Richard Markham.

Colonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter online

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Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 26 of 30)
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were most prosperous. Every year ships loaded with cargoes
of great value sailed for Spain. To waylay and capture one of
these was to secure a fortune for all concerned ; and many was
the proud Don who had to haul down the flag of Spain at the
bidding of a band of wild sea-rovers. Desperate men, they
stopped at no odds. I remember one case where a small craft,
manned only by twenty-eight men, took the ship of the vice-
admiral of the Spanish fleet. Her commander had been warned
during the day that that small sail in sight was a pirate, but
replied contemptuously, ' What then ! am I to be afraid of such
a pitiful craft ? '

" That night, when all was dark, the pirate crept alongside.
Her men had bored her full of holes to sink her in order that
every man might fight like mad, knowing that he had no means
of escape in case of defeat. Sword in hand, they clambered up
the Spaniard's side. Before her captain fairly knew that they
were aboard, he had a pistol clapped to his head, and had lost
his ship."




" I should have thought," said Will, " that the great European-
powers would have sent their men-of-war, and cleared the seas
of these rascals."

" The pirates were very largely English," said Mr. Longwood.
" Among them it was almost a matter of religion to attack a


Spaniard. Besides, even had the powers felt disposed to do as
you suggest, they might not have been able. The pirates, after
a little, had great strength. Capt. Henry Morgan, one of the
most noted of these villains, had at times a fleet of fifteen sail
and a thousand men. He took cities by storm, and sacked
them, killing, burning, and torturing, until one's blood boils at


the recital. No deed of wickedness was too bad for these
wretches. ' j

" Withal their bravery was astounding. One cannot help
being stirred as he reads accounts of their bold deeds. With
but four hundred men, Morgan attacked the city of Puerto
Bello. It was a fortified town, with a garrison of three hundred


soldiers, besides the regular inhabitants. Landing his men at
midnight, they surprised the sentinel before he could give the
alarm. They took the castle near the town, having first threat
ened the garrison with death in case they refused to surrender,
and blew it and them into the air by firing the magazine.
Then they fell upon the city, which resisted stubbornly. Mor-


gan's first act was to seize all the monks and nuns he could find
in the convents. He made these march before him, and raise
scaling ladders against such other castles as were not taken,
thinking that the governor would not fire upon them. But that
worthy was not to be stopped by any feeling of sympathy. He
ordered the soldiers to shoot, regardless of their cries. It was
not till afternoon that they finally conquered him, after the most
obstinate struggle ; and then they were obliged to kill him, for
he would not surrender, and fought so madly, that they could
not make him a prisoner.

" As a result of the capture of the city, they carried away a
quarter of a million Spanish dollars, besides all the merchandise
with which they loaded their ships.

" Morgan was as crafty as he was fearless. One of his expe
ditions was against Maracaibo. The fort that protected the
harbor gave them a warm reception ; but they finally silenced
its guns, and sailed on to the town. The inhabitants had fled.
Their city had been visited before by buccaneers, and they remem
bered too well what they had then suffered. Morgan sent out
into the country about, and seized many who were in hiding ;
and these he tortured fearfully.

" At last, when he had gotten all the booty he could, he
made ready to leave. The unpleasant news greeted him that the
fort had been re-garrisoned, and that three Spanish men-of-war
lay off the bar awaiting his appearance. He sent down a boat
to see if the news were true, and found that it was : the ships
mounted forty, thirty, and twenty-four guns. The outlook was
bad indeed, but Morgan was equal to the emergency. He pre-


pared a fire-ship filled with pitch and powder, and stationed on
its deck logs dressed in clothes to represent men. It was
steered against the largest of the men-of-war, and speedily set
her in a blaze. A panic seized one other of the enemy. Her
crew ran her ashore and sunk her ; and the pirates attacked and
captured the third.

" The coast was now clear, as far as the men-of-wai - were
concerned ; but the fort was to be passed. Morgan managed
this by stratagem. All day long his boats were busy landing
men, as if his plan were to assault the works at night. The
garrison, thinking this, moved their heavy guns to the land-side
of the fortifications. At dusk he raised his canvas ; and, before
they had time to bring back the guns into position, he had
re-embarked his men, and his fleet was at sea, he firing a salute
in mockery as his ship passed the chagrined garrison."

