The Pirates Own Book
Charles Ellms

Part 1 out of 7

Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Authentic Narratives of the Most Celebrated Sea Robbers.


Charles Ellms


[Illustration: _A Piratical Scene--"Walking the Death Plank._"]



In the mind of the mariner, there is a superstitious horror connected
with the name of Pirate; and there are few subjects that interest and
excite the curiosity of mankind generally, more than the desperate
exploits, foul doings, and diabolical career of these monsters in human
form. A piratical crew is generally formed of the desperadoes and
runagates of every clime and nation. The pirate, from the perilous
nature of his occupation, when not cruising on the ocean, the great
highway of nations, selects the most lonely isles of the sea for his
retreat, or secretes himself near the shores of rivers, bays and lagoons
of thickly wooded and uninhabited countries, so that if pursued he can
escape to the woods and mountain glens of the interior. The islands of
the Indian Ocean, and the east and west coasts of Africa, as well as
the West Indies, have been their haunts for centuries; and vessels
navigating the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, are often captured by them,
the passengers and crew murdered, the money and most valuable part of
the cargo plundered, the vessel destroyed, thus obliterating all trace
of their unhappy fate, and leaving friends and relatives to mourn their
loss from the inclemencies of the elements, when they were butchered in
cold blood by their fellow men, who by practically adopting the maxim
that "dead men tell no tales," enable themselves to pursue their
diabolical career with impunity. The pirate is truly fond of women and
wine, and when not engaged in robbing, keeps maddened with intoxicating
liquors, and passes his time in debauchery, singing old songs with
chorusses like

"Drain, drain the bowl, each fearless soul,
Let the world wag as it will:
Let the heavens growl, let the devil howl,
Drain, drain the deep bowl and fill."

Thus his hours of relaxation are passed in wild and extravagant frolics
amongst the lofty forests of palms and spicy groves of the Torrid Zone,
and amidst the aromatic and beautiful flowering vegetable productions of
that region. He has fruits delicious to taste, and as companions, the
unsophisticated daughters of Africa and the Indies. It would be supposed
that his wild career would be one of delight.

But the apprehension and foreboding of the mind, when under the
influence of remorse, are powerful, and every man, whether civilized or
savage, has interwoven in his constitution a moral sense, which
secretly condemns him when he has committed an atrocious action, even
when he is placed in situations which raise him above the fear of human
punishment, for

"Conscience, the torturer of the soul, unseen.
Does fiercely brandish a sharp scourge within;
Severe decrees may keep our tongues in awe,
But to our minds what edicts can give law?
Even you yourself to your own breast shall tell
Your crimes, and your own conscience be your hell."

With the name of pirate is also associated ideas of rich plunder,
caskets of buried jewels, chests of gold ingots, bags of outlandish
coins, secreted in lonely, out of the way places, or buried about the
wild shores of rivers, and unexplored sea coasts, near rocks and trees
bearing mysterious marks, indicating where the treasure was hid. And as
it is his invariable practice to secrete and bury his booty, and from
the perilous life he leads, being often killed or captured, he can never
re-visit the spot again; immense sums remain buried in those places, and
are irrecoverably lost. Search is often made by persons who labor in
anticipation of throwing up with their spade and pickaxe, gold bars,
diamond crosses sparkling amongst the dirt, bags of golden doubloons,
and chests, wedged close with moidores, ducats and pearls; but although
great treasures lie hid in this way, it seldom happens that any is so



By the universal law of nations, robbery or forcible depredation upon
the "high seas," _animo furandi_, is piracy. The meaning of the phrase
"high seas," embraces not only the waters of the ocean, which are out of
sight of land, but the waters on the sea coast below low water mark,
whether within the territorial boundaries of a foreign nation, or of a
domestic state. Blackstone says that the main sea or high sea begins at
low water mark. But between the high water mark and low water mark,
where the tide ebbs and flows, the common law and the Admiralty have
_divisum imperium_, an alternate jurisdiction, one upon the water when
it is full sea; the other upon the land when it is ebb. He doubtless
here refers to the waters of the ocean on the sea coast, and not in
creeks and inlets. Lord Hale says that the sea is either that which
lies within the body of a country or without. That which lies without
the body of a country is called the main sea or ocean. So far then as
regards the states of the American union, "high seas," may be taken to
mean that part of the ocean which washes the sea coast, and is without
the body of any country, according to the common law; and so far as
regards foreign nations, any waters on their sea coasts, below low water

Piracy is an offence against the universal law of society, a pirate
being according to Sir Edward Coke, _stis humani generis_. As,
therefore, he has renounced all the benefits of society and government,
and has reduced himself to the savage state of nature, by declaring war
against all mankind, all mankind must declare war against him; so that
every community has a right by the rule of self-defense, to inflict that
punishment upon him which every individual would in a state of nature
otherwise have been entitled to do, for any invasion of his person or
personal property. By various statutes in England and the United States,
other offences are made piracy. Thus, if a subject of either of these
nations commit any act of hostility against a fellow subject on the high
seas, under color of a commission from any foreign power, this act is
piracy. So if any captain of any vessel, or mariner, run away with the
vessel, or the goods, or yield them up to a pirate voluntarily, or if
any seaman lay violent hands on his commander, to hinder him from
fighting in defence of the ship or goods committed to his charge, or
make a revolt in the ship, these offences are acts of piracy, by the
laws of the United States and England. In England by the statute of 8
George I, c. 24, the trading or corresponding with known pirates, or the
forcibly boarding any merchant vessel, (though without seizing her or
carrying her off,) and destroying any of the goods on board, are
declared to be acts of piracy; and by the statute 18 George II. c. 30,
any natural born subject or denizen who in time of war, shall commit any
hostilities at sea, against any of his fellow subjects, or shall assist
an enemy, on that element, is liable to be punished as a pirate. By
statute of George II. c. 25, the ransoming of any neutral vessel, which
has been taken by the captain of a private ship of war, is declared
piracy. By the act of congress, April 30, 1790, if any person upon the
high seas, or in any river, haven, or bay, out of the jurisdiction of
any particular state, commit murder or robbery, or any other offence
which if committed within the body of a county, would by the laws of the
United States, be punishable by death, such offender is to be deemed a
pirate. By the act of congress, 1820, c. 113, if any citizen of the
United States, being of the crew of any foreign vessel, or any person
being of the crew of any vessel owned in whole or part by any citizen of
the United States, shall be engaged in the foreign slave trade, he shall
be adjudged a pirate. Notwithstanding the expression used in this
statute, the question, says Chancellor Kent, remains to be settled,
whether the act of being concerned in the slave trade would be adjudged
piracy, within the code of international law. In England by the act of
parliament passed March 31, 1824, the slave trade is also declared to be
piracy. An attempt has been made to effect a convention between the
United States and Great Britain, by which it should be agreed that both
nations should consider the slave trade as piratical; but this attempt
has hitherto been unsuccessful. In the time of Richard III, by the laws
of Oberon, all infidels were regarded as pirates, and their property
liable to seizure wherever found. By the law of nations, the taking of
goods by piracy does not divest the actual owner of them. By the civil
institutions of Spain and Venice, ships taken from pirates became the
property of those who retake them. Piracy is every where pursued and
punished with death, and pirates can gain no rights by conquest. It is
of no importance, for the purpose of giving jurisdiction in cases of
piracy, on whom or where a piratical offence is committed. A pirate who
is one by the law of nations, may be tried and punished in any country
where he may be found; for he is reputed to be out of the protection of
all laws. But if the statute of any government declares an offence,
committed on board one of their own vessels, to be piracy; such an
offence will be punished exclusively by the nation which passes the
statute. In England the offence was formerly cognizable only by the
Admiralty courts, which proceeded without a jury in a method founded on
the civil law. But by the statute of Henry VIII. c. 15, it was enacted
that piracy should be tried by commissioners nominated by the lord
chancellor, the indictment being first found by a grand jury, of twelve
men, and afterwards tried by another jury, as at common law. Among the
commissioners, there are always some of the common law judges. In the
United States, pirates are tried before the circuit court of the United
States. Piracy has been known from the remotest antiquity; for in the
early ages every small maritime state was addicted to piracy, and
navigation was perilous. This habit was so general, that it was regarded
with indifference, and, whether merchant, traveller, or pirate, the
stranger was received with the rights of hospitality. Thus Nestor,
having given Mentor and Telemachus a plenteous repast, remarks, that the
banquet being finished, it was time to ask his guests to their business.
"Are you," demands the aged prince, "merchants destined to any port, or
are you merely adventurers and pirates, who roam the seas without any
place of destination, and live by rapine and ruin."





































The Saxons, a people supposed to be derived from the Cimbri, uniting the
occupations of fishing and piracy, commenced at an early period their
ravages in the German Ocean; and the shores of Gaul and Britain were for
ages open to their depredations. About the middle of the fifth century,
the unwarlike Vortigern, then king of Britain, embraced the fatal
resolution of requesting these hardy warriors to deliver him from the
harassing inroads of the Picts and Scots; and the expedition of Hengist
and Horsa was the consequence. Our mention of this memorable epoch is
not for its political importance, great as that is, but for its effects
on piracy; for the success attending such enterprises seems to have
turned the whole of the northern nations towards sea warfare. The Danes,
Norwegians, and Swedes, from their superior knowledge of navigation,
gave into it most; and on whatever coast the winds carried them, they
made free with all that came in their way. Canute the Fourth endeavored
in vain to repress these lawless disorders among his subjects; but they
felt so galled by his restrictions, that they assassinated him. On the
king of Sweden being taken by the Danes, permission was given to such of
his subjects as chose, to arm themselves against the enemy, pillage his
possessions, and sell their prizes at Ribnitz and Golnitz. This proved a
fertile nursery of pirates, who became so formidable under the name of
"Victalien Broders," that several princes were obliged to arm against
them, and hang some of their chiefs.

Even the females of the North caught the epidemic spirit, and proudly
betook themselves to the dangers of sea-life. Saxo-Grammaticus relates
an interesting story of one of them. Alwilda, the daughter of Synardus,
a Gothic king, to deliver herself from the violence imposed on her
inclination, by a marriage with Alf, the son of Sygarus, king of
Denmark, embraced the life of a rover; and attired as a man, she
embarked in a vessel of which the crew was composed of other young women
of tried courage, dressed in the same manner. Among the first of her
cruises, she landed at a place where a company of pirates were bewailing
the loss of their commander; and the strangers were so captivated with
the air and agreeable manners of Alwilda, that they unanimously chose
her for their leader. By this reinforcement she became so formidable,
that Prince Alf was despatched to engage her. She sustained his attacks
with great courage and talent; but during a severe action in the gulf of
Finland, Alf boarded her vessel, and having killed the greatest part of
her crew, seized the captain, namely herself; whom nevertheless he knew
not, because she had a casque which covered her visage. The prince was
agreeably surprised, on removing the helmet, to recognize his beloved
Alwilda; and it seems that his valor had now recommended him to the fair
princess, for he persuaded her to accept his hand, married her on board,
and then led her to partake of his wealth, and share his throne.

Charlemagne, though represented as naturally generous and humane, had
been induced, in his extravagant zeal for the propagation of those
tenets which he had himself adopted, to enforce them throughout Germany
at the point of the sword; and his murders and decimations on that
account disgrace humanity. The more warlike of the Pagans flying into
Jutland, from whence the Saxons had issued forth, were received with
kindness, and furnished with the means of punishing their persecutor, by
harassing his coasts. The maritime towns of France were especially
ravaged by those pirates called "Normands," or men of the North; and it
was owing to their being joined by many malcontents, in the provinces
since called Normandy, that that district acquired its name.
Charlemagne, roused by this effrontery, besides fortifying the mouths of
the great rivers, determined on building himself a fleet, which he did,
consisting of 400 of the largest galleys then known, some having five or
six benches of oars. His people were, however, extremely ignorant of
maritime affairs, and in the progress of having them taught, he was
suddenly called to the south, by the invasion of the Saracens.

