The Pirates of Panama, or The History of Bucaniers in America

Can you imagine wandering into a used bookstore or yard sale and finding 200 year old copy of a pirate’s autobiography? It apparently happened to this guy. Some extracts:

When we found we had been led by this stratagem of the enemy away from the town, we left the bay and came to several houses, but found them al empty, and swept clean, both of inhabitants and provisions. This place of La Serena our pilot had reported to be but a small town, but being arrived there we found in it no fewer than seven great churches and one chapel. In the gardens we found strawberries as big as walnuts and those very delicious to the table. The inhabitants of La serena upon our approach fled, with them the best of their goods and jewels, and what they could not carry away that was of value they buried. Notwithstanding, we took one friar, and two Chilenos, natives of the kingdom of Chili, which adjoins to that of Peru. These prisoners told us that the Spaniards had killed most of their Chilian slaves, fearing they should revolt from them to us. We were about this time troubled with the scurvy; it proceeded, as we judged, from the great hardship and want of provisions we had endured for several months. We killed a mule and got there as plunder a small, quantity of good chocolate, which the Spaniards have in great esteem. In the gardens we found strawberries as big as walnuts.

Next morning, being Saturday, came into the town a flag of truce from the enemy. Their message was to proffer a ransom for the town to preserve it from burning, for now they began to fear we would set fire to it. The chief commanders on both sides met about this point and agreed betwixt them the sum of 95,000 pieces of eight for the whole ransom. This day also there died one of our negroes slaves on board the ship.

Next morning, we set fire to the town. We fired as nigh as we could every house in the whole town to the end that it might be totally reduced to ashes. Thus we left La Serena, carrying with us what plunder we could find.

and (Pirate Christmas):

December the 8th. This day our worthy commander, Captain Sharp, had intelligence given him, that on Christmas day, which was now at hand, the company, or at least a great part thereof, had a design to shoot him; he having appointed that day to be merry. Hereupon he made us share the wine amongst us, as being persuaded they would scare attempt any such thing in their sobriety. The wine we shared out fell out to three jars to each mess. That night the wind increased.

Sunday, December the 25th. This day, being Christmas day, for celebration of that great festival we killed a sow. This sow we had brought from the gulf of Nicoya, being then a suckling pig. With this hog’s flesh we made our Christmas dinner, being the only flesh we had eaten since we left the island of Plata. It was extreme hot weather. We saw much flying-fish, with some dolphins, bonitoes, and albicores, but they will not take the hook.

It’s fascinating reading what it was like to actually be a pirate; they looted and killed, got shot at and lost their legs, had very few morals but some qualms anyway. The whole book is available from the Gutenberg Project, and there is a good article about the central exploits of the book.

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