Monday, February 17, 2020

Capture of Le Victorieux or Victory by pirate Jeremiah Cocklyn!

From the French deposition of the captain of the ship that was chased, captured, and taken by pirates Jeremiah Cocklyn, Olivier LeVassuer, and Richard Taylor off the west coast of Africa before they rounded the Cape of Good Hope for Madagascar!

ACCIM f°169-177(f° 169) Juillet 1720, Prise et abandonnement du vaisseau le Victorieux, capitaine Hais de Nantes. N°22

This is the first half of a long and detailed deposition given by the captain of Le Victorieux, or Victory, used by pirates to take the East Indian Merchant vessel Cassandra just north of Madagascar in 1720. This unfortunate ship was earlier confused by Nathaniel Mist, writing as "Capt. Charles Johnson," with the Petersborough of Bristol. This record has been edited by the author for readability.


Of the fifth of July, seven thousand and twenty (5/7/1720), the Sir Interested on the body, faction, armament and victualling of the vessel Le Victorieux commanded by the Captain Guillaume Hais of Nantes, who declared that the said ship would have left the the bottom of the river of the said city [Nantes] on 30 December one thousand seven hundred eighteen (30/12/1718) for the coast of Guinea to make the trade of the blacks [slaves], that two days after said departure, he suffered an impetuous and contrary wind to his navigation, which demasted his little mast and his parrot, and after repairs, he made his way and sailed until the twenty-fourth of February, seventeen hundred and nineteen (24/2/1719) that they moored at Mesura [Cape Mesurade], on the Coste de Guinea to make wood and water and rice which they thought they needed. They stayed six days without finding in this place the rice and the water which they needed, from whence they traveled to Jonck to find rice there - they found none; And thence made their way for the same needs to Petit Sestre (Little Seashore), where they anchored and sent their canoe ashore to make proposals for the ordinary trade with the King.

That the negroes of this place came aboard the boat to get what they wanted, that the officer who was on board the boat told [to them] that they came there to trade for rice, that on this answer the said negroes asked a crewman to go with them to make the request to the King, and as is the custom, the officer gave them a man named Pierre Meunier of La Rochelle, but hardly was this sailor ashore, the negro seized him and fired the weapons with which they were armed at the boat and wounded in the thigh a sailor named Jean Moisson de Quiberon, forcing the officer of the said boat to return to the ship to advise his captain, who in the plan of re-acquainting his sailor, took the party of to conceal the insult [to save face?], and sent his canoe and his armed boat, to shoot [at] the negroes. He commanded the crew to keep safe, and fire only for the purpose to impose respect, but the negroes fired on the boat, and as soon as the crew saw them within range of their arms, the crew of the said boats and canoes retired on board, because their number was too few to make shore, the negroes being too numerous, and the landing too difficult because of the "big land."

They set sail and anchored at Grand Sestre seven leagues away where they spent three days making water and rice. The negroes of this place told them that what they had experienced happened because the fact that the English went there every day under the French flag, to make incursions on their coast and take them off under the pretext of trade. Capt. Hais assured them that they would not be harmed by his sailor [Pierre Meunier], that they would withdraw him from their neighbors [at Petit Sestre] to return him to the first French ship [which should arrive], for which the said captain offered them at present some goods in the hope of having his sailor back. But having no appearance of having it, he left only a note for the King of the said Sestre, begging all the French ships to withdraw the said sailor with a promise to repay what had been paid for him. From there [Hais] traveled [sailed] to Judah, the place of their destination, where they arrived on the twenty-second of March following (22/3/1719).

That on the twenty-third of the said month, the said captain went ashore to establish his trade in the ordinary, which they were tranquil in the said ship until the twenty-second of June (22/6/1719), at four or five o'clock in the afternoon, when three rogue ships [LeVasseur in Duke of Ormond and Cocklyn in Speedwell/Windham/Bird (former vessel of William Snelgrave) and Richard Taylor in Comrade] entered the said port under the English flag, and distinguished themselves only when they were near the said vessel Le Victorieux, where the Sieur Edouard Hais [first mate] commanded on board, having recognized them, their being seen firing cannons and flying the black flag, cut two cables on the bitts and set sail, that [First mate Hais] had barely thirty men on board, of which half were sick, and that while fleeing he saw five ships, three of which were Portuguese, one English [Heroine, former master Richard Blincko] and one French from La Rochelle, and that he had only been followed for half an hour by two of the said pirates, and having borne his planks far off, he stood far off and anchored the fifth day after his escape.