[Illustration: _Awilda, the Female Pirate._]

Another division of Normans, some years afterwards, in the same spirit
of emigration, and thirsting, perhaps, to avenge their injured
ancestors, burst into the provinces of France, which the degeneracy of
Charlemagne's posterity, and the dissensions which prevailed there,
rendered an affair of no great difficulty. Louis le Debonnaire had taken
every means of keeping on good terms with them; annually persuading some
to become Christians, and then sending them home so loaded with
presents, that it was discovered they came to be baptized over and over
again, merely for the sake of the gifts, as Du Chesne tells us. But on
the subsequent division of the empire among the undutiful sons of Louis,
the pirates did not fail to take advantage of the general confusion;
braving the sea almost every summer in their light coracles, sailing up
the Seine, the Somme, or the Loire, and devastating the best parts of
France, almost without resistance. In 845, they went up to Paris,
pillaged it, and were on the point of attacking the royal camp at St.
Dennis; but receiving a large sum of money from Charles the Bald, they
retreated from thence, and with the new means thus supplied them,
ravaged Bordeaux, and were there joined by Pepin, king of Aquitaine. A
few years afterwards, they returned in great numbers. Paris was again
sacked, and the magnificent abbey of St. Germain des Pres burnt. In
861, Wailand, a famous Norman pirate, returning from England, took up
his winter quarters on the banks of the Loire, devastated the country as
high as Tourraine, shared the women and girls among his crews, and even
carried off the male children, to be brought up in his own profession.
Charles the Bald, not having the power to expel him, engaged the
freebooter, for 500 pounds of silver, to dislodge his countrymen, who
were harassing the vicinity of Paris. In consequence of this subsidy,
Wailand, with a fleet of 260 sail, went up the Seine, and attacked the
Normans in the isle of Oiselle: after a long and obstinate resistance,
they were obliged to capitulate; and having paid 6000 pounds of gold and
silver, by way of ransom, had leave to join their victors. The riches
thus acquired rendered a predatory life so popular, that the pirates
were continually increasing in number, so that under a "sea-king" called
Eric, they made a descent in the Elbe and the Weser, pillaged Hamburg,
penetrated far into Germany, and after gaining two battles, retreated
with immense booty. The pirates, thus reinforced on all sides, long
continued to devastate Germany, France, and England; some penetrated
into Andalusia and Hetruria, where they destroyed the flourishing town
of Luni; whilst others, descending the Dnieper, penetrated even into

[Illustration: _A Priest thrown from the Ramparts of an Abbey._]

Meanwhile the Danes had been making several attempts to effect a
_lodgment_ in England; and allured by its fertility, were induced to try
their fortune in various expeditions, which were occasionally completely
successful, and at other times most fatally disastrous. At length, after
a struggle of several years, their success was so decided, that king
Alfred was obliged for a time to abandon his kingdom, as we all know, to
their ravages. They immediately passed over to Ireland, and divided it
into three sovereignties; that of Dublin fell to the share of Olauf;
that of Waterford to Sitrih; and that of Limerick to Yivar. These
arrangements dispersed the forces of the enemy, and watching his
opportunity, Alfred issued from his retreat, fell on them like a
thunderbolt, and made a great carnage of them. This prince, too wise to
exterminate the pirates after he had conquered them, sent them to settle
Northumberland, which had been wasted by their countrymen, and by this
humane policy gained their attachment and services. He then retook
London, embellished it, equipped fleets, restrained the Danes in
England, and prevented others from landing. In the twelve years of peace
which followed his fifty-six battles, this great man composed his body
of laws; divided England into counties, hundreds, and tithings, and
founded the University of Oxford. But after Alfred's death, fresh swarms
of pirates visited the shores, among the most formidable of whom were
the Danes, who spread desolation and misery along the banks of the
Thames, the Medway, the Severn, the Tamar, and the Avon, for more than a
century, though repeatedly tempted to desist by weighty bribes, raised
by an oppressive and humiliating tax called _Danegelt_, from its object;
and which, like most others, were continued long after it had answered
its intent.

About the end of the 9th century, one of the sons of Rognwald, count of
the Orcades, named Horolf, or Rollo, having infested the coasts of
Norway with piratical descents, was at length defeated and banished by
Harold, king of Denmark. He fled for safety to the Scandinavian island
of Soderoe, where finding many outlaws and discontented fugitives, he
addressed their passions, and succeeded in placing himself at their
head. Instead of measuring his sword with his sovereign again, he
adopted the wiser policy of imitating his countrymen, in making his
fortune by plundering the more opulent places of southern Europe. The
first attempt of this powerful gang was upon England, where, finding
Alfred too powerful to be coped with, he stood over to the mouth of the
Seine, and availed himself of the state to which France was reduced.
Horolf, however, did not limit his ambition to the acquisition of booty;
he wished permanently to enjoy some of the fine countries he was
ravaging, and after many treaties made and broken, received the dutchy
of Normandy from the lands of Charles the Simple, as a fief, together
with Gisla, the daughter of the French monarch, in marriage. Thus did a
mere pirate found the family which in a few years gave sovereigns to
England, Naples, and Sicily, and spread the fame of their talents and
prowess throughout the world.

Nor was Europe open to the depredations of the northern pirates only.
Some Asiatic moslems, having seized on Syria, immediately invaded
Africa, and their subsequent conquests in Spain facilitated their
irruption into France, where they pillaged the devoted country, with but
few substantial checks. Masters of all the islands in the Mediterranean,
their corsairs insulted the coasts of Italy, and even threatened the
destruction of the Eastern empire. While Alexis was occupied in a war
with Patzinaces, on the banks of the Danube, Zachas, a Saracen pirate,
scoured the Archipelago, having, with the assistance of an able
Smyrniote, constructed a flotilla of forty brigantines, and some light
fast-rowing boats, manned by adventurers like himself. After taking
several of the surrounding islands, he established himself sovereign of
Smyrna, that place being about the centre of his newly-acquired
dominions. Here his fortunes prospered for a time, and Soliman, sultan
of Nicea, son of the grand Soliman, sought his alliance, and married his
daughter, about AD. 1093. But in the following year, young Soliman being
persuaded that his father-in-law had an eye to his possessions, with his
own hand stabbed Zachas to the heart. The success of this freebooter
shows that the Eastern emperors could no longer protect, or even assist,
their islands.

Maritime pursuits had now revived, the improvement of nautical science
was progressing rapidly, and the advantages of predatory expeditions,
especially when assisted and masked by commerce, led people of family
and acquirements to embrace the profession. The foremost of these were
the Venetians and Genoese, among whom the private adventurers,
stimulated by an enterprising spirit, fitted out armaments, and
volunteered themselves into the service of those nations who thought
proper to retain them; or they engaged in such schemes of plunder as
were likely to repay their pains and expense. About the same time, the
Roxolani or Russians, became known in history, making their debut in the
character of pirates, ravenous for booty, and hungry for the pillage of
Constantinople--a longing which 900 years have not yet satisfied.
Pouring hundreds of boats down the Borysthenes, the Russian marauders
made four desperate attempts to plunder the city of the Caesars, in less
than two centuries, and appear only to have been repulsed by the
dreadful effects of the celebrated Greek fire.

England, in the mean time, had little to do with piracy; nor had she any
thing worthy the name of a navy; yet Coeur de Lion had given maritime
laws to Europe; her seamen, in point of skill, were esteemed superior to
their contemporaries; and King John enacted that those foreign ships
which refused to lower their flags to that of Britain should, if taken,
be deemed lawful prizes. Under Henry III., though Hugh de Burgh, the
governor of Dover Castle, had defeated a French fleet by casting lime
into the eyes of his antagonists, the naval force was impaired to such a
degree that the Normans and Bretons were too powerful for the Cinque
Ports, and compelled them to seek relief from the other ports of the
kingdom. The taste for depredation had become so general and contagious,
that privateers were now allowed to be fitted out, which equipments
quickly degenerated to the most cruel of pirates. Nay more: on the
disputes which took place between Henry and his Barons, in 1244, the
Cinque Ports, who had shown much indifference to the royal requisitions,
openly espoused the cause of the revolted nobles; and, under the orders
of Simon de Montfort, burnt Portsmouth. From this, forgetful of their
motives for arming, they proceeded to commit various acts of piracy, and
considering nothing but their private interests, extended their violence
not only against the shipping of all countries unfortunate enough to
fall in their way, but even to perpetrate the most unwarrantable ravages
on the property of their own countrymen. Nor was this confined to the
Cinque Port vessels only; the example and the profits were too
stimulating to the restless; and one daring association on the coast of
Lincolnshire seized the Isle of Ely, and made it their receptacle for
the plunder of all the adjacent countries. One William Marshall
fortified the little island of Lundy, in the mouth of the Severn, and
did so much mischief by his piracies, that at length it became necessary
to fit out a squadron to reduce him, which was accordingly done, and he
was executed in London; yet the example did not deter other persons from
similar practices. The sovereign, however, did not possess sufficient
naval means to suppress the enormities of the great predatory squadrons,
and their ravages continued to disgrace the English name for upwards of
twenty years, when the valor and conciliation of the gallant Prince
Edward brought them to that submission which his royal parent had failed
in procuring.

Those "harum-scarum" expeditions, the Crusades, were perhaps influential
in checking piracy, although the rabble that composed the majority of
them had as little principle as the worst of the freebooters. From the
time that Peter the Hermit set Europe in a blaze, all ranks, and all
nations, streamed to the East, so that few vessels were otherwise
employed than in conveying the motly groups who sought the shores of
Palestine; some from religious zeal; some from frantic fanaticism; some
from desire of distinction; some for the numberless privileges which the
crusaders acquired; and the rest and greater portion, for the spoil and
plunder of which they had a prospect. The armaments, fitted in no fewer
than nine successive efforts, were mostly equipped with such haste and
ignorance, and with so little choice, that ruinous delays, shipwrecks,
and final discomfiture, were naturally to be expected. Still, the effect
of such incredible numbers of people betaking themselves to foreign
countries, advanced civilization, although vast means of forwarding its
cause were buried in the East; and those who assert that no benefit
actually resulted, cannot deny that at least some evils were thereby
removed. Montesquieu says, that Europe then required a general shock, to
teach her, but the sight of contrasts, the theorems of public economy
most conducive to happiness. And it is evident, that notwithstanding
these follies wasted the population of Europe, squandered its treasures,
and infected us with new vices and diseases, still the crusades
diminished the bondage of the feudal system, by augmenting the power of
the King, and the strength of the Commons; while they also occasioned a
very increased activity in commerce: thus taming the ferocity of men's
spirits, increasing agriculture in value from the safety it enjoyed, and
establishing a base for permanent prosperity.


_Containing an Account of his capturing one of the great Mogul's ship's
laden with treasure: and an interesting history of a Colony of Pirates
on the Island of Madagascar._

During his own time the adventures of Captain Avery were the subject of
general conversation in Europe. It was reported that he had married the
Great Mogul's daughter, who was taken in an Indian ship that fell into
his hands, and that he was about to be the founder of a new
monarchy--that he gave commissions in his own name to the captains of
his ships, and the commanders of his forces, and was acknowledged by
them as their prince. In consequence of these reports, it was at one
time resolved to fit out a strong squadron to go and take him and his
men; and at another time it was proposed to invite him home with all his
riches, by the offer of his Majesty's pardon. These reports, however,
were soon discovered to be groundless, and he was actually starving
without a shilling, while he was represented as in the possession of
millions. Not to exhaust the patience, or lessen the curiosity of the
reader, the facts in Avery's life shall be briefly related.

