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The Pirates Own Book by Charles Ellms

Part 2 out of 7

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importance in the present crisis. I tender my services to defend it; and
the only reward I ask is that a stop be put to the proscription against
me and my adherents, by an act of oblivion, for all that has been done
hitherto. I am the stray sheep wishing to return to the fold. If you are
thoroughly acquainted with the nature of my offences, I should appear to
you much less guilty, and still worthy to discharge the duties of a good
citizen. I have never sailed under any flag but that of the republic of
Carthagena, and my vessels are perfectly regular in that respect. If I
could have brought my lawful prizes into the ports of this state, I
should not have employed the illicit means that have caused me to be
proscribed. I decline saying more on the subject, until I have the honor
of your excellency's answer, which I am persuaded can be dictated only
by wisdom. Should your answer not be favorable to my ardent desires, I
declare to you that I will instantly leave the country, to avoid the
imputation of having cooperated towards an invasion on this point, which
cannot fail to take place, and to rest secure in the acquittal of my

I have the honor to be

your excellency's, &c.


The contents of these letters do honor to Lafitte's judgment, and
evince his sincere attachment to the American cause. On the receipt of
this packet from Lafitte, Mr. Blanque immediately laid its contents
before the governor, who convened the committee of defence lately formed
of which he was president; and Mr. Rancher the bearer of Lafitte's
packet, was sent back with a verbal answer to desire Lafitte to take no
steps until it should be determined what was expedient to be done; the
message also contained an assurance that, in the meantime no steps
should be taken against him for his past offences against the laws of
the United States.

At the expiration of the time agreed on with Captain Lockyer, his ship
appeared again on the coast with two others, and continued standing off
and on before the pass for several days. But he pretended not to
perceive the return of the sloop of war, who tired of waiting to no
purpose put out to sea and disappeared.

Lafitte having received a guarantee from General Jackson for his safe
passage from Barrataria to New Orleans and back, he proceeded forthwith
to the city where he had an interview with Gov. Claiborne and the
General. After the usual formalities and courtesies had taken place
between these gentlemen, Lafitte addressed the Governor of Louisiana
nearly as follows. I have offered to defend for you that part of
Louisiana I now hold. But not as an outlaw, would I be its defender. In
that confidence, with which you have inspired me, I offer to restore to
the state many citizens, now under my command. As I have remarked
before, the point I occupy is of great importance in the present crisis.
I tender not only my own services to defend it, but those of all I
command; and the only reward I ask, is, that a stop be put to the
proscription against me and my adherents, by an act of oblivion for all
that has been done hitherto.

"My dear sir," said the Governor, who together with General Jackson, was
impressed with admiration of his sentiments, "your praiseworthy wishes
shall be laid before the council of the state, and I will confer with my
August friend here present, upon this important affair, and send you an
answer to-morrow." At Lafitte withdrew, the General said farewell; when
we meet again, I trust it will be in the ranks of the American army. The
result of the conference was the issuing the following order.

[Illustration: _Interview between Lafitte, General Jackson, and Governor

The Governor of Louisiana, informed that many individuals implicated in
the offences heretofore committed against the United States at
Barrataria, express a willingness at the present crisis to enroll
themselves and march against the enemy.

He does hereby invite them to join the standard of the United States and
is authorised to say, should their conduct in the field meet the
approbation of the Major General, that that officer will unite with the
governor in a request to the president of the United States, to extend
to each and every individual, so marching and acting, a free and full
pardon. These general orders were placed in the hands of Lafitte, who
circulated them among his dispersed followers, most of whom readily
embraced the conditions of pardon they held out. In a few days many
brave men and skillful artillerists, whose services contributed greatly
to the safety of the invaded state, flocked to the standard of the
United States, and by their conduct, received the highest approbation of
General Jackson.



"Among the many evils produced by the wars, which, with little
intermission, have afflicted Europe, and extended their ravages into
other quarters of the globe, for a period exceeding twenty years, the
dispersion of a considerable portion of the inhabitants of different
countries, in sorrow and in want, has not been the least injurious to
human happiness, nor the least severe in the trial of human virtue.

"It had been long ascertained that many foreigners, flying from the
dangers of their own home, and that some citizens, forgetful of their
duty, had co-operated in forming an establishment on the island of
Barrataria, near the mouth of the river Mississippi, for the purpose of
a clandestine and lawless trade. The government of the United States
caused the establishment to be broken up and destroyed; and, having
obtained the means of designating the offenders of every description, it
only remained to answer the demands of justice by inflicting an
exemplary punishment.

"But it has since been represented that the offenders have manifested a
sincere penitence; that they have abandoned the prosecution of the worst
cause for the support of the best, and, particularly, that they have
exhibited, in the defence of New Orleans, unequivocal traits of courage
and fidelity. Offenders, who have refused to become the associates of
the enemy in the war, upon the most seducing terms of invitation; and
who have aided to repel his hostile invasion of the territory of the
United States, can no longer be considered as objects of punishment, but
as objects of a generous forgiveness.

"It has therefore been seen, with great satisfaction, that the General
Assembly of the State of Louisiana earnestly recommend those offenders
to the benefit of a full pardon; And in compliance with that
recommendation, as well as in consideration of all the other
extraordinary circumstances in the case, I, _James Madison_, President
of the United States of America, do issue this proclamation, hereby
granting, publishing and declaring, a free and full pardon of all
offences committed in violation of any act or acts of the Congress of
the said United States, touching the revenue, trade and navigation
thereof, or touching the intercourse and commerce of the United States
with foreign nations, at any time before the eighth day of January, in
the present year one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, by any person
or persons whatsoever, being inhabitants of New Orleans and the adjacent
country, or being inhabitants of the said island of Barrataria, and the
places adjacent; _Provided_, that every person, claiming the benefit of
this full pardon, in order to entitle himself thereto, shall produce a
certificate in writing from the governor of the State of Louisiana,
stating that such person has aided in the defence of New Orleans and
the adjacent country, during the invasion thereof as aforesaid.

"And I do hereby further authorize and direct all suits, indictments, and
prosecutions, for fines, penalties, and forfeitures, against any person
or persons, who shall be entitled to the benefit of this full pardon,
forthwith to be stayed, discontinued and released: All civil officers
are hereby required, according to the duties of their respective
stations, to carry this proclamation into immediate and faithful

"Done at the City of Washington, the sixth day of February, in the year
one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the
United States the thirty-ninth.

"By the President,



"_Acting Secretary of State_."

The morning of the eighth of January, was ushered in with the discharge
of rockets, the sound of cannon, and the cheers of the British soldiers
advancing to the attack. The Americans, behind the breastwork, awaited
in calm intrepidity their approach. The enemy advanced in close column
of sixty men in front, shouldering their muskets and carrying fascines
and ladders. A storm of rockets preceded them, and an incessant fire
opened from the battery, which commanded the advanced column. The
musketry and rifles from the Kentuckians and Tennesseans, joined the
fire of the artillery, and in a few moments was heard along the line a
ceaseless, rolling fire, whose tremendous noise resembled the continued
reverberation of thunder. One of these guns, a twenty-four pounder,
placed upon the breastwork in the third embrasure from the river, drew,
from the fatal skill and activity with which it was managed, even in
the heat of battle, the admiration of both Americans and British; and
became one of the points most dreaded by the advancing foe.

Here was stationed Lafitte and his lieutenant Dominique and a large band
of his men, who during the continuance of the battle, fought with
unparalleled bravery. The British already had been twice driven back in
the utmost confusion, with the loss of their commander-in-chief, and two
general officers.

Two other batteries were manned by the Barratarians, who served their
pieces with the steadiness and precision of veteran gunners. In the
first attack of the enemy, a column pushed forward between the levee and
river; and so precipitate was their charge that the outposts were forced
to retire, closely pressed by the enemy. Before the batteries could meet
the charge, clearing the ditch, they gained the redoubt through the
embrasures, leaping over the parapet, and overwhelming by their superior
force the small party stationed there.

Lafitte, who was commanding in conjunction with his officers, at one of
the guns, no sooner saw the bold movement of the enemy, than calling a
few of his best men by his side, he sprung forward to the point of
danger, and clearing the breastwork of the entrenchments, leaped,
cutlass in hand, into the midst of the enemy, followed by a score of his
men, who in many a hard fought battle upon his own deck, had been well

Astonished at the intrepidity which could lead men to leave their
entrenchments and meet them hand to hand, and pressed by the suddenness
of the charge, which was made with the recklessness, skill and rapidity
of practised boarders bounding upon the deck of an enemy's vessel, they
began to give way, while one after another, two British officers fell
before the cutlass of the pirate, as they were bravely encouraging their
men. All the energies of the British were now concentrated to scale the
breastwork, which one daring officer had already mounted. While Lafitte
and his followers, seconding a gallant band of volunteer riflemen,
formed a phalanx which they in vain assayed to penetrate.

The British finding it impossible to take the city and the havoc in
their ranks being dreadful, made a precipitate retreat, leaving the
field covered with their dead and wounded.

General Jackson, in his correspondence with the secretary of war did not
fail to notice the conduct of the "Corsairs of Barrataria," who were, as
we have already seen, employed in the artillery service. In the course
of the campaign they proved, in an unequivocal manner, that they had
been misjudged by the enemy, who a short time previous to the invasion
of Louisiana, had hoped to enlist them in his cause. Many of them were
killed or wounded in the defence of the country. Their zeal, their
courage, and their skill, were remarked by the whole army, who could no
longer consider such brave men as criminals. In a few days peace was
declared between Great Britain and the United States.

The piratical establishment of Barrataria having been broken up and
Lafitte not being content with leading an honest, peaceful life,
procured some fast sailing vessels, and with a great number of his
followers, proceeded to Galvezton Bay, in Texas, during the year 1819;
where he received a commission from General Long; and had five vessels
generally cruising and about 300 men. Two open boats bearing commissions
from General Humbert, of Galvezton, having robbed a plantation on the
Marmento river, of negroes, money, &c., were captured in the Sabine
river, by the boats of the United States schooner Lynx. One of the men
was hung by Lafitte, who dreaded the vengeance of the American
government. The Lynx also captured one of his schooners, and her prize
that had been for a length of time smuggling in the Carmento. One of
his cruisers, named the Jupiter, returned safe to Galvezton after a
short cruise with a valuable cargo, principally specie; she was the
first vessel that sailed under the authority of Texas. The American
government well knowing that where Lafitte was, piracy and smuggling
would be the order of the day, sent a vessel of war to cruise in the
Gulf of Mexico, and scour the coasts of Texas. Lafitte having been
appointed governor of Galvezton and one of the cruisers being stationed
off the port to watch his motions, it so annoyed him that he wrote the
following letter to her commander, Lieutenant Madison.

_To the commandant of the American cruiser, off the port of Galvezton_.

Sir--I am convinced that you are a cruiser of the navy, ordered by your
government. I have therefore deemed it proper to inquire into the cause
of your living before this port without communicating your intention. I
shall by this message inform you, that the port of Galvezton belongs to
and is in the possession of the republic of Texas, and was made a port
of entry the 9th October last. And whereas the supreme congress of said
republic have thought proper to appoint me as governor of this place, in
consequence of which, if you have any demands on said government, or
persons belonging to or residing in the same, you will please to send an
officer with such demands, whom you may be assured will be treated with
the greatest politeness, and receive every satisfaction required. But if
you are ordered, or should attempt to enter this port in a hostile
manner, my oath and duty to the government compels me to rebut your
intentions at the expense of my life.

To prove to you my intentions towards the welfare and harmony of your
government I send enclosed the declaration of several prisoners, who
were taken in custody yesterday, and by a court of inquiry appointed
for that purpose, were found guilty of robbing the inhabitants of the
United States of a number of slaves and specie. The gentlemen bearing
this message will give you any reasonable information relating to this
place, that may be required.

Yours, &c.


About this time one Mitchell, who had formerly belonged to Lafitte's
gang, collected upwards of one hundred and fifty desperadoes and
fortified himself on an island near Barrataria, with several pieces of
cannon; and swore that he and all his comrades would perish within their
trenches before they would surrender to any man. Four of this gang
having gone to New Orleans on a frolic, information was given to the
city watch, and the house surrounded, when the whole four with cocked
pistols in both hands sallied out and marched through the crowd which
made way for them and no person dared to make an attempt to arrest them.

