A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 658 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16.
of fighting.  With this view, I expressed my wish to Otoo, that he would order some of them to go through the necessary manoeuvres.  Two were accordingly ordered out into the bay; in one of which, Otoo, Mr King, and myself, embarked; and Omai went on board the other.  When we had got sufficient sea-room, we faced, and advanced upon each other, and retreated by turns, as quick as our rowers could paddle.  During this, the warriors on the stages flourished their weapons, and played a hundred antic tricks, which could answer no other end, in my judgment, than to work up their passions, and prepare them for fighting.  Otoo stood by the side of our stage, and gave the necessary orders, when to advance, and when to retreat.  In this, great judgment and a quick eye, combined together seemed requisite, to seize every advantage that might offer, and to avoid giving any advantage to the adversary.  At last, after advancing and retreating to and from each other, at least a dozen of times, the two canoes closed, head to head, or stage to stage; and, after a short conflict, the troops on our stage were supposed to be all killed, and we were boarded by Omai and his associates.  At that very instant, Otoo, and all our paddlers leaped over-board, as if reduced to the necessity of endeavouring to save their lives by swimming.

If Omai’s information is to be depended upon, their naval engagements are not always conducted in this manner.  He told me, that they sometimes begin with lashing the two vessels together, head to head, and then fight till all the warriors are killed, on one side or the other.  But this close combat, I apprehend, is never practised, but when they are determined to conquer or die.  Indeed, one or the other must happen; for all agree that they never give quarter, unless it be to reserve their prisoners for a more cruel death the next day.

The power and strength of these islands lie entirely in their navies.  I never heard of a general engagement on land; and all their decisive battles are fought on the water.  If the time and place of conflict are fixed upon by both parties, the preceding day and night are spent in diversions and feasting.  Toward morning, they launch the canoes, put every thing in order, and, with the day, begin the battle; the fate of which generally decides the dispute.  The vanquished save themselves by a precipitate flight; and such as reach the shore, fly with their friends to the mountains; for the victors, while their fury lasts, spare neither the aged, nor women, nor children.  The next day, they assemble at the morai, to return thanks to the Eatooa for the victory, and to offer up the slain as sacrifices, and the prisoners also, if they have any.  After this a treaty is set on foot; and the conquerors, for the most part, obtain their own terms; by which, particular districts of land, and sometimes whole islands, change their owners.  Omai told us, that he was once taken a prisoner by the men of Bolabola, and carried to that island, where he and some others would have been put to death the next day, if they had not found means to escape in the night.

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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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