Narrative Of The Capture Of The Ship Derby (1735)

I fell in with the Land of Madagascar, the Latitude of about 24 Degrees, 13 Minutes North: And some time before I had made it, I met with nothing but light Airs of Winds, and Calms, and continued so long.

My People dropping down with the Scurvy, I took a small Still that I had, and distill’d Salt Water into Fresh. I allow’d them as much Pease and Flower as they could eat, that they might not eat any Salt Provision, tho’ I boil’d it in fresh Water. I had been very liberal with my fresh Provision in my Passage, to my People, and the Passage so long, that I had hardly any left, and that only a few Fowls; and myself and Officers too had been much out of Order. At last, being got to the Northward of Augustin Bay, seeing my poor People fall down so very fast, it gave me very great Concern for them, but still was willing, in Hopes of Change of Wind, for Johanna. But the small Airs trifled with me, and what there were Northerly, a Current setting to the Southward, that what to do I could not well tell. To go into Augustin Bay I was very unwilling: I had two Boats came off to me, the People talking tolerable good English. At last, my Doctor, Sharp, told me there were above Thirty People down with the Scurvy, and all the rest, even some of the Petty Officers, were touch’d with the same. If I did not soon put into Port, I plainly found I should have been in a bad Condition, for Men; I consulted with my Officers, to go into Augustin Bay, and we agreed, and bore away for it. Soon after, the Wind came Southerly, and I bore away for Johanna. A fine Passage I had, and anchor’d the next Day about Four in the Afternoon, being Sept. 13. I thank God I brought all my People in alive, and that is as much I can say of a good many of them. I had a Tent made ashore for them, and supplied them all that ever I could, and the Doctors assisting with every thing in their Way for their speedy Recovery. After I had been here a Fortnight, the Winds in the Day-time set in very fresh from the N. N. W. to the N. N. E. Finding the People recover so very slowly, what to do I could not tell. To go out with my People as bad as when they came in, I was not willing, but resolv’d to have Patience one Week more. I consulted with Mr. Rogers, my Chief-Mate, and told him that we must consider the Condition of the People, and how we met the Winds and Currents before we came in. The People of the Island told me, that this was about the time of Year for the Northerly Winds and Southerly Currents, and I told him I thought it better to trim all our Casks, and fill what Water we could, fearing of a long Passage, if our Stay was a little longer. Mr. Rogers was of my Opinion. This I must say, I found the Cask not so well used in the Hold, as they ought to have been, which caus’d the Coopers more Work; neither did I make a little Noise about it, because I had more Words with my Chief and Second Mate, about my Third and Fourth Mate, than any thing else.

Having all my Water aboard, about 80 Tun, 25 Head of Oxen, &c., I sail’d the 13th of October, with several of my Men not recover’d; some I buried at Johanna, and some after, to the Number of Ten, or thereabouts. Having a fine Gale, I made all the Sail I could, except Studding-sails, which I thought needless. The Wind veer’d to the Northward, and I was resolved to make the Mallabar Course as soon as possible, for the Advantage of the Land and Sea Winds. I had one Passenger aboard, a sad troublesome wicked Fellow, whose Behaviour was so bad, that I could hardly forbear using him ill. I forbid my Officers keeping Company with him; but Mr. B——s would do it at all Events. I turn’d him once off the Quarter-Deck for being with him there, yet that did not avail. I came out one Night about half an Hour past Ten, my second Mate’s Watch, and this B——s’s Turn to sleep; and seeing a Light in his Cabin, I sent Mr. Cuddon, the second Mate, to him, to know how he would be able to sit up one Watch, and keep his own. Upon this B——s came up half way the Steerage-Ladder, with his Pipe in his Hand, and talk’d to me very pertly; and that was not the first time. This put me into a Passion, to be so talk’d to by a Boy, that I did dismiss him for two or three Days, and then re-stated him, which was more than he deserv’d, for keeping Company with him for whom the worst of Names is good enough, and those who recommended him to his Commission. B——s was told of this by Mr. Rogers, by my Orders, and I told him of it on the Quarter-Deck, and told him at the same time I was resolv’d to tell the Gentlemen at Home of ——; and ask’d him what he imagin’d they would think of him for keeping such swearing drunken Company. This was before I dismiss’d him.

