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The Monarchs of the Main

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The Monarchs of the Main
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Author(s): Walter Thornbury
Date Published: 2012/04
Page Count: 460
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-887-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-886-6

High adventure on the seas for plunder and profit

This well known account of the ‘gentlemen of the black flag’ by Thornbury was originally published in three volumes under the title Monarchs of the Main; the original edition is complete in this good value, single volume Leonaur edition. Sea Rovers, Filibusters, Privateers, Buccaneers and Pirates—regardless of their title these predators of the waves have endured as long as sea trade itself, although they are especially associated with the Spanish Main of the Caribbean. Strictly speaking there is some distinction between those who operated under license from their own governments and those who were simply criminals, but reality was somewhat different. These were violent, desperate seafarers with a taste for adventure, blood and gold. The man who was a pirate one day would readily be a buccaneer the next—and vice-versa. Nevertheless, there has always been an abiding interest in the romantic aspects of these free spirits, whose allegiance was mainly to their own swaying decks. That fascination is as strong today, in fiction and on the cinema screen, as it was when classics such as Treasure Island first saw print. Within the pages of this book readers will discover the real life activities of infamous figures such as Lolonnois the Cruel, Montbars the Exterminator, Sir Henry Morgan, Sawkins, Sharp, Ravenau de Lussan and many other ‘monarchs of the Main.’
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Next morning, rowing all day over shallow water, they chased a bark, which Captain Harris took after a sharp dispute, putting on board a prize crew of thirty men. During this pursuit the vessels scattered, and did not reunite till next day at the island of Chepillo, a preconcerted rendezvous. They again chased a bark, but with less success, and Captain Coxen’s canoe missed the prize, owing to a breeze springing up, having one man killed and another wounded, and, what was worst of all, the vessel not only escaped, but spread the alarm at Panama. At Chepillo they took fourteen negro and mulatto prisoners, and secured two fat hogs, plenty of plantains, and some good water. Believing it useless now to attack Panama, the buccaneers resolved to hurry on to the town to at least surprise some of the shipping. Their boats had the addition of another piragua, which they found lying at Chepillo. Before starting, the captains cruelly decided, for reasons which Ringrose could not fathom, to allow the Indians to murder all the Spanish prisoners before their eyes, the savages having long thirsted for their blood. But by a singular coincidence the prisoners, though without arms, forced their way by a sudden rush through all the Indian spears and arrows, and escaped unhurt into the woods, to the chagrin of both white and black savages.<br>
Staying only a few hours at Chepillo, the boats started at four o’clock in the evening, intending to reach Panama, which was only seven leagues distant, before the next morning. The next day (St. George’s day), before sunrise they arrived at Panama, “a city,” says Ringrose, “which has a very pleasant prospect seaward.” They could see all the ships of the city lying at anchor at the island of Perico, two leagues distant, where storehouses had been built. There now rode at anchor five great ships and three smaller armadillas, (little men-of-war). This fleet, which had been hastily manned to defend the city, as soon as they saw the buccaneers, weighed anchor, got under sail, and bore down at once upon them, directly before the wind, and with such velocity as to threaten to run them down. The Spanish admiral’s vessel was manned by ninety Biscayans, agile seamen and stout soldiers. They were all volunteers, and had come out to show their valour under the command of Don Jacinto de Barahona, high-admiral of those seas. In the second were seventy-seven negroes, led by a brave old Andalusian, Don Francisco de Peralta. In the third, making 228 men in all, were sixty-five mulattoes, under Don Diego de Carabaxal. The Spaniards had strict orders given them to grant no quarter.<br>
To add to the disparity of numbers, only a few of the buccaneers’ boats were able to arrive in time. The first five canoes that came up, leaving the heavy piraguas still lagging behind, contained only thirty-seven men, and these were tired with rowing in the wind’s eye, and trying to get close to the windward of the enemy. The lesser piragua coming up with thirty-two more men, made a total force of sixty buccaneers, including the king of Darien, engaged in this daring resistance to an overwhelming force.<br>
Carabaxal’s vessel, passing between Sawkins’s and Ringrose’s canoes, fired at both, wounding four men in the former and one in the latter, but being slow in tacking, the Spaniard paid dear for his passage, the first return volley killing several men upon his decks. Almost before they had time to reload, the admiral passed, but the buccaneers’ second volley quite disabled their giant antagonist, killing the man at the helm; and the ship ran into the wind and her sails lay aback. She fell now like a lamed elephant at the mercy of the hunters; the canoes, pulling under her stern, fired continually upon the deck, killing all who dared to touch the helm, and cutting asunder the mainsheet and mainbrace. Sawkins, whose canoe was disabled, went next into the piragua to meet Peralta, leaving the four canoes to harass the admiral. Between Sawkins and Peralta, lying alongside of each other, the fight was desperate, each crew trying to board, and firing as quick as they could load. In the mean time the first vessel tacked about and came to relieve the admiral, but the canoes, seeing the danger of being beaten from the admiral’s stern and allowing him to rally, sent two of their number (Springer and Ringrose) to meet Peralta. The admiral stood upon his quarter-deck, waving his handkerchief as a signal for his captains to come at once to his help. The canoes pursued Peralta, and would have boarded him had he not given them the helm and made away.<br>
Giving a loud shout, the remaining boats wedged up the admiral’s rudder and poured in a blinding volley, that killed the admiral and chief pilot. Two-thirds of the Spaniards being now killed, many wounded, and all disheartened at the bloody massacre of the buccaneers’ shot, cried for quarter, which they had been already several times offered, and at once surrendered. Captain Coxen then boarded the prize, taking with him Captain Harris, who had been shot through both legs as he was heading a boarding party. They put all their other wounded men on board, and, manning two canoes, hurried off to aid Sawkins, who had already been three times beaten off by Peralta.<br>
Coming close under his side and giving him a full volley, they were expecting a return, when suddenly a volcano of fire spouted up from the deck, and all the Spaniards abaft the mast were blown into the air or sea. While the brave captain, leaping overboard, was helping the drowning men in spite of the rain of shot and the pain of his own burns, another jar of powder blew up in the forecastle. Under cover of the smoke and confusion, Sawkins boarded and took the ship, or at least all that was left of it. Ringrose says it was a miserable sight, not a man but was either killed or desperately wounded, blind, or horribly burnt with the powder. In some cases the white wounds where the flesh had peeled to the bone, showed through the blackening of the powder. The admiral had but twenty-five men left out of eighty-six, and of these twenty-five only eight were now able to bear arms. <br>
The blood ran down the deck in streams, and every rope and plank was smeared with gore.<br>
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