THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 432.
A Copy of a Letter from Commandeur Bincdcs
to the Prince of Orange.
Source:-Paris. Archives Nationales.
State Papers Colonial.Col. C 10. E 1.
Published by the courtesy of the Minister
of the Colonies. Paris.
Translated from the French.
On board the Vessel
Defense du Pays.
The Roads of Tobago.
22nd March 1677.
My last letter to you was that of the 19th February
sent by way of Barbados in which I advise you of the
arrival of a vessel from Surinam in seven days. This
ship brought news of another vessel at Surinam which
had been there three weeks disposing of slaves.
On the 18th February we saw two small boats which
came in close to the Bay without showing any flag
which made us regard them as spies. Between the 18th
and 19th, arrived a small vessel, the Fortune, under
Captain Erasmus which had come with a letter from the
Governor of Nevis informing me that the Comte D'Es-
trees had recaptured Cayenne and also reporting that
the French vessels were at the Islands taking in sol-
diers and habitants for the purpose of attack on To-
bago and that we should be ready.
On the 19th we saw nine sail and had no doubt that
this was the French Fleet. I made all preparations and
sent on shore the companies of Gergir and Witsen and
several sailors to handle the guns. These with the com-
panies of Wandel, Graff de Tongen and Sciavon spent
all night strengthening the palisades and clearing the
surroundings of cover and placing redoubts.
On the 20th we saw the Fleet of France of 14 ships
and we drew up our ships around the Bay in such man-
ner as the Council of War regarded as best able to
meet any form of attack.
I was on shore directing the measures for defence
of the Fort and sent out a detachment to observe the
On the 21st several French shallops came in off
the Bay apparently to reconnoitre but they were rec-
eived with salvos from the guns and they retired. We
placed useless people, the sick, women and children,
on one of our victuallers, the Sphera Mundi. In the
evening our scouts reported that the enemy were anch-
ored in the Bay of Palms and that they had landed 28
boat's loads of men.
On the 22nd we found that the enemy were on a hill
nearby, upon which we set fire to all the buildings any
where near the Fort so as to deprive the enemy of all
shelter, as we had two cannon at each corner of the
Fort. We were well provided and ready with our def-
ence when that night the French attacked, while the
vessel under Captain Erasmus which we had reinforced
with 60 men, was approached by seven boats full of
men; the French lost two boats with many killed and
wounded and the others retired.
On the 23rd the French had made a path from the
hill towards which we reconnoitred. On it we found a
few hatchets and some food.Apparently during the night
they had come down the path for some reason and then
At mid-day, a drum summoned us to surrender the
Fort and also not to require the French people in To-
bago to bear arms against their countrymen. The first
request was refused and to the second, I replied that
no one was constrained.
On the 24th at the Council of War it was decided
that I should take command of the Fort since the enemy
were evidently proposing a strong attack and if this
were taken, our Fleet was also lost. Furthermore it
appeared unlikely that the enemy would bring their
ships into a Bay so well guarded by our Fleet.
This same morning we again went along the path
and found a party of 200 French who attacked and made
us retire until we were well supported by the cannon
from the Fort.
On the 25th the French were very busy working on
the hill apparently mounting cannon and mortars.We did
what we could to harass them.
On the 26th three small and two large French ships
anchored off our Bay but beyond cannon shot. They
threw bombs at the Fort but were too short.
On the 27th, we sent out a party to take some of
their men prisoners and find out what they were doing
but they soon met the French in force who drove them
in. Two bombs were again thrown at the Fort but again
On the 28th, I had some mortars brought on shore
so as to shell the French but they were too far away.
In the afternoon a French deserter was brought in who
said that the French forces were small but this is not
to be believed.
On the 1st March, we stood all night at our arms
expecting an attack but none developed. The French
with us received a warning letter stating that they
would receive no quarter if the Fort were taken.
On the 2nd, there was an exchange of bombs with.
On the 3rd, a Tuesday, contrary to our expecta-
tion, the French ships set sail and entered the Bay and
came straight at our ships and cannonading began. On
shore the French troops advanced through the woods
and attacked the Fort.They were repulsed. After three
sucessive efforts, they had to retire leaving their ap-
paratus of war and about 150 killed and 200 wounded
according to the report of several prisoners.
The first French vessel attacked the Leyden which
was the last of our demi-lune. The Groningen was at.
tacked by Monsieur D'Estrees whose vessel carried 72
guns and 445 men.
All day there was firing on both sides and by ev-
ening the Popjesburgh and the Middelburgh were burnt
after having been completely rent by cannon fire.
The French found themselves, at the end of the
day,unable to manoeuvre and the two large vessels re-
mained in our hands. Of those which escaped, two had
only the stumps of masts and were probably lost.
The three victuallers, Sphera Mundi, Duc d'Yorck
and the Goude Munnick were burnt and two vessels,the
Defense and the Zeelandt, were so damaged as to have
to go ashore.
On the 4th, we did all we could to damage the Fr-
ench vessels within range of our guns. They did not
On the 5th,we fired on their positions on land and
threw bombs at them, believing them still to be there.
On the 6th,I sent a detachment to the French tren-
ches which set fire to 5,000 fascines which the enemy
On the 7th,we sent a party to reconnoitre towards
the Grand Bay to make contact with the French, but
they did not find any.In the afternoon,a drummer came
who demanded capitulation of the Fort with the pris-
oners. This was refused.
On the 8th, a party was sent out which reported
that the hill was free of all the enemy and brought in
a quantity of grenades and arms.
On the 9th, we learnt from a deserter that seven
French ships were still here, repairing their damage.
On the 10th, the French took a barque coming to
us from Barbados, by fault of the Master.
On the 11th, we sent a detachment to the Bay of
Palms and found no French on shore. This evening the
enemy made an attempt, in shallops, to burn our ships
but in vain.
On the 12th, three French vessels sailed off and
on the 13th, the others followed. We sent a drum after
them to enquire whether they would come and fetch the
wounded and prisoners.They replied in writing, a copy
of which is attached.
Appendix No 1.
Reply by Monsieur le Comte D'Estrees.
The desire of Monsieur the Vice Admiral, on leav-
ing the Road of Tobago, has been to send several ves-
sels to fetch the wounded which are in the hands of
the Dutch and he believes that Monsieur Binckes will
have the civility and generosity to give all care to
them as Monsieur le Comte D'Estrees has cared for the
French prisoners from Cayenne.
Appendix No 2.
List of the Dutch Squadron in the Bay of Tobago
under the Command of Jacob Binckes
on the 3rd March 1677.
Guns. Men. Result.
De Goude Star
De Goude Munnick.
De Sphera Mundi.
Appendix No 3.
List of Officers killed and wounded.
Dangerous wound in leg.