DAMPIER, Captain William. Buccaneer, explorer, and naturalist.
Born at East Coker in the year 1652.
Brought up at first to be a shopkeeper, a life he detested, he was in 1669 apprenticed to a ship belonging to Weymouth, and his first voyage was to France. In the same year he sailed to Newfoundland, but finding the bitter cold unbearable, he returned to England. His next voyage, which he called "a warm one," was to the East Indies, in the John and Martha, and suited him better.
Many books have been written recounting the voyages of Dampier, but none of these are better reading than his own narrative, published by James and John Knapton in London. This popular book ran into many editions, the best being the fourth, published in 1729, in four volumes. These volumes are profusely illustrated by maps and rough charts, and also with crude cuts, which are intended to portray the more interesting and strange animals, birds, fishes, and insects met with in his voyages round the globe.
In 1673 Dampier enlisted as a seaman in the Royal Prince, commanded by the famous Sir Edward Spragge, and fought in the Dutch war.
A year later he sailed to Jamaica in the Content, to take up a post as manager of a plantation belonging to a Colonel Hellier. His restless spirit soon revolted against this humdrum life on a plantation, and Dampier again went to sea, sailing in a small trading vessel amongst the islands.
Dampier's first step towards buccaneering was taken when he shipped himself on a small ketch which was sailing from Port Royal to load logwood at the Bay of Campeachy. This was an illegal business, as the Spanish Government claimed the ownership of all that coast, and did their best to prevent the trade. Dampier found some 250 Englishmen engaged in cutting the wood, which they exchanged for rum. Most of these men were buccaneers or privateers, who made a living in this way when out of a job afloat. When a ship came into the coast, these men would think nothing of coming aboard and spending thirty and forty pounds on rum and punch at a single drinking bout.
Dampier returned afterwards to take up logwood cutting himself, but met with little success, and went off to Beef Island. He had by this time begun to take down notes of all that appeared to him of interest, particularly objects of natural history. For example, he described, in his own quaint style, an animal he found in this island.
"The Squash is a four-footed Beast, bigger than a Cat. Its Head is much like a Foxes, with short Ears and a long Nose. It has pretty short Legs and sharp Claws, by which it will run up trees like a Cat. The flesh is good, sweet, wholesome Meat. We commonly skin and roast it; and then we call it pig; and I think it eats as well. It feeds on nothing but good Fruit; therefore we find them most among the Sapadillo-Trees. This Creature never rambles very far, and being taken young, will become as tame as a Dog, and be as roguish as a Monkey."
Dampier's first act of actual piracy was when he joined in an attack on the Spanish fort of Alvarado, but although the fort was taken, the townspeople had time to escape with all their valuables before the pirates could reach them. Returning to England in 1678, he did not remain long at home, for in the beginning of 1679 he sailed for Jamaica in a vessel named the Loyal Merchant. Shortly after reaching the West Indies, he chanced to meet with several well-known buccaneers, including Captains Coxon, Sawkins, and Sharp. Joining with these, he sailed on March 25th, 1679, for the Province of Darien, "to pillage and plunder these parts." Dampier says strangely little about his adventures for the next two years, but a full description of them is given by Ringrose in his "Dangerous Voyage and Bold Adventures of Captain Sharp and Others in the South Sea," published as an addition to the "History of the Buccaneers of America" in 1684.
This narrative tells how the buccaneers crossed the isthmus and attacked and defeated the Spanish Fleet off Panama City. After the death of their leader, Sawkins, the party split up, and Dampier followed Captain Sharp on his "dangerous and bold voyage" in May, 1680.
In April, 1681, after various adventures up and down the coast of Peru and Chile, further quarrels arose amongst the buccaneers, and a party of malcontents, of which number Dampier was one, went off on their own account in a launch and two canoes from the Island of Plate, made famous by Drake, and landed on the mainland near Cape San Lorenzo. The march across the Isthmus of Darien has been amusingly recounted by the surgeon of the party, Lionel Wafer, in his book entitled "A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America," published in London in 1699.
