Tuesday, August 14, 2018

La Concorde de Nantes Captured!

Secretary of State for the Navy - Correspondence to the arrival from Martinique 1717-1727: Feuquieres (François de Pas de Mazencourt, Marquis de), Governor General of the Windward Islands ◾ Correspondence ◦ Mesnier (Charles) the Navy to Martinique ◦ 1717

December 10, 1717

EN ANOM COL C8A 22 F ° 438

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On the 7th of this month [December 1717] a ship [Mauvais Rencontre, former sloop of Edward Thache, aka "Blackbeard"], commanded by Captain Pierre Dosset of Nantes, with 246 [negroes, black women, black male female children under 13 - later totals from two trips were quoted at 171 males, 147 females, 47 boys, 9 girls, and total of 374].
Slaver captains anchored chiefly off the Guinea Coast (also called the Slave Coast) for a month to a year to trade for their cargoes of 150 to 600 persons, most of whom had been kidnapped and forced to march to the coast under wretched conditions. While at anchor and after the departure from Africa, those aboard ship were exposed to almost continuous dangers, including raids at port by hostile tribes, epidemics, attack by pirates or enemy ships, and bad weather. Although these events affected the ships’ crews as well as the enslaved, they were more devastating to the latter group, who had also to cope with physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of their captors. Despite—or perhaps in part because of—the conditions aboard ship, some Africans who survived the initial horrors of captivity revolted; male slaves were kept constantly shackled to each other or to the deck to prevent mutiny, of which 55 detailed accounts were recorded between 1699 and 1845. [Encyclopedia Britannica (online), "Middle Passage"]

Detail of a British broadside depicting the slave ship Brooks and the manner (c. 1790) in which more than 420 adults and children could be carried onboard.
This captain had departed from Nantes on the 12th of April last, commanding the ship La Concorde, to trade Negres on the Coste de Guynee [Guinea], where he arrived on the eighth of July [1717], and after having traded 516 pieces of Negres [455 surviving the Middle Passage], left the 2nd of October to make his return to this isle [Martinique]...

 ... but on the 28th of November last being 60 leagues from here by the 14 degrees 27 minutes of north latitude, having been attacked by two English pirate ships, one of 12, the other of 8 cannons, crewed by 250 men, commanded by Edouard Titche, was abducted by these pirates with 455 Negres who remained with him.
Disease and the hardships of the Middle Passage claimed sixteen crew and sixty-one of 516 total slaves. Depositions by Captain Pierre Dosset and Lieutenant Francois Ernaut explained the events of their capture by Thache on November 28, 1717. Ernaut testified that two pirate sloops attacked the slave ship La Concorde: one with 120 men and twelve cannon, and the other with thirty men and eight cannon. This estimate was 100 pirates shy of his captain’s. [Quest for Blackbeard, p. 363]
[Thache] carried the said Dosset with his crew to the Grenadines on the isle of Becoya [Bequia] near Grenada, except 14 men, of whom 10 were retained by force and the 4 others having taken part willingly with the said pirates.

[Thache] gave to the said Sr. Dosset the boat in which he arrived [Mauvais Rencontre - sloop of 8 guns] here the Negres and another party of Negres of which did not belong to him. He left from the said isle Becoya with part of its crew having been unable to contain them in this boat [Mauvais Rencontre] without risk of losing many, and which he goes in the same boat by means of a passport that M. [Francois de Pas] de Feuquieres [governor of Martinique/French Windward Islands] gave him, and a rolle of crew whom I [Charles Mesnier] also gave him for the said boat.

Captain Dosset pretends that these pirates gave 25 of the Negres to a small boat [son of Henri Saint Amour] of that island which they had taken and plundered and which they relieved. The said Captain Dosset will undoubtedly make his dilligences to demand the restitution of these 25 negres.

I have the honor to send herewith to the Council the declaration made by the said Captain Dosset at the Gresse de la Isle, on arriving there. The masters of boats who trade here in Grenada have reported seeing the said pirates with the said vessel La Concorde in a Bay of Isle St. Vincent. They had burned a ship there, and a ship who made their escape still on the water. These same boats have been hunted by these pirates, from whom they have escaped in favor of the calms and their oars. This will inform the Council of the necessity that the King should send to the Seas two good frigates, well armed and full of sails.
News of the king’s pardon made its rounds in the Atlantic by this time. Jacques Ducoin, who studied these records, believes that Thache considered taking the king’s pardon and was not tempting fate. This does not ring true, however. The massive pirate raid of St. Domingue was planned for late December and later events a few months away near the Bay of Honduras where he allegedly burns former pirate Capt. (Edward?) James’ ship for accepting the same pardon. Edward Thache may simply have been a Royal Navy veteran revolutionary observing a code of military honor and thus, treated his victims more fairly than would “notorious” pirates or common criminals. Thache usually allowed them enough food and rarely harmed anyone, unless they kept money from him. There may also have been a more pragmatic reason not to take all of the slaves. He also understood the amount of food and water needed to preserve them and, under the conditions, he probably had some trouble feeding his own crew already. The differences between [Stede] Bonnet and [Edward] Thache may have had little to do with the ability to feed slaves, but might have been more of a personal nature. [Quest for Blackbeard, p. 366-367]


Look for the new booklet for the Blackbeard 300 Tri-Centennial festivities, Murder at Ocracoke: Power and Profit in the Killing of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache, available now at Lulu Publishing!

