Tortuga The Pirate Port

In 1625 the French arrive andestablish a colony at the island St. Kitts (St. Christopher), together with English colonists. From this islandthey set sail to Hispaniola. They found it fairly populated by Spanishcolonists and therefore continued to the North to the island Tortuga. On thisisland only a few Spanish colonists were based.
The French colonists startsetting up plantations and steadily increase their numbers, some of them fromthe Islands St. Kitts and Nevis that were attacked in 1629 by Spanish forces under command of Don Fabriquede Toledo. In the same year they also attacked Tortuga. The Spanish forces weresuccesfull and temporarily expelled the Frenchmen.
A number of the colonists flee into the woods and some escape to the woods ofHispaniola. Spanish forces fortify Tortuga in 1630. Despite this, the Frenchtake possession of the island again when most of the Spanish forces leave for
Hispaniola to root out the French colonists in the woods there.
The small Spanish force that had been left was defeated and the Frenchmenextend the fortifications the Spaniards had set up. Most of the Englishcolonists did not return, but settled again at the Island of Nevis. Those thatdid return established a new colony under the control of the
ProvidenceIsland Company in 1631. The Governorof the English Colony on Tortuga is Anthony Hilton.
Buccaneers on Tortuga(1633-1634)
The French send a request fora Governor to the Governor of St. Kitts. He sends Jean Le Vasseur to them withmen and equipment to further fortify the island. He built the Fort de Rocher ona rocky outrcrop of a natural harbour.
Tortuga from then on is regularly used by privateers and pirates as a base ofoperations. In 1633 the governor of Tortuga, also called association island, isstill Captain Anthony Hilton. In this year the first slaves are imported. 1634saw the Governor-General of the French West Indies transfer his seat of powerfrom St. Kitts to Tortuga. The Compagnie des Isles d'Amerique takes posessionof French Colony on the island.
Tortuga under Attack (1635)
Captain NicholasRiskinner(/Reiskimmer) arrives on Tortuga in 1635 to take up as Governor of theEnglish Colony on the island. Apparantly he was a scoundrel since Richard Lane,enroute to the Island of Providence andsailing on the same vessel to the West Indies, reported that he had taken hisgoods by force. Riskinner dies shortly after his arrival at Tortuga.
For some time now slaves had been imported to work on the plantations of theisland. Despite advice that the colonists should distribute them evenly overthe island and treat them well the experiment with slavery faltered in 1635. OnTortuga the slaves were said to be out of control and the planters dispersedbecause of Fraud and mismanagement. There are also continual disagreements andfights between the English and French colonists.
An Irish deserter of the English colony named John Murphy brought intelligenceof this to the Spanish forces in the area. As a result, in the same year, thecolony is attacked by Spanish forces under the command of Captain Gregorio deCastellar y Mantilla. The English colony is soon captured and many colonistsare killed. The Spanish forces later continued on to the
Islandof Providence (Santa Catalina). TheEnglish forces on this island were able to defend it succesfully against theattack. After the attack on Tortuga, and its abandonement by the Spaniards, theEnglish and French colonists that managed to escape from the attack return tothe Island.
Second Attack on Tortuga(1636-1639)
This situation of the failingplantations must not have been improved much by the year 1638 when Spanishforces again attack Tortuga and temporarily expell the colonists. In a letterby Don Inigo de la Mota to the Spanish king in 1639 he makes mention of thesuccesful attack on the pirate colony and its mixed population that consistedof Dutch and French pirates.
Very shortly hereafter, in 1639, these manage to recapture the Island andrefortify it. In 1639 the number of colonists on Barbados and
St.Christopher is so large that thesewander to other colonies to be able to establish themselves and make a living.Some of them go to Tortuga where they set up succesful plantations in tobacco.Their leader was Captain Robert Flood.
The Third Attack on Tortuga(1640-1659)
In 1640 the buccaneers ofTortuga began calling themselves the Brethren of the Coast. In this same yearJean Le Vasseur is commissioned to take full posession of the island. He wasable to expell the ill-organised English colonists without much difficulty by1641.
