Friday, June 10, 2011

18th Century Pirates

Maria Lindsey & Eric Cobham
Years Active: Early 1700s
Country of Origin:
Comments: Possibly a fictional pirate operating on the Canadian east Coast.

Maria was born in Plymouth, England in the 18th century. She was the wife of the ruthless pirate Captain Eric Cobham. When they met he told her about his profession, with all the gory details; she was enchanted and married himnext day.

She left her hometown and joined his pirate crew. They sailed to the Americas where they made most of their wealth. "Murder for her was not merely a business necessity in the pirate trade; it was a pleasure and a sport" (De Pauw). An example of her 'pleasure' was to tie the captain and two mates of a plundered ship to her ship's windlass and used these men for target practice. Both also followed a policy of leaving no survivors.

After 20 years of plundering and murder, the Cobhams decided to retire from piracy in France. They had two sons and a daughter and settled so well into the community that Eric was asked to take the place of the late local magistrate, making him a judge! This life was hard for Maria Cobham to adjust to and she committed suicide ... by drinking poison and throwing herself into the sea. Her body washed ashore two days later. Eric Cobham was conscience-striken. He wrote out a detailed confession of his past life and frequented the local church. He gave the confession to the local pastor and made him promise to publish it after his death. The pastor agreed against the wishes of the Cobham family. The family tried to purchase every single copy of the published confession they could lay their hands on.

Charlotte de Berry
Years Active: 1700s
Country of Origin: England

Charlotte de Berry was born in 1636 in England. She was one of the few female pirates who had been successful and were famous. When she was a teenager, she fell in love with a young man who was a sailor but her parents were not in favour of their marriage.

Despite the opposition, she married him. Berry dressed as a man joined the English navy with her husband posing to be his brother. She was forced onto the ship to the Africa.
After a few days of pretending to be a man, an officer on board came to know that she in fact was a woman. He however did not reveal her truth as he wanted Berry. All his attempts to get her husband out of his way were unsuccessful. He then charged her husband of muntiny. He was found guilty and was flogged around the ship which eventually killed him.

The officer made advances towards Berry after her husband died. She killed him in order to stop his advances and started working on the dock dressed as a woman. There she was seen by a captain of a merchant ship who kidnapped her and forcefully married her and took her to Africa.

Once on board, she was successful in convincing the crew members for a revolt against him. She then killed the captain and became the captain of his ship. In this way, Berry started her pirating career and plundered ships on the African coast. 
After some years of looting ships, she fell in love with a Spanish man and married him. This marriage also did not last for a long time as their ship had been destroyed by a storm.
They were able to survive without food or water for some days but all of them were too hungry to stay like this. It was decided that they would draw lots and one who looses will give his life for others to feed on him. Unfortunately, Berry's husband was the first victim.

However, soon they were rescued by Dutch merchant ship. The merchant ship was attacked by pirates and Berry and her crew defended the ship. It is said that when everyone was busy celebrating the victory, Berry jumped into the sea to join her deceased husband. It is a mystery whether she survived or not.

Ingela Gathenhielm (1692-1729)
Years Active: 1710-1721
Country of Origin: Swedish
Comments: Baltic pirate. Wife and partner of legendary pirate Lars Gathenhielm. Took sole control following his death in 1718.

Anne Bonny ~ born Anne Cormac, alias Ann Bonn, Ann Fulford, possibly Sarah Bonny (1698-1782)
Years Active: 1719-1720
Country of Origin: Irish
Comments: Caribbean pirate.

Anne as born in Ireland (around 1700-1705), the daughter of lawyer William Cormac and his wife's maid, Peg Brennan. She grew up as a wild child, riding and shooting as well or better than boys her age.
Her father tried to have Anne dress as a boy to pass her off as a law clerk, however this attempt failed and Cormac lost his law practice due to the scandal. He left the country with Peg and Anne and moved to Charleston, SC. He again prospered as a lawyer and made enough to purchase a plantation. Shortly after its purchase, Anne's mother died and Anne became mistress of the house. Her father had high hopes for Anne to marry a 'well to do' gentleman, but Anne chose a penniless sailor. As a result, her father disinherited her.
Anne went to the Bahamas with her husband but left him for the pirate captain John Rackham, aka “Calico Jack”. Rackham tried to buy Anne from her husband, who adamantly refused and reported her to the governor. The governor threatened to flog Anne if she did not return to her husband. She refused and joined Rackham's crew, beginning her career in piracy.

After giving birth to Rackham’s child at their refuge in Cuba, she returned to him and the sea. This is when "Mark Read" joined their crew. Anne, being a bit flirtatious, made passes him whereupon "he" confessed to being Mary Read ... a woman. Anne kept Mary's secret and the two became friends. In the meantime, Rackham assumed Anne was having an affair and went into a rage, threatening to kill 'Anne's lover'. Anne divulged Mary's secret and the conflict passed.

Mary Read ~ alias Mark Read (c. 1690-1720)
Years Active: 1718-1720
Country of Origin: English

Mary was born in England around 1685. Shortly after her birth, an older "legitimate" brother had died. Out of financial necessity, her mother began dressing and treating Mary as a boy; her husband was lost at sea and she hoped to pass Mary off as the dead son in order to receive a monthly stipend from her husband's wealthy family. They fooled the husband's mother and received funds until her death.

