There are only two known survivors of the April 1717 wreck of the ship the Whydah Galley, commanded by Sam Bellamy: Thomas Davis, a carpenter, and John Julian, a pilot. But were they the only two men to survive the wreck? Laura Nelson, author of The Whydah Pirates Speak (Amazon US | Amazon UK),  explains this American pirate story…

A model of the ship the  Whydah Galley . Source: jjsala, available  here .

A model of the ship the Whydah Galley. Source: jjsala, available here.

The location of the wreckage of the  Whydah Galley  in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Cape Cod.

The location of the wreckage of the Whydah Galley in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Cape Cod.

Bellamy and his crew were sailing north along the east coast of what is now the United States. Folklore says their intended destination was Eastham in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where Bellamy intended to pick up Maria Hallett, believed to be his lover, on their way to Rhode Island or Maine. He may also have been hoping to sell some of their booty…

 

The Storm

April 26, 1717, started out like any other day for the pirates. In the morning, they captured the Mary Anne, “a pink with more than 7,000 gallons of Madeira wine on board… and then the Fisher – a small sloop with a cargo of deer hides and tobacco” in the afternoon.[1] Per customary pirate procedure, smaller groups of pirates were sent over to these ships from the Whydah to act as the new crews of their “prizes.”

At the time of the wreck, the Whydah boasted a complement of about 150 men, all crammed into a ship that measured thirty feet wide and one hundred feet long. With the bulk of the pirates’ booty stored on the Whydah, the decks were probably starting to sag. Along with such items as “[e]lephant tusks, sugar, molasses, rum, cloth… indigo, and… dry goods…there was the precious metal, 180 sacks of coins, each… weighing fifty pounds.”[2] What this meant was the Whydah would have been very low in the water, a dangerous condition in a storm.

Throughout the afternoon a dense fog had rolled in, what should have been an early storm warning for the pirates. In the late afternoon the storm itself began. Instead of steering out to sea, Bellamy chose to stay close to the land, a move which leads many to believe he did indeed wish to try and make port somewhere in Cape Cod.

Sometime after 5pm Bellamy ordered all three ships to light lanterns on their sterns, a common navigational aid. But conditions continued to get worse.

“An arctic storm from Canada was driving into the warm air that had swept up the coast from the Caribbean. The last gasp of a frigid New England winter, the cold front was about to combine with the warm front in one of the worst storms ever to hit the Cape.”[3] “According to eyewitness accounts, gusts topped 70 miles [113 kilometers] an hour and the seas rose to 30 feet. [9 meters].”[4]

Square-rigged ships like the Whydah Galley did not handle so well in high winds, and since the winds were coming from the northeast, it was now pretty much out of the question for Bellamy to even try to attempt to head back out to sea. With each swell, the ship would have been pushed west by the winds, no matter how hard the pirates tried to keep heading north. One or more of them would have heard the sound of the waves hitting the shore and shouted, “Breakers, breakers!” But it was simply too late.

The accident was succinctly described by Thomas Davis in his deposition before his trial for piracy in Boston, Massachusetts, in October of 1717:

The Ship being at an Anchor, they cut their Cables and ran a shoar, in a quarter of an hour after the Ship struck, the Main-mast was carried by the board, and in the Morning She was beat to pieces. About Sixteen Prisoners drown’d, Crumpstey Master of the Pink being one, and One hundred and forty-four in all.[5]

 

“Although the beach was just 500 feet away, the bitter ocean temperatures were cold enough to kill the strongest swimmer within minutes. Other crew members were crushed by the weight of falling rigging, cannon, and cargo as the ship, her treasure, and the remaining men on board plunged to the ocean floor, swallowed up by the shifting sands of the cape.”[6] Anyone reaching the shore would then be faced with the challenge of climbing the seventy-foot cliffs (now called Marconi Beach).

 

Aftermath           

When local residents arrived on the beach the next morning, “more than a hundred mutilated corpses lay at the wrack line with the ship’s timbers.”[7] Since the locals had no way of knowing how many men were on board the ship and obviously no knowledge of their names, individual corpses were not identified.

 

What Happened to the Others?

Around noon that same day nine men were arrested on suspicion of piracy. They had washed ashore off Wellfleet and were taken into the home of a local resident, where one of the original crew members of the Mary Anne, Andrew Mackonacky, exposed them as members of Bellamy’s crew.

First taken to Barnstable gaol in Wellfleet and then to Boston gaol the next day by horseback, Hendrick Quintor, Thomas South, Peter Cornelius Hoof, John Shuan, Thomas Baker, John Brown, Simon Van Vorst and Thomas Davis were tried in Boston, Massachusetts on 18 October 1717. South was the only one the court believed was a forced man and was acquitted. John Julian, also arrested that day, was sold into slavery. Davis was tried separately and also found not guilty.

 

Strange Tales Begin

Cape Cod folklore has many stories about a man who began to be seen not long after the wreck. The most famous reference to him is made by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote about the wreck of the Whydah and this stranger:

In the year 1717, a noted pirate named Bellamy was led on to the bar at Wellfleet by the captain of a snow which he had taken, to whom he had offered his vessel again if he would pilot him into Provincetown Harbor. Tradition says that the latter threw over a burning tar-barrel in the night, which drifted ashore; and the pirates followed it. A storm coming on, their whole fleet was wrecked, and more than hundred dead bodies lay along the shore. Six who escaped shipwreck were executed.

 

“At times to this day,” (1793) says the historian of Wellfleet, “there are King William and Queen Mary’s coppers picked up, and pieces of silver called cob-money. The violence of the seas moves the sands on the outer bar, so that at times the iron caboose of the ship [that is, Bellamy’s] at low ebbs has been seen.”

Another tells us that, “For many years after this shipwreck, a man of a very singular and frightful aspect used every spring and autumn to be seen traveling on the Cape, who was supposed to have been one of Bellamy’s crew. The presumption is that he went to some place where money had been secreted by the pirates, to get such a supply as his exigencies required. When he died, many pieces of gold were found in a girdle which he constantly wore.”[8]

Before the days of filing birth certificates with the county clerk and the Internet, it was not difficult for someone who wanted to escape the authorities to head a few towns away in any direction, make up a name, and start a new life.

The tales say that at night passers-by could hear screams and wails of torment and shouts of entreaty from within this man’s cabin. It as imagined that he was haunted by demons or the ghosts of his past crimes he had committed while pursuing a life of piracy.

Older tales told about how he frequently spent evenings in private houses, taking advantage of their hospitality to get free meals. If they had trouble getting him to leave, they simply started reading from the Bible or holding family devotions, causing him to leave.

Then, suddenly, they stopped seeing him. Some presumed he had traveled into Boston or another port and found work on a ship. Finally, someone was brave enough to enter his cabin, where he was found dead. Around his waist was a girdle filled with gold coins. He had claw marks around his neck.

 

A Last Tale

Amongst the many tales of this stranger is this one, which happened many years after the wreck:

One October [evening] in the year 1782, a resident of Eastham, after a great storm, decided to hike down along the beach toward the lower Cape, and reached the scene where the Whidaw had been wrecked… Far in the distance he saw a bonfire, and hastened toward it. Upon drawing closer, he discovered the same mysterious character known to almost every resident of that section.

This sinister individual, with a cocked pistol at his side, was three feet down, in a hole in the sand, and had just struck the top of a chest. The Eastham resident, in his excitement, dislodged a bit of material from the top of the cliff where he was walking, and the pirate, with an oath, sprang for his pistol.

The Cape Cod resident ran for the underbrush and escaped, but not before a close call from one of the pirate’s bullets. He returned several days later by daytime, but never found anything. The pirate was later found dead by the roadside with gold doubloons in his money belt.[9]

 

This last story is quite improbable, but the idea that someone could have survived the wreck is not impossible. Record-keeping in the early 1700s was rudimentary at best. And nearly all folklore has its basis in reality.

 

Let us know what you think of the article below.

Laura Nelson is the author of The Whydah Pirates Speak, available here: Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

[1] Clifford, Barry, Real Pirates, p. 130.

[2]The Trials of Eight Persons Indited for Piracy,” p. 319. Peter Cornelius Hoof said in his testimony: “The Money taken in the Whido, which was reported to amount to 20000 to 30000 Pounds, was counted over in the Cabin, and put up in bags, Fifty Pounds to every Man’s share, there being 180 Men on Board… but none was to take any without the Quarter Masters leave.”

[3] Clifford, Barry, Expedition Whydah, p. 260. “Technically known as an occluded front, the warm and moist tropical air is driven for miles upward where it cools and falls at a very high speed, producing high winds, heavy rain, and severe lightning.”

[4] Donovan, Webster. “Pirates of the Whydah.”

[5]The Trials of Eight Persons Indited for Piracy,” p. 318.