On reaching the Atlantic, Dampier found some buccaneer ships and joined them, arriving at Virginia in July, 1682. In this country he resided for a year, but tells little about it beyond hinting that great troubles befell him. In April, 1683, he joined a privateer vessel, the Revenge, but directly she was out of sight of land the crew turned pirates, which had been their intention all along. Two good narratives have been written of this voyage, one by Dampier, and the other by Cowley, the sailing-master. This venture ended in the famous circumnavigation of the world, and Dampier described every object of interest he met with, including the country and natives of the north coast of Australia, which had never been visited before by Europeans. Dampier must have found it very difficult to keep his journal so carefully and regularly, particularly in his early voyages, when he was merely a seaman before the mast or a petty officer. He tells us that he carried about with him a long piece of hollow bamboo, in which he placed his manuscript for safe keeping, waxing the ends to keep out the sea water.
After almost endless adventures and hardships, he arrived back in England in September, 1691, after a voyage of eight years, and an absence from England of twelve, without a penny piece in his pocket, nor any other property except his unfortunate friend Prince Jeoly, whom he sold on his arrival in the Thames, to supply his own immediate wants. Dampier's next voyage was in the year 1699, when he was appointed to command H.M.S. Roebuck, of twelve guns and a crew of fifty men and boys, and victualled for twenty months' cruise. The object of this voyage was to explore and map the new continent to the south of the East Indies which Dampier had discovered on his previous voyage. Had he in this next voyage taken the westward course, as he originally intended, and sailed to Australia round the Horn, it is possible that Dampier would have made many of the discoveries for which James Cook afterwards became so famous, and by striking the east coast of Australia would very likely have antedated the civilisation of that continent by fifty years. But he was persuaded, partly by his timid crew, and perhaps in some measure by his own dislike of cold temperatures, to sail by the eastward route and to double the Cape of Good Hope. The story of this voyage is given by Dampier in his book, published in 1709, "A Voyage to New Holland, etc., in the Year 1699."
After spending some unprofitable weeks on the north coast of Australia, failing to find water or to make friends with the aboriginals, scurvy broke out amongst his somewhat mutinous crew, and he sailed to New Guinea, the coast of which he saw on New Year's Day, 1700.
By this time the Roebuck was falling to pieces, her wood rotten, her hull covered with barnacles. Eventually, using the pumps day and night, they arrived, on February 21st, 1701, at Ascension Island, where the old ship sank at her anchors. Getting ashore with their belongings, they waited on this desolate island until April 3rd, when four ships arrived, three of them English men-of-war.
I was told, only the other day, by a friend who lives in the Island of St. Helena, and whose duties take him at least once each year to Ascension Island, that a story still survives amongst the inhabitants of these islands that there is hidden somewhere in the sandhills a treasure, which Dampier is believed to have put there for safe keeping, but for some reason never removed. But poor Dampier never came by a treasure in this or any other of his voyages, and though the legend is a pleasant one, it is a legend and nothing more. Dampier went on board one of the men-of-war, the Anglesea, with thirty-five of his crew. Taken to Barbadoes, he there procured a berth in another vessel, the Canterbury, in which he sailed to England.
Dampier had now made so great a name for himself by his two voyages round the globe that he was granted a commission by Prince George of Denmark to sail as a privateer in the St. George, to prey on French and Spanish ships, the terms being: "No purchase, no pay." Sailing as his consort was the Cinque Ports, whose master was Alexander Selkirk, the original of Robinson Crusoe. This voyage, fully recounted in Dampier's book, is a long tale of adventure, hardship, and disaster, and the explorer eventually returned to England a beggar. However, his travels made a great stir, and he was allowed to kiss the Queen's hand and to have the honour of relating his adventures to her.
Dampier's last voyage was in the capacity of pilot or navigating officer to Captain Woodes Rogers in the Duke, which sailed with another Bristol privateer, the Duchess, in 1708. The interesting narrative of this successful voyage is told by Rogers in his book, "A Cruising Voyage Round the World," etc., published in 1712. Another account was written by the captain of the Duchess, Edward Cooke, and published in the same year. This last voyage round the world ended at Erith on October 14th, 1711, and was the only one in which Dampier returned with any profit other than to his reputation as an explorer and navigator.
Dampier was now fifty-nine years of age, and apparently never went to sea again. In fact, he henceforth disappears from the stage altogether, and is supposed to have died in Colman Street in London, in the year 1715. Of Dampier's early life in England little is known, except that he owned, at one time, a small estate in Somersetshire, and that in 1678 he married "a young woman out of the family of the Duchess of Grafton." There is an interesting picture of Dampier in the National Portrait Gallery, painted by T. Murray, and I take this opportunity to thank the directors for their kind permission to reproduce this portrait.
