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History of the pirates who infested the China Sea from 1807-1810 online

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ffreat slaughter.

After this the Ladrones returned, and plundered the
town, every boat leaving it when laden. The Chinese
on the hills perceiving most of the boats were off, ral-
lied, and retook the town, after killing near two hundred
Ladrones. One of my men was unfortunately lost in
this dreadful massacre 1 The Ladrones landed a second
time, drove the Chinese out of the town, then reduced
it to ashes, and put all their prisoners to death, without
regarding either age or sex !

I must not omit to mention a most horrid (though
ludicrous) circumstance which happened at this place.
The Ladrones were paid by their chief ten dollars for
everv Chinaman's head they produced. One of my
men turning the corner of a street was met by a La-
drone running furiously after a Chinese ; he had a
drawn sword in his hand, and two Chinaman's heads


which he had cut off, tied by their tails, and slung
round his neck. I was witness myself to some of them
producing five or six to obtain payment ! ! !

On the 4th of November an order arrived from the
admiral for the fleet to proceed immediately to Lantow,
where he was lying witli only two vessels, and three
Portuguese ships and a brig constantly annoying him ;
several sail of mandarine vessels were daily expected.
The fleet weighed and proceeded towards Lantow. On
passing the island of Lintin, three ships and a brig gave
chase to us. The Ladrones prepared to board ; but
night closing we lost sight of them : I am convinced
they altered their course and stood from us. These
vessels were in the pay of the Chinese government,
and style themselves the Invincible Squadron, cruizing
in the river Tigris to annihilate the Ladrones !

On the fifth, in the morning, the red squadron an-
chored in a bay under Lantow ; the black squadron
stood to the eastward. In this bay they hauled several
of their vessels on shoi'e to bream their bottoms and
repair them.

In the afternoon of the 8th of November, four
ships, a brig and a schooner came off the mouth of the
bay. At first the pirates were much alarmed, suppos-
ing them to be English vessels come to rescue us. Some
of them threatened to hang us to the mast-head for
them to fire at; and with much difficulty we persuaded


them that they were Portuguese. The Ladrones had
only seven junks in a fit state for action ; these they
hauled outside, and moored them head and stern across
the bay ; and manned all the boats belonging to the
repairing vessels ready for boarding.

The Portuguese observing these manoeuvres hove to,
and communicated by boats. Soon afterwards they
made sail, each ship firing her broadside as she passed,
but without effect, the shot falling far short; The
Ladrones did not return a single shot, but waved their
colours, and threw up rockets, to induce them to come
further in, which they might easily have done, the
outside junks lying in four fathoms water which I
sounded myself: though the Portuguese in their letters
to Macao, lamented there was not sufficient water for
them to engage closer, but that they would certainly pre-
vent their escaping before the mandarine fleet arrived !

On the 20th of November, early in the morning,
discovered an immense fleet of mandarine vessels stand-
ing for the bay. On nearing us, they formed a line,
and stood close in ; each vessel as she discharged her
guns tacked to join the rear and reload. They kept
up a constant fire for about two hours, when one of
their largest vessels was blown up by a firebrand thrown
from a Ladrone junk ; after which they kept at a more
respectful distance, but continued firing without inter-
mission 'till the 21st at night, when it fell calm.


The Ladrones lowed out seven large vessels, with
about two hundred row-boats to board them ; but a
breeze springing up, they made sail and escaped. The
Ladrones returned into the bay, and anchored. The
Portuguese and mandarines followed, and continued a
heavy cannonading during that night and the next day.
The vessel I was in had her foremast shot away, which
they supplied very expeditiously by taking a mainmast
from a smaller vessel.

On the 23d, in the evening, it again fell calm ; the
Ladrones towed out fifteen junks in two divisions, with
the intention of surrounding them, which was nearly
effected, having come up with and boarded one, when
a breeze suddenly sprung up. The captured vessel
mounted twenty-two guns. Most of her crew leaped
overboard ; sixty or seventy were taken immediately, cut
to pieces and thrown into the river. Early in the morn-
ing the Ladrones returned into the bay, and anchored
in the same situation as before. The Portujjuese and
mandarines followed, keeping up a constant fire. The
Ladrones never returned a single shot, but always kept
in readiness to board, and the Portuguese were careful
never to allow them an opportunity.