Please keep up with updates on my website at baylusbrooks.com and at my Facebook pages: Baylus C. Brooks and Quest for Blackbeard.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

French Slavers & English Pirates off the African Coast!

Jacques Nadreau, commander of 130 ton, 12-gun French slaver l'Union de Nantes probably descends from the Flemish architect Jacques Nadreau. The elder Nadreau was a basically unknown architect who made it famous when he constructed L'orgue du Collège Royal de La Flèche, an organ gallery consisting of a low-bay central bay and two conical horns at the east end of the nave of La Chapelle Saint-Louis du Prytanée militaire de La Flèche in the town of La Flèche, in La Sarthe, a department or county of the Loire region. This afforded his family some prominence and wealth.

The younger Jacques Nadreau, perhaps a grandson, had recently sailed from Nantes, a port 50 miles up the Loire River, as consort to 266-ton L'Aurore, commanded by Mathurin Joubert in 1713, carrying slaves from West Africa to the French Windward colony of La Martinique. Early in 1719, Nantes merchant René Montaudouin, previous owner of the ill-fated La Concorde de Nantes (which became Edward Thache's Queen Anne's Revenge), outfitted 130 ton, 12-gun l'Union de Nantes, to be commanded by Jacques Nadreau. 

As found in "When Nantes was the capital of the slave trade" by Jean-François Martin, just in the 18th century alone, ships of Nantes transported between 450,000 and 600,000 Africans to the European colonies of the New World. As gleaned from The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds Of The Slave Trade, by Robert Harms, sugar markets no longer sought sugar from the nearby island of São Tomé, Portuguese for "Saint Thomas," and gold was available from New World Spanish colonies. With the advent of lucrative West-Indian sugar plantations in the latter 17th century, slaves became highly valuable. African slaves from the Guinea Coast and elsewhere became a profitable trade in the Atlantic for other European items such as cloth and guns. By the early 18th century, Judah or Whydah had recently become the principle location from which to obtain their human cargo.

Nadreau departed 1 April that early spring for the coast of Guinea to obtain slaves in the West African port of Judah, or Whydah, arriving there 12 August, 3 days after three English pirates had left in pursuit of another slave trader, Le Victorieux de Nantes, captained by Guillaume Hais. 

French West Africa, with Judah, and islands of Princes, Sao Tome, Anabon and Corista.
Jeremiah Cocklyn, Richard Taylor, and Olivier LeVasseur, most commonly known as "La Buse," or the "Buzzard," had held complete control of Judah from 22 June until 9 August 1719. 

Le Victorieux, on her way to Judah that March, like most merchant captains, learned of pirates on that coast while trading with locals at Grand Sestre for wood, water, and rice. This lay some 90 miles southeast of Sierra Leone River and west of Judah at the Bight of Benin. Hais and crew arrived in Judah 22 March and began to trade with the directors of the fort of São João Baptista de Ajudá for their slaves. 

Exactly three months later, on the 22nd of June, at "four or five o'clock in the afternoon, three pirate ships [Cocklyn, Taylor, and LeVasseur] entered the harbor, flying English flags. After some time, [Edouard Hais, brother of Guillaume and 2nd officer of Victorieux], then in command, believed the pirates were recognized. They then fired cannons and hoisted black flags. Hais cut two cables on the bits" and fled, leaving his brother ashore, where he was then trading with French director, Sieur Bouchet, and his English, Dutch, and Portuguese counterparts. The pirates anchored before Judah in two places, with two prize vessels.

Pirate Jeremiah Cocklyn, in particular, had an eye on capturing Le Victorieux, and, so, took up the hunt for her in William Snelgrave's captured former Bird Galley. After the pirates had agreed to meet at Corisco Island to careen their ships, and rendezvous later at Anabon Island, they parted from Judah on the 9th of August. Afterward, Hais, having evaded Cocklin, returned in Le Victorieux to conclude their business and Le Victorieux also parted on 15th of September.

Not all of the slave traders on the Guinea Coast, however, believed that these three vessels were pirates. Of course, Capt. Nadreau, having just arrived 12 August, had not yet had the displeasure of their company and he argued that they were simply English merchants. The other merchants, particularly Hais, assured him that they were, indeed, pirates. The 30th of September, while Nadreau loaded three hundred and fifty-six slaves, Richard Taylor, then in command of his prize, Richard Blincko's former Heroine, returned to prove Hais absolutely correct! 

[Plan du fort françois à Juda et couronnement du roy de Juda a la coste de Guinée au mois d'avril 1725] (1730), Labat, Jean-Baptiste (1663-1738).
Nadreau wrote that "pirates on September 30th 1719, gave chase to his ship," l'Union de Nantes, and that 24 of his crew had been trading ashore and were left behind when Taylor raided. Nadreau was forced to change his opinion of these pirate "merchants" when they plundered his vessel of his "passport and all his other papers," "looted his cables and liquors by the bottle, and left the deponent on the ground [at Judah] with twenty black cargo." At least he had been reunited with his 24 crew members. The worst part was the semi-betrayal of his first mate, "obliged to plunder his canoe, and a mast," who then departed for Saint Domingue in his ship, at the direction, and probable amusement of the English pirates!

