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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pirate Edward Congdon retires...

Excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Sailing East: West Indian Pirates in Madagascar:

 Le Mercure told of a letter dated November 1721 that arrived from [the island of] Bourbon with the details of Congdon’s experiences after taking the West African ship full of rubies, diamonds, and specie. Soon arriving back at Madagascar 1 October 1720, Edward Congdon, “who has an arm cut off,” met a Mr. Henry Beker, master of Cooker, seeking slaves from Madagascar.

Similar to Capt. Stratton, Beker and Congdon had transacted some business for wine and liquors at Îsle St. Marie. Suddenly, Congdon then took his captain, surgeon, and carpenter, and two sailors, as well as some of his cargo. Congdon, however, had no intention of keeping these people and items. Congdon wanted to insure that Beker sailed Cooker to Îsle de Bourbon to deliver a message. He needed the governor there to know that Congdon wished to surrender and beg for a pardon. He sent three surgeons, one a Parisian named Du Vernet, a Flemish man, and one English, the latter two taken off vessels of Ostend, as a measure of good faith.[1]

Beker agreed to his terms, not as if he had a choice. He sailed from Madagascar and arrived at the port of Saint-Denis on Bourbon on 15 November 1720. Beker and the three surgeons made depositions before Gov. Joseph de Beauvoilier de Courchant, who had orders from the French East Indies Company, based in L’Orient, France,  to employ all means of attracting pirates to surrender themselves and settle there. All those who would hand over their vessels to them and abandon piracy would receive full pardons. The rich pirates were expected to be quite helpful for the island’s economy.[2]

Congdon drove a hard bargain, but so did Courchant. Congdon had ordered Beker to tell the governor that in case there was no amnesty for them, that his men would fortify in four months, and would do the most harm and injury, till an amnesty of Europe had been sent. Courchant offered “that the Pirates had to assure them that if they were granted an Amnesty, they would come to the Îsle de Bourbon to deliver their ship, arms and ammunition to the Governor, to submit to his orders, Good & faithful Subjects of the King of France.”[3] They were to bring with them only peaceable and mild-mannered slaves. For each of these slaves (and each white man could retain only one), they were to pay twenty piasters to the French Compagnie des Indies in L’Orient, in compensation for the loss to their commerce.[4]

Gov. de Courchant assembled the Provincial Council of the island. After maturely examining the details, they granted Congdon’s wishes, for the benefit of all nations which traded in India, for the French CDI, and for their own local economy. Beker returned to Madagascar with an approved and signed pardon, dated 25 November 1720, for 135 men, accompanied by a letter for Capt. Congdon.[5]

By the end of December, Congdon returned Beker in Cooker to tell him that they happily accepted the pardon and were preparing to burn Dragon and proceed to Bourbon in Cooker. Some of the pirates had already died, of what is unknown, but they were increasingly anxious to leave Madagascar. They set fire to two other of their ships, after spiking their cannon. It took twenty-seven days to finish preparations and Beker returned on 3 January 1721 to pick them up.[6]

In the meantime, a plot was brewing amongst the Betsimisaraka of Îsle St. Marie. They had happily traded through Congdon for a year by then and desired to keep the merchandise of Dragon and its crew. Sudden news of his departure was quite unwelcome.

The natives poisoned Congdon’s crew, probably in food that they prepared for them. Many of Dragon’s crew took sick and Congdon soon realized what had happened. He ordered his crew to get aboard Cooker as fast as they could, but “several of them having dragged themselves to the shores of the sea to embark, were falling dead before they could set foot in the shallop.”[7] On the 30th of January 1721, 42 out of 135 set sail and left some of their brethren still dying on the beach. The fleeing 42 were in little better shape, “nearly all in very bad condition by the poison given them by the blacks of Madagascar.”[8] In the crossing four of their comrades died, leaving a miserable 38 sickly ex-pirates for delivery to Bourbon.

[1] G. Cavelier, ed., Le Mercure, May 1722, p 152-156; Joan DeJean, The Essence of Style: How the French Invented Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour (New York: Free Press, 2005), 47.
[2] Cavelier, Le Mercure.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.; Alfred Grandidier, (19031907), Collection des Ouvrages Anciens concernant Madagascar, Vol. 5: 1718-1800 (Paris: Comité de Madagascar, 1907), 104 n1; Translated: In a manuscript of the Deposit of Maps and Plans of the Marine of Paris, volume 84 ', Sea of India, Exhibit 17, at the bottom of page 7, it says: "In 1722, Mangaely [Mamoko Islands, of Ampasindava] was repaired by pirates, and it is said that there was a massacre of pirates made there by the blacks of the country, and that the king of Massailly [Bombetoke Bay], named Ratocaffe [Ratoakafo] sent his soldiers there to cover all the black men, women and children, even the dogs, and pillaged all the cattle, and since that time the place has been deserted."
[8] Ibid.


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Saturday, September 02, 2017

How a Force of Nature Created the Golden Age of Piracy

Possible tracks of Hurricane Irma - 9-2-17
Hurricane Harvey left a tremendous path of destruction in Houston, Texas and surrounding areas just a week ago. Hurricane Irma is expected this week along the many possible paths shown in the map above and is expected to be as powerful as Harvey, if not worse. Its most likely track takes it along the Florida coast. 

In my opinion, Irma possibly emulates another hurricane that struck July 30, 1715 along the same path and was the most likely cause of the upsurge in English piracy that many refer to as the "Golden Age." This hurricane demolished eleven heavily-laden vessels of a twelve-ship Spanish treasure fleet, slamming them into the Florida coast.

While a single wrecked Spanish vessel provided wrecking crews from Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and other English settlements with months, even years, of valuable Spanish silver mined in Mexico and Peru, eleven ships would provide an absolute fortune in treasure unparalleled in the annals of the maritime Atlantic community!

Wreck Fishing

“Fishing” wrecks was a common activity all along the American coast, including the American West Indies. This was especially true with North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the Bahamas where wrecks occurred most often. A single wrecked Spanish treasure vessel provided a great deal of profit for English investors and lasted a whole five years!

Wrecking also became more refined after the successes in the 1680s of William Phips, wealthy carpenter of Boston. He was hired by a group of aristocratic investors, eager to fish a wrecked Spanish vessel in the lower Bahamas. 

Charles II, the English king, himself, partnered with Christopher Monck, duke of Albemarle, Sir James Hayes (probable former apothecary master to Carolina naturalist John Lawson from 1677-1683 who later served as apothecary-general to his Majesty’s forces in the West Indies from 1692-4), Viscount Falkland (Hayes’ step-son), Sir John Narbrough, Isaac Foxcroft and Virginia governor Francis Nicholson to invest in fishing a Spanish wreck of Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion. According to the duke of Beaufort, the wreck had “lain in the sea forty-two years [wrecked November 2, 1641]” and was being fished “chiefly by the Spaniards that lost her.” So, the English would obtain only the leftovers or residue unrecovered by Spanish divers...

In 1686, Phips left England in the James and Mary to engage in a salvage expedition for these partners. There, he recovered twenty-six tons of silver valued at over £200,000 from the Spanish wreck of Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion. The massive silver remaining after the original Spanish recovery from this single ship ran out for the British wreckers only by 1691. Beaufort estimated Albemarle’s portion at £40,000-50,000. Illustrating the immensity of the fortune, Hayes would rebuild his four-story manor of Great Bedgbury in Kent with his part of the proceeds. Also, the dangers of this venture were illustrated by the armament carried by the wrecker vessels involved, as shown in Table 1.

