Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
||Sea Yarns Galore||
Circumnavigator, Privateer, Author, & Governor
By Cindy Vallar
A bold, active, indefatigable officer, one that could not give up his opinions too readily to others and who was not to be flattered by other people giving up their opinion to him . . . [he had] a peculiar art of maintaining authority and resourcefully hitting on expedients in times of difficulty. (Beattie, 146)
John Callander’s assessment of Woodes Rogers appeared in his three-volume series Terra Australis Cognita or Voyages to the Southern Hemisphere (1766-1768). Although not every contemporary of his would agree with Callender, Rogers’s unwavering confidence and dogged perseverance surpassed the setbacks and adversity he encountered throughout his life. He made a significant mark on history, even though that legacy has been largely forgotten today.
Woodes Rogers entered the world around 1679, the third male to be so named and the first of three children. His parents were Woodes and Frances Rogers. His siblings, Mary and John, were born one year and nine years later, respectively. His family initially established their roots in East Dorset, England sometime in the fifteenth century, but later moved to Bristol. In June 1696, they inhabited a house in Redcliffe, a neighborhood of seafarers’ families that was situated across the river from the center of town. Socially prominent and Protestant, the family owned property and Woodes followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to become a sea captain. He began his apprenticeship in 1697 with another ship master, John Yeamans, even though at eighteen, Woodes was older than most new apprentices.
When and where the idea came from is problematic, but one theory suggests that near the end of 1707, a friend of Captain Rogers visited Woodes. The visitor was William Dampier, who at fifty-one years old had sailed around the world twice and wanted to do so again. Another possibility is that Woodes himself dreamed of sailing around Cape Horn to plunder Spanish settlements and capture a Manila galleon. Since financing such a proposition was beyond the means of either gentleman, they broached the possibility of sailing west on a round-the-world privateering venture with Admiral William Whetstone, Woodes’s father-in-law. The idea blossomed into a proposal that the admiral put forth to leading members of the Bristol community. The War of the Spanish Succession had been ongoing for six years, pitting England and her allies against France and Spain. Since 1702 (when the conflict began), Woodes was just one of many owners of Bristol privateers who had suffered losses because of enemy attacks on his ships.
One such incident involved the Whetstone Galley, a slave ship of 130 tons armed with sixteen guns. Captain Thomas Robbens was her captain and Woodes and three other Bristol merchants owned the vessel. When she set sail on 3 February 1708, she was laden with cargo worth £1,000, which would be used to purchase 270 slaves in Africa before she sailed to Jamaica where the Africans would be auctioned off to the highest bidders. Soon after she reached open water, French privateers captured her.
Reception of the Manila Galleon by the Chamorro in the Ladrones Islands, c. 1590
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
This new privateering proposal was a means by which Woodes could recoup some of his losses and seek retribution against these two nations. At the time, he was a young family man of twenty-nine. Woodes and Sarah Whetstone had married on 24 January 1705, at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in London. Six days earlier, her father became the Royal Navy’s Admiral of the Blue. Sir William was named commander of the Jamaica Station several days after the wedding. The two families were neighbors. In December 1702, the senior Captain Rogers bought property at 31-32 Queen’s Square where he built an elegant home for his family, which Woodes inherited upon the death of his father at sea in 1705 or 1706. The Whetstones’ house occupied lot number twenty-nine.
Woodes and Sarah’s firstborn, a daughter also named Sarah, came in 1706. Son William Whetstone entered the world the next year, and a second daughter, Mary, was born in 1708, but died in 1712.
A voyage around the world required a significant amount of money that essentially equated to a substantial wager during a game of whist. In this case, the gamble was twofold: Would the ships even return, and would their holds be laden with riches from the Far East that would net the wagerer a tidy profit? Another drawback was that whoever invested funds in the gamble needed to be able to wait a significant amount of time before realizing any profit from the investment. (Rogers sailed from Bristol in August 1708 and didn’t return to England until October 1711.)
Rather than seek out one person to assume the risk, the decision was made to partition the cost for ships, crews, supplies, and stores among a number of investors. Shares were sold at a rate of £103 10 shillings per allotment. The 256 shares that a small number of merchants purchased raised £26,496. Many of the investors lived in Bristol and were prominent citizens.
Investor Position Shares Purchased John Hollidge Mayor, 1708 10 Christopher Shuter Mayor, 1711 20 John Romsey/Rumsey
Sir John Hawkins
Thomas Goldney II Grocer
Dover, who accompanied Rogers on the voyage, was forty-six and had no experience as a seafarer.1 Yet he served as Duke’s second captain, president of the expedition’s council (which gave him two votes in any shipboard decisions), chief physician for the expedition, and captain of the marines. Goldney, a Quaker, was the largest investor. He inherited much of his fortune from his father-in-law, but shortly after the two ships departed Bristol, he was arrested and imprisoned for indebtedness totaling £9,500. (He didn’t emerge from prison for nearly two years.) In addition to serving on the town council, Batchelor was a linendraper and the Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, through whom all correspondence concerning the venture passed. Hawkins was a brewer and Clements, a shipwright, built the Duke’s hull.
Since this was marketed as a privateering venture, letters of marque were needed for the two merchant ships, the Duke and the Dutchess.2 Woodes Rogers commanded the former, while Stephen Courtney served as captain of the latter.
William Dampier was the expedition’s pilot because of his prior visits to the South Seas (southern Pacific Ocean). On his first circumnavigation, he had sailed with buccaneers such as Lionel Wafer, Basil Ringrose, John Coxon, and Bartholomew Sharp. He also had a penchant for studying the flora, fauna, weather, and peoples that he encountered on his journeys, and had written two books about his adventures. There was “no Englishman [who] could match his knowledge of lands, currents, and winds in eastern waters.” (Farley, 524) When Dampier joined the expedition, he and the owners agreed that he would be paid 1/16th of their proceeds.
Francis Rogers, who was also one of the investors, served as ship’s husband, which meant he was in charge of fitting out the two vessels.3 John Rogers, Woodes’s brother, served as a lieutenant under Captain Courtney aboard the Dutchess. Alexander White served as an interpreter; he once lived in Peru and could converse in Spanish.
Aside from Dr. Dover, five additional men served in medical capacities on the two vessels. Samuel Hopkins, the expedition’s apothecary, happened to be Dover’s brother-in-law. As a lieutenant, he would take part in any raids ashore. Dr. John Ballet had tended the men who accompanied Dampier on his 1703 circumnavigation. James Wasse was a Dutch-trained physician and surgeon. The remaining two men, Charles May and John Lancy, were assistants.
Of the total amount collected to finance the expedition, nearly half was spent to fit out the ships and purchase the necessary provisions. The Duke cost £8,198, while the Dutchess cost £4,990. Although contemporary descriptions and pictures of them are non-existent, they might have been “built on the lines of the famous Bristol runners, which . . . were designed for speed and much admired by the Navy’s shipbuilders.” (Beattie, 2013, 77-79) In 1712, Captain Richard Edwards described them as having “about 28 guns, and breadth of about 28 and 29½ feet, having longer topmasts and square yards than Her Majesty’s ships of 40 guns, which are 33 feet broad.” (Beattie, 2007, 149) An engraving in E. C. Drake’s A New Universal Collection of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages and Travels from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Day (1771) showed Duke “as a two-decked ship looking much like a cut down version of a late seventeenth century ship-of-the-line, and the Dutchess as a single-decked galley.” (Beattie, 2013, 77)
Engraving entitled "Ceremony of ducking under the Tropic" and showing the Duke and Dutchess
(Source: A New Universal Collection of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages and Travels
by Edward Cavendish Drake, 1771)
The 2 August entry in Rogers’s book described the two vessels as being “the Duke Burden about 320 Tuns, having 30 Guns and 117 Men; and the Dutchess Burden about 260 Tuns by Measure, 26 Guns and 108 Men: both well furnish’d with all Necessaries on board for a distant Undertaking.” (Rogers, 2004, 9) (Her guns were six-pounders.)
Edward Cooke, the second captain of the Dutchess, also published a book about the expedition. In it, he included two descriptions of the vessels.
a. Agreement between the Owners and the MenSuch discrepancies stemmed from the fact that they were estimates of how much cargo the ship could carry or how well she was armed, rather than precise measurements or counts. The former were complicated calculations influenced by various items, and it was rare for shipwright plans of the period to provide exact details as such schematics do today.
. . . the Duke, Burthen about 350 Tuns, 36 Guns . . . and the Dutchess, Burthen about 300 Tuns, 30 Guns . . . (Cooke, 1:Introduction)b. Cooke’s own commentary
. . . the Duke, Burden about 300 Tons, 30 Guns, and 170 Men . . . and the Dutchess . . . Burden about 270 Tons, 26 Guns, and 151 Men. (Cooke, 1:1-2)
Prior to departure, the owners, the officers, and the men who sailed on these vessels signed Articles of Agreement. Aside from stating that the owners were responsible for outfitting the ships, this document also provided details about the division of shares.
