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A relation of what encounters lately happened at the Islands of Cayana and Tobago, between the Count de Estres, Admiral of France, in America, and the [leer Jacob Binkes, Vice-Admiral of the United Provinces, in the same parts.
IT is a thing already known to the greatest part of Europe that the Prince of Courland began to establish a colony in the Island of Tobago. As also, that some-while after, his people, for want of timely recruits from their own country. abandoned the said island, leaving it to the first that should come and possess it. Thus it fell into the hands of the Heers Adrian and Cornelius Lampsius, natives of the city of Flushing, in the province of Zeeland. For being arrived at the said Island of Tobago, in the year 1654, they undertook to fortify it, by command of their sovereigns, the States-General. Hereupon they built a goodly castle, in a convenient situation, capable of hindering the assaults of any enemies that might enterprize upon the island.
The strength of this castle was afterwards sufficiently tried by Monsieur de Estres, as I shall presently relate. after I have first told you what happened before at Cayana, in the year 1676. This year the States-General of the United Provinces sent their Vice-Admiral, Jacob Binkes, to the Island of Cayana, then in possession of the French, to retake the said island, and hereby restore it to the dominions of the United Provinces aforementioned. With these orders he set forth from Holland, on the 16th day of March in the said year, his fleet consisting of seven men-of-war, one fireship and five other small vessels of less account. This fleet arrived at Cayana the 4th day of the month of May next following. Immediately after their arrival, the Heer Binkes landed nine hundred men, who, approaching the castle, summoned the Governor to surrender, at their discretion. His answer was: He thought of nothing less than surrendering, but that he and his people were resolved to defend themselves, even to the utmost of their endeavours. The Heer Binkes having received this answer, presently commanded his troops to attack the castle on both sides at once. The assault was very furious. But at length, the French being few in number and overwhelmed with the multitude of their enemies, surrendered both their arms and the castle. In it were found thirty-seven pieces of cannon. The Governor, who was named Monsieur Lesi, together with two priests, were sent into Holland. The Heer Binkes lost in the combat fourteen men only, and had twenty two wounded.
The King of France no sooner understood this success than he sent in the month of October following the Count de Estres, to retake the said island from the Hollanders. He arrived there in the month of December, with a squadron of men-of-war, all very well equipped and provided. Being come on his voyage as far as the river called Aperovaco, he met there with a small vessel of Nantes, which had set forth from the said Island of Cayana but a fortnight before. This ship gave him intelligence of the present state and condition, wherein he might be certain to find the Hollanders at Cayana. They told him there were three hundred men in the castle; that all about it they had fixed strong palisades, or empalements; and that within the castle were mounted twenty-six pieces of cannon.
Monsieur de Estres, being enabled with this intelligence to take his own measures, proceeded on his voyage, and arrived at a port of the said island, three leagues distant from the castle. Here he landed eight hundred men, whom he divided into two several parties. The one he placed under the conduct of the Count de Blinac, and the other he gave to Monsieur de St. Faucher. On board the fleet he left Monsieur Gabaret, with divers other principal troops, which he thought not fit or necessary to be landed. As soon as the men were set on shore, the fleet weighed anchor, and sailed very slowly towards the castle, while the soldiers marched by land. These could not travel otherwise than by night, by reason of the excessive heat of the sun and intolerable exhalations of the earth, which here is very sulphurous, and consequently no better than a smoky and stinking oven.
On the 19th day of the said month the Count de Estres sent Monsieur de Lesi (who had been Governor of the island, as was said before), demanding of them, to deliver the castle to the obedience of the King, his master, and to him in his sovereign's name. But those who were within resolved not to deliver themselves up, but at the expense of their lives and blood, which answer they sent to Monsieur de Estres. Hereupon the French, the following night, assaulted and stormed the castle on seven several sides thereof all at once. The defendants, having performed their obligation very stoutly, and fought with as much valour as was possible, were as last forced to surrender. Within the castle were found thirty-eight persons dead, besides many others that were wounded. All the prisoners were transported into France, where they were used with great hardship.
