THE FIRST SOUTH SEA ADVENTURE: Puebla Nueva
Description: Puebla Nueva, or “New Town,” formally known as La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, in Veragua (modern Panama) is a small town noted as an estancia or rancheria for cattle, and which also produces pitch, tallow, indigo, and annatto (achiote dye). Along the nearby coast are the houses of pearl fishermen. Basil Ringrose notes that small deer are plentiful. Although Puebla Nueva lies near the coast it is three leagues distant by river.
Situation: The buccaneer crew wants “meat” in their meals, and so, rather than wait at Taboga Island near Panama for the arrival of an expected treasure ship, they force their commanders to seek fresh provisions. On May 21, 1680 the buccaneers head by night upriver and attack the following day.
Forces: The Buccaneers: Capt. Cook and his eighty ton bark ferry roughly sixty buccaneers to the bay of Puebla Nueva, where approximately forty-five to fifty of them, commanded by Richard Sawkins and assisted by Bartholomew Sharp, board canoes and ascend the “river of Puebla Nueva.”
The Spanish: The defenders have been forewarned by a French deserter from the buccaneers, and
have felled trees across the river to hinder the buccaneer ascent. Additionally they have built three strong breastworks or stockades—probably breastworks made of palisades—at the small town, along with “other defenses.” The Spanish force consists entirely of lanceros afoot: cattle hunters and other locals, many of them mestizos and mulattos. Their number is unknown, but they significantly outnumber the buccaneers. Buccaneer John Cox suggests a thousand or more, an impossible number yet suggestive of just how outnumbered the buccaneers were.
Historical Action: The buccaneers row all night, capturing two small barks en route, and land near a stockade set up at the river to protect the town. Capt. Sawkins shoots one Spaniard down as they land, then asks if everyone has landed and are ready. Upon the affirmative, he tells them to “Follow me and doe not lye behind, for if I doe amise You will all fair the worse for itt.” With a few men at his heels he charges the nearest stockade or barricade, the end or flank of it according to one witness, but after shooting a defender dead he is killed by a lance, and two or three of his men with him, one of whom is taken alive and briefly tortured before being killed.
Although the buccaneers load and fire “as fast as they could,” the defenders charge in upon them “so fast.” Four or five more buccaneers are wounded. Having lost their captain and seeing how well defended Puebla Nueva is, the buccaneers retreat.
Game Notes: This is a good, short battle showcasing buccaneers versus lanceros protected by a stockade-barricade, and the inherent danger of attacking such a place by charging it. Any gaps or loopholes in the stockade can be used by lanceros to pierce the buccaneers. It shows the danger, as was quoted at the time, of lanceros when they get within ranks.