Review of original 2016 edition...
Now updated and expanded.. and affordable e-book edition!
Review of original 2016 edition...
Now updated and expanded.. and affordable e-book edition!
|Northwest Port and Tombeau, Brow’s, or Peter Butts Bay from “A chart of the Island of Mauritius” by John Thornton, made 1702-1707.|
In writing Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar, a reference came up often about a tomb on the shores of the East-Indian island of Mauritius at a place called "Brown's Bay" or "Carpenter's Bay." This tomb became the apparent reason for the changing of the name of that bay to "Bay of Tombs" or "Baie de Tombeau" in French. This tomb also was so large, that it was visible for miles and often used as a navigational aid by ship's masters:
|HMS Salisbury log - 28-30 March 1722 at Mauritius|
The tomb was used by pirates to scribble a message in charcoal for probably Capt. James Macrae, former commander of the East-Indiaman Cassandra, whom the pirates believed was chasing them. Earlier, the pirates had taken this vessel from him.. an important man who would soon be president at Fort Madras. Thing is... Commodore Thomas Matthews thought the message had been written for him by these same pirates as he sailed for Madagascar from Bombay to find them.
1765 Jacques N. Bellin Map
So, more than one level of confusion existed over this tomb and its message!
One such quandary concerned whose tomb this was and when they were buried, and under what conditions. My investigations revealed more than one possible answer.
Part of Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar, Chapter Six reads:
Comm. Mathews Again
After witnessing Gov. Boone’s retirement and the succession of John Pitts as governor of Bombay for the EIC, and after removing Sir Robert Johnson as captain of HMS Exeter for violating orders, the fleet departed Bombay in February 1722 – Exeter, then under Capt. Samuel Braithwaite. They followed the Indian west coast or Malabar in the south. They were bound for Madagascar and, so then branched west and made for Mauritius, as Downing wrote:
In February 1721-2 we left the Coast of Malabar, and took our Departure from Cape Commeron [Comorin] in the Latitude of 7 Deg. 10. M. Northerly, and shaped our Course for the Island of Moroslas [Mauritius], but made no Stay there; tho' we here found writ on Capt. Carpenter's Tomb with a Piece of Charcoal, [“]We were here in the Cassandra and Victory [not Defense; This was written when the pirates repaired Victory Feb-April 1721, not 1722], expecting your Coming; we left this Place on the 28th of February [confusing; if 1721, they arrived about that date – had they left this message for Macrae when they arrived?], and are now on our Voyage for Port Dolphin [Dauphin], on the Island of Madagascar.[“ Was this another misdirection intended for Macrae?]
The Commodore and his men, however, almost missed the pirates’ message, which appears to have been written instead for James Macrae, who the pirates believed followed behind them as they sailed south from the Malabar Coast. As Lion’s log recorded, the fleet made sail on 15 March for Bourbon, “where some of our People disposed of several Casks of Arrack, and Madera Wine, &c. for very good Profit.”
The fleet then left Bourbon for Madagascar. Lion’s log told, however, that weather alternated for weeks between fair, rainy, and contrary winds – Lion, Exeter, and Salisbury made little headway. There came a strong lightning storm thirty miles northwest of Round Island, a small island about fourteen miles north of Mauritius. The storm separated Lion from her consorts and split her mizzen topsail “from head to foot.”
Blown six leagues back southeast, Lion’s crew made sight of Round Island four leagues away. They knew they were close to Mauritius and decided at nightfall to return to that destination for resupply and to make repairs. The next afternoon, 28 March at 3 pm, Lion anchored in the northwest harbor of Mauritius, likely where the pirates had made their repairs to Victory the year before. Salisbury and Exeter had landed there as well. On 29 March, the fleet made for the next bay north, or Carpenter’s Bay [“Brown’s Bay,” “Pieter Both Bay,” “Peter Butts Bay,” “Baye de Tombeau,” or “Bay of Tombs”], to “wood and water.”
