Fanny Campbell: Sailor, then pirate, then privateer. Fanny was from Lynn Massachusetts and was in love with a sailor as were so many. Her dear William Lovell had been taken by pirates, and pressed into their service, then the pirates were themselves taken and imprisoned in Cuba. Poor will was judged a pirate and sentenced along with his captors. Fanny had to do something, so she disguised herself as a man and signed onto the English merchant Brig Constance as second officer under the name Channing. Little did the captain know her true intentions of mounting a prison break, and would be quite likely against such an endeavor.
As the cruse went on in 1776, it became clear that the crew had little, in fact no, love for either the Captain or First Mate. The crew had, or acquired the notion that the Captain was planning on taking them to England to be impressed into the British Royal Navy. Fanny encouraged this, and mounted a mutiny. They were successful, and Fanny was elected Captain of the stolen brig. Thus turning her, and the entire crew into pirates. She turned the brig south, and several days later they were spotted by a British Bark, the George. The Captain of the George grew suspicious, and challenged the command of the Constance, and opened fire. The Constance returned fire, and in the end, it was the George that became a prize. Those who wished not to become pirates were set off in small boats, and the two ships headed of for Cuba.
The attack on Cuba was not only successful in rescuing poor Will, but ten other American prisoners. The crew still had no idea that Captain Channing was not who they thought he was / she was. Sailing together the Constance and the George soon took another British ship. This time it was a merchant ship with rather remarkable news. America had just declared War against Briton. It was almost automatic that they were no longer pirates, but privateers in the American cause. Only four of the combined crew decided to stay loyal to King and Country.
The Constance and the George sailed to Marblehead Massachusetts as the British had invaded Boston. Awaiting the proper papers for privateering to be drawn up, Will and Fanny returned to Lynn and were married. Will Lovell returned to the Constance and remained a privateer throughout the war, while Fanny retired from the sea and in time raised a rather large family.
Henry ‘Black’ Caesar: From Slave, to Pirate, to Captain. Born in West Africa, he grew to become a prominent tribal war chieftain widely known for his large size, great strength, and keen intellect. He evaded capture from slave traders many times, but was finally snared in a cunning trap. A slave trader showed him and his men a watch and other small things promising to show him and his twenty warriors more objects which were ‘too heavy and numerous to bring ashore’. But if they cared to see them, they were welcome to come aboard his ship.
Then inviting them to dinner with strong drink, which they naively accepted, the trap was set. Adding musical entertainment kept them occupied while the trap was sprung. The crew quietly raised anchor and slowly sailed away. When Caesar discovered the deception, he and his men charged their captors, but were overpowered and driven back by the sailors armed with swords and pistols. They had no other choice but to accept their captive situation. At least for the moment. There was one sailor among the crew Caesar grew to trust and befriend on the long voyage.
Nearing the Florida coast, a sudden hurricane threatened to smash the ship on the reefs. Fearing the ship’s destruction imminent, the sailor who had befriended Caesar, snuck below deck and freed him. When the ship was wrecked upon the reef, , the two loaded one of the longboats with arms ammunition and other supplies making good their escape. Riding the surf to shore, they waited out the storm. And since no one came looking for them after the storm passed, apparently they were the only survivors of the doomed ship.
They used the longboat posing as shipwrecked sailors to lure passing ships in close. When the ship stopped to give assistance, they would row out to the unsuspecting vessel that kindly offered to take them aboard. Once they were alongside the vessel, they brought out their guns demanding food, supplies and ammunition, threatening to kill the crew and sink the ship if they were refused. They continued using this tactic for some years amassing a sizable amount of treasure. Which, according to ledged, they stashed on Elliott Key for safe keeping. Black Caesar grew his operation by capturing a larger ship and adding a crew of pirates so that he could sail into deeper waters. However, as happens so often with partnerships, they had a falling out due to one of the oldest causes in history. A woman. Caesar’s friend brought her back from a ship they had raided, and they began to fight over her. Caesar killed his rescuer, shipmate and friend in a duel, and took the woman for his own.
Over time, he took on other pirates and was soon able to take ships on the open sea. Commanding his own ship he operated from a small island in the Florida Keys just north of today’s Key Largo. He was able to avoid capture by sailing his boat up Caesar’s Creek or some other inlet between Elliot and Old Rhodes Key. He continued to frequent the Florida Keys and used a clever method of healing his boat by lowering the mast and using rope and a metal ring embedded in stone which would hide it beneath the water from coast patrols.
