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Biographies of Famous Pirates

Captain Benjamin Hornigold


   His early life is unrecorded, although he is sometimes claimed to have been born in the English county of Norfolk, where the surname Hornigold or Hornagold appears. The first accounts of Hornigold place him in the winter of 1713–1714, when he employed periaguas (sailing canoes) and a sloop to menace merchant vessels off the coast of New Providence and its capital Nassau, where he had established a 'Privateers' or 'Pirates' republic. Like many others, he probably served on a privateer during the war and turned to piracy after the war ended. By early 1717, Hornigold had at his command a heavily armed sloop-of-war he named the Ranger. Hornigold's second-in-command during this period was Edward Teach, who would later be better known as the pirate Blackbeard. Teach (apparently an apt pupil) was given command of a French sloop taken off St. Vincent in the West Indies. In March 1717 Hornigold attacked an armed merchant vessel sent to the Bahamas by the Governor of South Carolina to hunt for pirates. The merchantman escaped by running itself aground on Cat Cay, and its captain later reported that Hornigold's fleet had increased to five vessels, with a combined crew of around 350 pirates. Hornigold is recorded as having attacked a sloop off the coast of Honduras, but as one of the passengers of the captured vessel recounted, "they did us no further injury than the taking most of our hats from us, having got drunk the night before, as they told us, and toss'd theirs overboard".

   Toward the end of the year they teamed with "The Gentleman Pirate" Stedt Bonnet. Despite his apparent maritime supremacy, Hornigold remained careful not to attack British-flagged ships, apparently to maintain the legal defence that he was a privateer operating against England's enemies. This scrupulous approach was not to the liking of his lieutenants, and in November 1717 a vote was taken among the combined crews to attack any vessel they chose. Hornigold opposed the decision. On the 17th, they captured the 200-ton ship Concorde. After dividing their plunder, Hornigold would return to New Providence in command of the Ranger and a small crew loyal to him. He continued piracy operations from Nassau until December 1717, when word arrived of a general pardon for pirates offered by the King.

    When Woodes Rogers, appointed governor of the Bahamas, arrived in 1718, Hornigold was there to welcome him as one of the leaders of a rable of pirates that remained on the island. Rogers extended the King's pardon to Hornigold among others. Rogers thought highly of Hornigold, and commissioned him as a privateer to hunt pirates, including his former lieutenant Teach. Hornigold was to spend the next eighteen months cruising the Bahamas in pursuit of Stede Bonnet, Charles Vane, and Jack Rackham. In December 1718, Governor Rogers wrote to the Board of Trade in London commending Hornigold's efforts to remedy his reputation as a pirate by hunting his former allies. A later conflict with some small band of pirates caused Rogers to again turn to Hornigold for help, and this time he was successful, bring in thirteen of the band. It is interesting that a man considered by many to have been a founding leader of the 'Pirates' republic on Nassau, was turned to, by all accounts, a faithful privateer in the service of Woodes Rogers. Hornigold may have turned to piracy as a trade when the war ended out of necessity, and later returned to legitimate privateering at his first opportunity. About 1719, Hornigold was sent to Mexico on a trading voyage. While underway, Hornigold's ship was caught in a hurricane and struck a reef far from land and it is presumed that he perished.




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