2. All Prizes and Purchase, which shall be taken . . . shall be divided viz. two thirds Part of the clear Profits to the Owners . . . and the other third Part to the Officers, Sea-men, and Land-men who shall be at the taking of such Prizes and Purchase.4Privateering ventures usually sailed under the adage of “no prey, no pay.” In other words, if they took a prize, they received pay; if they failed to take a prize, they earned nothing. Rogers’s expedition gave some men the option of part wages and a portion of shares. Additional funds could be earned by those who participated in onshore raids. Restitution for anyone who incurred a disability or died were also standard in Articles of Agreement. In this case, those officers lower in rank than a pilot received £40 if they lost one or more limbs, while those higher in rank were given £50, and sailors, £30. If a man was married and died, his widow received the same payment according to his standing. In the case of singular bravery while in action, a reward was also offered. All of these payments were made prior to the dispersal of shares. Edward Cooke, in his introduction, outlined how these were divided among the men.
3. If any Provisions, or Ships Materials, taken in any Prize, shall be wanting for Use of the . . . Ships, one third Part of the Value of all such Provisions and Materials so made use of, shall be paid for by the Owners to the Officers and Sea-men. (Cooke, Introduction)
Rank Shares Wages (monthly) and Shares Captain 24
Second Captain 20
First Lieutenant 16 £3 and 8 shares Second Lieutenant 10 £2 10s and 5 Third Lieutenant 8 £2 and 4 Master 10 £2 10s and 5 Master’s Mate 6 £2 and 3 Second Mate 5 £1 15s and 2½ Third Mate 4 £1 10s and 2 Surgeon 10 £2 10s and 5 Surgeon’s Mate 6 £1 10s and 3 Owner’s Agent 10 £2 10s and 5 Pilot 8 £2 10s and 4 Carpenter 6 £2 and 3 Carpenter’s Mate 4 £1 10s and 2 Boatswain 6 £2 and 3 Boatswain’s Mate 4 £1 10s and 2 Gunner 6 £2 and 3 Gunner’s Mate 3½ £1 10s and 1¾ Cooper 5 £1 10s and 2½ Cooper’s Mate 3½ £1 5s and 1¾ Midshipman 4 £1 10s and 2 Quartermaster 3 £1 10s and 1½ Sailor 2½ £1 8s and 1¼ Landsman 1½ 14s and ¾
The owners’ agents during the voyage were Carleton Vanbrugh and William Bath.5 It was their job to represent the owners in all matters. To that end they were provided with specific instructions as to their responsibilities during the voyage. The following example was written for William Bath and included in Cooke’s introduction.
HAving appointed you to be our Agent on Board the Duchess Frigat, we do require you, in our Name, to act for the Interest of the whole, to keep exact and just Accompts of all Transactions in the Ship Dutchess, relating to Prizes or Purchase, that respect the said Ship, be it by Sea, or by Land, in Books provided on purpose for that Use.The ships’ owners sought to have some control over how the voyage was conducted. To that end they instituted a constitution in hopes of thwarting misconduct. As Rogers explained in his introduction to A Cruising Voyage Round the World, the buccaneers
When any Prize is taken at Sea, or elsewhere, you are to go aboard her in the first Boat, as near as you can, to take an Account of the Prisoners, or by your own, and you Mens Observation, what Goods, Merchandize, or Treasure, the Capture does consist of, and what in you lies prevent imbezeling, or concealing from the general Distribution.
If any Attempts are made upon Land, and Purchase obtain’d and brought aboard your Ship, you are to register all such Matters in your Book very particularly, and the Value, as near as you can compute. You are punctually to remark the Time and Place of all Captures, how dispos’d of; if ransom’d, for what; if consign’d, whither, and to whom, and copy all the Orders that go with her.
If Gold, Silver, Pearl, or such valuable Goods, of small Bulk, be brought aboard your Ship, you are appointed to secure it in some Chest, Box &c. and to be one of the Clavingers thereof, and so of the Hatches, when any Thing considerable is in the Hold.
You must know all that goes in and out thence, and in your Book make it Debtor and Creditor. In every Thing you are to act on the Owners Behalf, that you may be able to give an exact Accompt of all Particulars coming under your Cognizance, as above; which, together with prudent Conduct towards the Officers and Men, will be the greatest Satisfaction to us at your Return, that you have faithfully discharg’d your Trust; of which we will not doubt, but wish you very well.6
liv'd without Government; so that when they met with Purchase, they immediately squander’d it away, and when they got Mony and Liquor, they drank and gam’d till they spent all; and during those Revels there was no distinction between the Captain and Crew: for the Officers having no Commission but what the Majority gave them, they were chang’d at every Caprice, which divided them, and occasion’d frequent Quarrels and Separations, so that they cou’d do nothing considerable . . . . (Rogers, 2004, 5)This constitution dictated that a council would “determine all Matters and Things whatsoever, that may arise, or be necessary for the general Good during the whole Voyage.” (Cooke, I: Introduction)
[A]ll Attempts, Attacks, and Designs upon the Enemy, either by Sea or Land, be first consulted and debated, either in particular, if separated, or in the general Council, if together; and as the Majority thereof shall conclude, how or when to act or do, it shall be indispensably, and without unnecessary Delay, put chearfully in Execution.
In case of any Discontents, Differences, or Misbehaviour among the Officers and Men, which may tend to the Disturbance of the good Concord and Government on Board, either the Men or Persons may appeal to the Captain, to have a Hearing and Decision by a Council, or the Captain shall call a Council, and have it heard and decided, and may prefer or displace any Man. . . . All Decision and Judgment of this Council shall be finally determin’d by the Majority of Voices; and in Case of an Equality, Capt. Dover is to have the double Voice, as President of the Council . . . . (Cooke, I: Introduction)The constitution was signed by John Batchelor, Christopher Shuter, James Hollidge, Thomas Goldney, and Francis Rogers. Even though Woodes Rogers was in command of the expedition’s fleet, he was not permitted to serve as chairman of the council. That honor went to Thomas Dover and he possessed two votes over Rogers’s single one. This form of governing would cause problems for Rogers during the expedition. One difficulty concerned
the want of Power to try Offenders . . . which oblig’d us to connive at many Disorders, and to be mild in our Punishments: but which was still worse, there was no sufficient Power lodg’d in any one hand to determine Differences amongst our chief Officers; which was a great Omission, and might have prov’d of dangerous Consequence, because of the Divisions which happen’d among us. (Rogers, 2004, 7)The expedition sailed from Bristol on 1 August 1708. Rogers carried with him sufficient funds to cover expenses during the entire voyage, but the amount proved insufficient because some captured cargo had to be sold in Batavia two years later to repair and restock their ships.
Their first port of call was Cork, Ireland, where forty members of the crew changed their minds about traveling around the world. Sufficient replacements were found for those who had jumped ship, so that when the Duke and Dutchess departed, the tally of both crews came to 334 men. Of that number, 181 composed the crew of Rogers’s Duke and included “Tinkers, Taylors, Hay-makers, Pedlers, Fiddlers, etc.” (Rogers, 1928, xi) John Finch, who had been a “wholesale oilman of London,” served as ship’s steward. (Rogers, 1928, xi) The Duke also carried a mascot, an English bulldog.
One of the first tests of Rogers’s command came on 11 September 1708. The privateers had stopped a vessel flying Swedish colors the day before. “We examin’d the Master, and . . . suspected he had Contraband Goods on board,” but a search turned up nothing and Rogers chose to release her.
While I was on board the Swede yesterday, our Men mutiny’d, the Ringleaders being our Boatswain, and three other inferior Officers. This Morning . . . we confin’d the Authors of this Disorder . . . . We put ten of the Mutineers in Irons, a Sailor being first soundly whip’d for exciting the rest to join him. Others less guilty I punish’d and discharg’d, but kept the chief Officers all arm’d, fearing what might happen . . . the Ship’s Company seeming too much inclin’d to favour the Mutineers . . . . (Rogers, 2004, 14)The reason for the discontent stemmed from the release of the prize, which the mutineers felt had not been diligently searched and merited plundering. The leaders were shackled, confined, and fed only bread and water. “The most dangerous Fellow among the Mutineers” was Boatswain Giles Cash. On 14 September,
a Sailor came aft . . . with near half the Ship’s Company . . . following him, and demanded the Boatswain out of Irons. I desir’d him to speak with me by himself on the Quarter-Deck, which he did, where the Officers assisted me, seiz’d him, and made one of his chief Comrades whip him. This Method I thought best for breaking any unlawful Friendship amongst themselves; which different Correction to other Offenders, allay’d the Tumult; so that now they begin to submit quietly, and those in Irons beg Pardon, and promise Amendment. This Mutiny would not have been easily lay’d, were it not for the number of our Officers, which we begin to find very necessary to bring our Crew to Order and Discipline . . . . (Rogers, 2004, 15)Since the Duke and Dutchess were sailing with a convoy bound for Madeira, the council of officers decided it was best if Boatswain Cash no longer remained aboard. Still clapped in irons, he was turned over to the Crown-Galley during the night of 15 September. The next day, Rogers “discharg’d the Prisoners from their Irons, upon their humble Submission, and strict Promise of good Behaviour for to come.” (Rogers, 2004, 15) Those who were petty officers resumed their duties, while Boatswain’s Mate John Pillar replaced Cash as boatswain.