Nadreau was "obliged to remain at Judah for a month and a half with his men and the twenty negroes... obliged to make heavy expenses for the subsistence of the negroes and sailors." He found passage on Jacques Hego's l'Heureaux Avanteuries, who had also been taken by pirate Edward England on 15 September at Cap de Trois Pointes, just west of Judah

Capt. Helle Lavigne, commander of Le Preni de Nantes, had also been warned about these pirates at Grand Sestre, where other merchants assured him that he needed a pass from the brigands to trade on the Guinea Coast. Like Nadreau on the pirates' first visit to Judah, he missed Richard Taylor's return to Judah, arriving on the evening of the same day, the 30th of September, having heard of the scuffle from other merchants. He may have felt fortunate to have missed these pirates, but, as I write in the upcoming new book, Sailing East: West Indian Pirates in Madagascar:
Coming this fall!
What was Richard Taylor doing at this time? Capt. Helle Lavigne, commander of Le Preni de Nantes, may be able to tell us. While Cocklyn and LeVasseur were occupied with Le Solide, a pirate ship again raided Judah on 30 September, taking l’Union de Nantes, captain Jacques Nadreau. Lavigne heard the rumors and arrived that night to speak with the directors ashore. After departing, on 2nd of October, two days en route for Anabon, he and a Portuguese ship were also taken probably by Taylor. Lavigne told little about this pirate, except that he pillaged his cargo. The pirate kept him near Judah until 11 November 1719, and then ordered him to follow, as the pirate had to leave – probably to rendezvous with LeVasseur and Cocklyn. The timing was perfect! Moreover, Lavigne would meet fellow French pirate captive Guillaume Hais of Le Victorieux quite soon!

Capts. Hais and Lavigne would partner up at Cape Lopez that December after being released by the pirates.. who would then be sailing eastward for Madagascar! Read their stories and the story of the captured pirate ship Victory or Le Victorieux, famously involved in capturing the East India Company's Cassandra, in Sailing East: West Indian Pirates in Madagascar.

Note: corrections made 14-Aug-2018.

Read about the final end of Edward Thache:

Murder at Ocracoke! Power and Profit in the Killing of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache


In commemoration of "Blackbeard 300 Tri-Centennial":

As always, drop by baylusbrooks.com and check out the primary source transcriptions available there!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lt. Robert Maynard: Rewards of Killing a Pirate!

In my book, Murder at Ocracoke!, I discuss the mission to destroy Edward Thache, known as Blackbeard the Pirate, in the proprietary colony of North Carolina:
[Virginia's Lt. Gov. Alexander] Spotswood appeared to collude with Royal Navy forces, originally sent to guard Virginia from pirates, to murder Edward Thache in North Carolina. Capt. Ellis Brand of 20-gun sixth-rate HMS Lyme and Capt. George Gordon of 42-gun fifth-rate HMS Pearl supplied the men, including Lt. Robert Maynard of HMS Pearl to lead the expedition. Two local Virginia sloops, Ranger and Jane, were hired for this purpose and they sailed from Kiquotan on November 17, 1718 to hunt Edward Thache and kill him in North Carolina, which they accomplished five days later...

The man who killed Blackbeard the Pirate had made a name for himself through this action, particularly in the media. Still, Lt. Robert Maynard's theft of gold and other valuables, estimated from £1200 to £1400, in the amount of the sales proceeds.from the famed pirate Edward Thache, when captured and killed on November 22, 1718, hurt his career. This was not necessarily because of the crime, which the Admiralty and their lawyer Anthony Cracherode could not definitively prove, but because of further demands made, time, and expense he incurred upon the Admiralty and the media campaign that ensued - a media campaign that most certainly annoyed Secretary Josiah Burchett and his superiors.

This exploration also illustrates the value of genealogical inquiry into historical subjects, especially in light of the massive amount of documentary data that has been digitized and recently made available to online researchers.

When any Royal Navy officer captures or kills a pirate, the pirate's "booty" became the property of the king until its ownership was otherwise determined. Maynard was accused by his own captain, George Gordon, of pocketing significant amounts of that booty! Taking the money and goods not only annoyed his superiors in London, but Maynard's further demands for bounty payments for killing Thache and capturing his crew also worked against him. Furthermore, he made a media spectacle of the affair to draw attention to his desire, like wealthy pirate Richard Tookerman did to Capt. Edward Vernon.  Maynard paid for this, but not heavily - perhaps his family affiliations protected him.

Career navy officer Robert Maynard, of Great Mongeham, Kent, England, after beginning his career as an 18-year old lieutenant in 1706, died as a captain in 1751 at the age of 63. Maynard, as the grandson of Major General Thomas Handasyd (through his mother Ann; a governor of Jamaica from 1702-1711), he qualified as an officer at a time when military attainment was more due to your connections than your actual ability.

Still, Maynard only attained the rank of captain after 35 years of service. He spent the first 32 years of his navy career as a lieutenant and only then, in 1739, was promoted to commander at the age of 44. After 1739, as commander, Maynard was finally given the command of 8-gun HMS Cumberland, captured Spanish Princesa in consort with HMS Lennox, and then promoted to captain the next year, with command of 20-gun Sheerness. It was only after attaining the coveted rank of captain in 1740 that his career took off. By 1741, he improved his career quickly by commanding three 50-gun vessels, Falmouth, Sutherland, and Antelope. After attaining 80-gun Russel in 1744, he also succeeded to the captaincy of 70-gun Ipswich by 1745. This was his last command.

At the time he killed Blackbeard and while serving aboard HMS Pearl, under Capt. Gordon, he briefly enjoyed promotion from 2nd lieutenant to 1st. But, a few years later, aboard 70-gun HMS Kent, we find that he had been bucked back to 2nd.The Blackbeard incident obviously had a deleterious effect on his career, if only briefly.

