Commodore Anson

It appearing from letters on board the prize, that several other merchantmen were at sea, between Callao and Valparaiso, the commodore sent the Trial sloop, to cruise off the latter port; and ordered the Gloucester to cruise off the island of Paita, till she should be joined by the Centurion. The Centurion and her prize weighing from the bay of Juan Fernandez, on the 19th of September, took her course to the eastward, proposing to join the Trial off Valparaiso.

On the 24th, in the evening, they came up with the latter, having taken a prize of six hundred tons burden, laden with a rich cargo. On the 27th, the captain of the Trial came on board the Centurion, bringing with him an instrument, subscribed by himself and all his officers, setting forth that the vessel was so leaky and defective, that it was at the hazard of their lives they staid on board upon which, the commodore having ordered the crew and every thing of value to be put on board the prize, the Trial was scuttled and sunk. It was now resolved to join the Gloucester off Paita. With this view they stood to the northward, and, on the 10th of November discovered a sail, which Lieutenant Brett was ordered to chase, with the Trial's pinnace and barge. They found her to be a Spanish vessel of two hundred and seventy tons burden. From the prisoners they learned that, a few days before, a vessel had entered Paita, the master of which told the governor he had been chased by a very large ship, which he imagined to be one of the English squadron, and that the governor had immediately sent an express to Lima, to carry the news to the viceroy, while the royal officer residing at Paita had been busily employed in removing both the king's treasure and his own to Piuza, a town fourteen leagues within land. It was at once conjectured that the ship which had chased the vessel into Paita was the Gloucester; and, as they were now discovered, and the coast would soon be alarmed, so as to prevent cruising to any advantage, the commodore resolved to endeavor to surprise the place that very night.

When the ships were within five leagues of Paita, about ten o'clock at night, Lieutenant Brett, with the boats under his command, put off, and arrived without being discovered, at the mouth of the bay; though he had no sooner entered it, than some of the people on board a vessel riding at anchor there, perceived him, and immediately getting into their boat, rowed towards the shore, crying out the English, the English dogs,' etc., by which the town was alarmed and the attack discovered. The town was, however, taken in less than a quarter of an hour from the first landing of the boats; with the loss of one man killed and two wounded.

They weighed anchor from the coast of Paita on the 16th of November, the squadron being increased to six sail by the prizes. On the morning of the 18th, they discovered the Gloucester with a small vessel in tow, which joined them about three in the afternoon, when they learned that captain Mitchell had taken two prizes, one of which had a cargo consisting of wine, brandy and olives, and about seven thousand pounds in specie; and the other was a launch, the people on board which, when taken, were eating their dinner from silver dishes. Notwithstanding this circumstance, the prisoners alleged that they were very poor: having nothing on board, but cotton made up in jars, which, being removed on board the Gloucester, Were examined, when the whole appeared to be an extraordinary piece of false package; there being concealed among the cotton, doubloons and dollars, to the amount of twelve thousand pounds.

The cargo and crews of the several vessels were afterwards divided between the Centurion and Gloucester. Quitting the coast of America, they stood for China, the 6th of May, 1742. The Gloucester, which had become decayed, was cleared of every thing by the 15th of August, and then set on fire. On the 27th they arrived at the island of Tinian, where they remained some time. On the night of the 22d of September, when it was excessively dark, the wind blew from the eastward with such fury, that those on board despaired of riding out the storm. At this time Mr. Anson was ill of the scurvy, and most of the hands were on shore, and all the hopes of safety of those on board seemed to depend on immediately putting to sea; all communication between the ship and the island being destroyed.

About one o'clock a strong gust, attended with rain and lightning, drove them to sea, where, being unprepared to struggle with the fury of winds and waves, they expected each moment to be their last. When at daybreak, it was perceived by those on shore that the ship was missing, they concluded her lost, and many of them begged the commodore to send the boat round the island to look for the wreck. In the midst of their gloomy reflections, the commodore formed a plan for extricating them from their present situation; which was by hauling the Spanish barque on shore, sawing her asunder, and lengthening her twelve feet; which would enlarge her to near forty tons burden, and enable her to carry them all to China.

But a discouraging circumstance now occurred, which was, that they had neither compass nor quadrant on the island. At length, on rummaging a chest belonging to the Spanish bark, they found a small compass, which though not much superior to those made for the amusement of school-boys, was to them of the utmost importance.