On the 28th, at night, they sent in eight fire-vessels,
which if properly constructed must have done great
execution, having every advantage they could wish for
to effect their purpose ; a strong breeze and tide di-



rectly into the bay, and the vessels lying so close toge-
ther that it was impossible to miss them. On their first
appearance the Ladrones gave a general shout, sup-
posing them to be mandarine vessels* on fire^ but were
very soon convinced of their mistake. They came very
regularly into the centre of the fleet, two and two,
burning furiously ; one of them came alongside of the
vessel I was in, but they succeeded in booming her off.
She appeared to be a vessel of about thirty tons ; her
hold was filled with straw and wood, and there were a
few small boxes of combustibles on her deck, which
exploded alongside of us without doing any damage.
The Ladrones, however, towed them all on shore, ex-
tinguished the fire, and broke them up for fire- wood.
The Portuguese claim the credit of constructing these
destructive machines, and actually sent a dispatch to
the Governor of Macao, saying they had destroyed at
least one-third of the Ladrones' fleet, and hoped soon
to effect their purpose by totally annihilating them.

On the 29th of November, the Ladrones being all
ready for sea, they weighed and stood boldly out,
bidding defiance to the invincible squadron and impe-
rial fleet, consisting of ninety-three war-junks, six Por-
tuguese ships, a brig, and a schooner. Immediately the
Ladrones weighed, they made all sail. The Ladrones
chased them two or three hours, keeping up a constant

* The Chmiy lung vessels.


fire; finding they did not come up with them, they
hauled their wind and stood to the eastward.

Thus terminated the boasted blockade, which lasted
nine days, during which time the Ladrones completed
all their repairs. In this action not a single Ladrone
vessel was destroyed, and their loss about thirty or forty
men. An American was also killed, one of three that
remained out of eight taken in a schooner. I had two
very narrow escapes : the first, a twelve-pounder shot
fell within three or four feet of me; another took a
piece out of a small brass-swivel on which I was stand-
ing. The chief's wife* frequently sprinkled me with
garlic-water, which they consider an effectual charm
against shot. The fleet continued under sail all night, /

steering towards the eastward. In the morning they
anchored in a large bay surrounded by lofty and barren

On the 2nd of December I received a letter from
Lieutenant Maughn, commander of the Honourable
Company's cruizer Antelope, saying that he had the
ransom on board, and had been three days cruizing
after us, and wished me to settle with the chief on the
securest method of delivering it. The chief agreed to
send us in a small gun-boat, 'till we came within sight

* Probably the wife of Ching yih, whose family name was Sh!h,
or stone.

124 Al'PKNDlX.

of the Antelope; then the Compradore's boat was to
bring: the ransom and receive us.

I was so agitated at receiving this joyful news, that
it was with considerable difficulty I could scrawl about
two or three lines to inform Lieutenant Maughn of the
arrangements I had made. We were all so deeply
affected by the gratifying tidings, that we seldom closed
our eyes, but continued watching day and night for the
boat. On the 6th she returned with Lieutenant
Maughn's answer, saying, he would respect any single
boat ; but would not allow the fleet to approach him.
The chief then, according to his first proposal, ordered
a gun-boat to take us, and with no small degree of plea-
sure we left the Ladrone fleet about four o'clock in the

At one P.M. saw the Antelope under all sail, standing
toward us. The Ladrone boat immediately anchored,
and dispatched the Compradore's boat for the ransom,
saying, that if she approached nearer, they would re-
turn to the fleet; and they were just weighing when
she shortened sail, and anchored about two miles from
us. The boat did not reach her 'till late in the after-
noon, owing to the tide's being strong against her. She
received the ransom and left the Antelope just before
dark. A mandarine boat that had been lying con-
cealed under the land, and watching their manoeuvres,
gave chace to her, and was within a few fathoms of



taking her, when she saw a light, which the Ladrones
answered, and the Mandarine hauled off.

