Lake Nicaragua’s History of Piracy Part 2

Continued from: Lake Nicaragua’s History of Piracy and Filibustering
During the 18th century, conflict between Spain and Britain in the West Indies region kept authorities busy, providing an opportunity for piracy and filibustering to flourish. Miskito Sambu filibusters joined pirates in attacking the Fortress of Immaculate Conception, with the most noteworthy of these attacks taking place in 1762 during a period that came to be known as the Seven Years War. By this time the British and Miskito Sambus had become allies with the common goal of attacking Spanish settlements. With a combined force of around 2,000 men, the Britons and Sambus sailed up the San Juan River, laying siege to an estimated 100 Spaniards in the fortress on 26 July 1762. Although outnumbered, the Spaniards held their position, inflicting heavy losses on the allied forces. However, a subsequent attack by the British in 1780 resulted in the fortress being captured.

Taken from the Spanish word for pirate or buccaneer, filibustering became even more popular in the 19th century. At this time opportunities for piracy on Lake Nicaragua were plentiful as a major trade route between New York City on the Atlantic east coast of the United States, and San Francisco on the Pacific west coast, made its way from up the San Juan River and across the lake. Passengers and goods were transported overland to the Pacific Ocean to continue their journey to San Francisco.

When civil war broke out between the Legitimist party and the Democratic party, based in Granada and Leon respectively, successful filibuster William Walker took advantage of the situation by obtaining permission from the president of the Democratic party, Francisco Castellón, to bring so-called “colonists” to the area, giving them the right to bear arms in defense of the disputed Democratic government. A series of battles between the Democratic forces and the Legitimist army ensued until the latter were defeated and Walker took control of Granada, thereby becoming the leader of Nicaragua in May 1856 – a position which met with intense opposition from a number of quarters. Walker surrendered to the commander of the United States Navy on 1 May 1857 and was executed by the Honduras government for acts of piracy.

With the development of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s, the trade route through Lake Nicaragua was no longer required. Today piracy on Lake Nicaragua is remembered as a part of the often tumultuous history which has shaped Nicaragua as it is today.