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Famous Pirates and Privateers


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The following pages include brief pirate biographies. This list was compiled from various history books checked out from three of our local libraries, and a few of the pirate web sites which are listed on our pirate trivia page. We highly recommend that you visit the library to help you locate additional pirate information. We found our books in the adult and juvenile history sections, and with the assistance of the librarian, were loaned books from other branches.

Read about Additional Pirates (summarized from Wikipedia.com).

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A

Kanhoji Angria
Maratha Pirate
Active 1710 - 1729

African Muslim Kanhoji captured and fortified two islands near Bombay to use as his base in 1710 and was first to extort money from Indian and British shipping in that area. In 1712 he held for ransom the armed yacht of the East India Company's governor. Several years later he fought the British at Gheriah and Deoghur using specially built gun ships, and by the 1720's, he was a wealthy man whose captains commanded hundreds of well-armed vessels. When he died in 1729, he left his pirate kingdom to his son Sumbhaji Angria.

Thomas Anstis
British Pirate
Active 1718 - 1723

Captain Anstis sailed with Captain Howell Davis until Davis was murdered in June of 1719. Anstis then signed on with Captain Bartholomew Robert's crew and after Captain Roberts captured a Brigantine in the West Indies, Anstis was made Captain of the Good Fortune and shortly thereafter stole the ship.

Captain Anstis sailed to the Caribbean where he plundered merchant ships and eventually seized a large ship called the Morning Star. John Fenn was put in charge as Captain.

Anstis and Fenn decided to quit pirating and petitioned the king for pardons stating they were forced into piracy by Captain Roberts. Many pirates signed documents stating they were forced into piracy with the understanding that if they got caught, they could claim innocense. While awaiting a response, they camped on an uninhabited island off Cuba. After nine months without word from the king, they returned to a life of piracy.

At sea, a storm came upon them, and the Morning Star was wrecked on Grand Cayman Island. While Captain Anstis was saving Captain Fenn and his crew, two British warships arrived on the scene. Fortunately, the savage winds died down and the pirates were able to row the Good Fortune to safety.

Setting sail again, they went in search of another vessel to replace Captain Fenn's ship and ended up seizing several.

In 1723, the pirates were careening (beaching a ship to clean and repair its hull), their ships at Tobago when they were surprised by a warship. Once again Captain Fenn's ship was lost and he fled into the woods only to be captured a day later. Fenn was tried and hanged at Antigua, but Captain Anstis managed to out-maneuver the warship and got away.

For unknown reasons, Captain Anstis' crew mutinied and he was murdered.

Philip Ashton
Captured by
Pirates
1722 - 1725

At the age of 19, Philip Ashton was captured by Ned Low on one of his stops off the coast of Nova Scotia in June, 1722. Although Ashton was kept in chains, then beaten and whipped in attempts to coerce him into signing the pirate Captain's letter of marque, he refused.

One year later, Ashton managed to escape into the dense jungle during the ship's stopover for fresh water at Roatan Island in the Bay of Honduras. There, he survived nearly a year by fishing and finding seabird eggs until rescued. The Salem ship Diamond safely returned him to his fishing village home by May, 1725.

John Auger
British Pirate
Died 1718

Auger was pardoned by Woodes Rogers, but reverted back to piracy and was eventually captured by Benjamin Hornigold and hanged in New Providence.

Henry Avery
British Pirate

See Henry Every.

John Avery
British Pirate

See Henry Every.

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Charlotte Badger
British Pirate
Active 1808

Felon Charlotte Badger and convict Catherine Hagerty were among other convicts who seized the colonial brig called Venus while it was docked at Port Dalrymple so that the captain could attend to some business delivering official dispatches. The pirates headed for New Zealand and the Bay of Islands. In one story, the islanders hanged them and four others, and in another account, the two women, Charlotte and Catherine, had been living onshore, but Catherine Hagerty had become ill and died in April, 1807. Charlotte and her child remained in the Bay, where it was believed that she lived with a local maori rangatira for some time. She refused to return to Port Jackson even though they were offered passage from several ships, including the Elizabeth, saying she wanted a passage to America. Charlotte and her daughter were believed to have accepted a passage aboard a ship on its way to Tonga.

