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The Wonderful March Of The Freebooters
by [?]

The March of the Ten Thousand, from Babylon to the Black Sea, is one of the famous events of history. The march of the three hundred, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, which we have here to tell, is scarcely known to history at all, yet it was marked by a courage and command of resources as great as those of the ancient Greeks. We think our readers will agree with us when they read this story, taken from the records of the freebooters on the Spanish Main.

After ravaging the settlements of Spain on the Atlantic coasts, various fleets of these piratical adventurers sought the Pacific waters in 1685, and there for several years made life scarce worth living to the inhabitants of the Spanish coast cities. Time and again these were plundered of their wealth, numbers of their ships were taken, and a veritable reign of terror prevailed. As time went on, however, most of these freebooters withdrew, satisfied with their abundant gains, so that, by the end of 1687, only a few of them remained, and these were eager to return with their ill-gotten wealth to their native land.

This remnant of the piratical fraternity, less than three hundred in number, had their head-quarters on an island in the Bay of Mapalla, on the Central American coast. What vessels they had left were in a wretched condition, utterly unfit to attempt the vast sea voyage by way of the Straits of Magellan, and nothing seemed to remain for them but an attempt to cross the continent by way of Nicaragua and Honduras, fighting their way through a multitude of enemies. To the pen of Ravenneau de Lussan, one of the adventurers, we are indebted for the narrative of the singular and interesting adventure which follows.

The daring band of French and English freebooters were very ill provided for the dangerous enterprise they had in view. They proposed to cross an unknown country without guides and with a meagre supply of provisions, fighting as they went and conveying their sick and wounded as best they could. They had also a number of prisoners whom they felt it necessary to take with them, since to set them free would be to divulge their weakness to their enemies. Nature and circumstance seemed to combine against them, yet if they ever wished to see their native lands again they must face every danger, trusting that some of them, at least, might escape to enjoy their spoils.

After questioning their prisoners, they decided to take a route by way of the city of New Segovia, which lies north of the lake of Nicaragua, about one hundred and twenty miles from the Pacific and seventy-five miles from the waters of a river that flows, after a long course, into the Atlantic opposite Cape Gracias-a-Dios. In order to gain further information about the route, sixty men were sent to explore the neighboring country. These advanced till they were near the small city of Chiloteca. Here, worn out by their journey and learning that they were in a thickly settled country, most of the pioneers decided to return. But eighteen of the bolder spirits had the audacity to advance on Chiloteca, a place of perhaps a thousand inhabitants.

Into it they rushed with such ferocious yells and so terrific a fusillade of shots that the frightened inhabitants, taken utterly by surprise, fled in mortal terror, leaving the place to its captors. These quickly seized a number of horses, and made haste to retreat on their backs, hotly pursued by the Spaniards, who soon discovered to what a handful of men they had surrendered their city.

On receiving the report of their scouts, the freebooters determined on the desperate venture. They had little to convey except their spoil, which, the result of numerous raids, was valued at about one million dollars. It chiefly consisted of gold and jewels, all heavier valuables, even silver, being left in great part behind, as too heavy to carry. The spoil was very unequally owned, since the gambling which had gone on actively among them had greatly varied the distribution of their wealth. To overcome the anger and jealousy which this created among the poorer, those with much to carry shared their portions among their companions, with the understanding that, if they reached the Antilles in safety, half of it should be returned. As for the prisoners, it was decided to take them along, and make use of them for carrying the utensils, provisions, and sick.