come according to promise with more water and provisions, but looked in vain. We saw them soon after get under way with all sail set and run directly from us until out of our sight, and we never saw them again! One may partially imagine our feelings, but they cannot be put into words. Before they were entirely out of sight of us, we raised the white blanket upon a pole, waving it in the air, in hopes, that at two miles distance they would see it and be moved to pity. But pity in such monsters was not to be found. It was not their interest to save us from the lingering death, which we now saw before us. We tried to compose ourselves, trusting to God, who had witnessed our sufferings, would yet make use of some one, as the instrument of his mercy towards us. Our next care, now, was to try for water. We dug several holes in the sand and found it, but quite too salt for use. The tide penetrates probably through the island. We now came on short allowances for water. Having no means of securing what we had by lock and key, some one in the night would slyly drink, and it was soon gone. The next was to bake some bread, which we did by mixing flour with salt water and frying it in lard, allowing ourselves eight quite small pancakes to begin with. The ham was reserved for some more important occasion, and the salt fish was lost for want of fresh water. The remainder of this day was passed in the most serious conversation and reflection. At night, I read prayers from the "Prayer Book," before mentioned, which I most carefully concealed while last on board the pirates. This plan was pursued morning and evening, during our stay there. Then retired for rest and sleep, but realized little of either.