[6] Clifford, Barry, Real Pirates, p. 131.

[7] Donovan, Webster. “Pirates of the Whydah.”

 

[8] Thoreau, Henry David. Cape Cod. p. 186-187.

 

[9] Snow, Edward Rowe. Boston Sunday Post (28 September

1947).

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

April 26, 1717, started out as a typical day in the life of the band of pirates led by Sam Bellamy aboard their ship the Whydah Galley. Like most pirates of their day, they expected to spend it hunting down ships to plunder. They might even arrive at a safe port where they could trade some of their stolen loot for cash, then spend time in a tavern or brothel to blow their money on rum and women. Unfortunately for them, fate had something entirely different in mind.

Laura Nelson tells us about this pirate tale.

Piracy has a long tradition. Here is a fight after British sailors boarded an Algerian pirate ship. Painting from the nineteenth century.

Piracy has a long tradition. Here is a fight after British sailors boarded an Algerian pirate ship. Painting from the nineteenth century.

How It All Began

Bellamy had been in command of the Whydah since March. He had started out as a treasure hunter in Florida, diving for sunken Spanish treasure. He acquired a couple of periaguas (canoes) and plundered a few ships, then hooked up with Benjamin Hornigold, who provided him an opportunity to learn the craft of high seas piracy. When the crew rebelled because Hornigold wouldn’t attack English ships, Bellamy was elected captain, and his career took off. By the time the Whydah and the majority of her crew were lost on a shipwreck off Cape Cod in April of 1717, he had plundered about 50 ships and collected tens of thousands of dollars in treasure and coins.

The pirates sailed northward along the eastern seaboard of the American colonies that day reportedly headed for Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Some accounts say that Bellamy wanted to reconnect with his lover, Maria Hallet. Others say he was headed towards a tavern he knew of in the area where he could trade some of their goods for cash and other necessities. Around 4 to 6 in the morning, between Nantucket Shoals and St Georges banks, they crossed paths with a ship called the Mary Anne. Ordering the captain of the pink to strike her colors, Bellamy sent seven members of his crew over to her in a boat to take charge of her as a prize ship.[i]

 

The Day of the Wreck

Of the seven men sent aboard the Mary Anne, Hendrik Quintor, Peter Cornelius Hoof, John Shuan, John Brown, Thomas South, Thomas Baker and Simon Van Vorst, Baker came aboard with his sword drawn, while only South and Shuan came aboard unarmed. The armaments of choice were muskets, pistols, and cutlasses. The captain of the Mary Anne, Crumpstey, was ordered to go aboard the Whydah with his ship’s papers and five members of his crew. Once on board the Whydah the crew of the Mary Anne were promptly held as prisoners. A perusal of her papers revealed that she was carrying a cargo of 7,000 gallons of Madeira wine.

Back aboard the Mary Anne, the prize crew quickly discovered that a heavy cable was blocking access to the hold. Letting it go for the time being, they plundered the crew quarters, taking clothes and some bottles of wine that they found in the Captain’s cabin. Hearing of the discovery, some of the crew of the Whydah rowed over to get a couple of the bottles to take back and share amongst their crewmates.

While this was going on, some of the prize crew finally managed to move the cable blocking the hold and they were able to get at the barrels of Madeira. Van Vorst told two of the crewmen of the Mary Anne, Thomas FitzGyrald and Alexander Mackconachy, “That if he would not find liquor he would break his neck.”[ii] The pirates began to indulge.

Ordered by Bellamy to follow the Whydah, the pirates forced the crew of the Mary Anne to alternate taking turns at the wheel with them. Things were going fine until about 4 in the afternoon, when fog began to cover the sea. Bellamy then gave new orders to steer to the North, and put a light on the stern of the Whydah for the prize crew to follow. They also kept company with a sloop called the Fisher which was out of Virginia and that Bellamy had captured that same day.

But the prize crew had been partaking of the captured wine since morning, and began to fall behind. When Bellamy ordered them to keep up, Brown swore “That he would carry sail till she carried her masts away.”[iii] Baker told the remaining crewmen of the Mary Anne that they had a commission from King George, upon which Van Vorst answered, “We will stretch it to the Worlds end.”[iv]

Throughout the day the prize crew from the Whydah took charge of the Mary Anne, ordering her remaining crewmembers to do such chores as reefing the topsail. But, when they began to realize how leaky the Mary Anne was, everyone took turns manning the pumps.

About ten o’clock in the evening, the thick fog became a thunderstorm. “An Arctic storm from Canada was driving into the warm air that had swept up the coast from the Caribbean. The last gasp of a frigid New England winter, the cold front was about to combine with the warm front in one of the worst storms ever to hit the Cape.”[v] “According to eyewitness reports, gusts topped 70 miles [113 kilometers] an hour and the seas rose to 30 feet [9 meters].”[vi] They had long since lost sight of the Whydah. No one on board the Mary Anne could see adequately, and thus they failed to discover how close they were to the shore until they were amongst the breakers. By then it was too late, and the Mary Anne ran ashore. Upon realizing their plight, one of the prize crew cried out, saying “For God’s sake let us go down into the hold and die together!”[vii]

Everyone stayed in the Mary Anne’s hold for the rest of the night, at one point one of the prize crew asking FitzGyrald to read from the Common-Prayer Book, which he did for about an hour. When the ship ran onto shore, Baker went out and cut down the fore and mizzen masts in an effort to keep the ship from further peril.

 

The Next Morning

When they woke in the morning they found that one side of the ship had beached on dry ground and they could walk out onto what proved to be a small island. Shuan and Quintor broke into a crewman’s chest and took out some sweetmeats and other items to eat, washing it all down with more wine. Brown declared himself to be the captain and the other members of the prize crew to be his men. There was talk amongst them of trying to reach Rhode Island, at that time a haven for pirates.

Around ten o-clock that morning local residents John Cole and William Smith passed by and saw the men’s plight. They rowed over to the little island in a canoe and took them over to the mainland. While resting at Cole’s house, Mackconachy found the courage to speak up and reveal that these men were pirates and members of Bellamy’s company. Now they had no choice but to flee. They made a fateful decision to stop and refresh themselves at a tavern in Eastham, Massachusetts. There they were apprehended by Justice Doan. They spent the night in Barnstable Gaol in Eastham. The next day they were put on horseback and taken to Boston to await their trial.

During their journey to Boston the pirates were joined by two of their crewmates from the Whydah, Thomas Davis and John Julian. From Davis and Julian they learned that the Whydah had been lost in the storm after they lost track of her the night before and that they were the only two survivors. The men must have been despondent over the loss of their friends and their treasure.

 

Imprisoned

From the end of April until October the pirates were confined in Boston’s hot, foul jail. It is during this period of time that John Julian disappears from official records. Depending on what source you read, he either died in jail, escaped, or was sold into slavery. Some believe he may have been the Julian the Indian who is mentioned in a 1733 paragraph in The Weekly Rehearsal, a Boston newspaper, describing a slave who killed a bounty hunter while trying to escape who is going to be executed the next day.

To break the monotony of their confinement, the pirates were ministered to by the Reverend Cotton Mather, of Salem witch trial fame. The pirates from the Mary Anne were one of at least three groups of pirates he would minister to during his lifetime.[viii] Mather considered it a personal mission to persuade such men to repent. At one point he felt so good about the work he was doing with one of them that he noted in his diary, “Obtain a reprieve and, if it may be, a pardon for one [of the] Pyrates, who is not only more penitent, but also more innocent than the rest.”[ix] Unfortunately, inquiries into historical records in Boston failed to unearth any evidence that Mather ever took any official steps towards obtaining an actual pardon, nor for which of the pirates he was referring to.

Unknown to the pirates, while they languished in prison, Blackbeard was making plans to come to Boston to attempt a rescue. He set out from the West Indies, (or never left the harbor, depending on which source you read), but had not gotten very far when he learned that the authorities in Boston had ordered a blockade of the harbor with a man-of-war and several other ships. After the six pirates were hanged, he took out his vengeance on several ships from Boston, burning them to the waterline, cargo and all, including a ship called the Protestant Caesar, in the Bay of Honduras.

Something else the pirates didn’t know about was that on September 5, 1717, King George I issued a royal proclamation for the suppression of piracy that included a pardon. The pardon read, in part:

we do hereby promise, and declare, that in Case any of the said Pyrates, shall, on or before the Fifth Day of September, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighteen, surrender him or themselves, to one of our Principal Secretaries of State in Great Britain or Ireland, or to any Governor or Deputy Governor of any of our Plantations beyond the Seas, every such Pirate and Pirates so surrendering him, or themselves, as foresaid, shall have our gracious Pardon…[x]

This date is important because there is some debate as to when exactly the authorities in Boston became aware of the pardon’s existence. There is some speculation that they knew the arrival of the pardon was imminent and thus hastened the trial and execution. On December 9, 1717, the Boston News-Letter published the proclamation.