[First mate Edourd Hais] had gone twenty-eight leagues west of Judah, whence he wrote to his brother captain [Guillaume Hais] of the said ship, who had been left in Judah [Whydah], to inform him where he was; and that he received a reply from the captain on the tenth of July (10/7/1719) ordering him to return to Judah [since the pirates had moved off], where he went to anchor on the eleventh of that month. For thirty days they could not make shore, the bar being impassable, which caused them considerable trouble and caused sickness to the people who had remained ashore. Of the boat [of Le Victorieux?] which the rogues seized upon, the boat wherein seventy iron bars were and several casks full of water, which said boat was delivered by a sailor named Jacques Carré [James Cary] Irishman who took sides with the said pirates; and that the said pirates were forty, thirty-two, and eight cannon.

And that on the twenty-eighth of the month of July there appeared two ships [LeVasseur in Duke of Ormond and Cocklyn in Speedwell/Windham/Bird], which were still believed to be pirates, information they had learned from the crews that had been ransomed by the above-mentioned pirates, that [the two pirates] went to fetch the said ship Le Victorieux, and when they did not find her, they came back to take [Le Victorieux] in the harbor, which obliged [Capt. Guillaume Hais] to cut a third new cable, and to sail. He fought the sea for five days, at the end of which he returned with the said ship, after having learned by a Portuguese boat that there was nothing to fear for him to enter. [But, the captain lamented] the pitiful condition of his ship and crew, which was fatigued by work, of the little food and heavy weather which they had suffered, and which he believed not that he was in a position to maneuver the said vessel, his people are wracked by fever and scurvy. That on the frequent notices and representations of all the officers, majors, and marines, the said captain determined in concert with the said officers to pass to the island of Sao Tomé, with the captives of two Portuguese ships taken by the pirates and return on the coast of this Harbor of Judah, more in relation to the absolute need of the crew of the two Portuguese ships than of the cargo of their slaves, and also by the hope that the sailors of his boat, which he had long time on land and those of his tent and his store, all of whom were sick, would recover by the air of the sea, and that the others who were on board, attacked by fever and scurvy, could be restored to the place of Saint Thomé by the refreshments that the captains of the said Portuguese were obliged to provide them on land and on board in the hopes the said crews would be restored, to follow the course of their journey, and that they left Judah 15 Sep one thousand seven hundred and nineteen (15/9/1719) with three hundred and sixty negroes, having lost ninety of the number of four hundred and fifty that said Captain Hays had treated before the arrival and departure of the pirates, they did their best to reach Saint Thomé, but the winds having always been contrary, as well as the tides, they were obliged to anchor at Prince's [Isle de Principe] Island.

From the eleventh of September (11/9/1719) they stayed there until the fourth of October. And that during their stay at Isle de Principe, two of these sailors, who had needed to see the [fresh water] ponds to resupply the ship, and who had come down to work in the road [prob. stream], were suddenly smothered by the steam of the waters which were infected. The one named Charles Mandier, and the other Roger, and that six of their comrades remained unconscious and without knowledge, and would have perished if they had not been rescued in the moment, which the said captain and all his officers and the pitiful state where they were, the sick captain, the great number of the dead crew, almost the whole scorbutic or attacked with fevers, and convinced of the sad experience they had just made, that the plague was in their brink; being without cables and anchors, only one left to them. Finally, seeing themselves out of state, they could not continue their voyage without food which the Portuguese masters of the place offered to give them, provided that the said captain would sell them his ship with his captives [slaves] to carry to Brazil, offering in this case to provide him with a crew to make up for the weakness of his own who were not in a state to sail his ship. [Hais] was obliged to accept in the opinion of all his officers majors and mariners because he had to pay in Brazil fifty pounds of gold for the value of the ship, and one hundred and fifty pounds of gold for the value of the slaves. Said Captain Hais running the risks of the ship and the Portuguese of the mortality of the blacks until they made the locality of Brazil, all was contracted in the presence of said officers majors and mariners who signed them. And left this place of the Isle de Principe last October 4 (4/10/1719).

