Writing Out Loud: The Real Pirates of the Caribbean

Writing Out Loud / George Stahl

George Stahl

November 28 is a date that seems to resonate with the folk lore of Piracy. Two distinct events happened on this day, three years apart from one another, one may not have anything to do with the other, but you decide.

On this day, November 28, in 1717, a man named Edward Teach, from England was in command of an English war sloop, although, not under the permission of His Majesty King George. The ship was actually the captured property of Teach’s mentor, Captain Benjamin Hornigold. Teach got his commission from Ben, a pirate. Not just any pirate, however, Ben was one of the best, and probably one of the most feared during his three-year career. As far as pirates go, that was a pretty good while too. Most were lucky to last out a year or two maybe, then would either find the hangman’s’ noose or the pointy end of a fellow buccaneer’s sword. Ben was actually able to retire, and live a quiet life on one of the islands.

On November 28, 1717, after having the use of the War Schooner taken from Teach by Ben, amicably, Teach was forced to shop for a new mode of transportation. He had been eyeing a French merchant vessel, La Concorde, who had been doing business around Jamaica, virtually untouched for some time. Teach saw great potential in her as a sturdy and winsome ship to fly the Jolly Roger. Teach gave strict instructions to his crew that when they engaged her, they were not to harm her hull. When the time came, they spotted her in open water and ran her down. La Concorde was not equipped to fight off a pirate attack. On that day, she was without an escort, so Teach was successful in taking her, only having to fire a single cannon shot across her beam, killing a few of her crew. Her cargo were slaves, Teach and his men sailed the slaves and the remaining crew to another island where he let them go. Except for some of the slaves who decided that piracy was a welcomed alternative to slavery.

Teach renamed the ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge after doing alterations, adding 40 guns and reinforcing her hull in some areas. So, here he was. A new ship, a new crew of cutthroats and ambitious pirates ready to get their feet wet with the surf and their swords wet with the blood of their victims. Teach was a tall, lean man with wide shoulders, an evil eye and a snarl across his cheeks and bilge water in his veins. His most predominate feature, however, was his whiskers. Despite his intimidating appearance, he knew not many would cower to the Pirate Captain Teach. So, on November 28, 1717 he reinvented Captain Edward Teach. He became the most fearsome, most terrifying pirate of all time. Literature would adopt him as the antitypical pirate. It was that fateful night, in the dim candle light of the rear cabin of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the pirate, Blackbeard was born.
As luck would have it though, less than a year later, on November 22, 1718, Blackbeard was killed in a battle at sea. Teach was around 35 years old. On the other hand, the timeless legend of Blackbeard, well that’s another story.

That same year, 1718, an unlikely pirate came onto the Jamaican coast. Hailing from South Carolina, an Irish American girl, named Anne Bonny signed on to the crew of Calico Jack Rackham. Calico Jack was certainly not in the same league as Blackbeard, but since the latter was dead six days, Bonny could not sign on to the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Close enough though, Calico Jack’s converted war sloop was simply called, The Revenge. It seems pirates were either obsessed with the concept or were not bright enough to be original.

Anne Bonny’s maiden name was Cormac and her father, William Cormac was an adulterer who got one of his maid’s pregnant with Anne while in Ireland. They all travelled to London where things didn’t work out so great with his ex-wife. They were forced across the Atlantic to South Carolina. William Cormac made a name for himself in the plantation business, and subsequently disowned his illegitimate daughter when she decided to marry a not so up and coming pirate called, James Bonny. When Anne left James she hooked up with Pirate Captain Calico Jack.

Anne’s partner in crime for three years was another female pirate, (#metoo.arrr) Mary Read. Anne and Mary and Calico Jack were three to be reckoned with. For the most part, their life of piracy was rewarded with their plunder.

They became infamous in the islands and a bounty was placed on their heads. In the order of pirates, though, they were not so well received and being a woman pirate, even to a pirate, was a low life thing. In October of 1720, Anne, Mary and Captain Calico Jack, were captured by pirate hunter, Jonathan Barnet. Now, here’s where the timeline ties together.

On November 28, 1720, Anne and Mary were the first women to be imprisoned for piracy. They both were sentenced to die, they both earned stays of execution by being pregnant, both with Calico’s babies. Mary died in prison, and Anne was later released, and returned to South Carolina. Calico Jack, the babies’ father, was executed on November 18.

Like Teach, many legends, and many characters in literature have been based on Anne and Mary. They say every legend has its basis in fact. These then, are among the Real Pirates of the Caribbean.


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