" What became of all the plunder ? " asked Charlie. " I
suppose, after one such raid as this, the men made enough to
support them for life."

" It hardly lasted a week after they reached Jamaica, which
was their headquarters," answered Mr. Longwood. " It all came
into the hands of the tavern-keepers by that time, and then the
men were ready and anxious to go off on another cruise. It is
satisfactory to find that these wicked men received in this world,
in many cases, the punishment they so richly deserved for all
their fearful cruelties. Nearly every one of the leaders came ta
violent deaths. One was tortured at the stake by savages?
mother came to his end in a dungeon ; and so on."

" Sacking cities is hardly one's idea of piracy," said Tom.


" No," said Mr. Longwood. ' We should, perhaps, more
properly call these men buccaneers, or free-booters, reserving the
title of ' pirates ' for those who robbed ships at sea.

" There was a man who appeared at Boston in the early part
of the eighteenth century. His name was Avery, and he had a
great quantity of diamonds and jewels which he wished to sell.
He was afraid to offer them, though, for fear of detection. His
story is a striking one. He was mate of an English vessel
lying at Bristol. His captain was a man fond of his cups, and
almost always more or less the worse for liquor after dinner.
Avery laid his plans accordingly. While the captain lay in his
cabin in a drunken sleep, sixteen confederates from shore came
aboard, fastened down the hatches, thus taking the crew pris
oners ; and Avery took command, and took the ship to sea.

" Presently the captain, roused by the motion of a vessel
which he supposed to be quietly at anchor in the harbor, waked,
and rang his bell. Avery and one of his men at once
answered it.

- " ' What is the matter ? ' demanded the captain. ' Does the
ship drive ? What weather is it ? '

" ' No, no,' said Avery, with impudent coolness, ' we are at
sea. Put on your clothes, and I'll let you into a secret. I am
captain now, and this is my cabin. Therefore you must walk

" The deposed commander was then informed that the vessel
was on a piratical cruise, and was asked to go along, being
promised a lieutenancy if he behaved well. But he would none
of it : so he and five or six of his men who thought as he
did were put ashore.



" Avery then sailed for Madagascar. As he neared it, he fell
in with two sloops whose crews had stolen them. He proposed
a partnership to these scamps, and they agreed at once.

" By and by the lookout espied a huge ship in the distance.
They crowded on all sail, and soon overtook her. She carried


the flag of the Great Mogul, and showed fight ; but the three
pirates attacked her lustily, and she soon surrendered."

" Who was the Great Mogul, any way ? " asked Ned.

" He was the Emperor of Delhi, and a mighty man in those
days, when England's hold on India was very different from what


it now is. He was so enraged when he heard that his ship had
been attacked, that he threatened to exterminate all the English
in the East, and was only appeased with great difficulty. This
particular ship had on board many of the chief men of his
court, and one of his daughters, who were making a pilgrimage,
like devout Moslems, to the holy shrine at Mecca. All these
dignitaries travelled in Oriental magnificence, with troops of
slaves ; and they bore with them great treasures, which were to
have been offerings at the shrine."

" I suspect they were put to far other uses," said Tom.

" They were, indeed ; for, before the ship was freed, she was
ransacked from stem to stern. Avery then proposed to the men
of the sloops, that all the treasure should be put on his ship, as
the safest place. No sooner had he it all safely aboard, than he
cracked on all sail, and made off with it, leaving his late con
federates to digest their loss as best they were able.

" When he came to the division with his own men, he suc-
.ceeded in outwitting them too ; so that his wealth, when he was
in Boston, must have been enormous. But it was almost use
less to him, for he dared not turn it into money. He went over
to England, and lived under an assumed name. Sharpers suc
ceeded in getting his jewels away without giving him any thing
for them, and he was soon in absolute beggary ; and when he
died he had not enough to buy himself a coffin. His story does
not need a moral to point out its lessons."