The population of pirates and privateers on Tortuga consisted of a mix of mostEuropeans, but the largest parts were French and English. A Spanish report from1646 again mentions the buccaneer hideout and informs us that in 1645 thepopulation consisted of Dutchmen and Englishmen.

The French governer imported several hundred prostitutes round 1650, hoping toregularize the lives of the unruly pirates, some of whom lived in a kind ofhomosexual union known as matelotage. Le Vasseur is assassinated by his ownfollowers in 1653. During his years as a Governor the island was heavilyfortified against attacks from Spanish forces.
His successor, Chevalier de Fontenay, was attacked in January 1654 by Spanishforces from Santo Domingo. A garrison was left to hold the island but it waswithdrawn in 1655 to aid in the defence of Santo Domingo against English forcesin the area. When some Englishmen heard of this they sailed from Jamaica toreoccupy Tortuga. This they did from 1655 to 1659. From the island theyfrequently attacked the few Spanish settlements that still remained onHispaniola. As a consequence these were destroyed. Colonel Edward D'Oyley, thenGovernor of Jamaica, tried to establish an English government on Tortuga from1658 to 1659. Despite help from French deserters he failed and a Frenchgovernment was set up by the colonists.
The High Point of theBuccaneer Base (1660-1669)
In 1660 the French attack theSpaniards on Tortuga and retake posession of the island to use it again as basefor piracy and privateering. Most buccaneers set out from the island and, aftersome time, return to drink and gamble away their spoils in a matter of days orweeks.
The buccaneer Captain Guy used Tortuga as well as Jamaica as bases of operationin 1663. In this same year the Governor of Jamaica, Sir Thomas Modyford(1664-1671) received orders to relax his restrictions against buccaneers on theisland. Many of the English on the island went sea-roving against Spain again,but the Frenchmen under the rovers left Jamaica to concentrate on Tortuga as abase of operations. The immediate result was that they expelled most of theEnglish settlers living there.
1664 saw the French West IndiaCompany take possession of the island and send as its Governor MonsieurD'Ogeron. In 1665 he arrived at Tortuga. Bertrand D'ogeron had the difficulttask of convincing the buccaneers to accept him as governor and to abandontheir relations with Dutch rovers. He found the men whom he hoped to convertinto colonists dispersed in small and unorganised parties living in a ratherprimitive fashion.
In a report to the French Minister Colbert he told him that there were aboutseven or eight hundred men scattered along the coasts of the island ininaccessible places. By the by he was able to control them and he even managedto get many new colonists to settle on the island and on Hispaniola. SeveralFrench privateers and sea-rovers were also attracted and made Tortuga theirbase of operations.
In 1666 Morgan arrives onTortuga as an endentured servant. After running away from a cruel master hejoins up with buccaneers as a surgeon. The Buccaneer L'Ollonais is based at Tortuga in the 1660s. Together withMichel le Basque he carries out an attack on the cities of Gibraltar andMaracaibo in 1667. Sometime later this year he sets out again with a fleet ofships to plunder the harbour city Puerto de Cavallo and the town of San Pedro.In 1667 he dies on the coast of Nicaragua where he and some of his crew werecaptured by Indians and killed.
Henry Morgan sailed to the
Isla Vache, South-West of Hispaniola, in October of 1668. There he was joined by a band ofFrench buccaneers from Tortuga. After sailing for some time he attackedMaracaibo in 1669. In 1669 the Governor of Tortuga, d'Ogernon, was again tryingto restrict the activities of the buccaneers of Tortuga: he tried to persuadethem to confine themselves to Tortuga for refitting and the disposal of theirbooty. He did not succeed, however.
The Decline of the Buccaneers(1670-1679)
Some of the buccaneers ofTortuga who found piracy too dangerous turned to logwood-cutting. When theforests of Tortuga and the easily accessible ones in Hispaniola were cut outthey went to Campeachy. In the peninsula of Yucatan they sought the betterwood. Their principal gathering-ground was in the Gulf of Mexico at a placecalled Triste. There were several more of these places along the coasts ofYucatan, Moskito and between Honduras and Guatemala. A valuable trade sprang upbetween the logwood-cutters and Jamaica. Despite many protests of Spain Jamaicacontinued to trade in the wood. The use of corsairs by Spain forced thebuccaneers to sail in company for protection.