While in the vicinity of the Canary Islands, the privateers captured another vessel – a Spanish bark of about twenty-five tons and carrying forty-five passengers – which a prize crew took to Tenerife. Carleton Vanbrugh, the owner’s agent, was adamant about going ashore and Rogers “consented, tho against my Judgment.” (Rogers, 2004, 16) Once there, Vanbrugh was taken hostage by the governor, who demanded that Rogers return the bark without receiving any ransom. The British counsel to the island seconded the governor’s demand, explaining that the seizure violated an accord between Queen Anne and the Spanish king.
In response, Rogers wrote,
It was Mr. Vanbrugh’s misfortune to go ashore; and if he is detain’d, we can’t help it. To have convinc’d us satisfactorily of what you say; you ought to have sent us a Copy of her Majesty’s Orders or Proclamation; but we doubt there’s no such thing in this case. If Mr. Vanbrugh is unjustly detain’d, we’ll carry the Prisoners we have on board to the Port we are bound to, let the Consequence be what it will.The governor dithered and dallied, at least from Rogers’s perspective, but eventually agreed to pay a ransom for the vessel. The cargo, however, ought to be returned without any strings attached. Rogers was aware that a privateer usually cruised these waters and was expected at any time. This posed a risk he was not willing to take, so his response brooked little room for wavering on the governor’s part.
. . . If you send us Mr. Vanbrugh, and the Man with him, we’ll send you the Prisoners; but we’ll not part from the Bark, unless ransom’d: tho the Value is not much, we will not be impos’d on. We desire you to use all manner of Dispatch without loss of time, which we can’t allow[.] (Rogers, 2004, 18-19)
[T]ho we could not land our Men, would visit the Town with our Guns by eight next morning: adding, that we hop’d to meet with the Governor’s Frigat, and should repay his Civility in his own way . . . . (Rogers, 2004, 18)His note had the desired effect. The next day, at the appointed time, they “spy’d a Boat coming off, which prov’d to be one Mr. Crosse an English Merchant, and Mr. Vanbrugh our Agent . . . with Wine, Grapes, Hogs, and other Necessaries, for the Ransom of the Bark . . . we immediately went to work, discharg’d the Bark, and parted the small Cargo between our Ships.” (Rogers, 2004, 18) Mr. Crosse requested that any personal items taken from the captives be returned, especially the friars’ “Books, Crucifixes, and Reliques,” which was done. (Rogers, 2004, 18) With everyone now happy, he divulged that the month before had seen the departure of “four or five French Ships from 24 to 50 Guns” that were bound to the South Seas, just like Rogers’s expedition. Instead of confirming his own destination, Rogers indicated that he was bound only for England’s settlements in the West Indies.
Three days after they resumed their voyage, the council gathered for dinner on the Duke. Vanbrugh had complained about Rogers’s conduct toward him, so Rogers brought the complaint before his fellow officers. They sided with Rogers and deemed “Mr. Vanbrugh to be much in the wrong.” [Rogers, 2004, 19]
The ships crossed the Tropic of Cancer on 25 September 1708.7 Each man who did so for the first time was expected to undergo a time-honored “baptismal rite” that served two purposes: to entertain the crew and to cement their unity.
Example of a Crossing the Line Ceremony by Jean de Caudin
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The manner of doing it was by a Rope thro a Block from the Main-Yard, to hoist ’em above half way up to the Yard, and let ’em fall at once into the Water; having a Stick cross thro their Legs, and well fastened to the Rope, that they might not be supriz’d and let go their hold. This prov’d of great use to our fresh-water Sailors, to recover the Colour of their Skins which were grown very black and nasty. Those that we duck’d after this manner three times, were about 60, and others that would not undergo it, chose to pay Half a Crown Fine; the Mony to be levy’d and spent at a publick Meeting of all the Ships Companys, when we return to England. The Dutch Men and some English Men desir’d to be duck’d, some six, others eight, ten, and twelve times, to have the better Title for being treated when they come home. (Rogers, 2004, 19-20)Although rules regarding plunder were established prior to embarkation, the council deemed it necessary to tweak the specifics of these to pacify the crew. The first occurrence happened as a result of the taking of the Tenerife prize. On 8 October the members needed
to prevent Embezlements in Prizes, and to hinder Feuds and Disorders amongst our Officers and Men . . . the small Prize had shew’d us, that without a Method to be strictly observ’d in Plunder, it might occasion the worst of Consequences to both ships, and such Quarrels as would not easily be laid.
. . . without [the men] being easy, we must unavoidably have run into such continual Scenes of Mischief and Disorder, as have not only tended to the great Hindrance, but generally-to the total Disappointment of all Voyages of this nature, that have been attempted so far abroad in the Memory of Man. (Rogers, 2004, 22)They decided to equally divide any and all plunder taken from a vessel between the entire company regardless of which ship captured the prize. The officers and owners’ agents would decide what was plunder and what was not. Any man who failed to turn over “any Plunder exceeding one Piece of Eight in value” after twenty-four hours would face severe disciplinary measures, as well as “lose his Shares of the Plunder.” Anyone besotted during a fight, or who disobeyed a command, or hid rather than fight, or abandoned his post would face “[t]he same Penalty.”
Bookkeeping and determining whether anyone concealed plunder was also addressed, as was the awarding of additional monies above a person’s shares.
4. That publick Books of Plunder are to be kept in each Ship attested by the Officers, and the Plunder to be apprais’d by Officers chosen, and divided as soon as possible after the Capture. Also every Person to be sworn and search’d as soon as they shall come aboard, by such Persons as shall be appointed for that purpose: The Person or Persons refusing, shall forfeit their shares of the Plunder[.]The last item addressed pertained to anyone who had not yet signed the Articles of Agreement. “[We] do hereby oblige our selves to the same Terms and Conditions as the rest of the Ships Company have done[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 23) This placed everyone on an equal footing, preventing anyone from using the lack of his signature as a viable excuse for what he did or did not do.
5. In consideration that Capt. Rogers and Capt. Courtney, to make both ships Companies easy, have given the whole Cabin-Plunder (which in all probability is the major part) . . . we do voluntarily agree, that they shall have 5 per Cent, each of ’em, over and above their respective Shares[.]
6. That a Reward of twenty Pieces of Eight shall be given to him that first sees a Prize of good Value, or exceeding 50 Tuns in Burden. (Rogers, 2004, 23)
While this seemed to address future conflicts, problems continued to surface. One such incident occurred on 22 October, involving the second mate, a man named Page, on the Dutchess. He was to move from that ship to the Duke, while Rogers’s second mate would take his place.
Page disobeying Command, occasion’d Capt. Cook, being the superior Officer aboard, to strike him; whereupon Page struck him again, and several Blows past: but at last Page was forc’d into the Boat, and brought on board of us. And Capt. Cook and others telling us what Mutiny had pass’d, we order’d Page on the Fore-Castle into the Bilboes. He begg’d to go into the Head to ease himself; under that pretence the Corporal and the rest left him for a while: upon which he leapt over board, thinking to swim back to the Dutchess, it being near calm, and the Captains out of the Ship. However, the Boat being along side, we soon overtook him, and brought him on board again. For which and his abusive Language he was lash’d to the Main-Geers and drub’d; and for inciting the Men to Mutiny, was afterward confin’d in Irons aboard the Duke. (Rogers, 2004, 25)Page was freed seven days later, once he acknowledged that he had been in the wrong and promised not to do so again.
Another incident came four days later on 2 November. Two men had taken “a Peruke . . . two Shirts, and a Pair of Stockings” from the prize seized in the Canary Islands and hidden them. (Rogers, 2004, 25) After the theft was discovered, they were tried, convicted, and placed in shackles. They saw the error of their ways and, after promising there would be no such repetition, they were released.
November 1708 found the crews careening their ships at Isla Granda (Ilha Grande or Big Island), off the coast of Brazil. During this time of cleaning and repairing, the men also enjoyed shore leave. But on the twenty-fifth, Michael Jones and James Brown had had enough. They jumped ship and hid in the jungle – perhaps not their best decision since they were from Ireland and unused to tropical forests.
