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buildings, and there is nothing to-day to indicate it. I have thoroughly explored the site, and cannot see possibly where more than 10,000 or 15,000 souls could have been gathered together. Ringrose, a member of the pirate band of Capt. Sharp, says in his narrative of their expedition which visited New Panama in 1680, that the latter place then was larger than Old Panama ever was.
The expedition against Old Panama was was Henry Morgan's crowning achievement, and his action toward his men after their return to the Fort of Chagre, as Esquemeling terms San Lorenzo, marked the beginning of the end of his career as the greatest pirate of his time. He was a man of quick impulse, one good act being almost invariably offset by an evil one. He cared not for conquest for conquest's sake, but he was out for the coin of the realm, which in his time was figured in pieces of eight. One of the most astonishing moves in his whole career was his attitude towards piracy after his ascendancy to the post of Governor of Jamaica, not long after his return from the Panama expedition. To him, more than to any one man, is probably due the ridding of the pirates from the waters and islands of the West Indies.
The Panama expedition was not as successful as Morgan had figured on in the matter of booty. The escape of the Spanish galleon with the plate and church valuables robbed him of the best of his expected treasure. Local tradition has it that he left with as high as 1,200 mule loads of loot, while a biography of Morgan puts it at thirty-seven. Esquemeling gives it at 175 mule loads, which is probably about the correct figure.
We are giving the reader Esquemeling's account of the capture of Porto Bello, and the fall of Old Panama in the writer's own picturesque language, which cannot fail but to add spice to the narrative-Editor.
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Capture of Porto Bello, 1668.
Capture of Porto Bello, 1668.
Capt. Morgan, always communicated vigor with his words, and infused such spirits into his men as were able to put every one of them instantly upon new designs; they being all persuaded by his reasons, that the sole execution of his orders would be a certain means of obtaining great riches. This persuasion had such influence upon their minds, that with inimitable courage they all resolved to follow him. The same likewise did a certain pirate of Campeche, who on this occasion joined with Capt. Morgan, to seek new fortunes under his conduct, and greater advantages than he had found before. Thus Captain Morgan in a few days gathered a fleet of nine sail, between ships and great boats, wherein he had four hundred and threescore military men.
After that all things were in a good posture of readiness, they put forth to sea, Capt. Morgan imparting the design he had in his mind to nobody for that present. He only told them on several occasions, that he held indubitable he should make a good fortune by that voyage, if strange occurrences altered not the course of his designs. They directed their course towards the continent, where they arrived in a few days upon the coast of Costa Rica, with all their fleet entire. No sooner had they discovered land than Capt. Morgan declared his intentions to the Captains, and presently after to all the rest of the company. He told them he intended in that expedition to plunder Porto Bello. and that he would perform it by night, being resolved to put the whole city to the sack, not the least corner escaping his diligence. Moreover, to encourage them he added: This enterprise could not fail to succeed well, seeing he had kept it secret in his mind without revealing it to anybody; whereby they could not
have notice of his coming. To this proposition some made answer: They had not a sufficient number of men wherewith to assault so strong and great a city. But Captain Morgan replied: If our number is small our hearts are great. And the fewer persons we are the more union, and better shares we shall have in the spoil. Hereupon, being stimulated with the ambition of those vast riches they promised themselves from their good success, they unanimously concluded to venture upon that design. But, now, to the intent my reader may better comprehend the incomparable boldness of this exploit, it may be necessary to say something beforehand of the city of Porto Bello.
The city which bears this name in America is seated in the Province of Costa Rica (1), under the latitude of ten degrees North, at the distance of fourteen leagues from the Gulf of Darien, and eight westwards from the port called Nombre de Dios. It is judged to be the strongest place that the King of Spain possesses in all the West Indies, excepting two, that is to say, Havana and Cartagena. Here are two castles, almost inexpugnable, that defend the city, being situated at the entry of the port; so that no ship or boat can pass without permission. The garrison consists of three hundred soldiers, and the town constantly inhabited by four hundred families,
less. The merchants dwell not here, but only reside for awhile, when the galleons come or go from Spain; by reason of the unhealthiness of the air, occasioned by certain vapours, that exhale from the mountains Notwithstanding, their chief warehouses are at Porto Bello, howbeit their habitations be all the year long at Panama, whence they bring the plate upon mules at such times as the fair begins and when the ships, belonging to the Company of Negroes, arrive here to sell slaves.
(1) The name generally applied to the Caribbean coast at that time from Cape Gracias á Dios to the Chagres River.-Editor.