 

Pre-Trial Interrogation

Each of the pirates was interrogated before the trial. Unfortunately the name or position of the person or persons who conducted the interviews is not mentioned, and the men’s answers are written in paragraph form, rather than in the question and answer format we’re used to seeing in modern court transcripts.

John Brown of Jamaica spoke at length about how he was originally a captive of Louis Labous’ ship. After four months he requested to transfer to Bellamy’s ship in hopes of escaping more easily.[xi] Brown tells of the movement of the pirates during the past year, including some of the places they visited and ships they plundered. He also told of how there were 50 forced men and that the pirates kept a watchful eye over them. The forced men’s names were entered onto the watch bill (duty roster) and they had to perform ship’s duties the same as the pirates.

Thomas Baker, from Flushing, Holland, said that he was never sworn as the rest of the men were, and that married men were sent away rather than being forced. When he pleaded with Bellamy to be released, Bellamy threatened to maroon him “if he would not be easy.”[xii] The pirates had about 20,000 to 30,000 pounds aboard, which he said the Quarter Master declared any man could have some if he wanted. Baker described how the pirates flew a black flag with a Death’s Head and crossed bones on it when they attacked ships.

Thomas Davis of Wales said he was by trade a Shipwright and was also originally a captive of Labous. Davis gives the number of forced men as being one hundred and thirty.

Peter Cornelius Hoof of Sweden said that about three weeks after he was taken captive there was a disagreement amongst the pirates about what ships of what nations to attack. As a result of the disagreement, Benjamin Hornigold and a few of his loyal men departed the company. Hoof stated that “the Money taken in the Whido, which was reported to Amount to 20,000 to 30,000 Pounds, was counted over in the Cabin, and put up in bags, Fifty Pounds to every Man’s share, there being 180 Men on Board… Their Money was kept in Chests between Decks without any guard, but none was to take any without the Quarter Master’s leave.”[xiii]

John Shuan of Nantes, France, said that he was taken captive by Bellamy while coming from Jamaica. Shuan said he also was never sworn.

Simon Van Vorst of New York was another man who was originally held captive by Labous and later transferred to Bellamy. Bellamy told him he couldn’t leave the company until they had more volunteers or he would maroon him.

Hendrick Quintor of Amsterdam was originally a captive of Labous. He said that he and the other six men who were sent on board the Mary Anne were forced men.

Thomas South of Boston said that the pirates forced the unmarried men from his ship to stay on board Bellamy’s vessel. The pirates brought arms to him and threatened him when he wouldn’t take any. He told a member of the Mary Anne’s crew that he would run away from the pirates if the opportunity arose.

 

Preparing for the Trial

Finally on October 18, 1717, the pirates were brought to the State House in Boston for trial. On this first day the indictments “for Crimes of Piracy, Robbery & Felony committed on the high Seas”[xiv] against the pirates were read and included several articles: First, that the pirates “without lawful Cause or Warrant, in Hostle manner with Force & Arms, Piratically & Feloniously did Surprize, Assault, Invade, and Enter… the Mary Anne of Dublin…” Second, they did “Piratically & Feloniously seize and imprison Andrew Crumpstey, Master thereof….” Third, they did “Piratically & Feloniously Imbezil, Spoil and Rob the cargoe of said vessel….” And fourth, they “were powered and subdued the said Master and his Crew, and made themselves Masters of the said Vessel… di then and there Piratically & Feloniously Steer and Direct their course after the above-named Piratical Ship, the Whido, intending to joyn and accompany the same, and thereby, to enable themselves better to pursue and accomplish their Execreble designs to oppress the Innocent, and cover the Seas with Depredations and Robberies.”[xv]

After the indictments were read, Van Vorst requested, and the pirates were granted, council, a move that was not generally common in trials at that time. Robert Auchmuty argued that the court did not have jurisdiction because the commission of the late Queen Anne had ended with her death. The court countered that the proclamations of King George were sufficient jurisdiction. He also asked that Thomas Davis, the Whydah’s carpenter, be brought in to give evidence on the pirate’s behalf. The motion was rejected because Davis was also in prison for the same offense and was waiting to be tried separately. When his motion to have Davis called as a witness for the pirates was denied, Auchmuty resigned and left the court.

The pirates all held up their hands and pleaded not guilty except Shuan, who managed to make known to the court that he didn’t understand the proceedings because he didn’t speak English. The court then swore in Mr. Peter Lucy to translate for Shuan at which point Shuan also pleaded not guilty. The prisoners were provided copies of the indictment along with the names of the King’s witnesses and sent back to Gaol until the court convened again.

 

The Trial Begins

The court reconvened on October 22, 1717. The pirates, of unknown education and level of literacy and only one attorney, faced a powerhouse court consisting of:

                  His Excellency Samuel Shute, Esq., Governour, Vice Admiral & President;

                  The Honourable William Dummer, Esq., Lieutenant Governour;

The Honourable Elisha Hutchinson, Penn Townsend, Andrew Belcher, John Cushing, Nathaniel Norden, John Wheelwright, Benjamin Lynde, Thomas Hutchinson, and Thomas Fitch, Esqrs., of His Majesty’s Council for this Province;

                  John Meinzies Esq., Judge of the Vice Admiralty;

Capt. Thomas Smart Commander of His Majesty’s Ship of War the Squirrel, and John Jekyll Esq., Collector of the Plantation Duties.[xvi]

 

An interesting part of reading the trial transcript is that the prosecutor and witnesses have statements of one or more paragraphs, while the pirates’ statements are only a sentence or two, an inaccuracy in transcribing the actual trial proceedings that would be shocking today.

Then the Advocate General gave a long speech addressing the crimes of the pirates. His speech is written out over three pages in small letters. One of his first arguments is that since most governments have declared pirates to be enemies of mankind, “therefore he can claim the Protection of no Prince, the privilege of no Country, the benefits of no Law.”[xvii] He describes how piracy is a more heinous crime than many because since it is conducted on the high seas, its victims often have no chance for rescue or escape, and are left helpless after the crime.

Then the witnesses were called. Thomas FitzGyrald, late mate of the Mary Anne, testified that when Baker came on board he approached Captain Crumpstey with his sword drawn and ordered him to board the Whydah with his papers and five of his hands. That action left himself, Alexander Mackonachy, and James Dunavan behind on the Mary Anne.

FitzGyrald said that he was told by Van Vorst that if they didn’t find liquor he would break his neck.

He said Baker bragged that they had a commission from King George, and Van Vorst then declared that they would “stretch it to the World’s End.”[xviii]

He then told of how at one point in the evening Baker threatened to shoot Mackonachy through the head because he had steered to windward of their course, and that shooting him was no more to him than shooting a dog.

Other witnesses were brought in to testify that they had been held by either Bellamy or Labous at one point, and that while they were imprisoned Brown was very active among them and that Shuan had declared to all that “he was now a pirate” willingly climbed and unrigged the main top-mast in response to an order by the pirates.[xix]

When the witnesses were done, the pirates were given an opportunity to speak for themselves. Each one reiterated that they were forced men under threat of death or marooning. Van Vorst added that the Mate of the Mary Anne revealed that he was inclined to be a pirate himself, so he declined to reveal to him that he actually wanted to try and escape. [xx]

Baker declared that he tried once to escape at Spanish Town, but Bellamy “sent the Governour word that they would burn & destroy the Town, if the said Baker, and those who concealed themselves with him were not delivered up. And afterwards he would have made his escape at Crab Island, but was hindered by four of Capt. Bellamy’s Company.”[xxi]

 

The Verdict

Ultimately, the court found it not credible that Bellamy and Labous would force men into piracy. All of them were found guilty except Thomas South. South fell on his knees and thanked the court. He was allowed to leave.

Then the court told the pirates that they would be taken to be hanged by the neck until dead. On November 15, 1717, the remaining six pirates were escorted to Charlestown Ferry for the hanging.

                 

Mather walks with the Pirates

The afternoon of the execution, as the pirates were led from the jail through town to a canoe at the harbor, they were accompanied by Rev. Mather. Mather took time to speak with each of them as they walked. It must be noted that Mather wrote down from memory what he spoke to each of them about and their responses after the fact. Each man repented, but that of course did not save them from the hangman’s noose.