[I]n the night [they] were so frighted with Tygers, as they thought, but really by Monkeys and Baboons, that they ran into the water, hollowing to the Ship till they were fetch’d aboard. (Rogers, 2004, 28)
Sumatran Tiger versus Monkeys of Brazil: Brown Howler, Golden-backed Squirrel, andTufted Capuchin
(Source: Wikimedia Commons -- Monika Betley, Peter Schoen, Cliff, and Basile Morin)
Problems with Vanbrugh had continued since his censure and came to a head when he gave chase to a canoe and killed a native. On 30 November 1708, the council decided a change was needed since he had acted without orders and contrary to his assigned duties. They transferred “Mr. Carleton Vanbrugh from being Agent of the Duke Frigate, to bi Agent of the Dutchess and to receive Mr. William Bath Agent of the Dutchess in his Place.” (Rogers, 2004, 32)
The expedition set sail again the next day and, finally, on Christmas Day, a lookout “spy’d a Sail under our Lee-Bow bearing S E. from us, dist. about 4 Ls.” (Rogers, 2004, 60) Sails were unfurled and the chase began. They narrowed the distance, but lost her around ten that evening after the sun set. Thinking she might be sailing for home, they “ran North till Dawning: then we stood to the Westward till it was light[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 60) Finally, around noon, they spotted their target and continued their pursuit.
[I]n the Morning had a very thick Fog, so that I could see neither our Consort nor Chase till an hour after ’twas full Light. When it clear’d up, we saw our Consort on our Larboard-Bow; we fir’d a Gun for her to bear down, but immediately we saw the Chase ahead of her about four miles, which gave us new Life. We forthwith hal’d up for them; but the Wind soon veering a-head, had a great disadvantage in the Chase. We ran at a great rate, being smooth Water; but it coming on to blow more and more, the Chase outbore our Consort: so she gave off . . . Thus this Ship escap’d; which, considering that we always out-went her before, is as strange as our first seeing of her in this place, because all Ships that we have heard of bound out or home this way, kept within Falkland’s Island. (Rogers, 2004, 60-61)On the first of January 1709, they welcomed in the New Year.
[E]very Officer was wish’d a merry New-Year by our Musick; and I had a large Tub of Punch hot upon the Quarter-Deck, where every Man in the Ship had above a Pint to his share, and drank our Owners and Friends Healths in Great Britain, to a happy new Year, a good Voyage, and a safe Return. We bore down on our Consort, and gave them three Huzza’s, wishing them the like. (Rogers, 2004, 61)
The farther south they traveled, the colder it became. On 2 January 1709, Rogers noted, “Clothes and Liquor were now an excellent Commodity amongst our Ships Company . . . We had six Taylors at work for several weeks to make them Clothing, and pretty well supply’d their Wants by the spare Blankets and red Clothes belonging to the Owners; and what every Officer could spare, was alter’d for the Mens Use” on both vessels. (Rogers, 2004, 61)
Weather and wind became more of an issue, especially as they navigated southern waters and rounded Cape Horn.8 One such incident was recorded by both Rogers and Cooke in their books. Cooke details what happened aboard the Dutchess.
Wednesday, January 5. 1708-9. This Day we had a violent Gale of Wind at N.W. and very bad Weather; at Two in the Afternoon reef’d both Courses, then lower’d our Foreyard, and lay by ’till Five; at which Time our Waste was fill’d with Water, and we expecting the Ship would sink every Moment, got down our Fore-yard as well as we could, and loos’d the Sprit-sail, to ware the Ship, which at last we did, but in waring, we thought she would have founder’d with the Weight of the Water that was in her, by reason she had so deep a Waste. Thus we scudded before the Wind, the Duke following, and at Nine shipp’d a Sea at the Poop, as we were in the Cabbin going to eat; it beat in all the Cabbin-Windows and Bulk-Head and hove the first Lieutenant half way between the Decks, with several Muskets and Pistols that hung there, darting a Sword that was against the Bulk-Head of the Cabbin, through my Man’s Hammock and Rug, which hung against the Bulk-Head of the Steeridge, and had not the Bulk-Head of the great Cabbin given way, all we who were there must inevitably have been drown’d, before the Water could have been vented. Our Yaul was stav’d on the Deck, and it was a Wonder that many were not kill’d with the Shutters, the Bulk-Head, and the Arms, which were drove with a prodigious Force; but God in his Mercy deliver’d us from this and many other Dangers. Only one Man or two were hurt, and some bruis’d, but not one Rag of dry Cloaths left us, our Chests, Hammocks, and Bedding being all soak’d in Water. (Cooke, 32-33)Rogers’s account was from the perspective of being aboard Duke.
Jan. 5. Just past twelve Yesterday it came on to blow strong: We got down our Fore-Yard, and reef’d our Fore-Sail and Main-Sail; but there came on a violent Gale of Wind, and a great Sea. A little before six we saw the Dutchess lowering her Main-Yard: the Tack flew up, and the Lift unreev’d, so that the Sail to Leeward was in the water and all a-back, their Ship took in a great deal of Water . . . immediately they loos’d their Sprit-Sail, and wore her before the Wind: I wore after her, and came as near as I could to ’em, expecting when they had gotten their Main-Sail stow’d they would take another Reef in, and bring to again . . . but to my surprize they kept scudding to the Southward. I dreaded running amongst Ice, because it was excessive cold; so I fir’d a Gun as a Signal for them to bring to, and brought to our selves again . . . They kept on, and our Men on the look-out told me they had an Ensign in their Maintop-Mast Shrouds as a Signal of Distress . . . so I wore again, our Ship working exceeding well in this great Sea. Just before night I was up with them again, and set our Fore-Sail twice reef’d to keep ’em Company, which I did all night. About three this morning it grew more moderate; we soon made a Signal to speak with them, and at five they brought to: when I came within haile, I enquir’d how they all did aboard; they answer’d, they had ship’d a great deal of Water . . . and were forc’d to put before the Wind, and the Sea had broke in the Cabin-Windows, and over their Stern, filling their Steerage and Waste, and had like to have spoil’d several Men; but God be thank’d all was otherwise indifferent well with ’em, only they were intolerably cold, and every thing wet. (Rogers, 2004, 61-62)The next day, he and Dampier went over to the Dutchess and found “all their Clothes drying, the Ship and Rigging cover’d with them from the Deck to the Main-Top[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 62)
On the seventh, one of the men, who had been sick since they departed Isla Granda, died and they held a burial at sea. This sailor was but the first to perish during the voyage.
After rounding Cape Horn, the seafarers headed for Juan Fernandez Island. The cold weather, wet conditions, and scurvy affected a number of crewmen on both ships, so they needed a place where the sick could be put ashore to recuperate. The problem was that no one, not even their pilot, was sure of the island’s exact location, because the sea charts at their disposal disagreed. Finally, at 7:00 a.m. on 31 January 1709, they sighted their destination. That afternoon, they launched a pinnace, with Captain Dover aboard, to go ashore because water and wood needed to be restocked.
As soon as it was dark, we saw a Light ashore; our Boat was then about a League from the Island, and bore away for the Ships as soon as she saw . . . We fir’d one Quarter-Deck Gun and several Muskets, showing Lights in our Mizen and Fore-Shrouds, that our Boat might find us, whilst we ply’d in the Lee of the Island. (Rogers, 2004, 70-71)The officers thought the shore light might “be French Ships at anchor” and that a fight would ensue before Dover’s men could collect their much-needed supplies. (Rogers, 2004, 71) The next day, however, revealed no such enemy vessels in sight, so around noon on 2 February, the boat again was lowered and went ashore with “Capt. Dover, Mr. Frye, and six Men, all arm’d.” (Rogers, 2004, 71) But no one returned, so a pinnace was sent to discover where they were. When that boat returned, it brought back crawfish and
a Man cloth’d in Goat-Skins, who look’d wilder than the first Owners of them. He had been on the Island four Years and four Months, being left there by Capt’ Stradling in the Cinque-Ports; his Name was Alexander Selkirk a Scotch Man, who had been Master of the Cinque-Ports, a Ship that came here last with Capt. Dampier, who told me that this was the best Man in her; so I immediately agreed with him to be a Mate on board our Ship. (Rogers, 2004, 71)
The rescued Selkirk being taken aboard the Duke (seated, right)
from Edward E. Leslie's Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls (circa 1859)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
It turned out that Selkirk had lit the bonfire they had seen, because he thought they were English and hoped to be saved. Rogers noted details about this man and his experiences, which he later included in his book, A Cruising Voyage, including the fact that
[a]t his first coming on board us, he had so much forgot his Language for want of Use, that we could scarce understand him, for he seem’d to speak his words by halves. We offer’d him a Dram, but he would not touch it, having drank nothing but Water since his being here, and ’twas some time before he could relish our Victuals. (Rogers, 2004, 73)Rogers dubbed Selkirk “The Governour” and believed that he survived because of God’s grace. Rogers opined, “By this one may see that Solitude and Retirement from the World is not such an unsufferable State of Life as most Men imagine, especially when People are fairly call’d or thrown into it unavoidably, as this Man was,” which also proved that Selkirk’s experience was a shining example “[t]hat Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” (Rogers, 2004, 74)
Those who were sick were taken ashore that afternoon, where they sheltered under a tent. On 3 February,
Alexander Selkirk Statue, Fife Scotland
Photograph by Sylvia Stanley
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
we got our Smiths Forge put up ashore, set our Coopers to work in another place, and made a little Tent for my self to have the Benefit of the Shore . . . we have a little Town of our own here, and every body is employ’d. (Rogers, 2004, 74)
Selkirk captured goats daily, from which broth was made and given to the sick. Combined with “Turnip-Tops and other Greens,” as well as “the Goodness of the Air they recover’d very fast of the Scurvy[.]” (Rogers, 1928, 96; Rogers, 2004, 74)
During this interlude, the ships were repaired, wood was taken on board, and water casks were filled. They also slaughtered some sea lions and “boil’d up about 80 Gallons of Sea-Lions Oil . . . for the use of our Lamps and to save our Candles[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 75) When they sailed away from Juan Fernandez Island on 13 February, the ships headed for “the Island of Lobos de la Mar,” where they planned “to build our Boats and land our Men.” (Rogers, 2004, 77) It also would serve as a rendezvous point should they become separated from each other.
