Scenario: On the night of August 24, 1680, en route from the Isle of Plate to Arica for their first visit, the buccaneers espy a sail to the NNE. They cast off the Mayflower which is in tow and give chase. They are not recognized until close by, at which time the Spanish ship claps on a wind and leads a merry chase. When the Trinity finally gets within hailing distance again, the buccaneers, via a Spanish Native American, command them to lower their topsails. The Spanish answer that they will make the buccaneers lower their own. The fight is on!

Forces: Roughly 150 buccaneers, less the sailing crew aboard the Mayflower, are aboard the 400 ton Trinity, but they have no great guns, and possibly no swivels. Small arms are their only weapons.

The Isla de la Plate from Basil Ringrose’s account in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.
The Isla de la Plate from Basil Ringrose’s account in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.

The Spanish force, commissioned at Guayaquil, consists a bark with a crew of 35 men, 24 of whom are natives of Old Spain. They are armed with 31 firearms, all or nearly all arcabuses. Many of the Spaniards are professional soldiers.

Commanded by Don Tomás de Argandona, a “very civil and meek” caballero, the pirate hunters have been charged to seek the buccaneers out and, if they find them, to either run the bark ashore and give notice, or fight them. In fact, they seek and fight the buccaneers out of a sense of “true blue Spanish bravado,” learning that the buccaneers are in the area after seven of those who previously “mutinied” and departed the expedition are all but one, probably Thomas Hall who speaks Spanish, killed in an ambush near Guayaquil at the Rio Barranca.

Buccaneer John Cox describes the Spaniards as “a parcel of merry Blades, Gentlemen, who drinking in a Tavern, made a Vow to come to Sea with that Vessel and thirty Men, and take us; but we made them repent their undertaking.” Buccaneer William Dick suggests they had no idea that the Trinity was a large well-manned ship, and believed their enemy must be only a small number of buccaneers in a small vessel like those captured at the Rio Barranca.

Historical Action: The fight lasts roughly half an hour, the shot flying thick on both sides. According to Edward Povey, the Spaniards fire first, then the buccaneers a volley, then the Spaniards a volley. But when the buccaneers kill the helmsman, none will take his place. Soon, buccaneer shot cuts the Spaniard’s main-top halliards, at which point, unable to command their ship, the Spanish ask for quarter. The Trinity’s rigging is much damaged, and three buccaneers are wounded: two by the Spanish, one by accident from a friendly pistol. One of the wounded buccaneers, Robert Montgomery, will die on September 8, 1680 of his wound. Spanish losses, other than the helmsman, are not recorded.

By eleven o’clock the buccaneers are under sail again, the bark in tow. The shareable plunder amounts to 3,276 pieces-of-eight. The buccaneers also take six or seven prisoners of “quality,” hoping to ransom them. On August 26, the buccaneers “punish” the chaplain of the bark, a Spanish friar, by shooting him then throwing him overboard still alive. Basil Ringrose deplores the act but does not speak up, saying it would have done no good to do so.

Game Notes: Given the lopsided nature of the historical battle, the bark should be more maneuverable than the galleon sailed by the buccaneers, thwarting any boarding attempt. Also, given that it is a night action, the galleon is a larger target than the bark. Perhaps Spanish victory is either that the bark escapes, or inflicts twenty or more buccaneer casualties, enough to make Spanish honor famous? For the game, the number of buccaneers can be reduced to 60 or so?