California Part II: the Argentine Invasion

The sun was playing hide-and-seek with us the day we hiked from the beautiful, sunny Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. As we neared the bridge the wind was fierce, and the fog came swirling in. Mist hugs the Golden Gate like a kid with a teddy bear, always tossing it away and then anxious to have it back. 

The sun reappeared as we retraced our steps, walking past the old stables by the beach. You can see San Francisco in the distance. Here’s one of Crissy Field beach, with the Golden Gate sparkling in the background. 

Crissy Field Beach

The Presidio to Golden Gate Bridge trail is a mile each way.  All the views are spectacular. We took a few shots of Alcatraz before chillin’ in the Presidio Café. One latte and one cappuchino. My body temperature slowly worked its way back to normal.

Nice being on this side of the water from that place.  We kept a sharp lookout for pirates.  You never know, these days… foreign infidels or homegrown NRA-lovin’ terrorists?

H. Bouchard

Blackbeard

Was Santos was feeling like a stranger in a strange land?  So far from Argentina, so close to the evil superpower. Did he feel like he was in the belly of the beast?  [cf. José Martí: “Inside the Monster: Writings on the United States and American Imperialism,” 1890s.]  But Santos is not the first Argentine to make the journey, not by a long shot. That claim goes to Argentine pirate Hipólito Bouchard, who ransacked Monterey on Nov. 20, 1818.  In just a few years, Bouchard went from sailor to naval officer to buccaneer. 

StinsonBch

Stinson Beach

Could Bouchard have anchored off Stinson Beach in the gale force winds that nearly blew us off our feet? Hey, we were just looking for a few rays of sunshine. We hoped to find them in Bolinas, where the sixties meets the sea, but Highway 1 was closed on account of mudslides. I guess a visit to that sweet spot will have to wait till the next go-round.

Hipólito Bouchard was a naturalized Argentine naval officer who fought under the flag of the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata and Perú. He played an important role in Argentine independence from Spain. Amongst his most notable “activities,” Bouchard ransacked towns along the coasts of Perú, Ecuador, Central America, México and California, harassing Spanish pueblos and garrisons.

Acta de IndepBorn in Saint-Tropez, France, in 1780, Bouchard grew up around boats and sailing. As soon as he was old enough to earn wages (no child labor laws back then) he went to work on fishing boats and cargo transports. In 1798 he signed up to fight for the French navy against the English, thus beginning the hard life of the seafaring soldier. After campaigning in Egypt and Haiti, he arrived in Buenos Aires on a French ship just a few months before the beginning of the May Revolution, in 1809.  Most Latin America countries were trying to throw off the yoke of foreign domination in the early 1800s; most notably by the Spanish, Portuguese, French and British.

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Plaza de Mayo then,

and now.

Bouchard was liberal and anti-monarchy. He openly sided with the Revolution and quickly rose to second in command of the newly-created Argentine navy. His baptism of fire was in the battle of San Nicholás against the Spanish navy on March 2, 1811. This naval confrontation on the Paraná river was a tremendous defeat for the Argentines… but essential training for the young marine. “The art of winning battles is learned from defeat.” [Simón Bolívar]

Batalla de San Nicolás

In July and August of 1811 Bouchard fought against the Spanish Royal Navy’s blockade of Buenos Aires. In 1812 he enlisted in the Horse-Grenadier regiment under General José de San Martín. “Certain countries such as France and Argentina established units of Horse-Grenadiers for a time. The British did so as well. Like their infantry counterparts, these horseback soldiers were chosen for their size and strength to break through enemy lines and fortifications.” [Wiki] They were some bad-ass dudes… perhaps the original “bad hombres?”

They say Bouchard was a hard, brutal man who, if he wasn’t busy burning and pillaging, was picking fights with his own crew. He handed out harsh penalties for insubordination. Walk the plank, anyone? Keelhauling? Do you think he ever heard of Long John Silver, Blackbeard, or Captain Flint? I guess not. Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t write Treasure Island until 1883.

