A faithful Narrative
of the Dangers and Distresses
Isaac Morris &c.
On the 12th of October, 1741, we put to sea in our longboat and cutter, to the number of eighty, leaving Capt. Cheap and nineteen others on Wager Island, in Lat. 47. S., on the western coast of America, where we had remained about five months. Our design was to steer alongshore, through the Straits of Magellan, to the coast of Brazil, which, though a desperate undertaking in such a part of the world, remarkable for tempestuous winds and tumbling seas, we engaged in it with the utmost cheerfulness, being buoyed up with the hopes of once more seeing our native country.
In our passage several of our companions were starved to death, and those of us who survived were so miserably reduced, through want of nourishment, that we had scarce strength to do our duty. Such a gang of miserable objects could scarcely be met with. Fifteen only remained who could be called tolerably healthy. But I shan't spin out this narrative with a particular detail of the misfortunes which attended us in our passage through the Straits, Mr. Bulkeley having given a full description of them in his journal; but shall begin my account within a few days of our being left ashore, on the continent, by the crew of the longboat.
On January the 10th, 1741-2, after having been fourteen days without sight of land, and almost destitute of provisions, we were blessed with the agreeable prospect, distant about seven leagues. We stood in directly for it, and came to an anchor in eight fathom[s] [of] water. At five next morning we weighed, and steered N. E. by E. about a mile from the shore; where we saw a great many wild horses and some dogs. At noon we had a good observation, and found ourselves in Lat. 38. 40. S. We sounded, and had but two fathom[s] and [a] half at high water, a shoal of sand running out to the S. E. four or five leagues, which when we got clear of we steered N. E. into a large sandy bay, and anchored in three fathom[s] and [a] half.
On Tuesday Jan. 12th our provisions being quite done, and only one cask of water remaining we ran as nigh in to the shore as we could with safety, and fourteen of the healthiest of us agreed to swim ashore, in order to try for provisions. I was of the number, and we all landed safe, except one of the Marines, who was drowned within three fathom[s] of the beach, being quite spent, and none of us near enough to assist him. We had four casks thrown overboard after us, in order to be filled with fresh water, if we should be so happy as to find any, to which were lashed some muskets, with ammunition, which we received. After we had walked about a mile in from the beach, we saw a great number of wild horses and dogs: the horses were of a small size, but the dogs of a large mongrel breed. There were large flocks of parrots about the rocks, and near the waterside a few seal. We likewise met with a good spring of fresh water, which rose out of a trench not far from the shore. We shot a wild horse and some seal, and filled three casks with fresh water, which were next morning towed aboard by five of those who swam ashore. Soon after which the schooner stood farther off at sea, the sea breeze blowing strong.
On the 14th the wind blew fresh at E. S. E, and we saw our vessel stretching farther off, and soon after, we received, in a scuttled cask, a few necessaries, with ammunition, and a letter to acquaint us of the risk they should run in lying near the shore, and that they were obliged to stand farther off for their own safety till the weather should be more favourable.
Next morning we had the wind at N. N. W. with fair weather, when we expected they would have stretched in for the land; but, to our great surprise, we saw the schooner with her ensign hoisted at the topping-lift, and under sail from us. The moderate weather, with the wind offshore, gave them a fair opportunity of standing in for us, if they had thought fit. Why they did not is best known to themselves; the most probable reason we could give for such inhuman treatment was, that, by lessening the number of their crew, they might be better accommodated with room and provisions: possibly they might apprehend some inhabitants might be near us; but if so, they could be none but Indians. And we could not help looking on it as the greatest act of cruelty thus to maroon us under a false pretence of an utter impossibility of taking us on board with them.
The dismal apprehensions we were under at such an unexpected stroke appeared plainly in our countenances, and are much easier to be imagined than described. We found ourselves on a wild desolate part of the world, fatigued, sickly, and destitute of provisions. It is true, we had arms and ammunition, and, whilst that lasted, we made a tolerable shift for a livelihood. The nearest inhabited place we knew of was Buenos Aires, about three hundred miles to the N. W.; but at present we were in a very poor condition to undertake such a hazardous journey, being so miserably reduced by our tedious passage through the Straits of Magellan. Nothing remained but to commit ourselves to kind Providence, and make the best of our melancholy situation, till we had recruited ourselves.
We were in number eight who were thus abandoned by our crew, for whose preservation we risked our lives, in swimming ashore for provisions. Our names were Guy Broadwater, Samuel Cooper, Benjamin Smith, John Duck, Jos. Clinch, John Andrews, John Allen, and myself. After deliberating upon our unhappy circumstances, and comforting each other with imaginary hopes, we came to a resolution of taking up our quarters on the beach where we landed, till we should grow strong enough to undergo the fatigue of a journey to Buenos Aires. The weather being very favourable, we took up our lodging in a trench near the seaside, quite exposed, without any covering but the heavens. Here we stayed about a month, during which time we lived upon seal, which were very plenty, and which we knocked down with stones, after we had cut off their retreat, by getting between them and the sea. Here was likewise plenty of fresh water, from a small spring which rose out of the trench; so that, at the month's end, we had pretty well recovered ourselves, and concluded upon laying in a stock of provisions for our journey to Buenos Aires.
Having provided ourselves each with a knapsack, which we made of sealskin, in the best manner we could, we put into it as much dried seal as we could carry, and their bladders we filled with fresh water, which served us for bottles. We took our muskets and ammunition with us, and, thus accoutred, we set out on our journey about the middle of February; and, that we might proceed with the more certainty, we were determined to keep close to the seaside till we should come to the mouth of the River Plate. The first two days we travelled about sixty miles, but could meet with no fresh water, besides what we brought with us, the country being scorched with drought, and the rains not yet set in. Our water being near expended, we were afraid to proceed, lest we would perish for want of more; so, after a few debates, we agreed to return back to our old quarters, and wait till the rainy season. We were two days and half on our return, after which we employed ourselves in building a sort of hut under a cliff adjoining the seaside, to secure us from the inclemencies of the weather. Here we tarried three months, during which time our food was seals and armadillos, which was the only provision to be met with here, except seaweed, which we sometimes made use of with our meat instead of bread. The seal here differ from those which I have seen in other parts, both in size and make. The males are of the bigness of a good calf; their neck is shaggy; their head and face is somewhat like a lion's. The females are like lionesses before, but their hair is smooth all over like a horse's, whereas the male is smooth only on his hinder parts. From the hinder part grow two large fins like feet, and two more out of the breast, by means of which they can climb rocks and precipices, though they delight chiefly to lie asleep near the shore. Some are fourteen feet long, and very fat; but in general they are about eight feet: the flesh of the young ones is almost as white as lamb; and tolerable good eating. From the shoulders to the tail they grow tapering like fish; and when the females give suck to their young they sit upon the fins, which grow out of their hinder part. Their hair is of different colours, looking very sleek when they come first out of the sea.
