Real Caribbean Pirates from History
Aye mateys! The beautiful islands of the Caribbean were once home to all manner of swashbuckling pirates. Pieces of eight and buried treasure ruled the day. “Walk the plank” and “Shiver me timbers!” were a way of life. “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” We’ve assembled a list of famous pirates of the Caribbean.
The Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan struck fear into the hearts of Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. Sailing out from his home base of Jamaica, Morgan wreaked havoc on settlements in Cuba, Panama and Venezuela. Spanish soldiers would often abandon their posts at the mere mention of his name. At his height he commanded 2,000 pirates and 36 ships. Upon retirement he returned to England where he was greeted as the stuff of legend and knighted by the king. He lived out his days as the Deputy Governor of Jamaica. Today he's remembered by his namesake Captain Morgan spiced rum.
The infamous Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) terrified wary sailors throughout the Caribbean. Known for wearing his long black beard in mangy braids and tying burning pieces of rope from his hat, he made a frightening impression. Ships sailing the Caribbean would often surrender at the sight of him. His made his home base the lawless island of New Providence in the Bahamas, home to Nassau today. He terrorized ports at Martinique, Anguilla, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman and more. He was finally captured and decapitated at Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. Witnesses said his headless body swam twice around his ship before finally sinking into the sea. Keep an eye out for pieces of eight. Blackbeard is rumored to have buried treasure somewhere throughout his reign. He served as the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Men didn’t have all the fun. Anne Bonny became one of the few female pirates. She got her start in Nassau, then called the Republic of Pirates, a den of iniquity governed by a loose association of criminals. She met and married the pirate “Calico Jack” Rackham. Anne often dressed as a man, and was as ruthless and dangerous as any of her bloodthirsty male counterparts. She and Rackham plied the waters between Jamaica and Cuba, looting ships of their cargo. Eventually the pirates were caught and Calico Jack was hanged. Anne escaped the gallows by claiming that she was pregnant. She gave up piracy and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where she lived out the rest of her days in peace, but surely dreaming of adventure.
Bartholomew Roberts (aka Black Bart) was the most successful pirate of the Caribbean. He captured more than 400 ships throughout his pirating career. He was ruthless and bold. He attacked any ship he came across. He sacked ports at St. Lucia and St. Barts. When fleets from Barbados and Martinique set out to stop Black Bart he swore vengeance upon the islands. He flew a new pirate flag containing an image of him standing atop two skulls, one labelled Barbados and the other Martinique. He later caught the governor of Martinique and hanged him. Despite his ruthless reputation, Bart drank tea rather than rum. He created the “Pirate Code,” proclaiming laws including no gambling, lights out at 8:00, and that all quarrels should be settled by duel. Black Bart is mentioned briefly in the novel Treasure Island.