Maybe it’s the other way around: Robert Louis Stevenson might have heard stories about Hipólito Bouchard. He might have known people who knew of him, because Stevenson spent the last two decades of his short life (he died at 44) in Vailima, Samoa, where he settled in 1880. He and his wife Fanny were always sailing around the South Seas when he wasn’t busy writing. Stevenson wrote Treasure Island for his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, in 1883. Among other notable works, he published Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886.

I never turned to piracy when the law was onto me, but as to kidnapping … well, sometimes you have no other option. Driving around San Francisco we stopped to say hey to ‘ol Cristóbal Colón. He wasn’t a pirate, just another heartless real estate developer. We parked about 10 blocks away and then we walked another dozen or so in the wrong direction, away from Coit Tower. We would have reached for our ancient sextant, but the stars weren’t out yet. Amazing how I can get lost with or without my GPS. Finally we climbed another 6 blocks of stairs going straight up the hill. Tango dancers can keep going all night, that’s a known fact. Dancing, that is. 

Colón at Coit Tower

By the way, Cristóbal Colón never made it to California, so I have no idea what he’s doing in San Francisco. He merely sailed around the West Indies, so named because he thought he’d landed on the coast of India. Colón always insisted, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the lands that he visited during those 4 voyages were part of the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. [Wiki]. Colón’s refusal to accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spain were not part of Asia might explain, in part, why the American continent was named after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and not after Colón. On Colón’s last voyage to the Caribbean his crew escorted him back to Spain in cadenas… chains. They say he had gone completely mad. 

I got a nice shot of the Bay Bridge for my hour of climbing. You can see a bit of the Embarcadero on the lower left.

According to Bartolome Mitre, Bouchard was a big, tall, muscular man. He was dark-skinned with straight black hair and asiatic eyes, said to be black and penetrating. Too bad about that fiery temper. 

hmmm… dark-skinned?

Does he look like a dark-skinned man to you? On the cover of the above book, I mean. Ever heard the term “white-washing” history? Making someone look whiter than they are, i.e., rewriting history? Let me show you what I mean:

Bouchard had the decisiveness of a man of action, plus the understated confidence of a man of the world, e.g., one who has traveled far and wide, is proficient with modern weaponry, and can project cool in any situation. Let’s call him a James Bond prototype.

Tall, dark, handsome, smarter than you and not afraid to take control of a situation. A man who “owns” the room as soon as he walks into it. Attractive with a subtle edge of danger.

Mike Colter, aka Luke Cage

They say Bouchard had a passionate love for Argentina, his adopted country. I can relate. Of course, his love of country took a backseat to his avarice and rapaciousness. He craved plunder and riches.

Spanish pieces of eight

Bouchard was, you know, not much different than a multi-national corporation that changes banks like you and I change channels, island-hopping from the Caymans to Panama to Switzerland to Moscow, one step ahead of the IRS and one payment behind on its big yellow cheeto payoff.  I’d take some of that… wouldn’t you? Call it what you will, we’re still living with piracy and plunder.

In 1815 Bouchard left the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers and returned to life on the open water. I guess the good green earth just didn’t do it for him. Not enough pillaging and booty? Who can say? No doubt he yearned for the vast, open seas, under the yoke of no master but that fickle, dangerous temptress of the bluegreen depths.

One of Bouchard’s most prestigious campaigns was realized under the orders of Admiral Guillermo Brown. Together and in the company of their men, they ravaged the Pacific coasts of the Americas, attacking Callao, Guayaquil, San Blas and Acapulco, burning and plundering. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Almirante Guillermo Brown (1777-1857), Irish born, was the first admiral of the Argentine navy. He devoted his life to the service of his adopted country, in honor of which he is considered the Father of the Argentine Navy.

The fleet of Brown’s campaign was composed of the Hércules, commanded by the Admiral himself; la Santísima Trinidad, under the command of Brown’s brother Miguel; the sloop Halcón, commanded by Bouchard, and the schooner Constitución, under the command of Oliver Russell. The boats Hércules and Santísima Trinidad left from Montevideo heading south the 24 of October, 1815; the other two boats would set sail five days later. Their orders were to reach Mocha Island, off the coast of Chile, south of Santiago, where they would establish a plan of operations.