The United States cutter, Alabama, on her way to the station off the
mouth of the Mississippi, captured a piratical schooner belonging to
Lafitte; she carried two guns and twenty-five men, and was fitted out at
New Orleans, and commanded by one of Lafitte's lieutenants, named Le
Fage; the schooner had a prize in company and being hailed by the
cutter, poured into her a volley of musketry; the cutter then opened
upon the privateer and a smart action ensued which terminated in favor
of the cutter, which had four men wounded and two of them dangerously;
but the pirate had six men killed; both vessels were captured and
brought into the bayou St. John. An expedition was now sent to dislodge
Mitchell and his comrades from the island he had taken possession of;
after coming to anchor, a summons was sent for him to surrender, which
was answered by a brisk cannonade from his breastwork. The vessels were
warped close in shore; and the boats manned and sent on shore whilst the
vessels opened upon the pirates; the boat's crews landed under a galling
fire of grape shot and formed in the most undaunted manner; and although
a severe loss was sustained they entered the breastwork at the point of
the bayonet; after a desperate fight the pirates gave way, many were
taken prisoners but Mitchell and the greatest part escaped to the
cypress swamps where it was impossible to arrest them. A large quantity
of dry goods and specie together with other booty was taken. Twenty of
the pirates were taken and brought to New Orleans, and tried before
Judge Hall, of the Circuit Court of the United States, sixteen were
brought in guilty; and after the Judge had finished pronouncing sentence
of death upon the hardened wretches, several of them cried out in open
court, _Murder--by God_.

Accounts of these transactions having reached Lafitte, he plainly
perceived there was a determination to sweep all his cruisers from the
sea; and a war of extermination appeared to be waged against him.

In a fit of desperation he procured a large and fast sailing brigantine
mounting sixteen guns and having selected a crew of one hundred and
sixty men he started without any commission as a regular pirate
determined to rob all nations and neither to give or receive quarter. A
British sloop of war which was cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, having
heard that Lafitte himself was at sea, kept a sharp look out from the
mast head; when one morning as an officer was sweeping the horizon with
his glass he discovered a long dark looking vessel, low in the water,
but having very tall masts, with sails white as the driven snow. As the
sloop of war had the weather gage of the pirate and could outsail her
before the wind, she set her studding sails and crowded every inch of
canvass in chase; as soon as Lafitte ascertained the character of his
opponent, he ordered the awnings to be furled and set his big
square-sail and shot rapidly through the water; but as the breeze
freshened the sloop of war came up rapidly with the pirate, who, finding
no chance of escaping, determined to sell his life as dearly as
possible; the guns were cast loose and the shot handed up; and a fire
opened upon the ship which killed a number of men and carried away her
foretopmast, but she reserved her fire until within cable's distance of
the pirate; when she fired a general discharge from her broadside, and a
volley of small arms; the broadside was too much elevated to hit the low
hull of the brigantine, but was not without effect; the foretopmast
fell, the jaws of the main gaff were severed and a large proportion of
the rigging came rattling down on deck; ten of the pirates were killed,
but Lafitte remained unhurt. The sloop of war entered her men over the
starboard bow and a terrific contest with pistols and cutlasses ensued;
Lafitte received two wounds at this time which disabled him, a grape
shot broke the bone of his right leg and he received a cut in the
abdomen, but his crew fought like tigers and the deck was ankle deep
with blood and gore; the captain of the boarders received such a
tremendous blow on the head from the butt end of a musket, as stretched
him senseless on the deck near Lafitte, who raised his dagger to stab
him to the heart. But the tide of his existence was ebbing like a
torrent, his brain was giddy, his aim faltered and the point descended
in the Captain's right thigh; dragging away the blade with the last
convulsive energy of a death struggle, he lacerated the wound. Again the
reeking steel was upheld, and Lafitte placed his left hand near the
Captain's heart, to make his aim more sure; again the dizziness of
dissolution spread over his sight, down came the dagger into the
captain's left thigh and Lafitte was a corpse.

The upper deck was cleared, and the boarders rushed below on the main
deck to complete their conquest. Here the slaughter was dreadful, till
the pirates called out for quarter, and the carnage ceased; all the
pirates that surrendered were taken to Jamaica and tried before the
Admiralty court where sixteen were condemned to die, six were
subsequently pardoned and ten executed.

[Illustration: _Death of Lafitte, the Pirate._]

Thus perished Lafitte, a man superior in talent, in knowledge of his
profession, in courage, and moreover in physical strength; but
unfortunately his reckless career was marked with crimes of the darkest



Bartholomew Roberts was trained to a sea-faring life. Among other
voyages which he made during the time that he lawfully procured his
maintenance, he sailed for the Guinea cost, in November, 1719, where he
was taken by the pirate Davis. He was at first very averse to that mode
of life, and would certainly have deserted, had an opportunity occurred.
It happened to him, however, as to many upon another element, that
preferment calmed his conscience, and reconciled him to that which he
formerly hated.

Davis having fallen in the manner related, those who had assumed the
title of Lords assembled to deliberate concerning the choice of a new
commander. There were several candidates, who, by their services, had
risen to eminence among their breathren, and each of them thought
themselves qualified to bear rule. One addressed the assembled lords,
saying, "that the good of the whole, and the maintenance of order,
demanded a head, but that the proper authority was deposited in the
community at large; so that if one should be elected who did not act and
govern for the general good, he could be deposed, and another be
substituted in his place."

"We are the original," said he, "of this claim, and should a captain be
so saucy as to exceed prescription at any time, why, down with him! It
will be a caution, after he is dead, to his successors, to what fatal
results any undue assumption may lead; however, it is my advice, while
be are sober, to pitch upon a man of courage, and one skilled in
navigation,--one who, by his prudence and bravery, seems best able to
defend this commonwealth, and ward us from the dangers and tempests of
an unstable element, and the fatal consequences of anarchy; and such a
one I take Roberts to be: a fellow in all respects worthy of your esteem
and favor."

This speech was applauded by all but Lord Simpson, who had himself
strong expectations of obtaining the highest command. He at last, in a
surly tone, said, he did not regard whom they chose as a commander,
provided he was not a papist, for he had conceived a mortal hatred to
papists, because his father had been a sufferer in Monmouth's rebellion.

Thus, though Roberts had only been a few weeks among them, his election
was confirmed by the Lords and Commons. He, with the best face he could,
accepted of the dignity, saying, "that since he had dipped his hands in
muddy water, and must be a pirate, it was better being a commander than
a private man."

The governor being settled, and other officers chosen in the room of
those who had fallen with Davis, it was resolved not to leave this place
without revenging his death. Accordingly, thirty men, under the command
of one Kennedy, a bold and profligate fellow, landed, and under cover of
the fire of the ship, ascended the hill upon which the fort stood. They
were no sooner discovered by the Portuguese, than they abandoned the
fort, and took shelter in the town. The pirates then entered without
opposition, set fire to the fort, and tumbled the guns into the sea.

Not satisfied with this injury, some proposed to land and set the town
in flames. Roberts however, reminded them of the great danger to which
this would inevitably expose them; that there was a thick wood at the
back of the town, where the inhabitants could hide themselves, and that,
when their all was at stake, they would make a bolder resistance: and
that the burning or destroying of a few houses, would be a small return
for their labor, and the loss that they might sustain. This prudent
advice had the desired effect, and they contented themselves with
lightening the French vessel, and battering down several houses of the
town, to show their high displeasure.

Roberts sailed southward, captured a Dutch Guineaman, and, having
emptied her of everything they thought proper, returned her to the
commander. Two days after, he captured an English ship, and, as the men
joined in pirating, emptied and burned the vessel, and then sailed for
St. Thomas. Meeting with no prize, he sailed for Anamaboa, and there
watered and repaired. Having again put to sea, a vote was taken whether
they should sail for the East Indies or for Brazil. The latter place was
decided upon, and they arrived there in twenty-eight days.

Upon this coast our rovers cruised for about nine weeks, keeping
generally out of sight of land, but without seeing a sail; which
discouraged them so, that they determined to leave the station, and
steer for the West Indies; and, in order thereto, they stood in to make
the land for the taking of their departure, by which means they fell in,
unexpectedly, with a fleet of forty-two sail of Portuguese ships, off
the Bay of Los Todos Santos, with all their lading in for Lisbon;
several of them of good force, who lay there waiting for two men of war
of seventy guns each for their convoy. However, Roberts thought it
should go hard with him but he would make up his market among them, and
thereupon he mixed with the fleet, and kept his men concealed till
proper resolutions could be formed; that done, they came close up to one
of the deepest, and ordered her to send the master on board quietly,
threatening to give them no quarter, if any resistance or signal of
distress was made. The Portuguese, being surprised at these threats, and
the sudden flourish of cutlasses from the pirates, submitted without a
word, and the captain came on board. Roberts saluted him in a friendly
manner, telling him that they were gentlemen of fortune, and that their
business with him was only to be informed which was the richest ship in
that fleet; and if he directed them right, he should be restored to his
ship without molestation, otherwise he must expect instant death.

He then pointed to a vessel of forty guns, and a hundred and fifty men;
and though her strength was greatly superior to Roberts', yet he made
towards her, taking the master of the captured vessel along with him.
Coming alongside of her, Roberts ordered the prisoner to ask, "How
Seignior Captain did?" and to invite him on board, as he had a matter of
importance to impart to him. He was answered, "That he would wait upon
him presently." Roberts, however, observing more than ordinary bustle on
board, at once concluded they were discovered, and pouring a broadside
into her, they immediately boarded, grappled, and took her. She was a
very rich prize, laden with sugar, skins, and tobacco, with four
thousand moidores of gold, besides other valuable articles.

In possession of so much riches, they now became solicitous to find a
safe retreat in which to spend their time in mirth and wantonness. They
determined upon a place called the Devil's Island upon the river
Surinam, where they arrived in safety, and met with a kind reception
from the governor and the inhabitants.

In this river they seized a sloop, which informed them that she had
sailed in company with a brigantine loaded with provisions. This was
welcome intelligence, as their provisions were nearly exhausted. Deeming
this too important a business to trust to foreign hands, Roberts, with
forty men in the sloop, gave chase to that sail. In the keenness of the
moment, and trusting in his usual good fortune, Roberts supposed that he
had only to take a short sail in order to bring in the vessel with her
cargo; but to his sad disappointment, he pursued her during eight days,
and instead of gaining, was losing way. Under these circumstances, he
came to anchor, and sent off the boat to give intelligence of their
distress to their companions.

In their extremity of want, they took up part of the floor of the cabin,
and patched up a sort of tray with rope-yarns, to paddle on shore to get
a little water to preserve their lives. When their patience was almost
exhausted, the boat returned, but instead of provisions, brought the
unpleasing information, that the lieutenant, one Kennedy, had run off
with both the ships.

The misfortune and misery of Roberts were greatly aggravated by
reflecting upon his own imprudence and want of foresight, as well as
from the baseness of Kennedy and his crew. Impelled by the necessity of
his situation, he now began to reflect upon the means he should employ
for future support. Under the foolish supposition that any laws, oaths
or regulations, could bind those who had bidden open defiance to all
divine and human laws, he proceeded to form a code of regulations for
the maintenance of order and unity in his little commonwealth.

But present necessity compelled them to action, and with their small
sloop they sailed for the West Indies. They were not long before they
captured two sloops, which supplied them with provisions, and a few days
after, a brigantine, and then proceeded to Barbadoes. When off that
island they met a vessel of ten guns, richly laden from Bristol; after
plundering, and detaining her three days, they allowed her to prosecute
her voyage. This vessel, however, informed the governor of what had
befallen them, who sent a vessel of twenty guns and eighty men in quest
of the pirates.

That vessel was commanded by one Rogers, who, on the second day of his
cruise, discovered Roberts. Ignorant of any vessel being sent after
them, they made towards each other. Roberts gave him a gun but instead
of striking, the other returned a broadside, with three huzzas. A
severe engagement ensued, and Roberts being hard put to it, lightened
his vessel and ran off.

Roberts then sailed for the Island of Dominica, where he watered, and
was supplied by the inhabitants with provisions, for which he gave them
goods in return. Here he met with fifteen Englishmen left upon the
island by a Frenchman who had made a prize of their vessel; and they,
entering into his service, proved a seasonable addition to his strength.