Before I came in with the Land, hearing much talk of Angria, by Capt. Scarlet, and Mr. Rogers, and of his great Force (for I had very little Notion of him before) I took care to put the Ship in a proper Posture of Defence: Powder-Chests on the Quarter-Deck, Poop, and Forecastle, a Puncheon fill’d with Water in the Main-top, a Hogshead in the Fore-top, and a Barrel in the Mizen-top, all fill’d with Water: Chests with good Coverings in the Tops for Grenado-Shells; all the small Arms, with 50 new ones in Readiness. My Ship being too deep to get the Gun-room Ports open, as the Gunner inform’d me, the Ship sending, and the Sea washing above the Tops of the Ports; I got those Guns into the Great Cabin; Quarter-Bills over the Guns; the Rewards and Close-quarters, &c. at the Mizen-mast, Shot-lockers and Shot in their proper Station; Pluggs for Shot-holes; and every thing that I could think of: and gave particular Orders to my Gunner, Carpenter, and Boatswain, to have every thing in their way, in Readiness, the two lower Yards flung with the Top-chains. Not being easy in my Mind about these Gun-room Stern-Ports, I sent Mr. Rogers, it being smooth Water, to open one of the Gun-room Stern-Ports, to see, if we could, on Occasion, get Guns out there, but he brought me Word it could not be done with Safety, the Ship being so deep. A few Days before I made the Land, the Winds used to vere and haul, that Offing in an Hour I could hardly up from E. N. E. to S. E. but the Winds chiefly kept to the Northward. I was very desirous to make the Land, not knowing how far the Southwest Currents might set me to the Westward. At noon, being Dec. 12, I made the Land of Goa, in the Latitude of 15 Degrees North. My Chief Mate wanted me to go into Goa, but I was resolved not, but to make the best of my Way for Bombay. The next Morning, having a fine Six-Knot-Gale, about Nine o’ Clock Mr. Rogers told me, he saw Gereah, and desired me to haul further off Shore, and said, if Angria and his Grabbs should see us in his River, he would send them out after us. I asked him, if his Grabbs came out of Sight of Land. He told me they were afraid to do that, fearing the Bombay Vessels should get between them and the Shore, and keep them out of their Ports. To prevent running into Danger, I kept out of Sight of Land: I thought it better to do so, since it would make but a few Days Difference in getting at Bombay; making no Doubt I should get there the last of the Month, as doubtless we should, if we had not met with our sad Misfortune.

When it was too late, I was acquainted by those taken in the Severn, that Mr. Rogers inform’d me wrong; for Angria sometimes keeps the Shore aboard, and sometimes goes directly out to Sea 60 Leagues off. It was too late to reflect; neither could I blame myself, knowing I had done every thing to the best of my Judgment: But had I been better inform’d, it is my Opinion we might have escaped those cursed Dogs, by keeping in Shore, and taken the Advantage of the Land and Sea Winds.

I have since repented that we did not go into Goa; but God knows whether a Man goes too fast or too slow; for I had certainly a very suitable Cargo for that Place; But my earnest Desire was to get to Bombay, the Season of the Year being far advanc’d.

