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 and check out the primary source transcriptions available there!

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