It is rumored that he kept a harem of 100 women he seized from passing ships, but… And too, he had a prison of sorts where he kept captives for ransom. Which he would abandon to starve to death from time to time while on his raids. Tribal lore has a few children escaping captivity and living on berries and shellfish forming their own language and customs. (Lord of the flies anybody?) These lost children gave rise to native superstition that the island was haunted.
Around 1716 Caesar left Biscayne Bay and joined Blackbeard’s crew as a lieutenant on Queen Anne’s Revenge raiding American shipping in the Mid-Atlantic. At some point he was given command of a prize, and when the sloop commanded by Lt. Robert Maynard cornered Blackbeard’s two ships in the Ocracoke inlet, he was set on following Blackbeard’s instructions to the letter. And that was to blow up the ship and crew lest it be captured.
Upon Black Beard’s death, Caesar seized up a slow match and turned to ignite the trail of gunpowder leading to the magazine. However, Caesar was tackled by two prisoners who had freed themselves during the battle. He struggled with the men below deck until several of Maynard’s marines arrived and were able to restrain him. Taken prisoner by Maynard, he was turned over to the Virginia Colonial Authorities, and taken to Williamsburg where he was put on trial and convicted of piracy. He was hanged in Williamsburg Virginia, on 22 November 1718.
Even though none of his infamous treasure has ever been found on Elliot Key, many amateur treasure hunters continue to search for it today.
John Callice: Callice moved from his native Wales to London in his youth and in time became a retailer. He joined the navy, presumably as a quartermaster’s assistant, around 1570, and by 1574 was in command of a royal ship. Seizing an Italian merchantman, he sold her cargo in Cardiff and Bristol, and for nearly four years plundered European waters around the Severn estuary and the Bristol Channel with other captains under his command. He operated out of several houses and Inns, but his favorite was The Point House, at Angle in Pembrokeshire.
In late 1577, he was arrested, tried, and convicted on 6 counts of piracy. Languishing in a London prison for nearly a year awaiting the hangman’s noose, he received the Queen’s pardon in 1578. It wasn’t long before he fled England and became a pilot for Sir Henry Knolls in Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s expedition to plunder the Spanish Caribbean. However, Knolls and Callice attacked ships in English waters instead.
In 1580, Callice plundered in the North Sea capturing two ships near Germany. In 1582 he was commissioned by Captain William Fennier to help arrest pirates, but a year later Callice looted two Scottish merchantmen instead taking one as prize renaming her the Golden Chalice. The ships and cargo he took to Portsmouth. But soon after, in order to escape arrest, he abandoned the Golden Chalice for a swifter craft. His pursuer, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, claimed the Chalice and added it to the fleet for his 1583 Newfoundland expedition.
In late 1584, Callice was again with William Fennier as his lieutenant, licensed to take Spanish and Portuguese ships. In December of that year, Callice took command of a captured French warship, but got separated from Fennier in foul weather. Putting into port in Ireland, he was soon arrested, but was either released or escaped. Operating out of his home ground of southern Wales, he soon took several French ships, but soon had to leave Wales to avoid an outstanding judgment against him. He then moved his operation along the Barbary Coast for a while. In 1586, he was on the move again and worked the Mediterranean. The circumstances of his death in the Mediterranean in 1586 are sketchy at best. The best guess is he died in action.
Richard Sievers AKA; Dirk Chivers: The Dutch born Chivers signed aboard the Portsmouth Adventure as mate commanded by Captain Joseph Farrell in early 1694. Several months later was made captain, renamed the ship The Soldado, and was quite successful plundering several ships rich with booty In December 1695 they left New England bound for the Red Sea, and in April 1696 rounded the Cape of Good Hope. At Mayotta in the Comoro Islands they Left the disabled ship and signed aboard the Resolution commanded by Captain Robert Culliford. They sailed the Red Sea finding no prey, then turning back toward Madagascar took two Moors ships. But little did they get but some rice from one, and nothing from the other. Returning to Madagascar to refit they ran into a storm loosing near all their Masts. They were able to limp to Ill San Marie and refit there, but lost most of their men to illness.
In November 1696, Chivers sailed into the harbor at Calcutta and seized four ships and their crews demanding £10,000 ($1,600,000) random for their return in a message to governor stating; “We acknowledge no country, having sold our own, and as we are sure to be hanged if taken, we shall have no scruple in murdering and destroying if our demands are not granted in full.”
