Saturday, August 29, 2015

Notes on the Florida Keys - Part 2

Notes from "True Stories of the Perilous Straits" Chapter 2: Castaways (Chapter 1 is here)



A band of natives met the soldiers, told them that they were friends of Governor Menendez, and invited them into their huts. They gave the soldiers fish to eat and water to drink, but when the soldiers were relaxed, they attacked them with clubs and spears. 1577, when two Spanish vessels from Havana wrecked at the head of the Keys, the natives killed all the survivors except two they held for ransom.

..."build a colony of friends in a place of great importance where, even while remaining savages, they have contributed many times to the saving of shipwrecked Spaniards and as a scourge for the enemy (the English)."

cargo of logwood

arms, ammunition, provisions, and sails to make tents

Their spirits soared when they saw the English colors displayed in one of the canoes, but then sank a short while later when they realized the paddlers were Native Americans, not Englishmen.

The natives in one of the canoes paddled after Hammon, hauled him aboard, beat him mercilessly with a cutlass, and then tied him up. Having plundered the sloop of everything they wanted, the natives set it on fire, howling and yelling as the flames leapt into the rigging.

One day as he was walking in the city, a Spanish navy press gang seized him.

The war was known as the War of Jenkin's Ear because of an incident that took place in 1731. A guarda-costa vessel stopped and boarded a British merchant ship whose captain's name was Robert Jenkins. The guarda-costa crew tortured Jenkins to find out where he had hidden his money by alternately hanging him and then cutting him down before he died. In the end, they spared his life but cut off his ear. Supposedly, when Jenkins told his story and displayed his withered ear before Parliament, the ministry was forced by popular outrage to declare war against Spain.

...fourty-four gun frigate... with a crew of 200 men and a captured Spanish ship in tow....

But before the frigate gained headway on the opposite tack, the stern struck, and in rapid succession, the tiller snapped, the rudder broke and water started flooding into the hold.

...a series of large swells threw the frigate violently against the coral heads and stove in the bottom planks. the bread and the...gunpowder.

the reef of the Martyrs

As the sloop disappeared over the horizon, with the ships' boats in pursuit, crewmen set to work cutting holes in the frigate's decks to gain access to her stores of water and provisions.

Each year from August to March, fleets of Cuban fishermen came to the Keys and the southwest coats of Florida to fish and to salt and dry their catches on shore.

...catch turtles, cut hardwood timber, and salvage wrecks.

When two Spanish mail ships wrecked off Key Largo in 1794, Bahamian wreckers plundered the ships while the crews were still onboard and demanded an exorbitant fee to carry the crews back to Havana.

...with a sailor holding up a blanket as a sail, the raft drifted slowly away from the wreck.

One of the seamen attached his red neckcloth to an oar and waved it overhead, but the sloops, having sighted the wreck, changed course to investigate it.

Not long before, he said, the crew of a Spanish fishing vessel wrecked in the Keys had overpowered their Bahamian rescuers, seized their vessel, and taken it to Cuba.


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