According to data from the latter 18th century in an article by Professor N.A.M. Rodger of Exeter University in 2001, lieutenants in general were becoming far more numerous than commanders by 1720. So, obtaining the rank of commander, rather than captain, by the age of 40 meant less favor with the Admiralty than most, in general, of course - assuming that issues of greater wealth and family importance were insignificant on average. Also, the number of serving lieutenants, as opposed to those available, showed that merely serving on one of his Majesty's vessels was probably a indication of wealth and/or distinction - hunting pirates also gave one a better chance to collect bounty payments and was much desired by most of the crew. Still, greed of the privileged classes, theft from pirates,and other general corruption in Royal Navy officers, was not at all uncommon, as I make quite clear in my upcoming book, Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar. In some cases, the theft is bold enough to gather attention - not the case, however, with Robert Maynard. Excessive paperwork was far more tedious for the Admiralty. Note, however, that they may have demoted him, but did not remove Maynard from the active list!


After killing the pirate, Lt. Maynard wrote a letter, allegedly dated 17 December in North Carolina, to his friend "Lt. [Richard] Symonds," 25 days after the battle telling about the capture of the famed pirate. This letter was published by the controversial Jacobite author of A General History of the Pyrates while in the midst of the Admiralty's negotiations with Robert Maynard. He also allegedly wrote a letter to his sister Margeret Peck* (1688-1776), wife of Capt. John Peck (d.1725), then living in Attleborough, Bristol County, Massachusetts.
* Note: Margaret married Capt. John Peck 1st 28 Jan 1710, St, Dunstan, Stepney, Middlesex, England – children Thomas, John, and Ann - 2nd on 11 Apr 1726 to Capt. Thomas Mitchell Jr. (1660-1741 RI); National Archives of London, “Will of Capt. Robert Maynard” (12 Oct 1750 – 28 March 1751), PROB 11/786/442.

Illustrating the apparent official disfavor for Maynard was the career of this friend Richard Symonds, a lieutenant aboard HMS Phoenix, Captain Vincent Pearse, stationed at New York in December 1718. Maynard had been a nominally-successful lieutenant for 12 years up till his killing of Blackbeard. By contrast to Maynard's long 32 years as a lowly lieutenant, Symonds had gone from lieutenant to captain in only 20 years!

April 25 1719 Weekly Journal and Saturday Evening's Post - alleged Maynard letter from Nathaniel Mist's (aka "Capt. Charles Johnson," controversial author of A General History of the Pyrates) newspaper.

Symonds also was 1st commissioned in 1706 (perhaps why and when he became friends with Robert Maynard) and became captain of sloop Shark, commissioned in 1733 for the Bahamas station (follow here: John D Grainger, 13 Sharks: The Careers of a series of small Royal Navy Ships, from the Glorious Revolution to D-Day.). An interesting note here is that, on Shark's first voyage to the Bahamas, she carried their new governor Richard FitzWilliam, replacing Bahamas' pirate liberator Woodes Rogers who had recently passed away. FitzWilliam had been a significant part of Blackbeard's story. He had defended many of Edward Thache's men against Spotswood's charges of piracy - he was rumored to have been paid from their Queen Anne's Revenge or the original La Concorde French booty: gold dust and slaves.

As the  Shark returned from her Bahamas-Carolina station to the Nore, a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames estuary off the traditional anchorage for the Admiralty at the Downs, Kent. A serious illness had struck the crew of Shark.

Capt. Symonds requested a "a surgeon and surgeon's mate" on 4 August and still had not received "surgeon's chest," apparently desperately needed on Shark at the Downs on 12 October 1739 (records in ADM 106/913 and ADM 106/842, found at National Archives in Kew Gardens). Capt. Symonds was "still awaiting his surgeon Miles Williams and has sick on board," had been ill himself since 20 September and sailed to Dover without the chest, but "his Surgeon has supplied himself with necessaries for some time." Capt. Symonds had finally achieved the captaincy of 50-gun HMS Colchester in November 1740, just after this incident and died only two months later while at Georgia. Whether this was from his recent illness we might be able to determine from a closer study of the documents at the National Archives of Great Britain. Symonds friend Capt. Robert Maynard's career had finally taken off at the time his long-time friend had died.

Will of Richard Symonds of the Parish of Saint Margaret Westminster, 24 September 1733, probated 22 January 1741.

Capt. Richard Symonds, Esq. died unmarried, in January 1741. He was then in Georgia at the time. His body would have been buried at sea. As many navy officers, he made his will in 1733 just as Shark was commissioned and he was assigned overseas. His home was then in Wolvey, Warwickshire and his executor left much evidence of his effort to settle his affairs, also in the archives.

That he had still remained associated with Robert Maynard's family is apparent in the court case of Symonds v Boothby (1740-1744; C 11/1081/35) wherein plaintiff "William White (executor of Richard Symonds deceased of Wolvey, Warwickshire), William White junior and Elizabeth Symonds, sister of Richard, also involved Maynard's nephew "John Peck" as a defendant.