For whatever reason, a decision was made to once again transfer the owners’ agents back to their original shipboard assignments. Vanbrugh returned to the Duke the day they departed Juan Fernandez Island, a move Rogers “hope[d was] for the best.” (Rogers, 2004, 78) Fourteen days later, after arming two pinnaces with guns, they launched those to serve as “small Privateers.” (Rogers, 2004, 80)
That same month, the council met aboard the Duke for dinner and discussion. Again, they decided to change how plunder was regulated so as to maintain order and discipline. The enforcement of these regulations now fell to eight men – four from each ship – instead of Vanbrugh and Bath. These officers would be in charge of searching the men, and should the vessels become
separated when any Prize is taken, then one of you is to be on board the Prize, and the other to remain on board the Ship; and in each place be very strict, and keep an exact Account of what comes to your hands, and as soon as possible secure it in such manner as the Captain of either Ship shall direct . . .By 4 March, it became necessary to ration water – three pints daily per person – in order to make it last while they hunted for prey. Off the coast of Peru on the fifteenth, they sighted a sail, which Duke captured. The master of the sixteen-ton prize was Antonio Heliagos. From master and crew, Rogers learned the seven French ships known to be in the Pacific were gone because relations with their allies had deteriorated. These nine men also swore that “there had been no Enemy in those parts since Capt. Dampier, which is above four Years ago.” (Rogers, 2004, 81) Another surprising bit of news, especially for Alexander Selkirk, was that his former ship, the Cinque Ports, had “founder’d on the Coast of Barbacour” and Captain Stradling, the man who had marooned him, and a handful of survivors were imprisoned in Lima in far worse conditions than Selkirk had experienced on Juan Fernandez Island. (Rogers, 2004, 81)
If any Person nor concerned in this Order, nor employ’d in the same by Capt. Courtney, concerns himself with the Plunder . . . you are to forbid him; and if he disobeys, to give immediate Information of such Person or Persons.
You are not to incumber the Boats with Chests or Plunder out of any Prize at first coming aboard, but mind what you see. And the first thing you are to do, is to take account of what you find aboard that is Plunder, and remove nothing without the Captains of either Ship’s Orders; or in case of their Absence, of the chief Officer or Officers of either Ship that shall be aboard the Prize, to avoid Trouble and Disturbance.
You are by no means to be rude in your Office, but to do every thing as quiet and easy as possible; and to demean your selves so towards those employed by Capt. Courtney, that we may have no manner of Disturbance or Complaint: still observing that you be not overaw’d, nor deceived of what is your Due, in the behalf of the Officers and Men. (Rogers, 2004, 79)
The next day they finally reached their destination. A small bark was refitted to be a privateer, while the carpenters constructed a boat that could be used to land men for raiding ashore. The bark, which was armed with four swivel guns, was rechristened Beginning and Edward Cooke became her commander. The Duke’s mainmast was replaced with a spar, while a sail was fashioned from a mizzenmast. The Dutchess was careened, a job that was afterward done to Duke. Those who were sick were taken ashore and rested in tents.
During this interim, Beginning and Dutchess went cruising and captured several prizes. One of these was the Ascensión, “built Galeon-fashion, very high with Galleries, Burden between 4 and 500 Tun”; her new captain was Mr. Frye, who had been Rogers’s first lieutenant. (Rogers, 2004, 84) The number of prisoners continued to grow, but none seemed to cause any problems for Rogers. The man who did was Vanbrugh. This time, he killed “some Carrion-Crows” and ordered someone to carry them. That sailor refused. Vanbrugh also had a run-in with Captain Dover, who insisted that the council address the issue of Vanbrugh’s behavior. Having “committed sundry Misdemeanours, and . . . we not believing him a fit Person to be one of the Committee,” the officers replaced him with Samuel Hopkins, Dover’s brother-in-law. (Rogers, 2004, 85)
On 12 April 1709, the council resolved to raid the Spanish town of Guayaquil, Ecuador – a place Dampier had helped sack in 1684. One reason for this was that the expedition now numbered ten vessels and, in addition to the crew, the privateers held in excess of 300 captives who needed to be fed and provisions were running low. Preparations ensued, but three days later, personal tragedy struck Rogers. His brother John came over from the Dutchess where he was serving as her second lieutenant. “[H]e was to be Lieutenant of my Company ashore,” but already having more than enough men of his own, Woodes didn’t want his brother to be involved in the attack. (Rogers, 2004, 89) John resented this, so when Duke’s lookout sighted an enemy ship, John volunteered to join the boarding party. Woodes wasn’t happy about this either, but because of their earlier falling out, he shied away from intervening this time.
Egnraving of Guayaquil by Paulus Minget
Published in Father Jacinto Moran de Butron's Compendio Historico de la Provincia (1741)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
[B]eing calm, we sent off both our Pinnaces mann’d and arm’d. But our Men expecting no Resistance from that Ship, they hurry’d from us, left out their Swivel-Gun, and carry’d but a slender Stock of Arms with them . . . About nine a clock our Boat came within shot of the Ship, which prov’d to be the French-built Ship belonging to Lima, the same we have been a cruising for. They hoisted their Spanish Ensign in its place, and a Flag at their Top-Mast-Head . . . [when] the Dutchess Pinnace came up . . . Capt. Cooke, Mr. Frye, and my Brother consulted how to begin the Attack with advantage: They agreed that our Boat should ply her under the Stern, and the other on the Bow, till they could get near enough to board at once. But . . . the Spaniards brought a Gun right aft, and upwards of twenty small Arms pointed into the Boats; so that the Fight began before they could reach the Station agreed on, and both were forc’d to engage the Enemy abaft, where they had five Guns mounted. Our People were constrain’d to fall astern twice, after the loss of one Man kill’d and three wounded. The Boats and Sails were much damag’d by the Enemies Partridge-shot, yet they again attempted to come up and board her. At this Attack my unfortunate Brother was shot thro the Head, and instantly died, to my unspeakable Sorrow: but as I began this Voyage with a Resolution to go thro it, and the greatest Misfortune or Obstacle shall not deter me, I’ll as much as possible avoid being thoughtful and afflicting my self for what can’t be re-call’d, but indefatigably pursue the Concerns of the Voyage, which has hitherto allow’d little Respite. (Rogers, 2004, 89)The attack was called off at this point, and the boats returned to their respective ships “with two dead and three wounded Men.” (Rogers, 2004, 89)
Captain Edward Cooke, who took part in the attack, summarized what happened in his book.
Our Ships being almost out of Sight, and the Spaniard so near the Coast, and making the best of her Way to run ashore in a sandy Bay, we resolv’d to lay her aboard on each Bow, and accordingly made the best of our Way, I being then on her Weather-Quarter, and Capt. Fry on her Lee. We design’d to have told them we were Friends, ’till got out of the way of their Stern-Chase, but the Duke’s Men, thinking the Spaniards had been going to give us a Volley, pour’d in their Shot among them . . . The Dispute was hot for a long Time, we keeping a constant Fire, and the Enemy answering, who kill’d two of Capt. Fry’s Men, and wounded one of his, and two of mine. One of the dead Men was Mr. John Rogers, our second Lieutenant, and Brother to Capt. Rogers, who behav’d himself very well during the Action. (Cooke, I: 137)He also described the burial service, which took place around noon the next day (Saturday, 16 April).
