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F262.A84 B88 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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North Carolina possesses one of the longest, most treacherous coastlines in the United States, and the waters off its shores have been the scene of some of the most dramatic episodes of piracy and sea warfare in the nation's history. Now, Lindley Butler brings this fascinating aspect of the state's maritime heritage vividly to life. He offers engaging biographical portraits of some of the most famous pirates, privateers, and naval raiders to ply the Carolina waters.

Covering 150 years, from the golden age of piracy in the 1700s to the extraordinary transformation of naval warfare ushered in by the Civil War, Butler sketches the lives of eight intriguing characters: the pirate Blackbeard and his contemporary Stede Bonnet; privateer Otway Burns and naval raider Johnston Blakeley; and Confederate raiders James Cooke, John Maffitt, John Taylor Wood, and James Waddell. Penetrating the myths that have surrounded these legendary figures, he uncovers the compelling true stories of their lives and adventures.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Pirates and their exploits have long been romanticized and have earned an ambiguous niche in our consciousness, for their lawlessness and brutality repel but their supposed freedom from society's restraints attracts. Butler is professor emeritus of history at Rockingham Community College in North Carolina. In this compact and breezy survey, he examines the lives of eight pirates and sea raiders who operated along the Carolina coast between the early eighteenth century and the end of the Civil War. His subjects include such diverse characters as the pirate Blackbeard and Confederate raiders James Cooke and James Waddell. Butler deftly illustrates how each of them mastered the tricky marine environment of the Carolina coast, which can be both friendly and fatal for covert operations. He treats his characters with objectivity, although a bemused affection frequently shines through. This is an informative and enjoyable work of regional history. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Covering the period from the early 1700s to the end of the Civil War, Butler, history professor emeritus at North Carolina's Rockingham Community College, paints eight compelling sketches of the rogues and Confederate ship captains who operated in the state's coastal waters. Blackbeard springs to life in the book's first biographyÄhe had retired from pirating when he was killed by a naval expedition hired by the Virginia provincial government. Following an equally interesting portrait of pirate Stede Bonney, Butler examines two War of 1812 commerce raiders. Otway Burns captained the Snap Dragon, which ranged from the Caribbean to Canada, seizing several British merchantmen and fighting a few sea battles with armed vessels. Johnston Blakeley piloted the sloop Wasp into the English Channel, panicking English businessmen and driving insurance rates upward with every ship he seized as a prize. During the Civil War, John N. Maffitt, John Taylor Wood and James I. Waddell all commanded Southern commerce raiders that operated at one time or another from Wilmington, Del. Butler vividly recounts the deeds of this group of men, chronicles their lives and ultimate fates and, in general, provides an eminently readable and accurate tale of the region's rascals. Photos and maps. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One     Introduction The World of Pirates, Privateers, and Naval Raiders North Carolina possesses in its rivers, estuaries, tidal marshes, great sounds, barrier islands, and offshore Outer Banks one of the longest shorelines on the Atlantic coast of the United States. The dynamic and ever-changing Outer Banks formation, with its prominent capes--Hatteras, Lookout, and Fear--and their adjacent extensive shoals, encloses the largest sounds on the eastern seaboard. These great capes, the narrow sandy islands, the shallow sounds, and the fickle weather punctuated by fierce northeasters and deadly hurricanes have combined to form the most treacherous stretch of coast in the country and indeed one of the most dangerous in the world. In the aptly named Graveyard of the Atlantic lie buried several thousand ships downed by the twin furies of storms and war. Hundreds of these wrecks, a significant resource of the state's maritime heritage, have been chronicled by coastal historian David Stick and are the reason North Carolina is one of the most popular scuba diving locations in the United States.     For most people the Outer Banks' low dunes, dramatic capes, and picturesque lighthouses epitomize the Carolina coast. Seen from above, the seemingly fragile, blade-thin islands enclose Albemarle, Pamlico, and Core Sounds, which separate the barrier islands from the mainland by as much as forty miles. Historically, the inhabitants of these sandy strips, described by the royal governor Gabriel Johnston in 1750 as "very Wild and ungovernable," waged a daily struggle for survival with the ever-encroaching sea. Yet the ocean provided in fish, other sea life, and wrecks to be plundered the means for the "Bankers" to eke out a precarious existence clinging to the sands that were, over time, literally washing away beneath them. Isolation bred self-reliance, a spirit of independence, and strong character, while the watery world nurtured their skills in handling small boats. Each storm left the flotsam of newly sunken ships, including a diverse population of survivors from most of the nations of western Europe and western Africa, many of whom remained to settle on the coast and leave descendants.     The workaday world of the broad sounds' small ports, coastal trade, and fishing that generated distinct boat types is just beginning to be appreciated, although it has long been showcased at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort and known to specialists. It was this unique combination of a dangerous outer coast, shoaly sounds, winding creeks, and vast tidal marshes that provided refuges for pirates and smugglers in an early, more reckless age, honed the skills of small-boat sailors and pilots without peer, and became a setting for privateering and blockade running. With some of the most complex navigable water on the globe and with port development stunted by a coast anchored by landmarks whose very names, Lookout and Fear, evoked wariness and tragedy, it is little wonder that North Carolina would foster piracy, smuggling, blockade running, and naval conflict and would send out on the high seas some of the most successful privateers and naval raiders in the nation's history.     