The armadillo is as big nearly as a small sucking-pig, the body of it pretty long. It is enclosed in a thick shell, which guards all its back, and comes down on both sides, meeting under the belly, leaving room for the four legs; the head is small, with a nose like a hedgehog, and a pretty long neck, which it thrusts out before its body when it walks, but on any danger she draws it in under the shell, and, thrusting in her feet, she lies stock-still like a land turtle, and though you kick her about she will not move herself. The shell is jointed in the middle of the back, so that she can turn the fore part of her body which way she pleases; the feet are like those of a land turtle, and it has strong claws, with which it digs holes in the ground, and burrows in them like a rabbit. Its flesh is very good eating, and tastes much like a turtle.
Nothing remarkable happened to us in these three months. Our provisions, such as they were, were not very difficult to be procured, and we were supplied with firewood enough from a small wood or coppice about seven miles from us. We seldom failed of bringing home something every night, and generally had a hot supper. We passed our time as cheerful as poor fellows in our circumstances could. But we knew we could not take up this place for our settled abode; and there was no likelihood of any inhabitants near us, nor for many miles round could we perceive the least traces of any ever having been there; and it was to no purpose to expect the sight of any vessel off at sea; for, it being a deep bay and shoal water, no ships ever put in there, unless forced by stress of weather, and then they must be wrecked. Nothing remained for us but to make a second attempt for the River Plate; for, if we should march to the inland country in quest of inhabitants, possibly we should meet with insuperable difficulties in finding the way back again to what I may call our home; whereas if we kept our course along the seashore we could not err. For which reasons we resolved upon another attempt by the same route, and, having laid in our stock of seal, armadillos, and fresh water, towards the latter end of May, we set forward once more.
In three days we travelled about seventy miles; when, towards night, there came on a violent storm, with rain, thunder, and lightning, which continued the whole night. We had a plain open country, and no place of shelter could be found; we had nothing to cover us but a sealskin jacket, were half dead with cold, and afraid how our provisions would hold out; for we met with no supplies of any kind by the way. To proceed farther was only lengthening our journey back again, which, we feared, would be the consequence at last, even though we should still push on. There had been the strictest harmony and good-nature between us till now; but now we were like to have disagreed, even to parting. Some were for pushing forward, be the event what it might; and it was with difficulty they were persuaded not to divide. However, upon a representation of the great distance we were as yet from the mouth of the river, and the improbability of meeting with supplies of provision by the way, our debates ended, and we jointly concluded on making the best of our way back to our hut, having been a second time disappointed in our attempt.
After being arrived to our old quarters, we began to consult what measures to take for our security from the inclemencies of the weather, and to provide for our subsistence, till it should please God, one way or other, to deliver us out of this melancholy situation. In order to avoid disputes about the laborious part of getting provisions, we agreed to divide ourselves into two parties, who were, alternately, to provide for the whole. Four were appointed to scour the country one day, and the other four the next. And we had bound ourselves by an oath never to quit each other, unless obliged by a superior force; for though we had as yet seen no footsteps of inhabitants, we could not be certain there were none on this part of the globe. We had killed such a number of seal, that they now became very shy of us, and had lived upon them so long that we were almost surfeited; yet there was hardly anything else to be met with. We saw a great number of wild dogs, but could never come near enough to kill any; though now and then we chanced to shoot a puppy, which, as it was a change of diet, we thought delicious fare. We saw also some deer, but could contrive no method to take them. One day, in our rambles, we met with a litter of young puppies; they were but three, and seemed to be about two months old, and had taken shelter in a hole of one of the sand hills. We took them out, and brought them home to our hut. Having discovered that these puppies were whelped in holes like those of rabbits, but larger, we went all out next day in quest of more, and had the good luck to find three litters, in number thirteen, which we carried home with us, designing, if possible, to bring them up tame. We fed them with broth made of seals, and sometimes with the flesh minced small; and they afterwards became very serviceable to us. Each of us had his brace of dogs, which were brought up under as much command as an English spaniel, nor would they leave us to associate with the wild ones; they often supplied us with armadillos, and once they killed us a deer. Being one day hunting, we saw some wild hogs, with their young; our dogs pursued them, and took two of the young, which we saved alive; and we shot one of the old ones, which afforded us many dainty suppers. The young ones proved to be a boar and a sow, which was very fortunate, and we designed to rear them for breeding, lest we should be obliged to a long residence in this desolate country. We brought them up very tame, insomuch that they followed our dogs whenever we went a-hunting; and at night both dogs and pigs took up their lodging with us in our hut.
For the present our condition seemed tolerable; nay, we thought ourselves in very comfortable circumstances. We wanted for nothing, and, if we could have confined our thoughts to present enjoyments, our situation was very agreeable. But our views were farther, and the fears of what might happen frequently struck a damp on our pleasures. Winter was now approaching; we had the inclemencies of the season to guard against, and, if possible, a stock of provisions to be laid up against future emergencies. But we could not be much beforehand with provisions, having no salt to cure them, and at present not sun enough to dry them; for with winter came on continual storms, with rains, insomuch that some days we could not stir out of our hut.
