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[Illustration: Cover art]
Barbados, 1648. The lush and deadly Caribbean paradise, domain of
rebels and freeholders, of brigands, bawds and buccaneers.
CARIBBEE is the untold story of the first American revolution, as
English colonists pen a Declaration of _Defiance_ ("liberty" or
"death") against Parliament and fight a full-scale war for freedom
against an English fleet - with cannon, militia, many lives lost - over a
century before 1776.
An assured, literate saga, the novel is brimming with the rough and
tumble characters who populated the early American colonies.
The powerful story line, based on actual events, also puts the reader
in the midst of the first major English slave auction in the Americas,
and the first slave revolt. We see how plantation slavery was
introduced into the English colonies, setting a cruel model for North
America a few decades later, and we experience what it was like to be a
West African ripped from a rich culture and forced to slave in the
fields of the New World. We also see the unleashed greed of the early
Puritans, who burned unruly slaves alive, a far different truth from
that presented in sanitized history books. Finally, we witness how
slavery contributed to the failure of the first American revolution, as
well as to the destruction of England's hope for a vast New World
We also are present at the birth of the buccaneers, one-time cattle
hunters who banded together to revenge a bloody Spanish attack on their
home, and soon became the most feared marauders in the New World. The
story is mythic in scope, with the main participants being classic
American archetypes - a retelling of the great American quest for
freedom and honor. The major characters are based on real individuals,
men and women who came West to the New World to seek fortune and
Publisher's Weekly said, "This action-crammed, historically factual
novel . . . is a rousing read about the bad old marauding days, ably
researched by Hoover."
"ACTION-CRAMMED, HISTORICALLY FACTUAL ... A ROUSING READ"
"METICULOUS . . . COMPELLING"
- KIRKUS REVIEWS
"IT SHOULD ESTABLISH THOMAS HOOVER IN THE FRONT RANK OF WRITERS OF
- MALCOLM BOSSE author of THE WARLORD
BOOKS BY THOMAS HOOVER
The Zen Experience
Wall Street _Samurai_
(The _Samurai_ Strategy)
All free as e-books at
ZEBRA BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp. 475 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016
Copyright ¬© 1985 by Thomas Hoover. Published by arrangement with
Doubleday and Co., Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written
consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews. First
Zebra Books Printing: December 1987 Printed in the United States of
Author: Thomas Hoover
Slavery, slaves, Caribbean, sugar, buccaneers, pirates, Barbados,
Jamaica, Spanish Gold, Spanish Empire, Port Royal, Barbados
[Illustration: Map of The West Indies in the Seventeenth Century]
By the middle of the seventeenth century, almost a hundred thousand
English men and women had settled in the New World. We sometimes forget
that the largest colony across the Atlantic in those early years was
not in Virginia, not in New England, but on the small eastern islands
of the Caribbean, called the Caribbees.
Early existence in the Caribbean was brutal, and at first these
immigrants struggled merely to survive. Then, through an act of
international espionage, they stole a secret industrial process from
the Catholic countries that gave them the key to unimagined wealth. The
scheme these pious Puritans used to realize their earthly fortune
required that they also install a special new attitude: only certain
peoples may claim full humanity. Their profits bequeathed a mortgage to
America of untold future costs.
The Caribbean shown here was a dumping ground for outcasts and
adventurers from many nations, truly a cockpit of violence, greed,
drunkenness, piracy, and voodoo. Even so, its English colonists penned
a declaration of independence and fought a revolutionary war with their
homeland over a hundred years before the North American settlements.
Had they respected the rights of mankind to the same degree they
espoused them, the face of modern America might have been very
The men and women in this story include many actual and composite
individuals, and its scope is faithful to the larger events of that
age, though time has been compressed somewhat to allow a continuous
To Liberty and Justice for all.
The men had six canoes in all, wide tree trunks hollowed out by burning
away the heart, Indian style. They carried axes and long-barreled
muskets, and all save one were bare to the waist, with breeches and
boots patched together from uncured hides. By profession they were
roving hunters, forest incarnations of an older world, and their backs
and bearded faces, earth brown from the sun, were smeared with pig fat
to repel the swarms of tropical insects.
