Panama – before the Canal

Piracy /

Don’t read this if you haven’t at least played Black Flag.
Or if you are definitely sure to play Skull & Bones -the game is coming soon.

There must be a few of us who love pirate stories, and I’m far from finished with my little tour of all the stories I’d like to see adapted for the stage.

Tonight… tonight… is a story – a true story – that I could see adapting so well with a big AAA game for a totally… unforgettable tournament.

September 29, 1503.

There are 28 men. 28, out of the 190 men who left 15 days earlier.
The leader of the expedition was named: Balboa.
He went to sea and took possession of the Pacific Ocean in the name of the King of Spain.

15 days earlier, they were on the Atlantic shore – they crossed on foot, straight to the West – and discovered: the South Sea – which we now call the Pacific Ocean.

This was of no value to Balboa, who was executed soon after by his lieutenant.
In 1509, this lieutenant, at the place where his chief had taken possession of this land, celebrated the official foundation of the city of Panama.

In 1669, this city was known as the place of wealth and all the treasures of the world.
But these treasures were Spanish.

So what was London doing during this time?

London was listening to Morgan explaining how to take Panama – and its gold. But London did not want to attack first. It had to wait for a Spanish provocation.

In mid-June 1670, a Spanish admiral decided to plunder Jamaica – and then issued a direct challenge to Morgan.

The opportunity was too good. London was offended and gave Morgan everything he needed to plunder Panama.

What would be great would be to set this up during a competition between the English and Spanish.
It’s a pity that France is always there to beat them in soccer

But of course, in those days, going from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast was not too easy.

One could try to go around by South America. It was long – and rather risky.
You could advance with the fleet…attack Old Providence and have the rear secured – then get in dugouts on the Chagres River, take Fort San Lorenzo and continue on foot to Panama.
That’s what the Spaniards had done.

First obstacle on the road of the immense armada gathered by Morgan, made of more or less regular and especially irregular troops: Old Providence.
Cannons were fired from the fort – from the ships.
Black smoke that covered both the sea and the island, thunderous tremors, but more than anything else, the enormous laughter of the entire pirate fleet. They were laughing, the bastards, until their sides exploded.

It was a fake fight.
The governor had agreed to surrender the island because he could not defend it.
But he had written to Morgan, to keep the honor alive: they would all pretend to shoot.
Morgan agreed to the game.
All the Spaniards, all the pirates spent their time pretending to shoot each other, just like kids.

The fact is that the governor’s letter to Morgan was preserved and it is… tasty.
The governor wanted to keep it a secret, figuring (but what idea?) that all his men and all the pirates who had participated would think to keep their mouths shut. Of course, the secret didn’t last long.

Morgan sent 400 men ahead to take Fort Lorenzo – he was managing the rear for a few more days and would soon arrive as reinforcements.

The mood turned to euphoric delirium when they learned that Fort Lorenzo had fallen – this time there had been a battle, there had been deaths – but the English flag flew over the fort as Morgan’s armada arrived.

All that remained was to cross the Chagres River.
It was very narrow at the time – the dugouts were surrounded by walls of virgin forest.
There was not enough room for men and supplies.
Morgan chose the men – for the food, they would help themselves to the place.

The forest was so dangerous that they quickly gave up on sending men. They had to reach the first Spanish village.
Once there – the village was empty. Totally empty. Empty of people – empty of food. Not even a stone to eat. In the meantime, the men were succumbing to the bites of snakes and mosquitoes.

Rio Chagres

It was becoming critical. Morgan sent out scouts: and the result was inescapable.
The Spaniards practiced scorched earth. Morgan and his people would have nothing to eat – nothing to loot – nothing, not even drinking water.

Four days – four days of walking through the jungle – with nothing to hunt – those who tried were eaten by the jungle.
On the 5th day, an ambush – but they couldn’t see the Spaniards – who shot, who weakened them – who dispersed them – and who left them leather ropes.
The most insane of them ate these leather ropes. The others ate grass.
And Morgan was desperate to reach Cruces – it was too big for the Spaniards to burn.

He managed to motivate his troops – in Cruces there would be food.
In Cruces, everything was burning.
The pirates were attacked and fell – without noise: it was the Indians’ darts coming from the forest.

Morgan ordered to take the pace, they had to reach Cruces before everything was burned.
The dead ? it was not the time to count them.

When they reached Cruces, they managed to save a few small boxes of military cookies – and… a poisoned gift – jars of wine.

No matter what Morgan did, his men were getting drunk on the bad wine and yelling that they liked the poison.

All he had to do was wait – and hope that the strong ones would make it.

Isn’t that a bit long?

Yes – let’s have an intermission.

Tomorrow you’ll get the ending – a real ending that sees the Lady of Panama, the beautiful, so beautiful Lady of Panama, enter the scene.

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Featured Image : Panama – after the Canal.

No no, no need to complain – I hadn’t done this one yet, I’m delighted.

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