Though he did not think this a proper place for cleaning, yet as it was
absolutely necessary that it should be done, he directed his course to
the Granada islands for that purpose. This, however, had well nigh
proved fatal to him; for the Governor of Martinique fitted out two
sloops to go in quest of the pirates. They, however, sailed to the
above-mentioned place, cleaned with unusual despatch, and just left that
place the night before the sloops in pursuit of them arrived.

They next sailed for Newfoundland, arriving upon the banks in June,
1720, and entered the harbor of Trepassi, with their black colors
flying, drums beating, and trumpets sounding. In that harbor there were
no less than twenty-two ships, which the men abandoned upon the sight of
the pirates. It is impossible to describe the injury which they did at
this place, by burning or sinking the ships, destroying the plantations,
and pillaging the houses. Power in the hands of mean and ignorant men
renders them wanton, insolent and cruel. They are literally like madmen,
who cast firebrands, arrows and death, and say, "Are not we in sport?"

Roberts reserved a Bristol galley from his depredations in the harbor,
which he fitted and manned for his own service. Upon the banks he met
ten sail of French ships, and destroyed them all, except one of
twenty-six guns, which he seized and carried off, and called her the
Fortune. Then giving the Bristol galley to the Frenchman, they sailed
in quest of new adventures, and soon took several prizes, and out of
them increased the number of their own hands. The Samuel, one of these,
was a very rich vessel, having some respectable passengers on board, who
were roughly used, and threatened with death if they did not deliver up
their money and their goods. They stripped the vessel of every article,
either necessary for their vessel or themselves, to the amount of eight
or nine thousand pounds. They then deliberated whether to sink or burn
the Samuel, but in the mean time they discovered a sail, so they left
the empty Samuel, and gave the other chase. At midnight they overtook
her, and she proved to be the Snow from Bristol; and, because he was an
Englishman, they used the master in a cruel and barbarous manner. Two
days after, they took the Little York of Virginia, and the Love of
Liverpool, both of which they plundered and sent off. In three days they
captured three other vessels, removing the goods out of them, sinking
one, and sending off the other two.

They next sailed for the West Indies, but provisions growing short,
proceeded to St. Christopher's, where, being denied provisions by the
governor, they fired on the town, and burnt two ships in the roads. They
then repaired to the island of St. Bartholomew, where the governor
supplied them with every necessary, and caressed them in the kindest
manner. Satiated with indulgence, and having taken in a large stock of
everything necessary, they unanimously voted to hasten to the coast of
Guinea. In their way they took a Frenchman, and as she was fitter for
the pirate service than their own, they informed the captain, that, as
"a fair exchange was no robbery," they would exchange sloops with him;
accordingly, having shifted their men, they set sail. However, going by
mistake out of the track of the trade winds, they were under the
necessity of returning to the West Indies.

They now directed their course to Surinam but not having sufficient
water for the voyage they were soon reduced to a mouthful of water in
the day; their numbers daily diminished by thirst and famine and the few
who survived were reduced to the greatest weakness. They at last had not
one drop of water or any other liquid, when, to their inexpressible joy,
they anchored in seven fathoms of water. This tended to revive exhausted
nature and inspire them with new vigour, though as yet they had received
no relief. In the morning they discovered land, but at such a distance
that their hopes were greatly dampened. The boat was however sent off,
and at night returned with plenty of that necessary element. But this
remarkable deliverance produced no reformation in the manners of these
unfeeling and obdurate men.

Steering their course from that place to Barbadoes, in their way they
met with a vessel which supplied them with all necessaries. Not long
after, they captured a brigantine, the mate of which joined their
association. Having from these two obtained a large supply, they changed
their course and watered at Tobago. Informed, however, that there were
two vessels sent in pursuit of them, they went to return their
compliments to the Governor of Martinique for this kindness.

It was the custom of the Dutch interlopers, when they approached this
island to trade with the inhabitants, to hoist their jacks. Roberts knew
the signal, and did so likewise. They, supposing that a good market was
near, strove who could first reach Roberts. Determined to do them all
possible mischief he destroyed them one by one as they came into his
power. He only reserved one ship to send the men on shore, and burnt the
remainder, to the number of twenty.

Roberts and his crew were so fortunate as to capture several vessels and
to render their liquor so plentiful, that it was esteemed a crime
against Providence not to be continually drunk. One man, remarkable
for his sobriety, along with two others, found an opportunity to set off
without taking leave of their friends. But a despatch being sent after
them, they were brought back, and in a formal manner tried and
sentenced, but one of them was saved by the humorous interference of one
of the judges, whose speech was truly worthy of a pirate--while the
other two suffered the punishment of death.

[Illustration: _Captain Roberts' Crew carousing at Old Calabar River._]

When necessity again compelled them, they renewed their cruising; and,
dissatisfied with capturing vessels which only afforded them a temporary
supply, directed their course to the Guinea coast to forage for gold.
Intoxication rendered them unruly, and the brigantine at last embraced
the cover of night to abandon the commodore. Unconcerned at the loss of
his companion, Roberts pursued his voyage. He fell in with two French
ships, the one of ten guns and sixty-five men, and the other of sixteen
guns and seventy-five men. These dastards no sooner beheld the black
flag than they surrendered. With these they went to Sierra Leone,
constituting one of them a consort, by the name of the Ranger, and the
other a store-ship. This port being frequented by the greater part of
the traders to that quarter, they remained here six weeks, enjoying
themselves in all the splendor and luxury of a piratical life.

After this they renewed their voyage, and having captured a vessel, the
greater part of the men united their fortunes with the pirates. On board
of one of the ships was a clergyman, whom some of them proposed taking
along with them, for no other reason than that they had not a chaplain
on board. They endeavored to gain his consent, and assured him that he
should want for nothing, and his only work would be, to make punch and
say prayers. Depraved, however, as these men were, they did not choose
to constrain him to go, but displayed their civility further, by
permitting him to carry along with him whatever he called his own.
After several cruises, they now went into a convenient harbor at Old
Calabar, where they cleaned, refitted, divided their booty, and for a
considerable time caroused, to banish care and sober reflection.

According to their usual custom, the time of festivity and mirth was
prolonged until the want of means recalled them to reason and exertion.
Leaving this port, they cruised from place to place with varied success;
but in all their captures, either burning, sinking, or devoting their
prizes to their own use, according to the whim of the moment. The
Swallow and another man-of-war being sent out expressly to pursue and
take Roberts and his fleet, he had frequent and certain intelligence of
their destination; but having so often escaped their vigilance, he
became rather too secure and fearless. It happened, however, that while
he lay off Cape Lopez, the Swallow had information of his being in that
place, and made towards him. Upon the appearance of a sail, one of
Roberts' ships was sent to chase and take her. The pilot of the Swallow
seeing her coming, manoeouvred his vessel so well, that though he fled
at her approach, in order to draw her out of the reach of her
associates, yet he at his own time allowed her to overtake the

Upon her coming up to the Swallow, the pirate hoisted the black flag,
and fired upon her; but how greatly were her crew astonished, when they
saw that they had to contend with a man-of-war, and seeing that all
resistance was vain, they cried out for quarter, which was granted, and
they were made prisoners, having ten men killed and twenty wounded,
without the loss or hurt of one of the king's men.

On the 10th, in the morning, the man-of-war bore away to round the cape.
Roberts' crew, discerning their masts over the land, went down into the
cabin to acquaint him of it, he being then at breakfast with his new
guest, captain Hill, on a savoury dish of salmagundy and some of his
own beer. He took no notice of it, and his men almost as little, some
saying she was a Portuguese ship, others a French slave ship, but the
major part swore it was the French Ranger returning; and they were
merrily debating for some time on the manner of reception, whether they
should salute her or not; but as the Swallow approached nearer, things
appeared plainer; and though they who showed any apprehension of danger
were stigmatized with the name of cowards, yet some of them, now
undeceived, declared it to Roberts, especially one Armstrong, who had
deserted from that ship, and knew her well. These Roberts swore at as
cowards, who meant to dishearten the men, asking them, if it were so,
whether they were afraid to fight or not? In short, he hardly refrained
from blows. What his own apprehensions were, till she hauled up her
ports and hoisted her proper colors, is uncertain; but then, being
perfectly convinced, he slipped his cable, got under sail, ordered his
men to arms without any show of timidity, dropping a first-rate oath,
that it was a bite, but at the same time resolved, like a gallant rogue,
to get clear or die.

There was one Armstrong, as was just mentioned, a deserter from the
Swallow, of whom they enquired concerning the trim and sailing of that
ship; he told them she sailed best upon the wind, and therefore, if they
designed to leave her, they should go before it.

The danger was imminent, and the time very short, to consult about means
to extricate himself; his resolution in this strait was as follows: to
pass close to the Swallow with all their sails, and receive her
broadside before they returned a shot; if disabled by this, or if they
could not depend on sailing, then to run on shore at the point, and
every one to shift for himself among the negroes; or failing these, to
board, and blow up together, for he saw that the greatest part of his
men were drunk, passively courageous, and unfit for service.

Roberts, himself, made a gallant figure at the time of the engagement,
being dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, a red
feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross
hanging to it, a sword in his hand, and two pair of pistols hanging at
the end of a silk sling flung over his shoulders, according to the
custom of the pirates. He is said to have given his orders with boldness
and spirit. Coming, according to what he had purposed, close to the
man-of-war, he received her fire, and then hoisted his black flag and
returned it, shooting away from her with all the sail he could pack; and
had he taken Armstrong's advice to have gone before the wind, he had
probably escaped; but keeping his tacks down, either by the wind's
shifting, or ill steerage, or both, he was taken aback with his sails,
and the Swallow came a second time very nigh to him. He had now,
perhaps, finished the fight very desperately, if death, who took a swift
passage in a grape shot, had not interposed, and struck him directly on
the throat. He settled himself on the tackles of a gun; which one
Stephenson, from the helm, observing, ran to his assistance, and not
perceiving him wounded, swore at him, and bade him stand up and fight
like a man; but when he found his mistake, and that his captain was
certainly dead, he burst into tears, and wished the next shot might be
his portion. They presently threw him overboard, with his arms and
ornaments on, according to his repeated request in his life-time.

This extraordinary man and daring pirate was tall, of a dark complexion,
about 40 years of age, and born in Pembrokeshire. His parents were
honest and respectable, and his natural activity, courage, and
invention, were superior to his education. At a very early period, he,
in drinking, would imprecate vengeance upon "the head of him who ever
lived to wear a halter." He went willingly into the pirate service, and
served three years as a second man. It was not for want of employment,
but from a roving, wild, and boisterous turn of mind. It was his usual
declaration, that, "In an honest service, there are commonly low wages
and hard labor; in this,--plenty, satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty,
and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the
hazard that is run for it at worst, is only a sour look or two at
choking? No,--a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto!" But it
was one favorable trait in his character, that he never forced any man
into the pirate service.

The prisoners were strictly guarded while on board, and being conveyed
to Cape Coast castle, they underwent a long and solemn trial. The
generality of them remained daring and impenitent for some time, but
when they found themselves confined within a castle, and their fate
drawing near, they changed their course, and became serious, penitent,
and fervent in their devotions. Though the judges found no small
difficulty in explaining the law, and different acts of parliament, yet
the facts were so numerous and flagrant which were proved against them,
that there was no difficulty in bringing in a verdict of guilty.


_Containing an Account of his Atrocities committed in the West Indies_.

This atrocious and cruel pirate, when very young became addicted to
vices uncommon in youths of his age, and so far from the gentle reproof
and friendly admonition, or the more severe chastisement of a fond
parent, having its intended effect, it seemed to render him still worse,
and to incline him to repay those whom he ought to have esteemed as his
best friends and who had manifested so much regard for his welfare, with
ingratitude and neglect. His infamous career and ignominious death on
the gallows; brought down the "grey hairs of his parents in sorrow to
the grave." The poignant affliction which the infamous crimes of
children bring upon their relatives ought to be one of the most
effective persuasions for them to refrain from vice.

Charles Gibbs was born in the state of Rhode Island, in 1794; his
parents and connexions were of the first respectability. When at school,
he was very apt to learn, but so refractory and sulky, that neither the
birch nor good counsel made any impression on him, and he was expelled
from the school.

