Pirates and Privateers from the Age of Sail


Born Edward Teach, England 1680. Blackbeard operated as a pirate from 1714 to 1718 off the North American East Coast. Even though Blackbeard was of an impressive stature, he was said to have stuck smoldering fuses under his hat and in his beard to give himself an even more maniacal and menacing appearance. He was killed in a bloody boarding action by the British Royal Navy on November 22, 1718 off the coast of North Carolina. Blackbeard was arguably one of the most infamous and most feared pirates of all times, not necessarily the most successful.

More about his ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge


Henry Morgan:

One of the most successful privateers for the English crown in the 17th century. Henry Morgan (1635 - 1688) is probably most famous for the sack of Panama in 1670, which was considered Spain's political and economic capital in the Americas. A prime example of the difference between privateering and pirating, at the age of 45 'Sir Henry Morgan' became the acting governor of Jamaica.


Jean Lafitte:

Born in Southwest France, Jean Lafitte (c.1780-c.1826) became a popular Louisiana privateer preying on Spanish shipping in the Gulf of Mexico from his base at the mouth of the Mississippi (Barataria Bay, near New Orleans).

Image of pirate schooner

His name was legend even in his day. He was given full pardon for past regressions by the US President for help provided to the US army before and during the Battle of New Orleans (1815) at the end of the War of 1812.


Piet Hein:

Born in Delfshaven Netherlands, Pieter Pieterszoon Heyn (1577-1629) became a Vice-Admiral in the service of the Dutch West India Company in 1623. One of the three main activities of the GWC was privateering in the West-Indies. In 1628 Piet Hein, promoted to Admiral, commanded a large privateering fleet of 31 ships and 4,000 men on his third voyage to the West Indies. On the 8th of September 1628 they spotted a large Spanish Silver fleet of 12 ships sailing from Mexico. Eleven ships were subsequently captured in the bay of Matanzas, 10 miles east of Havana. The Dutch privateers only lost 150 men.

Piet Heyn's fleet at work

The loot of the captured Silver fleet was estimated to be worth 12 million guilders. Stockholders of the West India Company made anywhere from 50% to 75% profit on their investment that year. Considered a national hero in the Netherlands, a popular song was written about how his name was short but his deeds were great:

Piet Heyn, Piet Heyn, (original spelling - Heyn, now Hein)
Piet Heyn zijn naam is klein, (his name is small)
Zijn daden benne groot, (his deeds are great)
Zijn daden benne groot,
Hij heeft gewonnen de Zilvervloot. (he has won the Silver Fleet)
Hij heeft gewonnen, gewonnen de Zilvervloot,
Hij heeft gewonnen de Zilvervloot.


William Kidd:

Scottish-born William Kidd had operated as a pirate in the caribbean years before he requested and received an English letter of marque and set off on his privateering quest in 1696. He sailed on the Adventure Galley on April 6th and left for New York, where he had briefly settled after his Caribbean adventure, to recruit more crew. He then sailed for the Indian Ocean and after several conflicts with the Dutch, Portuguese and English East India Company he captured several ships, among them the Rupparell and Quedah Merchant, the latter being a very rich prize of 200,000 rupees. The Adventure Galley by now was in serious disrepair and sank off Madagascar in 1698. Kidd returned to the Americas on the Quedah Merchant which he renamed Adventure Prize and was captured by the British near Boston, sent back to England on the frigate Advice and hung as a pirate on May 23th, 1701. Hung twice, to be correct, since the rope broke the first time around.

More about his ship, the Adventure Galley


Skull and Bones

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