RACKAM, Captain John, alias Calico Jack.
Served as quartermaster in Captain Vane's company. On one occasion Vane refused to fight a big French ship, and in consequence was dismissed his ship and marooned on an uninhabited island off the coast of America, while the crew elected Rackam to be their captain in his place. This was on November 24th, 1718, and on the very first day of his command he had the good fortune to take and plunder several small vessels.
Off the Island of Jamaica they took a Madeira ship, and found an old friend on board as a passenger—a Mr. Hosea Tisdell, who kept a tavern in the island, and they treated him with great respect.
Christmas Day coming, the pirates landed on a small island to celebrate this festival in a thorough manner, carousing and drinking as long as the liquor lasted, when they sailed away to seek more. Their next prize was a strange one. On coming alongside a ship, she surrendered, and the pirates boarding her to examine her cargo, found it to consist of thieves from Newgate on their way to the plantations. Taking two more vessels, Rackam sailed to the Bahama Islands, but the Governor, Captain Woodes Rogers, sent a sloop, which took away their prizes.
Rackam now sailed his ship to a snug little cove he knew of in Cuba, where he had more than one lady acquaintance. Here the pirates were very happy until all their provisions and money was spent. Just as they were about to sail, in comes a Spanish Guarda del Costa with a small English sloop which they had recently taken. Rackam was now in a very awkward position, being unable to get past the Spaniard, and all he could do was to hide behind a small island. Night came on, and when it was dark Rackam put all his crew into a boat, rowed quietly up to the sloop, clambered aboard, threatening instant death to the Spanish guards if they cried out, then cut the cables and sailed out of the bay. As soon as it was light the Spanish ship commenced a furious bombardment of Rackam's empty vessel, thinking he was still aboard her.
In the summer of 1720 he took numbers of small vessels and fishing boats, but nothing very rich, and was not above stealing the fishermen's nets and landing and taking cattle. In October Rackam was chased near Nigril Bay by a Government sloop commanded by a Captain Barret. After a short fight Rackam surrendered, and was carried a prisoner to Port Royal.
On November 16th Rackam and his crew were tried at St. Jago de la Vega, convicted and sentenced to death. Amongst the crew were two women dressed as men, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. The former was married, in pirate fashion, to Rackam.
On the morning of his execution Rackam was allowed, as a special favour, to visit his Anne, but all the comfort he got from her was "that she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a Dog."
Rackam was hanged on November 17th, 1720, at Gallows Point, at Port Royal, Jamaica.
One of Captain Lowther's crew of the Happy Delivery. Tried for piracy at St. Kitts in 1722, but acquitted.
READ, Mary. Woman pirate.
Born in London of obscure parentage; all that is known for certain is that her mother was a "young and airy widow." Mary was brought up as a boy, and at the age of 13 was engaged as a footboy to wait on a French lady. Having a roving spirit, Mary ran away and entered herself on board a man-of-war. Deserting a few years later, she enlisted in a regiment of foot and fought in Flanders, showing on all occasions great bravery, but quitted the service to enlist in a regiment of horse. Her particular comrade in this regiment was a Fleming, with whom she fell in love and disclosed to him the secret of her sex. She now dressed as a woman, and the two troopers were married, "which made a great noise," and several of her officers attended the nuptials. She and her husband got their discharge and kept an eating house or ordinary, the Three Horseshoes, near the Castle of Breda. The husband died, and Mary once again donned male attire and enlisted in a regiment in Holland. Soon tiring of this, she deserted, and shipped herself aboard a vessel bound for the West Indies. This ship was taken by an English pirate, Captain Rackam, and Mary joined his crew as a seaman.