Phips employed only four native divers, probably from the Bahamas, home of the most experienced wreck fishers and later, home of Benjamin Hornigold's "Flying Gang" of pirates. Most likely, they made use of a diving bell, a large weighted device that forced trapped air below the surface which enabled divers to breathe under the surface with shorter dives at the intended salvage. While the salvage proceeded, Phips and crew were joined by at least eight ships and forty-eight smaller craft, all hunting for the treasure, as illustrated in Table 1 below. Maritime researcher John E. Ratcliffe assures that “The speed with which these scavengers appeared is evidence of a flourishing small-scale salvage industry based out of islands like Jamaica, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.”

Table 1
One can barely conceive of the massive wealth provided by only one already salvaged Spanish treasure ship - try to imagine eleven vessels, heavily laden with treasure, basically as yet un-salvaged, and in shallow waters where the fishing would be easier than with Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion!  Not only did the hurricane of July 30, 1715 deposit these eleven treasure ships in shallow waters of the Florida coast, but famous astronomer Edmund Halley had recently invented a new diving bell that would make fishing wrecks even more efficient for the British. 

Edmund Halley's "diving bell" 1690

Hurricane of July 30, 1715 - the Fleet of 1715

General of the Windward Squadron Pedro de Ribera vacillated constantly on his fleet’s time of departure. He first prepared his fleet to sail in late 1712 from Havana, Cuba, but it did not sail until three years later.  A second fleet, in mid-1712, under Juan Estaban de Ubilla arrived in Veracruz, Mexico with eight more vessels, ordered to load with bullion, passengers, and merchandize and return to Spain as soon as possible. Neither of these fleets left on schedule. A large part of the postponement centered upon news of the concessions of October 1711 and the coming peace treaty in the Dutch city of Utrecht the next year that would end Queen Anne's War. The dangers of both weather and anti-Catholic pirates, namely British, also figured prominently in their debates. 

The Spanish Navy at this time was also handicapped by favoritism, officer appointments occurring more because of important connections rather than merit and ability. The British Royal Navy, however, was little better. Arguments between fleet officers happened often, especially with haughty and arrogant men like Ubilla. Ribera, arrogant enough on his own, defied the subordinate Ubilla’s complaint of who could fly the command flag on their combined voyage home. Ribera, assured Ubilla of “his right to fly the command flag from the masthead of his ship,… ‘by ancient law and privilege.’”  General Ubilla never reacted well to Ribera’s assertions of authority. 

Furthermore, frequent postponements plagued the scheduled departure dates. The next march, Ubilla was delayed by procrastinating local merchants. His wealthy connections influenced the Junta, or ruling council, to reschedule for May, depending upon the weather. Still, it was postponed again until August, which drove Ubilla nearly mad. As a result, the aggravated Ubilla became involved in a duel and apparently suffered an injury. Fears of a winter passage, sightings of English pirates passing Cuban posts, Ubilla’s recuperation from sword wounds, and word of the peace treaty delayed departure once again. 

Juan Estaban de Ubilla decided to reduce the tension in his letters to the Viceroy and he received another departure date of March 1714. All of his eight vessels, waiting in port, had been continuously careened and repaired. Again, Ubilla was ready to leave when news of the treaty came. The wait played on Ubilla, who added ascerbicism once again to his writing. Furthermore, six English ships were sighted east of Cuba and eighteen off Puerto Rico. By July, a nasty storm had threatened his fleet, not simply the frequent nortes (cold northeasterly windstorms) of the Mexican shores.  Summer passed and another departure date postponed. During another storm that September, Ubilla wrote another letter that seemed to indicate he had completely lost his senses. The storm drowned five vessels in the harbor - fortunately, however, none of his. 

That fall of 1714, the Vicereoy wrote and expressed his disappointment over Ubilla and especially for the tone of the accusations in his letters. Ubilla fell into deep depression, still not fully recovered from his physical wounds. Ubilla’s biographer Lowell W. Newton said that his response “degenerated into a string of incoherent phrases that seem to represent a rambling, disjointed attempt to justify his earlier demands to the Viceroy and his conflict with Ribera over the command flag.”  Furthermore, his finances were exhausted. His expenses then relied solely on credit and he incurred heavy debt. The loss of royal confidence, Newton declares, came close to finally breaking his spirit.

Reconciliation occurred when Ubilla finally cowed before royal chastisement. His authorities sent pay for him and his men and set a new departure date for March 1715. One urca, or cargo ship under Miguel de Lima had to be remasted and Ubilla did not leave until that May to rendezvous in Havana with the galleones fleet. On the way, Ubilla’s flagship had been demasted in another storm and, once he arrived, he engaged in another argument with one Gen. Don Antonio de Echeverz, the new leader of the Havana squadron. The argument involved Echeverz demand to accompany Ubilla’s fleet to Spain. Once that was settled, the entire squadron of Ubilla and Echeverz totalled eleven vessels plus one Frenchman. They transported “merchandise, 14,000,000 pesos in silver, and significant quantities of gold; much-needed bullion for merchants whose trade had been victimized by the war and the long delay since the 1713 Peace of Utrecht, and by a monarchy overwhelmed with war debts.”  Only one of the vessels, the French ship La Grifon, ever reached home.

Four days out of Havana, on July 30, 1715, the fleet met with a hurricane near Cape Canaveral, at latitude of 28 deg north. Two ships sank in deep water, one went down in the shoals near shore, another ran ashore (Urca de Lima, now one of Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves), two ships destroyed, and the flagship got off a single boat before taking 225 people, including Juan Esteban de Ubilla, to the reputed Davy Jones’ locker.

As Newton inferred the British were “particularly successful in their attempts to seize Indies bullion,” by whatever means, essentially making the most effective pirates.  This wreck event became the quintessential natal event of the Golden Age. Piracy, as our culture has come to understood it ever since, began with the hurricane’s passage through the Florida Straits and destruction of the massive treasure fleet of Ubilla and Echerverz on July 30, 1715.

As I have previously detailed in "American Pirates in the News!," the entire Atlantic community came to fish the wrecks. Many simply waited for others to do the work of fishing and then, pirated them as they left the Florida coast. All pirates preyed on all nations - anyone with bullion on board. Afterwards for these mariners, it became a simple matter to ignore already weak British legal constraints and continue taking these vessels long after the wrecks ran out of bullion. 

In the Boston News-Letter, occurrences of the term "pirate" appear more often after the hurricane of July 30, 1715

The Boston News-Letter, the premier newspaper of the time, began to refer to British pirates following this event. For their eleven-year existence prior to the hurricane of July 30, 1715, they mentioned only "pirates" of French or Spanish origin. The most common term was "privateer," which indicated that these brigands had official sanction from at least one government. The point being that they did not prey on vessels of their own national patron. After the hurricane, however, pirates preyed upon everyone. 

The "Golden Age of Greed" was born!