He was now made to labor on a farm; but having a great antipathy to
work, when about fifteen years of age, feeling a great inclination to
roam, and like too many unreflecting youths of that age, a great
fondness for the sea, he in opposition to the friendly counsel of his
parents, privately left them and entered on board the United States
sloop-of-war, Hornet, and was in the action when she captured the
British sloop-of-war Peacock, off the coast of Pernambuco. Upon the
return of the Hornet to the United States, her brave commander, Capt.
Lawrence, was promoted for his gallantry to the command of the
unfortunate Chesapeake, and to which he was followed by young Gibbs, who
took a very distinguished part in the engagement with the Shannon, which
resulted in the death of Lawrence and the capture of the Chesapeake.
Gibbs states that while on board the Chesapeake the crew previous to the
action, were almost in a state of mutiny, growing out of the non payment
of the prize money, and that the address of Capt. Lawrence was received
by them with coldness and murmurs.

After the engagement, Gibbs became with the survivors of the crew a
prisoner of war, and as such was confined in Dartmoor prison until

After his exchange, he returned to Boston, where having determined to
abandon the sea, he applied to his friends in Rhode Island, to assist
him in commencing business; they accordingly lent him one thousand
dollars as a capital to begin with. He opened a grocery in Ann Street,
near what was then called the _Tin Pot_, a place full of abandoned women
and dissolute fellows. As he dealt chiefly in liquor, and had a
"_License to retail Spirits_," his drunkery was thronged with customers.
But he sold his groceries chiefly to loose girls who paid him in their
coin, which, although it answered his purpose, would neither buy him
goods or pay his rent, and he found his stock rapidly dwindling away
without his receiving any cash to replenish it. By dissipation and
inattention his new business proved unsuccessful to him. He resolved to
abandon it and again try the sea for a subsistence. With a hundred
dollars in his pocket, the remnant of his property, he embarked in the
ship John, for Buenos Ayres, and his means being exhausted soon after
his arrival there, he entered on board a Buenos Ayrean privateer and
sailed on a cruise. A quarrel between the officers and crew in regard to
the division of prize money, led eventually to a mutiny; and the
mutineers gained the ascendancy, took possession of the vessel, landed
the crew on the coast of Florida, and steered for the West Indies, with
hearts resolved to make their fortunes at all hazards, and where in a
short time, more than twenty vessels were captured by them and nearly
_Four Hundred Human Beings Murdered_!

Havana was the resort of these pirates to dispose of their plunder; and
Gibbs sauntered about this place with impunity and was acquainted in all
the out of the way and bye places of that hot bed of pirates the Regla.
He and his comrades even lodged in the very houses with many of the
American officers who were sent out to take them. He was acquainted with
many of the officers and was apprised of all their intended movements
before they left the harbor. On one occasion, the American ship
Caroline, was captured by two of their piratical vessels off Cape
Antonio. They were busily engaged in landing the cargo, when the British
sloop-of-war, Jearus, hove in sight and sent her barges to attack them.
The pirates defended themselves for some time behind a small four gun
battery which they had erected, but in the end were forced to abandon
their own vessel and the prize and fly to the mountains for safety. The
Jearus found here twelve vessels burnt to the water's edge, and it was
satisfactorily ascertained that their crews, amounting to _one hundred
and fifty persons had been murdered_. The crews, if it was thought not
necessary otherways to dispose of them were sent adrift in their boats,
and frequently without any thing on which they could subsist a single
day; nor were all so fortunate thus to escape. "Dead men can tell no
tales," was a common saying among them; and as soon as a ship's crew
were taken, a short consultation was held; and if it was the opinion of
a majority that it would be better to take life than to spare it, a
single nod or wink from the captain was sufficient; regardless of age or
sex, all entreaties for mercy were then made in vain; they possessed not
the tender feelings, to be operated upon by the shrieks and expiring
groans of the devoted victims! there was a strife among them, who with
his own hands could despatch the greatest number, and in the shortest
period of time.

Without any other motives than to gratify their hellish propensities (in
their intoxicated moments), blood was not unfrequently and unnecessarily
shed, and many widows and orphans probably made, when the lives of the
unfortunate victims might have been spared, and without the most distant
prospect of any evil consequences (as regarded themselves), resulting

Gibbs states that sometime in the course of the year 1819, he left
Havana and came to the United States, bringing with him about $30,000.
He passed several weeks in the city of New York, and then went to
Boston, whence he took passage for Liverpool in the ship Emerald. Before
he sailed, however, he has squandered a large part of his money by
dissipation and gambling. He remained in Liverpool a few months, and
then returned to Boston. His residence in Liverpool at that time is
satisfactorily ascertained from another source besides his own
confession. A female now in New York was well acquainted with him there,
where, she says, he lived like a gentleman, with apparently abundant
means of support. In speaking of his acquaintance with this female he
says, "I fell in with a woman, who I thought was all virtue, but she
deceived me, and I am sorry to say that a heart that never felt abashed
at scenes of carnage and blood, was made a child of for a time by her,
and I gave way to dissipation to drown the torment. How often when the
fumes of liquor have subsided, have I thought of my good and
affectionate parents, and of their Godlike advice! But when the little
monitor began to move within me, I immediately seized the cup to hide
myself from myself, and drank until the sense of intoxication was
renewed. My friends advised me to behave myself like a man, and promised
me their assistance, but the demon still haunted me, and I spurned their

In 1826, he revisited the United States, and hearing of the war between
Brazil and the Republic of Buenos Ayres, sailed from Boston in the brig
Hitty, of Portsmouth, with a determination, as he states, of trying his
fortune in defence of a republican government. Upon his arrival he made
himself known to Admiral Brown, and communicated his desire to join
their navy. The admiral accompanied him to the Governor, and a
Lieutenant's commission being given him, he joined a ship of 34 guns,
called the 'Twenty Fifth of May.' "Here," says Gibbs, "I found
Lieutenant Dodge, an old acquaintance, and a number of other persons
with whom I had sailed. When the Governor gave me the commission he told
me they wanted no cowards in their navy, to which I replied that I
thought he would have no apprehension of my cowardice or skill when he
became acquainted with me. He thanked me, and said he hoped he should
not be deceived; upon which we drank to his health and to the success of
the Republic. He then presented me with a sword, and told me to wear
that as my companion through the doubtful struggle in which the republic
was engaged. I told him I never would disgrace it, so long as I had a
nerve in my arm. I remained on board the ship in the capacity of 5th
Lieutenant, for about four months, during which time we had a number of
skirmishes with the enemy. Having succeeded in gaining the confidence of
Admiral Brown, he put me in command of a privateer schooner, mounting
two long 24 pounders and 46 men. I sailed from Buenos Ayres, made two
good cruises, and returned safely to port. I then bought one half of a
new Baltimore schooner, and sailed again, but was captured seven days
out, and carried into Rio Janeiro, where the Brazilians paid me my
change. I remained there until peace took place, then returned to Buenos
Ayres, and thence to New York.

"After the lapse of about a year, which I passed in travelling from place
to place, the war between France and Algiers attracted my attention.
Knowing that the French commerce presented a fine opportunity for
plunder, I determined to embark for Algiers and offer my services to the
Dey. I accordingly took passage from New York, in the Sally Ann,
belonging to Bath, landed at Barcelona, crossed to Port Mahon, and
endeavored to make my way to Algiers. The vigilance of the French fleet
prevented the accomplishment of my design, and I proceeded to Tunis.
There finding it unsafe to attempt a journey to Algiers across the
desert, I amused myself with contemplating the ruins of Carthage, and
reviving my recollections of her war with the Romans. I afterwards took
passage to Marseilles, and thence to Boston."

An instance of the most barbarous and cold blooded murder of which the
wretched Gibbs gives an account in the course of his confessions, is
that of an innocent and beautiful female of about 17 or 18 years of age!
she was with her parents a passenger on board a Dutch ship, bound from
Curracoa to Holland; there were a number of other passengers, male and
female, on board, all of whom except the young lady above-mentioned were
put to death; her unfortunate parents were inhumanly butchered before
her eyes, and she was doomed to witness the agonies and to hear the
expiring, heart-piercing groans of those whom she held most dear, and on
whom she depended for protection! The life of their wretched daughter
was spared for the most nefarious purposes--she was taken by the pirates
to the west end of Cuba, where they had a rendezvous, with a small fort
that mounted four guns--here she was confined about two months, and
where, as has been said by the murderer Gibbs, "she received such
treatment, the bare recollection of which causes me to shudder!" At the
expiration of the two months she was taken by the pirates on board of
one of their vessels, and among whom a consultation was soon after held,
which resulted in the conclusion that it would be necessary for their
own personal safety, to put her to death! and to her a fatal dose of
poison was accordingly administered, which soon proved fatal! when her
pure and immortal spirit took its flight to that God, whom, we believe,
will avenge her wrongs! her lifeless body was then committed to the deep
by two of the merciless wretches with as much unconcern, as if it had
been that of the meanest brute! Gibbs persists in the declaration that
in this horrid transaction he took no part, that such was his pity for
this poor ill-fated female, that he interceded for her life so long as
he could do it with safety to his own!

[Illustration: _Gibbs carrying the Dutch Girl on board his Vessel._]

Gibbs in his last visit to Boston remained there but a few days, when he
took passage to New Orleans, and there entered as one of the crew on
board the brig Vineyard; and for assisting in the murder of the
unfortunate captain and mate of which, he was justly condemned, and the
awful sentence of death passed upon him! The particulars of the bloody
transaction (agreeable to the testimony of Dawes and Brownrigg, the two
principal witnesses,) are as follows: The brig Vineyard, Capt. William
Thornby, sailed from New Orleans about the 9th of November, for
Philadelphia, with a cargo of 112 bales of cotton, 113 hhds. sugar, 54
casks of molasses and 54,000 dollars in specie. Besides the captain
there were on board the brig, William Roberts, mate, six seamen shipped
at New Orleans, and the cook. Robert Dawes, one of the crew, states on
examination, that when, about five days out, he was told that there was
money on board, Charles Gibbs, E. Church and the steward then determined
to take possession of the brig. They asked James Talbot, another of the
crew, to join them. He said no, as he did not believe there was money in
the vessel. They concluded to kill the captain and mate, and if Talbot
and John Brownrigg would not join them, to kill them also. The next
night they talked of doing it, and got their clubs ready. Dawes dared
not say a word, as they declared they would kill him if he did; as they
did not agree about killing Talbot and Brownrigg, two shipmates, it was
put off. They next concluded to kill the captain and mate on the night
of November 22, but did not get ready; but, on the night of the 23d,
between twelve and one o'clock, as Dawes was at the helm, saw the
steward come up with a light and a knife in his hand; he dropt the light
and seizing the pump break, struck the captain with it over the head
or back of the neck; the captain was sent forward by the blow, and
halloed, oh! and murder! once; he was then seized by Gibbs and the cook,
one by the head and the other by the heels, and thrown overboard. Atwell
and Church stood at the companion way, to strike down the mate when he
should come up. As he came up and enquired what was the matter they
struck him over the head--he ran back into the cabin, and Charles Gibbs
followed him down; but as it was dark, he could not find him--Gibbs came
on deck for the light, with which he returned. Dawes' light being taken
from him, he could not see to steer, and he in consequence left the
helm, to see what was going on below. Gibbs found the mate and seized
him, while Atwell and Church came down and struck him with a pump break
and a club; he was then dragged upon deck; they called for Dawes to come
to them, and as he came up the mate seized his hand, and gave him a
death gripe! three of them then hove him overboard, but which three
Dawes does not know; the mate when cast overboard was not dead, but
called after them twice while in the water! Dawes says he was so
frightened that he hardly knew what to do. They then requested him to
call Talbot, who was in the forecastle, saying his prayers; he came up
and said it would be his turn next! but they gave him some grog, and
told him not to be afraid, as they would not hurt him; if he was true to
them, he should fare as well as they did. One of those who had been
engaged in the bloody deed got drunk, and another became crazy!

