Rest assured that as long as there have been ships on the ocean there have been pirates! What follows is a very limited sampling of Pirates throughout history. It is not meant to be all-inclusive. I just wanted to bring to your attention the truth about Pirates and hopefully stir you to more closely examine your interest in them. For those of you who have had no interest in them, I hope to bring to the forefront what has been going on around you.
18 MARCH, 2015 – 00:21 LIZLEAFLOOR
Oldest Roman Military Camp discovered in Italy was Built to Fend off Fierce Pirates
An ancient Roman fort has been discovered in Italy by researchers using advanced sensing technology. It is reportedly the oldest military camp built by the Roman army ever found, and the only Roman fortress ever found in Italy. The fortress is thought to have been built to protect against the attacks of fierce pirates 2,000 years ago, and it may hold secrets to the ancient origins of the city of Trieste.
LiveScience reports that researchers discovered the ancient fort at San Rocco on the Bay of Muggia – a commune of Trieste province in Italy, bordering on Slovenia. It is believed the camp was built in 178 B.C., as corroborated by the ancient writings of Roman historian Titus Livy (64 B.C. – 17 A.D.) and thus predates the oldest known military camps by decades.
6 OCTOBER, 2014 – 13:26 APRIL HOLLOWAY
Possibly the most powerful book I have ever read. As a historical piece it is rivetting. As the true tale of this hidden history, it is absolutely terrifying, evil, and downright disgusting in the fact that our governments have hidden this! A must-read!
The biggest wipeout of history hidden by the UK, USA, and Europe is out there for people to read if only they knew of its existence. White slavery, between 1580 -1840 approximately. Recent history. Overlapping the black history of slavery.
It is the forgotten history of millions of white Europeans and Americans snatched from their homes or from their ships and taken in chains, by Barbary coast Arabs from Morocco, to the huge slave markets of North Africa!
They were tortured, starved, beaten, and sold to the highest bidder, and their governments totally ignored them. Source
Much attention and condemnation has been directed towards the tragedy of the African slave trade, which took place between the 16 th and the 19 th centuries. However, another equally despicable trade in humans was taking place around the same time in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that up to 1.25 million Europeans were enslaved by the so-called Barbary corsairs, and their lives were just as pitiful as their African counterparts. They have come to be known as the white slaves of Barbary.
Slavery is one of the oldest trades known to man. We can first find records of the slave trade dating back to The Code of Hammurabi in Babylon in the 18th century BCE. People from virtually every major culture, civilization, and religious background have made slaves of their own and enslaved other peoples. However, comparatively little attention has been given to the prolific slave trade that was carried out by pirates, or corsairs, along the Barbary coast (as it was called by Europeans at the time), in what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, beginning around 1600 AD.
Anyone traveling in the Mediterranean at the time faced the real prospect of being captured by the Corsairs and taken to Barbary Coast cities and being sold as slaves.
However, not content with attacking ships and sailors, the corsairs (pirates) also sometimes raided coastal settlements in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, and even as far away as the Netherlands and Iceland. They landed on unguarded beaches and crept up on villages in the dark to capture their victims. Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were taken in this way in 1631. As a result of this threat, numerous coastal towns in the Mediterranean were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants until the 19 th century.
One of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature,” said historian Robert Davis, author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy. “But that is not true,” he added.
10 JUNE, 2014 – 13:56 DHWTY
Port Royal and the Real Pirates of the Caribbean
The presence of these privateers and their Spanish booty encouraged the growth of other forms of businesses as well. Soon, bars and brothels popped up all around Port Royal where the privateers spent their treasures and indulged themselves. It has been claimed, for instance, that one in four buildings in Port Royal was either a bar or a brothel. The presence of these elements of society soon earned Port Royal the title of the “wickedest city on Earth”.
Port Royal’s glory days would soon come to an end when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck in 1692. As a result, much of Port Royal was swallowed up by the sea. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, it was common to ascribe the destruction to divine retribution on the people of Port Royal for their sinful ways. Members of the Jamaica Council declared: “We are become by this an instance of God Almighty’s severe judgment.”
10 Pirates of the North Sea (all photos captured from the original article.)
Pirates are usually associated with the Caribbean Sea. Men like Henry Morgan and William Kidd left behind a legacy of adventure and great battles, but piracy is something that’s been going on for as long as men have traveled the seas. And it happened (and still does) all over the globe. The Pirates of the North Sea were not much different from the ones we are used to hearing about. They mostly lived by a set of codes, they were just as brutal, and they had little to no respect for the government. The Scandinavian countries Norway and Denmark became a union at the end of the 1300’s, and a wave of lawlessness arose from the wars between this new union and the monarchs of the neighboring nations, among them: England, Germany, and Sweden. These pirates remain almost forgotten in history, despite their fascinating lives. Here are some of their tales.