This bay was apparently where they found the message written on Capt. Carpenter’s tomb by the pirates – perhaps a large white marble tomb erected during the Dutch occupation period (until 1710) – which the Navy men believed was a taunt written for their benefit, not Macrae’s, urging them to find the pirates who took Cassansdra at Port Dauphin. As HMS Salisbury’s log makes clear, Carpenter’s tomb was large and obvious enough so as to function as a navigational feature, seen from aboard ship. Salisbury’s log mentions “wee finde here 2 french Ships that brought people to Settle this place” to join with an unknown number of English pirates already there, probably in the former dwellings of the previous Dutch residents. Lion and Salisbury mounted forty and thirty-six guns. Mathews informed the Admiralty that they brought twelve shore guns, but were “in a very bad condition, and no way provided with Men sufficient, or Provisions, or, indeed, with any necessaries to preserve them from the attempts of the Pirates.” After nearly a week at Mauritius, the fleet resupplied and weighed anchor on 4 April to resume her voyage, now for Port Dauphin, following the misunderstood message of the pirates, to find them at Madagascar, not at Île Saint-Marie, but at the location to which they hoped to misdirect Macrae.*
* The investigations revealed:
“The Manuscripts of P. Edward Tillard, Esq., of the Holme, Godmanchester,” Fifteenth Report, Appendix, Part X (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1899), 79; Cemetery location and fauna detail from the observations of William Tillard, 17 May 1699 at Carpenter’s Bay, Mauritius: “There is verry good fresh water about half-a-mile up ye river from Carpenters bay w[h]ere we lay with our ship, so yt we made 3 turns with fresh water every day, & yt with ease. There is a tomb built at ye entrance of ye river [Terre Rouge or Rivière du Tombeau], a little way from ye shore, where lyes one Welden [Tillard assumed this to be George; will prob. 11 March 1698 - PROB 11/444/239; “Will of George Weldon, Merchant of the East Indies bound on Ship Benjamin“], who died on this Isld abt 2 yrs since, returning home in ye Benja [British hired storeship of 450 tons – captain John Brown] from Bombay.
I looked at the will of George Weldon, but found nothing to indicate his date of date, just the probate of his will on 11 March 1698, which did mean that he died before this date, and while on Benjamin, so it worked.
But, Weldon was not the only person suggested to be buried in that tomb:
Another reference made in 1709 by Jean de la Roque (1661-1745) in A voyage to Arabia Felix through the Eastern Ocean and the streights of the Red-Sea, being the first made by the French in the years 1708, 1709 and, 1710…, page 151, states "As we drew near the Sea Shore, we found by the side of a little Torrent, a very handsome Tomb of Freestone, cover’d with a Marble [table or tablet], with an Inscription, which gave us to understand, that it was the Tomb of the wife of a Dutch General who dy’d in this Island going to the Indies;”
De la Roque gave a wonderful description of the tomb and why it was so obvious from ships off shore. And, his reasoning was close - at least it involved a woman! Still, de la Roque apparently couldn't tell the difference between English and Dutch! Thus, he also missed, as the woman buried here was the widow of a British East India Company official...
The actual journal of Benjamin shows that “Lady Susannah Child” had died 26 March 1697 and was buried on the shore of Mauritius and that Capt. John Brown fired 20 guns in her honor:
|Journal entry from 26 March 1697|
|"Portrait Of A Lady, Said To Be Lady Susannah Child" oil on Canvas, by Maria Verelst.|
Lady Susannah Child was the wife of Sir John Child, who was deputy Governor of Bombay from 1679-1681 and President of Surat from 1682 until his death in 1690.
The storeship Benjamin was listed as: 450/468 tons, 30 guns, 90/93 crew.
(1) 1688/9 St Helena, Bombay and Sumatra. Capt Leonard Browne. Downs 7 May 1689 - 19 Jul Madeira 8 Aug - 6 Jan 1690 St Helena - 28 May Bombay 26 Sep - 8 Oct Surat - Jul 1691 Acheh - Oct Malacca - 29 Jan 1692 Acheh - 26 Apr Onore - 10 May Karwar 23 Sep - Goa - 16 Oct Surat 14 Feb 1693 - 16 May Cape 2 Jun - 18 Sep Ascension - 31 Oct Plymouth.
