The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

Unveiling the First Africans of English America -1619

In order to unveil who they were, we must take a new unbiased look into their arrival. After studying those involved and the activities surrounding the event, a truer picture evolves.
I begin with the three ships that collide in the Bay of Campeche.

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

The San Juan Bautista’s battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

San Juan Bautista/Sao Joao Bautista/St. John Baptist-

When the Bautista arrived in the port of Luanda it was already blessed or maybe it was cursed. The ship was originally called Date Maru. (伊達丸 in Japanese) Built in 1613 by Date Masamune, in Tsuki-No-Ura harbour, the ship was one of Japan’s first Japanese-built Western-style sailing ships, a Spanish galleon type. Once completed the ship left on October 28, 1613 for Acapulco in Mexico, with around 180 people on board, consisting of 10 samurai of the Shogun (led by the Minister of the Navy Mukai Shooken), 12 samurai from Sendai, 120 Japanese merchants, sailors, and servants, and around 40 Spaniards and Portuguese. The ship arrived in Acapulco on January 25, 1614 after three months at sea. After a year in Acapulco, the ship returned to Japan on April 28, 1615. It seems that around 50 specialists in mining and silver-refining were invited to Japan on this occasion, so that they could help develop the mining industry in the Sendai area. A group of Franciscans led by Father Diego de Santa Catalina, sent as a religious embassy to Tokugawa Ieyasu also sailed on the ship. The San Juan Bautista returned to Uraga on August 15, 1615.
In September 1616, still in hope of furthering the Japanese trading routes, the San Juan Batista once again headed to Acapulco where they were met with a negative response. With diminishing hopes the embassy made one last effort to convince the Spanish to further their trade routes to Japan.  The Franciscan Friar Luis Sotelo who was looking for the Pope’s confirmation of becoming the first Catholic Bishop of Japan, assured the embassy if they continued on across the seas to Spain they would find favor at the Vatican.  The journey would be futile as the Vatican would not involve itself in the trades of Japan. However, as to the proposal of Sotelo becoming the first Bishop of Japan, Pope Paul V would give his conditional blessing, pending the approval of the King of Spain.  A hopeful Sotelo, along with the crew of the Bautista, made its way to Madrid where the San Juan Bautista was sold to the Spanish government under misleading intentions and ill-promised conditions.  Also unfortunate for Sotelo, due to the rivalries between the Franciscans and Jesuits, he would not be confirmed as the first Japanese Bishop and the Bautista would remain in the hands of the Spanish.
In late 1618 the San Juan Bautista would be awarded to Diego Sarmiento de Acuna, the 1st Count of Gondomar who was the Spanish Ambassador to the English King James IV’s court for services rendered.  From this transfer the Bautista would have one more mission. Captained by Manuel Mendes De Acuna, kin of Gondomar, the ship would sail to the Port of Luanda where Captain Acuna would purchase 350 enslaved Africans to transport and sell in Vera Cruz, New Spain, now Mexico. The enslaved were captured by the Imbangala during the Portuguese invasion of the Kingdom of Ndongo and were now headed to the silver mines of Vera Cruz.

The White Lion
This WHITE LION was built in the Villa-Villa Franca shipyard near Lisbon,
Portugal in 1570. It was originally called the LEONA BLANCA (White Lion).
180-200 tonnage, it was designed the same as the PELECANO (Pelican) which eventually would be owned by Drake. Provisions for both were for 10 cannons. Both ships sailed for the Marque of Portugal one year before being seized by the Spanish Armada in 1571. Drake captured the Pelecano and changed the name to the PELICAN. He later reworked her and re-christened her the GOLDEN HIND.