She was at New Providence Island, Bahama, when Woodes Rogers came there with the royal pardon to all pirates, and she shipped herself aboard a privateer sent out by Rogers to cruise against the Spaniards. The crew mutinied and again became pirates. She now sailed under Captain Rackam, who had with him another woman pirate, Anne Bonny. They took a large number of ships belonging to Jamaica, and out of one of these took prisoner "a young fellow of engaging behaviour" with whom Mary fell deeply in love. This young fellow had a quarrel with one of the pirates, and as the ship lay at anchor they were to go to fight it out on shore according to pirate law. Mary, to save her lover, picked a quarrel with the same pirate, and managed to have her duel at once, and fighting with sword and pistol killed him on the spot.
She now married the young man "of engaging behaviour," and not long after was taken prisoner with Captain Rackam and the rest of the crew to Jamaica. She was tried at St. Jago de la Vega in Jamaica, and on November 28th, 1720, was convicted, but died in prison soon after of a violent fever.
That Mary Read was a woman of great spirit is shown by her reply to Captain Rackam, who had asked her (thinking she was a young man) what pleasure she could find in a life continually in danger of death by fire, sword, or else by hanging; to which Mary replied "that as to hanging, she thought it no great Hardship, for were it not for that, every cowardly Fellow would turn Pirate and so unfit the Seas, that Men of Courage must starve."
ANN BONNY AND MARY READ, CONVICTED OF PIRACY, NOVEMBER 28, 1720, AT A COURT OF VICE-ADMIRALTY HELD AT ST. JAGO DE LA VEGA IN THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA. ANN BONNY AND MARY READ, CONVICTED OF PIRACY, NOVEMBER 28, 1720, AT A COURT OF VICE-ADMIRALTY HELD AT ST. JAGO DE LA VEGA IN THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA.
Lieutenant to Blackbeard on board the Queen Ann's Revenge. Cruised in the West Indies and along the coast of Carolina and Virginia.
In 1717 Teach blockaded the harbour at Charleston and sent Richards with a party of pirates to the Governor to demand a medicine chest and all necessary medical supplies, with a threat that if these were not forthcoming he would cut the throats of all his prisoners, many of them the leading merchants of the town. While waiting for the Governor's reply, Richards and his companions scandalized the towns-folk of Charleston by their outrageous and swaggering conduct.
RINGROSE, Basil. Buccaneer, pirate, and author.
Sailed in 1679 to the West Indies. A year later Ringrose had joined the buccaneers at their rendezvous in the Gulf of Darien, where they were preparing for a bold enterprise on the Spanish Main. They landed and marched to the town of Santa Maria, which they plundered and burnt. Thence they travelled in canoes down the river to the Bay of Panama. After attacking the Spanish fleet and laying siege to the city, the buccaneers cruised up and down the West Coast of South America for eighteen months, sacking towns and attacking Spanish ships. All this while Ringrose kept a very full and graphic journal, in which he recorded not only their exploits, but also their hardships and quarrels, and gave descriptions as well of the various natives and their customs, and drew charts and sketches.
In 1681 Ringrose was still with Captain Sharp, and sailed through the Straits of Magellan, and on January 30th of the same year anchored off Antigua. Here he got a passage in a ship to England, landing safely at Dartmouth on March 26th.
A year later he published an account of his voyage, as a second volume to Esquemeling's, "Bucaniers of America." In 1684 he went to sea again in the Cygnet (Captain Swan), to traffic with the Spanish colonies. But the Spaniards refused to trade with them. In October, 1684, they met the famous Captain Edward Davis at that favourite haunt of the buccaneers, the Isle of Plate. The two captains agreed to join forces and to go together "on the account," so all the cargo was thrown overboard the Cygnet, and the ships set out to make war on any Spanish ships they might meet with.
In February, 1686, Ringrose with one hundred men took the town of Santiago in Mexico, but while returning with the plunder to their ship were caught by the Spaniards in an ambush, and Ringrose was killed.
Ringrose never attained any rank among the buccaneers beyond occasionally being put in charge of a boat or a small company on shore, but as a recorder of the doings of his companions he proved both careful and painstaking. Dampier had a great regard for him, and in his book he writes: "My ingenious friend Ringrose had no mind to this voyage, but was necessitated to engage in it or starve."