After launching from their settlement at Tortuga, off northern
Hispaniola, they headed toward a chain of tiny islands sprawling across
the approach to the Windward Passage, route of the Spanish _galeones_
inbound for Veracruz. Their destination was the easterly cape of the
Grand Caicos, a known Spanish stopover, where the yearly fleet always
put in to re-provision after its long Atlantic voyage.
Preparations began as soon as they waded ashore. First they beached the
dugouts and camouflaged them with leafy brush. Next they axed down
several trees in a grove back away from the water, chopped them into
short green logs, and dragged these down to the shore to assemble a
pyre. Finally, they patched together banana leaf _ajoupa_ huts in the
cleared area. Experienced woodsmen, they knew well how to live off the
land while waiting.
The first day passed with nothing. Through a cloudless sky the sun
scorched the empty sand for long hours, then dropped into the vacant
sea. That night lightning played across
thunderheads towering above the main island, and around midnight their
_ajoupas_ were soaked by rain. Then, in the first light of the morning,
while dense fog still mantled the shallow banks to the west, they
spotted a ship. It was a single frigate, small enough that there would
be only a handful of cannon on the upper deck.
Jacques le Basque, the dense-bearded bear of a man who was their
leader, declared in his guttural French that this was a historic
moment, one to be savored, and passed a dark onion-flask of brandy
among the men. Now would begin their long-planned campaign of revenge
against the Spaniards, whose infantry from Santo Domingo had once
burned out their settlement, murdered innocents. It was, he said, the
start of a new life for them all.
All that remained was to bait the trap. Two of the hunters retrieved a
bucket of fat from the _ajoupas _and ladled it onto the green firewood.
Another scattered the flask's remaining liquor over the top of the
wood, then dashed it against a heavy log for luck. Finally, while the
men carefully checked the prime on their broad-gauge hunting muskets,
le Basque struck a flint to the pyre.
The green wood sputtered indecisively, then crackled alive, sending a
gray plume skyward through the damp morning air. Jacques circled the
fire triumphantly, his dark eyes reflecting back the blaze, before
ordering the men to ready their dugouts in the brushy camouflage along
the shore. As they moved to comply, he caught the sleeve of a young
Englishman who was with them and beckoned him back.
"Anglais, _attendez ici_. I want you here beside me. The first shot
The young man had been part of their band for almost five years and was
agreed to be their best marksman, no slight honor among men who lived
by stalking wild cattle in the forest. Unlike the others he carried no
musket this morning, only a long flintlock pistol wedged into his belt.
In the flickering light, he looked scarcely more than twenty, his face
not yet showing the hard desperation of the others. His hair was sandy
rust and neatly trimmed; and he alone among them wore no animal hides -
his doublet was clearly an English cut, though some years out of
fashion, and his sweat-soiled breeches had once been fine canvas. Even
his boots, now weathered and cracked from salt, might years before have
belonged to a young cavalier in Covent Garden.
He moved to help Jacques stoke the fire and pile on more green limbs.
Though the blaze and its plume should have been easily visible to the
passing frigate by now, the sleepy lookout seemed almost to fail to
notice. The ship had all but passed them by before garbled shouts from
its maintop finally sounded over the foggy waters. Next came a jumble
of orders from the quarterdeck, and moments later the vessel veered,
its bow turning into the wind, the mainsail quickly being trimmed.
As it steered into the bay, Jacques slapped at the buzzing gnats around
them and yelled out a Spanish plea that they were marooned seamen, near
death. As he examined the frigate through the morning fog, he grunted
to himself that she was small, barely a hundred tons, scarcely the rich
prize they'd braved the wide Caribbean in dugouts for.
But now a longboat had been launched, and two seamen in white shirts
and loose blue caps were rowing a young mate toward the pair of shadowy
figures huddled against the smoky pyre at the shore. Le Basque laughed
quietly and said something in a growl of French about allowing the
ship's officers to die quickly, to reward their hospitality.