Mocha Island, Chile

The Brown brothers arrived at the island on December 28,1815; the Halcón reached port a day later. Upon arrival, Bouchard expressed his belief that the Constitution had sunk in the huge storm which had battered Cape Horn for fourteen days. Russell’s ship had been heavily loaded with large caliber guns and other provisions. Neither the Constitution nor its crew were seen again.

On Mocha Island, Brown and Bouchard agreed to operate together for the first hundred days of 1816. They also agreed on the manner in which the loot was to be divided: “It were to be divided into 5 parts, 2 for Brown for being the commander in chief, 1-1/2 for the Santísima Trinidad, and the same for the Halcón. From there Bouchard and Miguel Brown set out for the Peruvian coasts, while the Hércules went to the Archipelago Juan Fernández to release some patriots who were imprisoned there.” [Wiki]

Describing Bouchard’s famous trip, our trusty Wikipedia historians applaud the sailor’s “two-year campaign, going around the world in the midst of continuous work and danger; a voyage of thousands of miles through the remotest seas of the earth, in which a revolt is mastered, a fire on board is extinguished, the slave trade in Madagascar is stopped, Malaysian pirates are defeated in the Strait of Macassar, and the Philippines are blocked by Admiral Brown’s fleet, [which] controlled the South Pacific, imposing the law on its greatest kings, by diplomacy or by force.” [Wiki]  Not your average John Doe, these guys.

Almirante Guillermo Brown

Brown’s fleet arrived at the island of Puná, in the neighborhood of Guayaquil, Ecuador on Feb. 7, 1817. Upon arrival, the Admiral ordered Bouchard and his crew to remain at anchor, keeping watch over several dams they had already taken. Supplies of fresh drinking water were essential to the Argentine fleet. Brown took command of la Santísima Trinidad, with which he was preparing to attack Guayaquil. The next day, he demolished the fort of Punta de Piedras located five leagues from Guayaquil. But Bouchard’s luck did not hold. The ninth of February was a total disaster for Bouchard, who was captured while attempting to take the castle of San Carlos. After a difficult negotiation, the other Argentine corsairs managed to exchange Brown for the frigate Candelaria, three brigantines and five boxes of official correspondence found onboard the Consecuencia. They finally made their getaway aboard the frigates Hercules and Consecuencia, the sloop Halcón, and the schooner Carmen. They had to abandon la Santísima Trinidad, which was no longer seaworthy.

After three days, Bouchard had had enough. He was done… for a time. He informed Admiral Brown that his ship was leaking and that his officers wanted to return to Buenos Aires. He asked for his share of the loot. The dice were thrown; Bouchard had to part with the Halcón, in exchange for the frigate Consecuencia, the schooner Carmen, and about 3,475 pesos.

Bouchard decided to return to Buenos Aires by Cape Horn. Again there were differences with his crew; these were mostly resolved by violence. He fought a duel with a sergeant major, which would later result in serious legal problems. Additionally, when an officer of the Carmen informed Bouchard that the schooner was leaking, the corsair demanded that the officer attempt to sail around Cape Horn with a full crew, because he didn’t want to lose the boat. At that moment the officers of the schooner, induced by the crew, disobeyed Bouchard and changed course for the Galapagos. The Consequence stayed her course, arriving in Buenos Aires on the 18th of June, 1816.

On the 27th of June, 1817, at the age of 37, Bouchard received his official pirate’s license (patente de corso nº 116), beginning what may be the most colorful and picturesque chapter of his life. On the first anniversary of Argentine Independence, July 9, 1817, he embarked from Barragán, a port in La Plata, at the helm of the frigate “La Argentina” for a two year cruise. In charting the direction of the ship, Bouchard planned to sail in search of the great equatorial southward current, which runs across the Atlantic to the African coasts. With a bit of luck, it would allow him to skirt the Cape of Good Hope, in order to pursue and harass the ships of the Company of the Philippines that sailed along the coast of India.

Plaza San Martín, Córdoba

On July 19, a deadly fire broke out on board the ship. The crew worked for several hours to contain the flames. Scuttling the boat was not an option. To reach the Indian Ocean, the ship headed northeast towards the island of Madagascar. After sailing for two months, the Argentina anchored in Tamatave, on the east side of the island. In Tamatave, a British officer introduced himself to Bouchard, and asked for his help in preventing four slave ships from leaving Madagascar. Bouchard offered all his forces available to prevent the slave traffic on those ships, of which three were English and one French. The British commander ordered his crew to aim their guns at the slave ships, while Bouchard, seconded by several armed men, exercised the right of visitation which had been used in Africa, Great Britain and the United States since 1812.

