Description: Ilo (Ylo, Hilo), Peru and the surrounding region is rich with fruits and other produce, including fig, olive, lemon, lime, orange, guava, and avocado trees. The region also produces cattle and sugar, and a large sugar-works or ingenio d’azucar is located not far from the small town.

Scenario: Having been repulsed at Arica (the first time) by a large turnout of defenders and seas running to high to safely land, not to mention some of the vessels in harbor “vapouring” (blustering and bluffing) by firing their pateroes, the buccaneers head instead to Ilo to seek water, provisions, and intelligence. On October 28, 1680 they send four canoes with fifty men ashore to capture the town, which is easily done. Soon after they bring more men ashore to explore the countryside, seeking provisions and plunder.

Forces: All the man who can be spared from the Trinity go ashore after the first fifty men land and capture the town. The total number is probably no more than one hundred, and of those only sixty will head into the countryside while the rest hold Ilo. The buccaneers are armed as usual, with musket, one or two pistols, cartouche box with as many as thirty cartridges, possibly a second cartouche box for some, and a cutlass. A few many carry grenades and boarding axes or felling axes.

The Spanish force consists of militia infantry and some militia horsemen of unknown number who are expecting they may be attacked. There are but few in the town at first, and a few more in the hills above the valley. However, as each day passes, the Spanish force, drawn from all around, increases in size to an estimated three hundred horsemen, although this may be an exaggeration.

According to later information the buccaneers receive, “those who came to fight us when we were here the first time [this time] were most of them boys, and had only 50 firearms amongst them, they being commanded by an English gentleman who is married at Arequipa.”

Ilo itself is protected by a hastily-built “breastwork, thirty paces long, of clay and banks of sand.” The Spanish horsemen are probably a mixture of those armed with carabinas, pistols, and swords (and some possibly with bucklers), and those armed with lances. If the information received from the Spanish above is accurate, most of the horsemen are armed with lances.

The anchorage at Ilo. At the upper left is the plan for a sugarcane press.
The anchorage at Ilo. At the upper left is the plan for a sugarcane press.
“Hilo” as depicted in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.
“Hilo” as depicted in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.

Historical Action: On October 26, 1680 the buccaneers land fifty men who quickly march toward the town. The are soon met by a number of horsemen whom they send flying after exchanging a few volleys. At the town there is but a brief skirmish, after which the buccaneers take possession and raise two English flags as a signal to their brethren.

On October 30, the buccaneers send sixty of their fittest men into the valley of Ilo to search for plunder. Four miles inland they discover a large sugar-works, which produces sugar and molasses. As the buccaneers march, they are observed from afar by Spaniards who periodically roll boulders down hillsides in hopes of injuring or killing the intruders.

John Cox, Basil Ringrose, and another linguister, Dutchman Jacobus Marquis, head out from the sugar-works with a flag of truce, and agree to receive four-score beeves (cattle) from the Spanish in return from not damaging the sugar-works, to be delivered by noon the following day.

On October 31, Ringrose suggests that the buccaneers clear the hills of armed Spaniards, but his advice is not taken. Buccaneers begin hauling sugar and other plunder to the ship. No cattle are forthcoming. On November 1, the Spanish claim that the cattle will come down that night, and that if they like, the owner of the sugar-works has returned from Potosí and they may negotiate with him instead. The buccaneers decide to wait one more day.

The following day, the Spanish claim that the winds are too high to drive cattle, and indeed no cattle arrive. In revenge, the buccaneers take sixty men and march to the sugar factory and burn it—house, mill, and canes. They also destroy the coppers, press cogs, and many jars of oil. Carrying as much sugar as they can back to the town, the buccaneers see a large number of armed horsemen heading toward the dispersed buccaneers at the town and shore. Dropping their sugar, they race to the town to give warning.

They draw up in formation on open ground in order to avoid ambuscades, and prepare to stand the shock of a Spanish charge. And the Spanish horse does try to charge home but the

buccaneers dismount many in the front rank with “small shot”—a mix of round ball and seven or nine swan shot in a musket cartridge. Afterward they end up in a day-long desultory firefight with those horsemen in the town, for many have taken to the hills. The buccaneers manage to keep possession of the lower town, the Spaniards the upper.

Fearing that more Spaniards are en route, the buccaneers sneak themselves and their plunder aboard the Trinity by night and set sail.

Plunder at Ilo consists of pitch, tar, wine, flour, and thirty jars of oil. The buccaneers also make off with a great chest of sugar from the sugar-works, enough for seven and a half pounds per man, plus “plenty of all sorts of garden herbs, roots, and most excellent fruit”—but no cattle!