This Morning . . . bury’d our Lieutenant in the most decent Manner we could, giving him two Volleys from each Ship, according to the Custom of the Sea, being all much concern’d for the Loss of so good an Officer. (Cooke, I:138)
Rogers’ account provided a bit more detail.
[W]e read the Prayers for the Dead, and threw my dear Brother over-board, with one of our Sailors, another lying dangerously ill. We hoisted our Colours but half-mast up: We began first, and the rest follow’d, firing each some Volleys of small Arms. All our Officers express’d a great Concern for the Loss of my Brother, he being a very hopeful active young Man, a little above twenty Years of Age. (Rogers, 2004, 89-90)Two hours later, Rogers and his men captured the enemy vessel. (The Havre de Grâce was laden with pearls, slaves, and wealthy Spaniards.) On 29 April, he recorded that “Roger Booth, one of the Dutchess’s Men, who was wounded through his Wind-pipe . . . died the 20th Instant. William Essex, a stout Sailor, one of our Quarter-Masters, being wounded in the Breast . . . died the 24th Instant: So that out of both Ships we lost 4 Good Men, including my dead Brother[.]" (Rogers, 2004, 103) Quartermaster James Stratton, who suffered a leg wound, survived.
The time had come to carry out the raid on Guayaquil. A three-pronged attack, consisting of 195 men, would be led by Rogers, Dover, and Courtney. Twenty-one sailors, under the command of William Dampier and Thomas Glendall, would “manage and take care of the Guns, Ammunition, Provisions, &c. which we agree to be lodg’d in a, convenient place, as near as possible to the best Landing-place nearest the Water-side, in order to take care and help ship off the Effects that we may take in the Town[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 86) On 17 April 1709, “[w]e gave each Man a Ticket, that he might remember what Company he belong’d; and appointed the best and soberest Man we could pick to command every ten Men under the Captains.” (Rogers, 2004, 90)
The following afternoon, Rogers and Courtney
settl’d every thing on board our Ships and Prizes, and got all the Men design’d for Landing on board the Barks. We proportion’d the rest, and put Irons on board every Ship . . . We agreed to leave on board the Duke 42 Men and Boys, sick and well, Robert Fry Commander; 37 aboard the Dutchess, Edward Cook Commander; 14 aboard the Galleon, John Bridge Master; 14 aboard the Havre de Grace, Robert Knowlman Master; and 4 aboard the Beginning, Henry Duck Master . . . The Prisoners on board are above 300 . . . The Captain and 7 of the chief Spaniards taken in the last Prize I carried aboard our Bark to go with us to the Town, fearing they might be dangerous Persons to leave behind us. (Rogers, 2004, 90)Prior to this, the council deemed what constituted purchase and plunder. One reason for revisiting the articles again was because Rogers had learned that some crew members felt they should be compensated for the additional risk in attacking a shore-based target. His hope was that amending the items permissible to plunder might waylay possible mutiny.
Imprim. All manner of Bedding and Clothes without stripping, all manner of Necessaries, Gold Rings, Buckles, Buttons, Liquors, and Provisions for our own expending and use, with all sorts of Arms and Ammunition, except great Guns for Ships, is Plunder, and shall be divided equally amongst the Men of each Ship, with their Prizes, either aboard or ashore, according to the whole Shares.On the other hand, anyone secreting away “any wrought or unwrought Gold or Silver, Pearls, Jewels, Diamonds, and other precious Stones, which are not found about the Prisoners, or their wearing Apparel” for himself, rather than adding it to the agreed upon collection point, was to be guilty of “a high Misdemeanour, and punish’d severely.” (Rogers, 2004, 87) The amendments also spelled out when the men might suffer for their behavior or acts.
2. It is also agreed, that any sort of wrought Silver or Gold Crucifixes, Gold and Silver Watches, or any other Movables found about the Prisoners, or wearing Apparel of any kind, shall likewise be Plunder: Provided always we make this Reserve, That Mony and Womens Ear-Rings, with loose Diamonds, Pearls, and precious Stones be excepted. (Rogers, 1928, 114)
And to prevent all manner of pernicious and mischievous Ill-Conduct that may accrue by Disorders on shore, we pressingly remind you, that any Officer or other that shall be so brutish as to be drunk ashore in an Enemy’s Country, shall not only be severely punish’d, but lose all share of whatsoever is taken in this Expedition. The same Punishment shall be inflicted on any that disobeys Command, or runs from his Post, discourages our Men, or is cowardly in any Action, or presumes to burn or destroy any thing in the Town without our Order, or for mischief sake; or that shall be so sneakingly barbarous to debauch themselves with any Prisoners on shore, where we have more generous things to do, both for our own Benefit and the future Reputation of our selves and our Country. We shall always take care to keep Prisoners of the best Note, as Pledges for our Men that may be accidentally missing: for as soon as any Man is wanting, we shall engage the Spaniards to bring him to us, or give a satisfactory account of him. But we desire no Man to trust this, or be a moment from his Officers and Post. (Rogers, 2004, 88)Their first objective was Puna, where a small garrison was stationed. It should have been a surprise attack, but they were sighted as they approached the village. Most Spaniards fled into the woods, but the privateers captured the garrison’s lieutenant, his family, and twenty others. To keep the people of Puna from warning Guayaquil, the privateers stove in the villagers’ canoes. While scavenging the buildings, they discovered “a Spanish Paper . . . that gave us some Uneasiness.” (Rogers, 2004, 91) Word had already reached this side of the world that English privateers were on their way, although the Spaniards believed William Dampier to be the fleet’s commander. The information suggested to the privateers that there was a good chance that no Spaniard yet knew that they were already in the area. In addition, insufficient time had passed since the writing of this warning for reinforcements to have arrived from Lima. As far as Rogers and the other leaders were concerned, they had twenty-four days to attack, plunder, and escape before any enemy troops arrived to hamper the raid.
It took two days to cover the thirty-three miles separating Puna from their intended target. On 22 April at midnight, they reached Guayaquil.
We saw a very great Fire on the top of an adjoining Hill, and Lights in the Town. In half an hour we were a-breast of it, and ready to land, but saw abundance of Lights appear at once coming down the Hill, and the Town full of ’em. We . . . heard a Spaniard from the Shore, talking loudly that Puna was taken, and that the Enemy were coming up the River. This made us conclude it was an Alarm. Immediately after we heard their Bells making a confused Noise, and then a Volly of small Arms, and two Great Guns. (Rogers, 2004, 93)
A debate ensued among the three captains about whether to proceed or not. They concluded it was better to withdraw a short distance down river where they would not be seen and could protect themselves against attack. Captain Dover favored a full retreat, proposing instead that a message should be sent to the Spanish governor to trade prisoners for supplies. Rogers nixed that idea. A vote was called and the majority favored an immediate attack, which would be led by Dover since he was captain of the marines, but the bickering continued on several points. This gave Rogers pause; he felt the likelihood of success had diminished to such a degree that he yielded to a proposal put forth by one of the prisoners. Two of them would go into the town and meet with the governor, while leaving the rest of their comrades with the privateers as hostages. They promised to return within the hour. If they did not, Rogers vowed that the privateers would invade. The Spaniards were true to the word and soon returned with a gentleman who would act as the go-between for the English and Guayaquil’s governor.
Rogers and Don Hieronomo Boza y Soliz agreed to a ransom of 40,000 pieces of eight, but the money didn’t arrive within the agreed-upon nine days. The governor then claimed he could only gather 30,000 pieces of eight, so Rogers and his men attacked his town, while other privateers fired guns on the barks as they landed.
The Enemy drew up their Horse at the End of the Street which fronted our Men and Barks, and also lin’d the Houses with Men within half Musket-Shot of the Bank where we landed. They made a formidable Show in respect to our little Number that was to attack them. We landed, and fired every Man on his Knee at the Brink of the Bank, then loaded, and as we advanc’d, call’d to our Bark to forbear firing, for fear of hurting our Men. We who landed kept loading and firing very fast; but the Enemy made only one Discharge, and retired back to their Guns, where their Horse drew up a Second time; we got to the first Houses, and as we open’d the Streets, saw 4 Guns pointing at us before a spacious Church; but as our Men came in fight, firing, the Horse scower’d off. (Rogers, 2004, 96)Rogers ordered men to take the Spanish cannon, which proved easier than expected because the soldiers fired once and then fled. Not only did Rogers’s men seize the weaponry, they captured about a dozen prisoners inside the church. The charge so far had taken thirty minutes, and now the cannons were turned to fire upon the Spaniards, who hied out of Guayaquil. A few privateers pursued them, but soon returned only to face Rogers, who chastised them for such disregard for their own safety. By dusk, the town was entirely in the hands of the privateers.