The younger man wasn't listening. Through the half-light he was
carefully studying the longboat. Now he could make out the caps of the
seamen, woolen stockings loosely flopping to the side. Then he looked
back at the ship, seamen perched in its rigging to stare, and thought
he heard fragments of a familiar tongue drifting muffled over the
swells. Next a crowd of passengers appeared at the taffrail, led by a
well-to-do family in ruffs and taffetas.
They weren't Spanish. They couldn't be.
The man wore a plumed hat and long curls that reached almost to his
velvet doublet, London fashions obvious at hundreds of yards. The
woman, a trifle stout, had a tight yellow bodice and long silk cape,
her hair tied back. Between them was a girl, perhaps twelve, with long
chestnut ringlets. He examined the rake of the ship once more, to make
doubly sure, then turned to Jacques.
"That ship's English. Look at her. Boxy waist. Short taffrail.
Doubtless a merchantman out of Virginia, bound for Nevis or Barbados."
He paused when he realized Jacques was not responsive. Finally he
continued, his voice louder. "I tell you there'll be nothing on her
worth having. Wood staves, candle wax, a little salt fish. I know what
Jacques looked back at the ship, unconcerned. "_Cela n'a pas
d'importance_. Anglais. There'll be provisions. We have to take her."
"But no silver. There's no English coin out here in the Americas, never
has been. And who knows what could happen? Let some ordnance be set
off, or somebody fire her, and we run the risk of alerting the whole
Now le Basque shrugged, pretending to only half understand the English,
and responded in his hard French. "Taking her's best. If she truly be
Anglaise then we'll keep her and use her ourselves." He grinned,
showing a row of blackened teeth. "And have the women for sport. I'll
even give you the pretty little one there by the rail, Anglais, for
your _petite amie_." He studied the ship again and laughed. "She's not
yet work for a man."
The younger man stared at him blankly for a moment, feeling his face go
chill. Behind him, in the brush, he heard arguments rising up between
the English hunters and the French over what to do. During his years
with them they had killed wild bulls by the score, but never another
"Jacques, we're not Spaniards. This is not going to be our way." He
barely heard his own words. Surely, he told himself, we have to act
honorably. That was the unwritten code in the New World, where men made
their own laws.
"Anglais, I regret to say you sadden me somewhat." Le Basque was
turning, mechanically. "I once thought you had the will to be one of
us. But now . . ." His hand had slipped upward, a slight motion almost
invisible in the flickering shadows. But by the time it reached his
gun, the young man's long flintlock was already drawn and leveled.
"Jacques, I told you no." The dull click of a misfire sounded across
the morning mist.
By now le Basque's own pistol was in his hand, primed and cocked, a
part of him. Its flare opened a path through the dark between them.
But the young Englishman was already moving, driven by purest rage. He
dropped to his side with a twist, an arm stretching for the fire. Then
his fingers touched what he sought, and closed about the glassy neck of
the shattered flask. It seared his hand, but in his fury he paid no
heed. The ragged edges sparkled against the flames as he found his
footing, rising as the wide arc of his swing pulled him forward.
Le Basque stumbled backward to avoid the glass, growling a French oath
as he sprawled across a stack of green brush. An instant later the pile
of burning logs suddenly crackled and sputtered, throwing a shower of
sparks. Then again.
God help them, the young man thought, they're firing from the longboat.
They must assume . . .
He turned to shout a warning seaward, but his voice was drowned in the
eruption of gunfire from the camouflage along the shore. The three
seamen in the boat jerked backward, all still gripping their smoking
muskets, then splashed into the bay. Empty, the craft veered sideways
and in moments was drifting languorously back out to sea.
Many times in later years he tried to recall precisely what had
happened next, but the events always merged, a blur of gunfire. As he
dashed for the surf, trailed by le Basque's curses, the dugouts began
moving out, muskets spitting random flashes. He looked up to see the
stout woman at the rail of the frigate brush at her face, then slump
sideways into her startled husband's arms.