(2) 1693/4 Surat. Capt John Brown. 22 Jul 1694 - 13 Oct São Tiago - 1 Mar 1695 Moheli - Bombay 16 Sep 1696 - 11 Nov Bandar Abbas - 17 Dec Bombay - 10 Jan 1697 Karwar - Bombay 18 Feb - 22 May Mauritius - Cape 5 Aug - 30 Sep St Helena - 27 Jan 1698 Margate.
(3) 1698/9 Madras. Capt John Brown. Downs 29 Oct 1698 - 20 Dec Cadiz - 2 Mar 1699 Cape - 2 Jun Fort St David - 4 Jun Madras - 24 Jul Fort St David - 1 Aug Pondicherry - 4 Aug Madras - 26 Aug Masulipatam - 30 Aug Vizagapatam - 16 Sep Balasore - 25 Dec Vizagapatam - 30 Jan 1700 Masulipatam - 3 Feb Madras - 17 Jun St Helena - 27 Sep Downs.
|Early events in the Golden Age of Piracy at Saint Domingue|
Olivier Le Vasseur, called "La Buse" and ten other mutineers left Fort Saint Louis on the south coast
of Saint Domingue (French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, or modern Haiti) aboard a large vessel under Capt. La Lande de Rochefort on June 3, 1715. They took it from that captain as they passed the Isle de la Vache that afternoon and became pirates. One official later stated that this vessel named Le
Postillon is an "excellent sailor that was ideally suited to its black designs."
In a letter dated 14 June 1715, Mr. Barthomier, the king's lieutenant at Fort Saint Louis, recounts La Buse’s escape in great detail:
I have the honour to inform Your Lordship that Mr. Devaux, director for the affairs of the Royal Company of Santo Domingo in St. Louis, having purchased on behalf of the company about five months ago a large boat named Le Postillon, the said boat was kidnapped by the crew of eleven men who went pirates. This happened on the 3rd of June at three o'clock in the afternoon when the said boat having left the port of Saint Louis at about one o'clock in the afternoon where it had been loaded with three complete sugar crews consisting of a copper boiler and loot and some other effects.
Hardly then, Monseigneur, the said boat was out of sight of the fort that these eleven men revolted against their captain named La Lande de Rochefort having all taken the weapons they had hidden in the hold and deliberated strongly a long time if they would kill him and the pilot who refused to be with them. But they made up their minds to lock them both up with another male passenger in a room, and when they found themselves strong off Isle à Vache about eight leagues from here, they boarded them the next morning in a small canoe [periagua] that belonged to a poor man who was in the back of the boat; which man took advantage of this opportunity to return to the Isle à Vache from where he had come two days ago. These pirates also sent back along with the others this captain and this pilot, [and] instead of coming straight to the fort to warn, [they] went to the safety of Isle à Vache saying that the sea was too rough to go to the fort's side. So that I was not informed until June 5 at 9 a.m. [such] that these pirates must be far away and that Monsieur de La Rigaudière who arrived at this port on May 30 with two frigates of the Company and I did not feel that it was worth time to go after [them], both for the time that this vessel had in advance [a head start] and because it is one of the best sailing boats in the sea and furthermore we had not yet begun to unload the cargoes of these two [company] ships. Nevertheless, I sent people by land on the coves and at Cape Tiburon to see if this vessel [Le Postillon] would not go on these sides but we did not see or hear it and following all appearances it had taken off and set sail for the coast of Spain (Mainland America) and get to Bocator which is a place where pirates retreat. This pirate ship [Le Postillon] has four mounted guns and has about ten to twelve pounds of gunpowder.
I have given notice of the theft of this vessel to Mr. [Archibald] Hamilton Governor of Jamaica and to the Governor of Curacao on occasions I found in those days.*
*A.N. Colonies C9 B2 . Lettre du sieur Barthomier, du fort Saint Louis le 14 juin 1715.
|FR-ANOM COL C3/5/002 ff. 120|
Sent to France in 1770
Bales of Coffee, harvested in Bourbon [no pirate mentioned here?]