Bouchard verified that the suspicions of the British officer were real, so he kept the slave ships in port.  Before the Argentina left Madagascar, her crew seized the slave ships’ provisions and recruited five sailors from the French vessel. The Argentina resumed a northeast course, intending to attack any unlucky Spanish ships sailing nearby.

During this journey the crew came down with scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency. So many crew members fell ill that the few remaining healthy sailors had to make a tremendous effort to keep the ship on course. On 18 October they spotted an American frigate whose captain informed them that the Philippine Company’s ships had not trafficked in the ports of India for 3 years, because most commercial cargo was passing through Manila. The Argentina continued her course toward the Philippines, resisting several storms that accompanied her until she reached the Strait of La Sonda, which separates the islands of Java and Sumatra. On November 7 Bouchard decided to drop anchor at the island of Java so that the sick could be attended to.

I’d play sick, too, for the chance to spend a few months recovering on Java.

After leaving Java, the Argentina continued its course for the Phillippines. The area was dangerous, due to the presence of Malaysian pirates. The ships used by these pirates were shallow, with cannons on both prows, a single sail and many oars. An encounter with some of those pirates occurred on the morning of December 7, when the lookout spotted five small ships. The combat began at noon, when the Argentina was boarded by pirates. Bouchard decided to save his powder, choosing hand-to-hand combat instead. After whooping their asses, he ordered his crew to take the pirate boat, while the other pirate boats fled. The commander summoned a court-martial to try those who had been taken prisoner, and he sentenced all but the youngest to the death penalty. The prisoners were returned to their ship, whose masts had been knocked down, and Bouchard’s men proceeded to use their boat and its crew for musket practice until it sank. After leaving the Strait of Macassar, the Argentina crossed the Sea of Celebes and anchored at the island of Joló, centrally located among the Philippine Islands.

typical Filipino “proa”

Bouchard arrived in the archipelago on January 2, 1818 and remained there for five days. Numerous rocky shoals and strong currents made navigation difficult in those seas. The inhabitants of Joló Island considered themselves invincible. They were excellent sailors, as well as fearsome pirates. Bouchard, foreseeing some kind of nocturnal raid, issued a stern warning to local authorities that if a boat approached after sundown, he would open fire upon it with all the munitions at his disposal. He’d make the enemy boats light up like the 4th of July!

While the frigate’s crew was negotiating with the natives to secure adequate supplies, sentries were stationed, with loaded muskets, to repel any possible attack. That night a sentry saw movement and alerted Bouchard’s men. The Joloans, in their boats, approached la Argentina and were preparing to board the vessel. Bouchard gave the order to open fire.  The Joloans were surprised and quickly fled.

A few days later, after a series of annoying incidents, the monarch of Joló appeared with a peace offering: the gift of a richly adorned proa, filled with fruits and vegetables, plus four water buffalo, to the delight of the hungry sailors. From that moment they were able to fill their water barrels without being disturbed, and the islanders were invited to trade freely with the crew of the ship. How about a bottle of rum for a night with that lovely island girl? A few pieces of eight? Shiver me timbers, the pirate life.

la peña

After refueling, the ship headed for Manila, the city that Bouchard intended to blockade. En route they spotted an English frigate heading for the same port. Bouchard decided to board her to check for illegal cargo. He attempted to conceal his identity, but the captain of the frigate was no dummy. As soon as he made port in Manila, the captain gave notice of Bouchard’s presence to the Spanish authorities.

