Sunday, September 19, 2010

Scurvy Dogs, Unite

Magnet # 345: Pirates of the Atlantic Coast

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Me

Avast ye maties! Once again, it's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Last year, I discussed how this celebration came about, so I thought that this time I'd talk about some of its token figures - the Pirates of the Atlantic Coast!

Going from top to bottom, left to right, Henry Every is the first pirate featured on this magnet, which I bought about 11 months ago, with this particular date in mind. Every was born in England and is believed to have started off sailing as a slave trader. He was, however, a dedicated family man who sent most of his money to his wife and children. In 1964, when he was serving as a first mate, he and the rest of his crew mutinied, and he assumed control of the ship. As a captain, Every only made one voyage, but it was enough to provide him for the rest of his life. It lasted for two years and he was able to take down a Mughal ship that contained an incredible fortune. It was the single richest known act in the history of piracy and Every became wealthier than he'd probably ever dreamed of. Then, he did what few major pirate captains ever managed to accomplish - he retired, evading imprisonment and death in battle. His men weren't all so lucky - about a dozen were captured and six were executed. But despite being one of the most wanted men in the world, Every was never heard from again and thus became a pirate legend.

The second pirate featured here, Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, was not one of the best known pirates, but he did have a number of successful ventures, more than Blackbeard or Captain Kidd. In fact, he was the most successful pirate in the Golden Age of Piracy. A Welshman, he was a very stylish seaman and the fine clothes and jewelry he donned helped form the stereotypical image of the pirate that's seen today. He was also more enlightened than many of his fellow captains, being one of the first who is known to have created a code of honor that if violated by his crew, was punishable by death. He was killed during a battle, but his men were able to keep his body from being dishonored by weighing it down and throwing it into the sea, where it was never found. His death stunned pirates everywhere and signaled the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. It's still marked by an event known as the Blackest Day.

Next, there's John Rackham. You might call him a progressive pirate, as he had two females in his crew, which was pretty unusual at the time. One was the famous Anne Bonny, a red-haired Irish beauty who helped him achieve some success and gave birth to his child. The Jolly Roger flag he flew became one of the most popular, inspiring other pirates to create their own. It was even used by Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, who also allowed women to join his crew. But Rackham didn't meet with a happy ending like Sparrow. He was captured, hung for his crimes, and his body was posted as a warning to other pirates - interestingly enough, his skeleton appeared in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film with a sign reading "Pirates Ye Be Warned."

No listing of Pirates of the Atlantic Coast would be complete without Edward Teach, who under the nickname of Blackbeard became one of the most feared men of his time. Early on, he showed aptitude in piracy and secured his own ship. But even though was pardoned, Blackbeard continued on with his life of crime. He grew his hair into braids to appear fearsome and would sometimes even light fuses under his hat to scare his enemies. But his bark was worse than his bite - because he was able to subdue many with his frightening behavior, he never harmed or murdered his captives. Still, Blackbeard caused plenty of trouble, creating an alliance with other pirates and blockading Charleston. Finally, the governor of Virginia sent out a force to take him down. They caught up with him at Oracoke Island and a fierce battle erupted. Blackbeard was shot at least five times, cut about twenty, and his decapitated head was hung from the ship of those who brought him down. Legend has it his treasure is still buried on Oracoke.

Moving on, there's Stede Bonnet, who was actually born to a wealthy English family living in Barbados. He inherited his father's estate and married, seemingly settling into a normal life. But when trouble broke out in his marriage, he decided to become a pirate. Breaking with tradition, he bought a ship rather than stole it, hired a crew, giving them wages, and set sail despite the fact that he had no understanding of sailing. Because of this, his men didn't respect him, and he lost control of his ship. He managed to get it back, having some successes. But word got out that he was hiding out at Cape Fear River. And when he was captured, Bonnet came to rue the day he decided to become a pirate, begging for mercy, but it was too late. He was hung in Charleston in 1718.

And, finally, there's Thomas Tew. He was an Englishman who started off as a privateer before turning pirate. It's said that when he asked his crew if they would join him in his life of crime, they responded by shouting "A gold chain or a wooden leg, we'll stand with you!" He had only two major voyages, but he developed the Pirate Round, a route that became popular with later pirates. While he was able to take a ship headed to the Ottoman Empire without incident, taking in a great deal of riches, he wasn't always so lucky. He died in battle trying to take a Mughal convoy and his crew surrendered. But they were soon freed when Henry Every overtook them, the act which made him rich beyond measure. In an odd twist of fate, King William III, not knowing Tew was dead, hired Captain William Kidd to capture him. Kidd, of course, would later become a pirate himself.

So there you have it - six instances of piracy, and only one happy ending. I guess these men prove piracy doesn't pay - at least, not usually in the long run. So, today, rather than act like a pirate, just follow in the spirit of the celebration and talk like one. Now be off with ye, maties - it's time for me rum raisin!


  1. Matey, this was a particularly interesting post. Thanks for the info!