Who were the Buccaneers?
Adventurers who went from hunters to pirates
Buccaneers have always been known as dangerous pirates. Some of them, before dedicating themselves to piracy, dedicated themselves to another, much more honorable profession.
Adventurers who went from hunters and raiding with small booty to fierce pirates. Revenge for being thrown out of their paradise. At the beginning, their life was hunting on islands considered by them as true paradises.
From Buccaneering to Piracy
Who became Buccaneers?
Some free men thrown away from an island, their Paradise.
They started on the islands abandoned by the Spaniards. When they were expelled, they spread to other islands.
According to the dictionary, the Buccaneers were pirates who plundered Spanish overseas possessions during the XVII and XVIII centuries.
Buccaneers began as hunters and free men.
The Buccaneers led a carefree life, in a place with an ideal climate, and where nature provided them with almost everything they needed.
Battle of St. Kitts and Nevis
Part of the Anglo-Spanish war of 1625-1629
The colonies of St. Kitts and Nevis were growing, increasing their population, and Spain saw them as a threat.
The fear that these colonists would spread to the Spanish Antilles provoked a Spanish military intervention in these islands. Little could the mixture of settlers and adventurers who came together numbered more than 3,000.
Some 4,000 Spaniards in 20 galleons took the island of Nieves, sinking the ships in the port and destroying the settlement. Then they went to St. Kitts and did the same. Expelling or taking prisoner those who did not take refuge in the forests. About 700 Englishmen were sent back to England.
Some French ships managed to escape and ended up in the uninhabited part of the island known as Hispaniola.
Famous pirates on these islands
Their hideouts were usually located on one of the many islands in the Caribbean Sea.
The Buccaneers started out as hunters and free men. The Buccaneers led a carefree life, in a place with an ideal climate, and where nature provided them with almost everything they needed.
Without King and without Law
Coming from Europe, from lands where subsistence was very difficult.
Places where the abuses of the nobles were commonplace.
Arriving to Caribbean islands in the New World where the climate was mild. Living on an island like Hispaniola, full of game, it seemed to them that they were in a true paradise.
From different countries
The Buccaneers could be English, French, Dutch or even Spanish.
In some islands there were no Laws, no King, no Nobles to obey.
Hunters by necessity
Many enjoyed their life.
They would choose a place in the forest to live and hunt for weeks at a time. It was their way of feeding and surviving.
Among their habits was not to wash their clothes, much less to change them. In such a way that the blood stains of the hunted and butchered animals was one of their signs of identity.
When they had hunted enough, they returned to the beaches where they tried to sell the hunted meat to a passing ship.
Arrived for various reasons, adventurers, emigrants by necessity, persecuted or criminals looking for a paradise where they could do their misdeeds.
The Spaniards were not willing to tolerate that armed groups, more and more numerous, continued to arrive. They would occupy territories and some of them would make surprise assaults. Much less if they were their enemies, the English, the French and sometimes the Dutch.
On some of the islands abandoned by the Spaniards there were many farm animals living in the wild.
The first Europeans after the Spanish were French. They took refuge on the island of Hispaniola. They were looking for wild animals, especially pigs and wild boars. They explored among cliffs and jungles to try to catch them.
Once hunted, their problem was to preserve the meat; to keep the meat edible, they smoked it.
Their numbers increased
Soon a whole colony of expert hunters developed, living off their prey.
They were highly skilled, especially in the use of firearms. Their shooting at moving targets made them expert marksmen, in order to hunt wild animals that fled in haste.
Well trained with weapons
They were trained by obligation, as their skills with guns were used continuously for hunting animals on the move.
Buccaneers had no choice but to be very professional and efficient in their shooting. Their precision in shooting was fundamental for them. Their livelihood depended on it.
They were in no condition to lose prey, nor to waste gunpowder just like that. Gunpowder was a scarce resource, costly and expensive.
The buccaneers, when hunting, used appropriate weapons. They hunted with special muskets, which facilitated hunting on the move and at a distance.
Buccaneers were expert hunters, accustomed to shooting at moving targets.
Although the musket was essential for hunting at a distance. They also used a pair of knives and some larger daggers. Once the animal was killed, they had to butcher it. The skin was removed, and the meat was taken and prepared buccaneer style, as they had been taught by the Indians.
Very precise weapons
The most commonly used was a French-made musket, about 170 cm long. The great length of its barrel favored a greater precision in the shot.
These long-distance weapons were accurate at a much greater distance than a normal arquebus or musket.
Later, being at war against Spain gave them a great advantage, in many occasions they would prevent the Spanish soldiers from approaching them and decimated them at a distance.
The origin of the word Bucanero comes from “Bucan”. Bucan for the Indians of the islands, was a grill, where they smoked the meat of the animals they hunted. The Indians smoked the meat by burning green branches, which produced abundant smoke. The meat on the grill, when smoked, was preserved for a longer period of time.
The hunters learned the smoking method from them, and used it to preserve their meat. At that time, it was a good method of preservation.
The method was better than the one they used initially, of eating the meat after leaving it to dry in the strong Caribbean sun.
As they were enterprising and independent people, some of them, less hard-working than the others, preferred to assault and rob the patrols that disembarked on the islands, looking for a place to buy food.
Spain sent troops to the island of Hispaniola and carried out the expulsion for greater control of the island.
Spain decides to expel the foreigners
The Spaniards, seeing that they were colonizing a part of the territory, decided to totally control the island of Hispaniola and expelled them.
The buccaneers lived dispersed, near the hunting grounds, in small groups, and there were no populations. At most, in some places there were small groups of buccaneers, to exchange materials and tools.
The Spanish troops pursued them and they were quickly dislodged. The island was soon controlled in its totality, disappearing the poachers, at least not Spanish.
Enemies of Spain
It was from 1620 when they were persecuted more intensely, although when they were evicted from one island, they would go to another, etc. They settled on an island called Tortuga where they were also evicted, since from there, they attacked ships leaving the island of Hispaniola.
From that moment on, the Buccaneers had the Spanish as their enemies. The Spanish Empire controlled most of the important islands of the Caribbean and carried out a systematic persecution against them.
Subsequently, the buccaneer pirates took refuge again in Tortuga Island, which eventually became their place of refuge and reunion. Tortuga Island was repopulated by the French. Later it was substituted by Port Royal in Jamaica, where they had more protection, provisioning and amusement.
Shooting and boarding.
They could be very violent and cruel, if they boarded a ship.
To attack the ships, the buccaneers made use of their great skill with weapons. They could attack a ship at a supply stop in a cove on the coast, at sea or even in a village.
They made use of their great precision in shooting. With their long muskets they had a great aim and precision for this time.
Once close to their target, a line of sharpshooters prevented the defenders from approaching the decks of the ships or the walls of the towns.