" How fortunate the people who lived hereabout in those
days must have thought themselves, that the pirates did not
roam these seas, and attack their towns ! " said Will.


" They, of course, did not suffer as the Central-Americans
did," said Mr. Longwood ; " but, on the other hand, they did not
get off scot free. Block Island was visited four or five times
by them. I think I can find a book on the shelves in which
an account of their coming is given. Yes, here it is. Let me
see if I can find the place," he went on, turning over the leaves.
" Ah ! here I have it.

" ' Some time in July, 1689, three French privateer- vessels
came to Block Island. They had an Englishman with them, one
William Trimming, who was wont treacherously to decoy and
betray those whom they met at sea, pretending they were
Englishmen. Him they sent on shore with some of the men,
in a periauger which lay off at a small distance, whilst he took
the advantage of stepping from one rock to another, and came
alone to the islanders, who were standing on the shore in arms,
who inquired of him who they were.

" ' To which he answered that they were Englishmen, and
that they had done great exploits among the Spaniards in the
West Indies ; that they were bound for Newport (which was so
far true) ; that their design was to take and rifle that town ; and
that they wanted a pilot, and to be supplied with fresh provis
ions for their money. This was a plausible and very pleasing
account to the inhabitants ; and the islanders were very well
satisfied, and fearless of danger.

" ' Trimming then went off to the periauger ; and several that
had sailed to and fro Newport in hope of some great reward
went on board. They no sooner were got there, but they were
immediately clapped under hatches, and examined on the strength


of Newport and Block Island ; and, finding this last not able to
resist them, they resolved to play their game in plundering the

" ' Accordingly, manning their three periaugers, with about
fifty men in each of them, they made for the harbor (having
their guns all lying in the bottom of their boats, out of sight),
where the people met them, and were somewhat amused at their
great number. But, being well satisfied that there was no monk
ery in the case, they, in a very friendly manner, directed them
to shun some sunken rocks that lay at the entrance into the
harbor ; and, to requite their kindness, every one of them, as
they laid to the wharf, started up with his gun presented, and
told the people, if they stirred from the place, or made resist
ance, they were dead men. Thus tamely and unexpectedly they
were all taken, and made prisoners-of-war.

" ' As they were thus become masters of the island, they dis
armed the men, and stove their guns to pieces on the rocks,
and confined the people in the house of Capt. Sands. This
they made their prison and rendezvous, and soon set upon plun
dering houses, and killing cattle, sheep, and hogs, some to feed
on, others for waste and spoil.

" ' However, news quickly reached the main that Block Island
was taken by the French, upon which the country was alarmed,
and bonfires made from Connecticut to Massachusetts. Perceiv
ing by the bonfires that the country was alarmed, they were dis
couraged from making an attack on Newport, and therefore
determined to attack New London. Accordingly they sailed
thither, and up into the harbor. The country being alarmed,


the men in the border-towns came down in great numbers ; and,
the fort with their great guns firing on them, they found the
place to hot for them, and drew off.

" ' Meantime the people of Newport fitted out two vessels
with volunteers to engage them. These vessels were sloops,
under the command of Commodore Paine, who had some years
before followed the privateering design, and Capt. Godfrey his
second. They stretched off to the southward ; and the French
discovered them, and made all sail, expecting to make prizes of
them. Accordingly they sent a periauger full of men, with
design to pour in their small-arms on them, and take them, as
their manner was, supposing they were unarmed vessels, and
only bound on trade. Capt. Paine's gunner urged to fire on
them. The captain denied, alleging it more advisable to let the
enemy come nearer. But the gunner still urging it, being certain
he should rake them fore and aft, thus with much importunity
the captain gave him leave. He fired ; but the bullet went wide
of them, and finally lodged in a bank, as they were not far
from the shore. This brought them to row off as fast as they
could, and wait until their vessels came up.

" ' When they came, they bore down on the English ; and a
very hot sea-fight for several hours followed, the great barque
foremost pouring in a broadside with small-arms. Ours bravely
answered them. Then followed the larger sloop, the captain
whereof was a very violent, resolute fellow. He took a glass of
wine to drink, and wished it might be his destruction if he did
not board them immediately. But, as he was drinking, a bullet
struck him in the neck, with which he instantly fell down dead.



