THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 174.
Diego Suarez Ponce de Leon, Governor of Trinidad to the Governor
Source :-British Museum. AdditionalMss. 36321.
Published by the courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Translated from the Spanish.
SAN JOSEF, TRINIDAD,
4th October, 1684.
I am glad to report that the French enemy have at last
landed me on the leeward side of this Island. After this
four months imprisonment with them I am so prostrate
that had I remained a few days longer as a prisoner I should
Although left with little health, I do not delay in notifying
Your Lordship of my sickness and of the maleficent influence
of the Town of San Thome in Guayana which has so often
been taken and sacked. I am unable to find any cause for
its destruction as it is a place with only ten miserable huts
of straw and with fewer inhabitants. It must be a punishment
from God ; it cannot be from a desire for riches.
When in the Island of Trinidad, I learnt from the Captain
of the garrison and the Alcaldes of this said town of San Thome
that 37 pirogues of French and Caribs had passed up the
River Orinoco. From the reports brought to the town by
the Indians it was clear that they had gone up to seize the
money and supplies being sent for the garrison from Santa Fe
and then would attack and burn the fort and town.
I therefore went there without delay knowing how few
inhabitants there were and how badly situated was the fort
which was overlooked by some heights and by a hill but a
pistol shot from the walls. Notwithstanding the certain
knowledge that I was sure to lose if attacked by any
considerable number of the enemy, I went there taking
from this Island eight men which was all the help which
could be spared.
On arrival at the town of San Thome I was told that
most of the pirogues had been made secure but that 37 were
missing. The vecinos said that these pirogues had been
sold by the Caribs of Caura to the enemy and that these
Indians had then fled inland. In spite of this news I sent
a man to visit the Indian settlements of Caura to seize any
pirogues left and on returning he told me that the Indians
assured him that none were left to them.
Four days afterwards an Aruac Indian brought me news
that a companion of his had seen a ship in the Boca Grande
of the River Orinoco. A skiff sent to report could not find this
ship or any other vessel; every place seemed empty and
it was concluded that the enemy had retired. I was therefore
considering returning to Trinidad.
On the 3oth May before the break of day, the French
and Caribs came to a bay not far from this town and
disembarked more than 4oo French and an equal number
of Caribs. They had come from the French Fleet of five
vessels which lay in the River Aquire near the mouth of
the River Orinoco. These men marched to this town and
were seen bv the advance guard which had been posted in a
small savana. On the alarm I retired with the garrison
into the fort with the women and children of the place. The
vecinos retired into the forest.
The enemy entered the town and broke open the houses
and the Church taking everything of value. They then
assaulted the fort and mounted on ladders but we resisted
them and drove them off several times wounding and killing
many of their men and capturing a standard which they
tried to plant upon the walls.
As day broke the enemy perceived the places which so
easily commanded the fort and placed cannon in these places
and in less than six hours they killed and wounded 24 of
the 30 men I had for defence (both well and sick). As I was
reduced to four men and as they continued their attacks,
I was unable to resist the last assault which was given with
such violence that I had only opportunity to ask for quarter
before they had taken me prisoner with all the rest.
They were 12 days in the fort and after exploring the
country with the assistance of the Guayana Indians who
betrayed the inhabitants who had gone to the forest, they
destroyed the town and fortifications, threw down the guns
from the walls, burnt the gun carriages so as to take the iron
away, broke two guns and threw the other two into the river.
They put to the torture the Alcaldes, the Contador and
also Captain Nicholas de la Mota who died therefrom, so as
to find where the treasure was hidden. This it was that had
caused this fleet of five ships to unite off the coast of San
Domingo to make this expedition. Some Frenchmen and
Indians had told them how much gold and silver there was
in Guayana for the protection of which the fort had been
made. They said that it would only be necessary to land
the men from the ships and all the treasure they could desire,
would be theirs for the taking.
They have now learnt from experience that all this is
untrue. They have landed and found the inhabitants with
hardly a shirt apiece. They have been very cruel to all
the prisoners for the several months that we have been in
their power beyond the limit even of tyranny. As an example
of such excess, they have taken five soldiers to sell as slaves as
they say they are mestizos and pardos though these were free
men in Guayana. They say they have authority from their
King to capture such people and make slaves of them.
On June loth they left San Thome having burnt the
fort and all the houses. They took us as prisoners with
them under guard to their ships. Some of them went up
the River Orinoco in pirogues in search of plunder boasting
that they would go right up to Santa Fe. We waited two
months while they went as far as the rapids of Carichana.
As supplies were giving out and many had died from sickness,
they had to return to their ships which then departed for the
leeward coast of this Island of Trinidad where they anchored.
Here they have set us free, the greater part being sick and
covered with sores.
They had intended to do the same to the town at this
Island as they had done in Guayana but Our Lord God
blinded their eyes and we are free of them. It is 18 days
since they landed us and said that they were going to explore
the coast but the French Fleet has gone and we have examined
various ports of the Island and have not found any ships.
By the unanimous decision of the Cabildo of this town
it is agreed to return to Margarita the troops which were
sent from there. We desire to express to Your Lordship
many thanks for this assistance which has produced such
great results in the best interests of the service of His Majesty
and for the preservation of this Island of Trinidad. For all
this we offer you heartfelt thanks and we accept the obligation
of complying with whatever you may be pleased to order.
Don Diego Romero who commands the vessel carrying
the men who are now returned, will pay Your Lordship
whatever is required for the food and supplies of these men
as well as for the crew. He will send me an account of all
which I will place before the Contador. Also the Captain
Don Juan Calvo de la Viva will take with him the receipt
from the Alcides for the 150 lbs. of powder and 500 balls
which he handed over and which Your Lordship kindly
sent for the town.
Your Lordship may rest assured that I hold myself at
your commands and have kept as a memento the inkstands
which you sent, as I have need of them, having lost my
own which were of silver.
May Our Lord preserve Your Lordship as I would wish.
Your humble and obedient servant,
kisses the hands of Your Lordship
DIEGO SUAREZ PONCE DE LEON.
4th October, 1684.