[Illustration: _Gibbs shooting a comrade._]

After killing the captain and mate, they set about overhauling the
vessel, and got up one keg of Mexican dollars. They then divided the
captain's clothes, and money--about 40 dollars, and a gold watch. Dawes,
Talbot and Brownrigg, (who were all innocent of the murder,) were
obliged to do as they were commanded--the former, who was placed at the
helm, was ordered to steer for Long Island. On the day following, they
divided several kegs of the specie, amounting to five thousand dollars
each--they made bags and sewed the money up. After this division, they
divided the remainder of the money without counting it. On Sunday, when
about 15 miles S.S.E. of Southampton Light, they got the boats out and
put half the money in each--they then scuttled the vessel and set fire
to it in the cabin, and took to the boats. Gibbs, after the murder, took
charge of the vessel as captain. From the papers they learnt that the
money belonged to Stephen Girard. With the boats they made the land
about daylight. Dawes and his three companions were in the long boat;
the others, with Atwell, were in the jolly boat--on coming to the bar
the boats struck--in the long boat, they threw overboard a trunk of
clothes and a great deal of money, in all about 5000 dollars--the jolly
boat foundered; they saw the boat fill, and heard them cry out, and saw
them clinging to the masts--they went ashore on Barron Island, and
buried the money in the sand, but very lightly. Soon after they met with
a gunner, whom they requested to conduct them where they could get some
refreshments. They were by him conducted to Johnson's (the only man
living on the island,) where they staid all night--Dawes went to bed at
about 10 o'clock--Jack Brownrigg set up with Johnson, and in the morning
told Dawes that he had told Johnson all about the murder. Johnson went
in the morning with the steward for the clothes, which were left on the
top of the place where they buried the money, but does not believe they
took away the money.

[Illustration: _Captain Thornby murdered and thrown overboard by Gibbs
and the steward._]

The prisoners, (Gibbs and Wansley,) were brought to trial at the
February term of the United States Court, holden in the city of New
York; when the foregoing facts being satisfactorily proved, they were
pronounced guilty, and on the 11th March last, the awful sentence of the
law was passed upon them in the following affecting and impressive
manner:--The Court opened at 11 o'clock, Judge Betts presiding. A few
minutes after that hour, Mr. Hamilton, District Attorney, rose and
said--May it please the Court, Thomas J. Wansley, the prisoner at the
bar, having been tried by a jury of his country, and found guilty of the
murder of Captain Thornby, I now move that the sentence of the Court be
pronounced upon that verdict.

[Illustration: _Gibbs and Wansley burying the Money._]

_By the Court_. Thomas J. Wansley, you have heard what has been said by
the District Attorney--by the Grand Jury of the South District of New
York, you have been arraigned for the wilful murder of Captain Thornby,
of the brig Vineyard; you have been put upon your trial, and after a
patient and impartial hearing, you have been found Guilty. The public
prosecutor now moves for judgment on that verdict; have you any thing to
say, why the sentence of the law should not be passed upon you?

_Thomas J. Wansley_. I will say a few words, but it is perhaps of no
use. I have often understood that there is a great deal of difference in
respect of color, and I have seen it in this Court. Dawes and Brownrigg
were as guilty as I am, and these witnesses have tried to fasten upon me
greater guilt than is just, for their life has been given to them. You
have taken the blacks from their own country, to bring them here to
treat them ill. I have seen this. The witnesses, the jury, and the
prosecuting Attorney consider me more guilty than Dawes, to condemn
me--for otherwise the law must have punished him; he should have had the
same verdict, for he was a perpetrator in the conspiracy.
Notwithstanding my participating, they have sworn falsely for the
purpose of taking my life; they would not even inform the Court, how I
gave information of money being on board; they had the biggest part of
the money, and have sworn falsely. I have said enough. I will say no

_By the Court_. The Court will wait patiently and hear all you have to
say; if you have any thing further to add, proceed.

_Wansley_ then proceeded. In the first place, I was the first to ship on
board the Vineyard at New Orleans, I knew nobody; I saw the money come
on board. The judge that first examined me, did not take my deposition
down correctly. When talking with the crew on board, said the brig was
an old craft, and when we arrived at Philadelphia, we all agreed to
leave her. It was mentioned to me that there was plenty of money on
board. Henry Atwell said "let's have it." I knew no more of this for
some days. Atwell came to me again and asked "what think you of taking
the money." I thought it was a joke, and paid no attention to it. The
next day he said they had determined to take the brig and money, and
that they were the strongest party, and would murder the officers, and
he that informed should suffer with them. I knew Church in Boston, and
in a joke asked him how it was made up in the ship's company; his reply,
that it was he and Dawes. There was no arms on board as was ascertained;
the conspiracy was known to the whole company, and had I informed, my
life would have been taken, and though I knew if I was found out my life
would be taken by law, which is the same thing, so I did not inform. I
have committed murder and I know I must die for it.

_By the Court_. If you wish to add any thing further you will still be

_Wansley_. No sir, I believe I have said enough.

The District Attorney rose and moved for judgment on Gibbs, in the same
manner as in the case of Wansley, and the Court having addressed Gibbs,
in similar terms, concluded by asking what he had to say why the
sentence of the law should not now be passed upon him.

_Charles Gibbs_ said, I wish to state to the Court, how far I am guilty
and how far I am innocent in this transaction. When I left New Orleans,
I was a stranger to all on board, except Dawes and Church. It was off
Tortugas that Atwell first told me there was money on board, and
proposed to me to take possession of the brig. I refused at that time.
The conspiracy was talked of for some days, and at last I agreed that I
would join. Brownrigg, Dawes, Church, and the whole agreed that they
would. A few days after, however, having thought of the affair, I
mentioned to Atwell, what a dreadful thing it was to take a man's life,
and commit piracy, and recommended him to "abolish," their plan. Atwell
and Dawes remonstrated with me; I told Atwell that if ever he would
speak of the subject again, I would break his nose. Had I kept to my
resolution I would not have been brought here to receive my sentence. It
was three days afterwards that the murder was committed. Brownrigg
agreed to call up the captain from the cabin, and this man, (pointing to
Wansley,) agreed to strike the first blow. The captain was struck and I
suppose killed, and I lent a hand to throw him overboard. But for the
murder of the mate, of which I have been found guilty, I am innocent--I
had nothing to do with that. The mate was murdered by Dawes and Church;
that I am innocent of this I commit my soul to that God who will judge
all flesh--who will judge all murderers and false swearers, and the
wicked who deprive the innocent of his right. I have nothing more to

_By the Court_. Thomas J. Wansley and Charles Gibbs, the Court has
listened to you patiently and attentively; and although you have said
something in your own behalf, yet the Court has heard nothing to affect
the deepest and most painful duty that he who presides over a public
tribunal has to perform.

You, Thomas J. Wansley, conceive that a different measure of justice has
been meted out to you, because of your color. Look back upon your whole
course of life; think of the laws under which you have lived, and you
will find that to white or black, to free or bond, there is no ground
for your allegations; that they are not supported by truth or justice.
Admit that Brownrigg and Dawes have sworn falsely; admit that Dawes was
concerned with you; admit that Brownrigg is not innocent; admit, in
relation to both, that they are guilty, the whole evidence has proved
beyond a doubt that you are guilty; and your own words admit that you
were an active agent in perpetrating this horrid crime. Two fellow
beings who confided in you, and in their perilous voyage called in your
assistance, yet you, without reason or provocation, have maliciously
taken their lives.

If, peradventure, there was the slightest foundation for a doubt of your
guilt, in the mind of the Court, judgment would be arrested, but there
is none; and it now remains to the Court to pronounce the most painful
duty that devolves upon a civil magistrate. The Court is persuaded of
your guilt; it can form no other opinion. Testimony has been heard
before the Court and Jury--from that we must form our opinion. We must
proceed upon testimony, ascertain facts by evidence of witnesses, on
which we must inquire, judge and determine as to guilt or innocence, by
that evidence alone. You have been found guilty. You now stand for the
last time before an earthly tribunal, and by your own acknowledgments,
the sentence of the law falls just on your heads. When men in ordinary
cases come under the penalty of the law there is generally some
palliative--something to warm the sympathy of the Court and Jury. Men
may be led astray, and under the influence of passion have acted under
some long smothered resentment, suddenly awakened by the force of
circumstances, depriving him of reason, and then they may take the life
of a fellow being. Killing, under that kind of excitement, might
possibly awaken some sympathy, but that was not your case; you had no
provocation. What offence had Thornby or Roberts committed against you?
They entrusted themselves with you, as able and trustworthy citizens;
confiding implicitly in you; no one act of theirs, after a full
examination, appears to have been offensive to you; yet for the purpose
of securing the money you coolly determined to take their lives--you
slept and deliberated over the act; you were tempted on, and yielded;
you entered into the conspiracy, with cool and determined calculation to
deprive two human beings of their lives, and it was done.

You, Charles Gibbs, have said that you are not guilty of the murder of
Roberts; but were you not there, strongly instigating the murderers on,
and without stretching out a hand to save him?--It is murder as much to
stand by and encourage the deed, as to stab with a knife, strike with a
hatchet, or shoot with a pistol. It is not only murder in law, but in
your own feelings and in your own conscience. Notwithstanding all this,
I cannot believe that your feelings are so callous, so wholly callous,
that your own minds do not melt when you look back upon the unprovoked
deeds of yourselves, and those confederated with you.

You are American citizens--this country affords means of instruction to
all: your appearance and your remarks have added evidence that you are
more than ordinarily intelligent; that your education has enabled you to
participate in the advantages of information open to all classes. The
Court will believe that when you were young you looked with strong
aversion on the course of life of the wicked. In early life, in boyhood,
when you heard of the conduct of men, who engaged in robbery--nay more,
when you heard of cold blooded murder--how you must have shrunk from the
recital. Yet now, after having participated in the advantages of
education, after having arrived at full maturity, you stand here as
robbers and murderers.

It is a perilous employment of life that you have followed; in this way
of life the most enormous crimes that man can commit, are MURDER AND
PIRACY. With what detestation would you in early life have looked upon
the man who would have raised his hand against his officer, or have
committed piracy! yet now you both stand here murderers and pirates,
tried and found guilty--you Wansley of the murder of your Captain, and
you, Gibbs, of the murder of your Mate. The evidence has convicted you
of rising in mutiny against the master of the vessel, for that alone,
the law is DEATH!--of murder and robbery on the high seas, for that
crime, the law adjudges DEATH--of destroying the vessel and embezzling
the cargo, even for scuttling and burning the vessel alone the law is
DEATH; yet of all these the evidence has convicted you, and it only
remains now for the Court to pass the sentence of the law. It is, that
you, Thomas J. Wansley and Charles Gibbs be taken hence to the place of
confinement, there to remain in close custody, that thence you be taken
to the place of execution, and on the 22d April next, between the hours
of 10 and 4 o'clock, you be both publicly hanged by the neck until you
are DEAD--and that your bodies be given to the College of Physicians and
Surgeons for dissection.

The Court added, that the only thing discretionary with it, was the time
of execution; it might have ordered that you should instantly have been
taken from the stand to the scaffold, but the sentence has been deferred
to as distant a period as prudent--six weeks. But this time has not been
granted for the purpose of giving you any hope for pardon or commutation
of the sentence;--just as sure as you live till the twenty-second of
April, as surely you will suffer death--therefore indulge not a hope
that this sentence will be changed!

The Court then spoke of the terror in all men of death!--how they cling
to life whether in youth, manhood or old age. What an awful thing it is
to die! how in the perils of the sea, when rocks or storms threaten the
loss of the vessel, and the lives of all on board, how the crew will
labor, night and day, in the hope of escaping shipwreck and death!
alluded to the tumult, bustle and confusion of battle--yet even there
the hero clings to life. The Court adverted not only to the certainty of
their coming doom on earth, but to THINK OF HEREAFTER--that they should
seriously think and reflect of their FUTURE STATE! that they would be
assisted in their devotions no doubt, by many pious men.

When the Court closed, Charles Gibbs asked, if during his imprisonment,
his friends would be permitted to see him. The Court answered that that
lay with the Marshal, who then said that no difficulty would exist on
that score. The remarks of the Prisoners were delivered in a strong,
full-toned and unwavering voice, and they both seemed perfectly resigned
to the fate which inevitably awaited them. While Judge Betts was
delivering his address to them, Wansley was deeply affected and shed
tears--but Gibbs gazed with a steady and unwavering eye, and no sign
betrayed the least emotion of his heart. After his condemnation, and
during his confinement, his frame became somewhat enfeebled, his face
paler, and his eyes more sunken; but the air of his bold, enterprising
and desperate mind still remained. In his narrow cell, he seemed more
like an object of pity than vengeance--was affable and communicative,
and when he smiled, exhibited so mild and gentle a countenance, that no
one would take him to be a villain. His conversation was concise and
pertinent, and his style of illustration quite original.