Barbarossa
AKA Redbeard
Greek/Turkish Pirate
circa 1530's

He and his brother Aruj, sons of a Turk from Lesbos, took up piracy on the Barbary Coast in hopes of seizing an African domain for themselves. When Aruj was killed in 1518, Khidr took the title Khayr al-Din. He offered allegiance to the Ottoman sultan and in return received military aid that enabled him to capture Algiers in 1529. Appointed admiral in chief of the Ottoman Empire (1533), he conquered all of Tunisia. Emperor Charles V captured Tunis in 1535, but Khayr al-Din defeated his fleet at the Battle of Preveza (1538), securing the eastern Mediterranean for the Turks for 33 years. His red beard was the source of the epithet Barbarossa, used by Europeans. (Excerpt from Britannica Online)

Jean Bart
Frendh Privateer
1651 - 1702

This fisherman's son from Dunkirk raided North Sea and English Channel fleets. He served in the Dutch Navy and later became a successful privateer for the French. He made a famous escape in a small boat from Plymouth, in Devon.

Bartolomeo
AKA el Portugués
Portuguese Buccaneer
Active 1660's - 1670's

el Portugues

Famous for his lucky escapes, this Portuguese buccaneer was one of the first to be based in Jamaica. His luck finally ran out in a shipwreck.

Read more.

Samuel Bellamy
AKA Black Bellamy
English Buccaneer
Active 1715 - 1716

Samuel Bellamy arrived in the new world seeking fame and fortune in the 1700's. In 1715 he led a sponsored expedition southward in search of sunken Spanish treasure off the coast of Florida. When his quest failed, he turned to piracy and became known as Captain Black Bellamy, plundering more than 50 ships. Of them was the Whydah, a 100-foot three-masted galley packed with ivory, indigo, and thousands of silver and gold coins. Bellamy's crew captured the ship and headed home after the victory. On the way, the ship entered foul weather. 70 mph gales and 40 foot tall waves capsized the top-heavy Whydah, killing all but two men. Of the two survivors, the account told by Thomas Davis remains an important part of Cape Cod folklore.

Count Maurycy Beniowski
Polish Pirate

Also known as Baron Maurice de Benyowski was born in Poland to a noble family. At that time Poland was partitioned into three parts. Beniowski was born in the Russian part and it determined his future life as an adventurer. As a youngster he took part in the Polish uprising to liberate Poland from the Russian rule (Konfederacja Barska) and after being captured by Russians was sent into exile to Siberia. However he managed to escape and after some tumultuous years he found himself leading an armed expedition headed toward Madagascar. On an African Island near Madagascar he managed to establish a stronghold, and pronounced himself the king of Madagascar. We can easily classify him as a pirate because he was not above attacking the shipping lanes around Madagascar, and he didn't represent any authority. One of the nearby islands (Mauritius) was named after this Polish adventurer and to this day he is remembered there.

Blackbeard
See Edward Teach

British Pirate
1716 - 1718

Abraham Blauvelt
Dutch Pirate
Active Mid 1600's

Blauvelt was instrumental in establishing several settlements and many places which still bear his name.

In the early 1630's Captain Blauvelt explored the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua. Afterwards, he went to England and with a proposal for a settlement a site in Nicaragua, which is near the town and river of Bluefields, Nicaragua. Captain Blauvelt enlisted as a naval officer for the Swedish East India Company and by 1644 was in command of his own ship. He preyed upon Spanish shipping from Dutch New Amsterdam (New York) and a harbor in southwest Jamaica which is still named Blewfields Bay. After peace came once more between the Dutch and Spain in 1648, Captain Blauvelt was no longer welcome in New Amsterdam. Captain Blauvelt sailed to Newport, Rhode Island in 1649 to divvy up his loot. The governor of Newport declared one prize illegal and Captain Blauvelt's crew argued over the booty. Captain Blauvelt was treated poorly at Newport. The local towns people were afraid that Captain Blauvelt's piratical activities had permanently ruined the reputation of Rhode Island. In 1650 Blauvelt was in command of another ship, the La Garse, a French ship.

