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'Sid Meier's Pirates!' (Xbox) Real-Life Pirates Part 2

by Rainier on June 30, 2005 @ 7:40 a.m. PDT

In Pirates! you take the leading role of a Pirate Captain in the 17th century Caribbean trying to become the most revered and feared pirate in history - exploring high seas and exotic ports, overtaking enemies in fierce naval battles, engaging in duels and attempting to seize valuable booty. 2KGames has released the second part of three Pirates of Sid Meier’s Pirates! features containing details on three of the real-life pirates in Pirates!


Born Edward Drummond in England in 1680, the pirate known as "Blackbeard" learned his trade as an English privateer during the War of Spanish Succession. When that war ended in 1714 he drifted into outright piracy, operating up and down the North American East Coast, attacking English shipping and anything else that came within his grasp.

Blackbeard operated under the pseudonym of "Edward Teach." His nickname came from the beard that he let grow to cover almost his entire face. In combat, he stuck burning slowmatch (a slow-burning fuse used to fire cannon) under his hat; with his face wreathed in smoke and flame, he was said to resemble a fiend from hell.

Legends about Blackbeard's ferocity abound. Once, while he and his navigator were peacefully drinking in Blackbeard's cabin, the pirate pulled out a pistol and shot the man in the knee without warning. When asked why he had crippled the navigator, Teach replied that if he did not now and again kill one of them, his crew would forget who he was.

Blackbeard met his end in the fall of 1718 in the narrow channels of Ocracoke Inlet, where he had stopped to refit his vessel. There he and nineteen men were discovered by a superior English force of two sloops carrying 60 men. Blackbeard and his men fought fiercely despite the odds. His first broadside blasted one sloop right out of the battle, and his second almost cleared the deck of the remaining sloop. Blackbeard then rammed the second sloop and led his men to the attack, where he found himself facing Lieutenant Robert Maynard, the commander of the vessel.

Maynard and Blackbeard both had pistols, which they fired at nearly point-blank range. Blackbeard's shot missed the Lieutenant, while Maynard's hit Blackbeard in the body. But Blackbeard didn't fall. Instead he took a swing at Maynard with his cutlass, shattering the astonished Englishman's sword with one mighty blow.

But before Blackbeard could finish the helpless Maynard, another British sailor attacked him from the side, slashing his throat so badly that blood gushed everywhere. Still Blackbeard fought on, but soon he was surrounded by English sailors, and they hacked and cut at Blackbeard until he finally toppled over, dead. Seeing their leader fall, the remaining pirates also surrendered.

The short battle had been remarkably bloody and savage. Of the nineteen pirates, ten were dead and the surviving nine were all wounded. Of Maynard's crew of 35, ten were killed and 24 wounded. Maynard examined Blackbeard's body and found that he had taken five bullet wounds and twenty cutlass blows before finally succumbing to death.

William Kidd

Captain Kidd's story serves as a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of privateeringand of the blurry line between that occupation and outright piracy.

In December, 1695, a privateering vessel named the Adventure Galley was launched at Deptford, England, on the Thames River. The ship was to sail around Africa and destroy pirates operating in the Red Sea and to harass French shipping there. She was commanded by William Kidd, an experienced captain and privateer.

The Galley's maiden voyage was beset by ill luck and delay. Upon departure Kidd promptly lost almost half of his crew to the English navy's press gangs and was forced to make up the missing men by recruiting the dregs and scum of New York harbor. It took five long months for Kidd to make the voyage around Africa, and on arrival he immediately lost another fifty men to a tropical disease.

By the time he reached the Red Sea the surviving crewmen were almost in open mutiny and Kidd was ready to resort to almost any means to keep them in line. Unfortunately, most of the French shipping had been driven out of the area, and all Kidd encountered were neutral vessels. But Kidd was desperate, probably fearing for his life, and he attacked and captured a number of neutrals, believing (or hoping) that ambiguities in their ownership and papers made them legitimate prizes.

On January 30th of 1698, Kidd encountered the Quedah Merchant. Owned by Armenians and flying under false French colors, the Merchant was one of the richest prizes ever taken at sea. Kidd was enormously pleased with his good fortune - until he discovered that the Merchant had an English captain, which made his attack an act of outright piracy. In horror, Kidd ordered that the ship be freed, but his crew angrily refused. Instead, they sailed the ships to the African island of Madagascar and divided the plunder (surprisingly, they gave Kidd a full privateer captain's portion of 40 shares). Then all but a handful of men deserted Kidd for another pirate in the area.

Convinced that he was an innocent victim of the actions of his mutinous crew, Kidd took the remainder of his men back to New England, where he hid some of his treasure before reporting to the local authorities. The authorities made Kidd reveal where he had hidden the treasure, then shipped him back to England in irons.

After rotting in prison for a year, Kidd was put on trial. He was quickly found guilty of piracy and sentenced to be hanged.

Even then his bad luck didn't desert him: the rope broke and it took his executioners two tries to kill him.

(Incidentally, this is the only known instance of a pirate burying any substantial amount of treasure. Most everybody else spent their loot as quickly as they got it.)

Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte was born sometime around 1778. He and his older brother, Pierre, went to sea at an early age; somewhere off the west coast of Africa the two quarreled with their captain, and began new careers as privateers. An extremely brave, skilled, dashingly-handsome and personable young man, Jean Lafitte quickly earned himself a captaincy. After a good run in the Indian Ocean, the Lafittes moved on to the Caribbean, where they established a base of operations on Grand Terre, an island in the mouth of the Mississippi. Lafitte ran a tidy little criminal empire in the Louisiana bayous. His men ranged far and wide over the Caribbean while he and his brother fenced much of the loot in New Orleans, where they became something akin to folk heroes.

When the US took possession of New Orleans, the new Governor tried to have the rogues arrested, but without success. With intimate knowledge of the swamps and bayous of Louisiana - as well as the enthusiastic support of the locals of New Orleans - the Lafittes were virtually untouchable.

In 1812 the US declared war on England. An admirer of the United States, Jean Lafitte offered his services to the US Governor in return for full amnesty for him and his men, but the Governor declined the offer. When the British invasion was imminent, the Governor launched a surprise attack against Grand Terre, driving Lafitte and his men into the dismal swamps.

Lafitte's men wanted to join the British to exact revenge against the Americans, but Lafitte stood firm. Staking his freedom and his life on one last throw of the dice, Lafitte decided to meet in person with General Andrew Jackson, the newly-arrived commander of New Orleans' defense.

A former Tennessee lawyer and politician, "Old Hickory" was known as a brilliant soldier and an honest, straightforward man. Much to everyone's surprise the general and the pirate got along famously, and Jackson quickly accepted Lafitte's offer.

The events of the Battle of New Orleans are well-known. Lafitte and his men acted as guides for the US forces, allowing them to launch surprise attacks against the approaching British, delaying their advance until the American defenses were in place below the city. In the final battle Lafitte led an independent force of sharpshooters against a regiment attempting to outflank the American position, while his other men worked the American artillery, earning Jackson's admiration for their coolness under fire. The American position was unassailable, and the British Army was driven back with heavy losses, securing New Orleans for the United States. General Jackson was true to his word, and Lafitte and his men received full pardons.

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