He remembered too that he was already swimming, stroking toward the
empty boat, when the first round of cannon fire from the ship sounded
over the bay, its roar muffled by the water against his face. Then he
saw a second cannon flare . . . and watched the lead canoe dissolve
into spray and splinters.
The others were already turning back, abandoning the attack, when he
grasped the slippery gunwale of the longboat, his only hope to reach
the ship. As he strained against the swell, he became dimly aware the
firing had stopped.
Memories of the last part were the most confused. Still seething with
anger, he had slowly pulled himself over the side, then rolled onto the
bloodstained planking. Beside him lay an English wool cap, its maker's
name still lettered on the side. One oar rattled against its lock. The
other was gone.
He remembered glancing up to see seamen in the ship's rigging begin to
swivel the yards, a sign she was coming about. Then the mainsail
snapped down and bellied against a sudden gust.
Damn them. Wait for me.
Only a hundred yards separated them now, as the longboat continued to
drift seaward. It seemed a hundred yards, though for years afterward he
wondered if perhaps it might have been even less. What he did remember
clearly was wrenching the oar from the lock and turning to begin
paddling toward the ship.
That was when the plume of spray erupted in front of him. As he tumbled
backward he heard the unmistakable report of the ship's sternchaser
He could never recollect if he had actually called out to them. He did
remember crouching against the gunwale, listening to the volleys of
musket fire from seamen along the ship's taffrail.
Several rounds of heavy lead shot had torn through the side of the
longboat, sending splinters against his face. When he looked out again,
the frigate was hoisting her lateen sail, ready to run for open sea.
The line of musketmen was still poised along the rail, waiting. Beside
them was the family: the man was hovering above the stout woman, now
laid along the deck, and with him was the girl.
Only then did he notice the heat against his cheek, the warm blood from
the bullet cut. He glanced back at the fire, even more regretful he
hadn't killed Jacques le Basque. Someday, he told himself, he would
settle the score. His anger was matched only by his disgust with the
Only one person on the ship seemed to question what had happened. The
girl looked down at the woman for a long, sad moment, then glanced
back, her tresses splayed in the morning wind. His last memory, before
he lapsed into unconsciousness, was her upraised hand, as though in
TEN YEARS LATER . . .
No sooner had their carriage creaked to a halt at the edge of the crowd
than a tumult of cheers sounded through the humid morning air. With a
wry glance toward the man seated opposite, Katherine Bedford drew back
the faded curtains at the window and craned to see over the cluster of
planters at the water's edge, garbed in their usual ragged jerkins,
gray cotton breeches, and wide, sweat-stained hats. Across the bay,
edging into view just beyond the rocky cliff of Lookout Point, were the
tattered, patched sails of the _Zeelander_, a Dutch trader well known
"It's just rounding the Point now." Her voice was hard, with more than
a trace of contempt. "From here you'd scarcely know what their cargo
was. It looks the same as always."
As she squinted into the light, a shaft of Caribbean sun candled her
deep-blue eyes. Her long ringlet curls were drawn back and secured with
a tiara of Spanish pearls, a halfhearted attempt at demureness spoiled
by the nonchalant strands dangling across her forehead. The dark tan on
her face betrayed her devotion to the sea and the sun; although twenty-
three years of life had ripened her body, her high cheeks had none of
the plump, anemic pallor so prized in English women.
"Aye, but this time she's very different, Katy, make no mistake.
Nothing in the Americas will ever be the same again. Not
after today." Governor Dalby Bedford was across from her in the close,
airless carriage, angrily gripping the silver knob of his cane. Finally
he bent forward to look too, and for a moment their faces were framed
side by side. The likeness could scarcely have been greater: not only
did they share the same intense eyes, there was a similar high forehead
and determined chin. "Damned to them. It's a shameful morning for us
"Just the same, you've got to go down and be there." Though she
despised the thought as much as he did, she realized he had no choice.
The planters all knew Dalby Bedford had opposed the plan from the
beginning, had argued with the Council for weeks before arrangements
were finally made with the Dutch shippers. But the vote had gone
against him, and now he had to honor it accordingly.