Notice to the arrest or force of pirate Olivier Le Vasseur or La Buse, our Mr. D'Hermitte.
They had read, the condemnation to his execution.
[Document: FR-ANOM COL C3/5/002 ff. 120-121]
Monseigr. The Count of Maurepas
L'isle de Bourbon this December 20, 1730 [J: 9 Dec 1730]*
This year we are shipping the vessel La Meduse commanded by Sr. D'Hermitte fully responsible for the 770 bales of coffee amounting to 3166 [.] 00[lt: livre] from the region of this Isle [Bourbon]; and we still have a considerable part of it in the store which has not been taken on board.
Sr. D'Hermitte in the last trip he made to Madagascar, having arrested and caught him there [ca. April 1730] named Olivier Le Vasseur known as La Buze, famous pirate captain, his procedure was made at the request of the Attorney General, and he was condemned by order of council of July 17, In.[instant?: 1730; this was the date of his condemnation and order of execution - still he was hanged on 7 July - might be a typo on the original document with an added "1" and repeated - see next doc]
This man made in 1721 in harbor of this Isle [Bourbon] two captures one of a vessel of King of Portugal [Nossa Senhora do Cabo or Vierge de Cap; then of only 21 guns, but pirates refitted her with 60 guns] of 60 pieces of guns, which he boarded, and the other from a vessel called The Ville d'Ostende [City of Ostend] belonging to the Comp. from the same city - he also took and burnt after taking in the same time the vessel of Comp. of France the Duchess of Noailles commanded by Sr. Grâve of St. Malo [Platel was former captain; Sr. Robert was then in command when she was destroyed, Grâve was the owner], this Buze then mounted the pirate ship the Victorious and to have with him another ship named Defense [at this time, it was Cassandra; Defense was the new name given to the refitted Nossa Senhora do Cabo; Dumas mixed up his info after 9 years] commanded by an Englishman called Taylor.*
Rhubarb [an expression or the plant?] is starting to multiply in Isle Bourbon, there are currently more so-called seedlings, I have the honor with deep respect.
Your humble obedient servant
* It should be noted that Pierre Benoist Dumas had not been present for the piratical events in 1721 when Nossa Senhora do Cabo or Vierge de Cap was captured by LeVasseur et al. He arrived on La Bourbon about 1727, replacing Desforges-Boucher, who in turn replaced Beauvollier, who was the governor who originally offered pardons to LeVasseur, Cleyton, Adam Johnson, and their crews in 1724.
From: Archives Colonials – Bourbon, carton 2 – Letter de M. Dumas, 29 December 1730 [J: 18 Dec 1730]; also Mr. Dumas, Governor of Bourbon, to Minister de Maurepas, December 29, 1730, Centre des Archives dOutre Mer, Aix en Provence, Correspondance générale de Bourbon, t. V, 1727-1731.
According to the deliberation of the Superior Council of Bourbon on 7 July 1730 [J: 26 Jun]:
By advice, the criminal proceedings extraordinarily made and instructed at the request and diligence of the Attorney General of the King [illegible] and accusation against Olivier Levasseur nicknamed “La Bouse” accused of the crime of piracy, prisoner in our prisons, defendant in the affirmation made the 26 of March [J: 15 Mar] and 19 of May [J: 8 May] last at the declaration of Sieur d’Hermitte captain of the ship La Méduse, [showing as evidence] the letter of said Levasseur dated March 25, 1724 [J: 14 Mar] addressed to Monsieur Desforges and signed Olivier La Buse, by him recognized and initialed, nor variation.
[Also offered to the court, the] Letter from the Superior Council to Sieur La Buse for response dated 23 September of the same year granting Amnesty and Surety, [and supported in the] interrogation suffered by the accused on 15 May [J: 4 May] and 20 May 1730 [J: 9 May] and 03 [J: 22 Jun] of this month. First general conclusion of the king of the 04 [July] [J: 23 Jun], [and] preparatory judgment of the same day which orders that it will proceed to the final judgment [to be] awaited [by] the public notoriety.