A Sad Departure

Lowell W. Newton Obituary
Lowell W. Newton

Floyds Knobs, IN

Lowell W. Newton, ("Doc") 76, of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, passed away on January 13, 2017, after visits and sentiments of love from family and friends. Born in Tillamook, Oregon, Lowell graduated from the University of Oregon and went on to earn a PhD in history from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1969. Lowell taught history at the University of Louisville for 32 years until his retirement in 2001. During his life, Lowell lived in both Spain and England, was fluent in Spanish, and loved tennis, reading, and building model planes, boats, and trains. After retirement, Lowell and his wife Claudia ("Corky") split their time between Naples, Florida and Floyds Knobs, Indiana.

Lowell is survived by his three children, Ted Newton (spouse, Abby), Natalie Newton Nathanson (spouse, Jeff), and Heather Newton; three grandchildren, Hank & Charlotte Nathanson and Adam Salhin. He was preceded in death by devoted wife, Claudia Newton, his grandson, Sam Newton, and his sister, Loretta Osburn.

A Memorial Visitation was from 4 PM to 7 PM Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at Newcomer Funeral Home (3309 Ballard Lane, New Albany). A Memorial Service followed at 7 PM.

To leave a special message for the family, please visit
Published in Naples Daily News on Jan. 18, 2017


from BBC Radio Bristol

300 years ago on Thursday - 22 November 1718 - Bristol born Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard, the most famous pirate in the history of the world), was killed in a violent battle off the coast of North America. And after 300 years we can finally separate the truth from the myth. You can hear the whole story this Thursday at 9am in a one off BBC Radio Bristol special: BLACKBEARD: 300 YEARS OF FAKE NEWS. With new research by Baylus C. Brooks, narrated by Bristol born Kevin McNally - Joshamee Gibbs in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and produced by Tom Ryan and Sheila Hannon this is a very different Blackbeard from the one in the story books...

Hopefully, at the end of 2017, I will be finished with my newest book: Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, 1713-1720 which will attempt for the first time ever to re-discover pirate history without using A General History. I guarantee a lot of surprises!

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Lulu page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! 

Quest for Blackbeard is 15% OFF ALL PRINT FORMATS now at:

#blackbeard #pirates #history #maritime

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Negotiating a Pardon for Piracy

300 years ago today...

August 1, 1717:
Mr. Attorney General [Edward Northey] to the Council of Trade and Plantations. Your Lordships informed me that when I should send the draught of the Proclamation for pardoning of pirates (v. July 15), you would give me your assistance, etc. When the draught of the pardon was made, all piracies were excepted, nevertheless such pirates. who should surrender themselves by a day to be prefixt were to be pardoned. But on further consideration thereof, the Nevertheless etc. was left out, and the exception of pirates remained absolute, it being then intended to issue a pardon by Proclamation for pirates, on such terms as should be thought proper. Whereupon I was commanded to prepare the Proclamation for that purpose with your Lordships' assistance etc. (v. July 15). I have now prepared the draught, which is submitted to your Lordships, etc. Signed, Edw. Northey. Endorsed, Recd, 2nd, Read. 7th Aug., 1717. 1 p. Enclosed,
1. i. Draught of H.M. Proclamation for suppressing of pyrates, referred to in preceding. 2½ pp. [C.O. 323, 7. Nos. 104, 104 i.; and 324, 10. pp. 127–131.]

Proclamations against piracy and pardons for such piracy had been issued since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. British officials, however, were faced with a recent increase in this activity that was detrimental to trade. Still, they were reticent about restricting the mercantile freedoms of their substantial citizens - mariners, for instance, who brought profit to the realm - even if those merchants might engage in piracy. Piracy, of course, was an act that was long-accepted "beyond the lines of amity" in America, even if not accepted at home in England.

Another issue facing Britain at this time was one of loyalty among the various colonies. The new king, George I of Hanover, was German, spoke no English, and was not looked upon favorably by much of the Stuart Tories that flooded America. Every act of this new dynasty was a matter of diplomacy at a time of upheaval at home (Stuart-Jacobite rebellions) and abroad (pirates who held Jacobite sympathies). The king could not chance angering these wealthy gentlemen too much. In an effort to calm the gentlemen in his realm, he intended to issue yet another proclamation to pardon pirates who had recently committed these acts in American waters. The king had hopes that these gentlemen would return to their quasi-legal mercantile professions (those that did not involve piracy of English ships).

There were personal matters to consider - matters that might upset these angry "wayward" gentlemen - such as whether or not they would be allowed to keep the plunder, or their proceeds from such illegal profiteering. The attorney-general, Edward Northey, in drafting this pardon, needed to consult with the Board or Council of Trade and Plantations closely to determine how these gentlemen might react.

Thus, pirates like the wealthy Bermudan Henry Jennings, from a family of smugglers, were eventually allowed to keep their treasure, so long as they surrendered and stopped attacking English ships. The proclamation was officially issued a month later, September 5, 1717:

By the King, A PROCLAMATION for the Suppressing of Pyrates

Whereas we have received information, that several Persons, Subjects of Great Britain, have, since the 24th Day of June, in the Year of our Lord, 1715, committed divers Pyracies and Robberies upon the High-Seas, in the West Indies, or adjoyning to our Plantations, which hath and may Occassion great Damage to the Merchants of Great Britain, and others trading unto those Parts; and tho' we have appointed such a Force as we judge sufficient for suppressing the said Pyrates, yet the more effectually to put an End to the same, we have thought fit, by and with the Advice of our Privy Council, to Issue this our Royal Proclamation; the said Pyrates, shall on, or before, the 5th of September, in the year of our Lord 1718, surrender him or themselves, to one of our Principal Secretaries of State in Great Britain or Ireland, or to any Governor or Deputy Governor of any of our Plantations beyond the Seas; every such Pyratee and Pyrates so surrendering him, or themselves, as aforesaid, shall have our gracious Pardon, of, and for such, his or their Pyracy, or Piracies, by him or them committed, before the fifth of January next ensuing. And we do hereby strictly charge and command all our Admirals, Captains, and other Officers at Sea, and all our Governors and Commanders of any Forts, Castles, or other Places in our Plantations, and all other our Officers Civil and Military, to seize and take such of the Pyrates, who shall refuse or neglect to surrender themselves accordingly.

And we do hereby further declare, that in Case any Person or Persons, on, or after, the 6th day of September, 1718, shall discover or seize, or cause or procure to be discovered or seized, any one or more of the said Pyrates, so refusing or neglecting to surrender themselves as aforesaid, so as they may be brought to Justice, and convicted of the said Offence, such Person or Persons, so making such Discovery or Seizure, or causing or procuring such Discovery or Seizure to be made, shall have and receive as a Reward for the same, viz. for every Commander of any private Ship or Vessel ,the Sum of 100 l. for every Lieutenant, Master, Boatswain, Carpenter and Gunner, the sum of 40 l. for every inferior officer, the Sum of 30. and for every private Man the Sum of 20 l. And if any Person or persons, belong to, and being Part of the Crew, of any Pyrat Ship or Vessel, so as he or they be brought to Justice, and be convicted of the said Offence, such Person or Persons, as a Reward for the same, shall receive for every such Commander, the Sum of 200 l. which said Sums, the Lord Treasurer, or the Commissioners of our Treasury for the time being, are hereby required, and desired to pay accordingly.

Given at our Court, at Hampton-Court, the fifth Day of September 1717, in the fourth Year of our Reign.

George R.

