Famous Pirates and Privateers
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Active 1663 - 1665
AKA Murad Raïs
This Dutch privateer joined the Barbary corsairs and in 1627 led a Muslim fleet
to Iceland, where they took slaves and plunder.
Active 1715 - 1717
Jennings hunted Spanish and French merchantmen during the War of the Spanish
The governor of Havana sent a salvage crew to southeastern Florida to recover the cargo of silver
being transported by a Spanish treasure fleet which perished in a hurricane in July 1715. Together
with three small ships, Jennings and some 300 men left Jamaica came upon the salvagers. They drove off
about 60 soldiers and their booty came to some 350,000 pesos. While returning to Jamaica, Jennings seized
a Spanish ship laden in rich cargo and another 60,000 pesos. The governor of Jamaica, who was worried
about reprisals from the government, warned Jennings about his activities. Jennings left Jamaica and
found a new base of operations at New Providence Island in the Bahamas. In 1717, the English government
offered a pardon which Jennings accepted in Bermuda.
John Paul Jones
1747 - 1792
Scottish born Jones became an American hero in the War of Independence.
He attacked ships in British waters and was condemned as a traitor and pirate. Later a rear-admiral
in the Russian Navy, he died in France.
AKA James Gilliam
or James Kelly
Active 1680 - 1699
In 1680, John Williams captured James Kelley from a slave ship off the
coast of West Africa. In 1681, Kelley helped Williams rescue John Cook other Caribbean pirates.
After an argument over the capture of a Spanish ship, Kelley left Williams and joined Cook
aboard the Bachelor's Delight and they plundered the South American Pacific coast until 1688 when
Cook died and Edward Davis took command of the ship.
While in Jamaica, Kelley left Davis' company, accepted a pardon from the local government,
and accepted a stint as a privateer. After a few months, Kelley helped seize a sloop and was
put in charge of it as Captain. Under the alias James Gilliam, the captain set sail for the Indian
Ocean. While in the East Indies, Kelley reunited with his old ship, the Bachelor's Delight becoming its quartermaster.
In 1692, the pirates captured the Unity near Bombay. The defeated crew of the Unity joined the pirates,
put their officers out to sea, and elected Kelley as their new captain. From there, Kelley sailed
to northwest India. While in harbor, Kelley and 20 others were arrested stealing supplies during an
earlier stop while onboard the Bachelor's Delight. The prisoners were forcibly converted to the
Muslim faith and several of them died while undergoing circumcision.
Kelley remained there for several years.
Around 1696, Kelley pirated a boat and headed back to Bombay. There he joined the East Indian
ship Mocha. Eight days after leaving port, the crew mutinied, and with newly elected Ralph Stout
as its captain, became very wealthy pirates.
In May 1698, the Mocha anchored at Saint Mary's Island. Kelley having much booty decided
to join William Kidd who was heading home. This decision cost him his life, as unknown to Kelley, the
authorities were hunting for Kidd. When Kidd landed at Boston, he was arrested as was Kelley. Kelley
was taken to England to be tried for his crimes. Kelley was found guilty and hanged in 1701. While
awaiting his fate, Kelley wrote his memoirs which were later published as
"A Full and True Discovery of all the Robberies, Pyracies and Other Notorious Actions of James Kelley."
Active 1718 - 1721
Kennedy was a pickpocket and burglar before sailing from New Providence
Island in the Bahamas in 1718 with Howell Davis.
After Davis' murder in June 1719, Kennedy attacked the fort at Principe Island to avenge Davis'
death. Kennedy was given second-in-command by the crew of the Rover in appreciation of his bravery.
Bartholomew Roberts was in supreme command. They sailed to Brazil where they captured a Portuguese
ship carrying rich booty. While Roberts was on a captured sloop, Kennedy took both the Rover and the
prize. The crew wanting to go home and split up their spoils prompted Kennedy to give the Portuguese
ship to a captive English captain. Kennedy decided to go to Ireland, but he was not much of a navigator
and wrecked the Rover on the coast of Scotland. The majority of his crew were captured and hanged,
but Kennedy escaped going to Dublin. He eventually returned to England where he set up a house of
prostitution supplementing his income derived from burglary. One of his prostitutes turned him in
to the authorities for robbery. Recognized in prison, he was hanged for piracy in 1721.