Mary was 13 years old at the time and needed to earn a living. Since she was so accustomed to 'playing the boy' she was able to find a job as a "footman" for a French Lady. She later joined the navy as a cabin boy, switching to the Flemish army to fight as an infantryman. Though she was able to make a name for herself in the army, she was unable to receive an officer's commission (since she did not have any 'wealthy friends' to recommend her). So she left the army and joined the cavalry where once again she was well achieved.

She fell in love with the trooper she bunked with and began to show her affection for him by being overly concerned for his safety. This 'concern' became the talk of their regiment. She eventually confessed she was a woman with feelings for him and learned he felt the same way. They became engaged and married once the regiment went into winter quarters. Due to the awkwardness of the situation, their regiment persuaded them both to resign and assisted the newlyweds in opening a tavern (some have said it was in the Netherlands while other reports say it was in Belgium or Holland).

Unfortunately Mary's husband soon died and business was failing. After a quick return to the army, Mary decided to board a ship for America. This ship was captured by English pirates who let her live since she agreed to join their crew. This began her life as a pirate.

She soon took up with Captain John Rackham, aka Calico Jack. After joining this crew, Mary fell in love with one Rackham's men. She announced her womanhood to this man and the two exchanged formal vows. As with her first husband, she was very protective of him. He quarreled with another member of his crew and, according to pirate law, a duel was called for once on shore. Afraid her husband would be killed, Mary picked a fight with the same pirate and set the time 2 hours before her husband's assigned duel. She killed the man immediately.

In 1720, off the coast of Jamaica, Mary was captured with the rest of Rackham's crew in 1720 by Captain Jonathan Barnet. At the age of 36, Mary and her unborn child died in prison of fever.

The Capture & Trial of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

October 1720 ~ An armed sloop sent by the governor of Jamaica trapped and boarded the pirate ship of Calico Jack. All but three pirate members fled below deck (it was said that most were drunk or hung-over). Bonny, Read and one man continued to resist the capture. Read was ashamed of the cowardice of her crewmates and tried to goad them into defending themselves. She even fired into the hold where she killed one pirate and wounded several others.

Read, Bonny and the one man was unable to hold off the law, so all pirates were captured and taken prisoner. Mary's husband was acquitted since he was able to prove that he had joined under compulsion. However, both Read and Bonny were convicted and sentenced to be hanged with the other captives. They 'pleaded their belly' since both were pregnant. Unfortunately, Mary and her unborn child died in prison of fever. Anne, however, gave birth to her child which was followed by several execution reprieves. This is where there are no more official records. She was not hanged and she did not die in prison. At the time of her trial she was not yet 20 years old. It’s possible her father was able to help her escape as well as continue the reprieves.

There is some conjecture that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of the child. Anne's child, born five months after the trial, on April 21, 1721, was named John Cormac Bonny. John Rackham seems to have been listed as the illegitimate child's father. After the child's birth the mother and child returned to Virginia via South Carolina. There are some records that imply she married a Joseph Burleigh there in 1721. It’s guessed this marriage was arranged by Anne's father to get her started with a clean slate when she returned (one can only imagine the dowry required to get a man to marry a woman reputed to be such a wildcat). Anne gave birth to eight more children with her husband, three of whom died young. She’s said to have died on April 25, 1782 (which would have put her age at somewhere around 70-80) and was buried in a place called Sweethaven (possibly in York County, Virginia).

Mary Cricket or Crichett
Years Active: 1728
Country of Origin:
Comments: In 1728, Mary Crickett and Edmund Williams were transported to the colony of Virginia as felons. In 1729, along with four other men, they were convicted of piracy and hung.
Flora Burn
Years Active: 1741 or 1751
Country of Origin:
Comments: Operated on the East Coast of North America.

Sarah Bishop
Years Active: 1778-1780
Country of Origin: New York, USA
Comments: Forced to join the crew of a British privateer during the Revolutionary War.

Rachel Schmid-Wall (1670-1789)
Years Active: 1780s
Country of Origin:
Comments: Thought to be the first American female pirate.

Born in 1760 in Carlisle, PA Rachel married George Wall at the age of 16. He was a former privateer who served in the Revolutionary War. The newlyweds moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a maid and George as a sailor on a fishing schooner.

Soon after, George suggested to five sailors/friends that they take up piracy. They had all been privateers and accepted. George also asked Rachel to join them, which she did. They used a friend's fishing schooner and paid for it's use with part of the loot. Disguised as a fishing boat, they would ply the waters off Boston when a storm hit, putting out distress signals to lure ships to their doom.

Once a ship stopped to help them, its crew was attacked and killed. The loot would be transferred over to the "fishing boat" and the aided ship would be sunk to make it appear it had sunk due to the storm. This scheme worked well until 1782, when George Wall made a miscalculation regarding a storm. Their schooner was caught in the storm and George and his crewmen were swept overboard and drowned. Rachel was rescued and taken to Boston where she went back to her old job as a servant.

So used to robbery, Rachel continued her trade by stealing from seafarers while they slept upon their ships. She would board a ship and steal from the captain's head while the captain was sleeping. In 1789 she was arrested and convicted of a murder. She confessed to her crimes of piracy and stealing, but insisted she never murdered anyone. This did not sway the judge; Rachel was hanged October 8, 1789.

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