Van Vorst reiterated that they were all forced men, and that his biggest regret was “my Undutifulness unto my Parents; And my Profanation of the Sabbath.”[xxii]

Hoof declared that “my Death this Afternoon is nothing ‘tis nothing; ‘Tis the wrath of a terrible GOD after Death abiding on me, which is all that I am afraid of.”[xxiii]

Quintor told Mather “’Tis a Dark Time with me.”[xxiv]

When they reached the site of their execution, they heard a prayer given by the Minister of the city. Then they led onto the scaffold, at which point Baker and Hoof were said to appear to be “very distinguishingly Penitent.”[xxv] Brown, however, was said to have broken out in a fury, using language he had become accustomed to in the company of the pirates. He then read some prayers from a book he had been carrying, and gave a short speech advising sailors to “beware of all wicked Living, such as his own had been; especially to beware of falling into the hands of the Pirates: But if they did, and were forced to join with them, then, to have a care whom they Kept, and whom they let go and what Countries they come into.”[xxvi]

The others said little except for Van Vorst, who along with Baker sang a Dutch psalm, and advised youngsters to “Lead a Life of Religion, and keep the Sabbath, and carry it well to their Parents.”[xxvii]

 

The Execution

In 1717 hangings were not like you see in Wild West movies where the noose is tied around the neck, a horse or wagon is kicked out from underneath the condemned, his neck snaps from the force of the drop and, in a couple of minutes, he is dead. Hanging at this time was done by a method called the short drop. The noose was around the neck, but the body was only dropped a short distance, not enough to break the neck. What killed the person was the slow movement of the noose against the larynx, causing a prolonged, torturous death by slow asphyxiation. The entire process takes about fifteen to twenty minutes, during which time the body naturally convulses as the person chokes and gags while struggling for breath.

Hangings in this day were a public event, attended by hordes of people, who jeered and taunted the victims. Even children were brought along to watch the victims choke to death.

No death certificate exists for any of the pirates. As a deterrent to piracy, pirates’ bodies would be covered in tar and then caged in iron gibbets that were hanged from a scaffold in full view of the harbor. The tar was supposed to slow down the deterioration of the body. They would then be left there to rot, sometimes for years as a warning to sailors not to take up the profession of piracy.

 

Did you find this article intriguing? If so, share it, tweet about it, or like it by clicking on one of the buttons below.

 

[i] Pirate lingo for a ship that the pirates captured with the intention of plundering it for whatever goods (and sometimes even members of the crew) might be aboard and be of value or use to them.

[ii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 304.

[iii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 303.

[iv] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 304.

[v] “Technically known as an occluded front, the warm and moist tropical is driven for miles upward where it cools and falls at a very high speed, producing high winds, heavy rain, and severe lightning.”  Clifford, Barry with Paul Perry. Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her, Cliff Street Books, 1999, p 262.

[vi] Donovan, Webster. “Pirates of the Whydah,” National Geographic Magazine (May 1999).

[vii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 304.

[viii] Vallar, Cindy. “Cotton Mather: Preacher to the Pirates,” in the online magazine Pirates and Privateers, October/November 2008 and January/February 2009. www.cindyvallar.com/mather.html. Other pirates he administered to included John Quelch in 1704 and William Fly in 1726.

[ix] Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Harcourt, 2007, p 227.

[x] Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. John F Blair, publisher, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2006, p 243.

[xi] Louis Labous, or Olivier Levasseur, was a French pirate who sailed in consort with Bellamy from about mid-1716 until about January of 1717.

[xii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 318.

[xiii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 318 – 319.

[xiv] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p 296 – 297.

[xv] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p 296 – 297.

[xvi] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p 299.

[xvii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 300.

[xviii] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 303.

[xix] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 305.

[xx] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 306.

[xxi] “The Trials of Eight Persons Indited For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, p. 306.

[xxii] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p. 135.

[xxiii] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p. 139.

[xxiv] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p. 140.

[xxv] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p 143.

[xxvi] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p 143.

[xxvii] Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, p 144.

Bibliography

Clifford, Barry with Paul Perry Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her, Cliff Street Books, 1999.

Donovan, Webster. “Pirates of the Whydah,” National Geographic Magazine (May 1999).

Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. John F Blair, publisher, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2006.

Mather, Cotton. “Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, 4:129-144.

“The Trials of Eight Persons Indited[sic] For Piracy” in British Piracy in the Golden Age, edited by Joel H. Baer, Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 2:289 – 319.

Vallar, Cindy. “Cotton Mather: Preacher to the Pirates,” in the online magazine Pirates and Privateers, October/November 2008 and January/February 2009.

Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Harcourt, 2007.

 

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post
2 CommentsPost a comment

Peter Cornelius Hoof was taken captive by pirates nearly three centuries ago. But Laura Nelson has an intriguing connection to him. Here, she follows on from her first post (link here) and continues to tell Hoof’s intriguing story of capture and life on the high seas.

 

Of being in prison, Peter said there was never enough food or water. He was always thirsty and hungry. There were long hours of nothing to do but sit and think – think about how he would like to see his family again and how he had disappointed his father and broken his mother's heart. He thought of the sorrow he was causing them, how he should have returned to his family, and what he wouldn't give to hug his mother again and hear her voice.

 "Mr C. Pitt as the Bloodhound of the Bay", a portrait of a pirate in the Museum of London.

 "Mr C. Pitt as the Bloodhound of the Bay", a portrait of a pirate in the Museum of London.

On 5 September 1717, unknown to the incarcerated pirates, King George I issued a royal proclamation for the suppression of piracy that included a pardon.

. . . we do hereby promise, and declare, that in Case any of the said Pyrates, shall, on or before the Fifth Day of September, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighteen, surrender him or themselves, to one of our Principal Secretaries of State in Great Britain or Ireland, or to any Governor or Deputy Governor of any of our Plantations beyond the Seas; every such Pirate and Pirates so surrendering him, or themselves, as foresaid, shall have our gracious Pardon . . . (Pirate’s, 81)

This is important to note, because there is some debate as to when exactly the authorities in Boston became aware of the pardon. There is some speculation that they knew the arrival of the pardon was imminent and thus hastened the trial and execution before it did. “The proclamation was sent out to the governors in the West Indies and the American colonies, who then had the responsibility of contacting the pirates.” (Cordingly, 205) On 9 December 1717, the Boston News-Letter published the proclamation. The Whydah pirates had been tried and convicted in October.

While the pirates awaited their trial, the Reverend Cotton Mather ministered to them. The eight pirates from the Mary Anne were about the third group of pirates he had ministered to since the famous Salem witch trials of 1690. At one point during the course of these discussions, Mather noted in his diary, "Obtain a reprieve and, if it may be, a pardon for one [of the] Pyrates, who is not only more penitent, but also more innocent than the rest." (Woodard, 227) Unfortunately, inquiries into historical records in Boston failed to unearth any evidence that Mather ever took any official steps towards obtaining such a pardon, nor for which specific pirate he meant to do so.

Peter says that during one of his sessions, the Reverend Mather wrote a letter to Peter's parents for him. He told them how sorry he was for hurting them so much. He also apologized for being a bad son and for not being more dutiful to them.

During the interrogation before his trial, Peter gave exact information about the treasure aboard the Whydah:

" The money taken in the Whido, which was reported to Amount to 20000 or 30000 Pounds, was counted over in the Cabin, and put up in bags, Fifty pounds to every Man's share, there being 180 Men on Board. . . . Their Money was kept in Chests between Decks without any guard, but none was to take any without the Quarter Masters leave." (Trial, 319)

Tried alongside Peter were Simon Van Vorst, John Brown, Hendrick Quintor, John Shuan, Thomas South, and Thomas Baker. It was time for them to face the court, and what a court they faced!

His Excellency Samuel Shute Esq; Governour,

Vice Admiral, & President. The Honourable William Dummer Esq;

 Lieutenant Governour. The Honourable Elisha Hutchinson, Penn Townsend, Andrew Belcher, John Cushing, Nathaniel Norden, John Wheelwright, Benjamin Lynde, Thomas Hutchinson, and Thomas Fitch, Esqrs; of His Majesty's Council for this Province.

John Meinzies Esq; Judge of the Vice Admiralty.