He was a native of Devonshire (Eng.), and at an early period sent to
sea; advanced to the station of a mate in a merchantman, he performed
several voyages. It happened previous to the peace of Ryswick, when
there existed an alliance between Spain, England, Holland, and other
powers, against France, that the French in Martinique carried on a
smuggling trade with the Spaniards on the continent of Peru. To prevent
their intrusion into the Spanish dominions, a few vessels were
commanded to cruise upon that coast, but the French ships were too
strong for them; the Spaniards, therefore, came to the resolution of
hiring foreigners to act against them. Accordingly, certain merchants of
Bristol fitted out two ships of thirty guns, well manned, and provided
with every necessary munition, and commanded them to sail for Corunna to
receive their orders.

Captain Gibson commanded one of these ships, and Avery appears to have
been his mate, in the year 1715. He was a fellow of more cunning than
courage, and insinuating himself into the confidence of some of the
boldest men in the ship, he represented the immense riches which were to
be acquired upon the Spanish coast, and proposed to run off with the
ship. The proposal was scarcely made when it was agreed upon, and put in
execution at ten o'clock the following evening. Captain Gibson was one
of those who mightily love their bottle, and spent much of his time on
shore; but he remained on board that night, which did not, however,
frustrate their design, because he had taken his usual dose, and so went
to bed. The men who were not in the confederacy went also to bed,
leaving none upon deck but the conspirators. At the time agreed upon,
the long boat of the other ship came, and Avery hailing her in the usual
manner, he was answered by the men in her, "Is your drunken boatswain on
board?" which was the watchword agreed between them. Avery replying in
the affirmative, the boat came alongside with sixteen stout fellows, who
joined in the adventure. They next secured the hatches, then softly
weighed anchor, and immediately put to sea without bustle or noise.
There were several vessels in the bay, besides a Dutchman of forty guns,
the captain of which was offered a considerable reward to go in pursuit
of Avery, but he declined. When the captain awoke, he rang his bell, and
Avery and another conspirator going into the cabin, found him yet half
asleep. He inquired, saying, "What is the matter with the ship? does
she drive? what weather is it?" supposing that it had been a storm, and
that the ship was driven from her anchors. "No, no," answered Avery,
"we're at sea, with a fair wind and a good weather." "At sea!" said the
captain: "how can that be?" "Come," answered Avery, "don't be in a
fright, but put on your clothes, and I'll let you into a secret. You
must know that I am captain of this ship now, and this is my cabin,
therefore you must walk out; I am bound to Madagascar, with a design of
making my own fortune, and that of all the brave fellows joined with

The captain, having a little recovered his senses, began to understand
his meaning. However, his fright was as great as before, which Avery
perceiving, desired him to fear nothing; "for," said he, "if you have a
mind to make one of us, we will receive you; and if you turn sober, and
attend to business, perhaps in time I may make you one of my
lieutenants; if not, here's a boat, and you shall be set on shore."
Gibson accepted of the last proposal; and the whole crew being called up
to know who was willing to go on shore with the captain, there were only
about five or six who chose to accompany him.

Avery proceeded on his voyage to Madagascar, and it does not appear that
he captured any vessels upon his way. When arrived at the northeast part
of that island, he found two sloops at anchor, which, upon seeing him,
slipped their cables and ran themselves ashore, while the men all landed
and concealed themselves in the woods. These were two sloops which the
men had run off with from the East Indies, and seeing Avery's ship,
supposed that he had been sent out after them. Suspecting who they were,
he sent some of his men on shore to inform them that they were friends,
and to propose a union for their common safety. The sloops' men being
well armed, had posted themselves in a wood, and placed sentinels to
observe whether the ship's men were landing to pursue them. The
sentinels only observing two or three men coming towards them unarmed,
did not oppose them. Upon being informed that they were friends, the
sentinels conveyed them to the main body, where they delivered their
message. They were at first afraid that it was a stratagem to entrap
them, but when the messengers assured them that their captain had also
run away with his ship, and that a few of their men along with him would
meet them unarmed, to consult matters for their common advantage,
confidence was established, and they were mutually well pleased, as it
added to their strength.

Having consulted what was most proper to be attempted they endeavored to
get off the sloops, and hastened to prepare all things, in order to sail
for the Arabian coast. Near the river Indus, the man at the mast-head
espied a sail, upon which they gave chase; as they came nearer to her,
they discovered that she was a tall vessel, and might turn out to be an
East Indiaman. She, however, proved a better prize; for when they fired
at her she hoisted Mogul colors, and seemed to stand upon her defence.
Avery only cannonaded at a distance, when some of his men began to
suspect that he was not the hero they had supposed. The sloops, however
attacked, the one on the bow, and another upon the quarter of the ship,
and so boarded her. She then struck her colors. She was one of the Great
Mogul's own ships, and there were in her several of the greatest persons
in his court, among whom, it was said, was one of his daughters going
upon a pilgrimage to Mecca; and they were carrying with them rich
offerings to present at the shrine of Mahomet. It is a well known fact,
that the people of the east travel with great magnificence, so that
these had along with them all their slaves and attendants, with a large
quantity of vessels of gold and silver, and immense sums of money to
defray their expenses by land; the spoil therefore which they received
from that ship was almost incalculable.

[Illustration: _Captain Avery engaging the Great Mogul's Ship._]

Taking the treasure on board their own ships, and plundering their prize
of every thing valuable, they then allowed her to depart. As soon as the
Mogul received this intelligence, he threatened to send a mighty army to
extirpate the English from all their settlements upon the Indian coast.
The East India Company were greatly alarmed, but found means to calm his
resentment, by promising to search for the robbers, and deliver them
into his hands. The noise which this made over all Europe, gave birth to
the rumors that were circulated concerning Avery's greatness.

In the mean time, our adventurers made the best of their way back to
Madagascar, intending to make that place the deposit of all their
treasure, to build a small fort, and to keep always a few men there for
its protection. Avery, however, disconcerted this plan, and rendered it
altogether unnecessary.

[Illustration: _Captain Avery receiving the three chests of Treasure on
board of his Ship._]

While steering their course, Avery sent a boat to each of the sloops,
requesting that the chiefs would come on board his ship to hold a
conference. They obeyed, and being assembled, he suggested to them the
necessity of securing the property which they had acquired in some safe
place on shore, and observed, that the chief difficulty was to get it
safe on shore; adding that, if either of the sloops should be attacked
alone, they would not be able to make any great resistance, and thus she
must either be sunk or taken with all the property on board. That, for
his part, his ship was so strong, so well manned, and such a
swift-sailing vessel, that he did not think it was possible for any
other ship to take or overcome her. Accordingly, he proposed that all
their treasure should be sealed up in three chests;--that each of the
captains should have keys, and that they should not be opened until all
were present;--that the chests should be then put on board his ship, and
afterwards lodged in some safe place upon land.

This proposal seemed so reasonable, and so much for the common good,
that it was without hesitation agreed to, and all the treasure deposited
in three chests, and carried to Avery's ship. The weather being
favorable, they remained all three in company during that and the next
day; meanwhile Avery, tampering with his men, suggested, that they had
now on board what was sufficient to make them all happy; "and what,"
continued he, "should hinder us from going to some country where we are
not known, and living on shore all the rest of our days in plenty?" They
soon understood his hint, and all readily consented to deceive the men
of the sloops, and fly with all the booty; this they effected during the
darkness of the following night. The reader may easily conjecture what
were the feelings and indignation of the other two crews in the morning,
when they discovered that Avery had made off with all their property.

Avery and his men hastened towards America, and being strangers in that
country, agreed to divide the booty, to change their names, and each
separately to take up his residence, and live in affluence and honor.
The first land they approached was the Island of Providence, then newly
settled. It however occurred to them, that the largeness of their
vessel, and the report that one had been run off with from the Groine,
might create suspicion; they resolved therefore to dispose of their
vessel at Providence. Upon this resolution, Avery, pretending that his
vessel had been equipped for privateering, and having been unsuccessful,
he had orders from the owners to dispose of her to the best advantage,
soon found a merchant. Having thus sold his own ship, he immediately
purchased a small sloop.

In this he and his companions embarked, and landed at several places in
America, where, none suspecting them, they dispersed and settled in the
country. Avery, however, had been careful to conceal the greater part of
the jewels and other valuable articles, so that his riches were immense.
Arriving at Boston, he was almost resolved to settle there, but, as the
greater part of his wealth consisted of diamonds, he was apprehensive
that he could not dispose of them at that place, without being taken up
as a pirate. Upon reflection, therefore, he resolved to sail for
Ireland, and in a short time arrived in the northern part of that
kingdom, and his men dispersed into several places. Some of them
obtained the pardon of King William, and settled in that country.

The wealth of Avery, however, now proved of small service, and
occasioned him great uneasiness. He could not offer his diamonds for
sale in that country without being suspected. Considering, therefore,
what was best to be done, he thought there might be some person at
Bristol he could venture to trust. Upon this he resolved, and going into
Devonshire, sent to one of his friends to meet him at a town called
Bideford. When he had unbosomed himself to him and other pretended
friends, they agreed that the safest plan would be to put his effects
into the hands of some wealthy merchants, and no inquiry would be made
how they came by them. One of these friends told him, he was acquainted
with some who were very fit for the purpose, and if he would allow them
a handsome commission, they would do the business faithfully. Avery
liked the proposal, particularly as he could think of no other way of
managing this matter, since he could not appear to act for himself.
Accordingly, the merchants paid Avery a visit at Bideford, where, after
strong protestations of honor and integrity, he delivered them his
effects, consisting of diamonds and some vessels of gold. After giving
him a little money for his present subsistence, they departed.

He changed his name, and lived quietly at Bideford, so that no notice
was taken of him. In a short time his money was all spent, and he heard
nothing from his merchants though he wrote to them repeatedly; at last
they sent him a small supply, but it was not sufficient to pay his
debts. In short, the remittances they sent him were so trifling, that he
could with difficulty exist. He therefore determined to go privately to
Bristol, and have an interview with the merchants himself,--where,
instead of money, he met with a mortifying repulse; for, when he desired
them to come to an account with him, they silenced him by threatening to
disclose his character; the merchants thus proving themselves as good
pirates on land as he was at sea.

Whether he was frightened by these menaces, or had seen some other
person who recognised him, is not known; however, he went immediately to
Ireland, and from thence solicited his merchants very strongly for a
supply, but to no purpose; so that he was reduced to beggary. In this
extremity he was determined to return, and cast himself upon the mercy
of these honest Bristol merchants, let the consequence be what it would.
He went on board a trading-vessel, and worked his passage over to
Plymouth, from whence he travelled on foot to Bideford. He had been
there but a few days, when he fell sick and died; not being worth so
much as would buy him a coffin!

We shall now turn back and give our readers some account of the other
two sloops. Deceiving themselves in the supposition that Avery had
outsailed them during the night, they held on their course to the place
of rendezvouse; but, arriving there, to their sad disappointment no ship
appeared. It was now necessary for them to consult what was most proper
to do in their desperate circumstances. Their provisions were nearly
exhausted, and both fish and fowl were to be found on shore, yet they
were destitute of salt to cure them. As they could not subsist at sea
without salt provisions, they resolved to form an establishment upon
land. Accordingly making tents of the sails, and using the other
materials of the sloops for what purposes they could serve, they
encamped upon the shore. It was also a fortunate circumstance, that they
had plenty of ammunition and small arms. Here they met with some of
their countrymen; and as the digression is short, we will inform our
readers how they came to inhabit this place.

Captain George Dew, and Thomas Tew, had received a commission from the
Governor of Bermuda to sail for the river Gambia, in Africa, that, with
the assistance of the Royal African Company, they might seize the French
Factory situated upon that coast. Dew, in a violent storm, not only
sprang a mast, but lost sight of his companion. Upon this returned to
refit. Instead of proceeding in his voyage, Tew made towards the Cape of
Good Hope, doubled that cape, and sailed for the straits of
Babel-Mandeb. There he met with a large ship richly laden coming from
the Indies, and bound for Arabia. Though she had on board three hundred
soldiers, besides seamen, yet Tew had the courage to attack her, and
soon made her his prize. It is reported, that by this one prize every
man shared near three thousand pounds. Informed by the prisoners that
five other ships were to pass that way, Tew would have attacked them,
but was prevented by the remonstrances of his quarter-master and others.
This difference of opinion terminated in a resolution to abandon the
sea, and to settle on some convenient spot on shore; and the island of
Madagascar was chosen. Tew, however, and a few others, in a short time
went for Rhode Island, and obtained a pardon.