On the 31st of January, 1818, la Argentina approached the port to have a look at her defensive capabilities, which were impressive. Manila Bay had solid defensive walls and a fort, la fuerte de Santiago, well stocked with powerful artillery. Bouchard began to take boats in the zone, quietly, always keeping his distance from the Spanish artillery. During the next two months he took 16 ships in his signature style that began with an intimidating cannonade progressing to a rapid assault. To further tighten his grip on Manila, Bouchard sent an armed boat with 23 crew members to block the Strait of San Bernardino under the command of 2nd Captain Sommers. In that action they captured  a number of small boats.

la Fuerte de Santiago, Manila

The inhabitants of Manila began to despair. Because of the blockade, the prices of food and basic goods had doubled and even tripled. The governor ordered that two ships and a war schooner be prepared to go in search of Bouchard. This expedition was deliberately delayed, and when it finally departed, the Argentina was already gone. On March 30, 1818, after making off with the best loot, Bouchard set sail for Hawai’i.

I’m outta here!

On August 17, 1818, Bouchard arrived at Kaleakelua Bay, a small port on the west coast of the island of Hawaii. At the anchorage a canoe, manned by native islanders, approached la Argentina and informed them in rudimentary English that a sloop moored in the harbor, belonging to King Kamehameha I, had previously been a Spanish ship. They were also told that the night before their arrival a frigate had left port, destination unknown.

Bouchard decided to pursue the unknown frigate, which they soon had in view because the lack of wind had nailed it to the sea. He ordered Sheppard, one of his officers, to take a boat and ask the commander of the frigate about the sloop that was in the Hawaiian port. After the inquiries, Sheppard reported that it was the Santa Rosa or Chacabuco, a sloop that had sailed from Buenos Aires about the same time as La Argentina. The crew of the Santa Rosa had mutinied on the shores of Chile, and changed course for Hawaii.

will dance for daiquiris

After learning of the fate of the Santa Rosa, Bouchard ordered the frigate to return to port, suspecting that some of the mutineers were among the Santa Rosa’s crew. Upon reviewing the sailors, he recognized nine men he had seen in Buenos Aires.  He had iron bars put on their hands and feet in punishment. During the interrogation, he learned that the leaders of the revolt were on the island of Kauai.

Taking a break from the revolt on Kauai

When Bouchard arrived at the port he found the Santa Rosa practically unarmed, so he decided to meet with King Kamehameha I. The corsair went dressed to the nines in his uniform as Lieutenant Colonel of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. During the meeting, Bouchard demanded the return of the sloop. The king argued that he had paid for it and deserved compensation. Several authors affirm that during this meeting Kamehameha I recognized the sovereignty of the United Provinces; however, other scholars dismiss this, arguing that Bouchard, in his log, never mentioned the signing of such an important transaction, and furthermore, that the corsair did not have the authority to do so.

King Kamehameha I

After the negotiation, Bouchard returned to the Bay of Kaleakelua and waited for the king to send him the agreed upon provisions. The provisions failed to arrive, so Bouchard took his fleet of two warships to meet Kamehameha again in his residence at Kailua. Kamehameha, facing the risk of two warships in his capital, agreed to let him stock up on provisions in Maui. On the 26 of August Bouchard took charge of the Santa Rosa. Obtaining supplies in Maui, he rearmed and reconditioned the ship. He then sailed to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, where he met Francisco de Paula Martí, a local expat and native of Jérez, Spain. Bouchard appointed Martí representative of the United Provinces of South America and Captain of the Armies. He also recruited Peter Corney, and made him Captain of the Santa Rosa. Maybe they toasted the new Captain with a few copas of Jérez?

On October 1st la Argentina anchored on the island of Kauai. Bouchard captured the sailors who had mutinied on the Santa Rosa, shooting the leaders and punishing the rest with twelve lashes each. After replenishing food, water and munitions, and hiring eighty new crewmen, Bouchard’s fleet drew anchor for California.

The real Bouchard? This handsome Argentine fits the description!

Bouchard set sail for the coast of California, where he hoped to take advantage of Spanish commerce. However, the Spanish authorities had already been informed that two corsairs were in the vicinity. Territorial governor Pablo Vicente Solá, who resided in Monterey, ordered that all valuables be removed from the city, and that two-thirds of the supply of gunpowder be transported a considerable distance from town. A discerning and resourceful man. He reminds me of California’s longtime gov, Jerry Brown. He recently declared California a Sanctuary State. I love this portrait  of him. Maybe Califas should secede from the union… it’s trending right now, worldwide. Just kidding… not.