Capt. Robert Maynard followed his friend a decade later. "Will of Captain Robert Maynard of the Parish of Great Mongeham in the County of Kent" mentions £500 of South Seas Annuities for his daughter-in-law Elizabeth Judson, £300 to the "Ann Widow & Relict of my late Brother Captain Thomas Maynard," his mother "Mrs. Ann [Handasyd] Maynard," £200 to "friend Mr. Thomas Gee of Holborn," £500 each to "Nephews Thomas and [Boston glazier] John Peck and to my Niece Ann...," children of his sister, "Margaret [Peck] Mitchell." The will was dated 12 October 1750. It was probated 28 March 1751. Obviously, he acquired quite the fortune in his Majesty's service - by killing pirates! At least by £1200 to £1400! 😉

Will of Captain Robert Maynard of the Parish of Great Mongeham in the County of Kent - dated 12 October 1750 and probated 28 March 1751
Stone states his death occurred in 1760. This may or may not be the memorial for the same man. Just in case, here!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pardoning Pirates: HMS Phoenix to the Bahamas, February-April 1718

In late 1717, America's first newspaper, Boston News-Letter, printed quite a few articles about the pirates of the Bahamas, particularly Edward Thache, or "Teach," known as "Blackbeard," and the "Flying Gang" of Benjamin Hornigold. Pirates were becoming more active. Thache, a Royal Navy veteran who may have sought to begin a revolution against British authority, would capture La Concorde of Nantes, France that November, making her his flagship as Queen Anne's Revenge. These articles represented the worried feeling of colonial factors and other important merchants, connected financially to London and Bristol.

Boston News-Letter 1717-08-12

Boston News-Letter 1717-10-14
Furthermore, Col. Samuel Shute, Governor of Massachusets Bay, presided over the trial of eight persons for piracy. These were the human remnants of Samuel Bellamy's Whydah, wrecked on New England's shores in April 1717. America was still young and growing. At this same time, Governor Shute negotiated to resettle a large number of Scotch emigrants from the north of Ireland, resulting in several ships with migrants arriving in August 1718. They eventually settled in New Hampshire, where they founded the town of Londonderry, after the location in Ulster, Ireland, named for the ancestors of current Bahamas investor Thomas Pitt, Esq., who, in 1719, was created Baron Londonderry, and, in 1726, Earl of Londonderry. This was the beginning of a major wave of Scotch-Irish migration to both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Britain and her merchants saw the threat to British commerce and, thus successful settlement,  growing. London and Bristol merchants feared for their profit in the colonies and a group of them petitioned the king for help. Largely because of the complaints of these merchants, the Admiralty had, by that summer, sent numerous vessels to America, primarily to Jamaican waters, to guard trade. On 30 May 1717, Admiralty Secretary Josiah Burchett wrote to the various colonies a general circular, like this one to Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood of Virginia:
My Lords Commrs. of the Admty. being informed that Pyrates do very much infest the Coasts of Virginia; b[u]t more especially about the Capes, and his Majesty's Ship under your Command being sent to those parts principaly to protect the Trade of his Majties.
By fall of 1717, British authorities sought to arrest piracy's development in America once and for all. Appeasement was chosen as the preferred method - no sense in agitating these one-time and important merchants who had "temporarily" strayed into illegality.

On 5th of September, 1717, after a month of deliberations, a pardon, or Act of Grace was offered to these men if they would only cease their illegal transactions. Two weeks later, several "commissions for trying pirates in His Majesty's plantations" were also issued. It was also proposed by some of these merchants to found a new government at the Bahamas, under direction of Woodes Rogers, a former privateer himself. This had been well under discussion by Thomas Pitt, Earl of Londonderry, Capt. Woodes Rogers, "Adam Codonell, Charles Dominique, Wm. Chetwynd , Esq., Samuel Buck, and James Gohier merchants." They hoped for a profitable venture.

Capt. Vincent Pearse, commander (1715 - 1721) of HMS Phoenix, a 24-gun sixth-rate man-of-war, was entrusted to deliver the word of the Act of Grace before arrival of Rogers and his new government. Stationed in New York, he would sail to New Providence Island in the Bahamas and take the surrenders of any pirates willing to accept the king's pardon. He issued certificates to verify their surrender in case they were questioned about any merchandise they attempted to deliver to other ports. In other words, they could keep what they had already stolen. He would also arrest those who committed piracy again and ignored the pardon.

It sounded good... in theory. This analysis makes use of HMS Phoenix log entries and Capt. Vincent Pearse's letters to the Admiralty to arrive at the most accurate view of the surrender of Bahamian pirates, according to the viewpoint of the admittedly biased Royal Navy captain first on the scene. Like stopping the later revolutionaries of America in 1776, Britain's attempt to pardon pirates of Benjamin Hornigold's Bahamian "Flying Gang" would never be as simple as the Admiralty believed!

Winter of 1717-1718 was rather mild in the colony of "New Amsterdam" or New York. Turtle Bay, on the eastern side of Manhattan Island, had usually frozen over by January, but not this winter. HMS Phoenix rested at anchor in this bay on January 21st in "Moderate and fair weather." Occasional gales and squally weather moved in the next two weeks, as the ship watered and replaced her bad guns.

Reconstructie uit 1942 van de kaart van Nieuw Amsterdam in 1662, gebaseerd op plattegronden uit de jaren 1653-1664.[16] Ambrosius de Warm en Adriaentje Thomas woonden in 1665 op de Heere Graft (nu Broad Street) naast Tunis Cray, in 1669 in de Smee Straat (Smith Street, nu William Street), en in 1674 en 1686 in Princen Straat (nu Beaver Street).

At 10 in the morning on February 3, Phoenix unmoored from Turtle Bay, just north of the fortified "wall" of "[New] York" and moved southward in the East River toward the old town of "New Amsterdam," or New York, English since 1665, on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, anchoring in sight of "Passage House" and the "English Church," probably today's First Presbyterian Church, known as "Old First," established 1716 and still under construction in January 1718. Here, they took on new sails and a boat. Fort George would have been a rather imposing feature in the old Dutch town. The picture below shows spires from the various churches in 1730.