Gibbs was married in Buenos Ayres, where he has a child now living. His
wife is dead. By a singular concurrence of circumstances, the woman with
whom he became acquainted in Liverpool, and who is said at that time to
have borne a decent character, was lodged in the same prison with
himself. During his confinement he wrote her two letters--one of them is
subjoined, to gratify the perhaps innocent curiosity which is naturally
felt to know the peculiarities of a man's mind and feelings under such
circumstances, and not for the purpose of intimating a belief that he
was truly penitent. The reader will be surprised with the apparent
readiness with which he made quotations from Scripture.

"BELLEVUE PRISON, March 20, 1831.

"It is with regret that I take my pen in hand to address you with these
few lines, under the great embarrassment of my feelings placed within
these gloomy walls, my body bound with chains, and under the awful
sentence of death! It is enough to throw the strongest mind into gloomy
prospects! but I find that Jesus Christ is sufficient to give
consolation to the most despairing soul. For he saith, that he that
cometh to me I will in no ways cast out. But it is impossible to
describe unto you the horror of my feelings. My breast is like the
tempestuous ocean, raging in its own shame, harrowing up the bottom of
my soul! But I look forward to that serene calm when I shall sleep with
Kings and Counsellors of the earth. There the wicked cease from
troubling, and there the weary are at rest!--There the prisoners rest
together--they hear not the voice of the oppressor; and I trust that
there my breast will not be ruffled by the storm of sin--for the thing
which I greatly feared has come upon me. I was not in safety, neither
had I rest; yet trouble came. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth to
him good. When I saw you in Liverpool, and a peaceful calm wafted across
both our breasts, and justice no claim upon us, little did I think to
meet you in the gloomy walls of a strong prison, and the arm of justice
stretched out with the sword of law, awaiting the appointed period to
execute the dreadful sentence. I have had a fair prospect in the world,
at last it budded, and brought forth the gallows. I am shortly to mount
that scaffold, and to bid adieu to this world, and all that was ever
dear to my breast. But I trust when my body is mounted on the gallows
high, the heavens above will smile and pity me. I hope that you will
reflect on your past, and fly to that Jesus who stands with open arms to
receive you. Your character is lost, it is true. When the wicked turneth
from the wickedness that they have committed, they shall save their soul

"Let us imagine for a moment that we see the souls standing before the
awful tribunal, and we hear its dreadful sentence, depart ye cursed into
everlasting fire. Imagine you hear the awful lamentations of a soul in
hell. It would be enough to melt your heart, if it was as hard as
adamant. You would fall upon your knees and plead for God's mercy, as a
famished person would for food, or as a dying criminal would for a
pardon. We soon, very soon, must go the way whence we shall ne'er
return. Our names will be struck off the records of the living, and
enrolled in the vast catalogues of the dead. But may it ne'er be
numbered with the damned.--I hope it will please God to set you at your
liberty, and that you may see the sins and follies of your life past. I
shall now close my letter with a few words which I hope you will receive
as from a dying man; and I hope that every important truth of this
letter may sink deep in your heart, and be a lesson to you through life.

"Rising griefs distress my soul,
And tears on tears successive roll--
For many an evil voice is near,
To chide my woes and mock my fear--
And silent memory weeps alone,
O'er hours of peace and gladness known.

"I still remain your sincere friend, CHARLES GIBBS."

In another letter which the wretched Gibbs wrote after his condemnation
to one who had been his early friend, he writes as follows:--"Alas! it
is now, and not until now, that I have become sensible of my wicked
life, from my childhood, and the enormity of the crime, for which I must
shortly suffer an ignominious death!--I would to God that I never had
been born, or that I had died in my infancy!--the hour of reflection has
indeed come, but come too late to prevent justice from cutting me
off--my mind recoils with horror at the thoughts of the unnatural deeds
of which I have been guilty!--my repose rather prevents than affords me
relief, as my mind, while I slumber, is constantly disturbed by
frightful dreams of my approaching awful dissolution!"

On Friday, April twenty-second, Gibbs and Wansley paid the penalty of
their crimes. Both prisoners arrived at the gallows about twelve
o'clock, accompanied by the marshal, his aids, and some twenty or thirty
United States' marines. Two clergymen attended them to the fatal spot,
where everything being in readiness, and the ropes adjusted about their
necks, the Throne of Mercy was fervently addressed in their behalf.
Wansley then prayed earnestly himself, and afterwards joined in singing
a hymn. These exercises concluded, Gibbs addressed the spectators nearly
as follows:


My crimes have been heinous--and although I am now about to suffer for
the murder of Mr. Roberts, I solemnly declare my innocence of the
transaction. It is true, I stood by and saw the fatal deed done, and
stretched not forth my arm to save him; the technicalities of the law
believe me guilty of the charge--but in the presence of my God--before
whom I shall be in a few minutes--I declare I did not murder him.

I have made a full and frank confession to Mr. Hopson, which probably
most of my hearers present have already read; and should any of the
friends of those whom I have been accessary to, or engaged in the murder
of, be now present, before my Maker I beg their forgiveness--it is the
only boon I ask--and as I hope for pardon through the blood of Christ,
surely this request will not be withheld by man, to a worm like myself,
standing as I do, on the very verge of eternity! Another moment, and I
cease to exist--and could I find in my bosom room to imagine that the
spectators now assembled had forgiven me, the scaffold would have no
terrors, nor could the precept which my much respected friend, the
marshal of the district, is about to execute. Let me then, in this
public manner, return my sincere thanks to him, for his kind and
gentlemanly deportment during my confinement. He was to me like a
father, and his humanity to a dying man I hope will be duly appreciated
by an enlightened community.

My first crime was _piracy_, for which my _life_ would pay for forfeit
on conviction; no punishment could be inflicted on me further than that,
and therefore I had nothing to fear but detection, for had my offences
been millions of times more aggravated than they are now, _death_ must
have satisfied all.

Gibbs having concluded, Wansley began. He said he might be called a
pirate, a robber, and a murderer, and he was all of these, but he hoped
and trusted God would, through Christ, wash away his aggravated crimes
and offences, and not cast him entirely out. His feelings, he said, were
so overpowered that he hardly knew how to address those about him, but
he frankly admitted the justness of the sentence, and concluded by
declaring that he had no hope of pardon except through the atoning blood
of his Redeemer, and wished that his sad fate might teach others to shun
the broad road to ruin, and travel in that of virtue, which would lead
to honor and happiness in this world, and an immortal crown of glory in
that to come.

He then shook hands with Gibbs, the officers, and clergymen--their caps
were drawn over their faces, a handkerchief dropped by Gibbs as a signal
to the executioner caused the cord to be severed, and in an instant they
were suspended in air. Wansley folded his hands before him, soon died
with very trifling struggles. Gibbs died hard; before he was run up, and
did not again remove them, but after being near two minutes suspended,
he raised his right hand and partially removed his cap, and in the
course of another minute, raised the same hand to his mouth. His dress
was a blue round-about jacket and trousers, with a foul anchor in white
on his right arm. Wansley wore a white frock coat, trimmed with black,
with trousers of the same color.

After the bodies had remained on the gallows the usual time, they were
taken down and given to the surgeons for dissection.

Gibbs was rather below the middle stature, thick set and powerful. The
form of Wansley was a perfect model of manly beauty.



In the Autumn of 1832, there was anchored in the "Man of War Grounds,"
off the Havana, a clipper-built vessel of the fairest proportions; she
had great length and breadth of beam, furnishing stability to bear a
large surface of sail, and great depth to take hold of the water and
prevent drifting; long, low in the waist, with lofty raking masts, which
tapered away till they were almost too fine to be distinguished, the
beautiful arrowy sharpness of her bow, and the fineness of her gradually
receding quarters, showed a model capable of the greatest speed in
sailing. Her low sides were painted black, with one small, narrow
ribband of white. Her raking masts were clean scraped, her ropes were
hauled taught, and in every point she wore the appearance of being under
the control of seamanship and strict discipline. Upon going on board,
one would be struck with surprise at the deception relative to the
tonnage of the schooner, when viewed at a distance. Instead of a small
vessel of about ninety tons, we discover that she is upwards of two
hundred; that her breadth of beam is enormous; and that those spars
which appeared so light and elegant, are of unexpected dimensions. In
the centre of the vessel, between the fore and main masts, there is a
long brass thirty-two pounder, fixed upon a carriage revolving in a
circle, and so arranged that in bad weather it can be lowered down and
housed; while on each side of the deck were mounted guns of smaller

This vessel was fashioned, at the will of avarice, for the aid of
cruelty and injustice; it was an African slaver--the schooner Panda. She
was commanded by Don Pedro Gilbert, a native of Catalonia, in Spain, and
son of a grandee; a man thirty-six years of age, and exceeding handsome,
having a round face, pearly teeth, round forehead, and full black eyes,
with beautiful raven hair, and a great favorite with the ladies. He
united great energy, coolness and decision, with superior knowledge in
mercantile transactions, and the Guinea trade; having made several
voyages after slaves. The mate and owner of the Panda was Don Bernardo
De Soto, a native of Corunna, Spain, and son, of Isidore De Soto,
manager of the royal revenue in said city; he was now twenty-five years
of age, and from the time he was fourteen had cultivated the art of
navigation, and at the age of twenty-two had obtained the degree of
captain in the India service. After a regular examination the
correspondent diploma was awarded him. He was married to Donna Petrona
Pereyra, daughter of Don Benito Pereyra, a merchant of Corunna. She was
at this time just fifteen, and ripening into that slight fullness of
form, and roundness of limb, which in that climate mark the early
passing from girl into woman. Her complexion was the dark olive tinge of
Spain; her eyes jet black, large and lustrous. She had great sweetness
of disposition and ingenuousness.

To the strictest discipline De Soto united the practical knowledge of a
thorough seaman. But "the master spirit of the whole," was Francisco
Ruiz, the carpenter of the Panda. This individual was of the middle
size, but muscular, with a short neck. His hair was black and abundant,
and projected from his forehead, so that he appeared to look out from
under it, like a bonnet. His eyes were dark chestnut, but always
restless; his features were well defined; his eye-lashes, jet black. He
was familiar with all the out-of-the-way places of the Havana, and
entered into any of the dark abodes without ceremony. From report his
had been a wild and lawless career. The crew were chiefly Spaniards,
with a few Portuguese, South Americans, and half castes. The cook was a
young Guinea negro, with a pleasant countenance, and good humored, with
a sleek glossy skin, and tatooed on the face; and although entered in
the schooner's books as free, yet was a slave. In all there were about
forty men. Her cargo was an assorted one, consisting in part of barrels
of rum, and gunpowder, muskets, cloth, and numerous articles, with which
to purchase slaves.

The Panda sailed from the Havana on the night of the 20th of August; and
upon passing the Moro Castle, she was hailed, and asked, "where bound?"
She replied, St. Thomas. The schooner now steered through the Bahama
channel, on the usual route towards the coast of Guinea; a man was
constantly kept at the mast head, on the lookout; they spoke a corvette,
and on the morning of the 20th Sept., before light, and during the
second mate's watch, a brig was discovered heading to the southward.
Capt. Gilbert was asleep at the time, but got up shortly after she was
seen, and ordered the Panda to go about and stand for the brig. A
consultation was held between the captain, mate and carpenter, when the
latter proposed to board her, and if she had any specie to rob her,
confine the men below, and burn her. This proposition was instantly
acceded to, and a musket was fired to make her heave to.