God save the King


Hopefully, at the end of 2017, I will be finished with my newest book: Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, 1713-1720 which will attempt for the first time ever to re-discover pirate history without using A General History. I guarantee a lot of surprises!

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Lulu page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! 

Quest for Blackbeard is 15% OFF ALL PRINT FORMATS now at:

#blackbeard #pirates #history #maritime

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Eureka! Blackbeard on HMS Windsor!

I have been waiting for pay records of HMS Windsor, the ship on which served Edward "Blackbeard" Thache. Finally, I received them and was rewarded yet again with the most delightful news! The record that originally told me of his service on Windsor was a deed of his father's inheritance to his step-mother Lucretia, dated December 10, 1706. His father was buried in Spanish Town, Jamaica on November 16, 1706. Fortunately, Windsor was back at Jamaica by then.

Edward Thache was listed in HMS Windsor’s pay book as joining that vessel April 12, 1706 on the southern coast of England near Spithead and Portsmouth. Windsor had crossed Spithead, a part of the Solent (body of water that separates Isle of Wight from the mainland ports of Portsmouth and Gosport) to Fort St. Helen’s on the east end of the the Isle of Wight. After some collaboration with my colleagues, it now appears that Thache had served on a vessel named Barbados Merchantman at the time of his enlistment. Quite possibly, Thache and others desired passage back to the West Indies and found that opportunity aboard HMS Windsor. Edward “Thatch,” Aaron Huggins, Samuel Gaine, Henry Nellson, and William Horn joined the crew April 12th as Windsor loaded food and water at St. Helen’s. James Mahum was listed as an “entry” on March 27th while the ship, according to the log, was at Spithead-Portsmouth and “appearing” aboard on April 13th at St. Helen's. Jonathan Osborne joined ten days earlier. These seven were paid as a group and may have previously served together. All of these "able seaman," except Thache, were discharged only months later – all in the West Indies - three at Jamaica. Thache, however, for whatever reason, stayed on until at least August 25, 1707, when he received “Prefermt.,” or “preferment” - aka promotion. It’s not indicated that he transferred to another ship, as that should have been indicated. It's possible that he remained aboard Windsor in his new position past June 30, 1708, the date the pay book ends.The lack of a pay record for this period, however, may yet indicate further service on another vessel.

Thache also seems to have been of greater status or wealth than others. He had a larger sea chest and payed more for stowing it. One consequence of new-found genealogical records on Edward Thache and his family is that he appears of a higher class than formerly believed or alluded to in the usual pirate histories. These pay records help to confirm this. 

Portion of Windsor's pay record showing a superscripted "n" probably indicating, according to common practice of the day, that the last letter of the vessel's name was "n" and the ship's name was most likely "Barbados Merchantman" rather than "Barbados Merchant," another common vessel name found in records - one of the same date was commanded by William Oliver, but he lost his vessel later in 1706 to a French privateer and could not be the Barbados Merchantman first commanded by Jonathan Deeble when Thache would have been aboard.

Thache joined Windsor of his own free will as a skilled merchant and was not pressed or forced to join as often happened with common sailors, many of whom never had experience at sea. This is not surprising since N.A.M. Rodgers inferred that the Royal Navy did not often engage in this practice until the second half of the 18th century. He was specially noted as “Barbad. Merch. (n),” indicating that he had served on this vessel, probably Barbados Merchantman. It's likely, as an "able seaman," that he was probably trained in mathematics; he could navigate. As I have been finding, most mariners of this period were skilled men; many had education. Indeed, almost 90% of 138 former crew of Bartholomew Roberts could sign their names, as indicated on a "Round Robbin" petition for pardon to the governor of Jamaica, not a common skill for most colonials.

Voyages database, a record of slave expeditions through the age of the middle passage, shows a Royal African Company-owned "Barbados Merchant," probably abbreviated from Treasure department records actually indicating "Barbados Merchantman," master John Russell, later leaving London - after a refit from 250 tons to 300 tons - for a Royal African Company slaving voyage to Africa 21 Nov 1706, soon after Thache and the others joined Windsor in April. They intended to pick up 500 slaves, but were eventually captured by the French. This capture occurred after Thache left, but he may have felt annoyed yet again (happened often to Thache) by the French in favor of his former captain and shipmates. 

This is the closest appearance of a Barbados Merchantman vessel to the time of Thache's enlistment, but is still only a possibility. Barbados Merchantman or its variant, Barbados Merchant, were not uncommon names for a ship. Still, I will keep looking for more evidence!

article updated 10/30/18

Hopefully, at the end of 2017, I will be finished with my newest book: Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, 1713-1720 which will attempt for the first time ever to re-discover pirate history without using A General History. I guarantee a lot of surprises!

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Amazon page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Best History Craves Original Documents!

Like any government today, copies are made and transmitted to each entity in the particular discussion involved. This might be an ambassador for nation A, writing letters to nation B. There would need to be a copy of that letter for the ambassador himself, one for nation B and one for the leaders of nation A. Computers make this easy... you simply "CC" someone in an email and transmit it to everyone on the email list. Before computers, we had xerographic copies and before that, there were mimeograph copies, both variations of modern copy technology. Before the 1950s, in the mid-nineteenth century, we had photography which could function as a copy machine, for a lack of any other form of cheaper technology. 

In the early nineteenth century, Thomas Jefferson worked with a Hawkins and Peale Polygraph, a mechanical version of a copy maker in which copies were made simultaneously with the original. This device was invented in Philadelphia by Isaac Hawkins and Charles Wilson Peale, who was also famous for his early American paintings. Jefferson lamented that he did not have the device during the Revolution.

One of Jefferson's polygraphs, "Hawkins & Peale Patent Polygraph No. 57"

An example of the portable letter copying machine developed in 1795 by James Watt, Jun., similar to the one given to William Godwin by Thomas Wedgwood in November of that year. (Photograph courtesy of Heriot-Watt University Archive, Records Management, and Museum Service.)
Still, there had been a type of copier even in the late eighteenth century. Believe it or not, Scottish engineer and instrument-maker James Watt Jr. developed a type of wet-transfer copy machine as early as 1779 in London. Pamela Clemit writes:
Watt’s invention is said to have been prompted by the boredom he experienced in making scribal copies of his business correspondence. In July 1779 he wrote to Joseph Black: “I have lately discovered a method of copying [writing] instantaneously, provided it has been written [the same day] or within 24 hours, I send you a specimen [and will] Impart the secret if it will be of any use to you. [It enables] me to copy all my business letters—”

Everybody Makes Mistakes!

Clerks or scribes in the early eighteenth century did not have it so easy... assuming that you could call using Watts' messy wet machine easy. There were no forms of copy machines or technology back then. There were no cameras either. Still, clerks and scribes made many a copy in the course of their career, but these copies all had to be made by hand. They sometimes wrote their initials at the close of the document, but not always. So, we don't often know who made the copy! 

Human error easily introduced itself while using these records. Still and although they were handwritten, the original or copy of the original had to be present, which meant you could check the original with the copy - side by side with the paper it was copied upon. Still, this did not prevent all errors in copying or errors of transcription - putting the handwriting in text format. Human beings make mistakes and historians should be particularly aware of this fact.