It was now more than seven months since the longboat left us. Winter came on very fast, and we were but badly secured from the severity of weather. We resolved immediately to put our habitation in order, and to secure our hut in the best manner we could. Accordingly it was agreed that six should stay at home next day to prepare materials, and two only go out after provisions. The lot fell upon myself and John Duck to go abroad: all the game we could meet with were three armadillos, though we travelled many miles. It was so dark before we returned, that we despaired of finding our hut, and were like to have taken up our lodging in the open plain, if our comrades had not come out in quest of us, and, by making a fire, directed us towards them. After we had broiled our game, and fed heartily, about twelve we went to sleep. But, about two in the morning, a violent storm, with rain, thunder, and lightning, threw down part of the cliff upon us, under which we had built our hut, and was very near proving fatal to all of us; but, through Providence, none were hurt. With daylight came on tolerable weather; and now the first thing we had to do was to rebuild our hut. We immediately went to the coppice where we used to fetch our firewood, in order to fell some poles. As we had but one hatchet between us, one only could fell them, and the rest of us brought them out and bundled them. We had cut several, and were bundling them, when we saw Jos. Clinch running out of the wood, and crying, Lord have mercy upon us ! here's a great tiger. We were in the utmost consternation; for having been frequently there before, and never once seeing any footsteps of wild beasts, we came without our arms, suspecting no danger from that quarter. We all took to our heels, and soon saw him running out of the wood in pursuit of us. When he was come within twenty yards of us, finding it impossible to escape him, we all turned towards him, clapping our hands, and making a loud halloo, in order to frighten him, which had the desired effect; for he immediately sat back on his tail, gazing at us. What to do we knew not, whether it was best to fly, or wait for his turning; but fear prevailed, and we walked gently off, without his pursuing us. Next day we all went with our muskets in chase of him, but could not meet with him. We brought home our poles, and fitted up our hut in the best manner we could, sufficient to guard us from the rain.
About three weeks after, when we were hunting on the plain, about four miles from home, we saw a lion couched on the ground, watching his prey, as we imagined, it being close by a wild cat's hole. We joined close together in a body, with our muskets ready; and Jos. Clinch fired a ball at him at twenty yards distance, resting his piece on my shoulder, but missed him. The lion took no notice of the report of the gun, nor stirred from his posture. He charged a second time, ours being kept in readiness in case he should advance towards us; he fired, and shot him in the right shoulder; he fell on his back, and we ran to him, and knocked him in the head with the bones of a dead horse which lay near him. We carried him to our hut, dressed his heart and part of his ribs; but it was very indifferent eating.
Finding ourselves beginning to be surrounded with wild beasts, and every day and night in continual danger (for we now seldom went abroad without meeting some beast of prey; this being, I suppose, the time of year when they take their haunts towards the sea-coast), we determined to make another push for our deliverance, and try our fortune once more in an expedition to Buenos Aires. In order hereto we provided ourselves shoes and jackets of sealskins, and made ourselves knapsacks of the same to carry our provender. The weather was set in fair, and we were fully determined to lay in such a stock of provisions as should last us to the end of our journey, if we should be a month in performing it. To this end we divided ourselves into two parties; four of us were to go to the rocks for seal, and the other four to hunt on the plain. Accordingly we set out early in the morning; it was my lot, with Sam. Cooper, John Andrews, and John Duck, to go to the rocks. Our usual way in killing seal being with stones or clubs, we never carried our muskets with us. We had been out all day, and killed three; and in the dusk of the evening, when we were got within a stone's cast of our hut, I perceived our dogs very busy at a small distance, wagging their tails in a very fondling manner. Being ahead of my companions, I passed on without much regarding it, thinking they had lighted on a dead colt. But when I came to the hut I was quite confounded; the hut was rifled, and all our necessaries taken away. In the utmost consternation I ran back to my comrades, whom I saw standing where I had left the dogs. Seeing me running eagerly towards them, they cried out, What's the matter, Isaac? I told them our hut was pulled down, and every thing taken away. Ay, said they, and something worse has happened; for yonder lie poor Guy Broadwater and Ben. Smith murdered. It was a most shocking sight. One had his throat cut, and the other was stabbed in the breast; they were hardly cold, so we thought the murderers could not be far off. And we were under no small apprehensions of sharing a like fate. We went to the hut to inspect more narrowly, and found everything taken away; our powder, ball, and muskets gone, the fire extinguished, and not the least utensil left. Where to go or what to do we knew not. We durst not trust ourselves another night on this fatal spot, and yet were afraid to venture farther. At last we came to a resolution of going to the next sandy bay, about a mile off, and take up our quarters there for that night. But, when there, we could find no shelter, not so much as a cliff to lie under; so were obliged to return to our old place, and pass the night there, happen what would. Next morning the dogs which belonged to our comrades stood on the top of the cliff barking at us, and would not come down, though we called them by their names; and it was with difficulty we enticed them down in the evening. What became of Jos. Clinch and John Allen we knew not, nor could we afterwards learn any account of them. What seemed most probable to us was, that the Indians had carried them off and murdered the other two, who possibly might make some resistance, as we had all agreed to do, in case we should be attacked; but, if so, we might probably have expected to have found some or other of their enemies killed, as our people had firearms with them. And it was impossible it could be the result of a quarrel among themselves, from the manner of their death; for one was stabbed, and the other had his throat cut, both very plainly done with a knife, an instrument which none of us had the possession of. We buried them in the best manner we could, by scraping away the light sand with our hands two feet deep, and raising a bed of sand over the corpses.
This was the most afflicting stroke of any we received since our residence in this unhappy country. I won't pretend to describe the horrors we felt; the compassionate reader will paint our distress in his imagination in stronger colours than can be described by words. To see four of our companions snatched from us suddenly we knew not how, ourselves deprived of our arms and utensils, left without fire, or any method of procuring it, expecting every moment to share their fate, or to be starved to death, filled us with unspeakable terrors.
In this melancholy state the only thing that remained to be done was immediately to quit this unhappy place, and make one attempt more for Buenos Aires. We had no time to lose, but instantly set about tearing up the seal in small pieces, raw as it was, with which we filled our knapsacks, and their bladders we filled with water, lest we should find none on our journey. Having furnished ourselves with as much provision as we could carry, we set forward on our journey, with our sixteen dogs and two pigs, praying the almighty to be our guide. We kept close along the sea coast, as we had done before, by which means we could not miss the mouth of the River Plate; where when we should arrive our design was to travel along the side of that river till we should come to some inhabited place: a scheme easy enough in imagination, but in practice attended, as we found, with insuperable difficulties.