The natives of Madagascar are negroes, but differ from those of Guinea
in the length of their hair and in the blackness of their complexion.
They are divided into small nations, each governed by its own prince,
who carry on a continual war upon each other. The prisoners taken in war
are either rendered slaves to the conquerors, sold, or slain, according
to pleasure. When the pirates first settled among them, their alliance
was much courted by these princes, and those whom they joined were
always successful in their wars, the natives being ignorant of the use
of fire-arms. Such terror did they carry along with them, that the very
appearance of a few pirates in an army would have put the opposing force
to flight.

By these means they in a little time became very formidable, and the
prisoners whom they took in war they employed in cultivating the ground,
and the most beautiful of the women they married; nor were they
contented with one, but married as many as they could conveniently
maintain. The natural result was, that they separated, each choosing a
convenient place for himself, where he lived in a princely style,
surrounded by his wives, slaves and dependants. Nor was it long before
jarring interests excited them also to draw the sword against each
other, and they appeared at the head of their respective forces in the
field of battle. In these civil wars their numbers and strength were
greatly lessened.

The servant, exalted to the condition of a master, generally becomes a
tyrant. These pirates, unexpectedly elevated to the dignity of petty
princes, used their power with the most wanton barbarity. The punishment
of the very least offence was to be tied to a tree, and instantly shot
through the head. The negroes, at length, exasperated by continued
oppression, formed the determination of extirpating them in one night;
nor was it a difficult matter to accomplish this, since they were now so
much divided both in affection and residence. Fortunately, however, for
them, a negro woman, who was partial to them, ran twenty miles in three
hours, and warning them of their danger, they were united and in arms to
oppose the negroes before the latter had assembled. This narrow escape
made them more cautious, and induced them to adopt the following system
of policy:--

Convinced that fear was not a sufficient protection, and that the
bravest man might be murdered by a coward in his bed, they labored to
foment wars among the negro princes, while they themselves declined to
aid either party. It naturally followed, that those who were vanquished
fled to them for protection, and increased their strength. When there
was no war, they fomented private discords, and encouraged them to wreak
their vengeance against each other; nay, even taught them how to
surprise their opponents, and furnished them with fire-arms, with which
to dispatch them more effectually and expeditiously. The consequences
were, that the murderer was constrained to fly to them for protection,
with his wives, children, and kindred. These, from interest, became true
friends, as their own safety depended upon the lives of their
protectors. By this time the pirates were so formidable, that none of
the negro princes durst attack them in open war.

[Illustration: _Captain Tew attacks the ship from India._]

Pursuing this system of policy, in a short time each chief had his party
greatly increased, and they divided like so many tribes, in order to
find ground to cultivate, and to choose proper places to build places of
residence and erect garrisons of defence. The fears that agitated them
were always obvious in their general policy, for they vied with each
other in constructing places of safety, and using every precaution to
prevent the possibility of sudden danger, either from the negroes or
from one another.

A description of one of these dwellings will both show the fears that
agitated these tyrants, and prove entertaining to the reader. They
selected a spot overgrown with wood, near a river, and raised a rampart
or ditch round it, so straight and steep that it was impossible to climb
it, more particularly by those who had no scaling ladders. Over that
ditch there was one passage into the wood; the dwelling, which was a
hut, was built in that part of the wood which the prince thought most
secure, but so covered that it could not be discovered until you came
near it. But the greatest ingenuity was displayed in the construction of
the passage that led to the hut, which was so narrow, that no more than
one person could go abreast, and it was contrived in so intricate a
manner, that it was a perfect labyrinth; the way going round and round
with several small crossways, so that a person unacquainted with it,
might walk several hours without finding the hut. Along the sides of
these paths, certain large thorns, which grew on a tree in that country,
were stuck into the ground with their points outwards; and the path
itself being serpentine, as before mentioned, if a man should attempt to
approach the hut at night, he would certainly have struck upon these

[Illustration: _A Pirate and his Madagascar wife._]

Thus like tyrants they lived, dreading, and dreaded by all, and in this
state they were found by Captain Woods Rogers, when he went to
Madagascar in the Delicia, a ship of forty guns, with the design of
purchasing slaves. He touched upon a part of the island at which no ship
had been seen for seven or eight years before, where he met with some
pirates who had been upon the island above twenty-five years. There were
only eleven of the original stock then alive, surrounded with a numerous
offspring of children and grandchildren.

They were struck with terror upon the sight of the vessel, supposing
that it was a man-of-war sent out to apprehend them; they, therefore,
retired to their secret habitations. But when they found some of the
ship's crew on shore, without any signs of hostility, and proposing to
treat with them for slaves, they ventured to come out of their dwellings
attended like princes. Having been so long upon the island, their cloaks
were so much worn, that their majesties were extremely out at elbows. It
cannot be said that they were ragged, but they had nothing to cover them
but the skins of beasts in their natural state, not even a shoe or
stocking; so that they resembled the pictures of Hercules in the lion's
skin; and being overgrown with beard, and hair upon their bodies, they
appeared the most savage figures that the human imagination could well

The sale of the slaves in their possession soon provided them with more
suitable clothes, and all other necessaries, which they received in
exchange. Meanwhile, they became very familiar, went frequently on
board, and were very eager in examining the inside of the ship, talking
very familiarly with the men, and inviting them on shore. Their design
was to surprise the ship during the night. They had a sufficient number
of men and boats to effect their purpose, but the captain suspecting
them, kept so strong a watch upon deck, that they found it in vain to
hazard an attempt. When some of the men went on shore, they entered into
a plan to seize the ship, but the captain observing their familiarity,
prevented any one of his men from speaking to the pirates, and only
permitted a confidential person to purchase their slaves. Thus he
departed from the island, leaving these pirates to enjoy their savage
royalty. One of them had been a waterman upon the Thames, and having
committed a murder, fled to the West Indies. The rest had all been
foremastmen, nor was there one among them who could either read or

[Illustration: _Captain Avery's Treasure._]


_Containing a description of their chief town, Ras El Khyma, and an
account of the capture of several European vessels, and the barbarous
treatment of their crews.--With interesting details of the several
expeditions sent against them, and their final submission to the troops
of the English East India Company_.

The line of coast from Cape Mussenndom to Bahrain, on the Arabian side
of the Persian Gulf, had been from time immemorial occupied by a tribe
of Arabs called Joassamees. These, from local position, were all engaged
in maritime pursuits. Some traded in their own small vessels to
Bussorah, Bushire, Muscat, and even India; others annually fished in
their own boats on the pearl banks of Bahrain; and a still greater
number hired themselves out as sailors to navigate the coasting small
craft of the Persian Gulf.

The Joassamees at length perceiving that their local position enabled
them to reap a rich harvest by plundering vessels in passing this great
highway of nations, commenced their piratical career. The small coasting
vessels of the gulf, from their defenceless state, were the first object
of their pursuit, and these soon fell an easy prey; until, emboldened by
success, they directed their views to more arduous enterprises, and
having tasted the sweets of plunder in the increase of their wealth, had
determined to attempt more promising victories.

About the year 1797, one of the East India Company's vessels of war, the
Viper, of ten guns, was lying at anchor in the inner roads of Bushire.
Some dows of the Joassamees were at the same moment anchored in the
harbor; but as their warfare had hitherto been waged only against what
are called native vessels, and they had either feared or respected the
British flag, no hostile measures were ever pursued against them by the
British ships. The commanders of these dows had applied to the Persian
agent of the East India Company there, for a supply of gunpowder and
cannon shot for their cruise: and as this man had no suspicions of their
intentions, he furnished them with an order to the commanding officer on
board for the quantity required. The captain of the Viper was on shore
at the time, in the agent's house, but the order being produced to the
officer on board, the powder and shot were delivered, and the dows
weighed and made sail. The crew of the Viper were at this moment taking
their breakfast on deck, and the officers below; when on a sudden, a
cannonading was opened on them by two of the dows, who attempted also to

[Illustration: _A Joassamee Dow in full chase._]

The officers, leaping on deck, called the crew to quarters, and cutting
their cable, got sail upon the ship, so as to have the advantage of
manoeuvring. A regular engagement now took place between this small
cruiser and four dows, all armed with great guns, and full of men. In
the contest Lieut. Carruthers, the commanding officer, was once wounded
by a ball in the loins; but after girding a handkerchief round his
waist, he still kept the deck, till a ball entering his forehead, he
fell. Mr. Salter, the midshipman on whom the command devolved, continued
the fight with determined bravery, and after a stout resistance, beat
them off, chased them some distance out to sea, and subsequently
regained the anchorage in safety.

Several years elapsed before the wounds of the first defeat were
sufficiently healed to induce a second attempt on vessels under the
British flag, though a constant state of warfare was still kept up
against the small craft of the gulf. In 1804, the East India Company's
cruiser, Fly, was taken by a French privateer, off the Island of Kenn,
in the Persian Gulf; but before the enemy boarded her, she ran into
shoal water, near that island, and sunk the government dispatches, and
some treasure with which they were charged, in about two and a half
fathoms of water, taking marks for the recovery of them, if possible, at
some future period. The passengers and crew were taken to Bushire where
they were set at liberty, and having purchased a country dow by
subscription, they fitted her out and commenced their voyage down the
gulf, bound for Bombay. On their passage down, as they thought it would
be practicable to recover the government packet and treasure sunk off
Kenn, they repaired to that island, and were successful, after much
exertion, in recovering the former, which being in their estimation of
the first importance, as the dispatches were from England to Bombay,
they sailed with them on their way thither, without loss of time.

Near the mouth of the gulf, they were captured by a fleet of Joassamee
boats, after some resistance, in which several were wounded and taken
into their chief port at Ras-el-Khyma. Here they were detained in hope
of ransome, and during their stay were shown to the people of the town
as curiosities, no similar beings having been before seen there within
the memory of man. The Joassamee ladies were so minute in their
enquiries, indeed, that they were not satisfied without determining in
what respect an uncircumcised infidel differed from a true believer.

When these unfortunate Englishmen had remained for several months in the
possession of the Arabs, and no hope of their ransom appeared, it was
determined to put them to death, and thus rid themselves of unprofitable
enemies. An anxiety to preserve life, however, induced the suggestion,
on their parts, of a plan for the temporary prolongation of it, at
least. With this view they communicated to the chief of the pirates the
fact of their having sunk a quantity of treasure near the island of
Kenn, and of their knowing the marks of the spot, by the bearings of
objects on shore, with sufficient accuracy to recover it, if furnished
with good divers. They offered, therefore, to purchase their own
liberty, by a recovery of this money for their captors; and on the
fulfillment of their engagement it was solemnly promised to be granted
to them.

