Spain! Land of romance and Inquisition! New Spain, New Granada, and Peru, along with the adjacent islands, make up Spain in the New World, what we today know collectively as the Spanish Main of fact and fiction, of romance and reality. It is a grand empire, more diverse and colorful than any of the other European nations in the Americas. In fact, most of European-settled Americas are controlled by Spain, giving the Iberian kingdom great wealth from the silver, gold, and goods found here. But the Spanish crown has squandered its American wealth, and the Spanish empire is in decline. It cannot afford to defend its New World colonies as well as it must. Ashore it relies on fortifications, Spanish regulars in the larger towns and some small outposts, and local militias often augmented by Native Americans. At sea it relies on a small fleet known as the Armada de Barlovento, but it cannot be everywhere at once. Guardas costas (privately commissioned coast guards) provide local sea patrols, and armadillos—locally armed vessels—are sent out on specific occasions, but both are often as piratical as the buccaneers they defend against. Spanish defenses are typically weak: only the great treasure fleets remain well-protected.

Guarda Costas

Spanish privateers licensed to suppress piracy and smuggling in the Caribbean that were often accused of piratical acts by the English and French.

Spanish Caribbean Militia

Made up of civilians, freed slaves, and native auxiliaries. The first line of defense on the Spanish Main.

English Nationality Starter Box

In many ways England has revealed itself in the Caribbean to be what Spain has long called it: a nation of pirates! For years, England was limited to Barbados and its sugar, molasses, and rum, and a few other small colonies in the Antilles, but with the capture of Jamaica from Spain—of doubtful lawfulness, but what can Spain do?—England has unleashed its rovers on its hated Inquisitorial enemy. “No peace beyond the line” is the justification, along with pretenses of reprisals against Spanish piracies, which are often in reprisal for piracies by English buccaneers. But England is not only a nation of sea dogs: it is also a nation of merchant traders, and by and by the latter come to rule. As trade with Spain becomes paramount, the buccaneers are slowly suppressed, and begin marauding into the South Sea—the Pacific Ocean, that is—coasts of the Spanish Main. Many are opposed to the suppression of the buccaneers, for they are the bulwark of defense at sea against enemy attack.

English Buccaneers

Privateers and sometimes pirates sailing out of Jamaica to raid the towns and commerce of the Spanish Empire.

English Caribbean Militia

Made up of pirates, civilians and former soldiers. The first line of defense on England’s Caribbean holdings.

French sea rovers were the first to singe the Spanish beard in the New World, and France has no intention of letting up. French adventurers showed up on Tortuga Island off the north coast of Hispaniola early in the seventeenth century. French hunters of cattle and swine soon came to be known as boucaniers, and just as soon were allied with French sea rovers, themselves soon to be known as flibustiers. These allies began with small forays against the Spanish, first from dugout canoes and piraguas, then later from larger vessels. Like the English, the French in the Caribbean, and especially on Saint-Domingue, as the French western part was known, came to rely on the flibustiers and boucaniers for defense, and almost thirty years longer. Although France at times agreed to reign in its Caribbean sea rovers, seldom did it stop supporting their plundering, whether by outright commission or via a “wink of the eye.”

French Buccaneers

Made up mainly of Flibustiers and Boucaniers sailing out of Tortuga and Petit Goave to raid the towns and commerce of the Spanish Empire.

French Caribbean Militia

These well armed civilians and Boucaniers learned much from the success of the French Buccaneers. They were the primary defense forces of the French Caribbean.

Brethren of the Coast

 These adventurers are of all nations, races, and ethnicities, and their sole purpose is to harry Spain—to plunder the Spanish Main! They are English buccaneers, French flibustiers, Dutch freebooters, Spanish deserters, Portuguese seamen, and freed slaves and other men of color, all banded together for common purpose. If they are English and are forbidden to plunder the Spanish, they will accept a French commission, and if French and so forbidden, an English commission. And if there is no commission to be had, they will make a pretense of one and attack the Spanish anyway. They are naturally armed as are the English buccaneers and French flibustiers, both of whom are in their number: with flintlock musket (usually a fusil boucanier), cartouche box of thirty cartridges, a pistol or two, and a cutlass.

Logwood Cutters

Logwood cutters were rough men who labored for months at a time standing knee-deep in water while they chopped down logwood trees, a valuable dyewood. Many logwood cutters drifted through a variety of trades, including buccaneering, “fishing” for silver (treasure hunting), and even local whaling, leaving them with a variety of skills that made them useful to a various military and quasi-military and naval expeditions.