So intertwined as to be virtually inseparable, privateering and piracy are as ancient as the origins of sailing. Piracy, the theft of goods and vessels on the high seas, from early times was considered a capital crime, although the death penalty appears to have had little effect as a deterrent. Privateers were privately owned armed ships licensed by the government in time of war to seize enemy ships or prizes--in effect, legalized, limited piracy. Embedded in the history of every maritime nation are tales of smuggling, wreck plundering, and piratical activity, none more compelling than those of the ancient Greeks. At the very foundation of Western civilization, the epics of Homer-- The Iliad and The Odyssey --delineate vivid portraits of a seafaring culture based on maritime conflict and brigandage. When Odysseus and his crew were caught in the cave of the Cyclops, the one-eyed giant cried: Where did you sail from, over the running sea-lanes? Out on a trading spree or roving the water like pirates, sea-wolves raiding at will, who risk their lives to plunder other men?     From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, sea wolves were an important part of international maritime activity and naval warfare. An intermittent activity in the Middle Ages, privateering came into its own in Western history during the English Tudor period, especially in the heroic age of the Elizabethan "sea dogs"--Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Richard Grenville. The early sixteenth-century Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru poured a nearly unimaginable stream of gold, silver, and New World products into the coffers of the Spanish crown. English, French, and Dutch mariners swarmed into the sea-lanes, often with tacit but silent governmental backing, to attack Spanish convoys burdened with the glittering wealth of the Americas. War with Spain came often enough that the prizes could be legally seized by privateers, who were, according to a contemporary observer, "a Nursery for Pyrates." When the wars ended, many of these men found that they could not return to the humdrum world of commerce with its constant scrabbling for sparse profits and instead converted to buccaneering, preying on the shipping not only of their former enemies but indeed of all countries, including their own. Once a person was outfitted with an armed vessel, the lure of easy wealth was too strong to ignore, and the risk of capture was slight unless the level of piracy became so annoying that it triggered a naval reaction from the state. In the Western Hemisphere, English pirates were tolerated primarily because they could be counted on to help defend the British West Indian colonies, and usually they hurt England's Spanish, French, and Dutch rivals far more than they hurt their own countrymen.     In the seventeenth century, pirates established hamlets on remote islands throughout the Caribbean. Some of the earliest outlaw settlers were Frenchmen on the western tip of Hispaniola in modern Haiti. These brigands subsisted chiefly on herds of wild hogs and cattle, whose meat they cured over a wooden frame known as a boucan , from which the term "buccaneer" originated. Other strongholds of marauders were established on Tortuga, which they ruled for a time; at Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas; and on Jamaica, where the city of Port Royal became for a while the pirate capital. Despite the fact that by the turn of the eighteenth century the Caribbean was virtually a pirate sea, British officials, still finding the miscreants useful in the frequent wars of the period, were reluctant to root them out. Eventually their blatant arrogance and flaunting of authority, and, most important, the losses they inflicted on English merchants, forced the British government to adopt a double-edged policy of force and reconciliation. Coupled with increased naval strength was an offer of clemency for past offenses. Pirates hounded from the Caribbean by rigorous naval pursuit migrated to the mainland coasts of North and South America, leading eventually to the relocation of several on the Carolina coast where they found temporary refuge in the labyrinth of tidal streams and obscure inlets.     Carolina's isolated backwaters provided a perfect haven for the vagabond pirates, and equally appealing were the weak authority of proprietary officials, the sparse settlement, and the relative poverty of the colony. A low volume of trade and a subsistence economy meant fewer customs collectors and a government willing to accommodate merchants or traders who could, by dealing with smugglers and pirates, offer an abundance of low-priced goods. Throughout the North American colonies there was widespread contempt for the Navigation Acts that had been passed in the seventeenth century to assure England's dominance of the colonial trade and the exclusion of foreign competitors, particularly their leading rivals, the Dutch. Beginning in 1651, the series of parliamentary acts required colonial trade to be in English ships with English crews. Later acts enumerated cornerstone products of the imperial trade such as sugar, tobacco, and naval stores that were designated to be shipped to English ports. To ensure that the cargo did not end up in foreign ports, traders were bonded and duties were to be paid at the port of embarkation. In an isolated colony such as Carolina, where transportation costs were already higher than in the Chesapeake, the duties were not affordable. There were so few naval officers and vessels available in the colonies that enforcement was difficult at best and in northern Carolina nonexistent. As a consequence extralegal trading practices became rampant, creating an atmosphere in which bending or breaking the law was the norm. It was no great leap for a merchant routinely buying from smugglers and evading customs officials by stealth and bribery to trade with and protect pirates. An early scholar of Carolina pirates concluded, "There was nothing that contributed so much to the fostering of piracy in the western world as the operation of the English Navigation laws."     During the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, England waged three naval wars with the Dutch, growing out of their intense commercial rivalry, and a series of European wars fueled by the great French monarch, Louis XIV, whose overweening ambition had driven him to attempt to dominate the Continent. These conflicts spilled over into the colonial possessions of England, France, Spain, and Holland. Beginning with the 1688-97 War of the League of Augsburg (called King William's War in the English colonies), and continuing through the 1701-13 War of the Spanish Succession (Queen Anne's War), fighting was interrupted by only a brief respite of four years of peace at the turn of the century. In this age of almost unbroken warfare both privateering and piracy flourished, producing Stede Bonnet as well as Blackbeard. As a contemporary described the situation, there were "great Numbers of Seamen turn'd adrift at the Conclusion of a War," and the vast majority, having little hope of legal employment, found the appeals of freebooting too alluring to resist. Furthermore, there were simply too few royal naval vessels. In 1715, for example, there were only ten on station in North America and the Caribbean to patrol the thousands of square miles of sea-lanes. And because many naval officers supplemented their meager salaries by means of the lucrative but extralegal business of hiring out their vessels to protect merchants and convoys, there was an understandable reluctance on their part to oust the buccaneers in their region.     