Beyond the major powers and players central to sea-roving Blood & Plunder in the Caribbean there are a number on the immediate periphery. Often powerful in their own right, their influence on Caribbean sea rovers is directly associated with their interaction. These players include Portuguese militia and Bandeirantes who defend Brazilian colonies against a variety of enemies—including buccaneers on occasion—and aggressively expand colonial territory into Native American lands. These peripheral powers are also comprised of Danes and the slave trade factory on Saint Thomas and Brandenberg Prussians who hire Dutch captains and seamen to pursue a privateering course through the Caribbean. Also notable are Native Americans in North America defending their territories against European encroachment even as they ally with various European factions as well as Scottish militias in South Carolina and the Isthmus of Darien attempting to defend boldly envisioned but weakly executed Scottish colonies against Spanish counter-attacks.
(1630 – circa 1720)
Independent companies of militia or ordenanças flying their captain’s banner, Portuguese Bandeirantes explore regions of Brazil unsettled by Europeans, driving out Native Americans and maroons or often enslaving them. Ethnically the Bandeirantes are Europeans and mestizos, often accompanied by Native American allies. In many cases the Bandeirantes settle in new regions on the coast or in the hinterland, and use these settlements as bases from which to explore farther afield. Most famous are the Bandeirantes in the Captaincy of Sao Paulo (Capitania Real de São Paulo) in the south, but these independent leaders and their followers can be found throughout Brazil. On occasion, those on the coast are called to defend against the occasional buccaneer incursion, for Brazil is not only a convenient way station en route to the South Sea and Africa, but is a source for easy plunder for buccaneers who have had little success elsewhere.
Portuguese-Brazilian Tercios & Militia
(1630 – 1720)
Portuguese military forces in Brazil are composed of regular infantry modeled on the Portuguese terço, or infantry battalion, which is itself modeled on the Spanish tercio; local militia or ordenanças composed of free male settlers from ages eighteen to sixty, excepting only priests and noblemen, the latter of whom generally serve as officers anyway; and often segregated black and Native American terços as well. The Portuguese militia and associated forces face numerous enemies: Native Americans fighting against European encroachment, Dutch invaders fighting to keep their colonial settlements, and soon maroons fighting to keep their territory and freedom. Although European tactics are used when appropriate, much of the fighting in Brazil is irregular: guerrilla tactics are common, although both black and Native American companies are usually trained in conventional European tactics as well as in local tactics. The large caliber matchlock musket propped up with a fork—the mosquete—and the smaller caliber matchlock—the arcabus—that requires no fork are the long guns of choice. They are, however, poorly suited for warfare inland where the espingarda, or flintlock, is far superior. Charges are carried via the conventional bandolier. All too often though, conventional forces, whether regular or militia, are ill-equipped and trained.
Denmark, following in the wake of other European slave trading nations, has established a small colony on Saint Thomas. The commune is noteworthy for a pair of the most dubious of governors and the prominent support of outright piracy by one of them, Adolphe Esmit, and the blind eye turned toward it by some of its other administrators. On Saint Thomas buccaneers returning from the South Sea abandon their flagship, the Trinity. It is here that Jean Hamlyn receives open support from Governor Esmit, even after an English man-of-war burns his ship, La Trompeuse, in the harbor along with the hulk of the Trinity. It is here that William Kidd, aboard his prize, the Quedagh Merchant, seeks refuge but is refused. It is also here that one of the most famous of all buccaneers, Bartholomew Sharp, spends his final days. The local armed force is small, divided among professionals, common militia, and the Burgher Guard. Its duties are largely restricted to manning the small harbor fort. Danish ships visit occasionally, and in harbor a yacht or two, similar to those of Dutch design, mix with the more common American craft. Saint Thomas is but a small colony; in 1680 there are fewer than two hundred each of Europeans and African slaves. The island is also home to the factor responsible for managing the Brandenburg slave trade. In the 1690s one Brandenburg factor repeatedly exceeds his authority by receiving Spanish and French prizes from French privateers. Brandenburgers also routinely attempt to avoid taxes and foment discord among island planters.
Like the Danes, the Brandenburgers entered the slave trade to the Caribbean, but unlike the Danes, they have no colony in the Americas. The Danish island of Saint Thomas is the solution, and under agreement with the Danish crown the Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William, establishes a factory on the island for trade in goods and slaves. But the Brandenburg factory attempts to avoid Danish taxes, receives plunder from French privateers without authority, and generally foments unrest among Danish planters. At one point, in retaliation the Danish governor seizes Brandenburg goods from the factory warehouse. The Elector of Brandenburg also sends two hired Dutch privateers to the Caribbean against French shipping in 1679, and in 1680 sends a flotilla of six frigates and a fireship to the Caribbean to attack Spanish shipping. The cruise ends in 1681 with only insignificant results. The ships are captained by Dutchmen, and their crews are largely Dutch as well.
As a nation, Swedish presence in the New World is restricted to its small colony of New Sweden along the Delaware River, adjacent to the Dutch colony of New Netherland. Swedes are also found aboard the men-of-war and merchantmen of many navies, and are strewn in small numbers among various European colonies as well. The colony is established in 1638 and lasts until 1656 when the neighboring Dutch seize it. Swedish colonists remain in America, and are governed variously by the English from 1664, with a very brief interlude of Dutch government again, until 1681 when the former colony becomes part of the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Militarily, the colony’s small armed force faces Native American retaliation and occasional friction with the neighboring Dutch. Although Swedish colonists are perhaps best-known for introducing the log cabin, pirate and maritime fans may be more familiar with the modern replica of the Kalmar Nyckel and its very seventeenth century profile.
(1684-1686 & 1698-1700)
Scottish investors send two colonizing expeditions to the Americas in the late seventeenth century. The first, under the auspices of the Scottish Carolina Company, establishes Stuart’s Town at Port Royal, South Carolina in 1684. The Scots almost immediately come into conflict with the English proprietors who have granted them license to settle, and with Spaniards from Saint Augustine. The Scots accuse the English of interloping on their territory, and the Spanish accuse the Scots, quite factually, of arming Yamassee warriors for raids against them. The latter practice results in a Spanish raid in 1686 which largely destroys the Scottish colony, and another soon after that finishes it. Later the Scots, via the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, better known as the Company of Darien, establish a colony on the Isthmus of Panama in 1698, based in part on a detailed secret intelligence report by former buccaneer-surgeon Lionel Wafer. Unfortunately, disease and a Spanish siege put an end to the hopeful colony by 1700. Scottish militias in the Americas are composed largely of Lowlanders, although some Highlanders join the expeditions. Armament and tactics are modeled on the English: “firelock muskets” (flintlocks) with “collars of bandoleers” or cartouche boxes; plug bayonets, especially in the last decade; and a hanger at the side, although some basket-hilted broadswords (often used by Scottish Lowland and English cavalry as well as by Highlanders) are in evidence, as are “Three Barred Horseman’s” swords. Pistols are also listed among Scottish armaments. Many of the Scots are dour Covenanting Presbyterians in religion and Whigs in politics, the sort who fight and lose at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679 to the Duke of Monmouth and his army of English and Scottish troops. The Scots, both Highlanders and Lowlanders, in America are fierce fighting men, but are unprepared for the political and geographic obstacles facing them.