THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 31.
Report of the Comte D'Estrees on what happened at Trinidad in
Memoires de Marquis de Villette public pour la Socielt: de l'hisloire
de France par Monmerque, 1844.
Translated from the French.
On the ist of December, the King's vessels were anchored
two leagues from a port where there was a redoubt with
two guns of six or eight pound balls.
In a shallop which had a flag and all the usual signs
carried when a Captain is aboard, I sent Chevalier D'Hervaulx,
Major, de Villette Marsay Captain of Les Jeux who had
asked permission to visit this place, de Miramont, ensign of
L'Excellent as the Commander and Captain Champagne w ho
spoke Spanish well.
They were received with all the barbarity and churlishness
possible and which is contained in the process verbal which
I will deliver on my return. I do not send a copy with this
since the Chevalier D'Hervaulx can give all details himself
but I have to report that they reminded me of La Guaira and
Margarita which have both been sacked this summer by the
Flibustier and when they were told that the boat was from
me and that I had the honour to command the King's ships,
they asked whether I were present in person, in order I
presume, to shoot straighter if that were possible.
There were about 50 musketeers, some Indians and many
others in the woods as the principal town is three leagues
from the landing place. It was quite possible that many men
could have been hidden in these woods which are very thick.
On the same day a Dutch ship arrived with negroes to
trade with the Spanish colonies having already made a
previous voyage. As the Captain had part in what followed,
he drew up a process verbal of which the following is a translation
from the Dutch to French and agrees with the original.
I, the undersigned, do declare and certify for the present
process verbal that I arrived at the entrance of the Bay of
La Trinitd on the first day of December, 1680, with a frigate
named the Mar guerila. When I went ashore in my boat, they
fired four blank shots at me, and when close to shore they
asked me whence 1 came, to which I replied Middelburg.
They then asked me what I came to do and when I replied
that want of water brought me there, they told me that
seven French ships had appeared at the entrance of the Bay,
that they were at war with Spain and that I had been with
these ships and therefore I could only have six cruches ofwater.
At this time I sa\, these said vessels arrive and returned
on board in my boat and I went to anchor one league from
the port. These said vessels carrying a white flag came to
anchor about two leagues from where I was.
On the second of the month, having sent my boat ashore
for water I could only get four barriques because the Spaniards
who had seen a boat painted red and with a white flag, from
the shore told my men in my boat, to go back to their ship as
the French were coming and that they should not come to
land again for water as long as the French were there because
they would not give it and so my men did return.
I saw from my ship that the said scallop got close to the
shore and the Spaniards fired upon it several times with
muskets and even with cannon and I could see the shots in
the water near to it and I saw afterwards when they had
pierced it in several places ; as also the flag by musquet balls.
Their boat having returned on board, one of the said
vessels hoisted sail and came towards me with four large
shallops believing that I was Spanish and caused us to sail
and to anchor close to M. le Comte D'Estrees, Vice Admiral
of France. Having gone on board 1 was asked what I was
doing in this bay, to which I replied that want of water had
brought me there. He told me that he expected that I knew
they were going to fire on his boat and that I might even
have been the cause which I denied. He sent me back on
board my ship.
On the morrow, the 3rd of December I was again brought
on board of the said Vice Admiral who required me to go
ashore in my boat and with my men to carry a letter from
him to the Governor and to learn why they had shot at his
boat. I therefore went ashore in my boat and on asking the
Lieutenant why they had shot at the boat of the said Vice
Admiral of France, he said that he had orders to shoot but
not to wound anyone (which appeared to me otherwise).
I told him that their ships did not come as enemies but
as friends and that he did very wrong to fire upon a shallop
flying a white flag and that even amongst the Turks such
things were not done and that it was by his fault that I had
to anchor by the ships of the said Sieur le Vice Admiral.
At this he raised his shoulders and said Come here and you
will have all the water you need and the French also."
I handed him the letter for the Governor which he sent
off post haste. At midnight the reply was handed to me and
I returned aboard.
Early on the morrow, the fourth, I took the reply to the
said Sieur le Vice Admiral who sent his boat at midday to
the shores with a shallop. He gave me permission to continue
my voyage so I set sail to go and anchor near to the fort, and
being about two leagues from the fort I heard a cannon shot
and saw the said boat and scallop returning without having
I was in front of them and as they came near to me
Mons. le Major having told me that they had shot a cannon
ball at him, I returned with my ship to the previous anchorage
near the Sieur le Vice Admiral.
LINDERT JAN VAN DEN BUSSE.
Copy of the letter sent by the Comte D'Estrees to the Governor of
La Trinit' by the Dutch Captain.
This is to inform the Governor of La Trinit6 that the
vessels now anchored in this bay belong to His Very Christian
Majesty and should not be mistaken for those olfflibustiers.
As the attack made on the shallop which I sent ashore is
unworthy of civilised people and is contrary to common
rights, I have to enquire whether you have orders from
His Catholic Majesty to declare war upon us in America and
to begin it here.
If this be not so I ask for satisfaction for such an reception
accompanied with such injurious and violent actions.
I await a reply in writing.
LE COMTE D'ESTREES.
Copy of the letter from the Governor of La Trinili' in reply.
Mv LORD CGOMTi D'ESTRIES,
I have received the letter w which vou sent me and in rlely
I have to inform you that peace reigns between our two
Lords, the Catholic King and the Very Christian King and
that we observe it and keep it punctiliously ; on the part of
My King and Lord there will be no contravention, this
The incident in this port caused by the action of the
Commander was a misunderstanding owing to the recent
news of the sack of La Guaira and other places which the
French have taken in spite of the state of peace.
