December 10, 1717
EN ANOM COL C8A 22 F ° 438
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 , 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] 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!
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