AKA Captain Kidd
Scottish Privateer and Pirate
1697 - 1699
Captain Kidd was a wealthy New York merchant who had previously served as a privateer against the French in the West Indies. He was commissioned in 1696 by Massachusetts Royal Governor Lord Bellomont to capture Blackbeard, but after a series of misfortunate events, decided to change course and began his career in piracy raiding vessels in the India Ocean. Until his dying day, he denied being a pirate.
Upon his return to America in 1699, he was arrested for piracy and shipped to London to stand trial. Found guilty, he was sentenced to be hanged at Execution Dock. It took two attempts to successfully hang him after the rope broke the first time. Tarred and wrapped in chained, his body suspended in an iron cage at Tilbury Point which for years served as a warning to other would-be pirates.
Read more on Captain Kidd
Lady Mary Killigrew
The Killigrew family were secret backers of piracy in Cornwall.
In 1583, a Spanish merchant ship was driven into Falmouth by storms. Lady Killigrew led a boarding party
onto the vessel, killing the crew, and stealing the cargo. She was sentenced to death for piracy,
but was let off.
1781 - 1821
Jean Lafitte practiced piracy and privateering out of Barataria Bay,
south of New Orleans. With over 10 ships, he and his crew raided British, American, and
Spanish ships, among others.
Due to his frequent trips to various worldwide coastal ports, many citizens in New Orleans
traded with his band of pirates.
Captain Lafitte was famous for his cleverness. Once, when arrested
by a certain governor, Captain Lafitte failed to show up at his trial. The governor offered a
bounty for his capture, but Lafitte offered double that amount for the capture of the
In 1814, British officials offered Captain Lafitte monetary rewards, amongst other
inducements, in return for his help in attacking New Orleans. Lafitte notified the
officials at New Orleans. They paid little head to his warnings. A few weeks later a small
Naval fleet attacked. Later that same year, General Andrew Jackson accepted Captain Lafitte's
aid in combat with the British. In return for their bravery during a battle in 1815,
they were pardoned by President Madison.
During increased naval activity, Captain Lafitte and his crew sailed towards the Spanish
occupied territory of Texas. Taking over Galveston, he reestablished his pirating activities.
Efforts were made to run him out of Galveston and he left, but only after burning the entire
settlement. Captain Lafitte and his brother continued pirating around Central American ports
until his death in 1821.
Mention is made of Jean Lafitte in this article about U.S. Marshall Duplessis. A quote from the article: "Jean Lafitte, a self-described privateer, was revered by many in New Orleans but he was a thorn in the side of Territorial Governor William Claiborne."
Books on Jean Lafitte
Mrs. Peter Lambert
Oliver le Bouché
AKA La Bous or La Buse (The Buzzard)
Active Mid 1700's
In 1716, Captain le Bouche; sailed in consort with Captain Benjamin Hornigold
and later with Captain Samuel Bellamy. Captains le Bouche and Bellamy plundered both French and English
ships near the Virgin Islands until a storm separated them in early 1717.
In July 1718, when Woodes Rogers was made governor of the Bahamas, Captain le Bouche fled to the
West African coast.
Captain La Bouche, Thomas Cocklyn and Captain Howell Davis sailed in consort for a time, then
separated ways. On his way towards the Red Sea in 1720, his ship became wrecked on the
island Mayotte in the Comoro Islands.
In 1721, Captain le Bouche was living on Saint Mary's Island near Madagascar.
He and Captain John Taylor began sailing together after Captain Taylor gave him
command of the Victory. At Reunion Island they captured a Portuguese
ship which was loaded with booty. After returning to Saint Mary's Island they divvied up the
loot and parted company in December. Captain Taylor headed for the West Indies and Captain
La Bouche sailed to Madagascar.
It is believed that Captain le Bouche ended his life of piracy making his home on Reunion Island.
François le Clerc
AKA Jambe de Bois (Peg Leg or
Active 1553 - 1554
This French privateer led eight ships and 330 men attacking Spanish ships
off Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, and sacked the port of Santiago de Cuba.
He was the first European to settle in St. Lucia, and from Pigeon Island, attacked passing Spanish vessels.
Pierre le Grand
Captain le Grand was the first pirate to settle on Tortuga Island.