An example of early copies appear often in my research upon pirates. There's the letter of Richard Perry to his brother Micajah in London. The second page told of it being a copy. The
deposition of Andrew Turbett and Robert Gilmore appears to be original, but it was taken in Virginia originally and the only extant version is in the Admiralty records in London. This must also be a copy. In fact, most of these remaining primary sources will be copies from the original. The only one that may be original that I have transcribed might be the Henry Timberlake deposition regarding Edward Thache's first appearance - as a pirate - in documentation and originally discovered by Arne Bialuschewski in Jamaica. Many transcribed records are available on the Pirate Reference page of my website.

One case that I've recently received involved British copies of a series of letters written between the Duke of Portland, governor of Jamaica, Capt. Joseph Laws of HMS Mermaid, J. Geronimo Badillo, governor of Panama, and the pirates of Cassandra, an East India ship that had been taken near Madagascar at the island of Anjouan (Johanna) in 1720, while under Captain James McCraigh. 

The only documentary references to this ship's surrender in the West Indies known to exist are those found in CO 137/52 at the National Archives in London. They are clearly copies, not just because the handwriting is the same on all of the folios, regardless of named author, but because some state "Coppy" at the beginning (see below). These had been formed by a scribe who probably worked for the Admiralty at 22 Whitehall Street in London. It is also possible that a Jamaican scribe had created these folios, but they are not creased as might be expected of documents sent overseas, so they are probably copies of copies sent from Jamaica from the governor there. They were also written on cheap small-sized whitish-gray paper and not viewed as anything special.

Portion of 3rd folio from Cassandra documents in CO 137/52, National Archives (London)
The pirate captain of Cassandra had been called many names throughout the various depositions, newspaper articles, and official documents. The captain was always surnamed Taylor, but his given name has run the gamut from George, John, Richard, and William. Pirate writers have always had enough trouble with name changes, but this "William" version has been particularly troublesome, mostly due not to a copy error, but rather transcription.

For the last 81 years, the Calendar of State Papers in Volume 34 (1936) shows partial transcriptions of these records, taken as official copies of primary sources, that read:
74. ii. (a) Capt. Laws to Governor the Duke of Portland. Mermaid in the Grout, 24th April, 1723. Encloses following. Has sent his Lieutenant (his brother), to perswade William Taylor and the other pirates on board the Cassandra to surrender, but thinks they will not do so without force or promise of pardon. He cannot attack the pirates, but is waiting off the lagoon where they lie. The Governor of Panama and Porto Bello have sent a sloop with an offer of pardon to the pirates, if they will come in to their port. There is not one Spaniard amongst them.
(b) Petition of pirates on board the Cassandra to the Governor of Jamaica. Island of Pines, near Caledonia [Cuba?], April 10, 1723. Ask for a grant of pardon. They were forced and deluded by others from the Isle of Providence, but since they got clear of them, have committed no acts of piracy, for a year past. Signed, Wm. Taylor, Wm. Fox, Wm. Bates. 70 British subjects, 37 foreigners.
The sole purpose of this article is to illustrate the value of reading the actual records for yourself. A good historian tries to get as close as possible to the originals, which in this case were the copies made by the Admiralty, which I ordered from London. The Calendar is usually accurate, but if you can, go further! Since 1936, when the Calendar was created, this man's name shown especially in (b) above, has been determined to be William. After all, (b) was a document signed by Capt. Taylor himself - but it was a summary and transcription from the original - a potentially faulty human being looked at it and summarized it. I suspect he looked at the list of names in (b) and wrote them down as Taylor, Fox, and Bates, all with the given name William and he didn't remember that the first name was different. 

Many pirate enthusiasts have believed his name to be John, Richard, or William (mostly because of the mis-transcription). George was only mentioned once in a deposition - perhaps by a man with a faulty memory some years after the fact. 

The actual record shows his most likely real name twice - Richard. CO 137/52, folios 1 and 6 show: 

CO 137/52, 6th folio - "Richd:" and NOT "Wm:" as it was transcribed in Calendar
CO 137/52, first folio
Copy if you must, you professional historians, but double and triple check to be sure!Your career may suffer!


Exciting new detail, including information from French and English depositions, appears in a new book, Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar, now available! 

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Amazon page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Edward Congdon, the Misunderstood Pirate!

"Biblio Piratica" - 1724
A single book defines the history of piracy to such a degree, that for 300 years, this book has become the literal "Bible" of Piratica! It was first published in May 1724, but then it was refined and updated again in December 1724, with notable changes to a few entries, most notably, the part of Edward Thache, or "Thatch," as the author first called him, but "Teach," as he called him six months later. This was my recent area of study in Quest for Blackbeard. Phonetics were all that mattered in a name from the early 18th century anyway!

The book was called A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates and its author called himself "Capt. Charles Johnson." If you wish to view the 1726 edition of this book, with added material, you can find it at ECU's digital collections site.

Thanks to the excellent work of historian Arne Bialuschewski, we now know that the author (of at least the 1724 editions) was Nathaniel Mist, a controversial Jacobite polemical newspaper publisher of the Weekly Journal and Saturday Evening's Post in London. Mist worked there in his offices on Great Carter Lane. Mist cleverly took his pseudonym from the name used by the author of a recent popular play about pirates. Fortunately for this polemicist, he also lived in a time when plagiarism and telling "fibs" were wholly acceptable literary tactics. Still, he did a lot of research, too. He was better than most in his day. Still, he had this political agenda and he got in trouble for it repeatedly.

The authorship is not generally accepted by many true followers of the pirate fan world. Many years ago, a noted antiquarian decided that the writing was similar to that of Daniel DeFoe and for decades now, DeFoe has been attributed as the author and even accepted by the hardliners of evangelical piratistarians.

There is a small amount of evidence to support their contention. In reality, DeFoe once worked for Mist, was probably hired by the government to work with Mist and "tone down" his dangerous propaganda. He defied the government as well and competed with Mist, copying A General History in 1725, almost word for word!  I should say that his drawings were less sophisticated, however:

Three versions of the first pirate histories: the 1st and 2nd editions of "Charles Johnson" and the copied version of Daniel DeFoe's in 1725

Some of Mist's pirate history, although based in some fact, often loosely, as with the faraway Americans (he was more accurate closer to home in London, obviously) Blackbeard, Martel, Bonnet, etc. is beyond the pale of reality (not easy to prove in 1724, but times have changed). He also made pirates seem completely despotic and inhumane, less normal than the rest of the population. I rather think this was the polemicist in him, though. Piracy was essentially a business, as author Peter Leeson makes quite clear in The Invisible Hook.

I'd like to demonstrate my point by using the 1726 version of the tale of "Christopher" Condent, which may or may not be Mist's work, but follows similar paths. The entire section is repeated here. I have placed numbers by certain parts of the passages that I'd like to explain later - they are in bold print, as well as the notes that refer to them following the passage. Note also that in this earliest version, "Captain Condent's" first name is never mentioned:

Captain Condent [1] was a Plymouth Man born [2], but we are as yet ignorant of the Motives, and Time of his first turning Pyrate; he was one of those who thought fit to retire from Providence (on Governor Roger's Arrival at that Island) in a Sloop belonging to Mr. Simpson, of New York, a Jew Merchant, of which Sloop he was then Quarter-Master. Soon after they left the Island, an Accident happened on board, which put the whole Crew into Consternation; they had among them an Indian Man, whom some of them had beat; in revenge, he got most of the Arms forward into the Hold, and designed to blow up the Sloop. Upon which, some advised scuttling the Deck and throwing Grenade Shells down, but Condent said, that was too tedious and dangerous, since the Fellow might fire thro’ the Decks and kill several of them; he, therefore, taking a Pistol in one Hand, and his Cutlash in the other, leaped into the Hold; the Indian discharged a Piece at him, which broke his Arm [3], but, however, he ran up to and shot the Indian. When he was dead the Crew hack'd him to Pieces, and the Gunner ripping up his Belly, tore out his Heart, broiled and eat it.

