Santiago de Cuba est l'une de ces villes espagnoles que les flibustiers ont maintes fois tenté d'attaquer dans la seconde moitié du 17e siècle, et pour diverses raisons, ils n'ont pas réussi... sauf à une occasion. En 1662, le gouverneur de la Jamaïque, le baron Windsor of Stanwell, confie au capitaine Christopher Myngs, officier de la Royal Navy, le commandement en chef des flibustiers de la jeune colonie britannique. Pour ce faire, il délivre aux capitaines se trouvant à Port Royal ses premières commissions pour aller en course contre les Espagnols (pour un exemple, voir le document 620928w). Ces flibustiers sont au nombre de six : Adrian Swart, Georges Brimacain, Jacob Fackman, Robert Searle, John Bull et Abraham Mitchell, auxquels s'ajouteront, au cours de la traversée vers Cuba, Sir Thomas Whetstone et quelques autres capitaines. Quant à leur chef Myngs, qui monte alors le HMS Centurion, il n'en est pas à ses premières armes dans la mer des Antilles, où il s'est signalé dans les années 1650, au service de la marine du Commonealth, par le sac et le pillage de plusieurs places espagnoles du Venezuela. Le présent document est le rapport officiel de Myngs au gouverneur Windsor touchant le succès qu'il eut à Santiago de Cuba.
Le Diable Volant.
To His Excellency Thomas, Lord Windsor.
May it please Your Excellency,
In pursuance of your commands, the 21st September, we set sail from Point Cagway. The 22nd little wind, and the fleet scattered, we made small advantage by it, but in getting ourselves together. The 23rd we encountered Sir Thomas Whetstone, in the Picazo, with a family of Indians, whose intelligence assured us of no additional forces in St. Jago upon Cuba, and likewise rectified our former advice, being most by English prisoners whose restraint there gave them not the advantage of a full discovery. At a council of war it was judged feasable and upon debate resolved the manner of attempting it, which was to land in the harbour, the mouth of which was very strongly fortified. In the prosecution of those resolves, calms and various winds retards us.
So that, it was the 5th of October before we got sight of the castle. The breeze coming in late and the wind faint, it was 4 of the clock in the afternoon before we could get near up to the harbour, where being within half a mile we were taken by the land wind, and so prevented entrance, which occasioned a speedy resolve and our immediate landing under a platform 2 miles to windward of the harbour, the only place possible to land and march for the town on all that rocky coast. The enemy all day expecting to receive us at the fort, we there found no resistance, the people therein flying to the town to give advice of our landing. Before our whole party was on shore, it was night. The place rocky and narrow, we were forced to advance the van into a wood to give way to the rear to lead; the path so narrow that but one man could march at a time; the way so difficult and the night so dark that we were forced to make stands and fires, and our guides with brands in their hands, to beat the path. With much labour, by break of day, we recovered a plantation by a river's side, some 6 miles from our landing, and 3 miles from the town, where being refreshed with water, daylight and a better way, we very cheerfully advanced for the town. The enemy having intelligence of our late landing and knowing the badness of the way, were by our early coming upon them prevented of ambuscading of us. At the entrance into the town and mouth of our path, the Governor Don Pedro de Moralis with 200 men (barricaded with hides) and 2 pieces of ordinance stood to receive us, and Don Christover, the old governor of Jamaica (and a good friend to the English), with 500 more being his reserve. We received their ordinance and volleys, and advancing beat them from their station, and with themselves and the help of Don Christover, who fairly ran away, we routed the rest, pursuing them divers ways through the town; of which being masters, some 6 small merchant vessels and boats were swam too, and possessed our soldiers, their men through fear deserted them. The remainder of the day our soldiers being wearied, we rested to consider what to do further. Next morning, by break of day, dispatched 500 men in pursuit of the enemy in several parties, and 100 seamen to reinforce the fleet with orders the next day, at 11 of the clock, to attack the harbour with assurance that at the same time we would not fail them with a considerable party to attempt the inward and most essential works. This accordingly the next day was prosecuted with success, for mastering the inward works of the harbour, the enemy deserted the great castle, firing but 2 muskets, of which possession ourselves we drew both shipping and men to tow, where from the 9th to the 14th day, we spent our time in pursuing the enemy, which proved not very advantageous; their riches being drawn off so far, we could not reach it.
The ill offices that town had done to Jamaica had so exasperated the soldiers that I had much ado to keep them from firing the churches. The 15th day, we drew off and sailed for the castles, where until the 19th we employed ourselves in demolishing the forts and getting what ordinance we could. There was 17 pieces of ordinance in wareworks, in the castle and platform under that 17 more, the quantity of 1000 barrels powder, which our men were so tired with marching and labour they would not bring it off to enjoy it, 700 barrels was spent in blowing up the main castle, the rest in the country houses and platforms. And truly it was so demolished as the greater part lies level with the foundation. It was built upon a rocky precipice, the walls on a mountain side, some 63 feet high. There was a little chapel and houses sufficient for 1000 men. We were forced to fling some of their guns down the precipice into the sea, which we could not bring off.
This far to the best of my judgement, I have presumed to acquaint Your Excellency with the good success of our design.
Your Excellency's most humble servant,
From on board the Centurion, 19th September [sic] 1662, being thwart the harbour of St. Jago.
Le Diable Volant : Les Archives de la flibuste : années 1660-1671 : lettre du capitaine Myngs à Lord Windsor, octobre 1662
référence et URL : « Note et document 621029m : lettre du capitaine Myngs à Lord Windsor, octobre 1662. » In Les Archives de la flibuste. Québec: Le Diable Volant, 2006. [en ligne] http://www.geocities.com/trebutor/ADF2005/1660/16621029myngs.html