One other book Dampier wrote, called a "Discourse of Winds," an interesting work, and one which added to the author's reputation as a hydrographer. There is little doubt that Defoe was inspired by the experiences and writings of Dampier, not only in his greatest work, "Robinson Crusoe," but also in "Captain Singleton," "Colonel Jack," "A New Voyage Round the World," and many of the maritime incidents in "Roxana" and "Moll Flanders."
DANIEL, Captain. A French filibuster.
The name of this bloodthirsty pirate will go down to fame as well as notoriety by his habit of combining piracy with strict Church discipline. Harling recounts an example of this as follows, the original account of the affair being written by a priest, M. Labat, who seems to have had rather a weak spot in his heart for the buccaneer fraternity:
"Captain Daniel, in need of provisions, anchored one night off one of the 'Saintes,' small islands near Dominica, and landing without opposition, took possession of the house of the curé and of some other inhabitants of the neighbourhood. He carried the curé and his people on board his ship without offering them the least violence, and told them that he merely wished to buy some wine, brandy and fowls. While these were being gathered, Daniel requested the curé to celebrate Mass, which the poor priest dared not refuse. So the necessary sacred vessels were sent for and an altar improvised on the deck for the service, which they chanted to the best of their ability. As at Martinique, the Mass was begun by a discharge of artillery, and after the Exaudiat and prayer for the King, was closed by a loud 'Vive la Roi!' from the throats of the buccaneers. A single incident, however, somewhat disturbed the devotions. One of the buccaneers, remaining in an indecent attitude during the Elevation, was rebuked by the captain, and instead of heeding the correction, replied with an impertinence and a fearful oath. Quick as a flash Daniel whipped out his pistol and shot the buccaneer through the head, adjuring God that he would do as much to the first who failed in his respect to the Holy Sacrifice. The shot was fired close by the priest, who, as we can readily imagine, was considerably agitated. 'Do not be troubled, my father,' said Daniel; 'he is a rascal lacking in his duty and I have punished him to teach him better.'" A very efficacious means, remarks Labat, of preventing his falling into another like mistake. After the Mass the body of the dead man was thrown into the sea, and the curé was recompensed for his pains by some goods out of their stock and the present of a negro slave.
DAVIS, Captain Edward. Buccaneer and pirate.
Flourished from 1683-1702. According to Esquemiling, who knew Davis personally, his name was John, but some authorities call him Edward, the name he is given in the "Dictionary of National Biography."
In 1683 Davis was quartermaster to Captain Cook when he took the ship of Captain Tristian, a French buccaneer, of Petit Guave in the West Indies. Sailed north to cruise off the coast of Virginia. From there he sailed across the Atlantic to West Africa, and at Sierra Leone came upon a Danish ship of thirty-six guns, which he attacked and took. The pirates shifted their crew into this ship, christening her the Bachelor's Delight, and sailed for Juan Fernandez in the South Pacific, arriving there in March, 1684. Here they met with Captain Brown, in the Nicholas, and together sailed to the Galapagos Islands. About this time Captain Cook died, and Davis was elected captain in his place. Cruising along the coasts of Chile and Peru, they sacked towns and captured Spanish ships. On November 3rd Davis landed, and burnt the town of Paita. Their principal plan was to waylay the Spanish Fleet on its voyage to Panama. This fleet arrived off the Bay of Panama on May 28th, 1685, but the buccaneers were beaten and were lucky to escape with their lives. At the Gulf of Ampalla, Davis had to put his sick on shore, as spotted fever raged amongst the crew. Davis then cruised for a while with the buccaneer Knight, sacking several towns.
Deciding to return to the West Indies with their plunder, several of the crew, who had lost all their share by gambling, were left, at their own request, on the Island of Juan Fernandez. Davis then sailed round the Horn, arriving safely at Jamaica with a booty of more than 50,000 pieces of eight, besides quantities of plate and jewels.
At Port Royal, after he had accepted the offer of pardon of King James II., Davis sailed to Virginia and settled down at Point Comfort. We hear no more of him for the next fourteen years, until July 24th, 1702, when he sailed from Jamaica in the Blessing (Captain Brown; twenty guns, seventy-nine men), to attack the town of Tolu on the Spanish Main, which was plundered and burnt. Davis next sailed to the Samballoes, and, guided by the Indians, who were friendly to the buccaneers, but hated the Spaniards, they attacked the gold-mines, where, in spite of most cruel tortures, they got but little gold. The crew next attacked Porto Bello, but found little worth stealing in that much harassed town.