Le Grand and 28 men captured the flagship (a galleon) of the Spanish treasure fleet.
Captain le Grand spotted a galleon lagging behind a Spanish treasure fleet off Cape
Tiburon in western Hispaniola. After a successful attack at night, the ship's Captain surrendered.
Le Grand drafted a few of its crew into service, put the rest of the crew ashore and
sailed home for France.
Pirate from Nassau
Active Early 1700's
Lewis was an accomplished linguist, able to speak fluently most of the native languages
of the Caribbean as well as Spanish, French, and English.
Already famous by 1717, while serving under his mentor Captain Banister, Lewis was captured and suspended like a flag
from the mizzen, but somehow managed to escape.
On another adventure, he attacked and plundered a French 24 gun man-o-war aboard his smaller
and lesser-armed schooner. This among other events helped thrust him into the hierarchy of the Brethren of the Coast.
On another occasion, Lewis was captured by Spaniards and was taken to Havana to be hanged, but
he escaped with a few other prisoners. During their escape, they stole a canoe. With it, they overtook a
piragua. Then used the piragua to capture a sloop, and so until he eventually
had a fine man-o-war with a crew of more than fifty. He renamed this ship the Morning Star
and began to terrorize the Atlantic coast from the Spanish Main all the way north to Virginia.
Not until 1727 would Lewis make a fatal mistake when he happened upon a wonderful vessel off the
Carolina coast. As he approached the prize, he ran up his colors and
the ship attempted to outrun him. Lewis gave chase and a running sea battle started. The Morning Star
was faster and it looked like she would surely overcome the slower trading ship. In the ensuing battle,
the other ship managed to take out Lewis' fore and main top masts.
In a fit of insanity Lewis clambered up
the top mast and began pulling his hair out and throwing it in the wind. As he did this, he shouted
"Good Devil take this till I come!" Remarkably, the Morning Star then sped up and
overtook the other vessel. That night, members of the crew continued to
remark at how Lewis had managed to overtake the other ship after he had made a pact with the devil.
The superstitious men, fearing for their lives, murdered Lewis in his sleep.
AKA Francis l'Olonnais
Sean David Nau
Active 1630 - 1668
l'Olonoise was a violent and cruel pirate whose torturous treatment
of his captives made him the most infamous of all pirates.
As a child he was an indentured servant. As a young man, he joined a band of slaves, criminals and other scoundrels and became for a time a successful buccaneer.
He was notorious for cutting prisoners to bits in an act of rage, then cutting out their tongues. On one occasion, he cut out a prisoner's heart and starting chewing it while questioning him.
After becoming stranded on the island of Las Pertas, he was found by local natives and was murdered in a horrendous fashion, a just end for the insane butcher.
AKA Ned Low
Active early 1700's
Captain Edward "Ned" Low started his career as a Boston ship rigger then
eventually turned to a more profitable lifestyle as a pirate.
After capturing a Nantucket whaler, Low made the ship's commander eat his own sliced
off ears, sprinkled with salt, before he killed him. This earned him a reputation as an
extremely cruel brute.
When he captured the Spanish galleon Montcova, he personally slaughtered fifty-three officers
and made one Spaniard eat the heart of another before killing him. His own crew finally set him
adrift in an open boat without provisions. Two days later, a French ship rescued him, but upon
discovering who he was, the French gave him a quick trial and hanged him.
Active 1721 - 1723
Captain Lowther was First Mate on board the Gambia Castle, a slaving ship
for the Royal Africa Company. Joining forces with Captain Massey, an army officer who was
appalled at the conditions aboard ship, they took over the ship, leaving behind its captain
who was on shore attending to business, then renamed the ship the Delivery.
Eventually they parted ways, Massey commanding the Delivery, and Lowther in charge of a
smaller sloop from a previous plunder called the Happy Delivery.
On one occasion, while careening the Revenge, they were attacked by Indians and escaped with
meager supplies on board.
By 1722, prosperous again, Lowther had to once again careen his ship. In Blanquilla, a small
but well concealed island, they had almost finished the job when the sloop Eagle, commanded by Walter Moore,
spotted the ship. Lowther and his crew tried to get away but weren't able to get far enough away from
the island in time, so they returned and hid on the island. Marooned on the island, Lowther was eventually found
dead with a bullet in his head.