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On November 20, 1818, the lookout at Punta de Pinos, at the south end of Monterey Bay, near Lover’s Point, sighted the two Argentine vessels. After notifying the governor, cannons were loaded, the garrison was armed, and the women, children, elderly and those unable to fight were sent to Mission Soledad. 

Punta de Pinos today

Bouchard met with his officers to plan the attack. Officer Corney was already familiar with Monterey, and aware of the great depth of the bay: 2.2 miles [3,600 meters] deep.  They decided to use the schooner Santa Rosa for the attack, because the frigate Argentina, with her enormous draft, might run aground so close to the harbor, and because the troop landing was concentrated there. The frigate lowered several smaller boats to the water, to tow her away from the reach of the Spanish artillery. Once towed out of range, Bouchard sent Captain Sheppard to the Santa Rosa with 200 men armed with rifles and spears.

Monterey, California circa 1842

The schooner Santa Rosa, under the command of Officer Sheppard, anchored at midnight near the fort. The men were tired from rowing out to the schooner and towing the frigate, so Sheppard decided not to attack that night. By the first light of day he discovered that he had anchored too close to the coast. The Spanish artillery was only a few yards away and ready to attack. The captain decided to open fire, and after fifteen minutes of combat the Santa Rosa surrendered. Bouchard observed the defeat from the frigate, but also noted that the Spaniards, since they had no boats, did not attempt to seize the Santa Rosa. Bouchard ordered anchors carried toward the port. However, because of the frigate’s draft, they could not get close enough to open fire. At nine o’clock in the evening they began moving the survivors of the Santa Rosa to the Argentina.

At dawn on November 24, Bouchard ordered his men to make a charge with the boats. They were 200 men in all, 130 armed with guns and 70 with lances. They disembarked a league from the fort, in a cove concealed by rocky cliffs. The fort put up little resistance, and after an hour of combat the Argentine flag was raised.

bouchard's flag

The Argentines ransacked the city for sixteen days (or six, depending on the source).  They appropriated cattle, burned the cuartel, the gunners’ barracks, the governor’s residence and the adobes of the Californios next to their gardens and orchards. 

Old Monterey: the Customs House

Mission Carmel

Having done considerable damage in Monterey, Bouchard’s fleet sailed south on November 29, heading for Rancho El Refugio, on the Santa Barbara coast. This ranch belonged to a Californio family whose members had “collaborated” with the Spanish, whatever that means. On December 5, Bouchard and his men disembarked near the ranch and, meeting no resistance, seized provisions and slaughtered cattle. A few soldiers from the nearby presidio were in the vicinity, waiting to take some of Bouchard’s men prisoners. They captured an officer and two sailors who had gone ahead of the others. Bouchard waited for them all day, believing they had gone astray. When his men didn’t return, Bouchard decided to leave for Santa Barbara, but first he set fire to the ranch. Arriving in Santa Barbara, Bouchard sent an emissary to the governor for an exchange of prisoners. After the negotiations, the three captives were returned to the Santa Rosa. Bouchard also handed over a prisoner, “el borracho Molina.” Poor Molina had to endure Governor Solá’s anger, and was sentenced to 100 lashes and six years’ imprisonment.

Santa Barbara coast

On December 16 the flotilla raised anchors and continued south to Mission San Juan Capistrano. There Bouchard requested food from a Spanish royalist officer, who replied that he had “plenty of gunpowder and bullets” for him instead. Bouchard, no surprise, decided to send 100 men to take the town. After a brief fight, the corsairs took some valuables and burned down the houses of the Californios. On December 20 Bouchard sailed for Vizcaino Bay, on the coast of Baja California, where he repaired the ships and gave his men some well-earned rest. Among the Spanish settlements in California, Bouchard was referred to as “California’s Only Pirate,” and “el Pirata Buchar.” 