This vessel was the American brig Mexican, Capt. Butman. She had left
the pleasant harbor of Salem, Mass., on the last Wednesday of August,
and was quietly pursuing her voyage towards Rio Janeiro. Nothing
remarkable had happened on board, says Captain B., until half past two
o'clock, in the morning of September 20th, in lat. 38, 0, N., lon. 24,
30, W. The attention of the watch on deck was forcibly arrested by the
appearance of a vessel which passed across our stern about half a mile
from us. At 4 A.M. saw her again passing across our bow, so near that
we could perceive that it was a schooner with a fore top sail and top
gallant sail. As it was somewhat dark she was soon out of sight. At
daylight saw her about five miles off the weather quarter standing on
the wind on the same tack we were on, the wind was light at SSW and we
were standing about S.E. At 8 A.M. she was about two miles right to
windward of us; could perceive a large number of men upon her deck, and
one man on the fore top gallant yard looking out; was very suspicious of
her, but knew not how to avoid her. Soon after saw a brig on our weather
bow steering to the N.E. By this time the schooner was about three miles
from us and four points forward of the beam. Expecting that she would
keep on for the brig ahead of us, we tacked to the westward, keeping a
little off from the wind to make good way through the water, to get
clear of her if possible. She kept on to the eastward about ten or
fifteen minutes after we had tacked, then wore round, set square sail,
steering directly for us, came down upon us very fast, and was soon
within gun shot of us, fired a gun and hoisted patriot colors and backed
main topsail. She ran along to windward of us, hailed us to know where
we were from, where bound, &c. then ordered me to come on board in my
boat. Seeing that she was too powerful for us to resist, I accordingly
went, and soon as I got along-side of the schooner, five ruffians
instantly jumped into my boat, each of them being armed with a large
knife, and told me to go on board the brig again; when they got on board
they insisted that we had got money, and drew their knives, threatening
us with instant death and demanding to know where it was. As soon as
they found out where it was they obliged my crew to get it up out of the
run upon deck, beating and threatening them at the same time because
they did not do it quicker. When they had got it all upon deck, and
hailed the schooner, they got out their launch and came and took it on
board the schooner, viz: ten boxes containing twenty thousand dollars;
then returned to the brig again, drove all the crew into the forecastle,
ransacked the cabin, overhauling all the chests, trunks, &c. and rifled
my pockets, taking my watch, and three doubloons which I had previously
put there for safety; robbed the mate of his watch and two hundred
dollars in specie, still insisting that there was more money in the
hold. Being answered in the negative, they beat me severely over the
back, said they knew that there was more, that they should search for
it, and if they found any they would cut all our throats. They continued
searching about in every part of the vessel for some time longer, but
not finding any more specie, they took two coils of rigging, a side of
leather, and some other articles, and went on board the schooner,
probably to consult what to do with us; for, in eight or ten minutes
they came back, apparently in great haste, shut us all below, fastened
up the companion way, fore-scuttle and after hatchway, stove our
compasses to pieces in the binnacles, cut away tiller-ropes, halliards,
braces, and most of our running rigging, cut our sails to pieces badly;
took a tub of tarred rope-yarn and what combustibles they could find
about deck, put them in the caboose house and set them on fire; then
left us, taking with them our boat and colors. When they got alongside
of the schooner they scuttled our boat, took in their own, and made
sail, steering to the eastward.

As soon as they left us, we got up out of the cabin scuttle, which they
had neglected to secure, and extinguished the fire, which if it had been
left a few minutes, would have caught the mainsail and set our masts on
fire. Soon after we saw a ship to leeward of us steering to the S.E. the
schooner being in pursuit of her did not overtake her whilst she was in
sight of us.

It was doubtless their intention to burn us up altogether, but seeing
the ship, and being eager for more plunder they did not stop fully to
accomplish their design. She was a low strait schooner of about one
hundred and fifty tons, painted black with a narrow white streak, a
large head with the horn of plenty painted white, large maintopmast but
no yards or sail on it. Mast raked very much, mainsail very square at
the head, sails made with split cloth and all new; had two long brass
twelve pounders and a large gun on a pivot amidships, and about seventy
men, who appeared to be chiefly Spaniards and mulattoes.

[Illustration: _Pirates robbing the brig Mexican of Salem, Mass._]

The object of the voyage being frustrated by the loss of the specie,
nothing now remained but for the Mexican to make the best of her way
back to Salem, which she reached in safety. The government of the United
States struck with the audacity of this piracy, despatched a cruiser in
pursuit of them. After a fruitless voyage in which every exertion was
made, and many places visited on the coast of Africa, where it was
supposed the rascals might be lurking, the chase was abandoned as
hopeless, no clue being found to their "whereabouts."

The Panda after robbing the Mexican, pursued her course across the
Atlantic, and made Cape Monte; from this she coasted south, and after
passing Cape Palmas entered the Gulf of Guinea, and steered for Cape
Lopez which she reached in the first part of November. Cape Lopez de
Gonzalves, in lat. 0 deg. 36' 2" south, long. 80 deg. 40' 4" east, is
so called from its first discoverer. It is covered with wood but low
and swampy, as is also the neighboring country. The extensive bay formed
by this cape is fourteen miles in depth, and has several small creeks
and rivers running into it. The largest is the river Nazareth on the left
point of which is situated King Gula's town the only assemblage of huts
in the bay. Here the cargo of the Panda was unloaded, the greater part was
entrusted to the king, and with the rest Capt. Gilbert opened a factory
and commenced buying various articles of commerce, as tortoise shell,
gum, ivory, palm oil, fine straw carpeting, and slaves. After remaining
here a short time the crew became sickly and Capt. Gilbert sailed for
Prince's Island to recover the health of his crew. Whilst at Prince's
Island news arrived of the robbery of the Mexican. And the pirate left
with the utmost precipitation for Cape Lopez, and the better to evade
pursuit, a pilot was procured; and the vessel carried several miles up
the river Nazareth. Soon after the Panda left Prince's Island, the
British brig of war, Curlew, Capt. Trotter arrived, and from the
description given of the vessel then said to be lying in the Nazareth,
Capt. Trotter knew she must be the one, that robbed the Mexican; and he
instantly sailed in pursuit. On nearing the coast, she was discovered
lying up the river; three boats containing forty men and commanded by
Capt. Trotter, started up the river with the sea breeze and flood tide,
and colors flying to take the desperadoes; the boats kept in near the
shore until rounding a point they were seen from the Panda. The pirates
immediately took to their boats, except Francisco Ruiz who seizing a
fire brand from the camboose went into the magazine and set some
combustibles on fire with the laudable purpose of blowing up the
assailants, and then paddled ashore in a canoe. Capt. Trotter chased
them with his boats, but could not come up with them, and then boarded
the schooner which he found on fire. The first thing he did was to put
out the fire which was in the magazine, below the cabin floor; here was
found a quantity of cotton and brimstone burning and a slow match
ignited and communicating with the magazine, which contained sixteen
casks of powder.

The Panda was now warped out of the river and anchored off the negro
town of Cape Lopez. Negociations were now entered into for the surrender
of the pirates. An officer was accordingly sent on shore to have an
interview with the king. He was met on the beach by an ebony chief
calling himself duke. "We followed the duke through the extensive and
straggling place, frequently buried up to the ankles in sand, from which
the vegetation was worn by the constant passing and repassing of the
inhabitants. We arrived at a large folding door placed in a high bamboo
and palm tree fence, which inclosed the king's establishment, ornamented
on our right by two old honeycombed guns, which, although dismounted,
were probably, according to the practice of the coast, occasionally
fired to attract the attention of passing vessels, and to imply that
slaves were to be procured. On the left of the enclosure was a shed,
with a large ship's bell suspended beneath, serving as an alarum bell in
case of danger, while the remainder was occupied with neatly built huts,
inhabited by the numerous wives of the king.

"We sent in to notify him of our arrival; he sent word out that we might
remain outside until it suited his convenience. But as such an
arrangement did not suit ours, we immediately entered, and found sitting
at a table the king. He was a tall, muscular, ugly looking negro, about
fifty years of age. We explained the object of our visit, which was to
demand the surrender of the white men, who were now concealed in the
town, and for permission to pass up the river in pursuit of those who
had gone up that way. He now expressed the most violent indignation at
our presumption in demanding the pirates, and the interview was broken
off by his refusing to deliver up a single man."

We will now return to the pirates. While at Prince's Island, Capt.
Gilbert bought a magnificent dressing case worth nearly a thousand
dollars and a patent lever watch, and a quantity of tobacco, and
provisions, and two valuable cloth coats, some Guinea cloth and black
and green paint. The paint, cloth and coats were intended as presents
for the African king at Cape Lopez. These articles were all bought with
the money taken from the Mexican. After arriving at the Nazareth, $4000
were taken from the trunk, and buried in the yard of a negro prince.
Four of the pirates then went to Cape Lopez for $11,000, which had been
buried there. Boyga, Castillo, Guzman, and the "State's Evidence,"
Ferez, were the ones who went. Ferez took the bags out, and the others
counted the money; great haste was made as the musquitoes were biting
intolerably. $5000 were buried for the captain in canvas bags about two
feet deep, part of the money was carried to Nazareth, and from there
carried into the mountains and there buried. A consultation was held by
Capt. Gilbert, De Soto, and Ruiz, and the latter said, if the money was
not divided, "there would be the devil to pay." The money was now
divided in a dark room and a lantern used; Capt. Gilbert sat on the
floor with the money at his side. He gave the mate about $3000, and the
other officers $1000, each; and the crew from $300 to $500, each. The
third mate having fled, the captain sent him $1000, and Ruiz carried it
to him. When the money was first taken from the Mexican, it was spread
out on the companion way and examined to see if there was any gold
amongst it; and then put into bags made of dark coarse linen; the boxes
were then thrown overboard. After the division of the money the pirates
secreted themselves in the woods behind Cape Lopez. Perez and four
others procured a boat, and started for Fernando Po; they put their
money in the bottom of the boat for ballast, but was thrown overboard,
near a rock and afterwards recovered by divers; this was done to prevent
detection. The captain, mate, and carpenter had a conversation
respecting the attempt of the latter, to blow her up, who could not
account for the circumstance, that an explosion had not taken place;
they told him he ought to have burst a barrel of powder over the deck
and down the stairs to the magazine, loaded a gun, tied a fish line to
the lock and pulled it when he came off in the canoe.

[Illustration: _View of the Negro village on the river Nazareth, and the
Panda at anchor._]

The Panda being manned by Capt. Trotter and an English crew, commenced
firing on the town of Cape Lopez, but after firing several shots, a
spark communicated with the magazine and she blew up. Several men were
killed, and Captain Trotter and the others thrown into the water, when
he was made prisoner with several of his crew, by the King, and it
required considerable negociations to get them free.

[Illustration: _Burying the money on the beach at Cape Lopez._]

The pirates having gone up the river, an expedition was now equipped to
take them if possible. The long-boat and pinnace were instantly armed,
and victualled for several weeks, a brass gun was mounted on the bows of
each, and awnings fixed up to protect the crew from the extreme heat of
the sun by day, and the heavy dews at nightfall. As the sea-breeze and
the flood-tide set in, the boats again started and proceeded up the
river. It was ascertained the war-canoes were beyond where the Panda was
first taken; for fear of an ambuscade great caution was observed in
proceeding. "As we approached a point, a single native was observed
standing near a hut erected near the river, who, as we approached,
beckoned, and called for us to land. We endeavored to do so, but
fortunately the water was too shallow to approach near enough.

"We had hardly steered about for the channel, when the man suddenly
rushed into the bushes and disappeared. We got into the channel, and
continued some time in deep water, but this suddenly shoaled, and the
boats grounded near a mangrove, just as we came in sight of a village.
Our crew jumped out, and commenced tracking the boat over the sand, and
while thus employed, I observed by means of my glass, a crowd of
natives, and some of the pirates running down the other side of a low
point, apparently with the intention of giving us battle, as they were
all armed with spears and muskets."

The men had just succeeded in drawing the boats into deep water, when a
great number of canoes were observed coming round the point, and at the
same instant another large party running down to launch; some more on
the beach, when they joined those already afloat, in all made above
twenty-eight canoes, and about one hundred and fifty men. Having
collected all their forces, with loud whooping and encouraging shouts to
one another, they led towards us with great celerity.