The reality of the pirate world was markedly different from the romantic image created by fiction and film. Nearly all of the some 2,500 pirates operating in the Caribbean and on the coast of North America were from England, the West Indies, the mainland colonies, or Scotland, with a scattering of Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese subjects as well. There was a substantial number of Africans, for the most part serving as slaves and performing menial tasks and hard labor such as manning the pumps. Pirates were drawn from the "lowest social classes," or, as one official put it, they were "desperate Rogues." Virtually all were single men with no family ties. Most of them volunteered from captured merchant vessels, but others had served on privateers or in the navy, where, for their daily endurance of near intolerable conditions and harsh discipline, they received low wages, which were paid erratically. Pirates had it no worse, other than the overcrowding of large crews on small vessels, and in many ways the pirate's world was attractive, especially the chance to share in the loot of a valuable prize. The life of a seaman in the early eighteenth century was fraught with constant danger, and as a pirate he was at no greater risk apart from the fact that if he was caught he faced certain death on the gallows.     A pirate community was a "little Commonwealth," organized on democratic principles, with a majority vote ruling on most decisions, including such important choices as the direction of the cruise or whether to take a prize. As scholar Marcus Rediker has aptly described their community, the pirates created "a rough, improvised, but effective egalitarianism that placed authority in the collective hands of the crew." Captains were elected for leadership ability and seamanship and could be deposed by a vote of no confidence. Other elected leaders were the quartermaster, who served as the ship's first officer, crew spokesman, and prize master; the boatswain or bos'n, who supervised the sails and rigging of the ship; the gunner, who maintained the cannon and powder; first and second mates; a carpenter; and often a surgeon. Most pirate ships carried musicians whose duty was secondarily to provide entertainment but chiefly to play during battle or while the crew performed such onerous tasks as weighing the anchor.     All pirate groups drew up, and all members signed upon joining, a set of rules known universally as "the articles," a term probably based on the Articles of War that governed naval vessels. It may seem absurd to compare pirate governing concepts with the American constitutional process; nevertheless, pirates elected their captain, whose authority was based on consent of the governed. It is unlikely that any of the rogues had heard of John Locke and natural rights philosophy, but these outlaws were rebels to the core, who thrived on defiance of established institutions. At the very least, they were sociopaths in rebellion against authority, especially the strict hierarchical social order based on absolute power and buttressed by stern discipline that ruled the sea. No captain of a naval or merchant vessel would have believed that a seagoing community could be organized on democratic principles, but pirates were living proof that such an alternative was possible. Just by existing, these piratical democracies were a threat to the prevailing social order, and the ruffians never lost an opportunity to show their contempt for those in authority.     Given the image of pirates as crude and uncivilized, their governing documents contained some surprising provisions. Even pirates saw the need for rules within their communities, usually curbing such antisocial behavior as desertion, theft, assault, and sometimes sodomy and rape. Other matters commonly addressed were health and safety regulations and compensation for injury. The articles devised for the Revenge , commanded by Captain John Phillips, in 1723 were the following: 1. Every Man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and a half in all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one Share and [a] quarter. 2. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be maroon'd, with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm and Shot. 3. If any Man shall steal any thing in the Company, or game to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be maroon'd or shot. 4. If at any time we should meet another Marooner (that is Pyrate ) that Man that shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit. 5. That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses 's Law (that is, 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back. 6. That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoak Tobacco in the Hold, without a Cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article. 7. That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit. 8. If any Man shall lose a Joint in Time of an Engagement, he shall have 400 Pieces of Eight, if a Limb, 800. 9. If at any Time we meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death. Additional rules included in the articles signed on the vessel of Bartholomew Roberts prohibited gambling and the concealment of boys or women for sexual partners. Fighting among the crew was forbidden, with quarrels among shipmates settled by duels on shore.     In the early eighteenth century pirates targeted small ships, sloops, and a new type of vessel, the schooner, which dominated coastal commerce in the colonies. These craft, usually lightly armed and sailed by crews of fewer than ten men, were easy prey for the fast sloops that the sea rovers favored. Although most pirate ships carried no more than ten or twelve guns, they usually expected to take their prizes by boarding from small boats; therefore, their own vessels were packed with crews of eighty or more. Derived largely from Hollywood extravaganzas, the popular belief is that the brigands overwhelmed a ship with numerous broadsides, which would considerably damage their potential prize, and then swarmed on board armed to the teeth, taking the vessel in a bloody battle. On the contrary, in this period most pirate encounters involved little more violence than showing the black or red flag and giving the targeted ship a "shot across the bow." The truth is that most merchant ships lacked enough crew to man the few guns they had to defend the vessel. Knowing that when no resistance was offered the merchant seamen had little to fear undermined their will to fight for their ship. Usually pirates readily acquired new volunteer recruits from their prizes.     