History : Mar-Apr 2016
74 MARCH/APRIL 2016 time—men like Benjamin Hornigold, Charles Vane, John Rackham (Calico Jack), Samuel Bel- lamy (Black Sam), Edward Teach (Blackbeard), and Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart). In the second half of the 17th century, fre- quent pirate sieges were mounted against wealthy cities. Spanish ones, such as Portobello, Cartagena, Havana, and Panama City proved attractive targets and were sacked by pirates. Other attacks happened in North America, such as Blackbeard’s successful 1718 siege of Charles- ton, South Carolina. Unprotected merchant vessels remained the most common targets. Few ships put up any re- sistance to pirates. Once aboard, pirates sought out the cargo and treasure and would use intimi- dation to get it. There were reports of particu- larly sadistic pirate captains. According to the testimony of several victims, Charles Vane had a predilection for torturing sailors. Edward Low, another pirate from the same period, murdered an entire ship’s crew of 32 in 1724 for throwing its cargo overboard before surrendering. Pirates were happy to seize whatever loot they could: gold, silver, gems, and other valuables were prized, but it was not always treasure that pirates sought. Tobacco, sugar, and cocoa were profitable commodities. During the golden age, goods could be brought to ports and sold to re- spectable traders from neighboring islands. All Good Things The boom in piracy did come to an end. In the early 1700s European nations began to intro- duce stronger antipiracy laws, increase the number of warships in the area, and offer re- wards to those who turned in pirates. In 1717 England offered pirate captains and crews am- nesty, threatening those who refused with no mercy if, and when, caught. Over the following years, the buccaneer cap- tains fell one by one. Black Sam died in a ship- wreck in 1717. Blackbeard died fighting the Brit- ish Navy the next year. Calico Jack was executed in Jamaica in 1720, and Black Bart was killed in the Gulf of Guinea in 1722. What could not be erased was the memory of those freebooting years, the tales of cruelty and valor that live on today in literature, music, and film. Pirate Queens ANNE BONNY, AN IRISHWOMAN married to a sailor in the Bahamas, ran a tavern in Nas- sau, which was frequented by a famous pirate, John Rackham—alias Calico Jack. She became his lover and joined his crew, donning men’s clothing during skirmishes. There was another woman aboard the ship: Mary Read, an Englishwoman who dressed as a man to join the army before becoming a pirate in the New World. BOTH WOMEN SHOWED great physical cour- age in battle. Later, several crew members were captured by a British force near Ja- maica, and Calico Jack was hanged. The two women were spared execution by proving that they were both pregnant. Mary died of a fever in prison, while Anne went back to live with her father, who had since emigrated to South Carolina. PICTURE PERFECT Idealized in this 19th-century Italian engraving (above), Mary Read and Anne Bonny were notorious in their time as feared members of Calico Jack’s pirate crew. ART ARCHIVE MARÍA LARA MARTÍNEZ LECTURER OF HISTORY AT MADRID’S UDIMA UNIVERSITY, LARA HAS WRITTEN NUMEROUS BOOKS ON THE MIDDLE AGES AND SPAIN’S IMPERIAL ERA.