The Real Pirate Island: The Story Of Nassau

The town that would later be called Nassau, which is in the Bahamas, was founded in 1670 by British noblemen who brought British settlers with them to New Providence. They built a fort, and named it Charles Town in honour of England’s King Charles II.

In 1684 the town was burned to the ground during the Raid on Charles Town, but was rebuilt in 1695 under the new Governor Nicholas Trott and renamed Nassau in honour of the then King of England William III, who belonged to the House of Nassau, from which the city takes its name.
When Trott left Nassau 4 years later to become chief justice in Charleston, South Carolina, Nassau fell on hard times without effective leadership, and In 1703 it was briefy invaded and occupied by Spanish and French allied forces.

From 1703 to 1718 there was no governor in the colony and by 1713, the sparsely settled Bahamas had become a pirate haven. The Governor of Bermuda stated that there were over 1,000 pirates in Nassau and that they outnumbered the mere hundred inhabitants of the town 10 to 1. The pirates proclaimed Nassau a pirate republic, establishing themselves as “governors”.

Thomas Barrow declared himself “Governor of New Providence”. Many of today’s well-known pirates were a part of Nassau’s pirate republic, including Charles Vane, Benjamin Hornigold, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard”.
However, in 1718, the British sought to regain control of the islands and end piracy in the region, and appointed Captain Woodes Rogers as Royal governor. He successfully clamped down on the pirates, reformed the civil administration, and restored commerce.

Rogers cleaned up Nassau and rebuilt the fort, using his own wealth in an attempt to overcome any problems that arose.

Edward Teach was the first of the major pirates to be caught and killed after a fierce battle on November 21st, 1718 at Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Two days later, on 23 November, Charles Vane had spotted a large frigate, but when he hoisted the Jolly Roger the frigate replied by raising a French naval ensign and opening fire.

Vane’s brigantine and sloop were outgunned, and he ordered a retreat, but Vane’s crew saw this as an act of cowardice and he was voted out of command in favour of Calico Jack Rackham. Vane and sixteen others who supported him, including his first mate Robert Deal were put on the sloop.

Vane sailed to the Bay Islands, capturing sloops along the way, one of which Deal took command of. In February 1719, Vane and Deal were caught in a hurricane and separated; Vane was subsequently shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, when English ships suddenly arrived to collect water near the island, Vane tried to join one of the crews under a false name.
He was recognized by an old acquaintance, and arrested. Vane was taken to Spanish Town, Jamaica and held in prison for almost 2 years. On 22 March 1721, he was tried for piracy, found guilty and hanged on 29 March at Gallows Point in Port Royal.

His corpse was hung in chains at Gun Cay. Vane had learned that Deal and his former comrades had all been caught, tried, convicted, and hanged some time earlier.

Nassau’s governor, Woodes Rogers, then sent pirate hunter Jonathan Barnet and former pirate Jean Bonadvis in pursuit of Calico Jack Rackham. Barnet duly came across his ship at Dry Harbour Bay in Jamaica, October 1720, whilst his crew were anchored and intoxicated.

Barnet’s sloop attacked Rackham’s ship and captured it after a fight which was mostly led by the two female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny, who were both said to have fought ferociously.

Rackham and his crew were brought to Spanish Town, Jamaica, in November 1720, where they were tried and convicted of piracy and sentenced to be hanged. Rackham was executed in Port Royal on 18 November 1720, his body then gibbeted on display on a very small islet at a main entrance to Port Royal now known as Rackham’s Cay.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read both claimed to be pregnant at their trials, ten days after Rackham’s execution, and so were given a temporary stay of execution, and imprisoned at Fort Charles until the claim was proven.

Read died in her cell April 1721, most likely of fever related to childbirth. There is no historical record of Bonny’s release or of her execution or death, and it is widely believed that she was released due to her fathers influence and that she died in Charleston, South Carolina in 1872 at the age of 85.

Many of the remaining pirates including the self-proclaimed Pirate island governor Thomas Barrow and Benjamin Hornigold, accepted the Royal pardon which was offered in 1717 by King George, who offered a pardon to all pirates who surrendered within a year.

By Paul Middleton, source: Ghosts, the paranormal, myths and legends

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