Their well-deserved terrible reputation for torture, murder, and rape had been earned by pirates in the seventeenth century, when England, France, and Spain were almost continually at war. This reputation for cruelty followed pirates into the eighteenth century as an underlying threat in any dealings with them, and those who chose to do battle with pirates and lost were often brutalized. If routine questioning of captives identified an abusive or unjust captain, the desperados did not hesitate to punish him by flogging or worse. If pirates suspected that valuable plunder was hidden on a prize, then torture was readily employed to extract knowledge of its whereabouts. Edward Low, an exceptionally cruel buccaneer, was known to have burned a captive alive and to have hanged monks from his ship's rigging until they were nearly dead. There were, of course, psychopathic pirates; but the brutality must be set in the context of an age when ship's discipline was maintained by the sadistic cat-o'-nine-tails, and slaves and criminals were routinely punished by whipping, branding, and the disfigurement of ear cropping.     Caribbean piracy in the seventeenth century had been centered in Port Royal, Jamaica. However, vigorous suppression by Sir Henry Morgan, himself a former privateer and buccaneer, during his tenure as lieutenant governor of the island (1676-87), coupled with a devastating earthquake in 1692, scattered the surviving marauders throughout the islands. Eventually they reconcentrated at Nassau on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, forming a new base until another former privateer, Woodes Rogers, arrived as the island's governor in July 1718. Rogers came armed with a naval contingent and a royal pardon that had been passed on 5 September 1717, known as the Act of Grace, which granted pirates a year in which they could request a pardon for past offenses. Relentless pursuit, especially by the famous reformed pirate Benjamin Hornigold, swift trials, mass executions, and the Act of Grace soon brought an abrupt end to the so-called Golden Age of Piracy.     Certainly by the seventeenth century the interdependence of piracy and privateering was well established. Piracy was a legacy to Europe from the ancient world, but the earliest privateers in England originated in the thirteenth century with the practice of allowing the owner of a lost ship to seek reprisal and compensation by in turn taking a vessel from the offending country. The commission authorizing this action was called a letter of marque and reprisal. The concept evolved from permitting individuals to redress personal grievances into an official policy of issuing letters of marque and reprisal during a war to anyone willing to venture the expense of outfitting an armed vessel and risking it in attacks on the enemy. The state thereby expanded its naval forces without any public expense, and the privateers were allowed to keep a substantial portion of profits from the sale of their prizes.     When an English privateer hijacked a ship, it was brought into port, condemned in admiralty court, and sold for the prize money, which was distributed to the owners and crew of the ship that had captured it. Initially the court was located in London, but after 1662 vice-admiralty courts were established throughout the colonies. The first colonial court was opened in Jamaica, which rapidly became the center of both privateering and buccaneering in the Caribbean.     If a vessel of the Royal Navy took a prize, the government received the owner's share, with the remainder of the spoils distributed among the officers and crew of the ship, including the fleet admiral, the squadron commander, and the crews of any other naval vessel in sight of the capture. Needless to say, the promise of prize money was a key incentive for recruitment into the navy, even though seizing prizes was only incidental to the navy's primary goal of protecting the nation and its commerce. On the other hand, since the sole purpose of the privateer was to take prizes, most sailors preferred service on a privateer, where not only was the possibility of prize money much greater, but the discipline and living conditions were more tolerable than on a man-of-war. Privateering became even more lucrative after a 1708 English law ended the requirement of sharing the proceeds with the government.     Like the pirates of an earlier era, privateers based their tactics on having a fast ship with which to catch plodding merchant vessels and to run from stronger adversaries. Normally no privateer sought extended combat, especially with a naval vessel; but over time merchant vessels became more heavily armed, some carrying more than twenty guns. Once the prey was in range, the privateer quickly closed the gap to board and take the vessel by hand-to-hand combat on the deck. All privateers avoided traditional naval combat, a cannon duel at short range, since cannon fire would only damage a prize and might disable the privateer, bringing the cruise to a premature end.     The privateering and piracy tactics of the early eighteenth century continued throughout the century's two remaining colonial conflicts, King George's War (1740-48) and the French and Indian War (1754-63), both of which were extensions of renewed European struggles for power. With the onset of the American Revolution in 1775, the new American confederation strained its meager resources to send little more than a token fleet of several dozen warships to sea but then quickly fell back on the ingrained colonial practice of issuing letters of marque to hundreds of eager mariners. They and their merchant investors drew on the time-honored traditions of piracy, smuggling, and wreck plundering to capture some six hundred ships, or prizes--three times the number taken by the Continental Navy. According to naval historian Edgar S. Maclay, in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812 privateers were "the most important if not the predominating feature of our early sea power." In the nation's infancy, privateering introduced many of our most capable naval officers to combat at sea. The effectiveness of the privateers contrasted sharply with the weakness of the few naval vessels the government could afford. Since the fledgling republic's defense budget was severely limited, the Revolutionary experience reinforced the need to base naval defense strategy on a small fleet supplemented by privateers.     Privateering has been well delineated as "simply a volunteer navy, dependent upon its own enterprises and courage for pay," and in the early nineteenth century it was still relatively easy and not too expensive to outfit a ship. The law regulating privateering, passed by Congress in June 1812, required that when an individual or group of investors had secured an armed vessel, they could apply through the local customs official to the secretary of state for a letter of marque and reprisal for each cruise. Privateers were admonished to treat their victims "with all the justice and humanity which characterizes the nation of which you are members." When a prize was seized, it was brought into port and condemned in the United States district admiralty court. The prize and its contents could then be sold at auction. After federal import duties were paid on the sale, the remaining prize money, excluding a small percentage for disabled crewmen and widows and orphans of deceased crewmen, was distributed, with the ship owners receiving half and the officers and crew dividing the remainder. Also included in the prize money was a government bounty of $20 paid for each prisoner. Whereas sea battles and defense of the country continued to be the primary mission of the navy, privateers made a significant complement as an informal extension of the navy, preying on the enemy's merchant fleet and exacting at times a heavy toll by aiding in interdiction of their supply lines, hampering their trade, and enhancing naval blockades.     