Famous Pirates, Privateers, And Pirate History

Famous pirates, privateers, and pirate history: Hollywood portrays pirates in a romantic light when they were actually far from civilized individuals.

For centuries piracy was a given hazard of any sea voyage. It didn't matter where the traveler was going to or from or even what the cargo, if any was being carried. Private vessels, merchant ships, sloops of various size and even the giant naval Man o' Wars were fair game.

Sir Francis Drake

Some pirates or "privateers" such as Sir Francis Drake preyed upon ships of a certain nationality. Drake had a private hatred of Spain but a fervent sense of patriotism to England and was known to fly the English flag during his attacks upon Spanish ships. He also became the first Englishmen to circumnavigate the globe in his ship, the Golden Hind. Drake was born sometime between 1538 and 1542 near Devonshire, England and died at sea on January 28, 1596 after leading a successful raid against a Spanish stronghold in the West Indies.

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan, on the other hand, led successful and profitable raids against Gran Granada and Vilahermosa. In 1655 England captured the ill-protected island of Jamaica and luck was with Morgan when he returned to the island and found his uncle had been appointed as commander of all the English troops in the West Indies. After his uncle's death, Henry Morgan was appointed commander of the militia in Port Royal. By 1668 he was a vice-admiral. Morgan actually had the best of both worlds since he hadn't given up his pirating activities. In fact in 1668 he led a raid against the forts of Porto Bello and gained a sinister reputation when he used priests and nuns as human shields to gain entry into the forts. In 1670 Morgan led a raid upon the gold stores in Panama gaining some a treasure equaling 100,000 English pounds. Since England's war was over when this raid took place, Morgan was arrested for piracy but King Charles II heard of his exploits and instead of execution, Morgan was knighted and made lieutenant governor of Jamaica. King Charles ordered Morgan to rid not just Jamaica but the seas of pirates. At his death in 1688, there were very few of the buccaneers left.


Blackbeard was a pirate in the true sense of the word. Born Edward Drummond in 1680, he earned his nickname by letting his jet-black beard grow as long as possible. He preyed mostly upon the coastline of North America and the Bahamas. He met his end in hand-to-hand combat against forces led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard on November 22, 1718 after receiving a king's pardon at Ocracoke, Island.

Major Stede Bonnet

Major Stede Bonnet was a well educated, highly respected man who in mid-life decided to embark upon a career of piracy. Leaving behind his life as a gentleman planter in Barbados, Bonnet purchased himself a ship that he named "Revenge" and set out upon the seas in the dead of night without so much as a goodbye to even his wife. He plundered ships along the New England seaboard but was in truth, a novice at sea. He eventually met up with Blackbeard, joined his band and turned his ship over to the notorious pirate. Eventually Bonnet convinced Blackbeard to return command of the Revenge to him and they parted company. Bonnet was captured by Colonel William Rhett, was tried for piracy and hanged December 10, 1718.

Batholomew Roberts, "The Great Pirate Roberts"

Batholomew Roberts was known as "The Great Pirate Roberts." Preying the eastern coasts of North and South America during the early 1700s, he was renowned for his bravery. In fact his reputation alone would often send private and naval ships running. There is a story of how he entered the harbor of Treasury, Newfoundland with only a sloop carrying ten guns and sixty men. Legend has it he sailed in with his famous black flag flying, drums beating and the twenty-two ships that were in the harbor fled the scene.

Roberts died in battle off the coast of Africa.

Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd was actually employed by the English to rid the seas of pirates. Born in 1645 he was given command of the "Adventure Galley", a new ship with eighty crewmen and thirty-four cannon. With orders to capture the pirates of Madagascar as well as any French ships he came across, Kidd set sail. Upon the threat of mutiny by his men, Kidd ended the uprising by killing the ship's gunner. While the threat of mutiny was eliminated, Kidd ended up becoming what the mutineers had wanted to begin with, a true pirate. Kidd preyed upon the ships that he came across along India's Malabar Coast. Eventually he was arrested for piracy as it had come to light a large amount of his treasures didn't come from French ships but from those of the British East India Company. Sentenced to death, it took three times to hang him as the rope broke twice before it held. His body was dipped in tar and hung by chains along the Thames River as a warning to all would be pirates.

Through the centuries these men have taken on a romantic aura about them that historical evidence suggests they were actually a blood thirsty, greedy group that is far from the vision Hollywood portrays them to be.

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