However, they con
tinued the fight until
the night came on,
and prevented their
further conflict. Our
men as valiantly paid
them back in their
own coin.

" ' Our men ex
pected a second en
counter in the morn
ing ; but, having
found the engage
ment too hot for
them, they hoisted
their sails, and stood
off to sea. The Eng
lish pursued them ;
but the privateers,
being choice sailors,
were too fleet of foot
for them.' "

" I should hardly
have thought that
it would have paid
them to take such a
place as Block Is
land," said CharJie,



" They could have found little booty to carry away. What they
wanted was money, not crops."

" One would think so, certainly," said Mr. Longwood. " But
they came back again within a year, when the men were in the
fields busy with the harvest, and again at two other times
later on. Perhaps it was the want of fresh meat that brought
them. The third time they came to grief.

" They landed on a Sunday morning, and marched up from
the harbor, with colors flying, and were speedily at their old work
of robbing and burning houses, and wantonly killing stock.
There was no one to oppose them. Probably all, like our
narrator, had taken to hiding at their approach, considering dis
cretion the better part of valor. From a safe retreat he was
watching their doings, when suddenly, as the heavy fog lifted,
he saw an English man-of-war riding at anchor close at hand.
The pirates saw her too, and made all haste to get back to
their vessels, and put to sea. The man-of-war made all sail, and
pursued them. The fog settled down again ; and the French ran
into a bay, thinking their pursuer would sail by. But she, ' as
if she followed the print of their heels in the ocean,' came in
upon them, and took them. Some forty of the men, when she
suddenly loomed up out of the fog right upon them, took to
the small boats, and got ashore ; but the people there seized and
sent them off prisoners to Boston, and the pirate craft was
condemned at Newport."

" I remember to have heard of a ship that was commanded
by a Quaker," said Ned. " He was fired into by a privateer
schooner; and, as his religious principles did not allow him to


make resistance, he was about to surrender his ship. His first
officer, however, did not propose to yield up a fine vessel tamely :
and he urged his views so strongly, that the captain finally agreed
to go to his cabin, and let him take command of the ship for
a little while ; and so he disappeared down the companion-way.

" Presently his interest or curiosity grew so strong, that he
could not stay below ; and he came up the ladder, and watched
what was going on. ' Charles,' he said quietly, after a moment,
to the first officer, ' if thee intends to run down that schooner,
thee had better put thy helm a leetle more to starboard.' The
helm was put to starboard ; and the great ship went over the
privateer, sinking her instantly, and drowning every man aboard."

" I remember to have heard that story," said Mr. Longwood.
" The ship, I think, hailed from Newport. Privateering on all the
Connecticut and Rhode Island shore came to be an every-day
occurrence during the Revolution. Dozens of privateers made
their headquarters at Newport. Of course sailing up to a mer
chant-vessel with your guns trained on her, and making her haul
down her flag, is not an action requiring any very great bravery
or heroism ; but privateering grew to be a much more serious
business when the British, too, put out their privateers. There
was some very hard fighting between the rival crafts. A certain
Capt. Read from Newport had quite an active experience of this
sort. He commanded a privateer with varying success, now tak
ing a prize, and then being made a prisoner, until, in the course
of events, he found himself in the command of a new and trim
brig. He sailed out of port, and at first was very successful,
taking several prizes.


" Among his crew, however, was a Tory in disguise, named
Crandall. This man, in some way which I have never under
stood, got control of the brig, delivered up Read to the Jersey
prison-ship in New- York Harbor, and, hoisting the British flag,
speedily carried the brig over to the enemy's side.

