Buccaneers > English Buccaneers > Christopher Myngs

Christopher Myngs

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

Peter Lely - Vice-Admiral Christopher Myngs (1665-66)

Peter Lely - Vice-Admiral Christopher Myngs (1665-66)

Christopher Myngs was a English officer in the Royal Navy of Olive Cromwell who was responsible for many early buccaneering raids on the Spanish Main as well as helping spawn the career of the infamous Henry Morgan. Myngs was born in Norfolk in 1625 and joined the Royal Navy a year or two before the outbreak of the English Civil War between 1641 and 1652. He sided with the Parliamentarians and being on the winning side rose quickly through the ranks due to his loyalty.

Cromwell eventually promoted Myngs to flag officer and sent him to the West Indies in 1656 to help cement English dominion over the newly captured island of Jamaica. This event had caused the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish War two years prior in 1654 which Myngs found himself in the midst of. He arrived soon in Port Royal with a 44-gun Royal Navy frigate named the Marston Moor after subduing a mutiny by his crew on the voyage.

Upon arriving at Jamaica he realized that beset on all sides by Spanish forces he would need to take the fight to them. However, due to the deplorable condition of the forces that Robert Venable had left behind during his invasion of the island years prior he needed to recruit a new fighting force. Thus he turned to the Brethren of the Coast and recruited his new privateer raiding army.

Buccaneer Raids

Terre Firma - Atlas van der Hagen (c. 1630)

Terre Firma - Atlas van der Hagen (c. 1630)

In May of 1656 Myngs would first lead a raid on Santa Marta in Tierra Firme on the northern coast of South America.

He demonstrated to the English that the buccaneers were a useful tool and soon he was given command over the buccaneers as well as Commonwealth vessels which would be used to further harass Spanish economic interests in the New World.

Later in October of 1658 the English buccaneers under Myngs attempted to capture a Spanish Treasure Fleet off the coast of Porto Bello but were unsuccessful.

By the time the Spanish ships had arrived the English missed them as most of the fleet had left to go find fresh water. As the twenty-nine Spanish ships passed by them the Marston Moor and one other ship gave chase and attempted to scatter the fleet to no success.

After this the buccaneers under Myngs would sack and burn the city of Tolu and captured two large Spanish vessels in its harbor. They also later sacked the town of Santa Marta again with depreciating results as the Spanish saw their massive fleet coming and hide all their wealth while fleeing more inland. After this he decided to approach with smaller forces as not to warn the Spanish.

Following this he split his forces and the Marston Moor and two other English vessels raided the cities of Cumana, Puerto Cabello and Coro along the coast of Terra Firme. Due to the smaller numbers the Spanish were completely unsuspecting and the buccaneers achieved great results in Coro where they captured a large haul of Spanish silver equivalent to around 250,000 English pounds.

Terre Firma Coast - Atlas van der Hagen (c. 1630)

Terre Firma Coast - Atlas van der Hagen (c. 1630)

After acquiring this lucrative amount of silver and other plundered loot from the Spanish cities the English buccaneers had to decide what to do. According to the privateering commission he was sailing under a portion of the take belonged to the English Commonwealth. However, Myngs attempted to argue that because the buccaneer raids were not a naval action but a land one they were not subject to the jurisdiction outline in his letter of marque. Henry Morgan would later use this defense as well and the buccaneers split the plundered loot amongst themselves rather than give any to the Crown.

However, upon his arrival back in Port Royal there was a warrant out for arrest and he was sent back to English on charges of embezzlement. However, during this time the monarchy was being restored in England and the political instability meant Myngs was of little concern to the powers that be. By 1662 he was back in Port Royal as a captain in the Royal Navy with the 34-gun H.M.S Centurion under his command. Despite the peace that existed between England and Spain at the time due the conclusion of the Anglo-Spanish War he still continued to raid and plunder Spanish settlements.

Sack of Santiago de Cuba (1662)

See Sack of Santiago de Cuba (1662)

In October of 1662 Myngs and the buccaneers would sack Santiago de Cuba the second largest Spanish settlement on the island. The buccaneers seized several ships and a lot of treasure and then destroyed the fortifications of the port before leaving. The English authorities did nothing about this blatant act of piracy so Myngs and the other buccaneers were emboldened to continue raiding.

St. Francisco de Campeche - John Ogilby (1671)

St. Francisco de Campeche - John Ogilby (1671)

Sack of Campeche (1663)

See Sack of Campeche (1663)

In February of 1663 commanding a force of 1,500 buccaneers including French and Dutch participants with over a dozen ships Myngs led the successful sack of St. Francisco de Campeche in the Bay of Campeche. The buccaneers seized over 150,000 Spanish pieces of eight as well as fourteen ships that lay in anchor in the harbor.

Later Life

However, Myng's buccaneer raids did not go over well with the Spanish who were predictably upset and presented the English monarchy with evidence against the buccaneers. After these two raids Charles II banned the buccaneers from any further raids to avoid further angering the Spanish. However, the English clearly had no problem with Myngs as he returned to England in 1665 and was promoted to Vice-Admiral.

Under his new command Myngs would lead the English in the Second Anglo-Dutch War where he finally met his demise during the Four Days Battle between June 11 and 15th of 1666. During this prolonged naval engagement Myngs was hit with two musket balls fired by a sharpshooter in the rigging of a Dutch ship. The Admiral was quickly transported to land but succumbed to his injuries in the beginning of August. Thus ended the life of one of the most prolific buccaneers of the period.

English Buccaneers

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Sources

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