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Buccaneers > English Buccaneers > Richard Sawkins

Richard Sawkins


Richard Sawkins (?? - 22 May 1680) or Hawkins was a British buccaneer who is known to have partaken in the Pacific Adventure buccaneering expedition. Little is known about Sawkin's early life and he is first recorded on 1 December 1679 as being captured by the HMS Success and imprisoned at Port Royal on charges of piracy. He was released from prison and soon returned to buccaneering when he acquired a 16-ton ship with 1-gun and a crew of 35.

Pacific Adventure

During this time he joined up with Peter Harris who along with John Coxon and Bartholomew Sharp met near Bocca del Torro in late March of 1678 to launch a voyage and plunder the Pacific side of the settlements known as the Pacific Adventure.

Sawkins along with the other captains and three hundred buccaneers landed on the coast of the Darien penninsula and marched through the jungle to the unsuspecting Spanish settlement of Santa Marta. They later sailed down the Santa Maria River and made their way to the Pacific Ocean. Sawkins would soon arrive with his own group of buccaneers flying a red flag with yellow stripes but before he did the crew captured some small Spanish ships on the way.

Richard Sawkins - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

Richard Sawkins - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

The group then sailed towards Panama Viejo but as they approached the city there was eight Spanish ships guarding the port. After a brutal naval battle the buccaneers emerged triumphant at what later became known as the Battle of Perico. Sawkins was hailed as a hero among his crew but as the buccaneers began to celebrate arguments broke out and John Coxon deserted the expedition with seventy of his men. He returned to the isthmus of Darien on foot and with his departure the remaining buccaneers elected Sawkins as head of the expedition. Also at this time Bartholomew Sharp would head out on his own voyage.

As the Pacific Adventure group broke up Sawkins continued to sail towards Panama Viejo and ended up blockading the harbor. Without the coastal defense the local Spanish governor was forced to negotiate with the buccaneers who demanded five hundred pieces of eight for each of his crew and a thousand for each of his officers in ransom. Sawkins also added an unusual request to the demand; stop harassing and exploiting the native tribes.

Sawkins learned during his blockade of Panama that the Bishop of Santa Martha was in the city and the two had a previous relationship. The Bishop had been Sawkin's prisoner five years earlier and the treatment seemed amicable because the Bishop sent him a gift of two loaves of sugar and a golden ring. However, the governor never responded to his requests and eventually the crew eager to raid and pillage forced Sawkins to abandon the blockade and sail down the coast to search for another settlement.


Sawkins and his crew of sixty remaining buccaneers next decided to attack the port town of Puebla Nueva on 22 May of 1680. The Spanish however, were likely informed of the buccaneers presence by the Spanish authorities from Panama and had reinforced the settlement with three breastworks. The buccaneers had lost the usual element of surprise that favored their attacks but Sawkins ordered the assault anyways probably for fear of getting deposed by his men if he did not. However, during the leading charge into the city at the head of his men Sawkins was cut down by a Spanish musket-ball and died.

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