A General History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Chap. VI.

Of Captain Charles Vane, And his Crew.

Vane's Behaviour at Providence. The Names of Prizes taken by him. Is deserted by his Consort Yates. Yates surrenders at Charles-Town. A Stratagem of Vane's. Black-beard and Vane meet. They salute after the Pyrates Manner. Vane deposed from his Command, and why. 15 Hands degraded, and turned out with him. A Sloop given them. They sail in Quest of Adventures, and take Prizes. Vane cast away upon an uninhabited Island. Meets with an old Acquaintance. Vane seiz'd with a Qualm of Honour. Ships himself on Board a Vessel, passing for another Man. Is discover'd, with the Manner how. Carried to Jamaica, and hang'd.

CHarles Vane was one of those who stole away the Silver which the Spaniards had fished up from the Wrecks of the Galleons, in the Gulph of Florida, and was at Providence (as has been before hinted) when Governor Rogers arrived there with two Men of War.

All the Pyrates who were found at this Colony of Rogues, submitted, and received Certificates of their Pardon, except Captain Vane and his Crew; who, as soon as they saw the Men of War enter, slipp'd their Cable, set Fire to a Prize they had in the Harbour, and sailed out with their pyratical Colours flying, firing at one of the Men of War as they went off.

Two Days after they went out, they met with a Sloop belonging to Barbadoes, which they made Prize of, and kept the Vessel for their own Use, putting aboard five and twenty Hands, with one Years to command them. A Day or two afterwards they fell in with a small interloping Trader, with a Quantity of Spanish Pieces of Eight aboard, bound into Providence, called the John and Elizabeth, which they also took along with them. With these two Sloops Vane went to a small Island and cleaned; where they shared their Booty, and spent some Time in a riotous Manner of Living, as is the Custom of Pyrates.

The latter End of May 1718, they sail'd, and being in want of Provisions, they beat up for the Windward Islands, and met with a Spanish Sloop bound from Porto Rico to the Havana, which they burnt, and stowed the Spaniards in a Boat, and left them to get to the Island, by the Light of their Vessel. But steering between St. Christopher's and Anguilla, they fell in with a Brigantine and a Sloop, with the Cargo they wanted; from whom they got Provisions for Sea-Store.

Sometime after this, standing to the Northward, in the Track the Old-England Ships take, in their Voyage to the American Colonies, they took several Ships and Vessels, which they plundered of what they thought fit, and let them pass.

The latter End of August, Vane, with his Consort Yeats, came off South-Carolina, and took a Ship belonging to Ipswich, one Coggershall Commander, laden with Logwood, which was thought convenient enough for their own Business, and therefore ordered their Prisoners to work, and throw all the Lading over-board; but when they had more than half cleared the Ship, the Whim changed, and then they would not have her; so Coggershall had his Ship again, and he was suffered to pursue his Voyage home. In this Cruize the Rover took several other Ships and Vessels, particularly a Sloop from Barbadoes, Dill Master; a small Ship from Antegoa, Cock Master; a Sloop belonging to Curacco, Richards Master; and a large Brigantine, Captain Thompson, from Guiney, with ninety odd Negroes aboard. The Pyrates plundered them all and let them go, putting the Negroes out of the Brigantine aboard of Yeat's Vessel, by which Means they came back again to the right Owners.

For Captain Vane, having always treated his Consort with very little Respect, assuming a Superiority over Yeats and his small Crew, and regarding the Vessel but as a Tender to his own; gave them a Disgust, who thought themselves as good Pyrates, and as great Rogues as the best of them; so they caball'd together, and resolved to take the first Opportunity to leave the Company; and accept of his Majesty's Pardon, or set up for themselves, either of which they thought more honourable than to be Servants to the former; and the putting aboard so many Negroes, where they found so few Hands to take Care of them, still aggravated the Matter, though they thought fit to conceal or stifle their Resentments at that Time.

A Day or two afterwards, the Pyrates lying off at Anchor, Yeats in the Evening flipp'd his Cable, and put his Vessel under Sail, standing into the Shore; which, when Vane saw, he was highly provoked, and got his Sloop under Sail to chase his Consort, who, he plainly perceived, had a Mind to have no further Affairs with him: Vane's Brigantine sailing best, he gained Ground of Yeats, and would certainly have come up with him, had he had a little longer Run for it; but just as he got over the Bar, when Vane came within Gun-shot of him, he fired a Broadside at his old Friend, (which did him no Damage,) and so took his Leave.

