Historical Pirates

~ Edward Teach – ‘Blackbeard’ ~

One of the most famous pirates in history, born sometime in 1680 and killed on the 22nd of November, 1718, Blackbeard was an English pirate who mostly operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies. He is said to have tied lit fuses under his hat to give himself a hellish appearance, and this seems to have worked to great effect; despite the modern image we have of the man, there are no known accounts of him ever harming his captives. Being a very shrewd man, he used fear to win his battles.

His vessel was Queen Anne’s Revenge, and with it he was able to rise to the title of commodore, commanding his own fleet and even blockading the port of Charles Town, North Carolina for a week. Before meeting his end at Ocracoke Island at the hands of Maynard, Blackbeard lived up to his reputation with a bloody battle to the death; ravaging two enemy sloops with cannonfire, and taking no less than five bullets and twenty cuts before dropping.

~ Bartholomew Roberts ~

A Welsh pirate who raided ships off the Americas and West Africa, born on the 17th of May, 1682 and killed on the 10th of February, 1722. With 470 ships taken in his three year career, Roberts is considered the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy. He had an odd and unexpected start to this wealthy career, being the third mate of the slave ship Princess when it was captured by Captain Howell Davis. He and several others of the crew were forced to join the pirate crew, and while Roberts was reluctant at first, he eventually saw the freedom and advantage of piracy.

Captain Davis intended to capture the governor of Príncipe to hold for ransom, but he was instead shot dead by a Portuguese ambush – at which point his crew elected Roberts to be captain, mostly do to his navigational skills and his “outspoken and opinionated” demeanor. This vote was quite strange, for he had only been captured six weeks prior. Still, it was the start of a very powerful career which nearly crippled world trade.

His best know vessels were Royal Rover, Good Fortune, Royal Fortune, Ranger, and Little Ranger. Despite his love of fine clothes and jewelry, he preferred tea to rum and forbid his men to drink at sea. It is ironic that his fatal defeat was largely thanks to the drunkenness of his men.

~ John Rackham – ‘Calico Jack’ ~

A Cuban-English pirate born on the 26th of December, 1682 and hanged on the 18th of November, 1720. Perhaps he is best known for having two female crew members; Mary Read and his lover, Anne Bonny. He is also known for the iconic Jolly Roger, which is the most commonly depicted style.

While he commanded many vessels, his most famous was the wealthy Kingston, which he lost soon after stealing it. His nickname was derived from the fact that he wore Calico clothing.

~ William Kidd ~

A Scottish sailor who was asked by the governor of Massachusetts to hunt down famous pirates and enemy French ships. As this was a high honor he had no choice but to accept, and soon set out on a disastrous voyage in which he failed to find any pirates, and eventually turned to piracy to make up for his terrible run.

His crew was not very forgiving of Kidd’s failure, and when a verbal fight broke out between he and his gunner, Kidd snatched up and heaved an ironbound bucket at the man, who fell to the deck and fractured his skull, dying the next day. This reflects the barbaric nature of the man, who was known for his savage dealings with those he captured.

His most famous ship was the Adventure Galley. While things did not go as planned and Kidd was eventually betrayed by his backers and sentenced to hang, he was made famous for burying his treasure before being captured. This he planned to use as leverage; a plan which also failed.

~ Henry Every – ‘Long Ben’, ‘The Arch Pirate’, ‘The King of Pirates’ ~

An English pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, born on the 23rd of August, 1659. Every is infamous for perpetrating the most profitable pirate raid in history, and retiring with his loot without ever being captured or killed in battle.

With his own vessel, the Fancy, Every chased down the Fateh Muhammed, and then Ganj-i-sawai shortly after. Though many pirates were killed in taking these ships and it required a pirate squadron to do the job, Every was able to capture £600,000 in precious metals and jewels. The aftermath was enough to nearly cripple English trade in India, and a massive manhunt was undertaken to capture Every.

In the end they failed, as Every managed to slip away with nothing but conflicting tales of where he was headed next.

~ Samuel Bellamy – “Black Sam” ~

Captain Samuel Bellamy was an English pirate who operated in the early 18th century, though his career as captain only lasted one year. In spite of this, he and his men were able to capture at least 53 ships and all the loot within, making Black Sam the most successful pirate in history, according to Forbes, making the equivalent of $131.4 million.

Though one would think a man of such success won his way by force, Black Sam also carried the nickname of “Robin Hood of the Sea”, a self-given title for his view on piracy as taking from the rich. He was known far and wide for his mercy and generosity towards his captors, which in turn earned him the nickname “Prince of Pirates”.

Born on the 23rd of February, 1689, his career began in the summer of 1716, when the crew of Marianne grew irritated with Captain Hornigold for his refusal to attack English ships. By a majority vote, Hornigold was deposed as captain, leaving with his loyals (Edward Teach included) before the remaining 90 men voted Bellamy as the new captain. So his rich venture began, until on the 26th of April, 1717, his newly acquired flagship Whydah was caught in a storm and sunk, killing all but two of her 145-man crew.