In the Morning we began with Iron Crows and Mauls to break open the other two Churches, and all the Score-houses, Cellars, &c . . . for no body was left at home, nor much of Value to be found, but Flower, Peas, Beans, and Jars of Wine and Brandy in great Plenty. (Rogers, 2004, 97)Some of the men wanted to rip up the flooring in the church in case the Spaniards had buried their loot among the corpses buried there. Rogers “would not suffer it, because of a contagious Distemper that had swept off a great Number of People here not long before.” (Rogers, 2004, 98)
Again, he sent captives to negotiate a ransom for the town. While he waited, some of the privateers visited “Houses up the River . . . full of Women . . . where our Men got several Gold Chains and Ear-rings, but were otherwise so civil to them, that the Ladies offer’d to dress ’em Victuals, and brought ’em a Cask of good Liquor.” (Rogers, 2004, 98) Rogers believed the value of what they returned with to be in excess of £1,000. From the church, they acquired “5 Jars of Powder, some Match and Shot, with a good Quantity of ordinary Arms, 3 Drums, with several Swords and Launces . . . [a] Gold-headed Cane, and another . . . with a Silver Head[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 99)
Skirmishes continued, but no direct confrontations occurred. On 26 April, negotiations resumed.
About one Yesterday in the Afternoon our Prisoners return’d with an Offer of 50000 Pieces of Eight for the Town, with their Ships and Barks, to be paid in 12 Days, which we don’t approve of, nor should we stay so long for a greater Sum. By these Delays they design to gain Time, that if they don’t fight us, they may draw their Forces from Lima; for we know an Express was dispatch’d thither immediately on our Arrival. (Rogers, 2004, 99)The privateers sent their response the next morning. If the Spaniards failed to turn over an unspecified number of hostages as a guarantee that the 50,000 pieces of eight would be forthcoming within half the allotted time, Rogers would torch the town. He set the meeting place at Puna. While he waited for an answer, potshots were exchanged from time to time, and several privateers were wounded by misadventures and friendly fire, one death occurring because two men didn’t comprehend how the watch-word system worked.
Once the ransom was decreased to 30,000 pieces of eight, both sides agreed to the terms on 27 April. Only two new hostages arrived, but Rogers decided that with the number of captives already held, he required no new hostages, so these two men returned from whence they came. The agreement was signed and the privateers departed with their plunder: “230 Bags of Flower, Beans, Peas and Rice . . . Jars of Oil, about 100 Jars of other Liquors, some Cordage, Iron Ware, and small Nails, with about 4 half jars of Powder . . . 3 Tun of Pitch and Tar, a Parcel of Clothing and Necessaries . . . about 1200 l. in Plate, Ear-rings, etc. and 150 Bales of dry Goods, 4 Guns, and about 100 Spanish ordinary useless Arms and Musket Barrels, a few Packs of Indigo, Cocoa and Anotto, with about a Tun of Loas-Sugar.” (Rogers, 2004, 101)
They also left with an unintended “prize.” Whatever illness had killed the people buried in the church infected some of the privateers.
Rogers and his men sailed downriver to the agreed-upon meeting place on 28 April, making “what Shew and Noise we could with our Drums, Trumpets and Guns[.]” (Rogers, 2004, 101) Finally, on 2 May, the Spaniards arrived with the ransom, although it was not the expected sum. They “brought us upwards of 22000 Pieces of 8, which we immediately receiv’d” before sending the boat back with a message. They planned to depart in five days and the hostages would be coming with them unless the remaining 8,000 pieces of eight was paid by then. Another 3,500 coins arrived on 7 May, which Rogers felt was the best they would collect. The following day he freed the hostages and, soon after, the raiding parties departed Puna.
It didn’t take long for the sickness that had swept through Guayaquil to surface within the fleet. On 11 May, Rogers wrote,
We had upwards of 20 Men that fell ill within these 24 Hours, and our Consort near 50, of a malignant Fever, contracted as I suppose at Guiaquil, where I was informed, that about a Month or  Weeks before we took it, a contagious Disease which raged there swept off 10 or 12 Persons every Day for a considerable time; so that the Floors of all the Churches (which are their usual Burial Places) were fill’d so fast, that they were obliged to dig a large and deep Hole of about a Rod square, close by the great Church, where I kept Guard; and this Hole was almost fill’d with Corps half putrified. The Mortality was so very great, that many of the People had left Town, and our lying so long in the Church surrounded with such unwholsom Scents, was enough to infect us too. (Rogers, 2004, 112)Among the sick was Captain Courtney. Three days later, the count had risen to fifty on Duke and seventy aboard Dutchess. Samuel Hopkins, the apothecary, succumbed to the illness the evening of 15 May.
[H]e read Prayers once a Day ever since we pass’d the Equinox in the North Sea: He was a very good temper’d sober Man, and very well beloved by the whole Ship’s Company. (Rogers, 2004, 112)Two more men died within a few days, yet Captain Courtney slowly improved. On 23 May, Rogers observed that “hardly a Man in the Ship, who had been ashore . . . but has felt something of this Distemper, whereas not one of those that were not there have been sick yet. Finding that Punch did preserve my own Health, I prescribed it freely among such of the Ships Company as were well, to preserve theirs.” The medical personnel complained of having insufficient amounts of medicine, but both Rogers and the owners had thought the stores provided at the beginning of the voyage were enough to last. Now, they found otherwise and, with “so many being sick in both Ships, makes it a melancholy Time with us.” (Rogers, 2004, 113)
The condition of the crew became such that by 30 May those who were able had difficulty doing any of the tasks that required strength, such as hoisting one of the ship’s boats out of the water. Every few days, Rogers continued to record in the ship’s log the passing of more men. Even so, the smaller ships continued to hunt for prizes as the fleet sailed for the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately, they failed to find enough water there to fill their barrels. This meant their next destination would be an island called Gorgona (seventeen miles off the Colombian coast) because that was as far as their water would last. Another concern was the fact that with “[o]ur Men being very much fatigued, many of them sick, and several of our Good Sailors dead, we are so weak, that should we meet an Enemy in this Condition, we could make but a mean Defence. Every thing looks dull and discouraging, but it’s in vain to look back or repine in this Parts.” (Rogers, 2004, 117)
They dropped anchor at Gorgona on 13 June 1709. A decision was reached to careen and repair the vessels, one at a time, while the remaining vessels provided protection. They also converted the Havre de Grace, one of their prizes that was already armed with twenty guns, into a permanent addition to the fleet. Her crew would come from men chosen from the Duke and Dutchess. Edmund Cooke was selected to serve as her captain. The stay also allowed those who were sick to recover.
Nearing completion of their tasks, the council released the seventy-two prisoners that had been kept aboard the bark captained by Alexander Selkirk. When he and his men returned on 13 July, they brought with them “7 small Black Cattle, about 12 Hogs, 6 Goats, some Limes and Plaintains” – welcome fare indeed. (Rogers, 2004, 122) Four days later, several of the former prisoners returned with some money with which they hoped to purchase some captured goods. At this point, the privateers had acquired quite an assortment of booty: “320 Bails of Linnen, Woolen, a little Silks . . .Boxes of Knives, Scizzars, Hatchets . . . Bones in small Boxes, ticketed with the Names of Romish Saints, some of which had been dead 7 or 800 Years . . . Brass Medals, Crosses, Beads, and Crucifixes, religious Toys in Wax, Images of Saints made of all sorts of Wood, Stone, and other Materials . . . 150 Boxes of Books in Spanish, Latin, &c.” (Rogers, 2004, 125) One article deemed of little value was “[a] large wooden Effigies of the Virgin Mary,” which was “either dropt or thrown over board; indigenous people ashore, however, rescued the idol. (Rogers, 2004, 125)
To be continued . . .
1. In 1732, Dover published The Ancient Physician's Legacy to His Country. This early medical treatise, which was written for the general populace, included two remedies that made him famous. One involved the use of mercury; this earned him the nickname Dr. Quicksilver. The second became known as Dover's Powder and was used as late as the 1960s. It combined opium, saltpetre, tartar, ipecac, and liquor to create a powder that was to be dissolved in white wine. He initially used it to treat gout, but other uses were found for it over the centuries.
2. A number of modern accounts spell the Duke's consort as "Duchess," but I have chosen to spell it as accounts written in the eighteenth century do.
3. Some historians mention a relationship between Woodes and Francis Rogers; others are uncertain if there is a connection. According to Larry Nye, who is himself related to Woodes Rogers through his maternal line, Woodes and Larry have a common ancestor, John "The Martyr" Rogers. Woodes descends from that man's son, Bernard Rogers, whereas Larry descends through another son, Daniel. This latter line is the one from which Francis descends
A note in the 1928 publication of Rogers's A Cruising Voyage Round the World suggests the relationship between Woodes and Francis "is uncertain." Francis's will identifies him as having a brother named Noblett and that both were "the sons of Robert Rogers Clark of Cork." (n1, 4) Noblett provided Woodes with replacements after some of his crew jumped ship during their sojourn in Ireland.