10 Kristoffer Trondsson & Otto Stigsson
In 1523, Christian II, King of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, lost his throne to Fredrik I. At that time, the most feared pirates were those who stood by Christian II to help him gain back his throne. Their job was to raid the sea and abduct as many ships as they possibly could so that the former king could use these riches to stand against Fredrik I. It took him eight years, but it finally worked. However, the pirates who had been his allies now became outlaws fighting against him.
His solution was Kristoffer Trondsson and Otto Stigsson. They were both given the position as pirate hunters and led their men into battle against the pirates. Even though they were widely feared, they were not successful in their job. Only one single ship was recorded to have been taken back by the pirate hunters. In the end, they both became bored with finding nothing, and became pirates themselves! They mostly abducted trade ships from Holland and Scotland on their way to Norway. Later on, Trondsson was actually hired as an admiral, in Norway.
9 Erlend Eindridesson
In the fall of 1445, a German sailor named Steffen Smit and his crew were caught in bad weather and had no other option but to steer towards the port of Jæren, in Rogaland, Norway. They waited for weeks, without the weather giving any sign of calming down. But one day, they had some unexpected visitors. Erlend Eindridesson was one of the most respected men in Norway, and with him, he had two ships and sixty men. He was known for his dislike of Germans.
The Norwegian pirates threatened to steal their cargo. Smit, on the other hand, knew it would look bad for Eindridesson’s reputation if he stole from a German ship. The two countries were at peace at the time, and he had papers to prove his rights as a trader. Eindridesson let them be, but Smit knew it wasn’t over.
At night, while no one noticed, Eindridesson and his men cut the ropes attaching the ship to the docks, and the ship was crushed toward it by the waves. At once, they insisted on helping the Germans, saving the cargo and bringing it to shore. Smit never saw the cargo again.
8 Martin Pechlin
Martin Pechlin was one of the most notorious pirates in the 1500’s. He was brutal and without mercy, and it is said that he once hijacked twelve ships in one day! But, in 1526, he met his match. Three ships coming from Germany were caught in a storm and ended up somewhere by the Norwegian coastline. There they docked in a fjord, hoping to trade with the farmers living nearby. But because of the heavy mist, neither they nor the pirates could see each other as they docked on each their side of the fjord.
The next day, the Germans were visited by two young boys coming to trade with them. They were spies, sent by the pirates to find out more about the crew they were about to attack. Captain Thode saw through their lies, and prevented them from delivering the information. Nothing happened before the next morning, when Pechlin and his pirate crew opened fire.
The sailors proved to be good fighters, and Pechlin’s ship was, in the end, caught between the enemies, and the Germans ended it with a bullet to his head. Only fourteen pirates managed to escape, six were taken alive, and the remaining sixty men of Pechin’s former crew had been killed in battle.
7 Klaus Størtebecker
In the 13 and 1400’s, the sea was ruled by “Fataljebrødrene”; a band of pirates coming from all of the Northern countries. These pirates lived by a strict code, and they were known as “Likedelere”, which means “Those who share equally”. Over the years they had many leaders or pirate kings. Klaus Størtebecker was one of them. He is maybe one of the most legendary pirates of Northern Europe. It is said he sailed a ship with a mast of gold, and that he once buried an enormous treasure somewhere in Germany, which has yet to be found. To people of that time, he was like a Robin Hood at sea; stealing from the rich traders, and being generous to the poor. Also, he was a fearless warrior in battle. In the end, he was hanged in a gold rope long enough to reach around the city of Hamburg, and his dying wish was for the executioners to grant pardon to all those of his men he could walk past – after his execution! It is said five men were pardoned.
6 Bartholomeus Voet
Voet was the next leader of “Fataljebrødrene”, after Størtebecker. He was his equal in fighting skills, but this guy didn’t show any mercy as to whether people were poor or rich. At one point, he went to the Norwegian city of Bergen, and, after robbing it of everything worth taking, he burnt the whole city down. The citizens fought back, but even though they outnumbered the pirates, they were defeated. Voet escaped from Bergen with all of the stolen goods he could carry with him.