We prepared instantly for battle; the awnings were got down to allow
room to use the cutlasses and to load the muskets. The brass guns were
loaded with grape shot. They now approached uttering terrific yells, and
paddling with all speed. On board the canoes the pirates were loading
the guns and encouraging the natives. Bernardo de Soto and Francisco
Ruiz were conspicuous, in manoeuvring the negro boats for battle, and
commenced a straggling fire upon the English boats. In them all was
still, each man had a cutlass by his side, and a loaded musket in his
hand. On arriving within pistol-shot a well directed fire was poured
into them, seconded by a discharge of the three pounders; many of the
balls took effect, and two of the canoes were sunk. A brisk fire was
kept up on both sides; a great number of the negroes were killed, and a
few of the pirates; the English loss was small. The negroes now became
panic-struck, and some paddled towards the shore, others jumped
overboard and swam; the sharks caught several. Captain Gilbert and De
Soto were now caught, together with five of the crew; Ruiz and the rest
escaped to a village, some ways inland, and with the aid of a telescope
it was perceived the negroes were rapidly gathering to renew the combat,
urged on by Ruiz and the other pirates; after dislodging them from this
village, negociations were entered into by the king of Cape Lopez, who
surrendered Ruiz and several men to Captain Trotter. They were carried
in the brig Curlew to Fernando Po, and after an examination, were put in
irons and conveyed to England, and there put on board the British
gun-brig Savage, and arrived in the harbor of Salem on the 26th August,
1834. Her commander, Lieut. Loney, waited upon the authorities of Salem,
and after the usual formalities, surrendered the prisoners into their
hands--stating that the British Government waived their right to try and
punish the prisoners, in favor of the United States, against whom the
principal offence had been committed. The pirates were landed at
Crowningshield wharf, and taken from thence in carriages to the Town
hall; twelve of them, handcuffed in pairs, took their places at the bar.
They were all young and middle-aged, the oldest was not over forty.
Physiognomically, they were not uncommonly ill looking, in general,
although there were exceptions, and they were all clean and wholesome in
their appearance. They were now removed to Boston and confined in
prison, where one of them, named Manuel Delgarno cut his throat with a
piece of glass, thus verifying the old proverb, _that those born to be
hung, will never be drown'd!_

On the 11th of November, Don Pedro Gilbert, _Captain_, Don Bernardo de
Soto, _Mate_, Francisco Ruiz, _Carpenter_, Nicola Costa, _Cabin-boy,_
aged 15, Antonio Ferrer, _Cook_, and Manuel Boyga, Domingo de Guzman,
_an Indian_, Juan Antonio Portana, Manuel Castillo, Angel Garcia, Jose
Velasquez, and Juan Montenegro, _alias_ Jose Basilio de Castro, were
arraigned before the Circuit Court of the United States, charged with
the crime of Piracy. Joseph Perez appeared as _State's evidence_, and
two Portuguese sailors who were shipped on board the Panda at Prince's
Island, as witnesses. After a jury was empannelled, Mr. Dunlap, the
District Attorney, rose and said--"This is a solemn, and also an unusual
scene. Here are twelve men, strangers to our country and to our
language, indicted for a heinous offence, and now before you for life or
death. They are indicted for a daring crime, and a flagrant violation of
the laws, not only of this, but of every other civilized people." He
then gave an outline of the commission of the robbery of the Mexican.
Numerous witnesses were examined, amongst whom were the captain, mate,
and several seamen of the Mexican, who recognized several of the pirates
as being the individuals who maltreated them, and took the specie. When
Thomas Fuller, one of the crew of the Mexican was called upon to
identify Ruiz, he went up to him and struck him a violent blow on the
shoulder. Ruiz immediately started up, and with violent gesticulations
protested against such conduct, and was joined by his companions. The
Court reprimanded the witness severely. The trial occupied _fourteen
days_. The counsel for the prisoners were David L. Child, Esq., and
George Hillard, Esq., who defended them with great ability. Mr. Child
brought to the cause his untiring zeal, his various and profound
learning; and exhibited a labour, and _desperation_ which showed that he
was fully conscious of the weight of the load--the dead lift--he had
undertaken to carry. Mr. Hillard concluded his argument, by making an
eloquent and affecting appeal to the jury in behalf of the boy Costa and
Antonio Ferrer, the cook, and alluded to the circumstance of Bernardo de
Soto having rescued the lives of 70 individuals on board the American
ship Minerva, whilst on a voyage from Philadelphia to Havana, when
captain of the brig Leon.

[Illustration: _Explosion of the Panda._]

If, gentlemen, said he, you deem with me, that the crew of the Panda,
(supposing her to have robbed the Mexican,) were merely servants of the
captain, you cannot convict them. But if you do not agree with me, then
all that remains for me to do, is to address a few words to you in the
way of mercy. It does not seem to me that the good of society requires
the death of all these men, the sacrifice of such a hecatomb of human
victims, or that the sword of the law should fall till it is clogged
with massacre. _Antonio Ferrer_ is plainly but a servant. He is set down
as a free black in the ship's papers, but that is no proof that he is
free. Were he a slave, he would in all probability be represented as
free, and this for obvious reasons. He is in all probability a slave,
and a native African, as the tattooing on his face proves beyond a
doubt. At any rate, he is but a servant. Now will you make misfortune
pay the penalty of guilt? Do not, I entreat you, lightly condemn this
man to death. Do not throw him in to make up the dozen. The regard for
human life is one of the most prominent proofs of a civilized state of
society. The Sultan of Turkey may place women in sacks and throw them
into the Bosphorus, without exciting more than an hour's additional
conversation at Constantinople. But in our country it is different. You
well remember the excitement produced by the abduction and death of a
single individual; the convulsions which ensued, the effect of which
will long be felt in our political institutions. You will ever find that
the more a nation becomes civilized, the greater becomes the regard for
human life. There is in the eye, the form, and heaven-directed
countenance of man, something holy, that forbids he should be rudely

The instinct of life is great. The light of the sun even in chains, is
pleasant; and life, though supported but by the damp exhalations of a
dungeon, is desirable. Often, too, we cling with added tenacity to life
in proportion as we are deprived of all that makes existence to be

[Illustration: _Thomas Fuller striking Ruiz in Court._]

"The weariest and most loathed worldly life.
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on Nature, is a Paradise
To that we fear of Death."

Death is a fearful thing. The mere mention of it sometimes blanches the
cheek, and sends the fearful blood to the heart. It is a solemn thing to
break into the "bloody house of life." Do not, because this man is but
an African, imagine that his existence is valueless. He is no drift weed
on the ocean of life. There are in his bosom the same social sympathies
that animate our own. He has nerves to feel pain, and a heart to throb
with human affections, even as you have. His life, to establish the law,
or to further the ends of justice, is not required. _Taken_, it is to us
of no value; given to him, it is above the price of rubies.

And _Costa_, the cabin boy, only fifteen years of age when this crime
was committed--shall he die? Shall the sword fall upon his neck? Some of
you are advanced in years--you may have children. Suppose the news had
reached you, that your son was under trial for his life, in a foreign
country--(and every cabin boy who leaves this port may be placed in the
situation of this prisoner,)--suppose you were told that he had been
executed, because his captain and officers had violated the laws of a
distant land; what would be your feelings? I cannot tell, but I believe
the feelings of all of you would be the same, and that you would
exclaim, with the Hebrew, "My son! my son! would to God I had died for
thee." This boy _has_ a father; let the form of that father rise up
before you, and plead in your hearts for his offspring. Perhaps he has a
mother, and a home. Think of the lengthened shadow that must have been
cast over that home by his absence. Think of his mother, during those
hours of wretchedness, when she has felt hope darkening into
disappointment, next into anxiety, and from anxiety into despair. How
often may she have stretched forth her hands in supplication, and asked,
even the winds of heaven, to bring her tidings of him who was away? Let
the supplications of that mother touch your hearts, and shield their
object from the law.

After a luminous charge by Judge Story, the jury retired to agree upon
their verdict, and at 9 o'clock the next morning came in with their

_Clerk_. Gentlemen of the Jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?

_Jury_. We have.

_Clerk_. Who shall speak for you?

_Jury_. Our foreman.

The prisoners were then directed severally to rise as soon as called,
and receive the verdict of the jury. The Captain, _Pedro Gilbert_, was
the first named. He arose, raised his hand, and regarded the jury with a
firm countenance and steady eye.

_Clerk_. Jurors look upon the prisoner; prisoner look upon the jurors.
How say you, Gentlemen, is the prisoner at the bar, Pedro Gilbert,
guilty or not guilty?

_Foreman_. GUILTY.

The same verdict was pronounced against _De Soto_ (the mate) _Ruiz_,
(the carpenter,) _Boyga, Castillo, Garcia_ and _Montenegro_. But
_Costa_, (the cabin-boy,) _Ferrer_ (the negro,) _Guzman, Portana_, and
_Velasquez_, were declared NOT GUILTY.

After having declared the verdict of the Jury, the Foreman read to the
Court the following recommendation to mercy:

"The sympathies of the Jury have been strongly moved in behalf of
_Bernardo de Soto_, on account of his generous, noble and
self-sacrificing conduct in saving the lives of more than 70 human
beings, constituting the passengers and crew of the ship _Minerva_; and
they desire that his case should be presented to the merciful
consideration of the Government."

Judge Story replied that the wish of the jury would certainly be
complied with both by the Court and the prosecuting officer.

"The appearance and demeanor of Captain Gilbert are the same as when we
first saw him; his eye is undimmed, and decision and command yet sit
upon his features. We did not discern the slightest alteration of color
or countenance when the verdict of the jury was communicated to him; he
merely slightly bowed and resumed his seat. With _De Soto_ the case was
different. He is much altered; has become thinner, and his countenance
this morning was expressive of the deepest despondency. When informed
of the contents of the paper read by the foreman of the jury, he
appeared much affected, and while being removed from the Court, covered
his face with his handkerchief."

Immediately after the delivery of the verdict, the acquitted prisoners,
on motion of Mr. Hillard, were directed to be discharged, upon which
several of the others loudly and angrily expressed their dissatisfaction
at the result of the trial. Castillo (_a half-caste_, with an extremely
mild and pleasing countenance,) pointed towards heaven, and called upon
the Almighty to bear witness that he was innocent; _Ruiz_ uttered some
words with great vehemence; and _Garcia_ said "all were in the same
ship; and it was strange that some should be permitted to escape while
others were punished." Most of them on leaving the Court uttered some
invective against "the _picaro_ who had sworn their lives away."

On _Costa_, the cabin boy, (aged 16) being declared "Not Guilty" some
degree of approbation was manifested by the audience, but instantly
checked by the judge, who directed the officers to take into custody,
every one expressing either assent or dissent. We certainly think the
sympathy expressed in favor of _Costa_ very ill placed, for although we
have not deemed ourselves at liberty to mention the fact earlier, his
conduct during the whole trial was characterized by the most reckless
effrontery and indecorum. Even when standing up to receive the verdict
of the jury, his face bore an impudent smile, and he evinced the most
total disregard of the mercy which had been extended towards him.

About this time vague rumors reached Corunna, that a Captain belonging
to that place, engaged in the Slave Trade, had turned Pirate, been
captured, and sent to America with his crew for punishment. Report at
first fixed it upon a noted slave-dealer, named Begaro. But the
astounding intelligence soon reached Senora de Soto, that her husband
was the person captured for this startling crime. The shock to her
feelings was terrible, but her love and fortitude surmounted them all;
and she determined to brave the terrors of the ocean, to intercede for
her husband if condemned, and at all events behold him once more. A
small schooner was freighted by her own and husband's father, and in it
she embarked for New-York. After a boisterous passage, the vessel
reached that port, when she learned her husband had already been tried
and condemned to die. The humane people of New-York advised her to
hasten on to Washington, and plead with the President for a pardon. On
arriving at the capital, she solicited an interview with General
Jackson, which was readily granted. From the circumstance of her
husband's having saved the lives of seventy Americans, a merciful ear
was turned to her solicitations, and a pardon for De Soto was given her,
with which she hastened to Boston, and communicated to him the joyful

Andrew Jackson, President of the United States of America, to all to
whom these presents shall come, _Greeting_: Whereas, at the October
Term, 1834, of the Circuit Court of the United States, Bernardo de Soto
was convicted of Piracy, and sentenced to be hung on the 11th day of
March last from which sentence a respite was granted him for three
months, bearing date the third day of March, 1835, also a subsequent
one, dated on the fifth day of June, 1835, for sixty days. And whereas
the said Bernardo de Soto has been represented as a fit subject for
executive clemency--

Now therefore, I, Andrew Jackson, President of the United States of
America, in consideration of the premises, divers good and sufficient
causes me thereto moving, have pardoned, and hereby do pardon the said
Bernardo de Soto, from and after the 11th August next, and direct that
he be then discharged from confinement. In testimony whereof I have
hereunto subscribed my name, and caused the seal of the United States to

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