John Rogers was the Vicar of St. Sepulchre, and a Protestant during the earl days of the Reformation. Having been declared a heretic while England's Queen Mary reigned, he was burned at the stake in 1555.
A special thank you, Larry, for taking the time to share your research with me.
4. There is a distinction between the nouns "plunder" and "purchase." The former refers to personal items taken from the captured crewmen, whereas the latter refers to confiscated goods and stores seized from their vessel. Personal property, for privateers, was usually off-limits, but individuals were known to surreptitiously appropriate an item or two. On the other hand, any and all cargo on a legally taken prize (an enemy ship) was fair game. Today, we tend to use plunder to mean anything taken, and purchase is rarely used.
5. Neither agent was well-thought of by those aboard the ships. The council reprimanded Vanbrugh three times and he was forced to switch ships with Bath. Bath had a reputation of being lazy and drunk. Both would die during the voyage, but the circumstances surrounding Bath's death are unknown.
Eventually, the two agents returned to their original assignments. Soon after, on 17 February 1709, the council opted to bypass the owners' agents and named George Underhill, Lancaster Appleby, David Wilson, and Sam Worden from the Duke and John Connely, Simon Fleming, Simon Hatley, and Bartholomew Rowe from the Dutchess as "Managers of the Plunder which we may take in our Cruising at Sea on the Coast of New Spain." (Rogers, 2004, 79)
Relations between Vanbrugh and Rogers continued to be a sore spot and on 8 August 1710, Vanbrugh noted the following in his diary:
Capt. WR absolutely refused me the opening or being present, while Mr. White and he perused the letters brought by myself on board from [the Marquis, originally the Havre de Grace] or giving me the possession them, or at any other times, when he could prevent it, of any letters, papers etc or papers of business contracted with prisoners or acc't when he gave away negroes etc . . . for he ever acted himself and never suffer'd me to act free, as an owners agent . . . the others of the committee, never protected or countenanced me, but suffer'd him, the whole voyage, almost, to use me as just such a villainous defamator as he, WR, deserved to be himself, but I pray God change his heart and forgive him. (Beattie, Cruising, 91-92)
6. "Accompt," a variant of "account," dates back to at least late Middle English. "Clavingers" should be spelled "clavigers" and means "one who carries a key to a room," according to the Online Etymological Dictionary. It was a common word in the 1600s.
7. Crossing the equator was the original event for this rite of passage. In time, similar rites were instituted for crossing the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
8. Southern Hemisphere winds have acquired nicknames to describe them: Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. To learn more about these latitudes and their winds, check out Escales Ponant Magazine, Surfer Today, and The Maritime Review.
For additional information, I recommend the following resources:
Abbey, Ian I. (2017). Raiding and Trading Along the Spanish Lake: The Woodes Rogers Expedition of 1708-1711 [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. Texas A&M University.
“America and West Indies: September 1717, 1-13,” in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 30, 1717-1718 edited by Cecil Headlam (London, 1930), pp 24-30. British History Online.
“America and West Indies: November 1717,” in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 30, 1717-1718 edited by Cecil Headlam (London, 1930), pp 96-117. British History Online.
“America and West Indies: December 1718, 22-31,” in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 30, 1717-1718 edited by Cecil Headlam (London 1930), pp 424-446. British History Online.
“America and West Indies: February 1731,” in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 38, 1731 edited by Cecil Headlam and Arthur Percival Newton (London, 1938), pp 31-51. British History Online.
Antony, Robert J. Pirates in the Age of Sail. W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
Beattie, Tim. “Adventuring Your Estate: The Origins, Costs and Rewards of Woodes Rogers’s Privateering Voyage of 1708-1711,” The Mariner’s Mirror 93:2 (May 2007), 143-155.
Beattie, Timothy Charles Halden. The Cruising Voyages of William Dampier, Woodes Rogers and George Shelvocke and Their Impact [doctorate thesis]. University of Exeter, 2013.
Black and Asian Studies Association. “An 18th Century Voyage of Discovery,” Black Presence and Black History in Britain, 1500-1850,” National Archives.
Brooks, Baylus C. Quest for Blackbeard: The True Story of Edward Thache and Hist World. Independently Published, 2016.
Cooke, Edward. A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World. B. Lintot and R. Gosling, 1712. (volume 1 and volume 2)
Cordingly, David. Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woods Rogers. Random House, 2011.
Cordingly, David, and John Falconer. Pirates Fact & Fiction. Cross River Press, 1992.
Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance & the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Random House, 1995.
Craton, Michael. A History of the Bahamas. Collins, 1968.
Defoe, Daniel. A General History of the Pyrates edited by Manuel Schonhorn. Dover, 1999.
Drake, Edward Cavendish. “Captain Woodes Rogers’s Voyage Round the World,” A New Universal Collection of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages and Travels, from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. London, 1771, 82-109.
Earle, Peter. The Pirate Wars. Thomas Dunne, 2003.
Farley, M. Foster. “Woodes Rogers: Privateer and Pirate Hunter,” History Today 29:8 (August 1979), 522-531.
Fictum, David. “‘The Strongest Man Carries the Day,’ Life in New Providence, 1716-1717,” Colonies, Ships, and Pirates (26 July 2015).
Gerhard, Peter. Pirates of New Spain 1575-1742. Dover, 2003.
Gill, Anton. The Devil’s Marine: A Life of William Dampier, Pirate and Explorer 1651-1715. Michael Joseph, 1997.
Hanna, Mark G. Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740. University of North Carolina, 2015.
Jones, Donald. Captain Woodes Rogers’ Voyage Round the World 1708-1711. Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, 1992.
Kehoe, Mark C. “Golden Age of Piracy Provisioning – Bahamas,” The Pirate Surgeon’s Journal.
Kemp, P. K., and Christopher Lloyd. Brethren of the Coast: Buccaneers of the South Seas. St. Martin’s, 1961.
Ker, John. The Memoirs of John Ker, of Kersland in North Britain Esq. John Ker, 1726.
Konstam, Angus. The Pirate World: A History of the Most Notorious Sea Robbers. Osprey, 2019.
Leslie, Robert C. Life Aboard a British Privateer in the Time of Queen Anne. Chapman and Hall, 1889.
Little, Bryan. Crusoe’s Captain: Being the Life of Woodes Rogers, Seaman, Trader, Colonial Governor. Odhams Press, 1960.
Manwaring, G. E. Woodes Rogers: Privateer and Governor. The Deans Peggs Research Fund, 1957.
Marx, Jenifer. Pirates & Privateers of the Caribbean. Krieger, 1992.
Nye, Larry. E-mails with author, 18 March 2021 and 14 September 2021.
Oldmixon, John. The British Empire in America volume II. Printed for J. Brotherton and J. Clarke, 1741.
Pearl, Jason H. “Woodes Rogers and the Boundary of Travel Facts,” Eighteenth-Century Life 31:3 (Fall 2007), 60-75.
Pearse, Vincent. “Vincent Pearse to Admiralty – 3 Jun 1718,” Baylus C. Brooks.
Phear, D. N. “Thomas Dover 1662-1742: Physician, Privateering Captain, and Inventor of Dover’s Powder,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 9:2 (April 1954), 139-156.
Preston, Diana and Michael. A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist & Buccaneer – The Life of William Dampier. Walker & Co., 2004.
Pringle, Patrick. Jolly Roger: The Story of the Great Age of Piracy. Dover, 2001.
Rogers, Art. Woodes Rogers: Privateer.
Rogers, Woodes. A Cruising Voyage Around the World [audiobook]. LibriVox, 2018.
Rogers, Woodes. A Cruising Voyage Round the World. Cassell and Company, 1928.
Rogers, Woodes. A Cruising Voyage Round the World. The Narrative Press, 2004. [Reproduction of 1712 edition]
“Simancas: November 1588,” in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603 edited by Martin A. S. Hume (London, 1899), pp. 474-492. British History Online.
Souhami, Diana. Selkirk’s Island: The True and Strange Adventures of the Real Robinson Crusoe. Harcourt, 2001.
“Ten Persons Tried for Piracy at Nassau – 9-10 Dec 1718,” Baylus C. Brooks.
Thomas, Graham A. Pirate Hunter: The Life of Captain Woodes Rogers. Pen & Sword, 2008.
“The White-hall Evening-Post #15 October 18-21, 1718,” British Piracy in the Golden Age: History and Interpretation, 1660-1730 edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 1:294.
Whitmore, Vito. “The Beginnings of an English Settlement: Woodes Rogers, Piracy, and Political Economy in the Eighteenth Century Bahamas,” CLA Journal 7 (2019), 71-84.
Williams, Glyndwr. The Great South Sea: English Voyages & Encounters 1570-1750. Yale University, 1997.
Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Harcourt, 2007.
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