While he sat watching the Zeelander make a starboard tack, coming about
to enter the bay, Katherine leaned across the seat and pulled aside the
opposite curtain. The hot wind that suddenly stirred past was a sultry
harbinger of the coastal breeze now sweeping up the hillside, where
field after identical field was lined with rows of tall, leafy stalks,
green and iridescent in the sun.
The new Barbados is already here, she thought gloomily. The best thing
now is to face it.
Without a word she straightened her tight, sweaty bodice, gathered her
wrinkled skirt, and opened the carriage door. She waved aside the straw
parasol that James, their Irish servant and footman, tried to urge on
her and stepped into the harsh midday sun. Dalby Bedford nodded at the
crowd, then climbed down after.
He was tall and, unlike his careless daughter, always groomed to
perfection. Today he wore a tan waistcoat trimmed with wide brown lace
and a white cravat that matched the heron-feather plume in his wide-
brimmed hat. Over the years, the name of Dalby Bedford had become a
byword for freedom in the Americas: under his hand Barbados had been
made a democracy, and virtually independent of England. First he had
convinced the king's proprietor to reduce rents on the island, then he
had created an elected Assembly of small freeholders to counter the
high-handed rule of the powerful Council. He had won every battle,
until this one.
Katherine moved through the crowd of black-hatted planters as it parted
before them. Through the shimmering glare of the sand she could just
make out the commanding form of Anthony Walrond farther down by the
shore, together with his younger brother Jeremy. Like hundreds of other
royalists, they had been deported to Barbados in the aftermath of
England's Civil War. Now Anthony spotted their carriage and started up
the incline toward them, and for an instant she found herself wishing
she'd thought to wear a more fashionable bodice.
"Your servant, sir." A gruff greeting, aimed toward Dalby Bedford,
disrupted her thoughts. She looked back to see a heavyset planter
riding his horse directly through the crowd, with the insistent air of
a man who demands deference. Swinging down from his wheezing mount, he
tossed the reins to the servant who had ridden with him and began to
shove his way forward, fanning his open gray doublet against the heat.
Close to fifty and owner of the largest plantation on the island,
Benjamin Briggs was head of the Council, that governing body of
original settlers appointed years before by the island's proprietor in
London. His sagging, leathery face was formidable testimony to twenty
years of hard work and even harder drink. The planters on the Council
had presided over Barbados' transformation from a tropical rain forest
to a patchwork of tobacco and cotton plantations, and now to what they
hoped would soon be a factory producing white gold.
Briggs pushed back his dusty hat and turned to squint approvingly as
the frigate began furling its mainsail in preparation to drop anchor.
"God be praised, we're almost there. The years of starvation are soon
to be over."
Katherine noted that she had not been included in his greeting. She
had once spoken her mind to Benjamin Briggs concerning his treatment
of his indentures more frankly than he
cared to hear. Even now, looking at him, she was still amazed that a
man once a small Bristol importer had risen to so much power in the
Americas. Part of that success, she knew, derived from his practice of
lending money to hard-pressed freeholders at generous rates but short
terms, then foreclosing on their lands the moment the sight bills came
"It's an evil precedent for the English settlements, mark my word."
Bedford gazed back toward the ship. He and Benjamin Briggs had been
sworn enemies from the day he first proposed establishing the Assembly.
"I tell you again it'll open the way for fear and divisiveness
throughout the Americas."
"It's our last chance for prosperity, sir. All else has failed," Briggs
responded testily. "I know it and so do you."
Before the governor could reply, Anthony Walrond was joining them.
"Your servant, sir." He touched his plumed hat toward Dalby Bedford,
conspicuously ignoring Briggs as he merged into their circle, Jeremy at
Anthony Walrond was thirty-five and the most accomplished, aristocratic
man Katherine had ever met, besides her father. His lean, elegant face
was punctuated by an eye-patch, worn with the pride of an epaulette,
that came from a sword wound in the bloody royalist defeat at Marston
Moor. After he had invested and lost a small fortune in support of the
king's failed cause, he had been exiled to Barbados, his ancestral