Capt. Thomas Smart Commander of His Majesty's Ship of War the Squirrel, and John Jekyll Esq; Collector of the Plantation Duties. (Trial, 299)

The indictment “for Crimes of Piracy, Robbery & Felony committed on the high Sea” included several articles. First, the pirates “without lawful Cause or Warrant, in Hostile manner with Force & Arms, Piratically & Feloniously did Surprize, Assault, Invade, and Enter . . . the Mary Anne of Dublin . . . ." (Trial, 296) Second, they did "Piratically & Feloniously seize and imprison Andrew Crumpstey Master thereof . . . ." Third, they did "Piratically & Feloniously Imbezil, Spoil and Rob the cargoe of said Vessel . . . ." And fourth, they "over powered and subdued the said Master and his Crew, and made themselves Masters of the said Vessel . . . did then and there Piratically & Feloniously Steer and Direct their course after the above-named Piratical Ship, the Whido, intending to joyn and accompany the same; and thereby, to enable themselves better to pursue and accomplish their Execrable designs to oppress the Innocent, and cover the Seas with Depredations and Robberies." (Trial, 297)

After reading the indictments, the court declared "all and each of them ought to be punished by Sentences of the said Court with the pains of Death, and loss of Lands, Goods and Chattels, according to the direction of the Law, and for an Example and Terror to all others." (Trial, 297)

At this point in the trial, Simon Van Vorst asked for counsel for the pirates "that so they might be well advised on what to do." (Trial, 297) His request was granted, and one attorney, Robert Auchmuty, was appointed to defend all seven of the pirates, but after two of his motions were denied, he resigned. (Trial, 299) One of those motions was to allow Thomas Davis, a carpenter on the Whydah, to be brought in to give evidence on the pirates' behalf. The motion was rejected because Davis was also in prison for the same offense and his guilt or innocence had not yet been determined. (7) So the illiterate pirates were left to face the court alone. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were given copies of the indictment and about two days to prepare for their trial. Weakened after months of confinement in a dark cell and a bread-and-water diet and compelled to stand during these proceedings, you can imagine how hard it was for any of the pirates to understand what the Advocate General was saying, much less what all of it meant. Mostly they understood that the entire proceedings were set heavily against them and they were in serious trouble.

During the trial, Peter declared in his defense that "He was taken by Capt. Bellamy in a vessel whereof John Cornelius was Master, That the said Bellamy's company Swore they would kill him unless he would joyn with them in their Unlawful Designs." (Trial, 306)

An interesting part of reading the trial transcript is that the prosecutor and witnesses have statements of one or more paragraphs, while the pirates' statements are sometimes only a sentence or two long. Obviously not much care was taken to record what each one actually said in his defense, an obvious bias by today's standards.

During their imprisonment, Blackbeard vowed to come to Boston to rescue them and actually did set out towards Boston from the West Indies. But before he had gone far, or had even left the harbor (depending on what source you read), he found out the authorities in Boston had blockaded the harbor with a man-of-war and several other ships. This represented way too much firepower for a pirate ship, so Blackbeard abandoned the rescue attempt. After the six pirates were hanged, he took out his vengeance on several ships from Boston, burning them to the waterline, cargo and all. One specific example was a ship called the Protestant Caesar, in the Bay of Honduras.

Although Peter’s trial was completed on 18 October, he and the other pirates were not hanged until 15 November 1717. All of them, except Thomas Davis, were found guilty of the crimes of piracy, robbery and felony on the High Seas. They were sentenced to be hanged until dead. Thomas Davis, a carpenter, was the only one whose plea of being a forced man was believed by the court. He was found not guilty.

In 1717 hanging was not like you see in Wild West movies where the noose is tied around the neck, a horse or wagon is kicked out from underneath the victim, his neck snaps from the force of the drop and, in a couple of minutes, he is dead. Hanging at this time was done by a method called the short drop. The noose was around the neck, but the body was only dropped a short distance, not enough to break the neck. What killed the person was the slow movement of the noose against the neck, causing a prolonged, torturous death by slow asphyxiation. The entire process took about fifteen to twenty minutes, during which time the body naturally struggled to breathe.

Hangings were a public event, attended by hordes of people, who jeered and taunted the victims. Even children were brought along to watch the victims choke to death. To get to the scaffold, the pirates walked through town to a canoe, where they were then rowed across to the mudflats at the Charlestown ferry landing to be hanged.

Cotton Mather accompanied them to the place of execution. Unfortunately, he did not record all of the conversations he had with the eight men during their several months of confinement. Aside from their interrogations before the trial, Mather only published his final conversations with them as they walked to the gallows. To add yet another unfortunate aspect to the lack of historical documents, he only wrote down these conversations after the hangings were concluded. He apparently was not accompanied by any sort of secretary or scribe to record the conversations as they happened. So their content must be seen through the filter of Mather's recollection.

He recorded his final conversation with Peter thusly:

CM: Hoof; A melted Heart would now be a comfortable Symptom upon thee. Do you find anything of it?

PH: Something of it; I wish it were more!

CM: To pursue the Good Intention, I will now give a Blow with an hammer, that breaks the Rocks to pieces. I will bring you the most Heart-melting Word, as ever was heard in the World. We find in the Sacred Scripture such a word as this; CHRIST, who is GOD, does beseech you, Be ye Reconciled unto GOD. That ever the Son of GOD should come to us, with such a Message from His Eternal Father! What? After we have so Offended His Infinite Majesty! After we have been so Vile, so Vile – and He stands in so little Need of us! To beseech such Criminals, to be Reconciled unto the Holy GOD, and be willing to be Happy in His Favour! O Wonderful! Wonderful! Methinks, it cannot be heard without flowing Tears of Joy!

PH: Ah! But what shall I do to be Reconciled unto GOD!

CM: Make an Answer, make an Echo, unto this Wonderful World of your SAVIOUR. And what can you make but this? – And for this also, you must have the Help of His Grace to make it; O my dear SAVIOUR, I beseech thee to Reconcile me unto GOD.

PH: Oh! That it might be so!

CM: A Reconciliation to GOD is the only thing that you have now to be concern’d about. If this be not accomplished before a few minutes more are Expired, you go into the Strange Punishment reserved for the Workers of Iniquity. You go, where He that made you, will not have Mercy on you; He that formed you, will shew you no favour. But it is not yet altogether Too Late. An Hearty Consent unto the Motions of the Reconciler, will prepare you to pass from an Ignominious Death, into [an] Inconceivable Glory.

PH: Oh! Let me hear them!

CM: First, You must Consent unto This; O my SAVIOUR, I fly to thy Sacrifice, I beg, I beg, that for the sake of That, thy Wrath may be turned away from me; I cannot bear to have thy Wrath Lying on me! Can you say so!

PH: I say it, I say it! CM: But then, you must Consent unto This also; O my SAVIOUR, I Cry unto thee, to take away all that is contrary to GOD in my Soul; and cause me to Love God with all my Soul; and Conquer my depraved Will; and bring to Right all that is Wrong in my Affections; and let my Will become entirely subject unto the Will of GOD in all things. Can you say so.

PH: I say it, I say it!

CM: lf it be heartily said, The Reconciliation is accomplished. But if you were to Live your Life over again, how would you Live it?

PH: Not as I have done!

CM: How then?

PH: In serving of GOD, and in doing of Good unto Men.

CM: God Accept you. Oh! That your SAVIOUR, might now say to you as He said in a Dying Hour, unto One, who died as a Thief, This Day thou shalt be with me in Paradise. I do with some Encouragement leave you in His Glorious Hands.

PH: O my dear JESUS! I lay hold on thee; and I resolve, never, never, to let thee go!

CM: May he help you to keep you hold, of the Hope set before you.

PH: My death this Afternoon is nothing 'tis nothing; 'Tis the wrath of a terrible GOD after Death abiding on me, which is all that I am afraid of.

CM: There is JESUS, who delivers from the Wrath to come; With Him I Leave you. (Mather, Instructions, 138-139)

On the scaffold, awaiting their hanging, Peter and Thomas Baker appeared “very distinguishingly Penitent.” (Mather, Instructions, 143) Nothing else is said about the appearance of the other pirates. John Brown gave a speech in “too much of the Language he had been used unto." (Mather, Instructions, 143)

No death certificate exists for Peter. Lacking burial records, modern researchers believe that after the pirates were hanged, their bodies were subsequently covered in tar and hung in gibbets near the harbor to rot and serve as a warning to sailors against becoming pirates. Absent other evidence, it would seem that this was the fate of the Whydah pirates.

Unfortunately, because of centuries of “wharfing-out,” the filling in and building up of land to extend the city farther into the harbor, it is no longer possible to walk the same ground that Peter did in 1717, as that ground simply no longer exists. The jail where he was held is long gone. The Old State House, where the trial was held, used to be almost at the harbor, but is now in the middle of downtown Boston (again because of the wharfing-out process). The building itself only vaguely resembles its original design. It has been re-purposed, restored, and re-built several times over the ensuing centuries. For example, the last time it was "re-worked," the architect installed a spiral staircase, which is not authentic to the building as the original design did not have one. Early in the 1900s the basement of the Old State House was excavated and turned into a subway stop now appropriately called the State station. It took public outcry to bring in legislation to prevent further commercialization of the building.  

While visiting Boston, I made a trip to Provincetown, on Cape Cod, to visit the Whydah Pirate Museum. There I was able to see even more artifacts of the wreck of the Whydah. I was able to touch more coins, some ballast stones, a cannon round, and a bar shot. And yes, I got the same energy drain that I experienced during the traveling Real Pirates exhibit. In fact, I almost fell over!