Not swayed by the threat, the governor sent out 10 heavily armed Indian ships. When Chivers spotted them sailing into the harbor, he fled for Saint Mary’s Island to make repairs arriving in the summer of 1697. Chivers was then captain of the ship Resolution, and soon turned again for the Red Sea. He sailed in consort with John Hoar for a while, and took two East India Company ships and held them for ransom. When the governor of Aden refused to pay the ransom, the ships were burned. One of the captives from the seized vessels, a Captain Sawbridge, complained so constantly Chivers’ crew was provoked into sewing up the man’s lips with a sail needle and marooning him near Aden, where he later died. Chivers later captured the English ship Sedgwick in April 1698. The captain of the Sedgwick was so persuasive and amenable, Chivers’ crew decided to let him keep his ship once he supplied them with a copious amount of rum.
In September of 1698, sailing in consort with Captains Robert Culliford, and Henry Every they captured two ships rich in booty, one The Great Mohammed earning them £130,000 ($20,800,000) in coin and other booty. Chivers returned to Saint Mary’s Island, but when four British Battleships arrived in September 1699, he sank the Soldado in the harbor to block the passage. Chivers accepted an offer of a royal pardon, and in October returned home on the merchant ship Vine.
François Le Clerc: Also known as Francis, was originally a French privateer in 1547 from Normandy. A bold and sometimes reckless commander, he was often the first to board a ship taken in battle. While fighting the English at Guernsey in 1549 he suffered severe damage to one arm, and the loss of a leg earning him the nickname among the French of ‘Jambe de Bois’, or Leg of Wood. The Spanish referred to him as ‘Pie de Palo’, Foot of Wood. In fact, he is the first documented pirate to have a peg leg, or wooden foot.
Although such an injury would have seriously altered any other sailors’ career, it did little to slow Le Clerc down. Refusing to retire, he expanded his range of influence by financing other pirates in their enterprises, while leading major raids against the Spanish. In command of ten ships in 1553, he sailed into the Canary Islands and attacked the port of Santa Cruz de La Palma. After subduing the town, they looted and put it to the torch destroying a large number of its buildings.
Following that raid, they moved on to looting San Germán in Puerto Rico, and the ports of Hispaniola. Then they sacked Santiago de Cuba in 1554 for a month leaving with over 80,000 pesos in treasure. The capitol city of Santiago never recovered from Le Clerc’s raid, and was soon overshadowed by Habana. From there they continued taking ships and plundered Las Palmas on the Grand Canary Island. Then they sailed to the Windward Islands and settled on the island of Saint Lucia targeting Spanish treasure ships from nearby Pigeon Island. In 1559 and 1560, while hunting Spanish treasure fleets, he raided the coastal settlements of Panama to their great distress.
In April 1562, the Protestants of Le Havre and several other Norman cities rose in revolt against their Roman Catholic king. When Queen Elizabeth I of England dispatched British troops to occupy Le Havre, Le Clerc joined the English invaders ravaging French shipping. In March of 1563, he petitioned Her Majesty for a pension in reward of his actions and support. However, the good Queen Elizabeth turned him down. So in May he sailed for the Azores Islands west of Portugal hunting Spanish treasure ships, and was killed later in the year.
Jeanne de Clisson: The lioness of Brittany. Born Jeanne-Louise de Belleville to Maurice IV of Belleville and Latice de Parthenay in 1300. When she was 12 years of age, as was the custom at the time, she wed Geoffrey de Chateaubriand, seven years her senior. The marriage spawned two sons Louise and Geoffrey II, but the marriage ended in 1326 with the death of Geoffrey.
Jeanne remarried in 1330 to her second husband, the wealthy nobleman Olivier de Clisson III. Oliver’s holdings included a castle at Clisson, a stately manor house in Nantes, and lands at Blain. It was a happy and productive union producing five children. Maurice, Guillaume, Olivier, Isabeau and Jeanne. In 1342 Oliver joined the patriot Charles de Blois in the defense of Brittany against the English sympathizer and pretender to the throne, John de Montfort.
During the years of the Breton War of Succession, Charles de Blois charged Olivier with failing to hold the community of Gwened in north-western France against the English forces. Under such criticism and the air of cowardice, he defected to the English. He was attending a tournament in July of 1343 in a French territory, and was arrested, taken to Paris for trial, and found guilty of treason by Charles de Blois, and fifteen of his peers. By order of King Philip VI, he was executed by beheading at Les Halles on August 2nd, and Olivier’s severed head was sent to Nantes where it was publicly displayed on a pole outside Bouffay castle.
Jeanne de Clisson was so enraged over the betrayal and execution of her husband, she swore an oath of revenge against King Philip VI, and principally Charles de Blois. To fulfill her oath of revenge she sold off all remaining Clisson holdings, and even her bodily services to noblemen in order to raise the necessary funds to purchase three warships. By then she had gained the aid of several Briton nobles, and the general populace of Brittany in the fight to ensure their independence.
