Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Capture of the Castaways

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Capture of the Castaways

By Jonathan Dickinson (1663–1722)

[A Merchant of Philadelphia, Pa. Wrecked on the Florida Coast, in a Voyage from Jamaica to Philadelphia, Sept, 1696. Died in Philadelphia, 1722. God’s Protecting Providence. 1699.]

ABOUT the eighth or ninth hour came two Indian men … from the southward, running fiercely and foaming at the mouth, having no weapons except their knives; and forthwith, not making any stop, violently seized the two first of our men they met with, who were carrying corn from the vessel to the top of the bank where I stood to receive it and put it into a cask. They used no violence, for the men resisted not, but taking them under the arm brought them towards me. Their countenance was very furious and bloody. They had their hair tied in a roll behind, in which stuck two bones shaped, one like a broad arrow, the other a spear head. The rest of our men followed from the vessel, asking me what they should do, whether they should get their guns to kill these two; but I persuaded them otherwise, desiring them to be quiet, showing their inability to defend us from what would follow; but to put our trust in the Lord, who was able to defend to the uttermost. I walked towards the place where our sick and lame were; the two Indian men following me. I told them the Indians were come and coming upon us; and whilst these two (letting the men loose) stood with a wild furious countenance, looking upon us, I bethought myself to give them some tobacco and pipes, which they greedily snatched from me, and, making a snuffing noise like a wild beast, turned their backs upon us and run away.

We communed together and considered our condition, being amongst a barbarous people, such as were generally accounted man-eaters, believing those two were gone to alarum their people. We sat ourselves down, expecting cruelty and hard death, except it should please the Almighty God to work wonderfully for our deliverance. In this deep concernment some of us were not left without hopes; blessed be the name of the Lord in whom we trusted.

As we were under a deep exercise and concernment, a motion arose from one of us that, if we should put ourselves under the denomination of Spaniards (it being known that that nation had some influence on them, and one of us named Solomon Cresson speaking the Spanish language well), it was hoped this might be a means for our delivery; to which the most of the company assented.

Within two or three hours after the departure of the two Indians, some of our people being near the beach or strand returned and said the Indians were coming in a very great number, all running and shouting. About this time the storm was much abated, the rain ceased, and the sun appeared, which had been hid from us many days. The Indians went all to the vessel, taking forth whatever they could lay hold on, except rum, sugar, molasses, beef and pork.

But their Casseekey (for so they call their king) with about thirty more came down to us in a furious manner, having a dismal aspect and foaming at the mouth. Their weapons were large Spanish knives, except their Casseekey’s, who had a bagganett that belonged to the master of our vessel. They rushed in upon us and cried, “Nickaleez, Nickaleez.” We understood them not at first, they repeating it over unto us often. At last they cried, “Espainia” or “Spaniard”; by which we understood them that at first they meant “English”; but they were answered to the latter in Spanish, “Yea,” to which they replied, “No Spainia, no,” but all cried out “Nickaleez, Nickaleez.” We sitting on our chests, boxes and trunks, and some on the ground, the Indians surrounded us. We stirred nor moved not, but sat all, or most of us, very calm and still, some of us in a good frame of spirit, being freely given up to the Will of God.

Whilst we were thus sitting, as a people almost unconcerned, these bloody-minded creatures placed themselves, each behind one, kicking and throwing away the bushes that were nigh or under their feet. The Casseekey had placed himself behind me, standing on the chest which I sat upon, they all having their arms extended with their knives in their hands, ready to execute their bloody design, some taking hold of some of us by the heads, with their knees set against our shoulders. In this posture they seemed to wait for the Casseekey to begin. They were high in words which we understood not. But on a sudden it pleased the Lord to work wonderfully for our preservation, and instantly all these savage men were struck dumb and like men amazed the space of a quarter of an hour, in which time their countenances fell and they looked like another people. They quitted their places they had taken behind us and came in amongst us, requiring to have all our chests, trunks and boxes unlocked; which being done, they divided all that was in them. Our money the Casseekey took unto himself, privately hiding in the bushes. Then they went to pulling off our clothes, leaving each of us only a pair of breeches or an old coat, except my wife and child. Robert Barrow and our master, from whom they took but little this day.

Having thus done, they asked us again, “Nickaleez, Nickaleez?” But we answered by saying “Pennsylvania.”

We began to inquire after St. Augusteen, also would talk of Sta. Lucea, which was a town that lay about a degree to the northward; but they cunningly would seem to persuade us that they both lay to the southward. We signified to them that they lay to the northward, and we would talk of the Havana that lay to the southward. These places they had heard of, and knew which way they lay.

At length the Casseekey told us how long it was to Sta. Lucea by days’ travel; but cared not to hear us mention St. Augusteen. They would signify by signs, we should go to the southward. We answered, That we must go the northward for Augusteen. When they found they could not otherwise persuade us, they signified that we should go to the southward for the Havana, and that it was but a little way.

We gave them to understand that we came that way and were for the northward; all which took place with them. We perceived that the Casseekey’s heart was tendered towards us; for he kept mostly with us and would the remaining part of this day keep off the petty robbers, which would have had our few rags from us. Sometime before night we had a shower of rain, whereupon the Casseekey made signs for us to build some shelter; upon which we got our tent up and some leaves to lie upon.

About this time our vessel lay dry on shore and the Indians gathered themselves together, men and women, some hundreds in numbers. Having got all the goods out of the vessel and covered the bay for a large distance, opened all the stuffs and linens and spread them to dry. They would touch no sort of strong drink, sugar nor molasses, but left it in the vessel. They shouted and made great noises in the time of plunder. Night coming on, the Casseekey put those chests and trunks which he had reserved for himself into our tent; which pleased us and gave an expectation of his company, for he was now become a defender of us from the rage of others. The Casseekey went down to the waterside amongst his people and returned with three old coats that were wet and torn, which he gave us; one whereof I had. We made a fire at each end of our tent and laid ourselves down, it being dark; but hearing hideous noises and fearing that they were not satisfied, we expected them upon us. The chief Indian (or Casseekey) lay in the tent upon his chests; and about midnight we heard a company of Indians coming from the vessel towards us, making terrible shouts and coming fiercely up to the tent; the Casseekey called to them, which caused them to stand. It seemed they had killed a hog and brought him; so the Casseekey asked us if we would eat the hog? Solomon Cresson, by our desire, answered him that we used not to eat at that time of the night; whereupon they threw the hog down before the tent, and the Casseekey sent them away. They went shouting to the seashore, where there were some hundreds of them, revelling about our wrack.