They soon sailed for the spot, accompanied by divers accustomed to that
occupation on the pearl banks of Bahrain; and, on their anchoring at the
precise points of bearing taken, they commenced their labors. The first
divers who went down were so successful, that all the crew followed in
their turns, so that the vessel was at one time almost entirely
abandoned at anchor. As the men, too, were all so busily occupied in
their golden harvest, the moment appeared favorable for escape; and the
still captive Englishmen were already at their stations to overpower the
few on board, cut the cable, and make sail. Their motions were either
seen or suspected, as the divers repaired on board in haste, and the
scheme was thus frustrated. They were now given their liberty as
promised, by being landed on the island of Kenn, where, however, no
means offered for their immediate escape. The pirates, having at the
same time landed themselves on the island, commenced a general massacre
of the inhabitants, in which their released prisoners, fearing they
might be included, fled for shelter to clefts and hiding places in the
rocks. During their refuge here, they lived on such food as chance threw
in their way; going out under cover of the night to steal a goat and
drag it to their haunts. When the pirates had at length completed their
work of blood, and either murdered or driven off every former inhabitant
of the island, they quitted it themselves, with the treasure which they
had thus collected from the sea and shore. The Englishmen now ventured
to come out from their hiding places, and to think of devising some
means of escape. Their good fortune in a moment of despair, threw them
on the wreck of a boat, near the beach, which was still capable of
repair. In searching about the now deserted town, other materials were
found, which were of use to them, and sufficient plank and logs of wood
for the construction of a raft. These were both completed in a few days,
and the party embarked on them in two divisions, to effect a passage to
the Persian shore. One of these rafts was lost in the attempt, and all
on board her perished; while the raft, with the remainder of the party
reached land.

Having gained the main land they now set out on foot towards Bushire,
following the line of the coast for the sake of the villages and water.
In this they are said to have suffered incredible hardships and
privations of every kind. No one knew the language of the country
perfectly, and the roads and places of refreshment still less; they were
in general destitute of clothes and money, and constantly subject to
plunder and imposition, poor as they were. Their food was therefore
often scanty, and always of the worst kind; and they had neither shelter
from the burning sun of the day, nor from the chilling dews of night.

The Indian sailors, sipakees, and servants, of whom a few were still
remaining when they set out, had all dropped off by turns; and even
Europeans had been abandoned on the road, in the most affecting way,
taking a last adieu of their comrades, who had little else to expect but
soon to follow their fate. One instance is mentioned of their having
left one who could march no further, at the distance of only a mile from
a village; and on returning to the spot on the morrow, to bring him in,
nothing was found but his mangled bones, as he had been devoured in the
night by jackals. The packet being light was still, however, carried by
turns, and preserved through all obstacles and difficulties; and with it
they reached at length the island of Busheap, to which they crossed over
in a boat from the main. Here they were detained by the Sheikh, but at
length he provided them with a boat for the conveyance of themselves and
dispatches to Bushire. From this place they proceeded to Bombay, but of
all the company only two survived. A Mr. Jowl, an officer of a merchant
ship, and an English sailor named Penmel together with the bag of
letters and dispatches.

In the following year, two English brigs, the Shannon, Capt. Babcock,
and the Trimmer, Capt. Cummings, were on their voyage from Bombay to
Bussorah. These were both attacked, near the Islands of Polior and
Kenn, by several boats, and after a slight resistance on the part of the
Shannon only, were taken possession of, and a part of the crew of each,
cruelly put to the sword. Capt. Babcock, having been seen by one of the
Arabs to discharge a musket during the contest, was taken by them on
shore; and after a consultation on his fate, it was determined that he
should forfeit the arm by which this act of resistance was committed. It
was accordingly severed from his body by one stroke of a sabre, and no
steps were taken either to bind up the wound, or to prevent his bleeding
to death. The captain, himself, had yet sufficient presence of mind
left, however, to think of his own safety, and there being near him some
clarified butter, he procured this to be heated, and while yet warm,
thrust the bleeding stump of his arm into it. It had the effect of
lessening the effusion of blood, and ultimately of saving a life that
would otherwise most probably have been lost. The crew were then all
made prisoners, and taken to a port of Arabia, from whence they
gradually dispersed and escaped. The vessels themselves were
additionally armed, one of them mounting twenty guns, manned with Arab
crews, and sent from Ras-el-Khyma to cruise in the gulf, where they
committed many piracies.

In the year 1808, the force of the Joassamees having gradually
increased, and becoming flushed with the pride of victory, their
insulting attacks on the British flag were more numerous and more
desperate than ever. The first of these was on the ship Minerva, of
Bombay, on her voyage to Bussorah. The attack was commenced by several
boats, (for they never cruize singly,) and a spirited resistance in a
running fight was kept up at intervals for several days in succession. A
favorable moment offered, however, for boarding; the ship was
overpowered by numbers, and carried amidst a general massacre. The
captain was said to have been cut up into separate pieces, and thrown
overboard by fragments; the second mate and carpenter alone were spared,
probably to make use of their services; and an Armenian lady, the wife
of Lieut. Taylor, then at Bushire, was reserved perhaps for still
greater sufferings. But was subsequently ransomed for a large sum.

[Illustration: _The Pirates striking off the arm of Capt. Babcock._]

A few weeks after this, the Sylph, one of the East India Company's
cruisers, of sixty tons and mounting eight guns, was accompanying the
mission under Sir Hartford Jones, from Bombay, to Persia; when being
separated from the rest of the squadron, she was attacked in the gulf by
a fleet of dows. These bore down with all the menacing attitude of
hostility; but as the commander, Lieut. Graham had received orders from
the Bombay government, not to open his fire on any of these vessels
until he had been first fired on himself, the ship was hardly prepared
for battle, and the colors were not even hoisted to apprise them to what
nation she belonged. The dows approached, threw their long overhanging
prows across the Sylph's beam, and pouring in a shower of stones on her
deck, beat down and wounded almost every one who stood on it. They then
boarded, and made the ship an easy prize, before more than a single shot
had been fired, and in their usual way, put every one whom they found
alive to the sword. Lieut. Graham fell, covered with wounds, down the
fore hatchway of his own vessel, where he was dragged by some of the
crew into a store room, in which they had secreted themselves, and
barricaded the door with a crow-bar from within. The cruiser was thus
completely in the possession of the enemy, who made sail on her, and
were bearing her off in triumph to their own port, in company with their
boats. Soon after, however, the commodore of the squadron in the Neried
frigate hove in sight, and perceiving this vessel in company with the
dows, judged her to be a prize to the pirates. She accordingly gave them
all chase, and coming up with the brig, the Arabs took to their boats
and abandoned her. The chase was continued after the dows, but without

[Illustration: _The Neried Frigate chasing a Fleet of Joassamee Dows._]

These repeated aggressions at length opened the eyes of the East India
Government, and an expedition was accordingly assembled at Bombay. The
naval force consisted of La Chiffone, frigate, Capt. Wainwright, as
commodore. The Caroline of thirty-eight guns; and eight of the East
India Company's cruisers, namely, the Mornington, Ternate, Aurora,
Prince of Wales, Ariel, Nautilus, Vestal and Fury, with four large
transports, and the Stromboli bomb-ketch. The fleet sailed from Bombay
in September, and after a long passage they reached Muscat, where it
remained for many days to refresh and arrange their future plans; they
sailed and soon reached Ras-el-Khyma, the chief port of the pirates
within the gulf. Here the squadron anchored abreast of the town, and the
troops were landed under cover of the ships and boats. The inhabitants
of the town assembled in crowds to repel the invaders; but the firm
line, the regular volleys, and the steady charge of the troops at the
point of the bayonet, overcame every obstacle, and multiplied the heaps
of the slain. A general conflagration was then ordered, and a general
plunder to the troops was permitted. The town was set on fire in all
parts, and about sixty sail of boats and dows, with the Minerva, a ship
which they had taken, then lying in the roads were all burnt and

The complete conquest of the place was thus effected with very trifling
loss on the part of the besiegers, and some plunder collected; though it
was thought that most of the treasure and valuables had been removed
into the interior. This career of victory was suddenly damped by the
report of the approach of a large body of troops from the interior, and
although none of these were seen, this ideal reinforcement induced the
besiegers to withdraw. The embarkation took place at daylight in the
morning; and while the fleet remained at anchor during the whole of the
day, parties were still seen assembling on the shore, displaying their
colors, brandishing their spears, and firing muskets from all points; so
that the conquest was scarcely as complete as could be wished, since no
formal act of submission had yet been shown. The expedition now sailed
to Linga, a small port of the Joassamees, and burnt it to the ground.
The force had now become separated, the greater portion of the troops
being sent to Muscat for supplies, or being deemed unnecessary, and some
of the vessels sent on separate services of blockading passages, &c. The
remaining portion of the blockading squadron consisting of La Chiffone,
frigate, and four of the cruisers, the Mornington, Ternate, Nautilus,
and Fury, and two transports, with five hundred troops from Linga, then
proceeded to Luft, another port of the Joassamees. As the channel here
was narrow and difficult of approach, the ships were warped into their
stations of anchorage, and a summons sent on shore, as the people had
not here abandoned their town, but were found at their posts of defence,
in a large and strong castle with many batteries, redoubts, &c. The
summons being treated with disdain, the troops were landed with Col.
Smith at their head; and while forming on the beach a slight skirmish
took place with such of the inhabitants of the town, as fled for shelter
to the castle. The troops then advanced towards the fortress, which is
described to have had walls fourteen feet thick, pierced with loop
holes, and only one entrance through a small gate, well cased with iron
bars and bolts, in the strongest manner. With a howitzer taken for the
occasion, it was intended to have blown this gate open, and to have
taken the place by storm; but on reaching it while the ranks opened, and
the men sought to surround the castle to seek for some other entrance at
the same time, they were picked off so rapidly and unexpectedly from the
loop holes above, that a general flight took place, the howitzer was
abandoned, even before it had been fired, and both the officers and the
troops sought shelter by lying down behind the ridges of sand and little
hillocks immediately underneath the castle walls. An Irish officer,
jumping up from his hiding place, and calling on some of his comrades to
follow him in an attempt to rescue the howitzer, was killed in the
enterprise. Such others as even raised their heads to look around them,
were picked off by the musketry from above; and the whole of the troops
lay therefore hidden in this way, until the darkness of the night
favored their escape to the beach, where they embarked after sunset, the
enemy having made no sally on them from the fort. A second summons was
sent to the chief in the castle, threatening to bombard the town from a
nearer anchorage if he did not submit, and no quarter afterwards shown.
With the dawn of morning, all eyes were directed to the fortress, when,
to the surprise of the whole squadron, a man was seen waving the British
Union flag on the summit of its walls. It was lieutenant Hall, who
commanded the Fury which was one of the vessels nearest the shore.
During the night he had gone on shore alone, taking an union-jack in his
hand, and advanced singly to the castle gate. The fortress had already
been abandoned by the greater number of the inhabitants, but some few
still remained there. These fled at the approach of an individual
supposing him to be the herald of those who were to follow. Be this as
it may, the castle was entirely abandoned, and the British flag waived
on its walls by this daring officer, to the surprise and admiration of
all the fleet. The town and fortifications were then taken possession
of. After sweeping round the bottom of the gulf, the expedition returned
to Muscat.

On the sailing of the fleet from hence, the forces were augmented by a
body of troops belonging to the Imaun of Muscat, destined to assist in
the recovery of a place called Shenaz, on the coast, taken by the
Joassamees. On their arrival at this place, a summons was sent,
commanding the fort to surrender, which being refused, a bombardment was
opened from the ships and boats, but without producing much effect. On
the following morning, the whole of the troops were landed, and a
regular encampment formed on the shore, with sand batteries, and other
necessary works for a siege. After several days bombardment, in which
about four thousand shot and shells were discharged against the
fortress, to which the people had fled for refuge after burning down the
town, a breach was reported to be practicable, and the castle was
accordingly stormed. The resistance still made was desperate; the Arabs
fighting as long as they could wield the sword, and even thrusting
their spears up through the fragments of towers, in whose ruins they
remained irrevocably buried. The loss in killed and wounded was upwards
of a thousand men. Notwithstanding that the object of this expedition
might be said to be incomplete, inasmuch as nothing less than a _total_
extirpation of their race could secure the tranquility of these seas,
yet the effect produced by this expedition was such, as to make them
reverence or dread the British flag for several years afterwards.