Jeanne had the ships painted black, and the sails died red. The ‘Black Fleet’ as it became known, took to sea in the winter of 1343 under the command of Captain Jeanne hunting down and then sinking the King’s ships. And their treatment of the crews was without mercy. All aboard were killed save for one or two whome she released to take word to King Philip VI that The Lioness of Brittany had done this.
The ‘Black Fleet’ of Captain Jeanne ‘The Lioness of Brittany’ Clisson sailed the English Channel keeping it free of French warships. Her fleet also kept the English well supplied during the battle of Crėcy on August 26th, 1346, and much of The Hundred years war. Her vengeance did not die with the death of King Philip VI four years later. She persisted in her looting of French ships, taking particular delight in capturing the ships of French nobility. Once her thirst for torment against such aristocrats was slaked, she beheaded them with an ax tossing their lifeless bodies over the side.
After 13 years of piracy, in 1356 Jeanne took refuge in England and married Sir Walter Bentley. Sir Walter was a lieutenant in the service of King Edward III during the fight against Charles de Blois. She later returned to France residing in Hennabont and died in 1359.
Erik Cobham and his wife Maria Lindsey: A vicious pirate team in the Canadian seas during the golden age of piracy.
Just back from his first voyage Captain Eric Cobham was strolling the streets of Plymouth, England when he came across the lovely Maria. After a brief conversation, he invited her aboard his ship, and proceeded to explain his line of business. He was a pirate, and had just returned from taking a merchantman with over £40,000 in gold. He further explained his ruse of making the captain give up the treasure for sparing his life, then ran him through the heart. Maria was entranced as her admirer went on to explain how it took all night to dispatch the rest of the crew, there being much blood and all before they dumped their weighted bodies over the side eliminating any witnesses, and scuttling the ship.
Even though Captain Cobham was a bit older then her, Maria married him the next day, kissed parents and her life good-by, and headed out to sea into the sweet trade. It was a match made in hell, and she fit rite in. She quickly mastered the business of piratin, and did it with gusto. When taking a small navel ship, she took a fancy to a uniform worn by a young officer, had him strip of his uniform, then ran him through with her sword. She dawned the uniform and wore it ever since. She even had replacements made in the same style when necessary. She delighted in murder making it a sport once tying the Captain and First Mate of a prize to the mast and used them for target practice. And she never missed. It was said once that she used one poor soul for target practice to the point of seeing how many times she could shoot him before he died.
Captain Cobham boasted in his later years that they operated for twenty years without ever being caught. However, this probably included the later years of reasonable respectability until his last coup in the English Channel. He attributed their good fortune to his policy of leaving no survivors. “Dead cats don’t meow,” they would say. The Cobhams murdered all hands and sank the ships, which were then listed as lost at sea with all hands.
When they amassed a suitable, and quite substantial fortune, Captain Cobham suggested they retire, and she agreed. They sold off their plundered goods, and bought a rather large estate in France complete with yacht. Eric and his wife were soon considered respectable members of the community, and he was appointed magistrate. A position he held for twelve years. Retiring in a life of luxury, it eventually got the best of them. Eric turned to womanizing, while Maria became an alcoholic.
When Maria went missing, Eric sent out one search party after another. She was found two days later, dead of an apparent suicide. Before Eric died some years later of old age, he dictated his memoirs to a priest. Shortly after his death the priest published the biography. Erik’s heirs, being among the respectable people, tried to bury the truth about their sire’s past by having all copies of the book burned. One copy however managed to survive and make its way into a French archive. Along with details collected from others by his biographer, the tales of the infamous duo were reconstructed.
Thomas Cocklyn: He first set sail from New Providence in 1717. In 1718, he met up with Howell Davis and Oliver Levasseur (La Bouché) in Gambia Africa, and they sailed in consort for a while.
On April 1, 1719, Cocklyn , Howell Davis and Oliver Levasseur captured the West African-bound English slave ship the Bird Galley at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River. The ship was captured without a shot being fired because the ship’s first mate Simon Jones, whose marriage had fallen apart, hid the arms box knowing the approaching boat was commanded by pirates. The three pirate captains celebrated their victory on board the ship for nearly a month before releasing its captain, William Snelgrave, and giving him the Bristol Snow and the remaining cargo left from the pirates’ three-week-long occupation of the ship. Ten of the Galley’s men including Simon Jones joined the pirates.
