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Halsey, John (01 March 1670–1716), privateer and pirate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of James Halsey (occupation unknown) and Dinah (maiden name unknown). Born in North America’s principal seaport in a time of naval rivalry and consequent naval warfare, John Halsey is reported to have first gone to sea as a sailor in HMS ...

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Ingle, Richard (1609–1653), pirate and rebel, was born possibly in Redriff, Surrey, England, the son of unknown parents. Virtually nothing is known of his early life before he appeared in the colony of Maryland shortly after its 1634 founding. His first known occupation was that of ship captain and tobacco merchant, and his first definite appearance in the historical record was in March 1642, when he transported Captain Thomas Cornwallis, a member of the original colony council, from England on the ship ...

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Robert C. Ritchie

Kidd, William (1645–23 May 1701), pirate, was apparently born in Greenock, Scotland, the son of a Protestant minister. Little else is known of his early years except that he went to sea as a young man. He does not appear in the records until 1689, when he was the captain of a ship commissioned as a privateer by Governor Christopher Codrington of Nevis. During King William’s War many ships, some of them buccaneers, were enrolled to fight the French. Kidd’s men did not savor serving in Codrington’s little navy and one night abandoned Kidd when he was ashore, leaving with the ship and Kidd’s fortune. Kidd was fortunate in his friends, for Governor Codrington gave him a ship with which to pursue his men and retrieve his fortune....

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William Kidd. Hanging in chains. Engraving, 1924. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95356).

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Laffite, Jean (fl. 1809–1820), pirate, was born in Bayonne, France, the son of a Gascon father and a Basque mother. His name is also spelled Lafitte. Although he is rumored to have captained a French privateer in 1804, nothing definite is known of him until 1809, at which time he and his elder brother Pierre had arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and set up a blacksmith shop. This establishment, operated by slave labor, is generally believed to have served as a depot for contraband slaves and goods smuggled into the city by coastal privateers. The shrewd and enterprising Laffite brothers quickly realized that more profit lay in piracy than in the smith’s trade, and by 1810 Jean Laffite had become the de facto leader of these outlawed corsairs, directing their operations from a base on the remote island of Grande Terre, in Barataria Bay....

Article

Mason, Samuel (1750– July 1803), outlaw and pirate, was born in Virginia of unknown parents. Virtually nothing is known of his early life, although historian Samuel Draper noted that he was “connected by ties of consanguinity with the distinguished Mason family of Virginia, and grew up bad from his boyhood.” Mason first appeared in historical records during the American Revolution, during which he served as a captain in the Ohio County, Virginia (now West Virginia), militia. He fought in several engagements against Native Americans in 1777 and served at Fort Henry in the upper Ohio Valley until the autumn of 1779. Retiring from active service, he retained his captaincy in the militia until at least May 1781 and apparently also ran a tavern in the vicinity of present-day Wheeling, West Virginia....

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Morgan, Sir Henry (1635–25 August 1688), buccaneer, planter, and lieutenant governor, was born in Llanrhymny, Wales, the son of Robert Morgan. His mother’s name is not known. Little is known of Morgan’s years in Wales. In a letter that he wrote to the Lords of Trade in 1680, Morgan said of his education that he “left the schools to [ ...

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Pound, Thomas (1650?–1703), sea captain and pirate, was born probably in England, but nothing is known of his parentage, his early life, or his education. He was in New England by 1687, when Governor Edmund Andros appointed him to serve as a pilot for the ...

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Scott, John (1632–1704), buccaneer, was born apparently in Ashford, Kent, England, the son of a bankrupt miller; neither his father’s nor his mother’s name is certain. In his long and colorful life, John Scott “of Long Island,” as he was called, derived his past from the Scotts of Scot’s Hall, Kent, a claim vehemently denied by that offended family. In his own account written in a petition to Charles II in 1661, Scott claimed that he had sabotaged Puritan forces by cutting loose the horses of a troop in London, for which action he was exiled to New England as an indentured servant. What seems certain is that he was bound to Emmanuel Downing in 1643 and then indentured to a Quaker, Lawrence Southwick, of Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay colony. Scott apparently ran away to sea in 1647 but was recaptured by his master by 1648. Again going to sea at the end of an indenture that was extended to 1652 in punishment for running away, Scott landed at Tortuga and became a buccaneer. He returned in 1654 to the mainland of North America at Long Island, whence his sobriquet among historians....

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Teach, Edward (1680–22 November 1718), seaman and pirate captain, known as “Blackbeard,” was born probably in Bristol, England. Investigators have been unable to confirm the date or place of his birth, his identity or ancestry, or his activities until 1713, and his life thereafter is incompletely chronicled....