[Illustration: _The daring Intrepidity of Lieut. Hall._]

At length in 1815, their boats began to infest the entrance to the Red
Sea; and in 1816, their numbers had so increased on that coast, that a
squadron of them commanded by a chief called Ameer Ibrahim, captured
within sight of Mocha, four vessels bound from Surat to that port,
richly laden and navigating under the British flag, and the crews were

A squadron consisting of His Majesty's ship Challenger, Captain Brydges,
and the East India Company's cruisers, Mercury, Ariel, and Vestal, were
despatched to the chief port of the Joassamees, Ras-el-Khyma. Mr.
Buckingham the Great Oriental traveller, accompanied the expedition from
Bushire. Upon their arrival at Ras-el-Khyma, a demand was made for the
restoration of the four Surat vessels and their cargoes; or in lieu
thereof twelve lacks of rupees. Also that the commander of the piratical
squadron, Ameer Ibrahim, should be delivered up for punishment. The
demand was made by letter, and answer being received, Captain Brydges
determined to go on shore and have an interview with the Pirate
Chieftain. Mr. Buckingham (says,) He requested me to accompany him on
shore as an interpreter. I readily assented. We quitted the ship
together about 9 o'clock, and pulled straight to the shore, sounding all
the way as we went, and gradually shoaling our water from six to two
fathoms, within a quarter of a mile of the beach, where four large dows
lay at anchor, ranged in a line, with their heads seaward, each of them
mounting several pieces of cannon, and being full of men. On landing on
the beach, we found its whole length guarded by a line of armed men,
some bearing muskets, but the greater part armed with swords, shields,
and spears; most of them were negroes, whom the Joassamees spare in
their wars, looking on them rather as property and merchandise, than in
the light of enemies. We were permitted to pass this line, and upon our
communicating our wish to see the chief, we were conducted to the gate
of the principal building, nearly in the centre of the town, and were
met by the Pirate Chieftain attended by fifty armed men. I offered him
the Mahometan salutation of peace, which he returned without hesitation.

The chief, Hassan ben Rahma, whom we had seen, was a small man,
apparently about forty years of age, with an expression of cunning in
his looks, and something particularly sarcastic in his smile. He was
dressed in the usual Arab garments, with a cashmeer shawl, turban, and a
scarlet benish, of the Persian form, to distinguish him from his
followers. There were habited in the plainest garments. One of his eyes
had been wounded, but his other features were good, his teeth
beautifully white and regular, and his complexion very dark.

The town of Ras-el-Khyma stands on a narrow tongue of sandy land,
pointing to the northeastward, presenting its northwest edge to the open
sea, and its southeast one to a creek, which runs up within it to the
southwestward, and affords a safe harbor for boats. There appeared to be
no continued wall of defence around it, though round towers and portions
of walls were seen in several parts, probably once connected in line,
but not yet repaired since their destruction. The strongest points of
defence appear to be in a fortress at the northeast angle, and a double
round tower, near the centre of the town; in each of which, guns are
mounted; but all the other towers appear to afford only shelter for
musketeers. The rest of the town is composed of ordinary buildings of
unhewn stone, and huts of rushes and long grass, with narrow avenues
winding between them. The present number of inhabitants may be computed
at ten thousand at least. They are thought to have at present (1816),
sixty large boats out from their own port, manned with crews of from
eighty, to three hundred men each, and forty other boats that belong to
other ports. Their force concentrated, would probably amount to at
least one hundred boats and eight thousand fighting men. After several
fruitless negociations, the signal was now made to weigh, and stand
closer in towards the town. It was then followed by the signal to engage
the enemy. The squadron bore down nearly in line, under easy sail, and
with the wind right aft, or on shore; the Mercury being on the starboard
bow, the Challenger next in order, in the centre, the Vestal following
in the same line, and the Ariel completing the division.

A large fleet of small boats were seen standing in from Cape Mussundum,
at the same time; but these escaped by keeping closer along shore, and
at length passing over the bar and getting into the back water behind
the town. The squadron continued to stand on in a direct line towards
the four anchored dows, gradually shoaling from the depth of our
anchorage to two and a half fathoms, where stream anchors were dropped
under foot, with springs on the cables, so that each vessel lay with her
broadside to the shore. A fire was now opened by the whole squadron,
directed to the four dows. These boats were full of men, brandishing
their weapons in the air, their whole number exceeding, probably, six
hundred. Some of the shot from the few long guns of the squadron reached
the shore, and were buried in the sand; others fell across the bows and
near the hulls of the dows to which they were directed; but the
cannonades all fell short, as we were then fully a mile from the beach.

The Arab colors were displayed on all the forts; crowds of armed men
were assembled on the beach, bearing large banners on poles, and dancing
around them with their arms, as if rallying around a sacred standard, so
that no sign of submission or conquest was witnessed throughout. The
Ariel continued to discharge about fifty shot after all the others had
desisted, but with as little avail as before, and thus ended this wordy
negociation, and the bloodless battle to which it eventually led.

In 1818, these pirates grew so daring that they made an irruption into
the Indian Ocean, and plundered vessels and towns on the islands and
coasts. A fleet was sent against them, and intercepted them off Ashlola
Island, proceeding to the westward in three divisions; and drove them
back into the gulf. The Eden and Psyche fell in with two trankies, and
these were so closely pursued that they were obliged to drop a small
captured boat they had in tow. The Thetes one day kept in close chase of
seventeen vessels, but they were enabled to get away owing to their
superior sailing. The cruisers met with the Joassamees seventeen times
and were constantly employed in hunting them from place to place.

At length, in 1819, they became such a scourge to commerce that a
formidable expedition under the command of Major General Sir W. Grant
Keir, sailed against them. It arrived before the chief town in December,
and commenced operations. In his despatches Gen. Keir says--

I have the satisfaction to report the town of Ras-el Khyma, after a
resistance of six days, was taken possession of this morning by the
force under my command.

On the 18th, after completing my arrangements at Muscat, the Liverpool
sailed for the rendezvous at Kishme; on the 21st, we fell in with the
fleet of the Persian Gulf and anchored off the island of Larrack on the
24th November.

As it appeared probable that a considerable period would elapse before
the junction of the ships which were detained at Bombay, I conceived it
would prove highly advantageous to avail myself of all the information
that could be procured respecting the strength and resources of the
pirates we had to deal with.

No time was lost in making the necessary preparations for landing, which
was effected the following morning without opposition, at a spot which
had been previously selected for that purpose, about two miles to the
westward of the town. The troops were formed across the isthmus
connecting the peninsula on which the town is situated with the
neighboring country, and the whole of the day was occupied in getting
the tents on shore, to shelter the men from rain, landing engineers,
tools, sand bags, &c., and making arrangements preparatory to commencing
our approaches the next day. On the morning of the 4th, our light troops
were ordered in advance, supported by the pickets, to dislodge the
enemy from a bank within nine hundred yards of the outer fort, which was
expected to afford good cover for the men. The whole of the light
companies of the force under Capt. Backhouse, moved forward, and drove
the Arabs with great gallantry from a date grove, and over the bank
close under the walls of the fort, followed by the pickets under Major
Molesworth, who took post at the sand banks, whilst the European light
troops were skirmishing in front. The enemy kept up a sharp fire of
musketry and cannon; during these movements, Major Molesworth, a gallant
officer was here killed. The troops kept their position during the day,
and in the night effected a lodgment within three hundred yards of the
southernmost tower, and erected a battery of four guns, together with a
mortar battery.

The weather having become rather unfavorable for the disembarkation of
the stores required for the siege, but this important object being
effected on the morning of the 6th, we were enabled to open three
eighteen pounders on the fort, a couple of howitzers, and six pounders
were also placed in the battery on the right, which played on the
defences of the towers and nearly silenced the enemy's fire, who, during
the whole of our progress exhibited a considerable degree of resolution
in withstanding, and ingenuity in counteracting our attacks, sallied out
at 8 o'clock this evening along the whole front of our entrenchments,
crept close up to the mortar battery without being perceived, and
entered it over the parapet, after spearing the advance sentries. The
party which occupied it were obliged to retire, but being immediately
reinforced charged the assailants, who were driven out of the battery
with great loss. The enemy repeated his attacks towards morning but was
vigorously repulsed. During the seventh every exertion was made to land
and bring up the remaining guns and mortars, which was accomplished
during the night. They were immediately placed in the battery, together
with two twenty-four pounders which were landed from the Liverpool, and
in the morning the whole of the ordnance opened on the fort and fired
with scarcely any intermission till sunset, when the breach on the
curtain was reported nearly practicable and the towers almost untenable.
Immediate arrangements were made for the assault, and the troops ordered
to move down to the entrenchments by daylight the next morning. The
party moved forward about 8 o'clock, and entered the fort through the
breaches without firing a shot, and it soon appeared the enemy had
evacuated the place. The town was taken possession of and found almost
entirely deserted, only eighteen or twenty men, and a few women
remaining in their houses.

The expedition next proceeded against Rumps, a piratical town, eight
miles north of Ras-el-Khyma, but the inhabitants abandoned the town and
took refuge in the hill fort of Zyah, which is situated at the head of a
navigable creek nearly two miles from the sea coast. This place was the
residence of Hussein Bin Alley, a sheikh of considerable importance
among the Joassamee tribes, and a person who from his talents and
lawless habits, as well as from the strength and advantageous situation
of the fort, was likely to attempt the revival of the piratical system
upon the first occasion. It became a desirable object to reduce the
power of this chieftain.

On the 18th December, the troops embarked at Ras-el-Khyma, at day break
in the boats of the fleet under command of Major Warren, with the 65th
regiment and the flank companies of the first and second regiment, and
at noon arrived within four miles of their destination. This operation
was attended with considerable difficulty and risk, owing to the heavy
surf that beat on the shore; and which was the occasion of some loss of
ammunition, and of a few boats being upset and stove in.

[Illustration: _The Sheikh of Rumps._]

At half past three P.M., having refreshed the men, (says Major Warren)
we commenced our march, and fording the creek or back water, took up our
position at sunset, to the northeastward of the fort, the enemy firing
at us as we passed, notwithstanding that our messenger, whom we had
previously sent in to summon the Sheikh, was still in the place; and I
lost no time in pushing our riflemen and pickets as far forward as I
could without exposing them too much to the firing of the enemy, whom I
found strongly posted under secure cover in the date tree groves in
front of the town. Captain Cocke, with the light company of his
battalion, was at the same time sent to the westward, to cut off the
retreat of the enemy on that side.

At day break the next morning, finding it necessary to drive the enemy
still further in, to get a nearer view of his defences, I moved forward
the rifle company of the 65th regiment, and after a considerable
opposition from the enemy, I succeeded in forcing him to retire some
distance; but not without disputing every inch of ground, which was well
calculated for resistance, being intersected at every few yards, by
banks and water courses raised for the purpose of irrigation, and
covered with date trees. The next morning the riflemen, supported by the
pickets, were again called into play, and soon established their
position within three and four hundred yards of the town, which with the
base of the hill, was so completely surrounded, as to render the escape
of any of the garrison now almost impossible. This advantage was gained
by a severe loss. Two twenty-four pounders and the two twelves, the
landing of which had been retarded by the difficulty of communication
with the fleet from which we derived all our supplies, having been now
brought on shore, we broke ground in the evening, and notwithstanding
the rocky soil, had them to play next morning at daylight.

Aware, however, that the families of the enemy were still in the town,
and humanity dictating that some effort should be made to save the
innocent from the fate that awaited the guilty; an opportunity was
afforded for that purpose by an offer to the garrison of security to
their women and children, should they be sent out within the hour; but
the infatuated chief, either from an idea that his fort on the hill was
not to be reached by our shot, or with the vain hope to gain time by
procrastination, returning no answer to our communication, while he
detained our messenger; we opened our fire at half past eight in the
morning, and such was the precision of the practice, that in two hours
we perceived the breach would soon be practicable. I was in the act of
ordering the assault, when a white flag was displayed; and the enemy,
after some little delay in assembling from the different quarters of the
place, marched out without their arms, with Hussein Bin Alley at their
head, to the number of three hundred and ninety-eight; and at half past
one P.M., the British flags were hoisted on the hill fort and at the
Sheikh's house. The women and children to the number of four hundred,
were at the same time collected together in a place of security, and
sent on board the fleet, together with the men. The service has been
short but arduous; the enemy defended themselves with great obstinacy
and ability worthy of a better cause.