After this, they took a Merchant Man, called, the Duke of York; and some Disputes arising among the pyrates, the Captain, and one half of the Company, went on board the Prize; the other half, who continued in the Sloop, chose Condent Captain; he shaped his Course for the Cape de Verd Islands, and in his Way, took a Merchant Ship from Maderas, laden with Wine, bound for the West Indies, which he plundered and let go; then coming to the Isle of May, one of the said Islands, he took the whole Salt Fleet, consisting of about 20 Sail; he wanting a Boom, took out the Mainmost of one of these Ships, to supply the Want: Here he took upon him the Administration of Justice, enquiring into the Manner of the Commander's Behaviour to their Men, and those, against whom Complaint was made, he whipp'd and pickled. He took what Provisions and other Necessaries he wanted, and having augmented his Company, by Voluntiers and forced Men, he left the Ships and sailed to St. Jago, where he took a Dutch Ship, which had formerly been a Privateer; this prov'd also an easy Prize, for he fired but one Broadside, and clapping her on board, carried her without Resistance, for the Captain and several Men were killed, beside some wounded by his great Shot.

This Ship proving for his Purpose, he gave her the Name of the Flying Dragon [4], went on board with his Crew, and made a Present of his Sloop to a Mate of an English Prize, whom he had forced with him; from hence he stood away for the Coast of Brazil, and in his Cruize, took several Portuguese Ships, which he plundered and let go.

After these, he fell in with the Wright Galley, Captain John Spelt, Commander, hired by the South-Sea Company, to go to the Coast of Angela for Slaves, and thence to Buenos Ayres. This Ship he detained a considerable Time, and the Captain being his Townsman, treated him very civilly; few Days after he took Spelt, he made Prize of a Portuguese, laden with Bale Goods and Stores; he new rigg'd the Wright Galley, and put on board her several Goods.

Soon after he had discharged the Portuguese, he met with a Dutch East-India Man of 26 Guns, whose Captain was kill'd the first Broadside, and took her with little Resistance, for he had hoisted the pyrates Colours on board Spelt's Ship.

He now, with three Sail, steer'd for the Island of Ferdinando, where he hove down and clean'd the Flying Dragon; having careen'd, he put 11 Dutchmen on board Captain Spelt, to make Amends for the Hands he had forced from him, and sent him away, making him a Present of the Goods he took from the Portuguese Ship. When he sail'd himself, he ordered the Dutch to stay at Ferdinando 24 Hours after his Departure; threatning, if he did not comply, to sink his Ship; if he fell a second Time into his Hands, and to put all the Company to the Sword. He then stood for the Coast of Brazil, where he met a Portuguese Man of War of 70 Guns, which he came up with; the Portuguese hal'd him, and he answer'd, from London, bound for Buenos Ayres: The Portuguese mann'd his Shrouds and chear'd him, when Condent fired a Broadside and a Volley of small Arms, which began a smart Engagement for the Space of 3 Glasses; but Condent finding himself over-match'd, made the best of his Way, and, being the better Sailor, got off.

Few Days after he took a Vessel of the same Nation, who gave an Account [5], that he had killed above 40 Men in the Guarda del Costa, beside a Number wounded; he kept along the Coast to the Southward, and took a French Ship of 18 Guns, laden with Wine and Brandy, bound for the South-Sea, which he carried with him into the River of Plate. He sent some of his Men ashore to kill some wild Cattle, but they were taken by the Crew of a Spanish Man of War; on their Examination before the Captain, they said they were two Guiney Ships, with Slaves belonging to the South-Sea Company, and on this Story were allowed to return to their Boats: Here five of his forced Men ran away with his Canoe, he plundered the French Ship, cut her adrift, and she was stranded. He proceeded along the Brazil Coast, and hearing a Pyrate Ship was lost upon it, and the pyrates imprisoned, he used all the Portuguese, who fell into his Hands, who were many, very barbarously, cutting off their Ears and Noses [6]; and as his Master was a Papist, when they took a Priest, they made him say Mass at the Main-mast, and would afterwards get on his Back and ride him about the Decks, or else load and drive him like a Beast. He from this went to the Guiney Coast, and took Captain Hill in the Indian Queen [7].

In Luengo Bay he saw two Ships at Anchor, one a Dutchman of 44 Guns, the other an English Ship, called the Fame, Captain Bowen, Commander; they both cut and ran ashore, the Fame was lost, but the Dutch Ship, the Pyrate, got off and took with him. When he was at Sea again he discharged Captain Hill, and stood away for the East-Indies. Near the Cape he took an Ostend East-India Man, of which Mr. Nash, a noted Merchant in London, was Supercargo. Soon after he took a Dutch East-India Man, discharged the Ostender, and made for Madagascar; at the Isle of St. Mary [8], he met with some of Captain Halsey's Crew, whom he took on board with other Stragglers, and shaped his Course for the East-Indies, and in the Way, at the Island of Johanna [9], took [10], in Company of two other pyrates he met at St Mary's, the Cassandra East-India Man, commanded by Captain James Macragh [change in spelling from "Mackra"]; he continued his Course for the East-Indies, where he made a very great Booty, and returning, touch'd at the Isle of Mascarenas, where he met with a Portuguese Ship of 70 Guns, with the Vice-Roy of Goa, on board [11]. This Ship he made Prize of, and hearing she had Money on board, they would allow of no Ransom, but carried her to the Coast of Zanguebar [Bay of Delagoa, Mozambique], where was a Dutch Fortification, which they took and plunder'd, razed the Fort, and carried off several Men who enter'd voluntarily [12]. From hence they stood for St. Mary's, where they shared their Booty, broke up their Company, and settled among the Natives: Here a Snow came from Bristol [13], which they obliged to carry a Petition to the Governor of Mascarenas for a Pardon, tho’ they paid the Master very generously. The Governor returned Answer, he would take them into Protection if they would destroy their Ships, which they agreed to, and accordingly sunk the Flying Dragon, &c. Condent and some others went to Mascarenas, where Condent married the Governor's Sister-in-Law, and stay'd some Time; but as I have been credibly inform'd, he is since come to France, settled at St. Maloes [14], and drives a considerable Trade as a Merchant.

[1] From the Wikipedia article on "Christopher Condent": 
Christopher Condent's real name is uncertain. He has been known under the surnames Condent, Congdon, Connor or Condell; various given names also arise, including William, Christopher, Edmond or John. He is often known as Christopher Condent, but perhaps most commonly known simply as "Billy One-Hand".
A General History never mentions his first name. Does any primary record? When did "Christopher" become his accepted given name and used so widely? Tons of books have been written in the last 20 years calling him "Christopher," yet I can find no sources. The National Archives in London contain no references to "Condent," but do, however have 125 that refer to "Congdon."