That the ninth of that month [October], thirty leagues windward of said Isle de Principe in the company of a Portuguese ship which had followed them from Judah, They were chased by a pirate ship [Cocklyn in Speedwell/Windham/Bird/Defiance? These pirates seemed to change names often, though Defiance may have been a newer ship], but the night came and they lost sight of it as well as the said Portuguese [consort] vessel, and continued their journey till the following day, four o'clock in the afternoon, that the look-out warned that another ship was taking the opposite course. They thought at first that it was the Portuguese, but seeing him back in their waters they feared he was a pirate. And indeed, at seven o'clock in the evening he approached them, fired a cannon and hoisted the black flag on the mainmast, with command to hove to. they recognized that he was a pirate of thirty-four guns, with two hundred men Captain Carrot [Cocklyn], not being able to resist and fearing the misfortunes that follow a useless resistance with the pirates, Capt. Hais hove to and the pirates seized this ship Le Victorieux, and having sent their boat, twenty five armed men, came on board, together. Said Captain Hais and the first mate his brother [Edourd], were detained on board with five others of their crew, and that two days later the barbarians made them understand that they were leading them to Anabon to give the ship Le Victorieux to another pirate named Labuse [LeVasseur].

On the way to the said Anabon they met an English ship [Petersborough, Capt. William Owen?] from Bristol loaded with two hundred blacks, which to the said pirates they surrendered. And they [carried aboard the Bristol ship] all the Portuguese who were in Le Victorieux, and all the English crew in number of sixteen. [Leaving with] the said pirates, two of the sailors of the said ship Le Victorieux named Jean Detern and (?), and Etienne Bond with a servant named Provost.

[The pirates] having missed Anabon, they made the road to Angola, or in the hunt they gave to English ships, their bowsprit broke, which made them look for a convenient port for the purpose of replacing their bowsprit with that of Le Victorieux [this did not happen]. They could only make Cape Lopez, where the same pirate Labuze was found, who was there to change his ship with the Indian Queen of London, Captain [Thomas] Hill, whom they had taken on the coast of Angola, on which place the said pirates had several disputes, some to give Captain Hais one of their ships in exchange for the ship Le Victorieux, the others to degrade said Hais and his crew. At this place the strongest voice prevailed, which was to give a ship to Captain Hais. During the debates they sent ashore four to five hundred Negroes, those whom they had taken on the said vessels, which were at once picked up and removed by the negroes of the country, and gave to Captain Hill one hundred and forty, a cargo of negroes, negresses, and negroes, with the captain's [Hill's] ship [Indian Queen] which Labuze had exchanged for his own, and to give to Capt. Hais the pirate ship Heroine [taken from Capt. Richard Blinko 22 June 1719 ay Whydah], because all the masts were worth nothing. After beating all the guns and stripping it of all that is useful for navigation, with ninety blacks who were still aboard Le Victorieux from his trade.

That during the overthrow of the buccaneers from one ship to another, Joseph Pascal, sailor of Le Victorieux, voluntarily partook with the said pirates.

That the pirates having left for their voyage [to Madagascar], said Hais made his best with the little rope they had left him, he did spice (sic) [splice?] to firm the masts.

That they were on land making water and finding there some exhausted and moribund negroes, whom the negroes of the country had abandoned; remains of those whom the pirates had left ashore.


Just published 2nd Electronic Edition of Quest for Blackbeard!

Some of the poorer sort went aboard pirate ships and sloops as crew, certainly, but they usually were not as well educated as those who navigated them. The tale of these early pirate leaders’ gentlemanly demeanor, formerly wealthy privateers, has been confined, narrowed, and almost eradicated by literary rhetoric. Worse still, modern historians attempt to explain them all as an early form of democratic society, confusing some of these gentlemen with the common people and further skewing their reality. The people we call “pirates” today most resemble those found in the Bahamas after 1715, driven out by 1718, scattered refugees of a barren island and rude maritime subsistence, but the real pirate leaders of the Golden Age were wealthy – the 97% were blamed for the crimes of the 3%! This injustice is where we must begin the true Quest for Blackbeard!
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