often known as buccaneers (from the
French "boucan"), filibusters, freebooters, and privateers, reigned
supreme throughout the Caribbean region. In fact, rampant piracy was
the main reason why the British had a releative easy time in capturing
the Island, as the island's residents simply believed the attack to
be a routine pirate situation.
became a haven for some of the most famous pirates in history,
including Blackbeard and Calico Jack. Blackbeard, born Edward
Teach, may have been born in Jamaica, but claims to his birth are also
made in Bristol, England and in Carolina. Wherever he was born, this
feared pirate is said to have led attacks with burning matches woven
into his beard.
Captain Charles Vane, another
notorious pirate, was captured, brought to Jamaica, and hung at Gallows
Point. Jack Rackham, -- known
as "Calico Jack"
because of his love of colorful cotton clothing -- began his career as
part of Vane's crew.
“operating" in Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola, Vane and
his crew expecting little resistance attacked a vessel. However, it was
a powerful French Warship, and after a few shots Vane decided to flee
from the battle. The next day, led by his quartermaster, Jack Rackham,
his crew accused him of cowardice. Rackham took over the ship and
left Vane behind in a small captured sloop with a few loyal pirates
Vane quickly captured a couple of small ships and rebuilt his pirate
fleet. However, while they were at the Bay of Honduras a hurricane
wrecked his ships and drowned most of his crew. Vane and another
survivor, stranded on a small fisherman's island, hoped to be rescued
by any passing ships. Unfortunately, his “rescuer” was a former
buccaneer, Captain Holford, who knew Vane well. He imprisoned and
extradited him to authorities in Port Royal . Vane was put on trial,
found guilty and hanged on November 1720.
Calico Jack's Capture and History's Female
October 1720, Calico Jack's ship was anchored off Point Negril,
Jamaica, the pirates celebrating recent victories in their typical
hard-drinking tradition. On board were two of Jack's most fearsome crew
members, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, women disguised as men.
It was not however, till the trial of Calico Jack, that it was
discovered that these two crew members were actuallywomen.
British Navy sloop -- the man-o-war
Albion, headed by Captain Jonathan Barnet -- surprised them. The
drunken male pirates quickly hid below deck, leaving only Anne and Mary
to defend their ship. The women yelled at their pirate mates to "come
up, you cowards, and fight like men," and then angrily raged against
them, killing one and wounding several others. But the women were
eventually overwhelmed by the British Navy, and the entire crew was
captured and taken to Jamaica to stand trial.
Anne and Mary were known for their violent tempers and ferocious
fighting, and they shared a reputation as "fierce hell cats." Their
fellow crewmembers knew that -- in times of action -- no one else was
as ruthless and bloodthirsty as these two women were. "Calico Jack" is
well known but his reputation has survived
through the ages primarily because of these two infamous women pirates
on his crew.
was executed, and his body was displayed in an iron frame as
warning to other pirates on a small islet off of Port Royal - one which
is known as Rackham's Cay to this day.
Anne and Mary were tried one week after his s death and were also
found guilty. But at their sentencing, when asked by the judge if they
had anything to say, they replied, "Mi'lord, we plead our bellies."
Both were pregnant, and since British law forbade killing an unborn
child, their sentences were stayed temporarily.
Mary is said to have died of a violent fever in the Spanish
Town prison in 1721, before the birth of her child. Other reports say
she feigned death and was sneaked out of the prison under a shroud.
No record of Anne's execution has ever been found. Some say
that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of her child
and she settled down to a quiet family life on a small Caribbean
island. Others believe that she lived out her life in the south of
England, owning a tavern where she regaled the locals with tales of her
And yet others say Anne and Mary moved to Louisiana where they
raised their children together and were friends to the ends of their
Henry Morgan, in search of
fame, fortune and adventure sailed to the
West Indies aboard a ship from Bristol on May 3rd, 1655. He
served in sugar plantations for seven years, learning the "artful ways
of the pirates" who visited the islands. When he'd had enough of
cutting cane and listening to other men's adventures, Henry Morgan set
out for Jamaica in 1662, and quickly found himself engaged to join in
the exploits of a ship prepared to sail with its crew of British seamen
to chase the Spaniards and plunder their richly bedecked ships and the
West Indian coastal towns.