In 1808, a Swedish pirate ship by the name “Rinaldini”, set sail to the North Sea to abduct one last Danish-Norwegian trade ship before winter. At the same time, the Norwegian ships “Fortuna”, and “Elisabeth Maria Tønder”, both trade ships, too started their journey; and apparently, faith wanted them all to meet in open sea. The Swedish pirates quickly took command of the “Fortuna”, before turning on the “Elisabeth Maria Tønder”. It all went smoothly, without much resistance, and the pirates started on their way back to Sweden with the new ships and their crew. The problem was: their safe docking place was far ahead, and it would take a long time to get back. They were caught in a storm, and it seemed almost impossible to get back, and even more so when they saw the Norwegian coastline in the distance.
The captain turned to the Norwegian captains of the “Fortuna” and the “Elisabeth”, ordering them to tell him where they were. But they told him they didn’t know. At that time, the Norwegians decided to take action, before the Swedish chose to turn toward England, instead (which they were about to). Illness, the cold, and a huge portion of bad luck meant the Swedish pirates could do almost nothing, when the Norwegian captain Liung stepped forward and ordered them to set sail toward the nearest dock. The pirates neither said nor did anything to stop him.
4 Tønnes Kaade Samuelsen
In 1808, the Norwegian pirate captain, Tønnes Kaade Samuelsen, and his crew set sail for the sea, to do what pirates do best. But it was in the middle of the winter, and no trade-ships dared sail the North Sea at this time of year. So, Samuelsen got bored and decided to do something about it. He and his men set sail for England, disguised themselves as fishermen coming home, and once in the dock, cut the ropes of the biggest ship they could find, and just sailed it back to Norway. He continued with this tactic for most of his career; before his ship sunk in a storm, and took him and the entire crew with it.
3 Captain Johannes Jacobsen Røscher
If there was one thing a pirate roaming around in the North Sea would want to avoid at all costs, it was being arrested outside the coastline of England. If that was to happen, they would be imprisoned for years. Captain Røscher, an old Danish-Norwegian pirate, almost met this fate. It happened in 1810; Captain Røscher and the crew of his ship “Tak for sidst” were in a poor state due to the fatal weather of the season. But despite this setback, they managed to take the command of an English ship, led by Captain William Dimond. The crew of the ship claimed to be Americans, but Røscher knew better. He split the captured crew so that they could be organized in two smaller groups on each of the ships, and left his first mate in command of his old ship.
Then, the Englishmen decided to act. Aboard the “Tak for Sidst”, the first mate, Erik Fries, who was a highly skilled pirate, personally took care of the riot and proceeded sailing towards Norway. Røscher, on the other hand, was not as lucky. The pirates were locked up, and Captain Dimond set sail back to Scotland, where the pirates would be taken directly to England. Røscher was furious and plotted revenge with his crew whenever he had the chance. And finally, he found the solution. One of the crew members of the English ship was a young Swedish man, who in the end was talked into helping them. He let them out just when Captain Dimond and his crew were inside eating, and the pirates just locked them inside the ship and regained control. The Englishmen made no further attempts to escape, and soon Captain Røscer could see the coastline of Norway, just days after “Tak for Sidst” had found its way home.
2 Knut Ellingsen
Knut Ellingsen was a highly skilled Norwegian pirate, and the captain of the ship “Den Veivisende Paquet”(Paquet the Pathfinder). The same day the event happened, the year of 1810, he had already hijacked a ship, and he and the crew were on their lookout for more when a much bigger English ship came in sight. It soon became clear Ellingsen had been caught in the act, with a clearly stolen ship. The Englishmen told them to surrender peacefully, and it seemed they had no other choice. Now, whether it was a direct order from Ellingsen or just a miscalculation by the man behind the wheel, is uncertain; but just when the Englishmen thought they had them and were about to jump aboard, the Norwegians set full sail, and escaped by just sailing away. The Englishmen were shocked by the rude maneuver, which resulted in a brutal chase after the pirates. The pirate ship was much faster, but the English were better armed, and soon it was hailing bullets over the pirate ship. Ellingsen shouted at his crew to get out of the way, as the master sail came falling down at them, tip first.
Standing up was impossible, because of the bullets, so Ellingsen did something that would later earn him the Order of Dannebrog. He lay down on his back, avoiding the bullets, and steered the ship using his feet! Because of his skills as a sailor, and even with the master sail down, he managed to lose the Englishmen, and steer the ship into a safe fjord, saving himself and his crew.
