1673 - Munden (E)

Anno 1673

I, Captain Richard Munden,
who in the first days of January,
sailed from England with a squadron
to meet the homecoming fleet off James Valley
and convoy it home,
had the good fortune
to fall in with a sloop carrying Governor Beale
and learned from him
that the Dutch were in posession of St. Helena,
he, himself, having fled on the Humphery and Elizabeth
which was lying in the harbour,
and on reaching Brazil had hired a sloop
for the purpose of cruising to windward of the island
and warniing all English ships of their danger.

The English Company,
well posted in  the doings and reputed intentions
of their Dutch rivals,
had improved the sound defensive fortifications
which Dutton, on his first arrival,
built at James Valley,
and in several other places
where an enemy might  attempt to come ashore,
and two small forts,
one square, and one triangular,
the latter armed by eleven cannons
now guarded the the anchorage at Jamestown
The Dutch who,
largely on the recommendation of van Riebeck,
and his belittlement of our isle,
permanently colonized the Cape, 
soon saw  their mistake.
The harbour at Table Bay, not always a safe one, and
many homecoming Dutch East Indiamen
being  blown right past it,
they searched the South Atlantic 
for a safer and more suitable base
and finding none,
began seriously to consider seizing St. Helena.

For two days they made unavailing attempts
to land at James Valley or elsewhere
until  a traitor named Coxe, who was waiting for them, 
guided a party,
said to have numbered five or six hundred men,
up a steep valley
to reach  High Peak where they came upon  a detachment,
who being outnumbered, lost the short skirmish.
The Dutch continued their march, without further opposition,
until they reached Ladder Hill, overlooking Jamestown,
and a party descended to storm the fort.
The fort they  renamed ‘’Good Fortune’’
and a misnomer this proved to be
for misfortune was soon to follow.

News travelled slowly, 
and the returning Dutch East India fleet, 
many of her crew sick and nine of them dead, 
after two months at sea,   
sighting the towering Barn  at the northerly point of the island,
and anticipating the  blessings of their new possession,
was  amazed  to be met by a heavy cannonade
for, on the same night as my meeting with Governor Beale,
we immediately made plans for the re-taking of it.
The fire-ship Castle,  with 400 soldiers on board,
under Captain Richard Keigwin,
was sent to Prosperous Bay, 
on the other side of the island
and along with them went  Black Oliver,
who intimately knew the terrain,
My plan was to engage the fort from the sea,
while Keigwin landed his troops
and surprised  the  fort from the rear.

Prosperous Bay, as seen from the sea,
appears to be unclimbable
and though it is possible to land from a boat, 
on a calm day,  
the coast is precipitous.
A sailor named Tom succeeded in climbing the cliff,
nearly a thousand foot high.
And on reaching  the top, let down a ball of twine
to which those waiting below tied a  strong rope.
This Tom pulled up,  and made secure to a rock,
and the  soldiers climbed up,  one by one.
Thus,  these  places will henceforth be  known as
“Holdfast Tom” and “Keigwin’s Point”
 in the honour of a two brave seamen.
In single file, along a perilous goat track,
on through Longwood
until they came to a farm house, The Hutts, 
where they breakfasted.
and eventually to the summit of Ruperts Hill
overlooking James Valley and the fort,
but arrived too late to be of actual assistance  -
the Dutch having already capitulated.

The previous day
I bombarded the fort and breastworks,
then withdrew my squadron
intending to resume the attack in the morning.
While waiting, we sent in two of our ships,
on whose approach the Dutch surrendered.
Thus at sunset the English took possession of James Fort 
and  a trumpeter was sent  to inform Keigwin
so preventing unnecessary damage to property
or injury to inhabitants.
The good fortune I had recently enjoyed did not desert me, 
for within a few days
a ship flying the Dutch colours came in sight.
We gave chase and captured her
and found among her passengers
none less than the new Dutch governor,
who arrived at St. Helena  a prisoner of war
instead of with honours.