The LEONA BLANCA (White Lion) kept her name under the Spanish Cross. The name was changed to WITTE LEEUW (White Lion) when she was captured by the Flemish Second Squadron in 1579. In 1584, with the death of Prince William of Orange, the Sea Beggars of the Netherland sold the WHITE LION to Admiral Howard of the English Privateers. In 1585 Drake and Howard began privateering against the Spaniards. The White Lion’s captain, Erizo (Erisey) got the loan from Drake to begin outfitting her. Erizo commanded the White Lion in the years of 1587 and 1588 in the war on the Armada. The WHITE LION usually traveled with one of Drake’s Squadrons.
After Erizo’s default, the ship went to Drake although Erizo still captained
her. Drake died in 1596 and in 1597 Drake’s will was probated and the WHITE LION went to Captain James Erizo who privateered the ship for the next eleven years. In 1609 Capt Erizo sold the WHITE LION to John Jope. After a ten (10) year overhaul the White Lion’s first refurbished voyage, Captain Jope would find himself in consort with the Treasurer’s Captain, Daniel Elfrith.


The Treasurer was owned by Robert Rich, II Earl of Warwick, one of the most wealthy and powerful aristicrats in all of England, as well as one of the most influential members of the Virginia Company of London. The Virginia Company of London controlled the Colonial settlement of Virginia. By 1617, Samuel Argall, who captained the Treasurer, had been appointed the acting Governor of Virginia. Daniel Elfrith would become the new captain of the Treasurer, appointed by Robert Rich.
After the review of later court proceedings between Robert Rich, II Earl of Warwick and Lady Cecily Shirley West, records disclose the fact that Elfrith arrived in Jamestown on the Treasurer either the end of May / first of June, 1618. Within days, the Neptune would also arrive under the command of Brewster, the pilot who claims the Treasurer intercepted the Neptune some days earlier and poisoned Lord De La Warre, (Sir Thomas West), who was being sent to bring the acting Governor, Samuel Argall back to England for questioning by the King’s Privy Council. Lord De La Warre was buried in Jamestown June 7, 1618. Argall, still the acting Governor of Virginia, would send Captain Elfrith and the Treasurer to the West Indies to continue on with what was said to be a fishing expedition. The court case was settled out of court with the Earl of Warwick paying West’s widow a substantial amount.
Interesting fact: On September 17, 1612, Samuel Argall commanded Sir Robert Rich’s 130-ton ship, Treasurer, which reached Virginia on September 17 after a fifty-seven-day voyage that was the fastest then recorded. Rich and Argall had much history between them.
Almost one year later in the West Indies, off the shores of Cuba, two of these ships would intersect. Captain Daniel Elfrith, of the Treasurer and Captain John Jope, of the White Lion were childhood companions from their early days in Cornwall, England. They would sail in consort finding themselves on a direct collision course with the San Juan Bautista.
The two English corsairs were not looking for a slaver, as the Bautista was being used for. They were looking for Spanish gold, usually carried by a Spanish Galleon that could protect its cargo. A Spanish Galleon like the Bautista appeared to be when the two corsairs fired upon the slaver.
After seeing the horrific scene of the foundering San Juan Bautista’s cargo, the two Captains took some fifty or so Africans (split between the two ships) and sail for Virginia, the closest English port that Elfrith believes will welcome the two ships, turning a blind eye to their antics of piracy. During the journey to Virginia, the two ships sail through a storm, causing one to lose the other. When the White Lion and the Africans arrive at Point Comfort, Virginia, without the Treasurer, Captain Jope finds Virginia under a very cautious new government, noticeably alarmed when Jope reports “he took the Africans from a Spanish galleon.”

The number of Africans is only reported as “twenty and odd”. The twenty and odd were enslaved on the Bautista, but when they arrive in the settlement of Virginia, under the laws of England, they became indentured servants. Slavery was not yet acceptable under the laws of England. Some say indentured servitude is just another name for slavery, but it is contractual. The average colonial contract was for a period of 4-7 years.
After completing many years of research through Genealogy, I have found that the original twenty and odd and their descendants are eventually documented as free residents of Virginia.

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