Davis is chiefly remarkable for having commanded his gang of ruffians in the Pacific for nearly four years. To do this he must have been a man of extraordinary personality and bravery, for no other buccaneer or pirate captain ever remained in uninterrupted power for so long a while, with the exception of Captain Bartholomew Roberts.
DAVIS, Captain Howel.
This Welsh pirate was born at Milford in Monmouthshire. He went to sea as a boy, and eventually sailed as chief mate in the Cadogan snow, of Bristol, to the Guinea Coast. His ship was taken off Sierra Leone by the pirate England, and the captain murdered. Davis turned pirate, and was given command of this old vessel, the Cadogan, in which to go "on the account." But the crew refused to turn pirate, and sailed the ship to Barbadoes, and there handed Davis over to the Governor, who imprisoned him for three months and then liberated him. As no one on the island would offer him employment, Davis went to New Providence Island, the stronghold of the West India pirates.
Arrived there, he found that Captain Woodes Rogers had only lately come from England with an offer of a royal pardon, which most of the pirates had availed themselves of. Davis got employment under the Governor, on board the sloop, the Buck, to trade goods with the French and Spanish settlements. The crew was composed of the very recently reformed pirates, and no sooner was the sloop out of sight of land than they mutinied and seized the vessel, Davis being voted captain, on which occasion, over a bowl of punch in the great cabin, the new captain made an eloquent speech, finishing by declaring war against the whole world. Davis proved himself an enterprising and successful pirate chief, but preferred, whenever possible, to use strategy and cunning rather than force to gain his ends. His first prize was a big French ship, which, although Davis had only a small sloop and a crew of but thirty-five men, he managed to take by a bold and clever trick. After taking a few more ships in the West Indies, Davies sailed across the Atlantic to the Island of St. Nicholas in the Cape Verde Islands. Here he and his crew were a great social success, spending weeks on shore as the guests of the Governor and chief inhabitants. When Davis reluctantly left this delightful spot, five of his crew were missing, "being so charmed with the Luxuries of the Place, and the Conversation of some Women, that they stayed behind."
Davis now went cruising and took a number of vessels, and arrived eventually at St. Jago. The Portuguese Governor of this island did not take at all kindly to his bold visitor, and was blunt enough to say he suspected Davis of being a pirate. This suspicion his crew took exception to, and they decided they could not let such an insult pass, so that very night they made a sudden attack on the fort, taking and plundering it.
Davis sailed away next morning to the coast and anchored off the Castle of Gambia, which was strongly held for the African Company by the Governor and a garrison of English soldiers. Davis, nothing daunted, proposed to his merry men a bold and ingenious stratagem by which they could take the castle, and, the crew agreeing, it was carried out with so much success that they soon had the castle, Governor, and soldiers in their possession, as well as a rich spoil of bars of gold; and all these without a solitary casualty on either side. After this brilliant coup, many of the soldiers joined the pirates. The pirates were attacked shortly afterwards by a French ship commanded by Captain La Bouse, but on both ships hoisting their colours, the Jolly Roger, they understood each other and fraternized, and then sailed together to Sierra Leone, where they attacked a tall ship they found lying there at anchor. This ship also proved to be a pirate, commanded by one Captain Cocklyn, so the three joined forces and assaulted the fort, which, after a sharp bombardment, surrendered. Davis was then elected commander of the pirate fleet, but one night, when entertaining the other captains in his cabin, all having drunk freely of punch, they started to quarrel, and blows were threatened, when Davis, with true Celtic eloquence, hiccupped out the following speech:
"Hearke ye, you Cocklyn and La Bouse. I find by strengthening you I have put a rod into your Hands to whip myself, but I'm still able to deal with you both; but since we met in Love, let us part in Love, for I find that three of a Trade can never agree." Alone once more, Davis had prodigious success, taking prize after prize, amongst others the Princess, the second mate in which was one Roberts, soon to become a most famous pirate. Off Anamaboe he took a very rich prize, a Hollander ship, on board of which was the Governor of Accra and his retinue, as well as £15,000 sterling and rich merchandise. Arriving next at the Portuguese Island of Princes, Davis posed as an English man-of-war in search of pirates, and was most warmly welcomed by the Governor, who received him in person with a guard of honour and entertained him most hospitably. Davis heard that the Governor and the chief persons of the island had sent their wives to a village a few miles away, so the pirate and a few chosen spirits decided to pay a surprise visit on these ladies. However, the ladies, on perceiving their gallant callers, shrieked and ran into the woods and, in fact, made such a hullabaloo that the English Don Juans were glad to slink away, and "the Thing made some noise, but not being known was passed over."