Several factors led me to begin thinking about writing this piece on Hipólito Bouchard: 1) vacationing in California this summer enabled me to see some of the places I’ve known all my life from a new perspective; 2) my love of boats, sailing, and exploring new places; and 3) stumbling by chance upon a street named after Bouchard while walking in Lanús, a town just across the river from Buenos Aires, at Puente Alsina. HB

 

Marina SF 2

Marina on the Embarcadero, San Francisco

There’s a lot more to this tale: Bouchard went on to plunder and pillage Mexico and El Salvador; he hooked up with Simon Bolívar and General José de San Martin in the struggle for independence throughout South America. Another turn of the winch found Bouchard in Valparaiso, Chile, in July of 1819, where he was found guilty on the charge of attacking a boat with an expired privateer document [patente de corso]. Bouchard replied to the Chilean government that they had no authority to judge him and that he would only respond for his actions before the proper Argentine authorities. Note the signature: “Yo, el Rey.” [I, the King]

Patente de corso

So, you may ask, just what is a Pirate Permit?  This refers to the charter or document which permits the holder (aka licensed pirate) to attack and loot vessels on the high seas or on the coasts. Nice job if you can get it! No medical care, no pension, lousy food, dubious company… and no burial expenses when you go to Davy Jones. Whatever riches you manage to pillage or steal are yours to keep forever, providing you hide them in a very, very secret place that only you know about (or an off-shore bank) and you live long enough to go back and find them. If they’re still there, of course. [If you like this kind of story, you’ll love Conan Doyle’s, The Sign of Four]

t-shirt

I want a pirate t-shirt!

On December 9, 1819, Bouchard was acquitted of piracy charges in Chile. The court agreed to return the ships, newspapers and other papers to Bouchard. But, while awaiting the verdict, all the money, weapons and ship’s provisions had quietly disappeared. Somebody must have put the Black Spot on Bouchard!

Pg_003_-_Engraving_(bw)

A pirate pawning his loot.

with Santos at the Baywood Café and Marina in Los Osos

 

+W y S*:Roxy Johnny

with Roxy & Johnny at the Sandpiper in Monterey, Pier 1

+Pati y yo Los Osos*

with Pati at our friend Anne’s house on the water in Los Osos

Bouchard’s last years and death

When he retired, Bouchard decided to take care of the haciendas that had been awarded to him by the Peruvian government, in San Javier and San José de Nazca. He bought a sugar plantation and mill in partnership with his old comrade Echeverria. Bouchard had not been in contact with his family for some time. He had lived with his wife for only ten months after the expedition with Almirante Brown, and did not get to know his youngest daughter who was born after he began his expedition around the world. He finally brought his Argentine wife and children to the sugar plantation in 1836.

During his life at sea, Bouchard has been characterized as a cruel, unforgiving man. He instigated serious incidents with his crew, and took fierce reprisals against those who were insubordinate. They say that on his estates he treated his slaves with the same cruelty with which he had treated his seamen. Sick of his abuses, one or more of his slaves killed him on the night of January 4, 1837. “By his own slaves, suddenly” according to his death certificate.

The remains of Bouchard were lost until 1962, when they were found in a crypt located in the Church of San Javier de Nazca in the city of Nazca, Perú. On July 6 of that year they were exhumed and repatriated to Buenos Aires by a commission formed by the Argentine Navy and the Peruvian Navy. Today they rest in the old pantheon of the Argentine army in the Cementerio de Chacarita, in Buenos Aires. 

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Cornelis_Vroom_Spanish_Men_of_War_Engaging_Barbary_Corsairs

Spanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary Corsairs, painting by Cornelis Hendricksz Vroom, 1615 

Some historians have pointed out that the flag of the United Provinces of Central America (from which the flags of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica are derived) were inspired by the flag of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata (the earliest flag of the Argentine Republic), which flew from the frigate La Argentina in the service of las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata in 1818 and 1819, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hipólito Bouchard, of the Argentine navy.

The End

Abstract: Terror struck the coast of Alta California as Bouchard sailed north. Blood was spilled, towns looted, pirate joy was everywhere. Monterey, the capital of Alta California, was taken by force. Bouchard and his men seized more than 20 pieces of artillery, rescued an Argentine warship, and imprisoned Spanish sailors and soldiers from the Cuartel of Monterey. More than 25 enemy ships were set afire, administering the kiss of death to Spanish commerce in its colonial possessions. The newly-created Argentine flag was flown triumphantly. It was certainly a memorable cruise.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “California Part II: the Argentine Invasion

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