Our situation was now a most critical one ; the ran-
som was in the hands of the Ladrones, and the Com-
pradore dare not return with us for fear of a second
attack from the mandarine boat. The Ladrones would
not remain 'till morning, so we were obliged to return
with them to the fleet.

In the morning the chief inspected the ransom,
which consisted of the following articles : two bales of
superfine scarlet cloth ; two chests of opium ; two casks
of gunpowder; and a telescope; the rest in dollars.
He objected to the telescope not being new ; and said
he should detain one of us 'till another was sent, or a
hundred dollars in lieu of it. The Compradore how-
ever agreed with him for the hundred dollars.

Every thing being at length settled, the chief ordered
two gun-boats to convey us near the Antelope ; we saw
her just before dusk, when the Ladrone boats left us.
We had the inexpressible pleasure of arriving on board
the Antelope at 7 p.m., where we were most cordially
received, and heartily congratulated on our safe and
happy deliverance from a miserable captivity, which we
had endured for eleven weeks and three days.

China, December 8th, 1809.


A few Remarks on the Origin, Progress, Manners,
and Customs of the Ladrones.

The Ladrones are a disaffected race of Chinese, that
revolted against the oppressions of the mandarines. —
They first commenced their depredations on the
Western coast (Cochin-China), by attacking small trad-
ing vessels in row-boats, carrying from thirty to forty men
each. They continued this system of piracy several
years ; at length their successes, and the oppressive state
of the Chinese, had the effect of rapidly increasing their
numbers. Hundreds of fishermen and others flocked to
their standard ; and as their number increased they con-
sequentl}' became more desperate. They blockaded all
the principal rivers, and attacked several large junks,
mounting from ten to fifteen guns each.

With these junks they formed a very formidable
fleet, and no small vessels could trade on the coast
with safety. They plundered several small villages,
and exercised such wanton barbarity as struck horror
into the breasts of the Chinese. To check these enor-
mities the government equipped a fleet of forty impe-
rial war-junks, mounting from eighteen to twenty guns
each. On the very first rencontre, twenty-eight of the
imperial junks struck to the pirates; the rest saved
themselves by a precipitate retreat.


These junks, fully equipped for war, were a great
acquisition to them. Their numbers augmented so
rapidly, that at the period of my captivity they were
supposed to amount to near seventy thousand men,
eight hundred large vessels, and nearly a thousand
small ones, including row-boats. They were divided
into five squadrons, distinguished by different coloured
flags : each squadron commanded by an admiral, or
chief; but all under the orders of A-juo-chay (Ching
yih saou), their premier chief, a most daring and enter-
prising man, who went so far as to declai'e his intention
of displacing the present Tartar family from the throne
of China, and to restore the ancient Chinese dynasty.

This extraordinary character would have certainly
shaken the foundation of the government, had he not
been thwarted by the jealousy of the second in com-
mand, who declared his independence, and soon after
surrendered to the mandarines with five hundred
vessels, on promise of a pardon. Most of the inferior
chiefs followed his example. A-juo-Chay (Ching yih
saou) held out a few months longer, and at length surren-
dered with sixteen thousand men, on condition of a
general pardon, and himself to be made a mandarine
of distinction.

The Ladrones have no settled residence on shore,
but live constantly in their vessels. The after-part is
appropriated to the captain and his wives ; he generally


has five or six. With respect to conjugal rights they
are religiously strict ; no person is allowed to have a
woman on board, unless married to her according to
their laws. Every man is allowed a small berth, about
four feet square, where he stows with his wife and

From the number of souls crowded in so small a
space, it must naturally be supposed they are horridly
dirty, which is evidently the case, and their vessels
swarm with all kinds of vermin. Rats in particular,
which they encourage to breed, and eat them as great
delicacies ;* in fact, there are very few creatures they
will not eat. During our captivity we lived three weeks
on caterpillars boiled with rice. They are much ad-
dicted to gambling, and spend all their leisure hours
at cards and smoking opium.

* The Chinese in Canton only eat a particular sort of rat,
which is very large and of a whitish colour.



Printed by J. L. Cox, Great Queen Street.

Lincoln's Inn Fields.

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Online LibraryYung-lun] YüanHistory of the pirates who infested the China Sea from 1807-1810 → online text (page 9 of 9)