The sea coast all along is a plain sandy beach; on the land side are here and there very high sand hills. In the valleys of these hills we reposed ourselves at night. On the beach we sometimes found some cockles, which the sea had washed in; these were a great dainty to us. We met with part of the wreck of a large ship which was drove upon the beach, particularly a man-of-war's gang board, and a piece of plank marked fifteen feet. In the valleys of the sand hills was plenty of water, which had ponded up after the rains; and we frequently met with dead fish thrown in upon the beach; so that we had a variety of raw meat to feed upon. We also found by the seaside a very large dead whale, which was a feast for our dogs and pigs, and at a little distance a parcel of fine whalebone.
At the end of ten days we made the cape of the river, having travelled very hard every day, and met with tolerable weather. But when we got there we found a multitude of small rivers and muddy swamps to obstruct us. We swam over several of them, with our knapsacks across our shoulders; and when night came on we covered ourselves with the rushes, but were almost devoured by mosquitoes. Next day we made several attempts to proceed farther, but found it impossible to accomplish our journey; the farther we went, the greater difficulties we met with. We were several times in danger of being suffocated, the bogs often sinking us to the shoulders; so that, after many fruitless attempts to proceed, we found we had no remedy left but to tread back the melancholy path, and return to our old place of rendezvous; which we performed in less than ten days.
At our return we were afraid to ramble far abroad, having neither arms nor ammunition to defend ourselves from the wild beasts. Our two pigs maintained us near a fortnight, and afterwards we were obliged to live upon some of our trusty dogs; but this raw way of feeding, which continued three months longer, brought us into an ill state of health. About a quarter of a mile from our hut we found a dead horse, of which now and then we took a morsel, by way of change; and, could we have got fire to dress it, the variety would have been agreeable enough. Notwithstanding our fears, necessity compelled us to go abroad in search of other kind of provisions, and sometimes we had the good fortune to bring home an armadillo.
One morning we found the trunk of a large tree, and imagined it was not impossible, with the help of the skins of seal and horses, to make a sort of boat with it, which might serve to convey us alongshore to the River Plate. But we had no kind of tool to use. J. Duck recollected that about eleven months before, at the end of our first attempt for Buenos Aires, he threw away his musket, it being a very indifferent one, and not worth the trouble of bringing home, having enough besides for our use. We proposed to go in search of it, which if we could find might serve to make a hatchet. Accordingly we furnished ourselves with some raw seal and water, went, and found the musket, though above sixty miles. On our return home we found several ostrich eggs, about half buried in the sand, which was a refreshing meal to us (though we never met with any of the birds). When we brought it home we beat half the length of the barrel flat with stones, and whetted an edge to it against a rock, the other half served for the handle, and it made a tolerable hatchet; at least what would have served instead of one, if Providence had not soon after put an end to our design in the following manner.
Two days after we had finished our hatchet, it being my turn to stay in the hut, my three comrades went to a place which we called the Long Point in search of provisions. Towards evening I walked out to see if they were returning; when, to my astonishment, I discovered about a dozen of horses galloping down the sandy bay towards our hut, and, as they came nearer, I plainly saw men on their backs, and that they were Indians. It was in vain to fly; I imagined nothing but death approaching, and prepared to meet it with all the resolution I could muster up. I ran towards them, and fell on my knees, begging my life with all the signs of humility I could make, when I heard a voice saying, Don't be afraid, Isaac! We are all here. This revived me. The Indians alighted, and whilst some were intent on examining the hut, others stood with drawn knives, ready to dispatch us in case we made any resistance. When they had satisfied their curiosity they gave three confused shouts, and immediately made us get up behind them, and carried us away a few miles in from the seashore to the S.W. where were about a doz. more of their companions, with upwards of four hundred horses which they had taken, in hunting. They treated us with great humanity, killed a horse for us, kindled a fire, and roasted a part of it; which to us, who had been three months eating raw flesh, was a most delicious entertainment. They also gave each of us a piece of an old blanket to cover our nakedness. I was in great danger, it seems, of being left alone; for when the Indians met with my three comrades, they were immediately hurrying them away to their place of rendezvous, till, with difficulty, they were brought to understand, by signs, that there was one more belonging to them a little way off; and then guided them to the hut, where I had the happiness of being taken prisoner with them.
Next morning we decamped from this place, driving our troop of horses before us. We travelled nineteen days before we arrived to their next place of rendezvous, which, I imagine, was about two hundred miles from our hut to the S. W. in a valley between two very high mountains, where was fine pasture for their horses, and several small rivers of fresh water, but very little wood to be seen for many miles round. In this valley were about a dozen Indian huts, built with poles and the skins of horses, inhabited by another party of Indians, with their wives and children, who gazed very earnestly on us, as though they had never seen any white people before. Here we were bought and sold four different times for a pair of spurs, a brass pan, ostrich feathers, and such like trifles, which was the low price generally set on each of us; and sometimes we were played away at dice; so that we changed masters several times in a day. In this place we remained near a month, by which time the several parties of Indians had returned from their hunting, and joined us, each party bringing the horses they had taken in hunting, and mixing them all in the common stock; which were examined and told over by one of the Indians who seemed to be a sort of captain over the rest, and they amounted to the number of fifteen hundred and upwards, some of which were no way inferior to the best of our European breed.
After one day's grand feasting, we set out in a body for their chief town, where the king, or captain, lived, with fifteen hundred string of horses in our cavalcade. We were four months in performing our journey, and, by the method of our travelling, I believe it must be a thousand miles from the seacoast where our hut stood. In the daytime we travelled, and at night reposed ourselves in their moveable huts, which sheltered us from the weather. Our constant food was horseflesh, which some chose to eat raw, and others broiled or roasted; and, as for drink, we never failed of water; for I found they were well acquainted with every small rivulet, of which there are numbers in the route they took, though a stranger would hardly have found them.
