The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Driving out the Dutch


Driving out the Dutch 5

Sir Henry Morgan, famous pirate, and Governor of Jamaica. His two uncles, Edward (also his father-in-law) and Thomas, captured St. Eustatius and Saba in 1665 and drove out the Dutch.

By; Will Johnson

The title of this article is not invented by me to please those in the islands nowadays who would want to do just that. No! It is from the book by Anthony Gambrill “In search of the Buccaneers.” In my many books on the history of the buccaneers in the West Indies, I came across this book. Chapter 6 deals with St. Eustatius and Saba. I was already in the process of doing an article on the involvement of Sir Henry Morgan, and his two uncles Edward and Thomas, who were prominent in the history of our two islands with a major raid in 1665.

Lieutenant.-Colonel Edward Morgan was the uncle and father-in-law of Sir Henry Morgan.

In 1665 when war had been declared on Holland, the Governor of Jamaica issued commissions to several pirates and buccaneers to sail to and attack the Dutch islands of St. Eustatius, Saba, and Curacao.Edward Morgan was put in command of ten ships and some 500 men; most of them were “reformed prisoners, “while some were condemned pirates who had been pardoned in order to let them join the expedition.

Before leaving Jamaica the crews mutinied, but were pacified by the promise of an equal share of all the spoils that should be taken. Three ships out of the fleet slipped away on the voyage, but the rest arrived at St. Eustatius, landed, and took the fort. Colonel Edward Morgan, who was an old and corpulent man, died of the heat and exertion during the campaign. He would have been buried on St. Eustatius at the time. The Statia Tourist Bureau can use this little historical fact by pointing out that Sir Henry Morgan’s uncle and father-in-law is buried on Statia.

Edwards’s brother, Lieutenant.-Colonel Thomas Morgan sailed with his brother to attack Saba and St. Eustatius islands, and after these were surrendered by the Dutch, Thomas Morgan was left in charge. In 1666 he sailed in command of a company of buccaneers to assist Governor Wells, of St. Kitts, against the French. The defence of the island was disgraceful, and Morgan’s company was the only one which displayed any courage or discipline, and most of them were killed or wounded, Colonel Morgan himself being shot in both legs.

Often these buccaneer leaders altered their titles from colonel to captain, to suit the particular enterprise on which they were engaged, according if it took place on sea or land. This information is gleaned from the book “The Pirates Who’s who”, by Philip Gosse.

“The French temporarily occupied St. Eustatius or Statia as it is popularly known, in 1627 and erected a small fortification upon which the Dutch who later settled the island built Fort Orange in 1636. Once started the fort grew in importance, at first to provide security for the fledging colony of tobacco farmers but by the eighteenth century to protect the thriving trading port that lay beneath its battlements. However, at the time that Colonel Edward Morgan, supported by his buccaneers, led an assault on St. Eustatius; it provided a woefully inadequate defence.

Driving out the Dutch.

The famous Fort Orange on St. Eustatius from where Governor Johannes de Graaf fired the famous salute in recognition of the flag of the new republic to the North. The location of this fort goes back to when the island was first settled by the Dutch in 1636 and it is still well maintained and a great pride to the people of Statia.

The English took nearly a decade after capturing Jamaica from the Spanish to realize that the Dutch were also a serious threat to their efforts to trade in the West Indies. It was Colonel Edward Morgan who was chosen to end that challenge.

The Dutch had been present in the Caribbean region since the late sixteenth century. Deprived of access by the Portuguese to salt needed for pickling their herring catches, the Dutch crossed the Atlantic to the salt pans at Punta de Araya off Venezuela. Dutch vessels were also selling supplies to Spanish settlements in the Eastern Caribbean despite Spain’s claim to the exclusive right to trading in the region. Their early incursions were dealt with harshly. The Spaniard Luis Fajardo, with a fleet of 14 galleons and 2,500 men, attacked the interlopers, who included French and English, at Punta de Araya in 1605. He treated his captives as ‘pirates and corsairs’, beheading or hanging most of them without trial.

When a 12 year truce between Spain and the Netherlands ended in 1621, the Dutch West India Company was formed by a group of 19 gentlemen known as the “Heeren XIX” with what has been described as “belligerent commerce” in mind. This company was early on enriched by Admiral Piet Heyn who captured the Spanish silver fleet in Matanzas Bay, Cuba, in September 1628. The story of this feat unequalled in his time is worth a story of its own but is not relevant for this article and there would not be enough space as well.