Due to disagreements between the captains, the three parted ways on May 10, 1719. Subsequently, records of Cocklyn’s career and life after 1719 are undocumented.
Roberto Cofresi: “El Pirata Cofresi,” the most renowned pirate in Puerto Rico. Cofresi was born Roberto Cofresi y Ramírez de Arellano in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico on June 17, 1791. His father, Franz Von Kupferschein of Austria, immigrated to the coastal town of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, and changed his name to Francisco Cofresi. It was easier for the Spanish to pronounce. Francisco then met and later married Maria Germana Ramirez de Arellano, and they had four children. A daughter Juana, and three sons; Juan Francisco, Ignacio, and their youngest, Roberto. Roberto was four years old when his mother died.
Living in a coastal Town brought Roberto and his brothers into constant contact with sailors whose tails inspired them to become sailors themselves. And eventually he purchased a small schooner, which he christened El Mosquito. In time, Cofresi met and married Juana Creitoff. They had two sons, both of whom died soon after birth, then in 1822, they had a daughter they named Maria Bernada Cofresi. Puerto Rico was one of Spain’s larger colonies at the time, and political and economic difficulties were making life difficult on the island. Swayed in his thinking by such circumstances, in 1818 at the age of 27, he decided to go pirate and organized a crew composed of ten men from his hometown.
Establishing a hideout on the small island of Mona between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, his attacks focused mainly on American gold ships. It was common at the time for the Spanish Crown to look the other way when pirates attacked ships not sailing under the flag of Spain. Cofresi ignored ships from France, Holland and England having a distinct hatred of Americans. He had been injured from a beating he received from the Captain of an American cargo ship for eating sugar before paying for it, and thus turned his attention to all ships sailing under the American flag. He was reported to have ordered hostages from captured American vessels to be nailed to the deck of his ship quite often. But it wasn’t long before he began taking Spanish ships as well.
Spain had lost most of her possessions in the Caribbean by now, and her last two possessions, Puerto Rico and Cuba, were having severe economical and political troubles. Joining the separatist faction in support of Puerto Rico’s independence from Spain, Cofresi felt that the Spaniards were oppressing the Puerto Rican people. He began assaulting Spanish ships as well American and English vessels used to export the island’s resources. Especially the gold.
On January 23, 1824, the Spanish appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Lieutenant General Miguel Luciano De La Torre y Pando, issued several anti-piracy measures due to economic losses and political pressure from the United States. Sailing the waters of the Dominican Republic, Cofresi and his crew were captured near Santo Domingo. Found guilty of acts against the crown, they were sentenced to six years in prison and sent to Torre del Homenaje. They weren’t there long before escaping, but were quickly captured and returned to prison. Once again, they escaped in the night during a storm, and reaching the providence of San Pedro de Macorís, stole a ship and sailed to Vieques Island where Cofresi established a new base with a crew of fourteen men.
Cofresi then traveled to Puerto Rico where he selected six men from the crew and hijacked a schooner named Ana. Setting sail for his new base, he forced the crew into the ocean to swim back to shore if they could. Which they did. Cofresi renamed the captured ship El Mosquito and continued taking merchant ships in the Caribbean. The crew armed themselves and the El Mosquito with weapons taken from captured ships, including a cannon from one ship still under construction at the time.
Sailing into Jobos Port near Fajardo, Puerto Rico, they captured the cargo ship Neptune while it was docked with a rich cargo of fabrics and provisions. Cofresi took The Neptune as his new flagship. In February 1825, Cofresi and his crew attacked a cargo ship out of Saint Thomas with a load of imported merchandise, then abandoned the ship to drift. He would follow this action with subsequent captures, sharing a good deal of the swag with the people of Puerto Rico, especially the needy and members of his family and his friends. The people on the coasts protected him from the authorities, and regarded him as the Puerto Rican version of Robin Hood. Cofresi continued attacking ships, and in one operation took eight consecutive ships, including one from the United States. In February 1825, his crew hijacked a ship belonging to Vicente Antoneti at anchor in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
In an effort to put an end to Cofresi’s piracies, Commander Sloat of the U.S. Schooner Grampus, and the San José and Las Animas of Spain in consort, were sent out in pursuit. Sloat was well aware of the evasion strategy used by the pirates to escape large ships by traveling as close to the coast as possible where larger gun ships could not follow. Therefore, he used the smaller and more maneuverable schooners to pursue them. Sailing near Ponce on March 5, 1825, Sloat located a ship in Boca del Infierno, Mouth of Hell, and identified it as the captured Ana, Cofresi’s El Mosquito. When Cofresi saw the American ship approach, he made a fatal mistake by believing it to be a merchant vessel. When he set to attack, the ship suddenly opened fire.