December 26, being my second Mate’s Morning Watch, about Five o’ Clock he came to me, and told me he saw Nine Sail of Gallivats. I got up, and found them to be Five Top-mast Vessels, and Four Gallivats, not above two Miles from us. I order’d all Hands to be call’d, and down with the Cabins in the Steerage, which was done in an Instant, and every body to their respective Quarters. They came up with us apace, having but light Airs of Winds, and found them to be Angria’s Fleet. I had the Transome in the great Cabin, and the Balcony in the Round-house cut away, for traversing the Stern-Chase Guns. They came up with me very boldly within Pistol-shot. Before Six, they began firing upon us, throwing their Shot in at our Stern, raking us afore and aft. I order’d everything to be got ready for going about, to give them my Broad-side, when my Chief-Mate Mr. Rogers, and my Third Mate Mr. Burroughs came to me, and begg’d that I would not put about, for if I did, they would certainly board us. As to my Part, being a Stranger to this Coast and Angria, knowing my Chief Mate had been often this Way, and my Third Mate had sail’d in the Gallies, I was over prevail’d upon not to tack about. As the Enemy kept under my Stern, playing their Shot in very hot upon us, and destroying my Rigging so fast, I soon after endeavour’d to wear the Ship upon the Enemy; but the Wind dying away to a Calm, she would not regard her Helm, but lay like a Log in the Water. By Eight o’ Clock most of my Rigging was destroy’d, and the Long-boat taking Fire a-stern, was forc’d to cut her away. The Yaul being stove by their shot, we launch’d her overboard. By Nine, the Top-chain that flung the Main-yard, was shot away, with Geer and Geer-Blocks. The Main-yard came next down, with the Sails almost torn to Pieces with the Shot. As fast as our People knotted and spliced the Rigging, it was shot away in their Hands. The Water-Tubs in the Tops were shot to pieces, and the Boatswain’s Mate’s Leg shot off in the Main-top. One of the Foremast-Men’s Leg was shot off in the Fore-top, and one wounded. By Ten, the Mizen-mast was shot by the Board. Wanting People to cut the Mast-Rigging, &c. from her Side, found them appear very thin upon Deck, and desired my younger Mates to drive them out of their Holes. Word was then brought me, that my Chief Mate’s Leg was shot off, but that he was in good Heart. All this time it was a Calm, and our Guns of the Broad-side of no Service, not being able, during the Engagement, to bring one Gun to bear upon them. They kept throwing their shot so thick in at our Stern, with a continual Fire, and we return’d it as fast as we could load and fire. About One, my Main-mast was shot by the Board, and the Fall of that stove the Pinnace on the Booms. The Loss of my Main-mast gave me a very great Concern, and seeing the Condition of the Fore-mast, the Fore-yard half way down, and the Top-sail Yard-arm sprung in several Places, the Head of the Top-gallant-Mast shot away, render’d that Mast quite useless. I could not see which way it was in the Power of Men to save us from these Dogs. However, I made myself as easy as could be expected, and kept my Thoughts to myself. Tho’ the Shot were like Hail about my Ears, I thank God I escaped them, neither did they give me much Uneasiness as to my Person. The Grabbs perceiving their great Advantage by the Fall of our Main-mast, &c. tho’ all the time before within Musket-Shot, come up boldly within Call, throwing in at our Stern Double-round and Partridge as fast as they could load and fire; we doing the same with Bolts, &c. We saw a great many Holes in their Sails. Soon after this, they lodg’d two Double-head-Shot, and a large Stone in the Fore-mast, the Shrowds of which were mostly gone. I often sent Capt. Scarlet to Mr. Cudden, to encourage the People, and to take care to cool his Guns, and not fire in Haste, but take good Aim. We received two Double-headed-Shot in the Bread-room, which were soon plugg’d up, and one Shot under the Larboard Chesstree, but so low in the Water, that could not get at it, and the Ship prov’d leaky. I had a Pack of sad cowardly, ignorant Dogs as ever came into a Ship. As to my common Sailors, who were not above Twelve Seamen, with the Officers, they stood by me. It was all owing to my Misfortune on the Mouse, that I was so poorly Mann’d. As to my Third Mate, B——s, he did not seem to stomach what he was about; he was sometimes on the Quarter-Deck (not being able to use any Guns but the Stern-Chase) and every Shot the Enemy fir’d, he cowardly trembled, with his Head almost down to the Deck. This Captain Scarlet has often declared to the Gentlemen at Bombay, and before those that are now coming Home. I had six Men kill’d, and six their Legs shot off, with several others wounded by their Partridge-Shot, &c. Had our People kept the Deck like Men, there must have been several more kill’d and wounded. About Three, I heard a great Call for Shot, and desired Capt. Scarlet to go to Mr. Cuddon, and tell him not to fire in Waste.