At length we arrived to the end of our journey, the chief town, where their king lives; but our masters who had made the last purchase of us were carrying us with them to their own home (which we learnt afterwards was about two hundred miles beyond the town where the king resided), and had carried us some miles; when a party of horse came after us, and brought us back to the capital, the king claiming us as his property. This town consists of about 30 huts, built in a low irregular manner, with poles and horse's skins, surrounded with palisades about three foot distance from each other. The inhabitants, men, women and children, were about fourscore. We were soon summoned to appear before His Majesty, who received us in his hut, sitting on the ground, with a javelin on one side of him, and a bow and arrows on the other, a loose mantle round his waist, and a sort of turret of ostrich feathers on his head, and a long reed pipe in his mouth, smoking. After paying our obeisance to him, he began to ask us several questions in Spanish, of which they all can speak a little, which we soon let him know we understood a little of; enquired what countrymen we were, and how we came to this country. We told him we were Englishmen, lost in the South Sea, in an English man-of-war, as we were going to fight against our enemies the Spaniards; that we were eight in number who were left on a desolate part of the continent; that one evening, on our return from getting provision, we found two of our companions murdered, and two more carried off, on the same spot of ground where we were taken, our hut pulled down, and everything taken from us; which we supposed must be done by some of his countrymen. He then called three or four of his men, and talked very earnestly to them in their own language. But it seems they knew nothing of the affair, as he told us; though he was pleased to assure us that enquiry should be made of the other parties which were out at the same time. For I found by him, that he sends out several different parties every spring from every different town under his government, who take different routes, and sometimes join one another accidentally on their return. But of this more hereafter. When he found we were at war with the Spaniards, he expressed a great deal of joy, and asked if we were great men in our country. We told him yes. He said the Spaniards were great enemies to them, had taken away their country from them, and driven them to the mountains. When he had done examining us, he ordered a horse to be killed immediately, and dressed for us; and lodged us in his own hut for that night, till we had one built for us, which was the next day. Here we stayed eight months, and wintered, during which time we had frequently snow five or six feet deep. Our work was chiefly to fetch wood and water, and skin all the horses which they killed; and though we were their slaves, we were treated very humanely, and they would suffer no one to use us ill. There were four Spanish women in the town, whom they had taken captive in a skirmish near Buenos Aires; and the king told us, with a smile, he would give us each a wife.
The country where these Indians resided, as indeed the whole coast of Patagonia, is very fruitful in pasture, and abounds with great plenty of wild horses, and a few black cattle, which are entirely neglected by the Indians; horseflesh being preferred by them, for eating, before any other kind of flesh, and what they constantly feed upon. It is situated in a very healthy climate, and, if the soil was cultivated, would certainly produce plenty of all kind of grain. They have likewise plenty of wood, though few or no timber trees, several large coppices growing all round the country, though near the seaside we see nothing but a plain open sandy coast.
The Patagonian Indians, at least those in that part of the country where we resided, are tall and well-made, being, in general, from five to six feet high, good-natured and obliging to one another, and never see each other want. Though they have what they call a king, yet he seems to be only a chief or captain of a party; for, as they have no settled abode, but live scattered throughout that part of the world in little towns or parties, each party seems to have a chief, who presides over them like a petty king. I never could observe any rules of government among them; but at a drinking-bout king and subjects are all alike. Their king is distinguished from the rest by his being the biggest man, and by wearing a kind of sash round his waist. It is true he has a deference paid him by his subjects, and whatever he orders to be done is immediately performed, being himself exempted from any kind of work; but I never saw any punishments inflicted by him, nor any quarrels among themselves, except when they get at a drinking-feast, and then their wives always took care no ill consequence should follow, by putting every weapon out of their way, and especially taking care of their knives. For which reason I imagine that in liquor they are always quarrelsome. One or two instances of that kind happened whilst we were among them. Their method of feasting is this. They have in the summer a plenty of small sweet berries growing like our whortleberries, and when they have procured a sufficient quantity of them, they dig a pit in the ground, about four feet square, the bottom and sides of which they line with horse hides. This cask (if I may so call it) they half fill with these berries, and then fill it up with water, which they stir well with sticks, and afterwards leave it to ferment about forty eight hours. They all sit round, smoking and drinking, for a whole night together, women as well as men, singing in their way, but more like shrieking cries; and when drunk frequently proceed to blows.
They seldom live long in one place; for when their horses have eaten up the pasture in one place, they remove their town and all their goods, which is soon done, a few miles from the former; and this several times in a year; so that they have no settled abode. They have scattered habitations all over the country, and but few huts together; the town where their chief resides has three times the number of dwellings to any of the rest which I saw.
They seem to have some notion of a deity, and pay a sort of worship to the sun and moon; especially at every new moon, they collect themselves in a body, and make a solemn procession round the town, one going before with a kind of hoop in his hand, round which are tied little brass bells, adorned with ostrich feathers, which he would frequently swing round in his hand; and then the whole company would make a most hideous noise, which, I suppose, they designed for singing. This ceremony usually lasted about half an hour. This method with their hoop and bells is likewise used when any of them are sick or dying. A white flannel cloth is hung up before the sick person, and the man with his hoops and bells, who is generally one of his relations, comes to visit him; and, after a few minutes' conversation, he leaves him, and walks several times round the hut, jingling his bells, and talking aloud in a variety of accents, which we could understand nothing of, but imagined he designed it for prayers for his sick friend. When any of them dies, they soon bury him, generally the next morning. They roll up the dead body in a hide, with everything that belongs to him, as bows, arrows, etc. and carry it, without any ceremony, at some distance from the town; where they throw it into a large round pit, dug on purpose, which they afterwards fill up with earth. Yet notwithstanding they have no ceremony at their funeral, their mourning for the dead is very strict, which the friends of the deceased observe for three months; during which time they remove themselves at a distance from any of the rest of the houses, and converse with nobody; but are supplied with provisions from the whole town, by the king's order, till the time of mourning is over. They seem to have some notion of the Devil, at least are afraid of apparitions; for none of them will stir out of his hut, when dark, without company. And one night in particular we heard a great noise in the town, like several drums beating, which, next day, we found to be some of the Indians beating the sides of their houses, which were made of horse skins, with large sticks, in order to frighten away the Devil.
