- Historic Sites
Another eyewitness takes us on another voyage, three and a half centuries earlier—this one around the world …
October 1969 | Volume 20, Issue 6
Our large pieces of artillery which were in the ships could not help us, because they were firing at too long range, so that we continued to retreat for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore, still fighting, and in water up to our knees. And they followed us, hurling poisoned arrows four or six times; while, recognizing the captain, they turned towards him inasmuch as twice they hurled arrows very close to his head. But as a good captain and a knight he still stood fast with some others, fighting thus for more than an hour. And as he refused to retire further, an Indian threw a bamboo lance in his face, and the captain immediately killed him with his lance, leaving it in his body. Then, trying to lay hand on his sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because of a wound from a bamboo lance that he had in his arm. Which seeing, all those people threw themselves on him, and one of them with a large javelin … thrust it into his left leg, whereby he fell face downward. On this all at once rushed upon him with lances of iron and of bamboo and with these javelins, so that they slew our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.… Then, seeing him dead, as best we could we rescued the wounded men and put them into the boats which were already leaving.
The captain killed
The Christian king would have succored us, but before we landed the captain had ordered and charged him not to leave the ships, but to remain and see in what manner we fought. And the king, knowing that the captain was dead, caused the remainder of our men, both sound and wounded, to withdraw, and we were constrained to leave there the dead body of the captain-general with our other dead.
I hope that, by your most illustrious lordship [i.e., Phillippe de Villiers de l’Isle Adam, grand master of the Knights of Rhodes, to whom Pigafetta’s narrative was addressed], the renown of so valiant and noble a captain will not be extinguished or fall into oblivion in our time. For among his other virtues he was more constant in a very high hazard and great affair than ever was any other. He endured hunger better than all the others. He was a navigator and made sea charts. And that that is true was seen openly, for no other had so much natural talent, boldness, or knowledge to sail once round the world, as he had already planned. This battle was fought on a Saturday, the twenty-seventh of April, one thousand five hundred and twenty-one. And the captain wished to make it on a Saturday because that was his day of devotion. With him died eight of our men, and four Indians whom we had made Christians. And of the enemy fifteen were killed by the guns of the ships which had finally come to our help ; and many of our men were wounded.…
After dinner the Christian king (with our consent) sent to tell those of Mattan that if they would give us the bodies of the captain and the other dead men, we would give them as much merchandise as they desired. And they answered that they would not give up such a man, as we supposed, and that they would not give him up for the greatest riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a perpetual memorial.
As soon as the captain died, the four men of our company, who had remained in the city to trade, had our goods brought to the ships. Then we made and elected two commanders. One was Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese, and kinsman of the captain [he was Magellan’s brother-in-law]; and the other João Serrão, a Spaniard [in fact, also a Portuguese]. Our interpreter named Henrich (because he had been slightly wounded) no longer went ashore to do our necessary business, but was always wrapped in a blanket. Wherefore Duarte Barbosa, commander of the captain’s flagship, told him in a loud voice that, although the captain his master was dead, he would not be set free or released, but that, when we reached Spain, he would still be the slave of Madame Beatrix, the wife of the deceased captain-general. And he threatened that if he did not go ashore he would be driven away. The slave, hearing this, rose up and, feigning to take … heed of these words, went on shore and told the Christian king that we were about to depart immediately, but that, if he would follow his advice, he would gain all our ships and merchandise. And so they plotted a conspiracy. Then the slave returned to the ships, and he appeared to behave better than before.
On Wednesday morning the first day of May the Christian king sent to tell the commanders that he had prepared the jewels and presents which he had promised to send to the King of Spain, and that he begged them to go with others of their men to dine with him that morning, and that he would give them all. Then twenty-four men went, and our astrologer named [Andres de] San Martin of Seville. I could not go, because I was all swollen from the wound of a poisoned arrow which I had received in the forehead.
João Carvalho with the constable returned, and told us that they had seen the man who was cured by a miracle leading the priest into his house, and that for this reason they had departed, fearing some evil chance. No sooner had those two spoken their words than we heard great cries and groans. Then we quickly raised the anchors, and firing several pieces of artillery at their houses, we approached nearer to the shore.