1 Jan Mendoza and Captain Daa
Jan Mendoza was a Spanish pirate, whose career in the North Sea was making the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV frustrated, because of all the economical damages he inflicted. So, to make an end to it, he sent two pirate hunters after him; Admiral Jørgen Daa, and the Norwegian explorer and adventurer Jens Munk. They chased Mendoza from England to the coast of northern Russia, and back, with the two battleships “Victor”, and “Jupiter”. They finally caught up with him, but Captain Daa became too eager in his hunt and hoisted too many sails to catch up with Mendoza, so the entire ship almost ended upside down. But Jens Munk chased Mendoza into a small fjord, where all three ships anchored to repair the damages. Captain Mendoza’s ship was taking in water, and for such a heavy ship, there was no way they could just set sail. They had no other choice but to fight.
Captain Daa on the other hand, wanted to solve matters peacefully and suggested a meeting where they would discuss surrender. But Mendoza rejected his invitation unless Captain Daa was willing to offer Jens Munk as insurance. Munk didn’t mind, but the same second he set foot on Mendoza’s ship, he was bound and treated like a prisoner. Of course, Mendoza never kept his promise to Captain Daa, but remained on the ship. Jens Munk stayed the night because he knew Captain Daa would signal him with a cannon shot when they came to help him. But because he had seen their every defense, he wanted to find a better strategy than what they had already planned. So he threatened Mendoza, with such calm firmness, that the Spanish pirate sat him free. Munk and Captain Daa attacked the pirates shortly after, coming from three sides: the “Victor, “Jupiter”, and from the beach. After a long fight, where one-third of Mendoza’s crew were killed, and all three ships were almost blown to pieces, Captain Mendoza finally admitted defeat. The remaining crew were executed by drowning, and Captain Mendoza and his first mate were sent to Copenhagen to be hanged. Captain Daa and Jens Munk found in Mendoza’s ship, riches worthy of a great pirate: ten chests of gold, all so heavy it took ten men to carry just one of them.
Although the Vikings were not known for battles in open waters, they did attack from the seas, often targeting islands. They were the terror of the sea in their time, and many of them probably ventured into piracy every now and then, in addition to pillaging churches and villages.
Here is the definition of Vikings from dictionary.com:
Vikings – noun
1.any of the Scandinavian pirates who plundered the coasts of Europe from the 8th to 10th centuries.
2.a sea-roving bandit; pirate.
ORIGINS OF PIRACY
Piracy was often ambiguously differentiated from trade industries; it was the industry of the ancient Mediterranean. The earliest documents detailing the turn to piracy are in reference to the notorious Sea Peoples who threatened the Aegean and the Mediterranean in around the fourteenth century BC. Piracy in the ancient Mediterranean stemmed from a necessity based on conditions of the coastlines of Anatolia. The shorelines were unsuitable for agriculture and large populations and the people who did live there were of humble means. These peoples turned to fishing as a primary industry and when this wasn’t enough to support them, the men turned to piracy.
Notorious Pirate Havens — Part 1
The Ancient World
By Cindy Vallar
From the earliest days of maritime trade, pirates preyed on merchant shipping. They stole whatever they deemed of value, either to themselves or to those who would pay for their plundered wares. Such attacks invited pursuit, but throughout history, pirates escaped their hunters by seeking sanctuary in havens where they could ply their booty and relax without fear of prosecution.
Perhaps the best-known pirate havens are those in existence during the Golden Age of Piracy (1690-1730), although pirates used some of these before and after that as well. The Caribbean had Port Royal, Tortuga, and New Providence while Madagascar hosted pirates who attacked East Indiamen, Muslim pilgrims, and the treasure ships of the Moguls of India in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. What made these havens so appealing to pirates? Why were some locales used and not others?
The land enclaves that attracted pirates had several things in common:
- Close proximity to trade routes used by maritime shipping.
2. Native peoples who were either in decline or friendly to pirates.
3. Isolated locations that discouraged pursuers from attempting to follow.
4. A pleasant climate.
5. A trading post and/or tavern where pirates obtained supplies and spent their ill-gotten gains.
Some havens, however, were simply remote coves or hidden harbors that allowed pirates to careen their ships, make repairs, or replenish water and food supplies. A few were set up for the intentional purpose of catering to pirates. In this and upcoming articles, we will visit numerous pirate havens. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list or in-depth study of places where pirates tread without fear of reprisal, but rather a look at some infamous and obscure havens used throughout history, beginning with the Ancient World.