Each Indian has but one wife, and they live together in a very loving manner. When any of them lie-in there's a provision made for them different from what they are accommodated with at another time; for the entrance of the hut, which at other times is always open, is shut up with horse skins as soon as the woman begins to be in labour; and no one goes in till she comes out with the child in her arms, which is presently wrapped up in a sheepskin, and, instead of a bed or cradle, is lain on a machine somewhat like our hand-barrow, the bottom of which is likewise covered with a sheepskin. This is hung up by the four corners, and the child swings forwards and backwards, instead of being rocked in a cradle, its arms and legs being fastened to this engine by a lash of horse-skin, to prevent its falling over. By this method of treatment, when children, the back part of the heads of all the Indians is very flat; for they never lay them but on their backs. Perhaps it may be owing to this likewise that there is not a crooked person amongst them. In two or three hours after they have lain-in they go about their usual work. Every morning they take all their children, young and old, and carry them to the next brook or rivulet adjoining, and plunge them naked under water, even when the ground is covered with snow; by which means they are hardened to run about naked, even in the midst of winter. The men wear beads and little bells round their neck, wrist, and small of their legs; and the women adorn their long hair with the same. For such trifles as these, together with knives, brass pans, and such like, they traffic their hides with the Spaniards, when at peace with them.
And now their time for making the hunting voyage approaching, which they continually do every spring, and generally spend a whole summer in taking their wild horses, we made great intercession to go with them; but were given to understand that we must be sent farther into the country, to remain with other Indians till their return. But at last we prevailed, by assuring the chief that the English had friends at Buenos Aires, who would make him very handsome satisfaction for us, and would redeem us at any price he should put upon us. This seemed to please him, and he then consented. We were at present about 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires; and their route extends to the eastern coast of Patagonia, home to the sea, about a hundred miles to the southward of Buenos Aires. When they set out, they carry with them everything belonging to them, women, children, houses, and all. These last are flung across the horses, and at night taken down for sheltering themselves from the weather. They take with them a few horses more than they ride, which serve for maintaining them till their hunting begins, which seldom happens till they have travelled seven or eight days.
And now the wished-for time was come, when we all set out in a body, except John Duck, whose misfortune it was to be too near of a complexion with those Indians (for he was a mulatto, born in London); for which reason he was sold by the chief to a master farther up in the country; where, I believe, he will end his days, there being no prospect of his ever returning to England. We had travelled ten or twelve days before we had seen any wild horses; but soon after several stragglers fell victims to their ingenuity. Their method of taking them is really astonishing and worthy of a very particular description. As they are all excellent horsemen, and their horses as fleet as the wild ones, it is very seldom they miss, though now and then an accident of that kind happens; but the rider is looked upon with contempt. They have two different methods of taking them, each of which I have seen them perform with incredible dexterity. The first is with a lash of horse skins, about two inches broad and fifty feet long, with a running noose at one end of it. This noose they hold in their right hand, and the other end in the left, till they come within a few yards of the beast, when they throw the noose over his head, even on full speed, and hold the other end fast in their left hand. The beast is soon stopped and taken. The other method is with a narrow strap of horse-skin, about twelve feet long, to each end of which is fastened a round ball of iron, about two pounds weight. When within distance of their game, they hurl one of the balls several times round their head, till they have got the proper swing, and then throw it at the horse's legs, parting with the ball in their left hand at the same time; which seldom fails of entangling their legs, and throwing them to the ground. The horses thus taken are secured by some of the company, whose business is chiefly to tie these horses together in a string, and guard them. In a few days they become very tame. They are likewise very dextrous in killing birds with these balls, and will throw them to a prodigious height in the air. This is what they are trained up to from their infancy, and are very expert at, even in their youth. These iron balls, fastened in the above manner, are likewise their chief warlike weapons, next to their bows and arrows.
Being now arrived within a hundred miles of Buenos Aires, we begged of him to dispatch one of his men to the governor, to acquaint him of three English prisoners he had with him at such a distance, and to ask if he would redeem us; which he did. And the messenger, on his return, brought him a certain pledge for fulfilling his promise, which was a gold-laced waistcoat. Next day we were told to get ourselves ready to go to Buenos Aires, and that he and some of his men would go with us.
The hopes of once more seeing our fellow Christians filled us with joy. We were brought immediately before the governor, who satisfied our Indian prince, and paid him his ransom, which was ninety dollars, and a few trifles, and then dismissed him. We returned him our hearty thanks for his kindness towards us during our abode with him; in which time we were treated with greater humanity than we afterwards met with in our long confinement on board [ship by] the Spanish Admiral Pizarro.
After we had passed examination by the governor, and had given him a full account of our past misfortunes, we were for a short time dismissed upon parole. And here I should be very ungrateful if I did not do justice to the president of the English Asiento House, Mr. Grey, by acknowledging that it was entirely owing to his compassion, and kind intercession with the governor, that we were thus redeemed from the hands of the Indians, he offering to do it at his own charge. We were sent for several times before the governor, and earnestly pressed to turn Catholics, and serve the King of Spain; but our answer was, we were Protestants, and true Englishmen, and hoped to die so. Many tempting offers were made to seduce us; but, thank God, we resisted them all. When he found all his efforts were of no effect, we were sent as prisoners of war on board the Asia, which lay then at Montevideo, about thirty leagues down the river, waiting for orders, and had lain there upwards of two years. This was the Spanish admiral Pizarro's ship, which, after an unsuccessful attempt to pass Cape Horn, in order to be in the South Seas with her squadron before ours, was, by tempestuous weather, driven back, and obliged to put into the River Plate, having lost near half her crew; the admiral having quitted her, and gone overland to Chile.
