10 BEST PIRATES
WILLIAM “CAPTAIN” KIDD Captain Kidd was hanged for piracy this week in 1701, inspiring this week’s 10 Best even though the Scotsman may not have actually been a pirate but a privateer. The difference is semantic — privateers plunder, rape and pilage just like pirates, but they do it at the behest of a government. Either way, Kidd gained fame by refusing to salute a Royal Naval vessel one afternoon on the Thames. After the navy ship fired a warning shot, Kidd and his crew turned and slapped their butts.
EDWARD “BLACKBEARD” TEACH Born in England but a North Carolinian at heart, Blackbeard sailed the Queen Anne’s Revenge through the Caribbean Sea and up to the Outer Banks during his career, before the Revenge sank at Beaufort Inlet and Teach took refuge in Ocracoke, where he was eventually killed in battle.
“CALICO” JACK RACKHAM Nicknamed for the type of clothing he favored, Calico Jack, another Englishman, is noted for being the designer of the Jolly Roger — that skull with the swords flag eventually appropriated by pirates everywhere, and also for having women in his crew: his lady Anne Bonney and cross-dresser Mary Reade.
ANNE BONNY AND MARY READE Bonny, a redhead with a fiery temper, was married to the pirate James Bonny throwing in with Calico Jack. She, Mary Reade and Rackham stole the ship the Revenge in the Bahamas and embarked on a lucrative pirating spree before Rackham discovered the women engaged in a lesbian affair. After all three were captured in Jamaica in 1720 and convicted of piracy, Rackam was hanged while the women were spared because they claimed pregnancy.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE Drake was a privateer for the English Crown and a slaver in the 16th century best known for circumnavigating the earth on the Golden Hind from 1577-’80. He is lesser known for attacking modern-day Panama and plundering its riches, a maneuver that funded his trip around the world. He entered politics in 1581 and played a role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. After years of unsuccessful campaigns, he died of dysentery in 1596, at around 55 years of age, pretty old for a pirate.
JEAN LAFITTE Lafitte, a Frenchman, felt right at home in the port of New Orleans, where he opened a warehouse in 1807 to disperse his ill-gotten goods. He went legit in 1815, helping Andrew Jackson defend the city in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. The best story I know concerns a plot he hatched to free Napoleon from exile on Elbe so he could live in the Napoleon House, which still stands in the French Quarter, not far from Lafitte’s old blacksmith shop, which is the oldest continually running bar in North America.
THE HOOK GANG The Hook Gang began as a street gang in New York City in 1866, after the Civil War, and eventually turned to piracy on the Hudson and East Rivers that bordered the city. Legend holds that they once stole a boat from a rowing club.
EDWARD COATES Coates, another American, gained his privateer commission from the English Crown in 1689, charged with raiding French vessels. But he realized he could make more money looting British ships, which he did in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean before being captured and executed around 1700.
RACHEL WALL Wall is noteworthy because she was the first American female pirate, operating out of New England around 1780. She is also the last woman ever to be hanged in Massachusetts — but not for piracy. She was convicted of robbery after stealing a bonnet on the Boston waterfront.
THE SOMALI PIRATES Possibly the only pirates operating in the world today, the disparate fleet operating off the coast of Somali began as a group of fishermen defending their grounds from illegal, foreign trawlers after the collapse of the Somali navy in the 1990s. Many soon learned that there is greater profit in stealing and hijacking than fishing, though it is considerably more dangerous.