ROBERTS, Captain Bartholomew. Welsh pirate. (Black Bart)
Born 1682. Died 1722.
If a pirate is to be reckoned by the amount of damage he does and the number of ships he takes there can be no doubt that Captain Roberts should be placed at the very head of his profession, for he is said to have taken over 400 vessels. The only man who can be said to rival him is Sir Henry Morgan, but Morgan, although in some ways an unmitigated blackguard, was a man of much greater breadth of outlook than Roberts ever was, and, moreover, was a buccaneer rather than a pirate.
Roberts, like many other successful pirates, was born in Wales, not far from Haverfordwest. He is described as being "a tall black man," and was about 40 years of age at the time of his death. He was remarkable, even among his remarkable companions, for several things. First of all, he only drank tea—thus being the only total abstainer known to the fraternity. Also he was a strict disciplinarian, and on board his ships all lights had to be extinguished by 8 p.m., any of the crew who wished to continue drinking after that hour had to do so on the open deck. But try as he would this ardent apostle of abstemiousness was unable to put down drinking. If Roberts had lived to-day, no doubt he would have been on the council of the local vigilance committee. He would allow no women aboard his ships, in fact he made it a law that any man who brought a woman on board disguised as a man was to suffer death. Roberts allowed no games at cards or dice to be played for money, as he strongly disapproved of gambling. He was a strict Sabbatarian, and allowed the musicians to have a rest on the seventh day. This was as well, for the post of musician on a pirate ship was no sinecure, as every pirate had the right to demand a tune at any hour of the day or night. He used to place a guard to protect all his women prisoners, and it is sadly suspicious that there was always the greatest competition amongst the worst characters in the ship to be appointed sentinel over a good-looking woman prisoner. All quarrels had to be settled on shore, pirate fashion, the duellists standing back to back armed with pistol and cutlass. Roberts would have no fighting among the crew on board his ship.
Bartholomew must have looked the very part of a pirate when dressed for action. A tall, dark man, he used to wear a rich damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his cap, a gold chain round his neck with a large diamond cross dangling from it, a sword in his hand, and two pairs of pistols hanging at the end of a silk sling flung over his shoulders.
We first hear of Roberts as sailing, in honest employ, as master of the Princess (Captain Plumb), from London in November, 1719, bound for the coast of Guinea to pick up a cargo of "black ivory" at Anamaboe. Here his ship was taken by the Welsh pirate Howel Davis. At first Roberts was disinclined for the pirate life, but soon changed his mind.
On the death of Davis there were several candidates for the post of commander, all brisk and lively men, distinguished by the title of "Lords," such as Sympson, Ashplant, Anstis, and others. One of these "Lords," Dennis, concluded an eloquent harangue over a bowl of punch with a strong appeal for Roberts to be the new chief. This proposal was acclaimed with but one dissenting voice, that of "Lord" Sympson, who had hopes of being elected himself, and who sullenly left the meeting swearing "he did not care who they chose captain so it was not a papist." So Roberts was elected after being a pirate only six weeks; thus was true merit quickly appreciated and rewarded amongst them.
CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW ROBERTS. CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW ROBERTS.
Roberts's speech to his fellow-pirates was short but to the point, saying "that since he had dipped his hands in muddy water, and must be a pyrate, it was better being a commander than a common man," not perhaps a graceful nor grateful way of expressing his thanks, but one which was no doubt understood by his audience.
Roberts began his career in a bright manner, for to revenge the perfectly justifiable death of their late captain he seized and razed the fort, bombarded the town, and setting on fire two Portuguese ships so as to act as torches, sailed away the same night. Sailing to Brazil they found in the Bay of Bahia a fleet of forty-two Portuguese ships ready laden and on the point of leaving for Lisbon, and Roberts, with the most astounding boldness, sailed right in amongst them until he found the deepest laden, which he attacked and boarded, although his was a much smaller ship. He sailed away with his prize from the harbour. This prize, amongst the merchandise, contained 40,000 moidors and a cross of diamonds designed for the King of Portugal.