Final conclusion of the Attorney General of the King of the 06 [July; J: 25 Jun], sudden interrogation in the room of the council [illegible] and all considered the council declared and [illegible] the name “Olivier Levasseur dit la Buse,” native of Calais, hard hit of the knowledge of the crime of piracy for several years, for having ordered several pirate ships to be taken and brought to the roadstead of Bourbon Island, a vessel belonging to king of Portugal and another named the City of Ostend belonging to the company of the same city, but equally participated in the capture, plunder, and firing of the vessel La Duchesse de Noailles belonging to the company of France and other [illegible], for repair of which the council condemned him and ordered to make amends in front of the principal door of the church of this parish, naked in a shirt, the rope at his collar, in hand, a torch of two pounds of pitch for there, to say and declare with high and intelligible voice, that For a long time, he was a reckless and reckless man who became a filibuster [pirate] and asked for forgiveness from God, the king and justice. [note that there is no mention in any primary source of him throwing a cipher on a large piece of parchment in the crowd - where would an essentially naked man hide one, anyway?]
This sentence will be carried out in a public place to be hanged and strangled until death ensues on a gallows erected for this purpose. (He) will be hanged in the usual place his dead body will remain there 24 hours and then exposed to the waters’ edge… his belongings are confiscated for the benefit of the king, and he must also pay a fine of one hundred pounds for the offense done to “the Lord King.” Done and declared in the council chamber on July 17, 1730 [J: 6 Jul; note this is probably a typo]. Dumas.**
*Julian dates are included because French dates were based on the Gregorian calendar and were 11 days later than English who used the Julian.
** This is obviously partly copied into his letter of 20 Dec 1730 to Maurepas.
|ANOM COL C3 4 1-22 - 30 Sep 1724 Desforges Boucher|
"La véritable histoire de La Buse" from the Office of Western Tourism, Department of the Island of La Réunion at https://www.ouest-lareunion.com/La-veritable-histoire-de-la-buse :
[BCBNote: His body was likely buried in a shallow grave below the high-water mark of the shore. "The Judgement of La Buse," available on Laura Nelson's blog The Whydah Pirates Speak, at http://petercorneliushoof.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-judgment-of-la-buse.html states that the body of La Buse "will be planted at the usual place his dead body remained there 24 hours and then exposed to the edge from the sea." Pirates were usually treated in this careless fashion, their souls or "last rights" to eternity having been forfeited by their unrepentant criminal lives. So, it's highly likely that his actual remains have washed out to sea.]
[BCBNote: furthermore, as I argue in Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates at Madagascar, this document and all the writings to and from Dumas, the governor who signed his death warrant, about La Buse state that the former pirate was hung in only a night shirt and could not have hidden a parchment containing any cipher to the location of his treasure - and they also never spoke of any parchment that he supposedly threw out at his hanging - so please stop digging up the beautiful tropical islands of the Indian Ocean looking for it! Dumas and his men took whatever treasure might have been in La Buse's possession in 1730 - Dumas even said so! La Buse's operations on Nosy Mangabe in Antongil Bay were also taken over by the man who captured and took him from there, Capt. Hiacynthe d'Hermitte of La Méduse]On April 11, 1944, the day after a devastating cyclone and tidal wave, the Saint-Paulois Ignace de Villèle found a stone cross among the devastated walls of the cemetery. Since it bears no indication other than pirate symbols, he moves it here and places it against the enclosure of his family's graves.
It was on this site that in the 1970s that the current funeral monument was erected in memory of La Buse. It attracts so many visitors that it has come to be regarded as the real tomb of the character thus contributing to his fame.
Since 2010, it has been discovered that the tombstone used came from an abandoned burial, that of the former slave Delphine Helod. Having been freed in 1835 by her masters, the Mallac family, she could have been buried in the cemetery of the whites and the free unlike the pirate in 1730. The stone had been turned over.
Its engraved face still bears this inscription:
“In memory of Delphine Hélod, born in Sainte-Marie on August 7, 1809, died on May 13, 1836.
His good behavior, his good feelings, his affection for his masters earned him freedom and this weak testimony of their regrets ”