Through all of this, Peter has been a wonderful person to work with. He was a happy-go-lucky person before the pirates took him captive. He still has a wonderful sense of humor. He also has the manners of a gentleman, even though the class restrictions of his day prevented him from actually being one. This ability to walk in both worlds, the world of manners and the world of the pirates, allowed him to survive and function among the pirates. I hope that writing this article will help his soul to move forward as he hoped.

The lesson I wish for you to take away from this is that any one of us, even someone who considers himself or herself to be a nice person, as Peter did, can make a poor choice or a bad decision. In Peter’s case, his choices and decisions put him into a situation that he could not readily get out of. It can happen to anyone.

 

This article is provided by the Pirates and Privateers blog here.

If you have questions about Peter, you can contact Laura at PeterandLaura55@yahoo.com, or you can visit her blog via: PeterCorneliusHoof.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2013 by Laura Nelson.

Notes

1. Real Pirates tells the story of the Whydah and how she went from being a slave ship to a pirate ship. It’s a traveling exhibition sponsored by National Geographic with artifacts from the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts and established by Barry Clifford, the underwater explorer who discovered the wreck of the Whydah off Cape Cod.

2. Peter Hoof is not the lover that is mentioned here. That person’s name is Andre.

3. A periaga, more commonly spelled piragua or pirogue, was a canoe favored by Caribbean pirates during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Both Alexandre Exquemelin and William Dampier described them in their books. Benerson Little provides more details on these favored boats in A Sea Rover’s Practice on pages 49-52.

4. Appointed chief physician to the Haslar Naval Hospital in 1797, Thomas Trotter observed young patients who were despondent. “He attributed this to the horror of the patients whose next bed neighbor might be a seaman hospitalized because of brutal lacerations and festering sores at the draining sites of whiplash wounds on his back and buttocks.” (Friedenberg, 31) The United States Navy abolished flogging in 1840.

5. Nowadays we call this phenomenon the Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages or captives identify with their captors and perhaps even to defend them. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts and afterwards refused to testify against their captors. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse. Two of the most famous examples are Patty Hearst and, more recently, Elizabeth Smart. See "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome" by Nathalie de Fabrique, Stephen J. Romano, Gregory M. Vecchi, and Vincent B. Van Hasselt in the July 2007 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, US Dept. of Justice, FBI, 76:7, 10-15.

6. Eastham is on Cape Cod.

7. Davis was tried separately and found not guilty.

 

Further information

Burgess, Robert F. Finding Sunken Treasure: True Story of the Pirate Ship Whydah. Spyglass Publications, 2012.

Clifford, Barry. Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World's First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her. Cliff Street Books, 1999.

Clifford, Barry, and Kenneth J. Kinkor. Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. National Geographic, 2007.

Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Random House, 2006.

Dana, Richard Henry. Two Years Before the Mast. Penguin Books, 1840.

Dethlefsen, Edwin. Whidah: Cape Cod's Mystery Treasure Ship. Seafarer's Heritage Library, 1984. Friedenberg, Zachary B. Medicine under Sail. Naval Institute Press, 2002.

Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. John F. Blair, 1974. Mather, Cotton. "Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead" in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 4: 129-144.

Mather, Cotton. “Warnings to Them that Make Haste to be Rich, in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 4: 145-153.

The Pirate’s Pocket-Book edited by Stuart Robertson. Conway, 2008.

Rediker, Marcus. Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Beacon Press, 2005. Reynard, Elizabeth. "The ‘Pyrats’ and the Posse," in The Narrow Land: Folk Chronicles of Old Cape Cod. Chatham Historical Society, 1993.

"The Trials of Eight Persons lndited for Piracy" in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 2: 289-319. Vallar, Cindy.

 "Cotton Mather, Preacher to the Pirates" at Pirates & Privateers [http://www.cindyvallar.com/mather.html], 2009.

Vanderbilt, Arthur T. Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah. Schiffler Publishing, 2007.

Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Harcourt, 2007.

Special thanks to Bonnie Cormier of the Eastham Historical Society and Jessy Wheeler of the Boston Public Library for research help. Also to Cefton Springer for the stories of the use of the cat-o'-nine-tails in Barbados (his home country).

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post


Peter Cornelius Hoof was taken captive by pirates nearly three centuries ago. But Laura Nelson has an intriguing connection to him. Here, she tells Hoof’s intriguing story of capture and life on the high seas.

 

My interest in Peter Cornelius Hoof began when I attended the Real Pirates Exhibit in Denver, Colorado, in June 2011. (1) Like many people, found the exhibit fascinating and came away with two books about piracy and what I thought, at the time, was a new interest in pirates. While reading these books, I became conscious of Peter Hoof and began to have a particular interest in him. Why his name leapt out at me from the pages of these books, I do not know. I may never know. All I know is that it happened, and my life has been enriched ever since.

At one point in the exhibit, there was a display where visitors could actually touch coins from the wreck of the Whydah. While touching them, I felt a whooshing sensation and a drain of energy. I put it down to having been in the exhibit for a long time with no food or water. I just figured I must be really hungry and, once I got something to eat, I would feel better.

During the next month, I did a lot of research on pirates. They were definitely a new obsession. Not only was I doing a lot of research, I wrote about them, too! I had done some writing while in college, but following graduation I never seemed to write for more than a paragraph or two. After attending the exhibit, my dreams involved sequences of events surrounding pirates. When I wrote down the most recent sequence, the events in the dreams moved forward. Neither the writing nor the dreams was sequential. There was, however, one common theme: a pirate with brown hair and eyes, who either sought me out or appeared out of nowhere to protect me from a dangerous situation.

A month after my first visit, I returned to the exhibit. The second visit was in some ways more amazing than the first. When I approached the coin display, I discovered that, conveniently, no one else was around. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and asked if I had a connection to the wreck. I touched all of the coins, one or two at a time. Toward the end, a voice told me I was not on the Whydah, but that I lost a lover in the wreck. (2) Then I experienced the same whooshing sensation and drain of energy I had felt the first time I touched the coins.

About a month after my second visit to the exhibit, I chanced to run across a medium, who did past life regression, at a county fair in Denver. I told her what had been happening to me, and she confirmed I was not a pirate myself, but that I did know many of them. Several members of my immediate family left with the pirates, which angered me because I was a female in that past life and thus could not go with them.

During a second session with the medium in December 2011, Peter asked me to tell his story. His soul was stuck and telling his story would help him to move forward and go on. So I told his story to several people, but had a feeling while doing so that this was not the way to go. One friend said that even if it wasn't a best seller, I had to get his story out there. On that day, the idea for this article was born. Peter was not a captain among the pirates, but he was hanged for piracy, and for that reason his name is recorded in the record books.

As part of his interrogation before his trial, on 6 May 1717, Peter stated:

That he was born in Sweden, is about 34 Years old, and left his Country 18 Years ago. He Sail’d for the most part with the Dutch on the coast of Portobello, and has been with the Pirates fourteen Months. When he was taken by Bellamy in a Periaga, he belong’d to a Ship whereof one Cornelison was Master . . . (Trial, 318) (3)

At the time Peter was taken captive, Sam Bellamy still sailed with a pirate named Benjamin Hornigold, who sailed in consort with the French pirate, Louie Labous (also known as Olivier Levasseur or La Buse). La Buse got the nickname of "The Buzzard" for the swift and merciless way he had of attacking his victims.

Peter was considered to be “[a]mong the most prized of the new recruits.” (Clifford, 137) His previous seventeen years of sailing along the Spanish Main provided him with extensive knowledge of the southern Caribbean, and greatly added to the pirate’s navigational knowledge.

A lot of you are fairly familiar with how pirates in the Golden Age took captives. They came upon a boat swiftly and used methods calculated to instill the maximum amount of fear in their targets. Imagine the scene: A large number of armed, screaming pirates come pouring over the side of your vessel after firing a shot across the bow of the ship. The captain of your ship has only put up a paltry defense and stopped his ship based on the theory that giving in to the pirates will prevent them from doing any more damage than is necessary to passengers and crew. You are forced into a corner and made to kneel to reduce the chance of you retaliating.

Sailors in these days were poorly paid, some as little as a few shillings a month, so you have next to no personal possessions to speak of. Now the little that you own is in jeopardy of being taken away by the pirates.

Then the captain of your vessel is forced to relate the skills and marital status of each member of the crew. Some volunteer to join the pirates, wanting a life of lawlessness and plundering.

But not all go willingly. You are forced to accompany the pirates because of your knowledge and experience. You do not wish to join them, but your feelings in the matter are not considered. On the pirate vessel you are considered a prisoner. All of the status you spent your life working for is now gone. These people are not your friends. You have left behind the life you knew and the friends you made.

