The Cultures and History of the Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress
Interactive Objects: The Buccaneers of America
Captain Morgan Torturing Prisoners After the Battle of Maracaibo
On arrival, every prisoner was interrogated as to whether he had money hidden away, or whether he knew where other people’s wealth was concealed. Those who would not confess were subjected to the cruelest tortures imaginable. Among those who suffered most heavily was an old Portuguese in his sixties, because a Negro had denounced him as being very rich. This old man was seized and asked where his money was. He swore by every oath that all the money he’d had in the world was a hundred pieces of eight, and that a young man who lived near him had taken this money and run off with it.
The rovers did not believe him but strappado’d him so violently that his arms were pulled right out of the joint. He still would not confess, so they tied long cords to his thumbs and his big toes and spreadeagled him to four stakes. Then four of them came and beat on the cords with their sticks, making his body jerk and shudder and stretching his sinews. Still not satisfied, they put a stone weighing at least two hundred-weight on his loins and lit a fire of palm leaves under him, burning his face and setting his hair alight – yet despite all these torments he would not confess to having money.
Then they took him and bound him to one of the pillars of the church, which they were using as a guardhouse, and gave him one little bit of meat a day, just enough to keep him alive. After four or five days of this suffering, he begged that some friends of his from among the prisoners might be sent to him, so that he might contrive to get money to give the rovers. After talking with his friends, he offered 500 pieces of eight. The rovers would not listen to him, but instead gave him a beating and said he must talk of thousands, not hundreds, or it would cost him his life. In the end, after he had produced all the evidence he could that he really was a poor man, who earned his bread keeping a tavern, they settled for 1,000 pieces of eight.
Yet even this man had not suffered all the torments which the buccaneers inflicted on the Spaniards to make them divulge their hidden wealth.
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