We lay now just like a Wreck in the Sea, and at our Wits Ends. Our Shot being almost spent, we had a Hole cut in the Well to try to come at the Company’s. We continued on with Double-round and Partridge, and Bolts, &c. with a Double Allowance of Powder to each Gun, doing the utmost we could to save the Ship. The Tiller-rope was now shot away, tho’ of no Service before. The Carpenter told me the Ship made a great deal of Water, and had above two Foot in her Hold. The Caulker afterwards told me she had three Foot. I saw nothing we could do more than firing our Stern-Chase. There was a sad Complaint for Shot; however we fir’d Bolts. I call’d out to the People to have good Hearts, and went into the Round-house to encourage them there. It was very hard we could stand no Chance for a Mast of theirs, nor no lucky Shot to disable some of them, in all the Number that we fir’d. As to our small Arms, they were of little Service, they keeping their Men so close. The Rigging of the Foremast being gone, and that fetching so much way, I expected it to go every Minute; and about Seven in the Evening, the Ship falling off into the Trough of the Sea, the Foremast came by the Board. It was now about Four o’ Clock, when Mr. Thomas Rogers, my Chief Mate, sent my Steward to desire to speak with me. When I went to him, he spoke to me to this Purpose. “Sir,” says he, “I am inform’d what Condition the Ship is in; as her Masts are gone, you had better not be obstinate, in standing out longer; it will only be the Means of making more Objects, of murdering more Men, and all to no Purpose, but to be used worse by the Enemy, for it is impossible to get away. Therefore you had better surrender.” To the best of my Knowledge, I hardly made him any Answer; nor had I, before he sent to me, the least Thoughts of surrendering, which I declare before God and Man; tho’ I was well convinc’d within myself, that it was impossible to save the Ship. I went up to my old Station the Quarter-Deck, and took several Turns, as usual, and proceeded in the Engagement. I begun to consider what Mr. Rogers told me, and the Condition of the Ship, and argue within myself the Impossibility of doing any more (for if a Gale had sprung up, it could be of no Service) and all the time from the Fall of our Main-mast, the Enemy were got so near, that I could hear them talk, and my Second Mate did the same. As to our Masts, they had gain’d their Ends, and their only Business now was to fire at the Hull. There was no Hopes of their leaving us, considering the condition they had brought us to, and it could not be long before we sunk: for as they lay so near us, and so low in Water, our Shot must doubtless fly over them. At last I was of Mr. Rogers’s Opinion, that it was only sacrificing the Men to no Purpose; for they had so large a Mark of us, they could not miss us; and during all the Engagement, as they play’d their Shot so hot at our Stern, it is surprizing there were not many more Men Kill’d. I then sent for my Second and Third Mate, and told them Mr. Rogers’s Opinion and my own. They both agreed to it, and consented to the surrendering of the Ship. So we submitted to the Enemy, finding it in vain to proceed. By my Watch it was Five o’ Clock. My Second and Third Mate went in to the Steerage to forbid firing, and myself in the Round-House, did the same. Every Body seem’d to be very well satisfied as to the surrendering Part, and no Objection was made. Colours we had none to strike; those and the Ensign-Staff were shot to Pieces; and what was left of the Ensign being made fast to the Main-Shrowds, went with the Mast. Capt. Scarlet went into the Round-House, and call’d the Enemy on board, and told them we had no Boats. They sent their Dingey aboard with Four Men for me and my chief Officers. They left Two of the Four aboard the Derby. Myself and my Second Mate went in the Dingey aboard the Grabb. We were gone an Hour and a half good, if not more; then we return’d in a Gallivat with 50 or 60 Men, but not a Soul went aboard the Derby, till we return’d. Then came aboard more Gallivats and more Men, and secured the Arms, &c. and drove our People up, some to the Pumps, and some to clear the Rigging off the Ship’s Side. They transkipt to their Grabbs what Treasure could be got at, and the next Day turn’d out the Remainder, with myself, Scarlet, Cuddon, the two Ladies, and my Servants, into one of the Grabbs.


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