The War of 1812 was fought largely over maritime issues and national self-respect. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1783, the weak American republic had been unable to defend either its commerce or its seamen. Europe had been at war since the onset of the French Revolution, with hostilities intensified by Napoleon's rise to power, and over the course of more than twenty years of worldwide conflict both the British and French had seized American shipping. In the decade prior to the War of 1812 the British had taken over 917 American prizes and the French had captured 558. Only the British navy, however, which had increasing difficulty keeping its vast array of ships manned, had resorted to impressing, or drafting by force, American sailors--over 6,200 of whom the British coerced into service. Diplomatic protests, hollow threats, and an embargo had all failed to secure the right of Americans to sail on the high seas unmolested. To this day a fundamental foundation of American foreign policy is "freedom of the seas." For many Americans the issue was one of continued British arrogance and domination, and they concluded that a second war of independence was necessary to secure international respect. When war was declared in 1812 in response to the British government's failure to rescind its Orders in Council (the decree authorizing seizure of American ships), the United States was suddenly faced with the challenge of having to defend its coast with sixteen vessels, the largest of which were heavy frigates, against the world's foremost navy, comprised of over six hundred ships (some sources say nearly a thousand ships), of which about one hundred were in the western Atlantic. This formidable fighting force was manned by officers and crews battle tested by more than 20 years of continual warfare at sea.     Faced with such long odds, the young republic had no choice but once again to augment its tiny fleet with hundreds of privateers set to prey on the merchant vessels of Great Britain. Captain Johnston Blakeley of the regular navy and privateer captain Otway Burns represent both aspects of commerce raiding. By the end of the war the navy had put to sea twenty-three vessels that captured 254 naval ships and merchantmen, destroying most of them. The 517 privateers took 1,345 prizes, nearly all merchant craft; but about 300 of the raiders were captured early in their cruises or failed to take prizes. Furthermore, over half of the prizes were recaptured by the British, who had established in February 1813 an effective blockade of the American coast that bottled up the larger ships of the United States Navy and hampered the marauding privateers. Despite using men-of-war to convoy flotillas of merchantmen, British vessels remained at high risk, and the fear of loss drove insurance rates to new heights, greatly increasing the cost of shipping. On the other hand, the British blockade and privateers exacted a much heavier toll, effectively sweeping American commerce from the high seas. The annual exports of the United States plummeted from $108 million in 1807 to $7 million in 1814.     Privateering has been such an integral component of the United States' naval establishment that this country remains the sole major maritime power to reserve by constitutional provision the right to commission privateers, although we have not used privateers since the War of 1812 (excluding the few commissioned by the Confederate government in the Civil War). In truth, in an age of air domination and satellite surveillance, privateering is impractical; but commerce raiding by surface ships and submarines nearly won the Battle of the Atlantic for Germany and was decisive in defeating Japan in the Pacific in World War II, the last epic naval conflict in history.     North Carolina chief justice Walter Clark, in public addresses delivered at the dedication of a monument at the tomb of Otway Burns in 1901 and a statue to the famous privateer in Burnsville in 1909, elucidated a populist interpretation of the demise of modern privateering. He concluded that the destruction wrought on British merchant shipping in the Revolution and the War of 1812 and the devastation of the U.S. merchant fleet by Confederate raiders in the Civil War forced the wealthy businessmen, merchants, bankers, and traders of the great maritime nations to lobby their governments for an end to privateering. In Clark's words, "The eminent buccaneers of Wall Street wish war to be confined to wounding and killing of sailors and soldiers (who have small interest in war), but that their own property should be held sacred on the high seas." From Clark's viewpoint, however, privateering might serve as a powerful deterrent to war. As he stated it, the "surest way to create a desire for peace among the influential element of the enemy is for privateers to lay rude hands upon their floating wealth."     It was precisely the laying of rude hands on the enemies' floating wealth by British, French, and American privateers, who took thousands of prizes in the Napoleonic Wars, that convinced the European naval powers to end the practice. In the Declaration of Paris in 1856, following the Crimean War, the Europeans agreed to abolish privateering; but the United States, which had had to rely on privateering so heavily for self-preservation, refused to sign the treaty. Ironically, just five years later, at the onset of the Civil War, the Confederacy began to issue letters of marque, causing the outraged United States to condemn captured rebel privateers and threaten to execute them as pirates. The determination of the Confederate government to retaliate in kind quickly forced the United States to reverse its position and extend to captured Confederate privateers and naval high seas raiders the status of prisoners of war.     