" Read, however, had no mind to sit down tamely and sub
mit. He bent all his thoughts on a means of getting away.
Three or four others agreed with him to escape, or die in the
attempt. For some time no chance offered. At length, one
night the prison-boat returned from shore with provisions. Wait
ing until its load was discharged, the conspirators, at a given
signal, leaped over the side into it, cut the painter, and pulled
madly for shore. The guard fired ; but they fortunately escaped
the bullets that came flying around them, and a snow-storm for
tunately began which hid them entirely. That night they suc
ceeded in landing on Long Island ; and Read was soon back in

" He at once secured a fresh vessel well armed, and set sail
to find his treacherous friend. He was not long in coming upon
him, and, letting fly a broadside, showed himself to the aston
ished man, who thought him fast bound on the prison-ship. A
cannon-ball took off the Tory's head ; and presently Read
re-appeared in Newport Harbor with his old brig following him
as a prize."

" A man in those days must have needed a clear head, and
a cool one too," said Charlie.

" Yes," said Mr. Longwood. " This very man Read did one
act that required just such qualities. He heard off Sandy Hook


that a vessel from Providence had been captured, and was on
her way to New York under the charge of a prize-crew. He
made haste to moor his own vessel out of sight ; and presently
the captured craft came in sight, and anchored outside to wait
for a pilot. Read appeared alongside with a few men to man
his boat, and offered his services, which were accepted. The
wind favoring, he at once put her head eastward for Newport.
The prize-master suspected nothing until they had nearly reached
there. Then he began to suspect this pilot and his stalwart

" ' Are we going to New York ? ' he demanded.

" ' No, sir, no ! ' said the pilot. ' We are going to Newport.'
And to Newport he went."


SUNDAY evening, as they
sat about the fire after din
ner was over, Jack heaved a
sigh so long that it seemed
to come from his very boots.
" Why, Jack ! " they ex
claimed. " What a depth
of woe that sigh betokens !
What is the matter?"

" I was thinking," said
Jack mournfully, " that to
morrow is Monday, and that
old Grinder is lying in wait
for us."

" It is a bad lookout, isn't it ? " said Tom. " I suppose, that,
if we take the early train, we could be at school by half-past

" And, with no lessons learned, of course we should be kept
in," said Charlie. " I have an idea. What fun it would be if
we could get aboard one of those great tows of canal-boats that



run down the river all the time, and go home that way ! We
could learn ever so much of the history of the Highlands as
we passed through them, and it would be such a lark ! "

"So it would," said all the boys. " Just as soon as Mr.
Longwood comes home, let's suggest it to him, and see what he

Mr. Longwood was spending the evening with his friend Dr.
Stone, who had sent up for him a little before.

" I suppose it would hardly do for us girls ; would it,
mamma ? " asked Carrie.

" Hardly," said Mrs. Longwood. " But if your father takes
up with Charlie's plan, as I think he may, we will not go until
the afternoon train, and so have another morning."

There was such an outburst of joy at this, that the trim
woman opened the door from the kitchen, and asked,

" Did you call, ma'am ? "

" Of course," said Jack, " the thing is settled, because Mr.
Longwood will be sure to agree if Mrs. Longwood asks him.
What larks ! "

" Come, young people," said that lady after a little : " we are
in danger of forgetting that it is Sunday. Sit down quietly, and
I will say to you a piece of poetry that I learned not long

So they all drew up in a circle, and endeavored to dismiss
the thoughts of to-morrow's expedition from their minds, though,
I must confess, with only partial success. And Mrs. Longwood

"It is called," she said,



The mighty sentinel angels

That keep heaven's court of guard,
Pacing her high-hung battlements

In zealous watch and ward,
Descry, o'er distant leagues of space,

Cohorts of angels flying
Heavenward, from where adown the gulf

Earth is in darkness lying.

And they wave on high their flaming swords,

As they hold their onward course,
And clash afresh their golden shields,

And break into chorus hoarse,
" Another chain is forged around

The great dragon underground : "
The flash of their shields is the lightning,

Their voice the thunder sound.

They crowd the wide-flung gates of heaven,

And now the golden street
Re-echoes to their clanging mail

And the tread of marching feet.
And the great archangel Michael

Leads through the heavenly town,
Till before the awful throne of God

They fall in silence down.

"The babe is born in Bethlehem;

We have seen the God made man;
And the old arch-dragon pale with fright

At the wave of an infant's hand.


And above the noise of the burning pit,

Clear coming to the ear,
We heard the shouts of the souls in prison,

Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 26 of 30)