He then took a Dutch ship, and two days later an English one, and sailed back to Brazil, refitting and cleaning at the Island of Ferdinando.
In a work such as this is, it is impossible to recount all, or even a few, of the daring adventures, or the piratical ups and downs of one pirate. Roberts sailed to the West Indies devastating the commerce of Jamaica and Barbadoes. When things grew too hot there, he went north to Newfoundland, and played the very devil with the English and French fishing fleets and settlements.
His first ship he called the Fortune, his next, a bigger ship, the Royal Fortune, another the Good Fortune.
On two occasions Roberts had been very roughly handled, once by a ship from Barbadoes and once by the inhabitants of Martinica, so when he designed his new flag, he portrayed on it a huge figure of himself standing sword in hand upon two skulls, and under these were the letters A.B.H. and A.M.H., signifying a Barbadian's and a Martinican's head.
In April, 1721, Roberts was back again on the Guinea Coast, burning and plundering. Amongst the prisoners he took out of one of his prizes was a clergyman. The captain dearly wished to have a chaplain on board his ship to administer to the spiritual welfare of his crew, and tried all he could to persuade the parson to sign on, promising him that his only duties should be to say prayers and make punch. But the prelate begged to be excused, and was at length allowed to go with all his belongings, except three prayer-books and a corkscrew—articles which were sorely needed aboard the Royal Fortune.
The end of Roberts's career was now in sight. A King's ship, the Swallow (Captain Chaloner Ogle), discovered Roberts's ships at Parrot Island, and, pretending to fly from them, was followed out to sea by one of the pirates. A fight took place, and after two hours the pirates struck, flinging overboard their black flag "that it might not rise in Judgement over them." The Swallow returned in a few days to Parrot Island to look for Roberts in the Royal Fortune. Roberts being at breakfast, enjoying a savoury dish of solomongundy, was informed of the approach of the ship, but refused to take any notice of it. At last, thoroughly alarmed, he cut his cables and sailed out, but most of his crew being drunk, even at this early hour, the pirates did not make as good a resistance as if they had been sober. Early in the engagement Roberts was hit in the throat by a grape-shot and killed; this being on February 10th, 1722. His body, fully dressed, with his arms and ornaments, was thrown overboard according to his repeated request made during his lifetime. Thus the arch-pirate died, as he always said he wished to die, fighting. His motto had always been "A short life and a merry one." One good word can be said for Roberts, that he never forced a man to become a pirate against his wish.
ROGERS, Captain Woodes.
As the life of this famous navigator and privateer is, very justly, treated fully in the "Dictionary of National Biography" it is unnecessary to mention more than a few incidents in his adventurous career. Woodes Rogers was not only a good navigator, for on many occasions he showed a remarkable gift for commanding mutinous crews in spite of having many officers on whom he could place little reliance. On leaving Cork in 1708, after an incompetent pilot had almost run his ship on two rocks off Kinsale called "The Sovereigne's Bollacks," Rogers describes his crew thus: "A third were foreigners, while of Her Majestie's subjects many were taylors, tinkers, pedlars, fiddlers, and hay-makers, with ten boys and one negro." It was with crews such as these that many of the boldest and most remarkable early voyages were made, and they required a man of Woodes Rogers stamp to knock them into sailors. Rogers had a gift for inspiring friendship wherever he went. On arriving at the coast of Brazil, his boat was fired on when trying to land at Angre de Reys. This settlement had but lately received several hostile visitors in the way of French pirates. But before a week was passed Woodes Rogers had so won the hearts of the Portuguese Governor and the settlers that he and his "musick" were invited to take part in an important religious function, or "entertainment," as Rogers calls it, "where," he says, "we waited on the Governour, Signior Raphael de Silva Lagos, in a body, being ten of us, with two trumpets and a hautboy, which he desir'd might play us to church, where our musick did the office of an organ, but separate from the singing, which was by the fathers well perform'd. Our musick played 'Hey, boys, up go we!' and all manner of noisy paltry tunes. And after service, our musicians, who were by that time more than half drunk, march'd at the head of the company; next to them an old father and two fryars carrying lamps of incense, then an image dressed with flowers and wax candles, then about forty priests, fryars, etc., followed by the Governor of the town, myself, and Capt. Courtney, with each of us a long wax candle lighted. The ceremony held about two hours; after which we were splendidly entertained by the fathers of the Convent, and then by the Governour. They unanimously told us they expected nothing from us but our Company, and they had no more but our musick."