That night, you are lifted to your feet, blindfolded, and marched to you know not where. When the blindfold is torn off, you face a sort of tribunal of the most senior of the pirates. Keep in mind that on the old sailing vessels the areas below decks were poorly lit, so you cannot see well.

You face this tribunal alone. They sit behind a table. The rest of the pirates are amassed behind you, so there is no escape. If you refuse to sign the articles, you will be shot and your body will be summarily disposed of in the sea. So you sign, because you wish to live and have no alternative. After you sign, you realize that your life as you have known it is over and you feel as though you have made a deal with the devil.

During interrogation before their trial in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the Whydah pirates, John Brown, testified that Peter “was once whip’d for attempting to Run-away . . .”. (Trial, 318) In his examination, Simon Van Vorst relates that while on the island of St. Croix, “ (3) of their Men Ran away, and one of them being brought back was severely whipped.” (Trial, 319) But he did not give specific names.

The impression I got from Peter was that he felt this was his last chance to escape the pirates and return to his normal life. I also got the impression that at the "advanced" age of thirty-four, he wanted to return to a relationship with someone he had met in the past.

Flogging (whipping) in Peter's time was done with a cat-o'-nine-tails, a device with a handle and nine ropes, usually with a piece of lead at the end of each one to tear the skin. All descriptions I have seen of this punishment describe it as being excruciatingly painful.

During my next session with the medium, Peter described some of the ordeal: " After they were through whipping me, I could not move on my own. I slumped to the deck, helpless, tears streaming from my eyes, my throat raw from screaming, my body shaking uncontrollably with the pain. Eventually, someone took pity on me and picked me up, taking me to a dark quiet place where I was lucky that there was a doctor on board who cared enough to clean and stitch me up. My hands continued trembling for a long time; the pain is tremendous. I laid there nearly unmoving for three days. I had to be helped to the head and brought food. It was agony to eat. Eventually I was able to move on my own again, slowly at first, to keep the wounds from opening. I was lucky and my wounds did not become infected."

According to Thomas Trotter’s observations of flogging victims, "such whipped patients were so psychologically disturbed that they frequently went into fits of hysteria, weeping, and delirium, while the other men in the wards silently looked on and wept in sympathy, and finally turned their heads away." (Friedenberg, 31) (4)

Peter told me that he eventually became a pirate, but he did not torture or beat any prisoners or captives and did not approve of the pirates' treatment of women. The lesson he wished for me to take away from his experience was that you can do something bad, but not necessarily participate in every aspect of the bad thing.

Some pirate historians doubt that men were pressed into serving on pirate ships. Some insist they only pretended to be forced to hide the fact that they actually wanted to go with the pirates and share in the booty and freedom of the pirate lifestyle. Claiming to have been pressed was a common plea by those accused of piracy at their trials. During his interrogation, Peter stated that "[n]o married men were forced" (Trial, 319), which to me means that some men must have been pressed, otherwise why be concerned about whether or not a man was married? Unfortunately, the transcript gives only his responses, and not what the actual questions were. Also, the interrogations were written down after the fact.

In further defense of the idea that men were pressed into piracy, John Brown said, "there were about 50 Men forced, over whom the Pirates kept a watchful eye . . . ." He then goes on to say that "[t]he names of the forc[e]d Men were put in the watch Bill and fared as others"; meaning they were on the ship's duty roster and did the same shipboard tasks as the pirates. (Trial, 318)

But consider the situation: you have a person, forcibly taken from his job and his friends. He is threatened with death if he does not "sign on" as a pirate, and bullied and belittled by nearly everyone aboard. Peter testified during the trial, "Bellamy’s Company Swore they would kill him unless he would joyn with them in their Unlawful designs." (Trial, 306) (5)

When Peter was taken captive, Sam Bellamy was sailing as a member of Benjamin Hornigold's crew. Bellamy had joined Hornigold to learn the ropes of piracy. At the time of Peter's capture, Sam had taken it upon himself to attack Peter's ship while Hornigold was away getting supplies.

Three weeks after Peter was taken, a difference arose amongst Hornigold's crew about whether or not to attack English ships. Hornigold did not wish to attack them, but Sam and others felt they were missing out on too many potentially lucrative targets. Following pirate tradition, the entire crew voted. Sam was elected captain and sailed away with half of the crew and some captives. Hornigold went his own way with the dissenting pirates, including a man named Edward Teach, who would later become known as Blackbeard.

Bellamy and his crew of pirates traveled through Baya Honda, Cape Corrientes, and the Isle of Pines, then around to the eastern tip of Cuba. From June to August 1716, they were on the north coast of what is now Haiti. In September, they were in the area of present-day Puerto Rico. In October, they sailed from Samana Bay to Cape Nicholas, Hispaniola.

Around November or December 1716, Bellamy captured a galley called Sultana in the vicinity of St. Croix. With a few "piratical" alterations, he made her his new flagship. In January 1717, La Buse and his crew decided to leave Bellamy's company and head in another direction. Their parting was friendly.

Early in March, Bellamy was made aware of, either by unknown sources or by spotting, the Whydah, which was setting out on her return voyage to England after making the trip from Africa and the Caribbean (the "Middle Passage") to buy and sell slaves. Bellamy, who was seeking a "Ship of Force" so he could take larger prizes, pursued her. (Trial, 319) Peter's extensive knowledge of the South Caribbean was instrumental to the success of this pursuit, which lasted three days.

Once they caught up to the Whydah, Bellamy only had to fire one or two shots across her bow to make Captain Lawrence Prince surrender. After taking over the ship, Bellamy allowed Captain Prince and some of his men who did not wish to become pirates to sail away in the Sultana with a few provisions and some silver and gold. After taking a few days to re-fit the Whydah to suit the purposes of pirating, Bellamy continued sailing, turning towards the east coast of America.

Around 9:00 a.m. on 26 April 1717, Bellamy and his crew captured a ship called the Mary Anne. Seven names, including Peter's, were read off the watch bill and these were the men sent to board the prize. Five were armed with pistols and cutlasses. They took charge of the ship while sending five of her crew and captain to the Whydah to show Captain Bellamy their papers and be held as prisoners. The remaining crew members were kept on board Mary Anne to help sail the ship.

The pirates soon learned that her hold was loaded with casks of Madeira, however the hatch was covered with heavy cables, making it too difficult for them to get into right then. The pirates had to content themselves with some wine they found in the cabins. A second small boat came over from the Whydah to get some wine to take back there. They also took some of the crew's clothes.

Around 3PM, fog started to settle around the flotilla. This, in addition to being drunk, caused the pirates to have trouble following Bellamy's order to follow the Whydah and keep the vessels together. During the course of the evening, as the weather deteriorated, seven of the eight pirates aboard the Mary Anne worked on moving the cables off of the hatch to get at the Madeira in the hold. Once inside, they broke open the first barrels while taking turns at the helm.

Realizing the Mary Anne was falling behind, Bellamy slacked off long enough to allow them to catch up. He yelled at the pirates to "make more haste." In response, John Brown swore he would make the vessel "carry Sail till she carryed her Masts away." (Trial, 303)

The pirates then ordered their captives to help handle the sails and man the pumps, because the hull of the Mary Anne was leaking. By the time darkness fell, the helm was completely turned over to one captive, Thomas Fitzgerald. The storm was in full force by 10:00 p.m. Twenty to thirty-foot seas battered the Mary Anne. Eventually they lost sight of the Whydah, and found themselves among the breakers where the ship ran aground.

At this point, one or several of the pirates (unnamed), cried out, "For God's sake let us go down into the Hould & Die together." (Trial, 304) The pirates and their captives did spend the night in the hold. Thomas Fitzgerald, in response to a request from the pirates, read from the “Common-Prayer Book, which he did about an Hour . . . ." (Trial, 304)

On the morning of 27 April 1717, the men found that one side of the ship was on dry land and they could walk on to what proved to be an island without having to get their feet wet. They broke open a chest and ate sweetmeats (sugared fruits) and other food they found and drank more wine. A local named John Cole spotted them and, mistaking them for shipwrecked mariners, came across in a canoe to bring them ashore just outside Eastham, Massachusetts. (6) According to local folklore, while at Cole’s house, Peter gazed out the south window of the great room and saw men approaching the house. This posse was led by Cole's son, who had snuck out of the house to inform the authorities about the pirates. Justice of the Peace Joseph Doane finally went with him to check out the situation.

The pirates fled, but stopped at a tavern in Eastham. Legend says that Mr. Doane and the posse caught up to them at the tavern. He used liquor to loosen the pirates’ tongues. Later both the posse and the pirates went to sleep in the taproom. During the night, the pirates woke up and snuck out of the tavern.

