Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Buccaneering Era > Buccaneering Era Origins

Buccaneering Era Origins


Called buccaneers because of the Arawak Indian grill that they used to smoke the meat, soon the Spanish simply slaughtered the livestock in order to try and starve out the buccaneers. However instead they took to raiding the passing ships instead and piracy in the West Indies was born. Eventually the buccaneers started their next permanent settlement at Tortuga. Due to increasing religious tensions in France, many more Protestants moved to the New World through voluntary exile which bolstered the numbers of the fledgling French colonies.

Coupled with tensions from the massacre in La Florida many years before, many of these French settlers took to piracy to make their way in the world. The early buccaneers were not pirates in the sense of the post Spanish succession period. Most of the early buccaneers used knives, however a very few had muskets and swords, which were very rare in this period.

While relatively harmless in the beginning due to only being done in small groups, as the buccaneers numbers grew from incoming French exiles they soon began to threaten the Spanish way of life. Early buccaneer tactics included rustling cattle and other sorts of petty crime. However as the Spanish began upping their defenses, the French buccaneers began to steal small ships and attack the Spanish ships as they passed. The buccaneers were also near impossible to remove from their mountainous and hilly home of Tortuga and Saint-Domingue, which further infuriated the Spanish.

When the English government learned of what the French buccaneers were doing, they immediately supported it by issuing Letters of Marque to hopefully pester their mutual enemy the Spanish. Due to the events of the Spanish massacre, the French buccaneers were unusually ruthless to their Spanish enemy. In fact, when visibly threatened, most Spanish ships would simply surrender out of fear of what the French would do. If there was any resistance on part of the Spanish, they would all be murdered. However some Spanish, such as the ones Francois L'Ollonais continued to murder would fight till their last man in order to escape his wraith. According to one account, Francois L’Ollonais:

"Drew his cutlass, and with it, cut open the breast of one of those poor Spaniards, and pulling out his heart with his sacrilegious hands, began to bite and gnaw it with his teeth, like a ravenous dog.”

As the success of the buccaneers against the Spanish Main continued, the idea attracted a number of exiled persons, slaves, outlaws, and other poverty stricken individuals. This provided an endless pool of talent to recruit from. By the 1640's the buccaneers were strong enough to forcibly remove all of the Spanish settlers from the isle of Tortuga. After this period, Tortuga became a safe haven for outlaws and fugitives of every nation as the forces became to include both English and refuges from many other countries.

In addition to pirates, there were also prostitutes, tradesmen to service the ship, bar owners and all sorts of manner of businesses and businessmen. As Tortuga's population grew, it became very unsanitary and overpopulated. When the English finally forced the last of the Spanish from the Colony of Santiago, also known as Spanish Jamaica, many viewed this as an opportunity to start somewhere new. This led to the development of Port Royal, along with the development of an inter-island governmental system called the Brethren of the Coast. This was a military style organization that was often commanded by advisors from England and oversaw both buccaneer capitals in Tortuga and Port Royal.


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 4. pg 709-711

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