Henry Morgan immediately made
himself a name as a swashbuckler. He and
his cohorts were so successful that Morgan's share of the booty bought
him a ship of his own. At the age of 29 he was captain of his own
vessel, with headquarters and a growing treasure trove in Jamaica..
Once, when the governor of Jamaica sent him word that the Spanish were
attacking British ships off Cuba, Morgan set off, still laden with
plunder from his forays in the Americas, to return to Jamaica to wreak
revenge. Morgan's courage, ability and reputation won him a promotion
from the governor, who made him admiral of the Jamaican fleet, with ten
ships and five hundred men under his command.
One vengeful Spaniard, Capitan
Pardal, did not fear Morgan. Pardal's
sole purpose was to have the opportunity to cross swords with Henry
Morgan. In one final frustrated attempt to goad Morgan into a fight,
Pardal made a clumsy raid on the coast of Jamaica, set fire to a small
village and destroyed its crops. He left the following challenge nailed
to a tree near the ruins of the village meeting hall: "I, Capitan
Manuel Pardal, to the Chief of the Privateers in Jamaica. I come to
seek General Henry Morgan, with two ships and twenty-one guns. When he
has seen this Challenge, I beg that he will come out and seek me, that
he may see the Valour of the Spaniards."
Morgan saw the note and lost no
time in setting sail to hunt down the
Spaniard. Morgan found Pardal, chased him ashore on the eastern coast
of Cuba, and with just a handfull of men and a few muskets set off in
hot pursuit. With the first volley from Morgan's sharpshooters, the
Spaniards turned and fled in terror. Pardal was shot through the neck
and killed with a musket ball from Morgan's own pistol.
Back in port, Morgan was
again rewarded for his courage with
command of the largest fleet ever to set sail from Jamaica. He was put
in charge of thirty five ships and two thousand men. He was just 34
years old. With such a large force behind him, Morgan vowed to destroy,
once and for all, the power of the Spanish in the West Indies. He
sailed for Panama, the largest and richest town in the Spanish American
Unknown to Morgan, however,
negotiations in London had resulted in
peace between Britain and Spain. Urgent orders were dispatched to
Jamaica, instructing Morgan not to attack the Spanish colonies. Morgan
chose to ignore these orders when they arrived, and carried on with his
plan of attack. He reached the mainland and marched covertly across the
Isthmus of Panama, upriver towards the city of Panama. Days and nights
of trudging through vine-choked forests exhausted his men. They ran out
of food and water. They trapped every dog, cat and mule they could find
and ate them raw. Towards the end of their march they ate their leather
powder satchels to stave off the pangs of hunger. At one point they
came across a stash of casks of wine, but Morgan was over-suspicious
and refused to allow even a drop to be tasted for fear the Spanish had
poisoned the wine and left it as a trap. The men grumbled and swore
oaths of protest, but they went doggedly on. Half the party died
through disease and starvation.
On January 18, 1671, as Morgan
came upon the enemy he had only a
thousand men left, and these were foot-sore and starved. In this sad
state, Morgan ordered his army to do battle with a force ten times as
large. Morgan's men were weakened but desperate, and the fighting
continued for hours. At last the Spanish fled from the battlefield, but
not before three thousand prisoners were taken. Morgan and his forces
entered the city, refreshed themselves with food and wine, then began
sacking the wealthy city. One hundred and fifty mules were needed to
carry the treasure back to the ships; however, tense relations with his
men are supposed to have caused Morgan to abscond with most of the
Because Morgan's raid on
Panama had taken place after the
conclusion of peace talks between England and Spain, he was arrested in
Jamaica and extradited to London in April of 1672. Two years later the
peace was broken and Spain became an enemy of England once more. Morgan
paid out huge portions of his treasure to the crown for his freedom.
King Charles II knighted Morgan, and returned him to Jamaica as
Governor, where he lived as a wealthy and respected planter until his
death on August 25, 1688, at the age of 52.