We were confined on board the Asia above a year, with 16 other English prisoners, in which time we were treated more like slaves than prisoners of war. Our business was to do all their nasty work; to swab and clean the decks, fore and aft, every morning; and, after the work was done, [we] were confined between decks, with a sentinel over us, as though we had been criminals, with a poor allowance of victuals. In short, our usage was so bad that we agreed with the rest of the English prisoners to attempt our liberty, though at the risk of our lives. Accordingly one night we escaped from our guard, intending to swim ashore, and travel to a Portuguese settlement on the north side of the river, the ship lying within a quarter of a mile of the shore. Myself and one more got safe to land; the others were discovered before they got into water. I was quite naked; the other had a shirt wrapped round his head. Before we got half-way to the shore a gun was fired from the ship to alarm the town. We travelled till two in the morning, and then lay down among the rushes. The weather being very frosty, our feet swelled and full of thorns, we could travel no farther. Soon after daylight we met with some men on horseback, belonging to the plantations, to whom we surrendered ourselves; and they took us behind them to their house. The next day we were carried from thence by some soldiers, who were sent in pursuit of us, and were carried on board the ship; where we were put in the stocks, neck and heels, four hours every day for a fortnight.
At length we were informed of the admiral's arrival at Buenos Aires, who soon after came on board, and gave orders for refitting the ship in the best manner they could, being determined to carry her to Old Spain. But there was a great deficiency of hands; for which reason orders were given to impress what men they could at Montevideo. These, with the 11 Indians whom they had four months before taken prisoners in a skirmish at a distance from Buenos Aires, whom they designed for their row galleys, were sent on board; and soon after I had the pleasure of seeing my brother midshipman, Mr. Campbell, who was lost in the Wager with us, but choosing to follow the fortune of Capt. Cheap, arrived with him at Chile. He came by land from Chile with some officers belonging to the Spanish admiral, and arrived in March at Buenos Aires. The latter end of October following, 1745, we set sail from Montevideo in the Asia, bound for Spain.
Three days after we sailed an affair happened on board which was like to have proved fatal to the whole crew; for, about nine at night, we were alarmed with the cry of a mutiny; and so indeed it proved. But such a one as would never have been suspected by any of the ship's crew, or perhaps credited by posterity, if such a number of persons were not still living to attest the fact. But, lest I should do injustice to the memory of such a surprising event, I shall beg leave to relate it in the language of Mr. Walters, [Richard Walters was Anson's chaplain, and co-author with him of the authorized account of his voyage, published in 1748; Ed.] assuring the reader that I was a witness to the whole affair.
" Pizarro had not yet completed the series of his adventures; for when he and Mindinuetta [another Spanish naval commander, Ed.] came back by land from Chile to Buenos Aires, in the year 1745, they found at Montevideo the Asia, which near three years before they had left there. This ship they resolved, if possible, to carry to Europe; and with this view they refitted her in the best manner they could. But their great difficulty was to procure a sufficient number of hands to navigate her; for all the remaining sailors of the squadron, to be met with in the neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, did not amount to a hundred men. They endeavoured to supply this defect by pressing and putting on board many of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, besides all the English prisoners then in their custody, together with a number of Portuguese smugglers, whom they had taken at different times, and some of the Indians of the country. Among these last there was a chief and ten of his followers, who had been surprised by a party of Spanish soldiers about three months before. The name of this chief was Orellana. He belonged to a very powerful tribe, which had committed great ravages in the neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. With this motley crew (all of them, except the European Spaniards, extremely averse to the voyage) Pizarro set sail from Montevideo, in the River of Plate, about the beginning of November, 1745. And the native Spaniards, being no strangers to the dissatisfaction of their forced men, treated both these, the English prisoners, and the Indians, with great insolence and barbarity; but more particularly the Indians. For it was common for the meanest officers in the ship to beat them most cruelly, on the slightest pretences, and oftentimes only to exert their superiority. Orellana and his followers, though in appearance sufficiently patient and submissive, meditated a severe revenge for all these inhumanities.
[Actually, the following sentences are not present in the 1901 edition of Anson & Walters, as transcribed under the Gutenberg Project; Ed.] As he conversed very well in Spanish (these Indians having, in time of peace, a good intercourse with Buenos Aires), he affected to talk with such of the English as understood that language, and seemed very desirous of being informed how many Englishmen there were on board, and which they were. As he knew that the English were as much enemies to the Spaniards as himself, he had doubtless an intention of disclosing his purpose to them, and making them partners in the scheme he had projected for revenging his wrongs and recovering his liberty. But having sounded them at a distance, and not finding them so precipitate and vindictive as he expected, he proceeded no further with them; but resolved to trust alone to the resolution of his ten faithful followers. These, it should seem, readily engaged to observe his directions, and to execute whatever commands he gave them.
And, having agreed on the measures necessary to be taken, they first furnished themselves with Dutch knives, sharp at the point, which being the common knives used in the ship, they found no difficulty in procuring. Besides this, they employed their leisure in secretly cutting out thongs from raw hides, of which there were great numbers on board, and in fixing to each end of these thongs the double-headed shot of the small quarterdeck guns. This, when swung round their heads, according to the practice of their country, was a most mischievous weapon, in the use of which the Indians about Buenos Aires are trained from their infancy, and consequently are extremely expert. These particulars being in good forwardness, the execution of their scheme was perhaps precipitated by a particular outrage committed on Orellana himself. For one of the officers, who was a very brutal fellow, ordered Orellana aloft, which being what he was incapable of performing, the officer, under pretence of his disobedience, beat him with such violence that he left him bleeding on the deck, and stupefied for some time with his bruises and wounds. This usage undoubtedly heightened his thirst for revenge, and made him eager and impatient till the means of executing it were in his power; so that, within a day or two after this incident, he and his followers opened their desperate resolves in the ensuing manner.