Continuing to stick together, they struck out for Rhode Island, which was known to shelter pirates. Before noon, the posse overtook them. They were taken to Boston under a heavy, mounted guard. There they remained in Boston's hot, foul prison until Friday, 18 October 1717, when they were led into the Admiralty Court. (Reynard) They wore the same clothes they had worn the night of the shipwreck.


We shall continue the intriguing story of Peter Hoof in a blog post that will be published very soon.

This article is provided by the Pirates and Privateers blog here.

If you have questions about Peter, you can contact Laura at PeterandLaura55@yahoo.com, or you can visit her blog via: PeterCorneliusHoof.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2013 by Laura Nelson.

 

 

Notes

1. Real Pirates tells the story of the Whydah and how she went from being a slave ship to a pirate ship. It’s a traveling exhibition sponsored by National Geographic with artifacts from the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts and established by Barry Clifford, the underwater explorer who discovered the wreck of the Whydah off Cape Cod.

2. Peter Hoof is not the lover that is mentioned here. That person’s name is Andre.

3. A periaga, more commonly spelled piragua or pirogue, was a canoe favored by Caribbean pirates during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Both Alexandre Exquemelin and William Dampier described them in their books. Benerson Little provides more details on these favored boats in A Sea Rover’s Practice on pages 49-52.

4. Appointed chief physician to the Haslar Naval Hospital in 1797, Thomas Trotter observed young patients who were despondent. “He attributed this to the horror of the patients whose next bed neighbor might be a seaman hospitalized because of brutal lacerations and festering sores at the draining sites of whiplash wounds on his back and buttocks.” (Friedenberg, 31) The United States Navy abolished flogging in 1840.

5. Nowadays we call this phenomenon the Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages or captives identify with their captors and perhaps even to defend them. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts and afterwards refused to testify against their captors. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse. Two of the most famous examples are Patty Hearst and, more recently, Elizabeth Smart. See "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome" by Nathalie de Fabrique, Stephen J. Romano, Gregory M. Vecchi, and Vincent B. Van Hasselt in the July 2007 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, US Dept. of Justice, FBI, 76:7, 10-15.

6. Eastham is on Cape Cod.

 

Further information

Burgess, Robert F. Finding Sunken Treasure: True Story of the Pirate Ship Whydah. Spyglass Publications, 2012.

Clifford, Barry. Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World's First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her. Cliff Street Books, 1999.

Clifford, Barry, and Kenneth J. Kinkor. Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. National Geographic, 2007.

Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Random House, 2006.

Dana, Richard Henry. Two Years Before the Mast. Penguin Books, 1840.

Dethlefsen, Edwin. Whidah: Cape Cod's Mystery Treasure Ship. Seafarer's Heritage Library, 1984. Friedenberg, Zachary B. Medicine under Sail. Naval Institute Press, 2002.

Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. John F. Blair, 1974. Mather, Cotton. "Instructions to the Living, from the Condition of the Dead" in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 4: 129-144.

Mather, Cotton. “Warnings to Them that Make Haste to be Rich, in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 4: 145-153.

The Pirate’s Pocket-Book edited by Stuart Robertson. Conway, 2008.

Rediker, Marcus. Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Beacon Press, 2005. Reynard, Elizabeth. "The ‘Pyrats’ and the Posse," in The Narrow Land: Folk Chronicles of Old Cape Cod. Chatham Historical Society, 1993.

"The Trials of Eight Persons lndited for Piracy" in British Piracy in the Golden Age edited by Joel H. Baer. Pickering & Chatto, 2007, 2: 289-319. Vallar, Cindy.

 "Cotton Mather, Preacher to the Pirates" at Pirates & Privateers [http://www.cindyvallar.com/mather.html], 2009.

Vanderbilt, Arthur T. Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah. Schiffler Publishing, 2007.

Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Harcourt, 2007.

Special thanks to Bonnie Cormier of the Eastham Historical Society and Jessy Wheeler of the Boston Public Library for research help. Also to Cefton Springer for the stories of the use of the cat-o'-nine-tails in Barbados (his home country). 

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

In this article, Cindy Vallar tells the tale of the legendary early 19th century pirate, Jean Laffite, a man who played a major role in fighting for America against Britain.

 

Jean Laffite first appeared in New Orleans in 1803, but where was he born?

Marseilles, Bordeaux, St. Domingue? No one knows, because he told different stories to different people. He was the son of aristocrats guillotined during the French Revolution. He fled the slave revolts on the island of Haiti. Yet his instinctive familiarity with the marshes and bayous from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico and his ability to converse in French, Spanish, English, or Italian suggest that he grew up in the region where he plied his trade.

A depiction of Jean Laffite

A depiction of Jean Laffite

In 1803 New Orleans became part of the United States, but it was settled by the French, sold to the Spanish, and then returned to the French before Napoleon sold the territory to Thomas Jefferson. In spite of these changes, the city retained its French customs and language. Americans, including the new governor – William C. C. Claiborne – were not welcomed, partly because they considered the citizens of New Orleans to be lazy and lawless. They were aghast at the Creoles’ toleration of smuggling, which hindered merchant trade. Things came to a head between Claiborne and Laffite in 1813 when the governor issued a $500 reward for the privateer’s arrest. Within a week of the posting of those notices, new wanted posters appeared, offering $1,000 to anyone who delivered Governor Claiborne to Barataria. They were signed, Jean Laffite.

Barataria lies on the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 miles south of New Orleans. It was home to buccaneers and fishermen, but Jean Laffite organized them into a company of privateers and smugglers. He built a house, cottages, warehouses, barracoons (stockades that held slaves awaiting auction), a cafe, gambling den, and brothel. His men numbered one thousand, came from many countries, and included navigators, gunners, carpenters, cooks, sail makers, and riggers. He devised laws to protect the men and their women from lawless rampages. Retribution was swift: cast adrift for molesting a woman, hanged for murdering a Baratarian. He prized the American Constitution, believing in its freedoms. He prohibited his men from attacking American ships, naming death the penalty for violation of this rule. His ships sailed under letters of marque from Cartagena, a republic of Colombia fighting for its independence from Spain. (A letter of marque allowed privateers to legally plunder ships of the country at war with the country who issued the letter of marque. Pirates attacked any ship without this legal document.) They plundered cargoes of Spanish and English ships for slaves, silks, spices, jewels, furniture, household goods, art, food, and medicines.

 

Laffite and war with Britain

Two years after the United States declared war on Britain in 1812, a boat was lowered from HMS Sophia and sailed into Barataria under a white flag. Aboard were two British officers, Captain Lockyer and Captain McWilliams. They sought Laffite’s help in infiltrating the bayous and capturing New Orleans. They offered him land, gold, and a commission in the Royal Navy. Laffite told them he would give them his answer in two weeks, but once the officers returned to their ship, he forwarded the letters to Governor Claiborne. The governor believed in the authenticity of the letters and sought to postpone a planned naval assault on the smuggling enclave, but the majority of his council voted to carry out the attack as planned. While Jean waited for the governor’s response, more ships appeared off Barataria. Since they flew the American flag, the Bartarians greeted them with enthusiasm, but the Americans destroyed Laffite’s fleet and stronghold, then captured fifty of the smugglers, including Dominique Youx.

In spite of this, Laffite sought out Andrew Jackson, the Tennessee soldier who came to protect New Orleans. Although initially against any offer from the “hellish banditti,” Jackson reassessed his decision after Laffite offered him two things he desperately needed: 7,500 flints with powder and 1,000 fighting men. Although the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty to end the war was signed (but not ratified), there was little doubt the British would have captured New Orleans had Laffite and his men not fought under Jackson. The two batteries manned by Baratarians cut large swathes in the enemy rank. British casualties were enormous, but Jackson lost only thirteen men. President Madison pardoned Laffite and his men for their bravery.

For the next two years, Laffite tried through legal means to regain his property and ships confiscated when the Americans attacked Barataria, but he was forced to purchase them at the auction block. New Orleanians became less accepting of smugglers plying their trade. They wondered why a hero would violate the law. Jean felt betrayed and, in 1817, he sailed from New Orleans and established a new colony on Galveston Island. The colony prospered, but Laffite failed to prevent the influx of fugitives who defied his laws. In 1821 the American Navy delivered an ultimatum: leave or be blown to bits. Under cover of darkness, Laffite slipped away after setting fire to his stronghold.

Therein lies the final mystery of Jean Laffite. What happened to him? Did he die of fever in the Yucatan? Was he killed fighting pirates while at sea? Did he retire and raise a family, then die a quiet death in Illinois? No one knows. In death Jean Laffite continued to be what he’d been all his life – a legendary enigma.

 

By Cindy Vallar

This article is provided by Cindy from Pirates and Privateers. Click here to see more great pirate-related articles from Cindy.

 

Now, why not take a look at a former image of the week from New Orleans? Click here.