Driving out the Dutch 2

Admiral Piet Heyn the most famous of the Dutch pirates who “captured” the Spanish Silver fleet in Matanzas Bay in Cuba and made whole set of people in Holland rich with that catch of his.

The trade in salt continued to be a major attraction to the Dutch West India Company. Removing salt from seawater by collecting from pans in Bonaire, Tortuga (a Venezuelan island by that name) and St. Martin, frequently aroused Spain’s wrath and these islands were to change hands often. In 1634 the Dutch seized Curacao and its neighbouring islands. Realizing that Curacao possessed an excellent natural harbour, the Dutch made it their permanent trading post in the Caribbean.

St. Eustatius was colonized in less dramatic fashion. Jan Snouck, an entrepreneur from Flushing, got permission in 1636 from the Zeeland Chamber of Commerce to found a colony on any uninhabited West Indian island. The expedition’s first stop was St. Croix but discovering the English already entrenched. Peter Van Corselles, the leader who had already established a colony on Tobago, tried several other islands before disembarking at St. Eustatius with 50 settlers. He named it New Zeeland, not knowing that the indigenous Caribs themselves had called it Aloi which means cashew tree or St. Anastasia as Christopher Columbus had named it.

In 1664 provost Marshall for Jamaica wrote about the privateers and their activities in the islands. These ‘desperate and numerous men’, called privateers by Lynch but were buccaneers by origin, were soon to be engaged in carrying out English policy in the Caribbean under the command of a military man who was father of Henry Morgan’s bride-to-be. Edward and his brother Thomas were professional mercenaries, officers serving in foreign armies at a time when their own countries were at peace. Both fought in the Netherlands and later in Germany. It was in Westphalia that Edward met and married Anna Petronilla, the daughter of Johan Ernst, Feiherr von Pollnitz, the governor of Lippstradt. The two brothers returned to England at the time of the Civil War but experienced very different fortunes. Eventually they both ended up in Jamaica. Colonel Edward Morgan was named Lt. Governor to Sir Modyford, not only as a reward for his loyalty to the King but apparently also because of his knowledge of the Dutch language and its military systems.

Driving out the Dutch 4

The most respected Dutch admiral ever Michiel de Ruyter. He had just wreaked havoc on Barbados and some of the other British islands in the Eastern Caribbean and was headed back to Europe when Edward and Thomas Morgan captured St. Eustatius and Saba in 1665. De Ruyter had also been on St. Eustatius on that same voyage.

And  nowto the expedition itself to capture our islands the following:” Modyford meanwhile was planning an ambitious expedition to capture St. Eustatius, Saba and Curacao, then to drive out those Dutch trading at St. Kitts and finally on the homeward leg to challenge the buccaneers at Tortuga and mainland Hispaniola. The belated departure of the English expedition to St. Eustatius ultimately turned out to be fortuitous. In 1665 Admiral de Ruyter turned his attention to the West Indies hoping to take the English colonies by surprise. On May 17, 1665 he left the Caribbean altogether after attacking Barbados, Montserrat and Nevis. He had been anchored at St. Eustatius barely two months before the Jamaican fleet arrived.

Meanwhile Colonel Edward Morgan must have had a premonition because he decided to write his will before setting off. Having had 40 years of military service meant he must have been at least in his late fifties. Once active in the field he was now overweight and unfit for the conditions of combat that fighting in the tropics imposed. In a memorandum to the governor he left his virtually virgin plantation to his two sons with the instruction that they should increase its size and value in order to be able to maintain their sisters and provide their dowries. His mortgaged London house and a claim he had on an estate in Wales were to pass to Mary Elizabeth, his eldest surviving daughter.

Driving out the Dutch 3

Dutch warships under admirals like Heyn and de Ruyter wreaked havoc in the Caribbean during the middle of the seventeenth century.

On April 16 Colonel Morgan sailed to the Isle of Pines off Cuba where he was joined by buccaneers who provided his mercenary force. As Governor Modyford put it: “They are chiefly reformed pirates, scarce a planter among them, being resolute fellows, and well armed with fuses and pistols.’ Amongst the captains of the nine vessels were two already of some repute: Captain Robert Searle. Another of Colonel Morgan’s men was the energetic Captain Maurice Williams whose vessel, “Speaker”, was to be the flagship. When the force mustered on May 16, Morgan had nine ships, 71 guns and 450 men.