In 1861 the U.S. Navy was manned by experienced officers who boasted years of sea duty but were untested in combat. The only war since 1815, the brief Mexican War (1846-48), had afforded few opportunities for naval combat beyond coastal raids and a single major amphibious landing at Veracruz. Of the active duty officers, about one-third, 671, were native Southerners, of whom fewer than half, 321, would resign and join the Confederate States Navy. Naval officers, most of whom spent years away from their home country, were to some extent citizens of the world. Nevertheless, a sailor living in the restricted universe of a ship at sea, or spending years in foreign lands, often possessed an even greater depth of commitment to the nation than did his fellow citizens who remained at home. Furthermore, in an age when personal honor was held in high regard, the oath to defend the Constitution was not taken lightly by anyone. The dilemma with which all Southern-born army or naval officers struggled weighed their devotion to home against the grave seriousness of breaking that sacred oath. They knew, as well, that the country they left might accuse them of desertion and treason, although in practice most of the resignations were accepted without rancor.     Between the War of 1812 and the Civil War significant changes had taken place in naval technology, shipbuilding, and armament. When a sailor entered the navy in the 1830s, the sailing ships on which he served and the guns he handled had been designed in the eighteenth century. By 1861 the advent of steam power had so revolutionized sea transportation that most naval vessels were propelled by a combination of sail and steam, and the sailing vessels still in commission were considered obsolete. Smooth-bore cannon were being replaced by ever-larger rifled cannon that could hurl an exploding shell with greater accuracy, range, and penetrating force, although vessels continued to be armed with a mixture of both smooth-bore and rifled cannon. Armored warships, or ironclads, introduced to the modern world by the French and British, were designed to be impervious to the massive rifled cannon. Based on experience with armored floating batteries in the Crimean War, both the British and French navies developed armored steam-sailing vessels just prior to the American Civil War, but none had yet seen battle.     Sectional issues and the contest over slavery that had threatened the unity of the nation, simmering for decades, finally erupted in the election of 1860 when the splintering of the Democratic Party paved the way for the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln. Although Lincoln advocated a moderate policy of gradual emancipation with compensation for slaveholders, he was unacceptable to the South, and his election triggered the promised secession of South Carolina on 20 December. North Carolina was deeply divided over the question of secession, having citizens with strong Union sentiment, especially in the eastern port towns and the western Piedmont and mountain counties. The nation teetered toward disintegration when six more Southern states withdrew from the Union early in 1861 and then, along with South Carolina, met in February in Montgomery, Alabama, to form a new nation, the Confederate States of America.     Montgomery was flooded in the spring of 1861 with Southern naval officers who had resigned from the U.S. Navy, where they had been accustomed to service in a fleet of well-armed, blue-water sloops and frigates powered by sail and steam. One can imagine their disappointment when they were faced with the flimsy tugboats, small river steamers, and harbor ferries armed with one or two cannon that the individual states and the Confederate government had managed to scrape together. The only bright spot that augured well for the future of the navy and shore defense was the Union's hasty abandonment and only partial destruction of the vast Gosport Navy Yard near Norfolk, which was seized by Virginia naval forces on 20 April. The ships and most of the buildings were in ruins, but much heavy equipment survived, as well as the great prize of some 1,200 large naval guns. Although most of the cannon were obsolete smooth-bores, many of them would be rifled and would serve the South well throughout the war. Certainly the Confederacy, which lacked a heavy industrial infrastructure, could not otherwise have produced high-quantity cannon in any reasonable length of time.     The energetic and forward-thinking Confederate secretary of the navy, Stephen R. Mallory of Florida, had to create a navy almost overnight in a country that had little maritime heritage, scant commercial shipping, and only a nascent industrial infrastructure. Considering these obstacles, the Confederacy would amaze the world by building a sizable ironclad defense force, purchasing and outfitting a fleet of high seas cruisers, repeatedly penetrating the inexorable Union blockade, and pioneering successfully the development of novel and experimental submarines, mines, and torpedo boats. Ironclads were a particularly high priority for Secretary Mallory, who realized that the Confederate government, starting from nothing, had no other way to challenge the sea supremacy of the United States Navy.     The Confederacy, with no navy of its own and few ships of any kind available, was in a position similar to that of the United States in its infancy, when it had resorted to privateering to mount a significant naval presence. The fall of Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion brought an immediate response from Confederate president Jefferson Davis, whose proclamation of 17 April 1861 on national defense encouraged citizens to apply for letters of marque and reprisal for "private-armed vessels." Davis's follow-up message to the Confederate Congress requesting swift consideration of legislation that would authorize privateering stated, "In the absence of a fleet of public vessels it will be eminently expedient to supply their place by private-armed vessels, so happily styled by the publicists of the United States `the militia of the sea.'" Congress responded quickly to the president by passing the law on 6 May. Although North Carolina was not yet officially out of the Union, Governor John W. Ellis's response to the Confederate president was: "We have on these waters some bold and Skilful Seamen who are ready to go out as privateers at once.... The enemy's commerce between N. York and all the West Indies and South American ports could be cut off by privateers on the coast of No. Ca."     In the first months of the war, as letters of marque were issued, twenty-five privateers put to sea from several ports, most successfully from New Orleans and Charleston. New Orleans, the South's largest and wealthiest port, had both investment capital and numerous vessels available for privateering. In addition to the usual assortment of sailing craft and river steamers, Crescent City privateers launched the nation's first ironclad ram, the Manassas , and built a prototype submarine. Confederate privateering reached its apogee in the early months of the war and resulted in some forty prizes, but as the war progressed the ever-tightening noose of the Union naval blockade made it increasingly risky to sally out to sea and practically impossible to slip prizes back for condemnation proceedings in the diminishing number of open Southern ports. As a result, any idled craft that were suitable were converted to blockade running, which, fueled by inflationary prices, became the most lucrative business in the Confederacy.     