Payta is merely an open town, unprovided with any defence, except a small fort or redoubt near the shore of the bay. It was of much consequence to us to be well informed of the fabric and strength of this fort; which, we learnt from our prisoners, had eight pieces of cannon, but neither ditch nor outwork, being merely surrounded by a plain brick wall; and that the garrison consisted of one weak company, though the town might possibly be able to arm three hundred men. Having informed himself of the strength of the place, the commodore determined upon making an attempt for its capture that very night, the 12th November. We were then about twelve leagues from shore; a sufficient distance to prevent being discovered, yet not so far but that, by making all the sail we could carry; we might arrive in the bay long before day-break. The commodore considered, however, that this would be an improper manner of proceeding, as our ships, being large bodies, might easily be seen at a distance, even in the night, and might alarm the inhabitants, so as to give them an opportunity of removing their most valuable effects. He resolved therefore, as the strength of the place did not require the employment of our whole force, to make the attempt with the boats only, ordering our eighteen-oared barge, with our own and the Tryal’s pinnaces, on this service. Fifty-eight men, well furnished with arms and ammunition, were picked out to man them, and the command of the expedition was entrusted to Lieutenant Brett, to whom the commodore gave the necessary orders and instructions.
The better to prevent the disappointment and confusion which might arise in the darkness of the night, and from the ignorance of our people of the streets and passages of the place, two of the Spanish pilots were appointed to attend Mr Brett, to conduct him to the most convenient landing-place, and afterwards to be his guides on shore. Likewise, that we might have the greater security for their fidelity on this occasion, the commodore publicly assured all our prisoners, that they should be set on shore and released at this place, provided the pilots acted faithfully: But, in case of any misconduct or treachery, the pilots were threatened with being instantly shot, and all the rest were assured of being carried prisoners to England. Thus the prisoners were themselves interested in our success, and we had no reason to suspect our guides of negligence or perfidy. It is worthy