The Dutch book, Pirates and Corsairs of World History (1963) is the earliest reference to "Christopher Condent" that I have found yet. Conversely, Christopher Hill and Ann Leighton's People and Ideas in 17th Century England, Volume 3, published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 1986, tells of "Capt. Edward Condent" on page 178, so the use of "Christopher" is not universal.

[2] In 1724, genealogical records were almost impossible to access remotely. Today, however, they are much more accessible. Up until 40-50 years ago, genealogists presented often "tall tales" about their ancestors, having little information to go on. They elaborated greatly. That is not so today, with a digitization craze that has taken the historical/genealogical world by storm. Literally millions of people we never knew existed are identified readily on and as well as a plethora of other genealogical sites. 
I have explored and for any hits relative to the surname "Condent" in Devon, England. There was only one: a woman named Anna Condwent married a man named Matasha Snook in 1717. She could have come from elsewhere to marry Snook since there seemed to be no Condwents or any variation of that name living in that area.
Edward himself declared "to be a native of Plymouth" when he married Marie Catherine Ancré in 1723 in Brittany, France. She was a native of Saint Omer in northeast France. So, it may be that Mist had learned of his arrival in Brittany, as he did mention that near the end of his narrative, though he got the exact location wrong. Perhaps he heard about the grand wedding affair with the king's lieutenant Francois Burin of Ricquebourg in attendance. 
Still, he may have originally come from Cornwall, not far from Plymouth, as I did find a "Congdon" family, in Cornwall, only one Christopher, dead by 1721. What may be significant is that a man named Edward Congdon was bapt. in 1683, son of John and Catherine Congdon in Saint Mellion, Cornwall, England - less than 10 miles from Plymouth. This may have been a different Edward, as he married a woman name Grace, had three children named Edward Congdon, jun., Rich. Congdon and Jn. Congdon, and was still in St. Mellion in 1714. He later obtained a lease for property in St. Mellion on 29 Sep 1731. The pirate Edward Congdon died 3 May 1734 in Port Louis, Brittany, France. But, I'll bet they were related.
[3] Condent here sustains an injury to his arm. Assuredly, he got the nickname "Billy One-Hand" from this characteristic, if that was accurate. Le Mercure, a French annual produced from a weekly news journal, stated in May 1722 (before publication of A General History) that "on the first of October [1720] the Dragon, an English Pirate Ship, arrived at the Isle of Madagascar, commanded by Captain Congdon [note the spelling "Congdon"], who has an arm cut off." Other details from this article include the vessel Prince Eugene and seeking a pardon on the Island of Bourbon or Reunion in February 1721. It seems rather apparent that Mist may have had access to French publications like Le Mercure and La Gazette. After all, he did flee the British government to France in 1728. 

[4] The ship name Dragon seems to be the only one found in primary sources, like Le Mercure, May 1722 mentioned above in [3]. From where Mist got Flying Dragon is second-hand only in a deposition

[5] Still searching for this account.

[6] Pirates, at least in the primary sources, are usually not this ruthless. There are notable exceptions: Edward Low and Charles Vane are two. The villainous wording used to describe their activities in A General History is probably more literary hype, meant to sell copies to an eager audience without the benefit of "Stone Cold Steve Austin" on weekend television.

[7] Indian Queen is of particular interest here. Captain "Mackra" (1724) or "Macreah" (1726) is a man well known of by Nathaniel Mist who must have read the article in the Post Boy newspaper issue of 25 & 27 April 1721. These pair of articles are certainly the source of Mist's references to this man in 1724 and in 1726, assuming that Mist developed the material for this latter edition. The reference that I find most telling is that at Johanna, an island known today as "Anjouan," on the 25 July 1720, Mackra had arrived in his ship Cassandra and found refugees from the pirate ship "Indian Queen, of two hundred and fifty Tons, twenty eight Guns, and ninety Men, commanded by Capt. Oliver de la Bouche, bound from the Guinea Coast to the East Indies." Condent or Congdon may have taken this ship and gave her to La Buse, or La Bouche, but the passage includes another reference to Cassandra, elaborated upon in point [10].

[8] Isle de Saint-Marie, just off the east coast of northern Madagascar.

[9] Johanna is an island known today as "Anjouan" in the Comoros, just NW of Madagascar.

[10] In this 1726 segment, Mist wrote "in Company of two other pyrates he met at St Mary's, the Cassandra East-India Man, commanded by Captain James Macragh." "Mackra's" account from Post Boy, 25 & 27 April 1721 told "about Eight o' Clock in the Morning, when we discover'd two Pyrate-Ships standing into the Bay of Juana [Johanna], one of thirty four and the other of thirty Guns." A battle ensued with Macrae's ship and his consort Greenwich between two pirate ships. Macrae disabled one ship called the Fancy, but the pirates got the better of him, boarding his ship and chased Macrae into the woods of Johanna. "Mackra" wrote that the "Chief Captain" was Edward England" and that England, formerly in command of two ships, including Fancy, planned to take Cassandra and burn Fancy. Another account of Richard Moor, formerly of Comrade, taken earlier on West African coast told that the two ships involved were Victory, under Capt. Richard Taylor (another hopelessly confused pirate actually named Richard Taylor) and Fancy, under Edward England. He said they took Cassandra and afterward, turned out Edward England, and replaced him with Jasper Seager. He also told that Capt. Condent, Congdon, or whatever, was not at the next major capture attributed to him by A General History, in [11]. 

[11] Richard Moor continues in his account: Victory, under Taylor, and Cassandra, under Seager, proceeded to Don Maskarene (Bourbon Island) where they arrived Easter Sunday, or April 13, 1721 (corrected from his 1720). Moor alleges that these two pirates took Guelderland, with the Viceroy of Goa on board and another Ostend ship in the harbor of Saint-Denis. The most important part of Moor's testimony, relative to the story of Christopher Condent, was that his name was not Christopher, but Edward. Moor said that a man that they had met on Bourbon and "drank and caroused with" was a pirate belonging to the command of "Edward Conden" and that he later saw Edward Conden "commonly reputed to be Comander of a pirate Ship called the Dragon [not Flying Dragon]" and that Conden had at least briefly retired on Bourbon with a pardon and was able to keep the tremendous wealth he had attained as a pirate. 