Later on along the border of Honduras and Nicaragua living among the Indians at Cape Gracias à Dios. It was here that he heard of Captain Sir Christopher Myngs' plans to organize a raid on Campeche Bay in Mexico. In 1663 he joined with Captain Myngs and was an active participant in the raids. Nothing is known of him after this time.

Stede Bonnet
Gentleman's Pirate
Died 1718
Stede Bonnet

Stede Bonnet was a wealthy man who started his career in pirary in 1717, purchasing a sloop and outfitted it with ten guns. He rounded up a crew of 70 for his newly christened sloop Revenge and set sail for his new pirate life.

Sailing of the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, Bonnet somehow managed to plunder several ships even though he lacked maritime experience. The crew quickly realized this lack of skill in Bonnet and they began to get restless. About this time, Bonnet sighted another pirate ship off the Carolina coast which turned out to be none other than Blackbeard. The two captains agreed to work as partners, but Blackbeard quickly realized also that Bonnet was not much of a seaman. Teach "convinced" Bonnet that it would be better if sent one of his own lieutenants to take over command of Revenge while Bonnet went aboard Blackbeard's ship as a "guest." During this this time, it was stated that Bonnet was observed on Blackbeard's ship walking around in his morning gown and tending to his personal library of books he had onboard.

While in Blackbeard's company he participated in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, and after Blackbeard informed him that he was going to take a pardon and suggested Bonnet do so as well. Bonnet heartily agreed since he too knew he was not quite cut out for the pirate life. Along with some of his crew, Bonnet left immediately for Bath, North Carolina to recieve their pardons. While there they learnt that France and England had declared war on Spain so Bonnet decided he would became a legal privateer against Spain. They returned to Revenge (which Blackbeard promised to return to Bonnet) but found that Blackbeard had scammed them of all the plunder when all that was left was the empty sloop for Bonnet. Bonnet was of course outraged and set sail to find Blackbeard but never was able to find him. (The Charleston siege and Blackbeard's loot treachery are explained in more detail in Blackbeard's story.)

Despite his pardon and privateering plan, Bonnet soon returned to piracy. He operated once again around Virginia and apparently was more successful now after his tour with Blackbeard because he was able to plunder several ships in the following months. Unknown to him, pirates were once again causing trouble near Charleston, in particular Captain Charles Vane. Outraged by the recent string of pirate attacks outside Charleston, the Governor and Council of South Carolina planned to rid the menacing pirates. Colonel William Rhett led two sloops for the pirate hunt; the 8 gun, 70 men Henry with Captain Masters, and the 8 gun, 60 men Sea Nymph with Captain Hall. In late September 1718, the two privateer sloops discovered three pirate ships anchored in the Cape Fear River. A battle soon ensued and both the pirates and their hunters kept running aground on the shallow shoals. After about 5 long hours, the battle ended suddenly when the pirate rose the white flag to surrender. Rhett was suprised to find that the pirate captain was Major Stede Bonnet on his new ship Royal James and his two consort vessels. Bonnet and his captured crew were returned to Charleston where he was well known for his particapation in the siege of their harbor.

The 34 pirates were put on trial in Charleston from October 28 to November 12, 1718, where Judge Nicholas Trot gave a lengthy moral speech of Bonnet's deeds especially knowing of cultured background of the pirate. In the end, 30 out of the 34 were convicted and sentenced to death, including Major Stede Bonnet. While in prison, Bonnet sent a letter to the Governor for forgiveness and promising reform, but he was eventually hanged at White Point, Charleston in November 1718.

Major Stede Bonnet was not what a typical pirate that started his career as a seaman turned pirate. Instead, Bonnet already had a successful career in the army and he had a large plantation so why exactly he turned to piracy is not clear. The nagging wife theory is one possibilty, but in the end he will be known in pirate history as the pirate gentleman.