From two prisoners retaken from the Joassamees, they learnt that the
plunder is made a general stock, and distributed by the chief, but in
what proportions the deponents cannot say; water is generally very
scarce. There is a quantity of fish caught on the bank, upon which and
dates they live. There were a few horses, camels, cows, sheep, and
goats; the greatest part of which they took with them; they were in
general lean, as the sandy plain produces little or no vegetation,
except a few dates and cocoa-nut trees. The pirates who abandoned
Ras-el-Khyma, encamped about three miles in the interior, ready to
retreat into the desert at a moment's warning. The Sheikh of Rumps is an
old man, but looks intelligent, and is said to be the man who advises
upon all occasions the movements of the different tribes of pirates on
the coast, and when he was told that it was the wish of the Company to
put a stop to their piracy, and make an honest people of them by
encouraging them to trade, seemed to regret much that those intentions
were not made known, as they would have been most readily embraced.
Rumps is the key to Ras-el-Khyma, and by its strength is defended from a
strong banditti infesting the mountains, as also the Bedouin Arabs who
are their enemies. A British garrison of twelve hundred men was
stationed at Ras-el-Khyma, and a guard-ship. The other places sent in
tokens of submission, as driven out of their fortresses on the margin of
the sea, they had to contend within with the interior hostile tribes.

[Illustration: _The Pirate Stronghold._]


The town of Bushire, on the Persian Gulf is seated in a low peninsula of
sand, extending out of the general line of the coast, so as to form a
bay on both sides. One of these bays was in 1816, occupied by the fleet
of a certain Arab, named Rahmah-ben-Jabir, who has been for more than
twenty years the terror of the gulf, and who was the most successful and
the most generally tolerated pirate, perhaps, that ever infested any
sea. This man by birth was a native of Grain, on the opposite coast, and
nephew of the governor of that place. His fellow citizens had all the
honesty, however, to declare him an outlaw, from abhorrence of his
profession; but he found that aid and protection at Bushire, which his
own townsmen denied him. With five or six vessels, most of which were
very large, and manned with crews of from two to three hundred each, he
sallied forth, and captured whatever he thought himself strong enough to
carry off as a prize. His followers, to the number of two thousand, were
maintained by the plunder of his prizes; and as the most of these were
his own bought African slaves, and the remainder equally subject to his
authority, he was sometimes as prodigal of their lives in a fit of anger
as he was of his enemies, whom he was not content to slay in battle
only, but basely murdered in cold blood, after they had submitted. An
instance is related of his having put a great number of his own crew,
who used mutinous expressions, into a tank on board, in which they
usually kept their water, and this being shut close at the top, the poor
wretches were all suffocated, and afterwards thrown overboard. This
butcher chief, like the celebrated Djezzar of Acre, affecting great
simplicity of dress, manners, and living; and whenever he went out,
could not be distinguished by a stranger from the crowd of his
attendants. He carried this simplicity to a degree of filthiness, which
was disgusting, as his usual dress was a shirt, which was never taken
off to be washed, from the time it was first put on till worn out; no
drawers or coverings for the legs of any kind, and a large black goat's
hair cloak, wrapped over all with a greasy and dirty handkerchief,
called the keffeea, thrown loosely over his head. Infamous as was this
man's life and character, he was not only cherished and courted by the
people of Bushire, who dreaded him, but was courteously received and
respectfully entertained whenever he visited the British Factory. On one
occasion (says Mr. Buckingham), at which I was present, he was sent for
to give some medical gentlemen of the navy and company's cruisers an
opportunity of inspecting his arm, which had been severely wounded. The
wound was at first made by grape-shot and splinters, and the arm was one
mass of blood about the part for several days, while the man himself was
with difficulty known to be alive. He gradually recovered, however,
without surgical aid, and the bone of the arm between the shoulder and
elbow being completely shivered to pieces, the fragments progressively
worked out, and the singular appearance was left of the fore arm and
elbow connected to the shoulder by flesh and skin, and tendons, without
the least vestige of bone. This man when invited to the factory for the
purpose of making an exhibition of his arm, was himself admitted to sit
at the table and take some tea, as it was breakfast time, and some of
his followers took chairs around him. They were all as disgustingly
filthy in appearance as could well be imagined; and some of them did not
scruple to hunt for vermin on their skins, of which there was an
abundance, and throw them on the floor. Rahmah-ben-Jabir's figure
presented a meagre trunk, with four lank members, all of them cut and
hacked, and pierced with wounds of sabres, spears and bullets, in every
part, to the number, perhaps of more than twenty different wounds. He
had, besides, a face naturally ferocious and ugly, and now rendered
still more so by several scars there, and by the loss of one eye. When
asked by one of the English gentlemen present, with a tone of
encouragement and familiarity, whether he could not still dispatch an
enemy with his boneless arm, he drew a crooked dagger, or yambeah, from
the girdle round his shirt, and placing his left hand, which was sound,
to support the elbow of the right, which was the one that was wounded,
he grasped the dagger firmly with his clenched fist, and drew it back
ward and forward, twirling it at the same time, and saying that he
desired nothing better than to have the cutting of as many throats as he
could effectually open with his lame hand. Instead of being shocked at
the uttering of such a brutal wish, and such a savage triumph at still
possessing the power to murder unoffending victims, I knew not how to
describe my feelings of shame and sorrow when a loud roar of laughter
burst from the whole assembly, when I ventured to express my dissent
from the general feeling of admiration for such a man.

[Illustration: _Rahmah-ben-Jabir, a Joassamee Chief._]

This barbarous pirate in the year 1827, at last experienced a fate
characteristic of the whole course of his life. His violent aggressions
having united the Arabs of Bahrene and Ratiffe against him they
blockaded his port of Daman from which Rahmah-ben-Jabir, having left a
garrison in the fort under his son, had sailed in a well appointed
bungalow, for the purpose of endeavoring to raise a confederacy of his
friends in his support. Having failed in this object he returned to
Daman, and in spite of the boats blockading the port, succeeded in
visiting his garrison, and immediately re-embarked, taking with him his
youngest son. On arriving on board his bungalow, he was received by his
followers with a salute, which decisive indication of his presence
immediately attracted the attention of his opponents, one of whose
boats, commanded by the nephew of the Sheikh of Bahrene, proceeded to
attack him. A desperate struggle ensued, and the Sheikh finding after
some time that he had lost nearly the whole of his crew by the firing of
Rahmah's boat, retired for reinforcements. These being obtained, he
immediately returned singly to the contest. The fight was renewed with
redoubled fury; when at last, Rahmah, being informed (for he had been
long blind) that his men were falling fast around him, mustered the
remainder of the crew, and issued orders to close and grapple with his
opponent. When this was effected, and after embracing his son, he was
led with a lighted torch to the magazine, which instantly exploded,
blowing his own boat to atoms and setting fire to the Sheikh's, which
immediately afterwards shared the same fate. Sheikh Ahmed and few of his
followers escaped to the other boats; but only one of Rahmah's brave
crew was saved; and it is supposed that upwards of three hundred men
were killed in this heroic contest.



_With a History of the Pirates of Barrataria--and an account of their
volunteering for the defence of New Orleans; and their daring
intrepidity under General Jackson, during the battle of the 8th of
January, 1815. For which important service they were pardoned by
President Madison._

Jean Lafitte, was born at St. Maloes in France, in 1781, and went to sea
at the age of thirteen; after several voyages in Europe, and to the
coast of Africa, he was appointed mate of a French East Indiaman, bound
to Madras. On the outward passage they encountered a heavy gale off the
Cape of Good Hope, which sprung the mainmast and otherwise injured the
ship, which determined the captain to bear up for the Mauritius, where
he arrived in safety; a quarrel having taken place on the passage out
between Lafitte and the captain, he abandoned the ship and refused to
continue the voyage. Several privateers were at this time fitting out at
this island, and Lafitte was appointed captain of one of these vessels;
after a cruise during which he robbed the vessels of other nations,
besides those of England, and thus committing piracy, he stopped at the
Seychelles, and took in a load of slaves for the Mauritius; but being
chased by an English frigate as far north as the equator, he found
himself in a very awkward condition; not having provisions enough on
board his ship to carry him back to the French Colony. He therefore
conceived the bold project of proceeding to the Bay of Bengal, in order
to get provisions from on board some English ships. In his ship of two
hundred tons, with only two guns and twenty-six men, he attacked and
took an English armed schooner with a numerous crew. After putting
nineteen of his own crew on board the schooner, he took the command of
her and proceeded to cruise upon the coast of Bengal. He there fell in
with the Pagoda, a vessel belonging to the English East India Company,
armed with twenty-six twelve pounders and manned with one hundred and
fifty men. Expecting that the enemy would take him for a pilot of the
Ganges, he manoeuvred accordingly. The Pagoda manifested no suspicions,
whereupon he suddenly darted with his brave followers upon her decks,
overturned all who opposed them, and speedily took the ship. After a
very successful cruise he arrived safe at the Mauritius, and took the
command of La Confiance of twenty-six guns and two hundred and fifty
men, and sailed for the coast of British India. Off the Sand Heads in
October, 1807, Lafitte fell in with the Queen East Indiaman, with a crew
of near four hundred men, and carrying forty guns; he conceived the bold
project of getting possession of her. Never was there beheld a more
unequal conflict; even the height of the vessel compared to the feeble
privateer augmented the chances against Lafitte; but the difficulty and
danger far from discouraging this intrepid sailor, acted as an
additional spur to his brilliant valor. After electrifying his crew with
a few words of hope and ardor, he manoeuvred and ran on board of the
enemy. In this position he received a broadside when close too; but he
expected this, and made his men lay flat upon the deck. After the first
fire they all rose, and from the yards and tops, threw bombs and
grenades into the forecastle of the Indiaman. This sudden and unforeseen
attack caused a great havoc. In an instant, death and terror made them
abandon a part of the vessel near the mizen-mast. Lafitte, who
observed every thing, seized the decisive moment, beat to arms, and
forty of his crew prepared to board, with pistols in their hands and
daggers held between their teeth. As soon as they got on deck, they
rushed upon the affrighted crowd, who retreated to the steerage, and
endeavored to defend themselves there. Lafitte thereupon ordered a
second division to board, which he headed himself; the captain of the
Indiaman was killed, and all were swept away in a moment. Lafitte caused
a gun to be loaded with grape, which he pointed towards the place where
the crowd was assembled, threatening to exterminate them. The English
deeming resistance fruitless, surrendered, and Lafitte hastened to put a
stop to the slaughter. This exploit, hitherto unparalleled, resounded
through India, and the name of Lafitte became the terror of English
commerce in these latitudes.

[Illustration: _Lafitte boarding the Queen East Indiaman._]

As British vessels now traversed the Indian Ocean under strong convoys,
game became scarce, and Lafitte determined to visit France; and after
doubling the Cape of Good Hope, he coasted up to the Gulf of Guinea, and
in the Bight of Benin, took two valuable prizes loaded with gold dust,
ivory, and Palm Oil; with this booty he reached St. Maloes in safety.
After a short stay at his native place he fitted out a brigantine,
mounting twenty guns and one hundred and fifty men, and sailed for
Gaudaloupe; amongst the West India Islands, he made several valuable
prizes; but during his absence on a cruise the island having been taken
by the British, he proceeded to Carthagena, and from thence to
Barrataria. After this period, the conduct of Lafitte at Barrataria does
not appear to be characterized by the audacity and boldness of his
former career; but he had amassed immense sums of booty, and as he was
obliged to have dealings with the merchants of the United States, and
the West Indies, who frequently owed him large sums, and the cautious
dealings necessary to found and conduct a colony of Pirates and
Smugglers in the very teeth of a civilized nation, obliged Lafitte to
cloak as much as possible his real character.

