The Sack of Panama

by Carleigh Pierce / Jul 02, 2014 / 0 comments

“Land Ho,” a crew member yelled. I looked over the edge of the ship Satisfaction and squinted to see the tiny glimpse of land in the distance. Tomorrow we would set off on our journey to raid Panama, said to be the richest city in the western hemisphere. I closed my eyes that evening, knowing it would be my last good night’s rest for a while.

I was abruptly awakened by the sounds of pots and pans banging together, and a man yelling “WAKE UP! Today is the day we sack Panama!” I jumped to my feet in anticipation. Packing my sack, I brought only the things I’d need on our voyage. “Gather around, men!” ordered Captain Morgan. “Today is the day our names go down in history. We will be surrounded by riches and gold…for we are going to overthrow a city covered with gold. I have devised a plan with two forces. One shall stay at the mouth of the Charges River, guarding it, for it is the sole waterway to Panama City. The other fleet will be attending me on our hike to Panama City.” I was privileged enough to be walking with the fleet - and the Captain himself - to Panama City. “First off, we need to capture the San Lorenzo Fortress; once the fort is captured, we will station men there and continue on our way. Understood?” The ship deck was engulfed in a loud roar as the crew cheered “Yes!” in approval. “Let’s get on our way, then!” Captain Morgan walked back to his cabin to prepare for departure.


Drawing of Captain Henry Morgan. From the Sack of Panama

Drawing of Captain Henry Morgan. Wikimedia Commons: Captain Henry Morgan


Stealthily we snuck up to Fort San Lorenzo; once we were near the gate, we sent a decoy up. The fort gate began to slowly creak outward. The second it fully opened, we charged - swarming the entrance and taking the men by surprise, slaying everything in our path, sword and shield in hand. “Victory,” Morgan cheered. Having the fort under our control, we camped there for the night and gathered supplies. The next morning we were off, hiking through dense forest for hours in the Panamanian heat. Captain Morgan seemed sure of our location, but the crew and I were leery - how could someone know where they were going in this thick mess?

Just as I was losing all hope of finding our way out of there, we stumbled upon a small village - the exact village Morgan said we would. The village was nothing special, but we were running low on supplies. We surrounded the village and quickly took the villagers out. Searching the village unearthed nothing; there weren’t any food or supplies in sight. We disappointedly moved on to the next village. But again there was nothing. “How could this be? A village without food or supplies?” moaned one of the crew. Captain Morgan answered all our questions. “Panama’s soldiers must know we are coming; they are wiping out all the supplies from here to Panama City to weaken us. We mustn’t let their tactics work; they are obviously too scared to come face us themselves. We still have the upper hand.  If we use our food and water supplies sparingly, we can make it to the city. We will rest here. Tomorrow is the day we take down Panama. Sleep well mates, you’ll need it!” That night I tossed and turned. Tomorrow was the day we had been waiting for. How was I supposed to get a good night’s rest before such a big event?

The next morning I woke up, unsure of when I finally was able to fall asleep the night before. Soon, we were off. Not long thereafter, Panama City was in sight. The only obstacle left was to cross the open plain before it. Captain Morgan was sure Panama’s army would be waiting for us ready to battle there. We stepped out of the forest covering, and immediately shots were fired – the Captain’s prediction came true. The sound of guns firing, swords clashing, and men screaming filled the air. I glanced over and suddenly everything slowed down when I saw a bomb floating through the air a few feet from me. It hit the ground like a bowling ball loaded with TNT, and the impact blew me back. Dazed and confused, I got up. Trying to walk to a safe place to catch my breath, I was blinded by the smoke filling the air and stinging my eyes. I found an alleyway. Feeling the cool brick against my hands and the smell of old trash and gun powder filling my nose, I stumbled down to the end of the alley. Drenched in a mixture of sweat, dust, and blood, I was somehow still in one piece. I heard a familiar roar approaching the city, and knew we must have won the battle.  In the end, we raided the city, taking everything valuable we could get our hands on, and burned everything we couldn’t…leaving the beautiful Casco Viejo or Old Town in ruins for centuries to come.


The Sacking of Panama. "Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main". Harper's Magazine. 1887

The Sacking of Panama: this was originally published in Pyle, Howard (August–September 1887). "Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main". Harper's Magazine. Pyle, Howard; Johnson, Merle De Vore (ed) (1921) "Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main" in Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates: Fiction, Fact & Fancy Concerning the Buccaneers & Marooners of the Spanish Main, New York, United States, and London, United Kingdom: Harper and Brothers, pp. Plate facing p. 20. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Panama City was left in ashes when we sailed away, disappointed in our outcome. It wasn’t until years later that we found out that Panama had stationed their valuables in a ship offshore, out of our reach. But by then our pirating days were far over, Captain Morgan had ended his privateer days, and was knighted in England and sent back to Jamaica as lieutenant governor.



Ruins of Panama Viejo - Original Settlement Sacked by Henry Morgan in 1671 - Panama City - Panama.

Ruins of Panama Viejo - Original Settlement Sacked by Henry Morgan in 1671 - Panama City - Panama. Photo Wikimedia Commons: Adam Jones




Carleigh Pierce is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program