Bonnet was hanged at Charleston harbor in South Carolina that same year.

Stede Bonnet's Flag

Anne Bonny
Irish Pirate
Active 1719

Anne Bonny

Bonny was married to a poor man, James Bonny, in the Bahamas when she met Captain Calico Jack Rackam and joined his pirate ship dressed as a man. When their ship was attacked by a British Navy sloop off the coast of Jamaica in 1720, Bonny and fellow female pirate, Mary Read, drew their pistols and cutlasses and fought back bravely while the rest of the drunken pirates cowered in the ship's hold. Both Mary and Anne escaped the death sentence at their trials because they were pregnant.

George Booth

Captain Booth was English and the majority of his pirating took place in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. His career began as a gunner aboard the Pelican circa 1696. Later he was the gunner aboard the Dolphin. Both ships sailed in the Indian Ocean.

In September 1699, the Dolphin was trapped at Saint Mary's Island by a British fleet. Offered a pardon, some of the pirates surrendered, but most escaped to nearby Madagascar. Instead of letting the Dolphin fall into the hands of the British she was burned. Captain Booth was among those who fled to Madagascar and was instrumental in the capture of a French ship which was Madagascar to trade liquor and goods for slaves. Captain Booth was captain of the attack and as such was in command of the captured ship.

Sometime later Captain Booth met John Bowen and the joined forces. At Majunga, in April 1704, they took over the Speaker, a 450 ton slave ship carrying 50 guns and Booth was made her captain. Booth sailed to Zanzibar and arrived towards the end of 1700. When they went ashore for provisions they were attacked by Arab troops and Captain Booth was killed. John Bowen was voted to replace him as captain.

John Bowen

Bowen was born in Bermuda. Bowen moved to South Carolina. He became captain of a ship trading in the West Indies. Eventually he was captured by French pirates, who crossed the Atlantic, pillaged along the African coast and wrecked their ship on Madagascar's southwestern coast.

About 18 months later Bowen and the other survivors were picked up by a passing ship commanded by Captain Read. The pirates took a larger Arab ship in the Persian Gulf. Around this time Bowen enlisted with the pirates and was elected sailing master. Bowen returned to western Madagascar and began sailing in consort with George Booth.

April of 1700 the two crews captured the Speaker, a strong 50-gun slave ship. More than 200 pirates sailed to Zanzibar with George Booth as captain. Bowen took command at the end of 1700. Near the mouth of the Red Sea, Captain Bowen captured an Indian vessel with £100,000 in booty.

November 1701, a British ship which they sold on the Indian coast. Returning to Madagascar, Bowen's ship was wrecked on Mauritius Island but he saved most of the men and treasure. In return for large bribes, the Dutch governor warmly welcomed the pirates and allowed them to buy a ship.

April 1702, Captain Bowen went back to Madagascar and set up camp on the eastern coast. Some time after, the pirates seized the Speedy Return, which had stopped to buy slaves. After cruising alone with little success, Captain Bowen joined Captain Thomas Howard. The two captains seized a rich British Merchant in March 1703. After separating for a time, Captain Bowen and Captain Howard joined forces again. In August 1703 they captured two Indian vessels and £70,000 in the Red Sea. The pirates divided their plunder at Rajapura, India. Some stayed with Captain Howard on the Indian coast.

Captain Bowen and 40 crewmen retired on Mauritius, where he died of disease about six months later.

Joseph Bradley
British Pirate
Active 1671

Bradley was a pirate who was active in the Caribbean.

Roche Brasiliano
Dutch Buccaneer
Active 1670's

Roche Brasiliano

This Dutch buccaneer lived in Brazil before turning up in Jamaica in the 1670's. A drunkard famous for his cruelty, he was elected pirate captain and terrorized Spanish shipping.

