Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Showing posts with label female pirates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label female pirates. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rachel Wall - The American-born Female Pirate

Rachel Schmidt was born in Carlisle, in the Province of Pennsylvania, around 1760. At the age of sixteen, her family visited Harrisburg. She wasn’t much for farmland, but she loved the waterfront. And so she was drawn to the docks along the Susquehanna River. It was there she was harassed and attacked by a group of girls. A man by the name of George Wall, a fisherman that had been a privateer during the Revolutionary War, came to her rescue. It wasn’t long before she fell in love and eloped with her hero.

The couple moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a servant. George was gone for stretches of time as he worked on a fishing boat. Life was rough and the lure of easy money had become too much. George had a taste for plunder and he convinced her to join him in piracy.

Together they devised a plan. George, Rachel, and several cohorts borrowed a schooner and set out to make a living off fishing. That is until the weather turned stormy. Then they set a unique trap. They dropped anchor off the Massachusetts coast in the Isle of Shoals to weather the squalls and then set their boat adrift feigning trouble. Once they spotted a passing ship, Rachel would stand on the deck send distress signals, luring would-be saviors to a ghastly fate. They boarded the vessels, killed the sailors, and pillaged everything of value. The aiding ship was then sunk, a tactic which made it appear as if the sailors perished at sea during the storm.

Their trickery worked well for many months between 1781 through 1782. Some reports estimate they took twelve boats, killed up to twenty-four crewmen, and amassed about $6,000 worth of loot.

But like all good things, it came to an end. The sea is an unpredictable mistress. And whether by surprise or faulty seafaring calculations, a particularly nasty tempest waylaid the little band of pirates. George and another crewman were washed overboard and their vessel had been badly battered.  Rachel and the rest of the survivors were picked up and returned to Boston.

Now widowed, Rachel returned to working as a servant. Her story didn’t end there. She’d become accustomed to the wealth of pirating. While she no longer prowled the coastline, she did return to stealing, although on a smaller scale as a petty thief along the docks. Seven years later, she attempted to snatch a bonnet off seventeen-year-old Margaret Bender’s head and reportedly tried to rip out the girl’s tongue. She was caught and arrested.

Rachel’s request to be tried as a pirate was denied. At her trial, while she confessed to piracy and theft, she maintained her innocence that she had never killed a man. This did not sway the judge and she was found guilty. On October 8, 1789, she was hung.

Rachel Wall was purportedly the first American-born female pirate and the decidedly last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts. And over a bonnet!

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pirates Ships - What’s in a Name?

Pirates were pretty good at brand recognition. No, really. Consider the following. Pirates didn’t attack prey haphazardly. Despite popular belief instilled by books and movies, pirates would rather use scare tactics and nasty reputations than engage in a sea battle. Battles used valuable resources such as
ammunition. Crewmen could be hurt or killed. The prize could be damaged or sunk, defeating the purpose of plundering goods, stealing treasure, or seizing the ship for their own. So when they sailed upon a quarry, it was preferred the victim surrender before no quarter was given.

The first indication a pirate ship was closing in would be their colors. The flags pirates hoisted were recognizable, often red or black and depicting skulls, bones, blood, swords, and even an hourglass, a warning to their prey time was running out. When a Jolly Roger snapped in the wind, there was no question the ship claimed no country and that danger was on the horizon.

It would only make sense that pirates would also use branding with the names they chose for their ships.

Sam Bellamy's flagship

While some pirates never bothered with renaming the ships they seized, most christened their newly acquired vessels with names that held meaning. Many ships were named according to their profession—adventure, fancy, ranger, fortune. Some monikers were meant to boost fear—revenge, delivery, rover, triumph. Others made political statements. It has been suggested that Edward Teach (1680-1718), famously known as Blackbeard, was a Jacobite sympathizer and had named his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge in support of England’s deposed Queen Anne.

Here is a list of other notable pirates and the ships they captained.

  • Jeanne de Clisson (1300-1359) - The Black Fleet, Revenge
  • Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) - Golden Hind
  • Peter Easton (1570-1620) - Happy Adventure
  • Henry Morgan (1635-1688) - Satisfaction
  • William Kidd (1645-1701) - Adventure Galley, Adventure Prize
  • Thomas Tew (1649-1695) - Amity
  • Laurens DeGraaf (1653-1704), Anne Dieu-Le-Veut (1661-1710) - Tigre, Francesca, Fortune renamed Neptune
  • Henry Avery (1659-1699) - Fancy
  • Charles Vane (1680-1721) - Lark, Ranger
  • Benjamin Hornigold (1680-1719) - Ranger
  • Richard Worley (?-1718) - New York’s Revenge