Ancient Greek pirates used the Lipari Islands as their base for over 2500 years. Istria offered Illyrian pirates sanctuary until they attacked a convoy of Roman ships laden with grain in the Adriatic Sea. Rome launched two punitive strikes against the pirates that destroyed their bases in Istria. For over eight hundred years, beginning in the tenth century BC, Dorian Greek pirates operated from Crete, which was located along busy shipping lanes. Not until the second century BC, when the Rhodeans began patrolling the eastern Mediterranean with the express purpose of stamping out piracy, did Crete cease to be a pirate haven.
In the Antalya Province of present-day Turkey was the ancient land of Lycia. Independence was so important to the Lycians that when Persians attacked in 546 BC, the Lycians went to extreme measures to remain free. According to Herodotus, they were defeated and forced to retire within their walls, whereupon they collected their women, children, slaves and other property and shut them up in the citadel, set fire to it and burnt it to the ground. Then…they marched out to meet the enemy and were killed to a man. They repeated this supreme gesture of freedom when Rome attempted to incorporate Lycia into its empire.
Some Lycians were also pirates. Their coastline contained many coves and inlets where they could lie in wait for heavily laden merchant ships that sailed passed Lycia on a regular basis. The Lycians swooped down on their prey, plundered the ship, and returned from whence they had come. In 1194 BC, Ramses the Third managed to destroy these havens for a time, but eventually, the pirates returned. They played an instrumental role in helping Xerxes invade Greece in 480 BC. Several times the Romans also tried to suppress these pirates before finally succeeding in 67 BC. Yet, once the Roman Empire fell, Lycia again became a haven for pirates, and this time they attacked passing ships into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when British warships began to patrol the coast.
Another area rife with pirates was Cilicia, located on the southern shore of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) near the trade route that connected Syria to Italy and Greece. In addition, its nearness to Egyptian and Palestinian sea lanes, numerous rocky inlets, jutting headlands, and hidden anchorages proved ideal for pirates. Cilicia became the most notorious pirate haven of ancient times and was home to one of the largest enclaves of pirates in history.
Cilicians captured Julius Caesar in 78 BC and imprisoned him on Pharmacusa until someone paid his ransom. At the height of their power, these pirates almost crippled the maritime trade of Ancient Rome. Such dominance could well have destroyed the empire. To counter this, Pompey the Great attacked Cilicia in 67 BC so fiercely that the pirates were almost annihilated.
The last refuge for pirates of the Ancient World was in the Adriatic. Dalmatia’s coastal region made it difficult for pursuers to hunt down pirates. When Rome annexed Dalmatia in AD 9, it ceased to be a haven for pirates.
Pirates of the Bronze Age – ROBERT SEPEHR
The most famous of these pirates were the Illyrians and the Tyrrhenians who were often generalized as races of pirates. These were accompanied by the Greek and Roman pirates who appear around Cilicia. The Illyrians raided the Adriatic Sea frequently and caused multiple conflicts in the time of the Roman Republic. The Phoenicians were also known to commit acts of piracy in connection to the Slave trade. With time, the pirates of the Mediterranean became more organized and formed companies derived from their ancient seafaring traditions.
The Egyptians often had clashes with these Sea Peoples who they referred to as the ‘Nine Bows’. Some of these pirates were Egyptian subordinates such as escaped Hebrews who were known as the Habiru. The Egyptians also dealt with the Tjeker people from Crete and the earliest known pirate companies, the Lukka and the Sherden. The Lukka and Sherden are mentioned in the Amarna letters detailing the correspondence between the king of Babylon to Pharaoh Amenhotep.
PIRACY IN HELLENISTIC TIMES
The Hellenistic period saw a rise in piracy following the death of Alexander Great and the issues that followed concerning succession. This created what could be deemed as endemic in Cilicia and the rest of the Southern Anatolia of piracy.
During this period there was a popular use of a boat called the Lembus among pirates which was a small and fast ship built to zip in and out of small inlets and attack bigger vessels before disappearing before they could be caught. In the third century BC, there was a pirate attack on Olympos in Anatolia which caused much devastating.
PIRACY IN ROMAN TIMES
The second century BC saw the Roman’s ending the threat of the Illyrians by finally conquering Illyria and making it a Roman province. But piracy continued along the Anatolian coastline into the first century BC.
Plutarch tells the story in his Parallel Lives that in 75 BC Julius Caesar was kidnapped for thirty-eight days by Cilician pirates and held in the Dodecanese islet of Pharmacusa to the south-west of Anatolia. The Cilician pirates originally are said to have demanded a ransom of twenty talents of gold but this was raised to fifty talents on the word of Caesar himself that he was worth at least fifty. This ransom was payed and Caesar was released but then he turned on the pirates, pursued and crucified them.
