Famous Pirates: The Buccaneers and The Privateers

Many pirates thought the freedom of their adventurous lifestyle was worth dying for. Here is brief information on 16 of these rogues of the sea.

The Buccaneers

The term buccaneer comes from French words pertaining to woodsmen and smoking meat. It most often describes escaped convicts, slaves and indentured laborers on Haiti with double occupations: butchering livestock left by Spanish residents, curing the meat and making tallow to sell, and, during the rainy season, pirating ships. Some took to pirating full time in the 17th century West Indies, operating out of Tortuga.

-Pierre le Grand and 28 men captured a vice-admiral’s flagship from a treaure convoy, becoming the inspiration for future buccaneers.
-Francois L’Olonnaise (Jean-David Nau), a French pirate and one of the most ruthless and barbaric pirates that ever lived. He burned victims alive, pulled out their tongues or cut them to pieces.
-Roche Brasiliano, a drunkard famous for his cruelty, was elected pirate captain and terrorized Spanish shipping.

The Privateers

Privateers headed private vessels that had a government commission to attack enemy vessels, take possession and keep the plunder. Some, however, went way beyond actions covered by their commission.

Sir Henry Morgan, a Welsh privateer, went beyond his instructions, augmenting his forces with buccaneers. Nevertheless, this brilliant tactician received an admiral’s commission and a state funeral.

Sir John Hawkins was an older cousin of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake, also a privateer. Hawkins used his commission from Queen Elizabeth as a license to plunder. However, his streamlining of ships contributed to England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Capt. Woodes Rogers, a privateer, later became Governor of Bermuda and pardoned many pirates.