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Captain Edward Mansvelt

    His background is largely obscure, with conflicting accounts as a Dutchman from Curacao or an Englishman, and is usually referred to by the surnames Mansvelt or Mansfield. He was a 17th-century corsair and buccaneer who, at one time, was acknowledged as an informal chieftain of the "Brethren of the Coast". He is first recorded accepting a privateering commission from Governor Edward D'Oyley at Port Royal in 1659. Based from Jamaica during the early-1660s, he began raiding Spanish shipping and coastal settlements, travelling overland as far as the Pacific coast of South America. When Christopher Myngs was injured during the Sack of Campeche in 1663, Mansvelt took control of the 1000-man landing party and sacked the city, negotiating the surrender himself and capturing 14 vessels in port. Thereafter, he commanded his own ships and pirate crews, using similar tactics to raid smaller settlements.

    In late 1665, he attacked a Cuban village with 200 buccaneers. Soon after this raid, he was offered a commission by the newly appointed governor, Thomas Modyford, at Port Royal, to sail against the Dutch at Curacao. His men refused to fight the Dutch however, some themselves being Dutchman, while others believed it would be far more lucrative to continue their raids against the Spanish. In January 1666, Mansvelt and his crew left Jamaica, and according to writer and historian, Alexandre Exquemelin, Mansvelt led the fleet which captured and looted Granada, although this is disputed. He was, however, elected admiral of the fleet, consisting of between 10-15 ships.

    The voyage took them against the Eastern trade winds, so the journey took a lot of time. Along the route Mansvelt sent various ships off to pursue other prey, causing several of the pirate captains to become disenchanted with him. Faced with mutiny, he changed course and headed for Boca del Toro along the border between Panama and Costa Rica. But this change wasn't enough to appease all of the captains under his command and several ships deserted and returned to Jamaica or Tortuga. By the time Mansvelt arrived at Costa Rica had only about 600 men left. After this setback, however Mansvelt took what remained of the fleet successfully raided the Isle of St. Catherine and capturing the island of Santa Catalina, also known as Providencia or Providence Island, a name given to it by English Puritans who had settled it in 1630. The island was controlled by Spain at the time Mansvelt arrived. Their plunder was 55,000 and 150 slaves, some of which were free men and an officer from the garrison.

    After occupying St. Catharine, Mansvelt sent word to Port Royal for reinforcements in order to use the island as a base to attack the Spanish. The island may have been what is San Andres, located 100 miles off Nicaragua. He failed to persuade the governor in his request, as well as his attempts to use the island as a pirate haven. Providence was later recaptured by the Spanish in August. There are two accounts of Mansfield's death, one according to Esquemelin within his book "The Buccaneers of America" has Mansvelt quarreling with Modyford at Jamaica and going to Tortuga where he died soon afterwards of a sudden illness. The other has him being captured by the Spanish and executed for piracy. Mansvelt was the first to organize large scale raids against Spanish settlements, tactics which would be used by later buccaneers in the years to follow. During his time he held considerable influence in Tortuga and Port Royal, and was widely considered one of the finest buccaneers of his day. Following his death, his position was assumed by his protege and vice-admiral, Henry Morgan.




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