[Illustration: _Lafitte and his crew clearing the decks of the

As we have said before, at the period of the taking of Gaudaloupe by the
British, most of the privateers commissioned by the government of that
island, and which were then on a cruise, not being able to return to any
of the West India Islands, made for Barrataria, there to take in a
supply of water and provisions, recruit the health of their crews, and
dispose of their prizes, which could not be admitted into any of the
ports of the United States, we being at that time in peace with Great
Britain. Most of the commissions granted to privateers by the French
government at Gaudaloupe, having expired sometime after the declaration
of the independence of Carthagena, many of the privateers repaired to
that port, for the purpose of obtaining from the new government
commissions for cruising against Spanish vessels. Having duly obtained
their commissions, they in a manner blockaded for a long time all the
ports belonging to the royalists, and made numerous captives, which they
carried into Barrataria. Under this denomination is comprised part of
the coast of Louisiana to the west of the mouths of the Mississippi,
comprehended between Bastien bay on the east, and the mouths of the
river or bayou la Fourche on the west. Not far from the sea are lakes
called the great and little lakes of Barrataria, communicating with one
another by several large bayous with a great number of branches. There
is also the island of Barrataria, at the extremity of which is a place
called the Temple, which denomination it owes to several mounds of
shells thrown up there by the Indians. The name of Barrataria is also
given to a large basin which extends the whole length of the cypress
swamps, from the Gulf of Mexico to three miles above New Orleans. These
waters disembogue into the gulf by two entrances of the bayou
Barrataria, between which lies an island called Grand Terre, six miles
in length, and from two to three miles in breadth, running parallel
with the coast. In the western entrance is the great pass of Barrataria,
which has from nine to ten feet of water. Within this pass about two
leagues from the open sea, lies the only secure harbor on the coast, and
accordingly this was the harbor frequented by the _Pirates_, so well
known by the name of Barratarians.

At Grand Jerre, the privateers publicly made sale by auction, of the
cargoes of their prizes. From all parts of Lower Louisiana, people
resorted to Barrataria, without being at all solicitous to conceal the
object of their journey. The most respectable inhabitants of the state,
especially those living in the country, were in the habit of purchasing
smuggled goods coming from Barrataria.

The government of the United States sent an expedition under Commodore
Patterson, to disperse the settlement of marauders at Barrataria; the
following is an extract of his letter to the secretary of war.

Sir--I have the honor to inform you that I departed from this city on
the 11th June, accompanied by Col. Ross, with a detachment of seventy of
the 44th regiment of infantry. On the 12th, reached the schooner
Carolina, of Plaquemine, and formed a junction with the gun vessels at
the Balize on the 13th, sailed from the southwest pass on the evening of
the 15th, and at half past 8 o'clock, A.M. on the 16th, made the Island
of Barrataria, and discovered a number of vessels in the harbor, some of
which shewed Carthagenian colors. At 2 o'clock, perceived the pirates
forming their vessels, ten in number, including prizes, into a line of
battle near the entrance of the harbor, and making every preparation to
offer me battle. At 10 o'clock, wind light and variable, formed the
order of battle with six gun boats and the Sea Horse tender, mounting
one six pounder and fifteen men, and a launch mounting one twelve pound
carronade; the schooner Carolina, drawing too much water to cross the
bar. At half past 10 o'clock, perceived several smokes along the coasts
as signals, and at the same time a white flag hoisted on board a
schooner at the fort, an American flag at the mainmast head and a
Carthagenian flag (under which the pirates cruise) at her topping lift;
replied with a white flag at my main; at 11 o'clock, discovered that the
pirates had fired two of their best schooners; hauled down my white flag
and made the _signal for battle_; hoisting with a large white flag
bearing the words "Pardon for Deserters"; having heard there was a
number on shore from the army and navy. At a quarter past 11 o'clock,
two gun boats grounded and were passed agreeably to my previous orders,
by the other four which entered the harbor, manned by my barge and the
boats belonging to the grounded vessels, and proceeded in to my great
disappointment. I perceived that the pirates abandoned their vessels,
and were flying in all directions. I immediately sent the launch and two
barges with small boats in pursuit of them. At meridian, took possession
of all their vessels in the harbor consisting of six schooners and one
felucca, cruisers, and prizes of the pirates, one brig, a prize, and two
armed schooners under the Carthagenian flag, both in the line of battle,
with the armed vessels of the pirates, and apparently with an intention
to aid them in any resistance they might make against me, as their crews
were at quarters, tompions out of their guns, and matches lighted. Col.
Ross at the same time landed, and with his command took possession of
their establishment on shore, consisting of about forty houses of
different sizes, badly constructed, and thatched with palmetto leaves.

When I perceived the enemy forming their vessels into a line of battle I
felt confident from their number and very advantageous position, and
their number of men, that they would have fought me; their not doing so
I regret; for had they, I should have been enabled more effectually to
destroy or make prisoners of them and their leaders; but it is a
subject of great satisfaction to me, to have effected the object of my
enterprise, without the loss of a man.

The enemy had mounted on their vessels twenty pieces of cannon of
different calibre; and as I have since learnt, from eight hundred, to
one thousand men of all nations and colors.

Early in the morning of the 20th, the Carolina at anchor, about five
miles distant, made the signal of a "strange sail in sight to eastward";
immediately after she weighed anchor, and gave chase the strange sail,
standing for Grand Terre, with all sail; at half past 8 o'clock, the
chase hauled her wind off shore to escape; sent acting Lieut. Spedding
with four boats manned and armed to prevent her passing the harbor; at 9
o'clock A.M., the chase fired upon the Carolina, which was returned;
each vessel continued firing during the chase, when their long guns
could reach. At 10 o'clock, the chase grounded outside of the bar, at
which time the Carolina was from the shoalness of the water obliged to
haul her wind off shore and give up the chase; opened a fire upon the
chase across the island from the gun vessels. At half past 10 o'clock,
she hauled down her colors and was taken possession of. She proved to be
the armed schooner Gen. Boliver; by grounding she broke both her rudder
pintles and made water; took from her her armament, consisting of one
long brass eighteen pounder, one long brass six pounder, two twelve
pounders, small arms, &c., and twenty-one packages of dry goods. On the
afternoon of the 23d, got underway with the whole squadron, in all
seventeen vessels, but during the night one escaped, and the next day
arrived at New Orleans with my whole squadron.

At different times the English had sought to attack the pirates at
Barrataria, in hopes of taking their prizes, and even their armed
vessels. Of these attempts of the British, suffice it to instance that
of June 23d, 1813, when two privateers being at anchor off Cat Island, a
British sloop of war anchored at the entrance of the pass, and sent her
boats to endeavor to take the privateers; but they were repulsed with
considerable loss.

Such was the state of affairs, when on the 2d Sept., 1814, there
appeared an armed brig on the coast opposite the pass. She fired a gun
at a vessel about to enter, and forced her to run aground; she then
tacked and shortly after came to an anchor at the entrance of the pass.
It was not easy to understand the intentions of this vessel, who, having
commenced with hostilities on her first appearance now seemed to
announce an amicable disposition. Mr. Lafitte then went off in a boat to
examine her, venturing so far that he could not escape from the pinnace
sent from the brig, and making towards the shore, bearing British colors
and a flag of truce. In this pinnace were two naval officers. One was
Capt. Lockyer, commander of the brig. The first question they asked was,
where was Mr. Lafitte? he not choosing to make himself known to them,
replied that the person they inquired for was on shore. They then
delivered to him a packet directed to Mr. Lafitte, Barrataria,
requesting him to take particular care of it, and to deliver it into Mr.
Lafitte's hands. He prevailed on them to make for the shore, and as soon
as they got near enough to be in his power, he made himself known,
recommending to them at the same time to conceal the business on which
they had come. Upwards of two hundred persons lined the shore, and it
was a general cry amongst the crews of the privateers at Grand Terre,
that those British officers should be made prisoners and sent to New
Orleans as spies. It was with much difficulty that Lafitte dissuaded the
multitude from this intent, and led the officers in safety to his
dwelling. He thought very prudently that the papers contained in the
packet might be of importance towards the safety of the country and that
the officers if well watched could obtain no intelligence that might
turn to the detriment of Louisiana. He now examined the contents of the
packet, in which he found a proclamation addressed by Col. Edward
Nichalls, in the service of his Brittanic Majesty, and commander of the
land forces on the coast of Florida, to the inhabitants of Louisiana. A
letter from the same to Mr. Lafitte, the commander of Barrataria; an
official letter from the honorable W.H. Percy, captain of the sloop of
war Hermes, directed to Lafitte. When he had perused these letters,
Capt. Lockyer enlarged on the subject of them and proposed to him to
enter into the service of his Brittanic Majesty with the rank of post
captain and to receive the command of a 44 gun frigate. Also all those
under his command, or over whom he had sufficient influence. He was also
offered thirty thousand dollars, payable at Pensacola, and urged him not
to let slip this opportunity of acquiring fortune and consideration. On
Lafitte's requiring a few days to reflect upon these proposals, Capt.
Lockyer observed to him that no reflection could be necessary,
respecting proposals that obviously precluded hesitation, as he was a
Frenchman and proscribed by the American government. But to all his
splendid promises and daring insinuations, Lafitte replied that in a few
days he would give a final answer; his object in this procrastination
being to gain time to inform the officers of the state government of
this nefarious project. Having occasion to go to some distance for a
short time, the persons who had proposed to send the British officers
prisoners to New Orleans, went and seized them in his absence, and
confined both them and the crew of the pinnace, in a secure place,
leaving a guard at the door. The British officers sent for Lafitte; but
he, fearing an insurrection of the crews of the privateers, thought it
advisable not to see them until he had first persuaded their captains
and officers to desist from the measures on which they seemed bent. With
this view he represented to the latter that, besides the infamy that
would attach to them if they treated as prisoners people who had come
with a flag of truce, they would lose the opportunity of discovering the
projects of the British against Louisiana.

Early the next morning Lafitte caused them to be released from their
confinement and saw them safe on board their pinnace, apologizing the
detention. He now wrote to Capt. Lockyer the following letter.


_Barrataria, 4th Sept_. 1814.

Sir--The confusion which prevailed in our camp yesterday and this
morning, and of which you have a complete knowledge, has prevented me
from answering in a precise manner to the object of your mission; nor
even at this moment can I give you all the satisfaction that you desire;
however, if you could grant me a fortnight, I would be entirely at your
disposal at the end of that time. This delay is indispensable to enable
me to put my affairs in order. You may communicate with me by sending a
boat to the eastern point of the pass, where I will be found. You have
inspired me with more confidence than the admiral, your superior
officer, could have done himself; with you alone, I wish to deal, and
from you also I will claim, in due time the reward of the services,
which I may render to you. Yours, &c.


His object in writing that letter was, by appearing disposed to accede
to their proposals, to give time to communicate the affair to the
officers of the state government, and to receive from them instructions
how to act, under circumstances so critical and important to the
country. He accordingly wrote on the 4th September to Mr. Blanque, one
of the representatives of the state, sending him all the papers
delivered to him by the British officers with a letter addressed to his
excellency, Gov. Claiborne of the state of Louisiana.


_Barrataria, Sept_. 4_th_, 1814.

Sir--In the firm persuasion that the choice made of you to fill the
office of first magistrate of this state, was dictated by the esteem of
your fellow citizens, and was conferred on merit, I confidently address
you on an affair on which may depend the safety of this country. I offer
to you to restore to this state several citizens, who perhaps in your
eyes have lost that sacred title. I offer you them, however, such as you
could wish to find them, ready to exert their utmost efforts in defence
of the country. This point of Louisiana, which I occupy, is of great


Back to Full Books