While the blockade restricted egress from the larger Southern ports, on the North Carolina coast the little-known Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets were fortified and became harbors for commerce raiding by the fledgling North Carolina state navy and privateers. Following the outbreak of war in mid-April, Governor Ellis, foreseeing the inevitable secession of his state, refused military support to the United States and confiscated Federal property. Defense preparations, including repairs to existing fortifications at Beaufort Inlet and Cape Fear and new forts at Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Oregon Inlets, were accelerated by the state's secession on 20 May 1861. After Ellis's untimely death in late May, the feverish pace of placing the state on a war footing continued unabated under the new governor, Henry T. Clark.     North Carolina's minuscule navy was charged with defending the state's long coastline, protecting its vast inland waters, and harassing enemy shipping at sea. Derisively known as the "mosquito fleet," the motley collection of five shallow-draft local steamers and tugboats, each armed with one heavy cannon, saw action in May at Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets. The first vessel to be commissioned, the Winslow , proved most successful at chasing and boarding Union merchant shipping, but she was capably aided by her consorts--the Raleigh , the Beaufort , the Ellis , and later the Edwards . Captured vessels were sailed to New Bern, where they were condemned in a state district court, which granted prize money for the fleet. When, later in the summer of 1861, the state transferred its navy to the Confederacy, the little fleet came under the command of Commodore Samuel Barron. With prizes accumulating, the "mosquito fleet" was joined by other Confederate naval vessels and privateers. Up to this point, the limited Union naval forces off the Outer Banks had done little more than observe the Confederate raiders, and their mounting frustration was expressed in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles from an officer on the USS Cumberland , who wrote that "the coast of Carolina is infested with a nest of privateers that have thus far escaped capture, and, in the ingenious method of their cruising, are probably likely to avoid the clutches of our cruisers."     Public outcry in the North over the outrageous "nest of pirates" at Hatteras and lobbying by Northern commercial interests and marine insurance companies precipitated the Federal government's organizing a combined army and navy expedition, the first Union naval offensive of the war. In late August a fleet of seven heavily armed men-of-war appeared off Hatteras accompanied by transports bearing a small invasion force. Over a two-day period the lightly armed and poorly constructed defenses were overrun, and the North celebrated its first victory of the war. Admiral David Dixon Porter later wrote, "This was our first naval victory, indeed our first victory of any kind, and should not be forgotten. The Union cause was then in a depressed condition, owing to the reverses it had experienced. The moral of this affair was very great, as it gave us a foothold on Southern soil and possession of the Sounds of North Carolina if we chose to occupy them. It was a death-blow to blockade running in that vicinity, and ultimately proved one of the most important events of the war."     Union occupation of the inlet fortifications ended Confederate privateering on the Outer Banks, but a sizable expedition would be needed to conquer the North Carolina sound country. A second incursion into the Carolinas came just a month later when Port Royal Sound in South Carolina was taken by a large combined force, which shelled the Confederate forts into surrender and brushed aside another lightweight "mosquito fleet" of river gunboats and tugs. The harbor at Port Royal Sound became a vital base for sustaining the Union blockade along the southeastern coast. The initial success at Hatteras in North Carolina was exploited in February 1862 by a flotilla of over a hundred ships and the largest Union amphibious force yet gathered. This massive expedition crushed the outmanned Confederate defenses on Roanoke Island and destroyed the remaining Confederate gunboats in a naval action at Elizabeth City. Further Union victories at New Bern and Fort Macon resulted in permanent occupation of northeastern North Carolina and opened a backdoor threat to the South's great naval base at Norfolk.     These obscure but strategically important operations provided an arena for James W. Cooke to demonstrate his ability as a commander in North Carolina's "mosquito fleet" gunboats. The North Carolina coast was also the setting for Cooke's exploits in 1864 as captain of one of the South's most successful ironclads, the CSS Albemarle . In that same year, New Bern saw a dramatic cutting-out expedition commanded by John Taylor Wood, a pioneer of naval commando tactics.     After the failure of the misguided cotton embargo, it dawned on the Confederate leadership that the agricultural South could not develop in time the heavy industrial infrastructure to support modern warfare. The alternative was to use cotton to purchase arms and equipment abroad and import them through the Union blockade of Southern ports. Shipbuilders in Great Britain responded to the Confederacy's plight by constructing small, fast steamers made to order to run the blockade by short voyages from the transshipping points of Bermuda and Nassau.     As the war dragged on, the increasingly decrepit Confederate economy stumbled toward failure and would have collapsed sooner had not blockade running staved off defeat by slipping into the country crucial goods purchased abroad. Although most of the runners were privately owned, many by foreigners, both the Confederate government and state governments wholly or partially owned blockade runners and purchased cargo space for badly needed weapons, ammunition, medicine, food, and textiles. At first any available vessel was used, but soon craft designed for speed were built--low, nimble, narrow, and equipped with powerful engines. In an early use of camouflage, they were painted gray to blend invisibly into the sky and sea. The state government of North Carolina went into blockade running early in the war and ultimately owned several vessels. One of the most successful of the blockade runner captains was John N. Maffitt, who was raised in the Cape Fear valley and was almost unique in making the transition from cruisers to blockade runners. As more Southern seaports were occupied or closed, Wilmington became the most important point of entry into the Confederacy. Thanks to the protection of the redoubtable Fort Fisher, Wilmington was the last major port remaining open, the center of blockade running, and the only Confederate port to harbor high seas raiders.     