Read more on Brasiliano:
Pirate Roster: Braziliano

Hiram Breakes
Dutch Pirate

Breakes was the tall, handsome son of the Councilor of the Island of Saba. In 1764, he was appointed to a Dutch trading vessel that sailed between Saba and Amsterdam. Eventually commanding a trading ship which operated between Schiedham, Holland and Lisbon, Portugal, Breakes fell in love with a married woman named Mrs. Snyde. Mr. Snyde was poisoned, and Breakes and the Widow Snyde were accused but later acquitted of the murder. Soon afterward, he stole his employer's trading ship and renamed it "The Adventurer." Later his pirate crew murdered the crew of a vessel called the "Acapulco", which was carrying a load of gold bars, and refitted it for piracy. From there, Breakes bought a letter of marque from the governor of Gibraltar and turned to pillaging throughout the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

In his adventures, he plundered a convent in the Balearic Islands and then decided that it was inappropriate for his crew to be unmarried, so he had each of his men select a nun from the convent, who was then kidnapped and brought to the ship to perform their wifely duties.

He then became homesick and upon returning to Holland to marry his mistress, Mrs. Snyde, he discovered that she had been hanged for attempting to poison their new born son. In a state of depression, he drown himself in a dyke.

Captain Benjamin Bridgeman
AKA Long Ben
English Pirate

See Henry Every.

Joe Brodish
Pirate

After returning to New England with booty gained from successfully attacking and capturing Spanish merchant ships, Captain Joe Brodish was recognized and thrown into a Boston jail. What wasn't known until after he had escaped twice, was the jail keeper was his uncle. He was brought to justice finally after being shipped to England, where he was hanged for piracy.

Nicholas Brown
AKA The Grand Pirate
Died 1726

Known as the Grand Pirate, Brown was once given a royal pardon but returned to piracy, attacking ships off the coast of Jamaica. He was eventually captured by a childhood friend, John Drudge. Brown died from wounds sustained in his capture. Drudge then cut off Brown's head, pickled it, then turned it in for a reward.

Dixie Bull
English Pirate
Circa 1623

Dixie Bull started as a fur trader in Maine until a fateful day in June of 1623, when French pirates stole everything he had leaving him destitute. It was then that he decided to take up piracy and plundered the New England coast. Enticing other traders, seamen and fisherman to join forces, Bull became known as New England's first pirate.

Five ships were sent to capture Bull, but to no avail. Rumors were that he joined French pirates, yet others claim he returned to England, his native land. It is not known how he died, but a popular poem of the 1600's portrays him as dying in a sword fight.

Samuel Burgess
British Pirate
Active 1690 - 1716

Burgess was a member of Captain William Kidd's crew in 1690 when the Blessed William was seized.

In 1693, Edward Coates became captain and the former Captain Burgess left the ship and went to New York. He arrived in April, bought a house and took on a job with Frederick Phillips, New York's wealthiest merchant. Over the next few years Burgess made many profitable voyages to Madagascar selling supplies and guns to pirates in exchange for gold and slaves.

Around September 1699, Captain Burgess was in command of the Margaret. Near Saint Mary's Island he ran into a British fleet and was offered a pardon for any piratical activities. Several of Captain Burgess' crew accepted and bought passage home with the fleet. Captain Burgess sailed to Cape Town, South Africa, by December he reached his destination. Captain Lowth, of the East India Company, seized Captain Burgess' ship and took it to Bombay. Lowth also took its treasure and slaves.

The owners of the Margaret brought suit against the East India Company and Captain Burgess was taken to London in 1701 and accused of piracy. With Captain Robert Culliford's testimony, Captain Burgess was convicted. Eventually he secured a pardon for his crimes and signed aboard a privateer, sailing for the Pacific.

Burgess then became first mate aboard the Neptune and went to Madagascar to trade liquor for slaves. When a sudden storm wrecked the pirates' ships, Burgess helped Captain John Halsey seize the Neptune. Burgess was made Quartermaster but lost it soon after when Captain Halsey died. After losing his position, Burgess stayed at Madagascar, dealing in slaves with David Williams. Following an argument concerning prizes with a black chief, Burgess died of poison, presumably at the chief's hand.

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