Buccaneer Commanders MICHEL DE GRAMMONT ‘LE CHEVALIER’ (c. I6S0-86)

De Grammont arrived in the Caribbean during the mid—1670S, a Parisian serving in the French Navy. Presumably he was paid off, as by 1675 he was a buccaneer captain with his own vessel, yet he clearly remained on the right side of the authorities as he was given letters of marque. This situation changed when he illegally captured a Dutch vessel and chose to remain in Saint Domingue to avoid the repercussions. War between France and Holland relieved any legal threat to de Grammont, who participated in an expedition against the Dutch island of Curasao in 1678. The joint buccaneer and French naval force was commanded by the Comte d’Estrees, who ran most of his fleet aground on the Islas de Aves as he approached Cura~ao from the east. The fleet withdrew to Saint Domingue, but the buccaneer contingent elected to stay and raid the Spanish coast of Venezuela, after looting what they could from the French wrecks. The charismatic de Grammont was duly elected their leader, and he decided to repeat L’Olonnais’s achievement and enter the Lake of Maracaibo. In June 1678, he captured the San Carlos bar fortification guarding the entrance to the lake by landing guns from his ships and forming a siege battery. The Spaniards were battered into submission, and de Grammont’s six ships, 13 pinnaces and 700 men were loose inside the lagoon. His main ships remained at the mouth of the lagoon to guard the entrance, while he led the rest to Maracaibo. The long.-suffering town was looted, followed by Gibraltar on the south-east side of the lagoon, the same towns that had suffered from the attentions ofL’Olonnais. He then marched inland, and in September he captured the town of Trujillo, even though it was defended by 350 militia and a gun battery.


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Buccaneer Commanders: JEAN DAVID NAU, ‘L’OLONNAIS’ (c. I63S-68)

‘The man from Olonne’, the Frenchman Jean Nau, arrived in the Caribbean in the 1650S as an indentured servant, but by 1660 he had joined the buccaneers in Saint Domingue (now Haiti), the French — run western portion of Hispaniola. His buccaneering career lasted seven years, beginning in 1662 when he participated in several attacks on Spanish shipping and was given a prize vessel by the French buccaneer governor of Tortuga. He cruised off Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula, and at some stage he was shipwrecked off Campeche. The buccaneers were massacred by the local militia as they came ashore, but L’Olonnais escaped by feigning death.

In an attack on a town in Cuba, he held the town to ransom, then captured and killed the crew of a ship sent to its relief. One man was spared to tell the governor of Havana that L’Olonnais was responsible. By 1667, England and Holland were at war, and the French buccaneers sought to exploit the conflict as France had allied itself with the Dutch. During the spring of 1667, L’Olonnais planned an expedition to cruise the Caribbean looking for a suitable English target to attack. Nau’s growing reputation ensured that men signed on for his next expedition, and he sailed from Tortuga with over 600 men in eight ships. While cruising in the Antilles, news reached him that France was now at war with Spain, giving him an even better opportunity to profit from Europe’s conflicts. In July, the buccaneers set sail for Lake Maracaibo in modern Venezuela. Читать далее

Buccaneer Commanders: HENRY MORGAN (c. I63S-88)

Although his early life is obscure, Morgan, a Welshman, arrived in Jamaica in the wake of the Cromwellian invasion in 1655. From 1658 until 1672, he was one of the most formidable buccaneers in the Caribbean. He accompanied Myngs on some of his expeditions, and in 1662 was named as the commander of a privateering vessel. In 1664, he sailed with a group of other buccaneer captains harassing Spanish shipping and towns along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and even marched inland to sack the regional capital of Villahermosa. The same surprise attack overland was repeated the following yea»r when Morgan and others crossed Central America to attack the town of Grenada (near the modem Nicaraguan capital of Managua).


Morgan made enough money to buy a plantation when he returned to Jamaica, and married his cousin. He also became friends with the governor, Sir Thomas Modyford. Читать далее

Buccaneer Commanders: CHRISTOPHER MYNGS (I620-66)

In February 1658, the 52—gun Cromwellian warship Marston Moor dropped anchor off Port Royal, and her captain Christopher Myngs became commander of the squadron charged with the defence ofJamaica. He had been there before, having served as deputy to the previous commander for 18 months from January 1656.
He already had some experience of raids on Spanish settlements, and he used this to form a new strategy for the defence ofJamaica. For nine years, from 1656 to 1665, Myngs would pioneer the use of buccaneers to thwart an invasion by leading pre,empnve raids on Spanish ports that could be used to launch an attack on Jamaica.

In 1658, he repulsed a small Spanish invasion with a combination of Commonwealth troops and buccaneers. He then sailed to the northern coast of South America, where for the next two years he attacked Spanish ports from Cumana to Santa Marta, capturing a substantial haul of booty and sending the Spanish into a panic. These raids demonstrated that buccaneers were vital to his strategy of an aggressive defence, and the role of the buccaneer in the defence of Jamaica was established. Myngs led these raids in his frigate Marston Moor accompanied by two or three smaller buccaneer vessels, and ostensibly he operated under the authority of the Commonwealth government. His biggest haul came in mid’1659, when he captured Coro, a small port in modern Venezuela. A large cargo of Spanish silver was captured in the harbour, the plunder valued at over a quarter of a million English pounds. Contrary to orders, Myngs split the haul with his buccaneers and crew before the treasure was brought back to Jamaica. The governor of Jamaica accused Myngs of embezzlement, describing him as ‘unhinged and out of tune’. Myngs was ordered home in the Marston Moor to stand trial. Fortunately for him, the restoration of the monarchy paralysed the government and the case was dropped. Myngs gained the support of Charles 11, and he returned to Jamaica in command of the 40′gun royal warship Centurion in August 1662. Читать далее


The first buccaneers took to the sea as a sideline, augmenting the money they made as hunters on Hispaniola by attacking passing Spanish shipping. The tactics’ used were noted by Exquemelin and others, the earliest being in reference to the French buccaneer Pierre le Grand. These early buccaneers used small pinnaces or even piraguas, exploiting their small size to avoid detection. If spotted, it was hoped the Spaniards would think the buccaneer craft was a harmless fishing boat. Once within range, marksmen would fire at the helmsman or anyone seen above deck, preventing the Spaniards from handling their ship or raising more sails to get away. If more than one craft was involved, one would sail to the stern of the Spanish ship and immobilize its rudder. They then swarmed aboard.

The buccaneers

By the 165os, buccaneers were seamen rather than hunters with canoes, and their method of attack altered. Larger ships, such as sloops and brigantines, were available in Port Royal, most vessels being captured Spanish ships. Читать далее