By 1670 the English buccaneerHenry Morgan had to conceal his activities under French Letters of Commissionand he actively promoted the island of Tortuga as a base of operations and forthe disposal of booty.
500 buccaneers from Tortuga and a 1000 buccaneers from Jamaica, under thecommand of Henry Morgan set sail in 1670. They attacked and plundered SantaMarta, Rio de la Hacha, Puerto Bello and Panama. Morgan received a formal voteof thanks from the Council of Jamaica in May 1671 for his activities. In thisyear he is send to England and briefly incarcerated in the Tower (forappearances sake) in 1672. He was treated as a hero on his arrival in London.
A lot of Jamaican buccaneers went sailing under commission for the Governor ofTortuga by 1670. Many of them also settled on the coast of St. Dominigue.Others wandered off to other colonies in the Caribbean. Despite the attempts ofD' Ogeron these settlers continued to trade with the Dutch. They obtained mostof their stores and African slaves from them in exchange for tobacco andginger.
Around Tortuga the Governor eventually managed to control the tradingactivities of the buccaneers somewhat by employing a regular squadron offrigates that drove the Dutch traders away. The buccaneers from
Tortugaand St. Dominique wereused as a striking force and a means to supplement French forces in theirattempts to gain a larger foothold in te Caribbean.
When the Lieutenant-General of the French Antilles, Jean Charles Baas, made anattack on Curacao in March 1673 he was expecting help from Tortuga. Theassistance from Tortuga failed to arrive, however, because they wereshipwrecked on the coast of
Puerto Rico. They fell in the hands of the Spaniards and were treated as pirates.
In 1675 a Dutch force under the command of
Jacob Binckes arrived in St. Dominique and attempted to stir up a revolt under thecolonists there. In a fight off Petit-Goave they attacked and plundered aFrench merchantman, but soon afterwards the Governor of Tortuga arrived withreinforcements to aid in the defence of the settlement and the Dutch weredriven off.
The Governor never completelysucceeded in controlling the buccaneers at Tortuga. Between 1670 and 1678 manybuccaneers continued their raids on vessels and colonies of foreign nations, especiallythose of Spain. Tortuga remained a harbour where not much questions were askedand buccaneers could come with their booty. Among them were many Englishmen whoplied heir trade under French commissions.
In 1678 the leader of the French buccaneers in Tortuga and Hispaniola was theSieur de Grammont. At the head of a large force he continued attacking Spanishsettlements around Maracaibo. He even managed to set up a pirate strongholdthere for six months.
Buccaneers under command of the Marquis de Maintenon were ravaging the coast ofVenezuela. They also destroyed the Pearl fisheries at Margarita and severalSpanish settlments on Trinidad.
The End of the Buccaneers atTortuga (1680-1688)
Eventually, in the 1680s, lawswere made that English rovers sailing under foreign flags were considered to befelons. The laws were actively enforced: several Englishmen were convicted andhanged for piracy after attacking Dutch ships. Jamaican plantations also becamethe frequent targets of attacks by French buccaneers as the opportunities forprofitable attacks on Spanish targets diminished. This led to protests from theEnglish government to the King of France. Increasingly ships of all nationswere attacked by buccaneers despite being nominally under Letters of Reprisal.The Governor-general of the French Colonies also increased his efforts to stopthe activities of the buccaneers who were nominally under the control of theGovernors.
In 1684 the Treatyof Ratisbone, between France andSpain, was signed which included provisions to suppress the actions of thebuccaneers. The buccaneers were still at it in 1684. They would rather breakout into open revolt than give up their piracies. In this year severalbuccaneers were made offers by Governor Tarin De Cussy of St.Domingue. Enlisted into royalservice they were employed to suppress their former buccaneer allies.
By 1688, the same year in which Henry Morgan dies in Jamaica, the age of thebuccaneers was over in Tortuga. Many turned pirate or went away to find otherharbours to sell their booty.

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