Buccaneers > Roc Brasiliano

Roc Brasiliano

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Background

Roc Brasiliano (1630 – 1671), also known as Rock, Roch, Roc, Roque, Brazilliano, or Brasiliano was another famous buccaneer of the mid 17th century. Born in Groninghen in the Dutch Republic, the main primary source author Alexander Exquemelin originally did not know his birth name. Historians figure his name is Gerrit Gerritszoon. However, it is known he spent a lot of his life in the Dutch owned Brazil called Nieuw Holland. When the Portuguese took the colony from the Dutch Roc was forced to flee along with his family.

He was a brutal 17th century Dutch buccaneer that was known to have sailed with Henry Morgan and Francois L'Ollonais. His career lasted from the 1650's typical start of the Buccaneering Era to his disappearance in the 1670's. Eventually he made his way to Port Royal by 1654 when the buccaneering era was just beginning to get started. He served as a privateer initially and was extremely well behaved and actually extremely respected.

Roc Brasiliano - Roc Brasiliano (Buccaneers of America 1678)

Roc Brasiliano - Buccaneers of America (1678)

Here in Port Royal he led a mutiny against a ship as many pirate captains do and began the life of a buccaneer. On his first piratical voyage he captured a treasure laden Spanish Galleon and brought the cargo back safely to Port Royal. This haul made him a hero and gained him a great reputation. He was eventually caught for his actions and sent to Spain to be tried and executed. However, he managed to escape and shortly after resumed his buccaneering career.

His imprisonment caused him to hate the Spaniards and he was known to be extremely cruel to them. Roc was known along with L'Ollonais for his brutal torture tactics of the Spanish and others. When he was drunk, Roc would threaten to shoot anyone that did not drink with him. He was also known to have roasted two Spanish farmers alive after they refused to hand over their pigs and goods. He practiced the same level of cruelty towards the Spanish as L'Ollonais, often cutting limbs with a cutlass or torturing them to give up their treasure.

Roc Brasiliano - Capture of a Galleon (Book of Pirates 1921)

Capture of a Galleon - Book of Pirates (1921)

Raiding the Spanish Main

Like most buccaneers of the Buccaneering Era, Roc made his living off plundering the Spanish Main. One day after looting a bunch of ships and killing a few Spaniards, Roc was cruising off the coast of Campeche in Mexico and was shipwrecked during a storm. The buccaneers managed to get ashore aboard a canoe with only their muskets and a few shots and some powder. Roc and his crew decided to make the overland journey to Golpho Triste, a known pirate haven. However they were soon pursued by regiment of one hundred Spanish troops.

The buccaneers only numbered thirty, however Roc stood his ground and the pirates took down cavalry with almost one hundred percent accuracy. After an hour of fighting the Spanish retreated and the buccaneers salvaged what they could from the dead Spanish. They killed all of the wounded and took the horses. Brasiliano had lost only two of his crew in this engagement and had two wounded.

Sources - Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Cards (1888) - Roc the Brazilian

Roc Brasiliano - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

Making their way to Campeche, they spotted a small flotilla of canoes that log cutters were using to load wood onto a convoy. The convoy was armed by a small sloop-of-war. Roc sent some of his crew to scout it out at night and the next morning his remaining men seized the sloop-of-war. Aboard the ship they found all sorts of food and other provisions. They killed their horses and salted them for food for the journey.

Next Roc and his crew sailed to Maracaibo where they traded some of their goods for other goods that they planned to sell back in Port Royal. They quickly spent all the money they made, sometimes spending 2,000 or 3,000 pieces of eight in a single night while not even having a shirt to wear the next day.

2nd Buccaneer Adventure

After spending all of his money, Roc decided to go back to sea and gain another fortune. He set off with a small crew towards Campeche again. He decided to take a small canoe to scout out the town however, he and his crew were captured and thrown into a Spanish jail. Normally the whole crew would have been hung but Brasiliano had another trick up his sleeve. He wrote a letter to the governor saying that if he executed Roc there would be a massive pirate retaliation. The pirates would place the blood on the hands of the governor and there would be no quarter.

Fearing for the future safety of his colony the governor let the pirates go on the condition they promised not to be pirates again. This was a vain plea because the pirates simply returned to what they were doing before. During this period the Spanish got so tired of losing their ships that they simply stopped sending them to the New World. Thus the buccaneers were forced to turn to the Spanish settlements in order to gain their promised fortune.

Brasiliano ran into a steak of bad luck and he was becoming increasingly desperate at this point. In the dead of night Roc led 80-90 buccaneers in canoes towards a Spanish settlement. They rowed quietly and hide in the underbrush, slowly making their way towards the city. After three days of rowing they reached the city. The Spanish outpost took them for fisherman because the pirates spoke fluent Spanish.

One of Roc's crew, a freed native Indian slave ran ashore and took out the guard in the watchtower and the group of buccaneers was free to enter the city. Roc and the buccaneers crept through town and went up the nicest mansions and quietly knocked on the doors. Thinking they were friends, the Spanish opened up. This was a mistake and the pirates soon took most of the towns elite hostage. They collected all of the gold, plates and whatever else they could find and the churches were ransacked. Roc and his crew collected a few prisoners and as they went to leave they were met with a small opposition by the Spanish. They tried to take the prisoners with them as they made their escape however in the harbor was another battalion of 500 well armed Spanish troops.

Leaving the prisoners, the buccaneers made off with their loot, the value of about £10,000 in Spanish gold and jewels. They split their treasure and at this point Roc was in command of seven or eight ships. Next they ventured to La Florida and sacked the city of Saint Augustine and captured the fortress despite a garrison of 200 Spanish troops.

Eventual Fate

After 1671 no one ever heard or seen Roc Brasiliano again. Some say he died at sea, others say he was captured by the Spanish and yet others say he lived his life out in relative peace. He could have also died in the 1692 Port Royal Earthquake. Whatever exactly happened to this fearsome buccaneer is something left to history. His story was given in Alexander Exquemelin's primary source document De Americaensche Zee Roovers or History of the Buccaneers of America along with an engraving and he remains one of the top buccaneers of the era.

What is known is that he became extremely wealthy following his raid on Campeche and likely even richer following the raid on Saint Augustine. He may have just decided to take his money and run, living out the rest of his days in relative peace. It is very unusual we never hear of someone with the exploits of sacking two towns again or in popular culture. Not many buccaneers besides Henry Morgan and Francois L'Ollonais were able to accomplish such feats and yet the story of Roc Brasiliano remains largely a mystery.

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).