Buccaneers > Bartholomew Portugues

Bartholomew Portugues

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Background

Bartholomew Portugues was a Portuguese buccaneer who raided the Spanish Main in the late 1660's. He was also one of the founding pirates of the fabled pirate code that was later used by the 18th century outlaw pirates such as John Phillips, Edward Low and Bartholomew Roberts. At least these were the only surviving codes, it was rumored nearly everyone except Charles Vane had a code.

Reputed to arrive in the Caribbean in the early 1660's, Bartholomew operated much as many other buccaneers did in the late 1660's such as Francois L'Ollonais and raided the Spanish off the coast of New Spain between the years of 1666 and 1669.

Bartholomew Portugues - Bartholomew Portugues (Buccaneers of America 1678)

Bartholomew Portugues - Buccaneers of America (1678)

Eventually he captured a large Spanish galleon off the coast of near Cape Coriente, Cuba using a small sloop with 4 cannons and a crew of thirty men. The ship was traveling from Maracaibo and Cartagena de Indias to Havana and was equipped with twenty state of the art cannons and 70 crew. The pirates tried attacking the ship but were initially pushed back. The pirates tried again and after a brutal assault that left his crew numbered in half, the buccaneers emerged victorious.

With his loot totaling 70,000 pieces of eight and 120,000 pounds of cacao beans, Portugues and his remaining crew set sail for Port Royal. However they never made it that far and were intercepted by Spanish ships off the coast of Cuba. As they rounded the Cape of San Antonio Portugues and his crew were captured by three Spanish war galleons and got their cargo seized. The Spanish recorded it as 70,000 pieces of eight and over 120,000 pounds of cacao beans. They were let go with their ship and they renewed their attempts. Later more bad circumstances forced him and his small crew to sail towards the settlement of Campeche.

Here he was recognized by the Spanish from the galleon he stole years before. He was captured and held prisoner on a Spanish ship along with the rest of his crew. The Spanish meanwhile went ashore to erect a gibbet and planned to hang Portugues the next day. Bartholomew was to have none of that though and he was able to escape using a stolen knife to incapacitate guards before using two wine jars to aid in swimming to shore. Apparently Bartholomew Portugues like most other pirates at the time did not know how to swim.

He traveled overland through nearly 120 miles of pure rainforest before arriving in El Golfo Triste on the eastern portion of the Yucatan peninsula. Throughout his journey he was forced to rely on eating wild herbs and living in hallowed out trees while the Spanish searched for him day and night. Eventually he escaped and starving and exhausted, and made his way to El Golfo Triste. There was a known pirate haven in the area and there he quickly found another boat and crew of twenty pirates.

The ship took him back to Port Royal where he recruited another crew and set out in vengeance of the Spanish who captured him and to reclaim his loot. A little over a week later Portugues was back at Campeche and with twenty men he captured the very ship where he was held prisoner before. He sailed off with the exact same loot as before but was eventually onset with the same luck as before. His ship ran aground near the Isle of Pines on the southern coast of Cuba and his entire ship was lost along with the cargo. His ship remains unfound.

Bartholomew Portugues - Bartholomew Portugues (Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Cards 1888)

Bartholomew Portugues - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

With the remaining men that survived, Portugues returned to Port Royal penniless once again. It was here he tried setting out once again, however there is nothing more in recorded history about Bartholomew Portugues. The last known fate regarding Portugues was described by Alexander Exquemelin as:

“made many violent attacks on the Spaniards without gaining much profit from marauding, for I saw him dying in the greatest wretchedness in the world.”

It is unlikely that he did anything meaningful after this and probably died penniless. He may have even perished in the 1692 Port Royal Earthquake along with nearly all of the residents there. History is open to interpretation about this lone Portuguese buccaneer.

Buccaneers

Sources

Primary Sources

Exquemelin, A. (1678). The History of the Buccaneers of America. Great Britain:

Secondary Sources

Stockton, F. (1867) Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts. New York: Grosset and Dunlap (Macmillan).

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