The Roman period saw several changes in the history of Mediterranean piracy starting in 67 BC when Rome’s port of Ostia was attacked and set on fire by pirates and two of its most prominent senators were kidnapped. By the Roman period, the general feeling towards pirates was of fear and distrust and this event was the final straw and Rome started to fight seriously against them. This led to piracy being completely outlawed so the pirates could no longer benefit from the slave trade and instead turned to heavy ransoming. An anti-piracy law was proposed by Aulus Gabinius and pirates were declared communes hostes gentium ‘enemies of all mankind’. And the Lex Gabinia granted Pompey the Great unprecedented authority which was a conflicting decision as it allowed Pompey full access to the Roman treasury.
Pompey the Great organized the raiding of the remaining pirate strongholds in the Mediterranean including in Cilicia, Crete, Illyria, and Delos. The most interesting act that Pompey implemented was one of clemency. Though thousands of pirates died in the raids, those that surrendered were given pardon and reward. Reward involves the movement of the pirates from the sea to the land and the establishment of them in honest and innocent courses of life. This was the most successful method of fighting against piracy in the Roman period but piracy never completely died out. In fact, in the first century AD it morphed into an idea close to privateering in some areas.
LATE ANTIQUITY PIRATES
There were a number of pirate threats in later centuries including the attacks of the Gothic-Herulic fleet which ravaged the coast of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara around 258 AD. And there were attacks by the Goths around 264 AD also in Galatia and Cappadocia, Cyprus and Crete. The fall of the Roman Empire around the fifth century AD saw a renewal of pirate activity which continued through to the middle ages.
While piracy is generally viewed as malevolent, several ancient texts were in part sympathetic to it and describe it in a way that deemed it almost honorable. Homer, for instance, makes it a normal occurrence in his Iliad and Odyssey. And Plutarch tells us that piracy became not just an occupation of poor and desperate men but rather a glorious expedition for those of high status seeking further advancement and adventure. It seems in part that the ancients romanticised the concept of piracy as much as the modern mind does. Source: Pirates in the Ancient Mediterranean
Texas Pirates of the Gulf
By Logan Hawkes – Texas Less Traveled
With sun-scorched hotel and condo towers rising high into the South Padre Island skyline it’s hard to imagine a time when the dunes were the only architectural shapes that populated the long stretch of sand-bar that once reached from the Rio Grande River to near Galveston Bay.
But it was a day not long ago as time flies that enterprising Europeans discovered the unpopulated coastline of Texas and the wider Gulf of Mexico as happy hunting grounds in their bid for fame and easy fortune in the warm waters of the New World.
There were privateers, individuals who contracted mostly with the Spanish government to salvage shipwrecks for a percentage of the find. And there were pirates and buccaneers that often crossed the line between privateering and pirating. Combined with slave traders and independent merchant vessels, often armed to the hilt, the Gulf of Mexico and Padre Island was a common destination for these colorful figures of the sea between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Spanish Armada in 1588. So desperate was England’s desire to prevent the Spanish from robbing the treasures of the New World, that many trusted Naval commander was secretly authorized to become a privateer and engage the Spanish – without the flying the flag of England. Drake also used the Texas coast as a hiding place and to base pirate raids on Spanish ships and ports.
Literally, hundreds of shipwrecks are lost in the waters along the Texas coastline. At least 20 known ships from the “pirating years” still lay on the bottom of the Gulf or in the bay around South Padre Island.
The Laguna Madre was an ideal hiding place for pirates and privateers who could mask their ships from Gulf view because of the bountiful sand dunes on the Island. And many a ship washed over the island to become “bottomed’ in the bay at the whims of hurricanes and major gales that assailed them with little warning.
Even as late as the 19th century when Mexico and the Republic of Texas were locked in dispute and faced the possibility of another war, privateers and naval ships from at least four countries would ply the waters up and down Padre Island in search of opportunity and good fortune. And the number of colorful privateers, like Jean Lafitte, made Texas and the Islands just off her coast a home and hideaway for many years running.
Time and the elements have robbed us of the knowledge of how many ships have been lost on and around the sands of Padre Island, but most historians agree that the influence of pirating and privateering, in combination with drastic tropical weather in the Western Gulf, produced substantial numbers of lost ships and fortunes. Fortunes were lost and fortunes were won on Padre Island.
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