    The Golden Hind (replica)
  • William Moody (?-1719) - Rising Sun
  • Robert Sample (?-1719) - Flying King
  • Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart (1682-1722) - Royal Rover, Fortune, Good Fortune, Great Ranger, Little Ranger
  • Edward England (1685-1721) - Royal James, Fancy, Ranger
  • Jack Rackham aka Calico Jack (1682-1720), Mary Read(1685-1721), Anne Bonny (1697-possibly 1782) - William
  • Stede Bonnet (1688-1718) - Revenge renamed Royal James
  • Sam Bellamy aka Black Sam (1689-1717) - Whydah Galley
  • George Lowther (?-1723) - Delivery
  • Christopher Condent (1690s-1770) - The Flying Dragon
  • Edward “Ned” Low (1690-1724) - Rebecca, Fancy, Rose Pink, Merry Christmas
  • John Gow (1695-1725) - Fortune
  • Ching Shih (1775-1844) - a whole fleet called the Red Flag Fleet
  • Jean Lafitte (1780-1823) - Dorada 
It’s interesting to note how many ships possessed the same or similar names. Is that because of brand recognition? Possibly. No sense in changing what works. Huzzah! 

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Terror of South China

We’ve heard of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, and Henry Morgan—all famous for the piratical exploits and successful in their own ways. But who is the most successful pirate of all time? How about a captain of strength and courage who commanded a fleet of over 300 ships and, according to the varying resources, 20 to 40 thousand crewmen? This captain was also able to forge alliances with other pirate leaders, growing her control to over 1500 ships and 80 to 180 thousand pirates.

Her? Yes, her. Ching Shih must have been one hell of a woman.

Ching Shih was born in 1775 in Guangdong, a province in southern China. Not much else is known about her other than she was a Cantonese prostitute with a floating brothel. Her business acumen must have started at a young age because she climbed the ranks quickly, apparently through her beauty and effective, sultry tête-à-têtes with the wealthy and social elite.

In 1801, she caught the eye of a notorious pirate, Cheng I, who proposed marriage. She agreed on one condition—that she have an equal share in his power and loot. Ah...true love. And so for the next six years, this tag team managed a proper piracy, leading a butt-kicking, scary powerful armada called the Red Flag Fleet. But then Cheng I died. Could have been by a tsunami or it could’ve been murder, no one knows for sure. At any rate, Ching Shih had to do some shrewd thinking and maneuvering to keep her place as the ruler among men.

What’s a savvy girl to do? She began a romantic relationship with Cheng I’s adoptive son and likely heir, Cheung Po Tsai. This while nurturing coalitions and existing loyalties, solidifying her authority with business and military strategies. Beyond making money the old-fashioned pirate ways of attacking ships, pillaging coastal towns, and outsmarting British, Portuguese and Chinese navies, she also dipped into blackmail, extortion, instituting levies, and even offered protection plans for those who provided supplies to her fleet.

But what about the monumental task of governing her growing number of pirates? Her answer to that is the code of conduct she wrote. It was quite harsh, even by pirate standards. By example, anyone who disobeyed an order lost their head, on the spot. Ouch! Ching Shih’s policy on female captives was infamous. Not-so-pretty women, to put it politely, were released unharmed.  Attractive women were auctioned off to the crew as concubines. However, if a pirate outright purchased a prisoner, they were considered married and he was expected to care for her. And he better be faithful, lest he be executed by Ching Shih’s order.

The Red Flag Fleet was unstoppable and Ching Shih’s moniker “The Terror of South China” had been well earned. She simply could not be defeated, not by China, Britain, Portugal, or the bounty hunters hunting her. In an effort to stop the hemorrhaging, in 1810 the Chinese government offered her, Cheung Po, and all pirates prowling under their command a deal too good to refuse. Leave the pirate life and receive global amnesty. But negotiations stalled in regards to what would happen to the reserve of booty as well as the fact the Chinese government wanted the pirates to kowtow before them. Ah, but remember, Ching Shih was a foxy woman. She negotiated an epic deal where most of her followers escaped any sort of punishment and got to keep their earnings. As for the kowtowing, it was solved in a simple matter. The government officially recognized the marriage of Ching Shih and Cheung Po and the two kneeled before them in thanks. Brilliant, really.

Ching Shih and Cheung Po retired from piracy with their riches and had a son together. Cheung Po went on to secure a comfy military post in the Qing Imperial Navy in the same year of their amnesty and Ching Shih opened a prosperous gambling house. Not bad for a couple of ruthless pirates.

The poor prostitute who took over the world as a formidable, wealthy pirate queen lived the rest of her days in peace, dying in 1844 from old age as a 69-year-old grandmother.

About the Author

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Luck of the Irish or Just Sheer Irish Grit?