The early demise of privateering left the Confederate navy as the sole offensive striking force capable of high seas commerce raiding. Secretary Mallory envisioned a fleet of long-range cruisers vigorously waging "guerrilla warfare of the sea," with the goals of ravaging the enemy's merchant fleet, disrupting the Northern economy, lowering Northern morale, and luring enough Union warships away to weaken the blockade. To a surprising degree these objectives were achieved, although, of course, a dozen raiders were not able to affect the outcome of the war. Realizing that the South had too few ships suitable for overseas cruising and too little time to build new ones, Secretary Mallory sent James D. Bulloch to England in the summer of 1861 to acquire and equip armed cruisers capable of remaining at sea for long periods. Dogged at every step and often thwarted by Union embassy officials, Bulloch nevertheless secretly managed to put to sea the finest of the Confederate cruisers--the CSS Florida , the CSS Alabama , and the CSS Shenandoah . A master at staying one step ahead of Union authorities, Bulloch used dummy trading companies and foreign purchasers to launch apparent merchant vessels that were then commissioned and armed at a rendezvous near some remote island.     When, in 1872, Great Britain agreed, after protracted arbitration in the Alabama claims settlement, to pay the United States $15.5 million in damages attributed to Confederate cruisers that had originated in Britain, it was determined that Bulloch's three cruisers and their four tenders had accounted for over 80 percent of the claims. The Florida , commanded first by John N. Maffitt, went to sea in August 1862 on a seven-month cruise, accumulating numerous prizes. Sailing a few days later, the Alabama , under Raphael Semmes, the South's foremost commerce raider, embarked on a nearly two-year voyage in which she garnered over sixty prizes, sank the USS Hatteras in the Gulf of Mexico, and met with a spectacular demise in a battle with the USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France. James I. Waddell's Shenandoah , the last of the great cruisers to be commissioned, finally ended her thirteen-month-long, globe-encircling odyssey six months after the war was over. Meanwhile, in 1864 John Taylor Wood created a near panic on the northeastern coast when he sailed the CSS Tallahassee , a converted blockade runner, from Wilmington on a sensational cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia, taking numerous prizes as he went.     The depredations inflicted in three years of war by eleven cruisers led to the destruction of nearly two hundred prizes, sweeping the U.S. merchant fleet from the high seas. While the cruisers sank just 110,000 tons of shipping, vessels totaling 800,000 tons were sold to foreign owners, and about as many ships sought the protection of foreign registry, in which they remained after the war. Financially, the doubling or even tripling of marine insurance rates had a greater impact than the actual loss of prizes. The United States in 1861 had a merchant fleet second in the world only to that of Great Britain, and in just four years that fleet was reduced to a third of its prewar vessels. Not until the twentieth century did the American merchant fleet recover from the effects of the Civil War. The damage wrought by the Confederate cruisers to the economy of the United States was "more effective than any other single effort by the Confederacy during the war."     Not being a seafaring nation, the Confederacy could barely comprehend how solid were the achievements of its tiny naval service of just over five thousand men--less than one-tenth the size of the Union navy. In the final analysis, however, the stunning successes of the ironclads, the undersea warfare of mines and submarines, the commando raids, and the cruisers must be balanced against the failure to break the strangling grip of the blockade, the loss of the Mississippi valley, and the inability to protect the coast from invasion. With the realization that their defeats were due more to the nation's limited industrial capacity than to any failings of naval officers and sailors, the services's esprit de corps remained high. But the few triumphs remind us of the truth of John N. Maffitt's observation, "The grand mistake of the South was neglecting her navy." From pirate to privateer to naval high seas raider, these North Carolina heroes and rogues shared similar personalities and experiences. They were all skilled seamen and decisive, imaginative leaders who possessed a deep thirst for adventure, at times pursuing danger with a reckless abandon. Although they all courted death repeatedly in the arena of naval combat, only three lost their lives as a result--Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, and Johnston Blakeley. Blackbeard alone was killed in action. While these men who sailed so frequently in harm's way may have been extraordinarily fortunate, it is likely that their skill at sea and their sharply honed instincts had more to do with their survival than did mere luck. Clearly these mariners could have succeeded, and most did, in the routine but important existence that is the lot of most of the world--day-to-day work and family responsibilities. But once they had tasted the excitement of high seas theft, raids, smuggling, or naval combat, they never again felt so alive as when they were on a quarterdeck sailing or steaming at full speed in a chase as hunter or prey, approaching a strange sail with battle impending, or confronting the awful power of the natural elements as they rode out an intense offshore storm. Copyright © 2000 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: The World of Pirates, Privateers, and Naval Raiders
2 The Queen Anne's Revenge
Scourges the CarolinasBlackbeard
3 The Gentleman Pirate of the Royal JamesStede Bonnet
4 The Snap Dragon
Sweeps the Western AtlanticOtway Burns
5 The Wasp
Ravages the English ChannelJohnston Blakeley
6 The Albemarle
Clears the RoanokeJames W. Cooke
7 The Florida
Ranges the AtlanticJohn N. Maffitt
8 The Night Raider Seizes the UnderwriterJohn Taylor Wood
9 The Shenandoah
Masters the North Pacific
Glossary of Nautical Terms
The Union fleet at Hatteras Inlet, 1862
Beaufort, North Carolina Naval action at Roanoke Island, 1862
Wilmington, North Carolina Edward Teatch, Blackbeard
The battle at Ocracoke, 1718
Lieutenant Maynard's trophy Stede Bonnet Stede Bonnet's execution Otway Burns
The Snap Dragonand the HMS
Martin Johnston Blakeley The USS
Waspand the HMS
Reindeerand HMS
Avon Udney Maria Blakeley Blakeley silver service Plymouth, North CarolinaJames W. Cooke Construction of the CSS
Albemarle The CSS
Albemarleand USS
Sassacus Interior of the Albemarleduring battleJohn N. Maffitt
Floridaat Brest The CSS
Floridaand the Jacob Bell
The Lilianrunning the blockade John Taylor Wood Destruction of the USS
Underwriter The CSS
Tallahassee Confederate escape partyJames I. Waddell
USN Anne S. Waddell James I. Waddell, CSN The CSS
Shenandoahentering Melbourne, 1865
Maps North Carolina coastal waters
The Caribbean and the Spanish Main
The western Atlantic
The eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean
The Chesapeake
The voyage of the CSS