Thursday, April 06, 2017

Capt. Charles Johnson's Dishonesty

A page from Wikipedia concerning pirate history in 1717
Johnson's Dishonesty 

Capt. Charles Johnson, pen-name of Nathaniel Mist, polemical Jacobite newspaper publisher of London wrote the questionable A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724), in which he stated that Benjamin Hornigold (the supposed mentor) and Edward Thache (surprisingly, his supposed pupil) together had accomplished the greatest feat of Blackbeard's career - the capture of the Nantes slave ship La Concorde or later known as Queen Anne's Revenge. This story had long held favor among pirate enthusiasts and influenced pirate history (as seen in the Wikipedia article above) for lack of records to admonish Johnson's account. French records, however, do just that and completely dispel this rumor, stating that the two pirate vessels were 12-gun (Revenge) and an 8-gun sloop (probably Thache's older vessel), both under Thache's command. See French record excerpt for the capture of La Concorde below:

Actual copy of French record showing that "tous les deux," or "both vessels were commanded by Edward Thache."

Johnson may have misunderstood his sources. Still, it is more likely that Johnson lied. In another part of his book, he purposely used the feats of Samuel Bellamy (the pirate's name was clearly stated in only one deposition) of April 1717 off Virginia, jumbling names and dates, for those he attributed to Thache's partner Stede Bonnet supposedly in August that year. In this case, Johnson clearly lied, needing background history for Bonnet, Thache's partner. Two of the ship's names he gave were actually master's names of other ships instead. Compare the deposition of Andrew Turbett and Robert Gilmore to this excerpt from Johnson:
[Supposedly, Bonnet's] first Cruize [August 1717] was off the Capes of Virginia, where he took several Ships, and plundered them of their Provisions, Cloaths, Money, Ammunition, &c. in particular the Anne, Captain Montgomery, from Glascow; the Turbet from Barbadoes, which for Country sake, after they had taken out the principal Part of the Lading, the Pyrate Crew set her on Fire; the Endeavour, Captain Scot, from Bristol, and the Young from Leith.
This information is not only wrong, but completely jumbled and purposely falsified! 

The actual information available from the deposition:

The Information of Andrew Turbett Master and Robert Gilmer Super Cargo of the Ship Agnes of Glascow, taken this 17th day day of Aprill 1717. Before His Majys Lieut. Governor of Virginia

These Informants declare That being bound from Barbados to Virginia laden with Rum Sugar & Molasses, and sundry European goods on the 7th day of this month about eight a clock in the morning five leagues or thereabouts to the Eastward of Cape Charles a Pyrate bore down upon the said Ship, and commanded the Masters to come on board. That the sd Pyrate Ship was mounted with 28 guns and had on board 200 men; That as the Informants heard from the Crew, the said Ship was formerly called the Widda Galley of London, commanded by one Edward Prince, and was taken by the Pyrates in her return from Jamaica and is now commanded by one Samuel Bellamy an English man borne in Plymouth and said to have a Wife and family in or near Canterbury. That the Informants together with the Crew of the sd Ship Agnis being carryed on board the Pyrates, the greater part of the Cargo was plundered by the sd Pyrates cutt away the Masts of the Informant's Ship, and then sunk her; That on the said 7th of April the sd Pyrates took the Anne Galley of Glascow, Alexr. Montgomery Master and the Endeavour Pink of Brighthelmstone John Scott Master; And on Wednesday the 12th instant they also took a ship belonging to Leith[,] Young Master all three bound for Virginia: That after having plundered the said Ships of what goods they thought fitt, they put the Informants with the Crew of their Ship on board the Endeavour Pink and then on friday the 12th discharg'd the sd Pink and the Leith Ship, but carryed the Anne Galley with her Crew along with them as they said to assist in Careening their Ship: That the sd Pyrates took with them Six of the said Leith Ship's Crew, and two man Servants who voluntarily joined with the sd Pyrates; That by discoursing with the sd Pyrates, the Informants came to know the names of the following persons on board vizt Richard Nowland the Quarter Master born in Dublin ___ Lambert Master borne in New Castle, David Turner a North Country Man who (as the Master of the Brighthelmston Pink reports) he knew to have served as Apprentice to one Jno Ffreeland of London, and the said Master also knew one Davis who was borne in Bristoll & bred a Ship Carpenter: That the greater part of the sd Pyrates Crew are Natives of Great Britain and Ireland, The rest consisting of divers Nations and about 25 Negroes taken out of a Guinea Ship: That the sd Pyrates declared they intended to Cruise for ten days off Delaware Bay, and ten days more off Long Island, in order to intercept some Vessels from Philadelphia and New York bound with provisions to the West Indies, That they then designed to go & Careen their Ship at a place called Green Island, to the Eastward of Cape Sable, That the sd Pyrates told the Informants that a Pyrate Sloop came in company with them in a short time, and that there are ten Sail of them in all about the West Indies and the Coast of America

                                                      Andrew Turbett

                                                      Robt Gilmor

 CO 5/1318 Deposition of Andrew Turbett and Robert Gilmore - 17 Apr 1717

There are other examples of Johnson's dishonesty, but outright lies such as this are fatal to any journalist hoping for integrity!

"Quest for Blackbeard" is now available in ebook format and can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Alibris, and other online booksellers. Look for it on my Lulu site at:

The book is already previewable on Google Books.

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