It is therefore not surprising that the above-mentioned
commander acted with haste after hearing the bad language
which lie reports was used to him by the man who came as
commander of the shallop. The Captain of the port assures
me that he requested this Commander to put a man ashore
with the dispatches which were brought from Your Lordship,
to which this said Commander of the shallop replied sharply
and with vulgar language asserting moreover that if he had
men enough, he would have forced a landing and done
whatever he considered necessary.
Thus, My Lord, it seems to me with all deference to the
views of Your Lordship, that it is not surprising that the
Commander considered himself threatened and did that
which it should not have been necessary to do. I learn with
feelings of regret that Your Lordship should have been
annoyed by this incident which was not caused by us.
I beg Your Lordship to appease your anger u which appears
to have arisen from this and to pardon the Captain of the
port what he has done excusing from your great nobleness
what was failing in him.
I beg to place myself at the service of Your Lordship
whom may God protect. May he grant a successful and a
From the town of Saint Joseph de Oruna,
Island of La Trinit:,
2nd December, 1680.
I kiss the hands of Your Lordship,
GILES CURIEL DE CARDENAS.
Although this letter did not give me full satisfaction,
after having examined with the Captain of the Squadron
what should be done, it was decided to send by M. le Chevalier
D'Hervaulx in the same shallop, a reply to the letter of
MI. de Villette Marsay and all the others who had gone
lth first time, regarded themselves in honour bound to return
but there was no doubt from this letter of the Governor and
from what the Dutch Captain had reported, that they- would
not have been welcome.
Co/py of the reply of the Comte D'Estrees to the letter from the
Governor of La Trinilt.
It is easy to see by my conduct since this disgraceful
action by the Commander of the port that I am actuated
more by moderation than by anger since I have all the means
necessary of obtaining satisfaction but am content with
asking justice from M. le Gouverneur de la Trinitd.
I make no doubt that he knows as well as I do, that
there are rights even in war which are respected by all nations
and which are never violated ; and even more so in peace.
The Lieutenant's excuses are not worth listening to ; how
can anyone imagine that a single shallop from seven ships
of war is going ashore to start hostilities ; and when some
French mixed with people of other nations have made some
filibustering expedition, is that a reason for firing at once
upon other Frenchmen without knowing them nor realising
that they are serving the most just and most valiant King
in the world ? The Lieutenant and his men appear to be
vagabonds acting without orders.
However at the request ofM. le Gouverneur, I will forgive
the fault for which it is so easy to avenge and so may teach
them good faith and honesty as I have already done to other
Governors of places of His Catholic Majesty. But I have been
ordered to look for the squadron commanded by Don Antonio
Quintana so as to demand satisfaction from him and the
restitution of a small frigate belonging to the King my Master
which he took last year contrary to all rights and in default
to obtain it by arms. The orders with which I am honoured
by His Majesty do not extend beyond that.
It is to this that I beg M. le Gouverneur on La Trinit:
to attribute my moderation and restraint in this bay.
I salute you and trust God will watch over you and
preserve you in health.
On board L'Excellent in the harbour
of La Trinitt',
3rd December, 1680.
LE COMTE D'ESTREES.
I confess that I wanted to punish such barbarity and
violence and that I was tempted to land with all the infantry
to take the redoubt and catch some of the scoundrels and
hang them forthwith. But having considered it carefully
knowing that the landing was difficult having to wade through
thirty to forty paces of mud up to the knees after leaving the
shallops and that re-embarcation would be made equally
difficult. There was little doubt that lives would be lost
and even then a probability of not meeting the Spaniards
because of the thick woods which reach to the redoubt.
Furthermore they would not fail to make known widely that
the object of sending this squadron to America was to capture
La TrinitW and that they had beaten us off.
I learnt further that all the Captains were satisfied to
make the reply to the letter of the Governor by cannon slot,
anchoring the Diligente, the Marin and the Tempesle as near
as possible to the fort and to send a placard attached to the
end of a pike and shot from a cannon, the reply and a copy
of that which is below.
But Mons. d'Amblemont, de Flacourt and de Brevedent
went to sound the anchorage and found that the frigates
could not approach the fort nearer than two full cannon shots
so on the night of the 4th to 5th, three shallops under
Lieutenant Julien of the Excellent went in and planted the
reply and the placard on a pike as near to the fort as they
could go without grounding. He carried this out by moon-
light just a little before dawn, and some musket shots were
fired at the shallop.
C;'opy of what was on the placard.
The action of the Commander of the fort at La Trinit(
accompanied by such treason, barbarity and unworthy
conduct has left no means by which a reply can be made
by any other way.
In this reply will be seen the reason why I am prevented
from punishing such proceedings.
As what has happened here will become fully public,
people will doubtless wonder here and in Europe at our
moderation and at the proceedings so shameful and unworthy
of your nation.
LE COMTE D'ESTREES.
In the morning we set sail and from the Dutch Captain
who was not allowed either to take water or to sell negroes
and who left shortly after us, we learnt that a boat had left
the fort and taken in the placard and letter.
This incident has not only served to let the Governor of
La Trinity know our order to attack the squadron of the
Spanish Garda Costa but also to make them more widely
known as I sent by the Diligent and the Marin as soon as we
left La Trinit" to the Governor of Margarita cveiL thirg in
this report in the form of a complaint, comparing it with
the reception we had obtained in his island.
I have detached Monsieur de Blenac and de Patoulet, to
go to the English Islands and to complete in this way the
order which it has pleased His Majesty to give me in
LE COMTE D'ESTREES.