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Thursday, October 15, 2020

La Buse: Mutiny on Le Postillon, 3 June 1715

Early events in the Golden Age of Piracy at Saint Domingue

Excerpt from Le capitaine La Buse: L'âge d'or de la piraterie (2018) by Jacques Gasser:

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.

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