A View of Fort George with the City of New York. It was originally "Fort Amsterdam" under the Dutch, but renamed as Fort William Henry in 1691, Fort Anne or Queen's Fort in 1703, and finally Fort George in 1714. Engraving by I. Carwithan, c. 1730. Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress (48) - http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/00262us.jpg
Postcard depicting “Fort Amsterdam ‘Now the Battery’ in Kieft’s [1670s] Days” (c1910).

At 2 pm on February 6, 1718, HMS Phoenix weighed again and set sail "bound to providence with his Maj:ts most Gracious Proclimation for Suppressing the Pyrates." Three hours later, Capt. Pearse guided his ship through the "Narrows," anchoring for the evening. Again, he weighed at 10 AM, sailed "out of the [Sandy] hook," 6 miles from "Never Sunk," probably Navesink River, an estuary, approximately 8 mi (12 km) long in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

To arrive at any destination southward in America, Pearse found it necessary to set his course southeastward, then to tack into the trade winds to New Providence. Five days at sea, after over 250 miles, they encountered a Bristol ship heading for Virginia. After 325 miles, Phoenix then set her course more southwestward, to arrive on the east side of the Bahamas. The Royal Navy vessel made variously, according to wind and course changes, between 46 and 180 miles a day. In 15 days and after over 900 miles, Phoenix entered the Bahamas on February 21st, anchoring first just off Harbour Island. "bearing SSW 3 Leagues stood off & on till noon making of Signalls for a Boat but none appear'd."

An exact draught of the island of New Providence one of the Bahama Islands in the West Indies (17__?), Library of Congress.

Benjamin Hornigold resided on Harbour Island, but traded often at Nassau, on the main island of New Providence. This is probably where he could then be found, awaiting Phoenix's arrival, for certainly, the many merchants found in "Providence Harbour" when Pearse arrived probably included some from New England who knew of the plans for HMS Phoenix to sail there with the king's Act of Grace. At least some of the pirates were eager for the pardon - some were obviously not.

Upon arriving off Providence Harbour the next morning, February 22nd, at 7 AM, in wind and rain, HMS Phoenix was "Saluted by two of the pyrates Ships," Pearse found "severall Ships & Sloops with Colours of all Nations Flying." She anchored and Pearse then "sent [his] Lieutenant a Shoar with a Flagg of Truce & his Majesties Royall proclamation of the Act of Grace." 
[Description of harbor in letter of 3 June:] The harb'r of Providence has two Entrances one to the Eastwd the other to the Wt Wd a Barr about 8 foot water into a thwart the Middle of the harb'r the Wt Wd part where I ?nd was 20 feet at Spring tides at Low Water.
Of the vessels in the harbor found by Pearse were "5 ships[,] 3 of them from 18: to 36 guns [-] also 9 Sloops which were Traders with these Pyrates but pretended they never did itt till the Act of Grace was Published[:] one of the Dutch man of 36 guns & another of 26: one an English Pink one a Bristoll Gally [Mary] & the other a French Ship of no Force."

The next morning, Pearse's lieutenant returned and informed his captain "that he was receiv'd by a great number of Pyrate[s] with much Civility to whom he read Publick the proclamation and they accepted the same with a great deall of Joy[.]  [A]ll their Commanders did the like." In all, he later wrote there were "about 500 all Subjects of Great Britain & young Resolute Wicked fellows." But, then, by this time, he was quite annoyed with Hornigold's Bahamian pirates of the "Flying Gang."

Pearse, in a letter to the Admiralty, wrote that "four of their Commanders [Benjamin Hornigold, Francis Leslie, Josiah Burgess, and Thomas Nichols] & one hundred & fourteen of their Companys had then Voluntarily Surrenderd themselves to me & accepted of his Maties most Gracious Pardon." He also noted his personal impression of these men, that these Bahamians were a "parcele of unthinking people." These "unthinking" people also alerted Pearse's lieutenant that "a Sloop call'd the Lark was att anchor att Bushes Key with a design to goe out upon the Account again." The pirates, including Benjamin Hornigold and other captains, happily surrendered, but also expressed that they had become divided on the issue of accepting the pardon.

Pearse wrote on the 24th of February that "I had fired severall Shott att [Lark] she bore down to me so I sent my Lieutenant on board and took Possession of her[.] [S]he had but 16 Men wch: pretended she [was] going into the Harbour to Surrender themselves to me and to Accept of his Maj:ties Pardon in the Evening." Pearse noted that "Some of thes[e] Commanders and Ringleaders came on board and Informed me that my taking the Sloop had very much alarm[ed] all the Pyrates in Generall[,] beleiving that the Men [taken] in her would be Executed[.] [T]herefore the Said Commanders Assured me that my Setting att Liberty these Prisoners would be a very great means to induce these People to Surrender and Accept the act of Grace; which I accordingly did and this Confirm'd them all of his Majesties goodness towards them." It's quite possible that, when the captain of this sloop Lark, certainly Charles Vane, was first captured by Capt. Pearse and surrendered aboard HMS Phoenix, he may have felt that he had no option but to pretend to take the pardon. Charles Vane, however, cared little for "his Majesties goodness," reneged on the Act of Grace almost immediately, and was determined to remain defiant!

