Tuesday, June 26, 2012

People: Le Filibustier

Francois Grogniet is mentioned only in passing in most accounts of the buccaneering era, if at all.  His connection to more famous buccaneers Edward Davis and Captain Swan keeps his name in the history books, however.  The buccaneer navigator turned author, William Dampier, mentions Grogniet.  Two prolific pirate historians, Philip Gosse and David F. Marley both give Grogniet a separate entry in their seminal works, but the information is sketchy at best.

Grogniet (whose name is pronounce groan-ee-YAY and not like a Russian saying no to grog) was almost certainly born in France.  Where, exactly, is impossible to say but it is reasonable to imagine that he came from one of the many sea ports along the Channel or the Bay of Biscay.  He, like so many others, probably learned his trade on merchant ships.  When this no longer suited, he shipped out to Saint Domingue and the buccaneer havens of Tortuga and Petit Goave.

He first appears on the books, so to say, in 1683 when he is captaining his own ship and sailing in company with a Captain L'Escayer.  These two teamed up with Davis and Swan in an attempt to take the Armada del Mar del Sur, a Spanish treasure fleet, off the Central American coast.  This endeavor came to naught and, as Marley notes in Pirates of the Americas, the buccaneers scattered and took a few months to lick their wounds.

Meeting up with Davis and Swan once again, Grogniet joined them in an attempt to blockade the port of Panama for ransom.  This scheme failed as well and, though Davis and Swan headed out for Nicaragua and a raid of the town of Leon.  Instead, Grogniet kept his Sainte~Rose off the coast of Nicaragua and took his men ashore at Remedios to loot and pillage.

Finding a bit of success at Remedios, Grogniet and his crew lurked off the coast of Panama, hitting small hamlets for what ever they could carry away.  Apparently emblodened by success, Grogniet returned to Remedios evidently for water and provisions.  They were ambushed by three Spanish ships and the ensuing fight cost many of the buccaneers their lives.

According to Gosse in The Pirate's Who's Who, however, the city that was revisited by Grogniet was not Remedios but Quibo in the province of Quito.  Here, again according to Gosse, Grogniet's Sainte~Rose was burned to the waterline by the Spanish.  Half-starved and beat up, Grogniet and his now rather meager crew of slightly more that 100 men were reduced to three periaugers as they set out north for the cities of Granada and Guayaquil.

Both Marley and Gosse agree that Grogniet eventually entered the Great South Sea and, joining with English buccaneer Captain Townley, continued to raid towns along the coast of modern day Peru and Nicaragua.  A successful raid on Granada seems once again to have encouraged the ever-optimistic Grogniet, despite the fact that half of his crew had abandoned him preferring to take their chanced with one of their own, Le Picard, as captain.  Townley and Grogniet planned a raid on the wealthy city of Guayaquil.

In April of 1687, the raiders came to the Guayas River.  Finding the current unfavorable, they took refuge on Puna Island where they were spotted by Spanish lookouts.  Managing to overcome these guards, the buccaneers entered Guayaquil and trapped 700 of the townspeople in the city's Cathedral.  They plundered the homes but were, at some point, assaulted by another group of Spanish military.  In the hand-to-hand fighting, Grogniet was severely wounded.

The buccaneers periaugers were stuffed with booty and prisoners - perhaps up to 200.  Despite the favorable current of the Guayas, the heavy-laden boats had a slow go back to the ships.  Meanwhile, Grogniet bled out onto the deck of his periauger.  He was still alive when the buccaneers returned to their flotilla but he would die of his wounds on or about May 2nd.  As Marley notes, "never enjoying the silver and jewels won during his one great strike."

Header: Dead Men Tell no Tales by Howard Pyle via Wikimedia 


Timmy! said...

If at first you don't succeed...

Errr, maybe not, Pauline.

Pauline said...

Poor Grogniet. Try as he might, he was never going to be a Laurens de Graff.