It was about nine in the evening:, when many of the principal officers were on the quarterdeck, indulging in the freshness of the night air; the waist of the ship was filled with live cattle; and the forecastle was manned with its customary watch. Orellana and his companions, under cover of the night, having prepared their weapons, and thrown off their trousers and the more cumbrous parts of their dress, came all together on the quarterdeck, and drew towards the door of the great cabin. The boatswain immediately reprimanded them, and ordered them to be gone. On this Orellana spoke to his followers in his native language; when four of them drew off, two towards each gangway, and the chief and the six remaining Indians seemed to be slowly quitting the quarterdeck. When the detached Indians had taken possession of the gangway, Orellana placed his hands hollow to his mouth, and bellowed out the war-cry used by these savages, which is the harshest and most terrifying sound known in Nature. This hideous yell was the signal for beginning the massacre. For on this they all drew their knives, and brandished their prepared double-headed shot; and the six, with their chief, which remained on the quarterdeck immediately fell on the Spaniards, who were intermingled with them, and laid near forty of them at their feet; of which about twenty were killed on the spot, and the rest disabled. Many of the officers, in the beginning of the tumult, pushed into the great cabin; where they put out the lights, and barricaded the door; and of the others, who had avoided the first fury of the Indians, some endeavoured to escape along the gangways into the forecastle; but the Indians, placed there on purpose, stabbed the greatest part of them as they attempted to pass by, or forced them off the gangways into the waist. Others threw themselves voluntarily over the barricades into the waist, and thought themselves happy to lie concealed among the cattle. But the greatest part escaped up the main shrouds, and sheltered themselves either in tops or rigging. And though the Indians attacked only the quarterdeck, yet the watch in the forecastle, finding their communication cut off, and being terrified by the wounds of the few who, not being killed on the spot, had strength sufficient to force their passage along the gangways, and not knowing either who their enemies were, or what were their numbers, they likewise gave all over for lost, and, in great confusion, ran up into the rigging of the foremast and bowsprit.
Thus, these eleven Indians, with a resolution perhaps without example, possessed themselves, almost in an instant, of the quarterdeck of a ship mounting sixty six guns, with a crew of near five hundred men, and continued in peaceable possession of this post a considerable time. For the officers in the great cabin (among whom were Pizarro and Mindinuetta), the crew between decks, and those who had escaped into the tops and rigging, were only anxious for their own safety, and were for a long time incapable of forming any project for suppressing the insurrection, and recovering the possession of the ship. It is true, the yells of the Indians, the groans of the wounded, and the confused clamours of the crew, all heightened by the obscurity of the night, had at first greatly magnified their danger, and had filled them with the imaginary terrors which darkness, disorder, and an ignorance of the real strength of an enemy, never fail to produce. For as the Spaniards were sensible of the disaffection of their pressed hands, and were also conscious of their barbarity to their prisoners, they imagined the conspiracy was general, and considered their own destruction as infallible; so that, it is said, some of them had once taken the resolution of leaping into the sea, but were prevented by their companions.
However, when the Indians had entirely cleared the quarterdeck, the tumult in great measure subsided; for those who had escaped were kept silent by their fears, and the Indians were incapable of pursuing them, to renew the disorder. Orellana, when he saw himself master of the quarterdeck, broke open the arms-chest, which, on a slight suspicion of mutiny, had been ordered there a few days before, as to a place of the greatest security. Here he took it for granted he should find cutlasses sufficient for himself and his companions, in the use of which they were all extremely skilful; and with these, it was imagined, they purposed to force the great cabin. But on opening the chest, there appeared nothing but firearms, which to them were of no use. There were indeed cutlasses in the chest, but they were hid by the firearms being laid over them. This was a sensible disappointment to them; and by this time Pizarro and his companions in the great cabin were capable of conversing aloud, through the cabin windows and portholes, with those in the gun-room and between decks; and from hence they learnt that the English (whom they principally suspected) were all safe below, and had not intermeddled in this mutiny; and by other particulars they at last discovered, that none were concerned in it but Orellana and his people. On this Pizarro and the officers resolved to attack them on the quarterdeck, before any of the discontented on board should so far recover their first surprise as to reflect on the facility and certainty of seizing the ship, by a junction with the Indians, in the present emergency. With this view Pizarro got together what arms were in the cabin, and distributed them to those who were with him; but there were no other firearms to be met with but pistols, and for these they had neither powder nor ball. However, having now settled a correspondence with the gun-room, they lowered down a bucket out of the cabin window, into which the gunner, out of one of the gun-room ports, put a quantity of pistol cartridges. When they had thus procured ammunition, and had loaded their pistols, they set the cabin door partly open, and fired some shot among the Indians on the quarterdeck, at first without effect; but at last Mindinuetta, whom we have often mentioned, had the good fortune to shoot Orellana dead on the spot. On which his faithful companions, abandoning all thoughts of farther resistance, instantly leaped into the sea; where they every man perished. Thus was this insurrection quelled, and the possession of the quarterdeck regained, after it had been full two hours in the power of this great and daring chief, and his gallant and unhappy countrymen. "
After this all was quiet; and the Admiral, finding that none of the English were engaged in this insurrection, for a few days treated us with a little humanity, endeavouring to engage us, by large promises of preferment, to enter into the Spanish service. But finding nothing would work on us, we afterwards felt the smart of his resentment by a severe usage.
Nothing remarkable happened afterwards, more than what commonly happens at sea, till we arrived at Corcubion, a harbour about five leagues to the south of Cape Finisterre; which was the latter end of February, 1745-6.
We begged to be sent ashore, as prisoners of war; but were told we must go in the ship to the Groyne. Whereupon we all went in a body on the quarterdeck, and told the admiral, if he would not send us ashore, we would no longer be slaves on board. Next day we were sent ashore, and confined fifteen days in a prison, with an allowance only of bread and water, and chained together as criminals, till the ship sailed for the Groyne, when we were released from our dungeon, and guarded to the Groyne by land with a file of musketeers. Where, as soon as we arrived, we were put into the guardhouse for two days; from whence we were sent to St. Antonio's Castle, which is on an island at the entrance of the harbour; a prison for thieves and felons. In this dismal place we were kept fourteen weeks, among the worst of malefactors, till an order came from the Court of Spain to send us to Portugal; allowing us a guide, and a real per day.
In eight days we got to Oporto, and made application to the English Consul, who, after hearing the hardships we had gone through, gave us each three days maintenance and a quarter of a moidore.
On April 28, 1746, we embarked on board the Charlotta Snow, Capt. Henry Miller, bound for London, under convoy of the York and Folkestone men-of-war, and arrived at London on the 8th of July following. Three only of the eight left on the Patagonian coast being so happy as to see once more their native country, viz. Samuel Cooper, John Andrews, and myself.
F I N I S.