For the next three days, other pirates would periodically come aboard HMS Phoenix to surrender to Capt. Pearse and receive their certificates. Within the course of the next month, as Pearse wrote on 3rd of June 1718, "Since that time Ninety more of them have done the like." He sent a list from his home port of New York with that letter of 209 names of pirates to whom he had given pardons.

On the 28th of February, another sloop from Carolina came into the harbor. That night, "hard gales and Squally" weather loosed their anchor and briefly drove them aground. Working late into the evening, his crew was able to get the ship free by midnight.

On the first day of March, the morning began with some of the pirates setting a sloop on fire. Little came of this however. Pearse only mentioned that he fired 15 shots as a salute to the Prince of Wales, or future George II, on his birthday. The day after, Phoenix again ran aground in the harbor's shoal waters. In two hours, they were off again.

Pearce wrote a letter to the Admiralty to inform them of his progress. In that letter, he advised the secretary on three pirates who were still out at that time: 
If I had not come in as I did the Greatest part of these people I'm inform'd would have been gone out by this time, one Sloop call'd the Dragon [Capt. Edward Congdon] being gone out with Ninty Eight Men about eighteen Days before my arrival, which Sloop (With one commanded by Capt. Teech [Edward Thache] who has been out about 8 months [since July 1717]) are gone on the Coast of Guinea & from thence to Brasile there is an other Sloop out[,] Commanded by Capt. Napping which they expect in Dayly, and these are all the English Pirates that has bee[n] Concerted as far as I can Informe my Self from them.
No doubt, he intended to eventually seek them out as well, but events would not go quite as planned. On the 5th, three sloops with former pirates aboard made their way out of the harbor. Pearse noted in a letter that the pardoned pirates dispersed in large numbers "from this Island, & they already drop off as they can Meet with Opportunity of passage." The next day, his gunner, John Nichols passed away, who was saluted with 8 guns at his burial.

More pirates came aboard on the 11th to take pardon and, on the 14th, four more ships departed with former pirates onboard. They were each bound for Carolina, Bermuda, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Three days later, two more South Carolina sloops arrived.

Just four days shy of a month in Providence Harbour, on the 18th of March, the pirates still on Providence had probably grown bored - or perhaps the lack of income from pirating finally became reality. A few of the pirates at New Providence Island were less than repentant. Pearce noted that one vessel with 16 crewmen had sailed west, intending to go on the account once again. The next day, another vessel with 24 men followed them, intending to join them. Still, the 21st of March, when a sloop from Jamaica entered the harbor from the east, pirates, in sight of HMS Phoenix, brazenly took it. The pirates probably remained behind, or east of, Potter's Key, protected by the shallow waters between the key and shore. They were effectively out of range from the warship.

Capt. Pearse, in good conscience, could not allow honest merchants to sail out of the harbor, knowing that these Bahamian men, probably most of whom had taken pardons already, had returned to piracy. He knew that there were at least two pirate ships to their west. The next day,  the 22nd:
... att 1 this morning sent my Pinnace Man'd & Arm'd to Surprize the Pyrates on board the above mentioned Sloop; but they being too Strong she was Oblidged after Exchanging severall small Shott to return'd on board[.] I Summon'd the Inhabitants to Assist me in Surprizing these pirates but by their Actions; they Seem'd more inclinable to Assist [them, rather than] to Reduce them.
[Letter of 3 June:] Whilst the said Pirate Sloop was at Providence I Several times Summoned the Inhabitants together in His Maties name & us'd all the Arguments possible to prevail with them to assist me in Suppressing the said Pirate, but they always Rejected all Methods Impos'd, entertain'd and assisted them with provisions & necessarys & on all Occassions shew'd no small hatred to Government, which if an other Ship of Warr had been with me I should have been able to have prevented as also the rest from going out againe.
So, when four sloops intended to depart with their goods, Pearse went with them that evening (22nd March, not the 24th) to at least make sure that they got clear of Bahamian waters. Apparently, his memory failed him slightly, as he later wrote in his letter of 3 June (log entries colored red to distinguish):
There was then in they harbour three [log states four] Sloops ready to Sail for Carolina & Road Island, the Masters of which was under Apprehension that in case they should goe out by themselves they must inevitably fall into the hands of the said Pirates, therefore I sail'd for their protection on the 23 March and after I had Seen them safe off the Coast, I Return'd [log, 24th March: Saw the Pirates sloop among the Island with a Red Flagg att her Mast Head] & Cruiz'd off the harbour and the Boobie Rock till the 30 [March] to Secure any trade that Should be bound in. During which time I prevented two Sloops from being taken by them. But I being then Short of Water I put into Providence the day following the said Pirate Sloop who had been out since the 24 Inst March came to an anch'r at the Eastermost part of the harbour with an other called the Lark which they had taken three Days before off Harbour Island on board of which they had Removed themselves [According to his log entry of the 23rd of February, the first pirates to surrender told him about "a Sloop call'd the Lark was att anchor att Bushes Key with a design to goe out upon the Account again" - the provenance of Lark appears confused in this letter], She being a good Sailor & Equipt with 2 Guns and 8 Patraroes, there was a Barr between me & them on which was no more than eight foot water which made them very Insolent.
According to Pearse's log, on the 27th, a Jamaican sloop came into harbor and kept the warship company for protection. The next morning, Phoenix and the Jamaican sloop "Streched off the Harbour mouth of Providence," probably to reconnoiter the pirates' locations. When they returned the next day, they found that "the Pirates Burnt the biggest of the Dutch Ships and the Bristoll Gally and the other Dutch Ship of 26 guns they sett adrift ashore on Hogg Island where she now has Bilg'd." In the resulting confusion, the Jamaican sloop in his company had been taken by pirates and had joined the pirate sloop Lark at the eastern end of the harbor, where the shallow waters protected them from the heavier warship. Pearse wrote "The said Pirate Sloop was Commanded by one Cha Veine & Man'd with 45 Men, three [Robert Hudson, John Warren, and Thomas Kingston] of which was of my own Ships Company that deserted me & took on with them."