What a delightful picture this calls to the mind—the little Brazilian town, the tropical foliage, the Holy Procession, "wax figure" and priests, followed by the Governor with an English buccaneer on either side, and headed by a crew of drunken Protestant English sailors playing "Hey, boys, up go we!"
Rogers, not to be outdone in hospitality, next day entertained the Governor and fathers on board the Duke, "when," he says, "they were very merry, and in their cups propos'd the Pope's health to us. But we were quits with 'em by toasting the Archbishop of Canterbury; and to keep up the humour, we also proposed William Pen's health, and they liked the liquor so well, that they refused neither." Alas! the good Governor and the fathers were not in a fit state to leave the ship when the end came to the entertainment, so slept on board, being put ashore in the morning, "when we saluted 'em with a huzza from each ship, because," as Rogers says, "we were not overstocked with powder."
It was in March, 1710, that Rogers brought his little fleet into the harbour of Guam, one of the Ladrone Islands. Although at war with Spain, the captain soon became on his usual friendly terms with the Governor of this Spanish colony, and gave an entertainment on board his ship to him and four other Spanish gentlemen, making them "as welcome as time and place would afford, with musick and our sailors dancing." The Governor gave a return party on shore, to which Rogers and all his brother officers were invited, partaking of "sixty dishes of various sorts." After this feast Rogers gave his host a present, consisting of "two negro boys dress'd in liveries." One other instance of Woodes Rogers adaptability must suffice. In the year 1717 he was appointed Governor to the Bahama Islands, at New Providence, now called Nassau. His chief duty was to stamp out the West India pirates who had made this island their headquarters for many years, and were in complete power there, and numbered more than 2,000 desperadoes, including such famous men as Vane and Teach. Rogers's only weapon, besides the man-of-war he arrived in, was a royal proclamation from King George offering free pardon to all pirates or buccaneers who would surrender at once to the new Governor. At first the pirates were inclined to resist his landing, but in the end the tactful Rogers got his own way, and not only landed, but was received by an armed guard of honour, and passed between two lines of pirates who fired salutes with their muskets.
Most of the pirates surrendered and received their pardons, but some, who reverted shortly afterwards to piracy and were captured and brought back to New Providence, were tried and actually hanged by Rogers's late buccaneer subjects.
Woodes Rogers eventually died in Nassau in the year 1729.
ROUNDSIVEL, Captain George.
Of the Bahama Islands.
He refused to avail himself of King George's pardon to all pirates in 1717, and went off again on the "main chance" till captured.
RUPERT. Prince of the Rhine.
After an adventurous life as a soldier on the Continent, he sailed from Ireland in 1648 with seven ships. His own ship was the Swallow. He was a man of boundless energy, who was never happy if not engaged in some enterprise, and as legitimate warfare gave him few opportunities he turned pirate. He spent five years at sea, largely in the West Indies, meeting with every kind of adventure.
In 1653 he was caught in a storm in the Virgin Islands, and his fleet was wrecked. His brother, Prince Maurice, was lost with his ship, the Defiance, the only ship saved being the Swallow. Prince Rupert returned in the Swallow to France in the same year. Hitherto the prince had been a restless, clever man, "very sparkish in his dress," but this catastrophe to his fleet and the loss of his brother broke his spirit, and he retired to England, where he died in his bed in 1682 at Spring Gardens.