Almost as soon as the Caribbean began to be explored and settled by Europeans starting in 1492 there were pirates in the region. Men who sailed the seas always on the ready, attacking and plundering vessels whenever they could.
These are the true pirates of the Caribbean, the men and women who brought fear into the hearts of every traveler across the Sea. Their names were known throughout the Americas and in Europe, the Old World that most of these pirates had once called home.
There is perhaps no more famous or fearsome pirate in all of history than Edward Teach, better known to history and the world as Blackbeard. For two years he terrorized the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic coast of Britain’s mainland colonies.
Teach hailed from Great Britain, born sometime before 1690. It is most commonly believed that he was born in Bristol, although details of the pirate’s origins are sketchy at best.
Blackbeard did not begin his career as a fearsome pirate of the Caribbean. Rather he was first a privateer, mercenary of the high seas. During the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713) he worked for England, attacking Spanish vessels.
His career in piracy began sometime during 1716. The following year he captured a French merchantman and converted it into a 40 gun warship. This ship, dubbed by Blackbeard “Queen Anne’s Revenge” would become the most famous vessel of any of the pirates of the Caribbean.
The man himself was an impressive sight. Over 6 feet tall with long black hair and beard (from which he got his name), merely looking at the man inspired fear. He armed himself with several pistols, knives and a cutlass which he almost always had on him. Beyond that he was a fierce, ferocious man who killed indiscriminately and fought like a demon. By today’s standards he could easily be considered a psychotic.
But Blackbeard was good at what he did, if not the best. His crew were loyal to him to a fault, and would follow him anywhere. Such loyalty was awarded when part of the most successful pirate ship in the Caribbean or the Atlantic Ocean.
For two years Blackbeard plundered the high seas, until 1718. In that year, while at his home base in North Carolina throwing a party, a British naval force came, attacked and killed the pirate along with many other pirates gathered. Blackbeard was decapitated, his head hung upon one of the British ships as a warning to other pirates. Blackbeard was no more.
Most pirates of the Caribbean were men, however this was not always the case. Perhaps the most famous female pirate of all time was Anne Bonny who also served with another famous female pirate, Mary Read.
Anne Bonny was born Anne Cormac. Her father, an Irishman, was forced from Ireland when his affair with a servant girl was made public. He and the servant left for South Carolina where their child, Anne Cormac was born.
In her teenage years Anne ran away from her father’s plantation. At age 16 she married James Bonny, but soon tired of him as well being more interested in the pirates who operated in the area. Shortly enough she ran off with the pirate known as Calico Jack.
Pirate ships at this time did not normally allow female crew members. It was believed that women aboard a ship brought bad luck. Originally Bonny disguised her sex, masquerading as a man. It is rumored that she once killed a fellow crewman for discovering her secret.
Eventually, however, Anne Bonny dropped the disguise and worked upon the ship openly as a woman. The pirate ship on which she served was known as the Revenge . Anne Bonny and her crew sailed across the Caribbean, one of the most successful pirate ships in the sea.
It turned out that another member of the crew of the Revenge was also a woman: Mary Read. Upon discovering her secret, Bonny and Read became fast friends until they were captured in 1720. At the trial they were sentenced to be executed, but both claimed to be pregnant. It was illegal to execute a pregnant woman under the law in those days. Read died in prison, but Bonny was eventually pardoned, after which she disappears from history.
Although not as famous as his pirate predecessor, Bartholomew Roberts (better known as Black Bart) may very well have been the most successful pirate of the Caribbean ever to have been. He is said to have taken over 400 ships and secured over Ã?Â£ 50 million worth of booty in his brief two and a half year career.
Roberts was a member of the crew aboard a slaving ship known as Princess sailing to the New World when the vessel was overrun by pirates headed by Captain Howell Davis. Roberts was taken aboard the ship and became part of the crew.
Black Bart as he came to be known was a well-dressed pirate. It is much from him that our modern image of a pirate is born, dressed in brilliant scarlet clothes with sash and well-groomed appearance. Roberts was an intelligent man and a brilliant pirate and he quickly began to amass quite a treasure for himself.
Bart took over a number of ships and developed a loyal following among his crew. He was a charismatic man and he was a successful man. Like so many enterprises, pirate crews followed the money and that was something Black Bart had quite a bit of.
Like the rest of the pirates of his day, Black Bart’s career eventually came to an end. He was not murdered in his home like the more infamous Blackbeard, nor was he arrested and brought to trial like Anne Bonny. He died in battle upon the high seas, a pirate to the end. His body was thrown overboard by his crew before it could be taken by the English HMS Swallow that had defeated him.
These pirates and many more who sailed the high seas give the pirates of the Caribbean their name and their popular image. These men and women were famous in their own time and remain legends today, knowingly or not.