This account is confirmed by the narrative written by the viceroy himself, in Le Mercure, May 1722, the very same publication from which Mist drew the information about Condent's arm being cut off, his pardon, and the Prince Eugene. Luís Carlos Inácio Xavier de Meneses, Comte d'Ericiera, Viceroy of the East Indies (1689-1742) told that his vessel, the Vierge de Cap, formerly known as the Dutch vessel Guelderland, or officially by the Portuguese as the Nossa Senhora do Cabo, "pierced for 72 pieces of cannon, but having only 30, the crew was 130 men, and there were a great number of Ecclesiastical Passengers and People of Justice who were returning to Europe," had first run into a cyclone that left them with 21 cannon and blew them into Bourbon. On the 16th, the "Victorious [Victory], one of the Pirate Ships, mounted with 36 pieces of cannon, and 200 men of crew, commanded by La Bousse, French National, moored under his bowsprit, and at the same time the other Pirate named Fantasie [Cassandra?], commanded by Siger [Seager] An Englishman of 58 guns and 280 men [Taylor at that time was the quartermaster]," came up on his starboard side. We have to remember that the Count of Ericiera was Portuguese and probably not good with English ship names. The pirates hoisted their black flags and opened fire. The Portuguese battled them fiercely, in some detail, according to the narrative of Ericiera, of course the hero of that losing fight. Afterward, while the Viceroy was being entertained on board the pirate ship, "At eight o'clock in the evening the Count of Ericeira saw Cogdom [Condent or Congdon], the English Pirate, come on board, who had commanded a ship, and had obtained for him and his crew an Amnesty in the name of the King and the Company [Feb 1721]. He made compliments from the Governor to his Excellency, and endeavored to persuade the Pirate Officers to allow the Count of Ericeira to go ashore, but he did not succeed in obtaining any of his entreaties." The pirates requested a ransom and the money was promptly delivered by M. de Beauvoilier de Courchant, the governor. "The 2,000 piastres arrived at noon, and the Pirates magnificently carpeted their finest canoe, which they offered to the Count to take him to the ground. The officers accompanied him, each ship, as well as the prisoners saluted him with 21 cannon shots, and eleven cries of 'Long Live the King.'" The Count saw them as rather civilized, behaving more as military men than vicious rogues. 

[12] The attack on Delagoa of April 1722 most likely was not carried out by Condent or Congdon, who had retired in Feb 1721. Other depositions also state that it was Taylor and La Buse. This detail makes Mist's narrative even more suspicious in light of [13].

[13] The details which Mist used to finish his detail on Condent most likely came from Le Mercure, May 1722 as well. The ship in question was the Cooker, Capt. Henry Beker. He relayed the message to Gov. M. de Beauvoilier de Courchant, who sent a letter assuring Congdon of the pardon. The best part of this story got left out of Mist's book, though:
Finally, on the 30th of January, 1721, the Cooker came to St. Paul [Mauritius], in charge of Captain Congdon, with 42 of his pirate crews, nearly all in very bad condition by the poison given them by the blacks of Madagascar, The crew of the Dragon had perished [92 of them]. They had engaged M. Beker to pass them over the Isle of Bourbon, after having set fire to two others of their ships, of which they had previously spiked the canon, that they could not embark on the little English ship.
In the crossing four of their comrades died; They do not believe that none of those who remain can retreat; For several of them having dragged themselves to the shores of the sea to embark, were falling dead before they could set foot in the ship.
The Negroes of Madagascar will always take care to destroy those who have brought money to their isle, will want to leave it before they have spent it. Debauchery still greatly helps the poison, whose cupidity arms these unfortunate islanders, and quarrels often prevent the effect of both.
As soon as Captain Congdon learned of the poison, he retired on board, where he remained ever since with the most wise of his Crew without going ashore, which kept them.
[14] Actually, Port Louis, France on southern shores of Brittany. St. Malo is on the northern shores. 

What is most apparent is that there really is no quandary about this pirate's name. It is most certainly Edward Congdon. Furthermore, Henri-François Buffet, with the Archives départementales de la Réunion knew this pirate as "Edward Congdon" when he wrote "The End of the Pirate Edward Congdon" for his archives' journal in 1960. Remember, Réunion was the island that used to be called "Bourbon" and where the Count d'Ericiera had his ship taken in 1721. Of course, Congdon lived and spent his riches there for a couple of years before moving on to France. 

One primary record recorded the name Thomas, but it was a trader that had met him briefly before carrying his request for a pardon to the governor of Bourbon. There were many Congdons, few Condents and no "Christophers." What's more, I can't find anything earlier than the 1960s even in a newspaper, record, or book suggesting that this pirate's name was Christopher! An article in Washington, DC's Evening Star, August 19, 1906, Page 11, called "Stories of the Pirates, by John L. White, of course, strictly copies "Johnson" with "Captain Condent." No newspaper articles in the Library of Congress ever printed a story about "Christopher Condent." Those newspapers go back to the 18th century. An article in the Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), April 2, 1899, and Washington, DC's Evening Star, of August 19, 1906 reprints A General History's "Capt. Condent" and never gives his first name. In fact, many ads for reprinting and selling copies of this book attest to its great popularity! Finally, a story appearing in a South Carolina newspaper in 1926 called him "Jerry Condent." This may be precisely why there are so many names - not because pirates were fond of aliases, but because the general public liked to fantasize so much! I imagine that the author of that article had a son or friend named Jerry and he did it as a joke for him. But, we don't know why he did it! The next generation was apt to accept this as truth - incorporate the name into pirate dogma! We can't adopt this as actual history!

Ad to reprint A General History in Gleaner (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), October 14, 1814, 1.

Haverhill Gazette (Haverhill, Massachusetts), May 13, 1826, 4.

Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), April 2, 1899, 10.

Washington, DC's Evening Star, August 19, 1906, Page 11, called "Stories of the Pirates, by John L. White

"Capt. Jerry Condent" in Evening Post (Charleston, South Carolina), August 6, 1927, 5.

Mist's extravagances and, I suspect, his withholding of information somewhat overwhelms the point of his research. For instance, he may have known a great deal more of Congdon's life in Brittany but chose not to share it. The excitement, however, has  seriously debilitated pirate history. Many still depend upon A General History, eagerly absorbing every morsel of information, no matter the source, that they can add to it. Times have changed, though - primary sources are more accessible than they used to be... the primary sources of information that Johnson or Mist was privy to are well known. Secondary sources like special features in newspapers have and still cause serious problems. They're usually written for the purpose that Mist wrote his book - profit or entertainment - and are not truly meant to be history. And, the lack of citations never helps. Many have devoured these modified tales throughout the last 300 years, totally obscuring fact and fiction! This has affected even scholarly inquiry!

Denis Piat's Pirates & Privateers of Mauritius is an obviously well-researched book. He has included information on pages 42-43 that include details that had to have come from these French records in Le Mercure. Piat has to know that what he sees in A General History is compromised. Still, he titles this section "Christopher Condent (?-1734)." and his first line comes straight from A General History.

Furthermore, John de Bry, an archaeologist in search of William Kidd's Adventure Galley leads him to question the dating of his rich watery find in the bay at Saint-Marie Island with gold coins and porcelain. He suspected it came from the period 1720-1721. When this happened, the scholarly De Bry did excellent historical pre-study on this new pirate and his ship, with the help of Barry Clifford who helped excavate the Whydah in New England. De Bry also obviously knew about the records in Le Mercure. Still, bowing to the great "Almighty Lord Johnson" and his devotees, Clifford suggested to him that it may be the Fiery Dragon of Christopher Condent! All of his reports include this error.

Whatever. It worked. De Bry probably found a rich pirate ship related to Christopher Condent.... or rather, Edward Congdon or any other of dozens of pirate ships and their prizes in that area from 1720-1722. It may have been the Dragon, although Congdon supposedly burned the two ships he had with him at the time and De Bry never mentioned anything about archaeological evidence of a fire, which certainly would have effected the gold and porcelain artifacts found.

Now. let's talk about this "John Taylor" fellow... or was it "Richard" or "George"... lol.


Hopefully, at the end of 2017, I will be finished with my newest book: Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, 1713-1720 which will attempt for the first time ever to re-discover pirate history without using A General History. I guarantee a lot of surprises!

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Lulu page for already published material, including the Quest for Blackbeard!