After exchanging broadsides and small arms fire for forty-five minutes, The El Mosquito had sustained severe damage and the pirates abandoned their ship and swam ashore to escape overland. Vicente Antoneti of the San José disembarked and notified the local Spanish military unit. It wasn’t long before Cofresi was captured along with eleven members of his crew and turned over to the Spanish government. They were jailed in El Castillo del Morro in San Juan awaiting trial by a military tribunal. Tried and found guilty by a Spanish military court, they were sentenced to death by firing squad. On March 29, 1825, the 33 year old Cofresi and his men were executed.
Cofresi and his men were buried behind the cemetery wall, since they were executed as criminals and therefore could not be buried in sacred ground. His widow Juana died a year later. The fate of their daughter Maria is unknown.
Edward Collier: A British Privateer in 1668, Collier commanded of Sir Henry Morgan’s ships in his raid of the Spanish town of Portobello on the Isthmus of Panama. In November, Collier was given command of the Oxford with 34-guns on a mission to hunt pirates and captured the Satisfaction commanded by Captain la Veven.
He joined Morgan again a bit later for a raid on Maracaibo and Gibraltar Venezuela, but Disaster struck the Oxford. While the captains of the fleet were in conference, a group of drunken pirates accidentally blew her up. Rum, powder, and open flame make a deadly mix.
Collier was so disillusioned, he left with the Satisfaction and cruised the Mexican shores for the next year-and-a-half. He again joined Morgan in September of 1670 for the raid of Panama. Morgan promoted Collier to vice-admiral of the expedition, and while the pirates gathered their forces, he ordered Collier to take six ships to Venezuela to stock up on provisions and acquire information. Stopping in Rio de la Hacha, he captured the fort and garrison.
More ruthless than most, Collier tortured his Spanish prisoners cruelly to force them into giving up the location of their treasure. Most of the prisoners died without divulging the hiding place of nearly 200,000 pesos. After relieving the populace of needed provisions, Collier rejoined Morgan’s fleet in early December. In January of 1671, Collier took command of the left wing of the assault and they sacked Panama. Among Collier’s victims of the raid was a Spanish Franciscan friar. Collier used his profits from the raid to maintain his 1,000-acre Jamaica plantation given to him in 1668. He spent the remainder of his years preparing defenses against any foreign invasion of Jamaica.
Nicholas de Concepcion: In late September 1720, the escaped slave turned pirate and his mixed crew of 140 from several nations were cruising the waters off the coast of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. Commanding a heavily-armed Spanish brigantine taken from Saint Augustine, their first capture was the Philadelphia sloop Mary, commanded by Captain Jacobs. Her meager cargo consisted of bread, flour and a few household goods. Concepcion decided she would make an excellent consort to his brigantine, and put a crew aboard.
On his second capture, a prize crew was put aboard with crewman Sipkin elected as Captain, and they set sail for Saint Augustine, Florida. On the 23 of September, they seized a pink in the Chesapeake Bay bound to Virginia from Barbados, and again Concepcion sent a prize crew aboard to sail her to Florida. Sometime later, Concepcion and his men took the Liverpool Merchantman Planter, but it was eventually retaken.
After a through search of her papers, her rescuers discovered a forged Letter of Marque supposedly from the Governor of Saint Augustine bearing a date after the war between England and Spain had ended. The ships sent out to capture Concepcion and his crew were unsuccessful.
Christopher Condent / William Condon: His real name is uncertain, for he had operated under the surnames of Condent, Condon, Connor or Condell. Various given names also arose, including William, Christopher, Edmond or John. More commonly known as Christopher Condent, his counterparts knew him best as “Billy One-Hand.” And was known to be quite accurate with a musket resting it on the stump of what was his left hand. I shall henceforth refer to him as Condent.
Originally, he was a privateer for England in the War of the Spanish Succession, but when the war ended, rather than return to ‘honest’ service, he opted to go ‘on the account’ instead. Plundering anything that looked interesting in the wasters of the West Indies. He soon created a reputation for being a bold, creative and wise opponent, and a ruthless enemy. During one voyage, he killed an Indian crewmate threatening to ignite the ship’s powder magazine. When he captured the merchantman Duke of York, a dispute arose among the crew and they decided to split up between the two ships, with Condent taking command of the sloop.