On the 1st of April, the pirates went on the offensive. Pearse wrote "last Evening a boat came from the Pirates with several hands on board her[.]  I fired Severall guns with round Shott & pa[r]tridge att her to Command her a board[.] Notwithstanding which she push'd a Shore." Things had really gotten out of hand. Two sloops who had run aground on rocks at Harbour Island came in from the east (the direction of Harbour Island), approaching the two pirate sloops there. Pearse "Loos'd [his] Topgt. sailes and hoisted them with the Sheets flying and fired severall guns as signals to them to attack the Pirates." Still, "they proving to be trading sloops," were captured by the pirates, who now possessed three prize vessels.

The morning of the 4th, Pearse found that Vane's Lark abandoned her three prizes and absconded in the the cover of night to the east, the only direction where they would not be seen by Phoenix. The day after, the carpenter John Dye, attempting to heal some pitch, nearly burned the forecastle and possibly the ship. Pearse "Confin'd the Carpenter[,] for neither him self nor any of the Crew attended the pitch when on the Fire[.] [N]either had any direction from my Self or any of his Superior Officers to make use of any att this time."

Then, on the 9th of April, at 10 AM, HMS Phoenix weighed anchor and attempted to leave Providence Harbour, but unfortunately ran aground again on the shoals at the western end of Hogg Island. Pearse designed for the east side of Abaco Island, then for Virginia in company of five sloops. After clearing New Providence waters, four of the sloops veered off for their destinations, leaving the warship and a lone sloop. That night, he encountered a sloop from Bermuda, making for New Providence and the next morning, turned southward to avoid Abaco Island, making his course southeastward, coursing around the large island. That night, he spotted a sail and gave chase, arriving 22 miles off the northeast side of Abaco Island. As he later wrote, "I mett a Ship called the John & Elizabeth which was taken by the Pirates from the French in Octr last, and now Loaded with hides Piratically taken from the Dutch [by Benjamin Hornigold] Since the 5 January, and In possession of some people who had been pirates."

Pearse "Seiz'd her for his Majestie[,] took most of the Men out & Mann'd her out of his Maj:ts ship under [his] Command and then made Sail having given directions to [his] Gunner who [he] put in Commander of her to keep [him] Company and to Observe [his] Signalls according to the Instructions [Pearse] gave him." He carried John & Elizabeth with him to New York, as Pearse wrote "am proceeding against her according to Law Shall give their Lordships a particulr accot of what is done with her my Next." It was not until 4 Mar 1722 that the Privy Council even looked into the "petition of Capt. Vincent Pearse of H.M.S. Phoenix for the division among the officers and crew of the Phoenix of the proceeds of the pirate ship John and Elizabeth and its cargo of hides, seized by him in April, 1718, and condemned in New York."

Clearly, Capt. Vincent Pearse of HMS Phoenix accounted his mission somewhat of a failure. The pirates had initially surrendered, but New Providence Island had returned to a lawless state in less than a month. Resigned, he wrote 3 June, "there is not yet any Fortifications at either Entrance to defend the [s]ame & Believe the Governm't will find it Difficult to drive those people from thence & the other Islands without the assistance of a Small Man of Warr or two, & those very well Man'd there being many Small harbours & Keys where they can Ride in safety & Supply themselves with Water, and Just in the Way to intercept all Trade."

Monday, July 09, 2018

Brunswick Town: An Illegal Beginning for the Lower Cape Fear

Source: William Cumming, Southeast in Early Maps, Plate 48.

John Barnwell’s Map of circa 1722 – Note that a road seems to have been established from the inhabited portions of the Winyaw area of South Carolina to the Lake Waccamaw area just west of the Cape Fear River, some years before the official land grants in 1725 upon which Maurice Moore would found Brunswick Town, also on the west side of the river. The assumption had usually been that, since the river was thought by many to be the dividing line between the two Carolinas, that land on the west side would be located in South Carolina. Moore intended Brunswick Town to lie in South Carolina territory, on illegal grants given him by the North Carolina governor.

Another note of interest is the notation (here annotated) that Col. Barnwell was wounded on land that Roger Moore later obtains between the two branches of the Cape Fear River in a single 5,500-acre grant in 1726.

Brunswick Town and Wilmington

Brunswick Town and Wilmington

Price: $9.95

This story of Brunswick Town, the Cape Fear region’s first port city, provided a deep-water port that accommodated trans-Atlantic shipping on the only easily accessible river in the colony of North Carolina. Contemporary accounts stated that it was like to be a “flourishing place,” while town lot sales reflected its profitability in 1731. However, Brunswick Town was not destined to remain and its founder, Maurice Moore and his family would suffer great economic trials as a result of the founding of Wilmington across the river. Gov. George Burrington's opposition to the Family was wholly political. Brunswick Town barely lasted until the American Revolution and today, remains only a vague memory. Baylus C. Brooks, author of Blackbeard Reconsidered: Mist's Piracy, Thache's Genealogy, delivers another brand new view of North Carolina's history!