Davis, ever a cunning rogue, now formed a pretty scheme to take the Governor and chief inhabitants prisoners and to hold them for a big ransom. This plan was spoilt by a Portuguese slave swimming to shore and telling the Governor all about it, and worse, telling him about the little affair of Davis and his visit to the ladies in the wood. The Governor now laid his plans, and with such success that Davis walked unsuspecting into the trap, and was "shot in the bowels," but it is some consolation to know that he "dyed like a game Cock," as he shot two of the Portuguese with his pistols as he fell.
Thus died a man noted during his lifetime by his contemporaries for his "affability and good nature," which only goes to show how one's point of view is apt to be influenced by circumstances.
DEAL, Captain Robert.
Mate to Captain Vane in 1718. He was very active off the coast of Carolina and New England, taking many prizes. In November, 1718, when cruising between Cape Meise and Cape Nicholas, on the lookout for ships, he met with and fired on a vessel that appeared to be a merchantman, at the same time running up the Jolly Roger. The apparently peaceful merchantman replied with a broadside, and proved to be a French man-of-war. A quarrel took place amongst the pirates, Vane and some of the crew, including Deal, being for running away for safety, while the rest, headed by Rackam, were in favour of fighting it out. Vane insisted on their escaping, which they did, but next day he, Deal, and some others were turned out of the ship and sent away on their own in a small sloop. Deal was put in command of this sloop, but was soon afterwards captured by an English man-of-war and brought to Jamaica, where he was tried, convicted, and hanged.
DEANE, Captain John. Buccaneer.
Commanded the St. David. He was accused by the Governor of Jamaica in 1676 of having held up a ship called the John Adventure and of taking out of her several pipes of wine and a cable worth £100, and of forcibly carrying the vessel to Jamaica. Deane was also reported for wearing Dutch, French, and Spanish colours without commission, and was tried and condemned to suffer death as a pirate. Owing to various legal, or illegal, quibbles, Deane was reprieved.
One of Captain Lowther's crew in the Happy Delivery. Was hanged at St. Kitts in 1722.
DEW, Captain George.
He commanded a Bermuda ship and sailed in company with Captain Tew, when they were caught in a storm off that island, and Captain Dew, having sprung his mast, was compelled to put back to the island for repairs. Captain Tew continued his journey to Africa, but what became of Captain Dew is not known.
A Central American pirate who became very famous in the early part of the last century. Commanded the Catalina in 1823 off the coast of Cuba.
DIEGO, or Diego Grillo.
A mulatto of Havana.
After the general amnesty to pirates, given in 1670, Diego, Thurston, and others continued to attack Spanish ships and to carry their prizes to their lair at Tortuga Island. Diego commanded a vessel carrying fifteen guns. He succeeded in defeating three armed ships in the Bahama Channel, which had been sent to take him, and he massacred all the Spaniards of European birth that he found among the crews. He was caught in 1673 and hanged.
DOWLING, Captain William.
Of New Providence, Bahamas.
Hanged for piracy in the early part of the eighteenth century.
DRAKE, Sir Francis.
Born about 1540.
The life of the famous Admiral is too well known to require more than a bare notice in these pages. Although the Spaniards called him "the Pirate," he was more strictly a buccaneer in his early voyages, when he sailed with the sole object of spoiling the Spaniards. His first command was the Judith, in John Hawkins's unfortunate expedition in 1567. Drake made several voyages from Plymouth to the West Indies and the Spanish Main.
In 1572 he burnt Porto Bello, and a year later sacked Vera Cruz. He served with the English Army in Ireland under Lord Essex in 1574 and 1575. In 1578 he sailed through the Straits of Magellan, plundered Valparaiso, and also captured a great treasure ship from Acapulco. Sailing from America, he crossed the Pacific Ocean, passed through the Indian Archipelago, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at Deptford in England in 1581. At the conclusion of this voyage he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, being the first Englishman to sail round the world. Drake's voyages after this were sailed under commission and letters of marque, and so lose any stigma of being buccaneering adventures.
Drake died at Porto Bello in the year 1596.