Monsieur de Estres, having put all things in good order at the Isle of Cayana, departed thence for that of Martinique. Being arrived at the said island, he was told that the Heer Binkes was at that present at the Island of Tobago, and his fleet lay at anchor in the bay. Having received this intelligence, Monsieur de Estres made no long stay there, but set sail again, steering his course directly for Tobago. No sooner was he come near the island than Vice-Admiral Binkes sent his land-forces, together with a good number of mariners, on shore, to manage and defend the artillery that was there. These forces were commanded by the Captains Van der Graef, Van Dongen and Ciavone, who laboured very hard all that night in raising certain batteries and filling up the palisades, or empalements, of the fortress called Sterreschans.
Two days after, the French fleet came to an anchor in the Bay of Palmit, and immediately, with the help of eighteen boats, they landed all their men. The Heer Binkes, perceiving the French to appear upon the hills, gave orders to burn all the houses that were near the castle, to the intent the French might have no place to shelter themselves thereabouts. On the 23rd day of February, Monsieur de Estres sent a drum over to the Hollanders, to demand the surrender of the fort, which was absolutely denied. In this posture of affairs things continued until the 3rd of March. On this day the French fleet came with full sail, and engaged the Dutch fleet. The Heer Binkes presently encountered them, and the dispute was very hot on both sides. In the meanwhile the land-forces belonging to the French being sheltered by the thickness of the woods, advanced towards the castle, and began to storm it very briskly, with more than ordinary force, but were repulsed by the Dutch with such vigor as caused them after three distinct attacks to retire, with the loss of above one hundred and fifty men, and two hundred wounded. These they carried off, or rather dragged away, with no small difficulty, by reason of their disorderly retreat.
All this while the two fleets continued the combat, and fought very desperately, until on both sides some ships were consumed between Vulcan and Neptune. Of this number was Monsieur de Estres' own ship, mounted with twenty-seven guns of prodigious bigness, besides other pieces of lesser port. The battle continued from break of day until the evening. A little before which time, Monsieur de Estres quitted the bay with the rest of his ships, unto the Hollanders, excepting only two, which were stranded under sail, as having gone too high within the port. Finally, the victory remained on the side of the Hollanders, howbeit with the loss of several of their ships that were burnt.
Monsieur de Estres finding himself under the shame of the loss of this victory, and that he could expect no advantage for that present, over the Island of Tobago, set sail from those quarters the 18th day of March, and arrived the 21st day of June next following at the port of Brest in France. Having given an account of these transactions to his most Christian Majesty, he was pleased to command him to undertake again the enterprize of Tobago. To this effect, he gave orders for eight great men-of-war to be equipped with all speed, together with eight others of smaller account: with all which vessels he sent again Monsieur de Estres into America the same year. He set sail from the said port of Brest on the 3rd day of October following, and arrived the 1st of December at the Island of Barbados. Afterwards, having received some recruits from the Isle of Martinique, he sent beforehand to review the Island of Tobago, and consider the condition thereof. This being done, he weighed anchor and set sail directly for the said island, where he arrived the 7th day of the said month of December with all his fleet.
Immediately after his arrival he landed five hundred men, under the conduct of Monsieur de Blinac, Governor of the French islands in America. These were followed soon after by one thousand more. The 9th day of the said month they approached within six hundred paces of a certain post called Le Cort, where they landed all the artillery designed for this enterprize. On the 10th day Monsieur de Estres went in person to take a view of the castle, and demanded of the Heer Binkes, by a messenger, the surrender thereof, which was generously denied. The next day the French began to advance towards the castle, and on the t2th of the said month, the Dutch from within began to fire at them with great perseverance. The French made a beginning to their attack by casting fire-balls into the castle with main violence. The very third ball that was cast in happened to fall in the path-way that led to the store-house, where the powder and ammunition was kept, belonging to the castle. In this path was much powder scattered up and down, through the negligence of those that cap-led it to and fro for the necessary supplies of the defendants. By this means the powder took fire in the path, and thence ran in a moment as far as the storehouse above mentioned, so that suddenly both the storehouse was blown up, and with it Vice-Admiral Binkes himself, then Governor of the island, and all his officers. Only Captain Van Dongen remained alive. This mischance being perceived by the French, they instantly ran with five hundred men, and possessed themselves of the castle. Here they found three hundred men alive, whom. they took prisoners, and transported into France. Monsieur de Estres after this commanded the castle to be demolished, together with other posts that might serve for any defence, as also all the houses standing upon the island. This being done, he departed thence the 27th day of the said month of December, and arrived again in France, after a prosperous voyage.