In late 1717, Condent heard of the pardon offered by his majesty King George I with the ultimatum of retire or hang, so Condent and his crew left New Providence. They first captured a ship carrying Portuguese wine, and then sailed to Brazil where he took more prizes. Just why he hated the Portuguese is not clear, but he was known for cutting off the ears and noses of Portuguese prisoners. In the winter of 1718 Condent is sailing the waters around the Cape Verde islands off the Senegal coast and captured a flotilla of twenty small ships, then a Dutch war sloop off Santiago. It is the well armed 400 ton escort, the Componyais Wovar.
Keeping the warship, Condent then captured the English galley the Wright, a Portuguese ship, and a 26-gun Dutch vessel. Calling a meeting of his crew he proposed the best course of action was for the gold coast of Africa, to which the crew agreed. Leaving the Wright behind, he led a fleet of three ships to the the bay of Guinea where they captured the Indian Queen, the Fame, and another Dutch ship. Rounding the Cape and sailing to Ile Saint Marie, they strip off the upper sections of the Wovar, remove most of the partitions and bulkheads enlarging the gun deck, and convert it into a formidable pirate ship renaming it The Fiery Dragon. It was manned by a well armed crew of 320 pirates and bristled with forty cannons, twenty brass swivel guns, and three portable Colehorn mortars capable of lobbing 20 lb. exploding shells onto the decks of enemy ships.
By April 1719, Like Captains Dirk Chivers, Oliver Levasseur and others who sailed the Indian Ocean twenty years before, the pirate haven of Ile Saint Marie became Content’s home base. Other pirates, namely Edward England and John Taylor aboard their ship the Pearl, followed Condent from New Providence to Madagascar. Condent integrated some of John Halsey’s old crew into his own using their knowledge of the area to good advantage as he set out on the high seas in search of a big haul. He sailed along the Indian Coast and the Red Sea for months looking for any prize worth taking. Several small ships were captured, but for the most part they were worthless prizes.
Then in October of 1720 in India waters outside Bombay, they caught sight of a large Arab ship sailing east on their return journey from Mecca towards an East India Company trading center at Surat. After a brief chase, the ship surrendered without a fight and Condent’s men ransacked the hold to discover she was laden with a cargo of silks, spices, heroin, and £150,000 ($24,000,000) in gold and silver. In all, today that haul would be worth an estimated $375,000,000. It’s the greatest heist for the captain and crew of the Fiery Dragon, and their last. Condent knew that the East India Company would be infuriated beyond measure to say the least over the embarrassing loss, so he made sure to treat all crew and passengers of the Arab ship civilly and set them ashore keeping the ship as prize.
Condent then beat a hasty retreat to his base on Île Sainte Marie to share out the plunder. Each man’s share came to about £2,000 ($320,000) apiece which was more than most men of that time made in a lifetime of honest naval service. Leaving a great deal of the ship’s luxurious cargo scattered on the beach in 1721, Condent and forty of his crew sailed to the French held island of Bourbon seeking, for a price no doubt, a pardon from the French Governor. The Governor gladly granted Condent and his crew French pardons in exchange for a share of the loot. Besides, France loved anyone that helped to inconvenience or embarrass the East India Company. Twenty or more of his crew settled down on the island.
In 1722 Condent married the governor’s sister-in-law, and in 1723 traveled to France with his treasure, where he retired with his wife in Brittany and became a wealthy merchant in Saint-Malo. He soon became a shipping magnet and lived out his days until old age and ill heath took him in late 1769. The last documented survivor of the crew died of old age in 1770.
Juan Corso: In July of 1683, Sir Thomas Lynch complained bitterly to Sir Leoline Jenkins, Secretary of Jamaica, about the barbarous cruelties and injustices committed by holders of Spanish commissions. In his words, they were a mongrel parcel of Corsican, Slovenian, Greek, and Mulatto thieves and rogues that robbed and murdered all that came within their reach without the least respect to humanity or common justice.
One of these was the infamous Juan Corso. Landing on the coast of Hispaniola, he carried away a vast treasure along with prisoners and slaves. So vicious was the attack, the French Government granted commissions of war. It was feared that on the privateers’ return to St. Jago de Cuba where Corso sheltered himself, the French would destroy the town.
Juan was known to have killed divers in cold blood, and in one case, he cut off a man’s head because he was sick and could not row as strongly as he expected. He committed barbarities like these and worse daily, and no rectification from the Spanish Governor was expected.
Off the coast of Cuba Corso took a New England ketch that had been taken by French pirates at Salt Tortugas and took it into St. Jago. The Frenchmen were condemned to die as pirates, but the vessel and the Englishmen would be held. As the French pirates were marched to execution, the town mutinied and reprieved them from fear of French retribution. The Governor was paid two hundred pieces of eight in compensation.