After a tumultuous passage and stops at various places including Montserrat where the Governor Nathaniel Reed provided him with small boats to land his troops he continued. With his contingent reduced to no more than 300 men, Morgan approached St. Eustatius, sailed into the bay on July 23 landed with his division first, followed by Colonel Theodore Carey. Captain Harman remained in command of the fleet. After several volleys were fired, Dutch resistance collapsed. Later on the lack of defence attracted the comment that it is supposed they (the Dutch) were drunk or mad.’ The governor Peter Adriaansen , sent three men to parley after receiving a summons that demanded ‘the speedy surrender of the fortress, arms and ammunitions, the submission of the island to such taxes and duties as shall be infused, and the supply of all necessary provisions for the English. These are the only terms that can be offered and if not the “courage’s” of the soldiers will be put on trial, when the inhabitants may not expect any quarter…’

After the surrender an inventory was taken: 20 cannon, 131 small arms, six barrels of powder, 300 head of cattle, 50 horses, 300 sheep and goats, five ships, 840 African slaves and Indians and fifty thousand pounds of cotton. They found six plantations on the island possessing sugar works and cotton fields. Of the settlers, 76 men, 42 women, and 132 children-all Dutch-were deported to St. Martin. Another 80, including English, Irish and Dutch who took an oath of allegiance to King Charles II were allowed to remain on the island. The island was renamed New Dunkirk.

But success had its price. Sir Thomas Modyford, who only learnt of events in November four months later, reported to the Secretary of State: ‘the good, old colonel (Edward Morgan), leaping out of the boat, and being a corpulent man, got a strain, and his spirit being great he pursued over-earnestly the enemy on a hot day, so that he surfeited, and suddenly died to almost the loss of the whole design.’

Arriving at Saba.

The approach to Saba by boat has remained the same since the pirate Thomas Morgan and his crew were sent from St. Eustatius to capture Saba in 1665.

Where he died was not recorded but it may well have been traversing the steep track leading from the water’s edge to the fort above. By general consensus Colonel Carey assumed command, and later when a Major Stevens arrived on the Mayflower, which was thought to have been lost in the storm, he was directed to take the nearby island of Saba. Even smaller than St. Eustatius, Saba consisted of the core of another extinct volcano rising 3000 feet out of the sea with a little arable land on its sides and in the cone. Here a small quantity of arms, cattle and other goods was seized along with 85 African slaves and Indians. Eighty seven Dutch were sent to St. Martin; 64 heads of households, English, Irish and French took the royal oath, together with their wives and children the total was 226 left behind, including two Dutch families consisting of ten people who swore allegiance to the British King. Two Indian families were also left behind.

Having incited the buccaneers to capture Saba, Colonel Carey was unable to persuade them to continue on to Curacao, their ‘purchase’ having been so disappointing compared with the booty they were used to confiscating from the Spanish. Despite this, the governor of Jamaica wrote home to the colonial authorities that he expected the name of the Dutch would be forgotten in a matter of months in the West Indies. They turned out to be hardier than he anticipated and in 2014 they are still in the West Indies with Surinam even having Dutch as their national language.

Leaving Colonel Thomas Morgan and a small contingent behind to occupy St. Eustatius and Saba, most of the buccaneers as well as Colonel Carey returned to Jamaica. Modyford was to report that 500 slaves had arrived in Jamaica along with cannons and other armaments, sugar, coppers, stills and sundry goods.

As a postscript to his report Modyford said of Colonel Morgan ‘… I fear I shall never meet with one so useful, so complacent and loving as Colonel Morgan was: he died very poor, his great family having little to support them; his eldest daughter is since married to Sergeant-Major Bindlosse of good estate.’ His daughter Anna married Robert Byndloss commandant of the garrison at Fort Charles after the customary three months of mourning for her father. The surviving eldest daughter Mary Elizabeth married her cousin Henry Morgan not long after and a third sister, Johanna Wilhelmina, too young at the time was later to marry Henry Archbould. The three men, Byndloss, Morgan and Archbould were in different ways to play significant roles in moulding the future of Port Royal and Jamaica.

It was only a year after Colonel Edward Morgan’s misadventure that the Dutch, now firmly united with the French, retook Saint Eustatius (which by then was garrisoned by just 200 men) only to find their French allies turn around and drive them out of the island.”

Saba remained in the hands of the British and to the population was added some 90 pirates who saw in Saba a good place from which to hide out and pursue their pirate activities from here. It was only in 1680 that it was remembered that the island had been Dutch and subsequently it was returned to the Dutch only to be recaptured some years later. Saba changed hands 12 times.

As well as the French, three other European powers were to claim ownership of the island of St. Eustatius a total of 22 different times before it was ultimately returned to Dutch hands in 1816. Driving out the Dutch as seen here is no easy task, for those like the English who underestimated the tenacity of the Dutch all the way back in 1665!


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