De l'Inde à l'Arabie la prise du vaisseau Neptune

De l'Inde à l'Arabie la prise du vaisseau Neptune

Size : 7,5 x 11,8 inches
Condition : B
Reference : 285-22

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Anonymous manuscript, 10 pp. ½ folio.

Very interesting testimony from one of the crew members of the Neptune, a ship that was captured by Moorish pirates off Mahé. 

Our witness explains: "I embarked on the Neptune for the voyage to Moka in Arabia, for which I left Pondicherry on 9 February 1743. [...] We arrived at Mahé which is a trading post of our nation situated on the Malabar coast [...] we stayed at this trading post to take goods from this coast until the 11th of March when we sailed for the Arabian coast. 

On the evening of the 12th, at sunset, we saw two boats called gallettes (which are much smaller than half galleys) talking to each other. Then one headed south and the other north to recognise us. We knew they were pirates. At nightfall, we decided to avoid them by heading east to reach land, but the calm overcame us and we were obliged to stay 11 places from land. At ten o'clock that same evening, we saw the same two boats within gun range of us. We took up arms to defend ourselves, but they only wanted to recognise us to go and warn their squadron, which was made up of a total of three palles and three galvettes [...] At three o'clock in the morning, we saw the six boats. And we saw that we were ready to be attacked. Everyone came to recognise us without firing a shot. We did not see fit to do the same, we fired two cannon shots, but we did nothing, on the contrary, because our ship caught fire, which was however soon extinguished at five o'clock in the morning. At six o'clock in the morning, the whole squadron of pirate bouselots, as these wretches are called, came up behind us and prepared to fight. [...]" he details the armament of the pirate ships and compares it with that of the Neptune. He goes on to detail the sequence of manoeuvres [...] They dismasted us at two o'clock and then boarded us, which we defended until three o'clock: this defence was one of the bloodiest and most vicious. Even though there were only twelve of us in our ship to defend ourselves against the fourteen thousand men whose squadron was [...]". Our witness describes his own situation, then that of the crew: "Firstly, I was wounded by a double-barrelled shot as I surrendered my weapon. Fortunately I had the belt of my hunting knife with the buckle, which was silver, to protect me from these two blows, but I must tell you that they were so well applied that the buckle was broken. [...] One of the chiefs came and stopped them and ordered me to give him Salam, which I was obliged to do by force, and then I passed between fifty or sixty of these wretches who were all naked sabres drawn at me. I made Salam to them, trembling, and they made me go to the pig pen where one of these barbarians made me walk with the tip of his sober sword up my backside. [...] I stayed there for more than two hours without seeing one of my poor shipwrecked comrades, but I never did see them, because some had been massacred and the others were being killed. We had a Father Recollé, a missionary passing through on his way to Moka, who had his skull removed over his head, holding the crucifix in his hand and on his knees, and next to him two children aged 11 and 12 were massacred. In the same place, our baker had his arm and a thigh cut off: fortunately for him, he fell unconscious, they thought he was dead and abandoned him. The captain of our ship, who is an old hand at the coast and has always sailed with privateers, saw this massacre and wanted to go to their aid. He killed two men, but [...] he had his left arm cut off, a piece of his skull taken away and the thumb of his right hand cut off and several other blows which fortunately were not dangerous. [...] the second captain of the ship had his left arm cut off without realising it and, wanting to save himself, threw himself into the sea and as he could swim with his right arm [...] As you can see, we were taken on the 13th afternoon and stayed there until the 22nd. During that time, they wanted to kill us a thousand times over and only gave us rice water to drink and a duck a day to make broth for all our wounded. And they partly unloaded our ship to load their boats and looted all our belongings and much of the merchandise. We had the misfortune to say that we had five French warships in Mahé [...]". After this lengthy account of the capture of the Neptune by the pirates, our witness reiterated his hope that "on the morning of the twenty-second, they were not suspicious of three Portuguese vessels which were in the Mangalore roadstead and which set sail on us. They thought it was one of their ships returning from China, because the confidence of the bouselots was well founded, since they had a peace treaty with the Portuguese and even these pirates thought that the Portuguese were on their way back to Goa. They attacked a small Moorish vessel that was in sight half a league from this armada of war. Fortunately, this poor wretch had the wind to run against the Armada. These pirates then returned to join our ship, but they did not expect the Portuguese ships to wait until nightfall to run at us, which they bravely did at nine o'clock on the evening of the twenty-second [...] The Portuguese, who did us such a generous deed, did not do the same afterwards, because not only did they treat us as prisoners, but they acted like pirates towards us. I can't tell you any more, it would take too long. What I can tell you is this...