William Coward: After seizing the ketch Elenor anchored in Boston Harbor the previous year, is hanged for acts of piracy following his capture (two of his officers, Christopher Knight and Thomas Storey, are also found guilty, however they are later reprieved). He is executed alongside Thomas Johnson, known as the “limping privateer” who was wounded in the jaw during the fight at Tarpaulin Cove where he was captured with Captain Pound and several others on (January 27, [1690?).
John Coxon: One of the most famous Brethren of the Coast during the 1670’s. He and other English buccaneers attacked and plundered the town of Santa Marta on the Spanish Main, then kidnapped its Governor and Bishop. He then raided the Gulf of Honduras. Before setting sail for his next attack at Portobello, he joined forces with pirates Sharp and Essex. Because attack from the sea was suicide, the pirates had to land twenty leagues away.
Their journey entailed a four-day march through jungle, three of them without food, and all with bad water. By the time the pirates arrived, they were half starved and their feet were worn raw. Despite their problems, they successfully plundered the town and escaped before the nearby fleet could react. Their booty however, only came to about 100 pieces of eight per man (£25 or $4,000). In response to the attack, Jamaican Governor Lord Carlisle, and later the acting Governor, Sir Henry Morgan, issued warrants for Coxon and his crews’ arrest, but they were never captured.
Coxon plundered the town of Santa Maria next, and headed across the Isthmus of Darien. Eventually, Coxon and the other Captains Sawkins and Harris had a falling out and the three went their separate ways. Sawkins and Harris returned to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus while Coxon continued by Indian canoe to the Pacific Coast where they found and stole two sloops. Sailing to Panama, they attacked the Spanish Fleet and after a brief battle actually captured it. Coxon had another falling out with his brother pirates and took off with 78 of his crew on foot returning across the Isthmus.
Eventually, Coxon had become a hero in Jamaica and was given letters to attack a troublesome French pirate, Jean Hamlin, although he never found him. For several more years, Coxon pirated the seas, often under the guise of a letter of Marque. He was arrested many times, but never hanged.
Robert Culliford: In 1690, Culliford signed aboard the Pearl of New York as quartermaster under the command of Captain May sailing for Mangalore, India. In October 1694, Culliford left the ship and signed aboard the Merchantman Josiah as a gunner. But in June 1696, Culliford led a mutiny at Madras and seized the Josiah. The crew later retook the ship near the Nicobar Islands and marooned Culliford on the least of them.
Later rescued by Captain Ralph Stout of the Mocha, Culliford joined the crew. Upon Stout’s death in 1697, Culliford was elected captain. While sailing the Malacca Straits off Sumatra in July, Culliford pursued the British East Indian ship Dorrill bound for China from Madras. When Culliford’s crew closed in, Culliford hailed the British Dorrill with a polite greeting of wanting their money not their ship, but that they would have it one way or another. Surprisingly, the Dorrill answered with a salvo that sheared off the Mocha’s mainmast. Culliford retreated to Saint Mary’s Island near Madagascar, plundering several ships en route.
At Saint Mary’s, Culliford plundered a French ship capturing a booty of £2,000 ($320,000). In April of 1698, he was challenged by William Kidd who had been hired by the Earl of Belmont, the new Governor of New York, to hunt pirates. However, all but thirteen of Kid’s crew mutinied and joined Culliford. Oddly enough, the bulk of Kid’s crew were former shipmates of Culliford’s at one time or another. When ordered to attack, they stated they would rather shoot themselves than fire one shot toward Culliford.
After they burned the November and Kid’s log, they striped Kid’s flagship of everything they could make use of, including the medical chest, while he and the few crew still loyal to him hid in his quarters. Culliford allows Kidd to keep the ailing Quedah Merchant and a fair amount of booty, and sailed off with a crew of 130 aboard the Mocha, her guns upped to 40, thanks to Kidd.
In mid June 1698, Culliford was challenged by four British warships, and offered a royal pardon. Culliford and many of his crew accept the offer and were taken to London. However, in 1701, Culliford was arrested, and tried at the Old Bailey on the same day as Kid. Culliford was convicted of acts of piracy against the Grand Mogul, ruling that his pardon was invalid. However, he was saved from the hangman’s noose, because his testimony was sorely needed in the upcoming trial of Samuel Burgess. He was released, while Kidd swung. Twice. Following the trial, Culliford disappeared from record. Some say he retired somewhere in upstate New York, while others have it he joined the navy.