In my last post I talked about Francis Bradlee’s book, Piracy in the West Indies and its Suppression. This week I want to share one of the stories of pirate cruelty.
Bradlee includes the entire narrative of the ordeal of a New England merchant. Captain Barnabas Lincoln and his crew of six sailed from Boston to Cuba on November 13, 1821 with a cargo of food and furniture. By December 17th they had reached the West Indies. That afternoon, a schooner bearing Mexican colors hailed them and some of the crew boarded their vessel.
The crew of the schooner was a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, and French sailors, and one reluctant “Scotchman” who went by the name Nickola, and who secretly befriended Captain Lincoln. “I am afraid that you have fallen into bad hands,” he said. Originally claiming to be privateers with a commission from General Traspelascus of Mexico, the crew had gone rogue.
Captain Lincoln’s trials follow in a day-by-day log. The ship was run aground and hidden. The pirates sold most of the cargo to a merchant named Dominico, from Principe, Cuba. On December 30th, Captain Lincoln, his crew, and some other sailors captured by the pirates were carried off to an island some distance away because the merchant was afraid of being recognized.
With poor provisions, very little water, and no shelter, they spent a miserable twenty days watching the pirates take away all the cargo and take an axe to the masts of their captured ship.
On January 19, 1822 the pirates took them to a low island in the Cayman Keys.
We were rowed about two miles northeasterly from the pirates to a small, low island, lonely and desolate. We arrived about sunset, and for the support of us eleven prisoners they only left a ten-gallon keg of water…part of a barrel of flour, a small keg of lard, one ham and some salt fish…
By January 27th they had gathered enough wood to start work on a boat, and on January 31st six men, the most the boat could hold, rowed away.
By February 3rd, those who had remained behind grew more despondent.
Think, reader, of our situation. We had marked out for each one the place for his grave. I looked at mine, and thought of my wife and family. Again we reduced the allowance of bread, but even the little which now fell to my share I could scarcely swallow. I never seemed to feel the sensation of hunger, the extreme of thirst was so overpowering. Perhaps never shall I be more reconciled to death, but my home made me want to live, although every breath seemed to increase thirst.
On February 6th, they sighted a sail. Nickola and two Frenchmen had deserted in a pirate prize, a small sloop, and came back to rescue the marooned seamen. Nickola, whose real name was Jamieson, hailed from Greenock, Scotland. Some years later he visited Captain Lincoln at his home in Massachusetts, and even sailed as Captain Lincoln’s mate when he ran cargo between Boston and Philadelphia.
The pirates who left Captain Lincoln to die were eventually run to ground by an English naval vessel, captured, taken to Jamaica, and executed by hanging. Where pirates were concerned, English justice was swift and harsh.
For much more about pirates, I highly recommend pirate historian Cindy Vallar’s site, Pirates and Privateers.
All Images: Wikimedia