THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No 425.
The Capture of Tobago by the French from the English. 1666.
Source:-Tobago Insulae Caraibicae in America sitae
fatum. Anonymous. No date.
Translated from the French.
Shortly after the arrival of Monsieur la Barre in
the Islands, Monsieur Vincent, Governor of the Island
of Grenada which was the weakest although the last of
all the Islands inhabited by the French,made an attack
on the Island of Tobago which the English had taken
from the Dutch a year ago and where they maintained
a garrison of about fifty men after having pillaged and
destroyed everything as related in my third part.
This Governor,hearing of the good fortune of all
the principal French Islands, also wished to try and
obtain some of the laurels with which the French were
crowning themselves in all parts of the Antilles.
For this purpose he took a barque belonging to one
Giles Gosport which had been in the harbour since the
end of August 1666. He put on board an Officer whose
name I have been unable to learn, with twenty five
valiant volunteers from the Island, well armed with
ample ammunition and two drummers.He sent these men
to the Island of Tobago to try their fortune and see
if there was not a way to trick the English into sur-
They arrived there fortunately without being dis-
covered and landed at the place known as Courland
Bay. Here they left the barque with nine of the men to
guard it while the Officer with fifteen men and the two
drummers marched towards the Fort. In the evening
they arrived at the fine sugar works of Herr Lampsins
who was the Seigneur of the Island when it belonged
to the Dutch.
The English had preserved this plantation so as to
obtain food and to make brandy. Although only a musk-
et shot from the Fort nevertheless the English kept
there a guard of fifteen men.
On the way this little company had met a heavy
shower of rain which had caused a part of the men to
remain behind to dry their arms and make them effect-
ive again.There were therefore only seven men to deal
with this guard.First they surprised and killed the sen-
try but unfortunately they had not realized that the
guard building had two doors and the remaining four-
teen English men fled through the second door to the
Fort without offering any resistance and there raised
On the morrow at dawn the Officer had the reveille
sounded by the two drummers and then sent to summon
the Commandant to surrender to the French Army with-
out delay; in default they would forthwith assault the
Fort and would give no quarter as the French Army
were only a short distance off and, having other and
more important tasks to perform, did not wish to stay
in the Island but to return at once to their ships which
waited for them on the other side of the Island.
The Drummer who bore the summons was a gallant
youth who deserved better employment than the beating
of a drum. He went forward and contrary to the usual
custom of the field, advanced to the gate with his gun
on his shoulder. Hie placed it down beside him,beat the
parley and made his demand for surrender.
The Commandant was foolish enough to come in per-
son, unarmed but for his sword, to receive the ultimat-
um from the drummer who had presented it with such
pride and resolution.
The Commandant after having given him a hostage
so as to secure time to consider the capitulation, ask-
ed the drummer where the French Army was. The drum-
mer replied that it was only fifty paces away and if he
would come to the hill near by, he would see it. The
Commandant, still proceeding carelessly,went with the
drummer to the hillock whence he saw the Officer and
fourteen men with their flag.
The poor Commandant, realising that he had been
tricked, started to return to the Fort. The drummer at
once changed his part, threw the drum to the ground
and presenting the musket, threatened to shoot him if
he did not surrender his sword. This order was prompt-
ly obeyed and the Commandant became a prisoner of
The Commandant, thus taken prisoner, asked to be
allowed to advise the garrison to surrender to the Fr-
ench and he was accompanied there by the whole de-
tachment who kept him securely guarded.
The drummer marched in front and approaching the
sentinel, caused him to lay down his arms. The Officer
and his men entered the Fort and all the English, who
were under arms, believing that this was a detachment
of the Army come to take possession, gave all their
arms to the drummer who placed them all together in a
corner of the Fort.
In this way did this small detachment capture the
Fort at Tobago which was capable of maintaining a
siege,make fifty prisoners of war and take several can-
non and some beautiful arms of all sorts.
They then reembarked and returned with their pris-
oners and their booty.
Monsieur Vincent kept a small garrison there in
Tobago until March 1667 and then abandoned the Island
after having burnt everything.