Daughter, wife, mother, businesswoman, landowner, seafarer, leader, chieftain, rebel, pirate, legend—all these terms would accurately describe the infamous Grace O’Malley.

Gráinne Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley) was born in 1530. Her father, Owen “Black Oak” O’Malley, was the elected chieftain of the Ó Máille (O’Malley) clan. He was also a seafarer successful in trading cattle, tallow, and salt fish as far south as Portugal and Spain. The O’Malley were one of the few on the western coast to sail beyond Ireland’s shores. As a result, they controlled much of County Mayo and all who fished off their coasts were taxed. Upon her parents’ deaths, she inherited her father’s trading business and her mother’s lands. That with and the land holdings from subsequent marriages, she was a wealthy woman.

Rockfleet Castle
Even as a child, Grace was a spitfire. She scorned societal conventions placed on girls and women, favoring adventure over what was suitable for her gender. She wanted badly to go to sea on a trading expedition to Spain with her father. Her parents forbade it. Ah, but she was fiery and independent. She cut off her long red hair to disguise herself as a lad in hopes to trick her father into taking her.
A stunt such as this was surely a precursor to what was to come.

At 16, she married Dónal O’Flaherty, who was heir to the chieftain of the O’Flaherty clan which controlled Connacht.  This was a good political match for the clans. Plus, bonus, he owned castles. One of these castles—Bunowen—is where she operated her first shipping and trade business, in part out of necessity as Dónal’s gallivanting brought the clan near to poverty.  Over the course of their marriage, she had three children with Dónal—Owen, Murrough, and Margaret. Not only did the family grow, but so did her pursuits. She controlled their fleet and oversaw all the business dealings, legitimate and otherwise. No doubt plying skills she learned from her father. And when she was not allowed to trade in Galway, a key trading port, for sketchy practices, she simply laid in wait off the coast for merchant ships, negotiating fair fees that guaranteed their safe passage. If they refused, she relieved them of their cargo. If they further resisted, well, things got violent and deadly.

Like Grace, Dónal was an ambitious sort. But he preferred warfare. Not surprisingly, that didn’t end well for him. He had taken an island fortress from another clan over some sort of revenge, but in the siege was killed. Grace didn’t take the death of her husband too kindly. She sailed to the island to avenge his death and successfully defended the castle. In another attack on the castle by the English, she not only defended it, but she alerted her fleet, launched an attack, and soundly defeated them. As you might imagine, she had many, many loyal men who followed her anywhere she went.

Grace O'Malley and Queen Elizabeth
She married a second time in 1566 to Richard Bourke, purportedly for more holdings, and the couple had one child together. But Grace still wasn’t one to settle down and quickly divorced him, keeping his Rockfleet Castle for herself.

Grace is known for many exploits that have become legendary. One thing for certain, she was not one to be slighted or crossed. She purportedly defeated a Turkish pirate ship, killing the crew, just one day after giving birth to her fourth son. Can you imagine how cranky she might have been to be disturbed while nursing her newborn? Grace had once abducted an earl’s grandson after she was denied hospitality by the family because they were having dinner. She released the boy only after the promise that the castle’s gates were always open and a place set at the table for visitors—a promise still kept to this day. Don’t underestimate a woman in love. She sought deadly revenge on a clan for killing her lover Hugh de Lacy, snatching away the lives of those responsible and seizing their castle. The woman was mighty!

How far will he go to rise up against her?
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Her piratical ways both on sea and land eventually caught up to her. English power had increased over Ireland and set to control the chieftains who had been self-governing. She was no fool. Like most chieftains, she submitted her fealty. Ah…appearances. With a troublemaker like Grace, England took notice, especially Governor Sir Richard Bingham who, in 1584 was tasked with overseeing and controlling chieftains and their clans. Bingham made it a personal mark to take Grace down. He stripped her clan of wealth by overtaxing them, ordered the murder of her oldest son, raided her home, took her livestock, imprisoned family members for treason, and impounded her fleet. Ouch. In 1593, Grace intended to restore her clan’s rights and free her family. How? By petitioning Elizabeth I, Queen of England, of course.

Elizabeth must have been intrigued by the intrepid Irish woman with such a colorful reputation for she granted Grace an audience…in private. Perhaps they were a lot alike. Perhaps there was a mutual respect. Whatever the case, it must have been quite a meeting that September day between the two powerhouses. The queen granted all of Grace’s requests, including monetary aid and the release of her impounded fleet. In the queen’s letter to Bingham, she also stated that Grace O’Malley had her permission to act as a privateer on England’s behalf. And so a-pirating Grace did go.

Grace finally retired in 1601. Two years later at the age of 73, she died, the same year as the queen.

About the Author 

                                                 
Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.