Captain Richard Sawkins

Little is known of his early life. On December 1, 1679 he was sitting in prison at Port Royal, Jamaica awaiting trial for piracy after being caught by H.M.S. Success. But it looks like he somehow got off.

It is known that soon after he was commanding a small vessel of sixteen tons with 35 men crew and one gun. He was one of 330 buccaneers who under Coxon and Sharp landed on the coast of Darien. They then marched through the jungle and attacked and plundered the town of Santa Maria. After that they crossed the isthmus in canoes, sailing down the Santa Maria River all the way to the Pacific.

It is also known that on this expedition each captain had his own company and his own colors. Sawkins had a red flag with yellow stripes. When Sawkins arrived at the sea, he captured two small Spanish vessels and with the rest of his company in canoes they sailed towards Panama City. They met with a Spanish fleet of eight ships and after furious battle they celebrated their victory. The battle went into the history as the Battle of Perico. Sawkins himself fought in the most brave and desperate manner, which contributed largely to the victory.

Some quarrelling took place later, which ended by Captain Coxon taking about seventy men and returning across the isthmus on foot. The rest of the company elected Sawkins to be their leader, as Captain Sharp was away in his ship.

After destroying the Spanish fleet, buccaneers had blockaded the Panama City harbor, forcing the Governor of Panama to correspond with Sawkins. The Governor wanted to know Sawkins intentions.

Sawking asked for five hundred “pieces of eight” for each man, and one thousand for each commander. He also asked him to leave the local Indians alone. Sawkins learned, that Bishop of Santa Martha was in the city and sent him two loaves of sugar as a present and reminded him of being Sawkins’ prisoner five years earlier.

Next day Sawking received answer from Panama with a gold ring from the Bishop but no gold from the Governor. After lying off Panama for some time without any plunder, the crew grew unhappy, began to grumble, and persuaded Sawkins to abandon his blockade and sail south along the coast.

On May 22, 1679, Sawkins landed a party of sixty men and led them against the town of Puebla Nueva. However, Spaniards had been warned in time and were able to built three strong breastworks. Sawkins, never knowing what is fear, attacked the town at the head of his men and was killed by a musket-ball.

Sawkins was definitively beloved by all of his company for his courage and valiancy. He was known as a man who could be terrified by nothing.

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