Golden Age of Piracy - Skull and Crossbones

Golden Age of Piracy

(2nd Spanish Invasion)

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Locations > Tortuga > Tortuga (2nd Spanish Invasion)

(2nd Spanish Invasion)


Within the five years of taking Tortuga from the Spanish the buccaneers had descended into anarchy and chaos. The colonies had collapsed and a deserter of the English colony named John Murphy fled to the mainland of Hispaniola and sought refuge with the Spanish in exchange for information. He relayed the situation on the island and the Spanish began mounting an invasion force to commanded by Ruy Fernádez de Fuenmayor.

The Spanish quickly captured the English colony on Tortuga and many of the buccaneers were killed. Fuenayor would go on to become the governor of Venezuela between 1638 and 1643 following this. That same year in 1635 Gregorio de Castellar y Mantillalater attacked the English settlement at the Island of Providence, known to the Spanish as Santa Catalina but were unsuccessful in that attempt. Following the massacre at Tortuga the remaining French and English buccaneers scattered and the Spanish occupied Tortuga again. Realizing the lack of value of the island though the Spanish eventually moved their troops to more important places.

Buccaneer Return

As soon as the Spanish retreated for the second time the buccaneers returned for a third time the following year in 1636. Not much is known about the following two years but the buccaneers must not have been able to improve the situation on Tortuga because in 1638 the Spanish invaded for a third time and expelled the buccaneers once again. The successful attack on the pirate colony was mentioned in a letter by Don Inigo de la Mota to the king of Spain in 1639.

The Spanish won a brief victory but the buccaneers returned for a fourth time that same year in 1639 and this time they managed to fortify it. For third invasion of Tortuga the French returned under the command of governor Jean la Vasseur who was an engineer by trade and built Fort de Rocher, a massive fortress reinforced with 40 cannons and guns on the highest point of the island overlooking the natural harbor which allowed them to easily repel all future Spanish invasion attempts.

During this time the colonies of Barbados and Saint Christopher have grown to a point where the settlers needed to relocate to other areas in the West Indies in order to find work. Throughout the 1640's several experienced colonists under the leadership of Captain Robert Flood migrated to the island where they used their knowledge to build tobacco plantations.

When the Spanish became informed the buccaneers had built a full fledged fortress on a rocky outcrop above the city and it was growing more prosperous by the day they became alarmed. They sent an invasion force but the 40-gun fort was able to sink the Spanish ships that usually provided artillery cover and the buccaneers mopped up the Spanish invasion force on land with the artillery cover of their own fort. Vasseur was a hero among the buccaneers and the French government for finally securing the island for them. By 1641 they had expelled the English colonists remaining on the island.

Jean la Vasseur

See Jean la Vasseur

Under the leadership of Jean le Vasseur Tortuga became what people think of when they imagine the island at its buccaneering heyday. The governor was only a governor in the sense of the title and was a full blooded buccaneer. He allowed the buccaneers to have free reign over the island as long as they paid him and the Crown a percentage of their treasure. In addition the Brethren of the Coast were required to defend the island and Fort de Rocher, which they would indeed do in the future in exchange for his political protection.

For fifteen years under his watch the island of Tortuga would never be invaded by the Spanish and his construction of Fort de Rocher would play no small part in this. While there was a "governor" of Tortuga at this time and the French Crown "claimed" ownership over the island the reality on the ground was very much different. The island of Tortuga was not governed by the classical colonial structure and instead there was a quasi-government at this time that developed called the Brethren of the Coast. Vasseur was no more than a figurehead and a tax collector and buccaneer himself.

These multi-cultural battle hardened buccaneers and privateers ruled in place of the ineffective French and English governments in the colonies. As much as they do not like to admit it the colonial governments often turned to the pirates to defend the settlements against the Spanish since there was hardly any real French or English ships or soldiers in the region. Without the aid of the buccaneers and the pirates the French, English and Dutch would have never been able to establish a serious foothold in the region. To illustrate how much the pirates ran the city, the acting French governor imported nearly 1650 prostitutes to try and appease the growing pirate population.

A Spanish report from 1646 mentions that in 1645 the buccaneer hideout contained a large population of English and Dutch buccaneers as well. Tortuga would continue on this way for several more years until Vasseur would be assassinated by his own men in 1653. Following his death the first era of buccaneering on Tortuga would come to a close.




Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

United States, Hydrographic Office (1891). "Catalogue of Charts, Plans, Sailing Directions, and Other Publications of the Office, July 1, 1891". p. 34. Retrieved 14 July 2015.

Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain); Shaw, Norton; Greenfield, Hume; Bates, Henry Walter (1834). "The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society". p. 130. Retrieved 14 July 2015.

Schutt-Ainé, Patricia (1994). Haiti: A Basic Reference Book. Miami, Florida: Librairie Au Service de la Culture. p. 20. ISBN 0-9638599-0-0.

"Ile de la tortue, Histoire. Petite histoire de l'île de la tortue". Villa Camp Mandingue. Haiti. Retrieved 24 July 2012.

"Cristóbal Colón en La Española". Amautacuna de Historia. 2010-10-24.

"Diario de a bordo del primer viaje de Cristóbal Colón: texto completo. 6 de Diciembre.". Wikisource. 1492. Retrieved 24 July 2012.

The Buccaneers In The West Indies In The XVII Century - Chapter IV

The Buccaneers In The West Indies In The XVII Century - Chapter IV

Exquemelin, Alexander (2003). Zeerovers. 's-Hertogenbosch: Voltaire B.V. pp. 18–20. ISBN 90-5848-044-5.

Pancorbo, Luis (2003) "El Canal de la Tortuga" en "Río de América". pp. 321–333. Laertes, Barcelona. ISBN 84-7584-506-1

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