Yeats came into North Edisto River, about ten Leagues Southward of Charles-Town, and sent an Express to the Governor, to know if he and his Comrades might have the Benefit of his Majesty's Pardon, and they would surrender themselves to his Mercy, with the Sloops and Negroes; which being granted, they all came up and received Certificates; and Captain Thompson, from whom the Negroes were taken, had them restored to him, for the Use of his Owners.

Vane cruised some Time off the Bar, in hopes to catch Yeats at his coming out again, but therein he was disappointed; however, he unfortunately for them, took two Ships from Charles-Town, bound home to England. It happen'd that just at this Time two Sloops well mann'd and arm'd, were equipp'd to go after a Pyrate, which the Governor of South-Carolina was informed, lay then in Cape Fear River, a cleaning: But Colonel Rhet, who commanded the Sloops, meeting with one of the Ships that Vane had plundered, going back over the Bar, for such Necessaries as had been taken from her, and she giving the Colonel an Account of her being taken by the PyrateVane, and also, that some of her Men, while they were Prisoners on Board of him, had heard the Pyrates say, they should clean in one of the Rivers to the Southward; he altered his first Design, and instead of standing to the Northward, in pursuit of the Pyrate in Cape Fear River, he turns to the Southward after Vane; who had ordered such Reports to be given out, on purpose to send any Force that should come after him, upon a wrong Scent; for in Reality he stood away to the Northward, so that the Pursuit proved to be the contrary Way.

Colonel Rhet's speaking with this Ship, was the most unlucky Thing that could have happened, because it turned him out of the Road, which in all Probability, would have brought him into the Company of Vane, as well as of the Pyrate he went after; and so they might have been both destroy'd; whereas, by the Colonel's going a different Way, he not only lost the Opportunity of meeting with one, but if the other had not been infatuated, to lye six Weeks together at Cape Fear, he would have missed of him likewise: However, the Collonel having searched the Rivers and Inlets, as directed, for several Days, without Success, at length failed in Prosecution of his first Design, and met with the Pyrate accordingly, whom he fought and took, as has been before spoken of, in the History of Major Bonnet.

Captain Vane went into an Inlet to the Northward, where he met with Captain Thatch, or Teach, otherwise call'd Black-beard, whom he saluted (when he found who he was) with his great Guns, loaded with Shot, (as is the Custom among Pyrates when they meet) which are fired wide, or up into the Air: Black-beard answered the Salute in the same Manner, and mutual Civilities passed for some Days; when about the Beginning of October, Vane took Leave, and sailed further to the Northward.

On the 23d of October, off of Long Island, he took a small Brigantine, bound from Jamaica to Salem in New-England, John Shattock Master, and a little Sloop; they rifled the Brigantine, and sent her away. From hence they resolved on a Cruize between Cape Meise and Cape Nicholas, where they spent some Time, without seeing or speaking with any Vessel, till the latter End of November; then they fell upon a Ship, which ’twas expected would have struck as soon as their black Colours were hoisted; but instead of that, she discharged a Broadside upon the Pyrate, and hoisted Colours, which shewed her to be a French Man of War. Vane desired to have nothing further to say to her, but trimm'd his Sails, and stood away from the French Man; but Monsieur having a Mind to be better informed who he was, set all his Sails, and crowded after him. During this Chace, the Pyrates were divided in their Resolutions what to do: Vane, the Captain, was for making off as fast as he could, alledging the Man of War was too strong to cope with; but one John Rackam, who was an Officer, that had a kind of a Check upon the Captain, rose up in Defence of a contrary Opinion, saying, That tho’ she had more Guns, and a greater Weight of Mettal, they might board her, and then the best Boys would carry the Day. Rackam was well seconded, and the Majority was for boarding; but Vane urged, That it was too rash and desperate an Enterprize, the Man of War appearing to be twice their Force; and that their Brigantine might be sunk by her before they could reach on board. The Mate, one Robert Deal, was of Vane's Opinion, as were about fifteen more, and all the rest joined with Rackam, the Quarter-Master. At length the Captain made use of his Power to determine this Dispute, which, in these Cases, is absolute and uncontroulable, by their own Laws, viz. in fighting, chasing, or being chased; in all other Matters whatsoever, he is governed by a Majority; so the Brigantine having the Heels, as they term it, of the French Man, she came clear off.

But the next Day, the Captain's Behaviour was obliged to stand the Test of a Vote, and a Resolution passed against his Honour and Dignity, branding him with the Name of Coward, deposing him from the Command, and turning him out of the Company, with Marks of Infamy; and, with him, went all those who did not Vote for boarding the French Man of War. They had with them a small Sloop that had been taken by them some Time before, which they gave to Vane, and the discarded Members; and, that they might be in a Condition to provide for themselves, by their own honest Endeavours, they let them have a sufficient Quantity of Provisions and Ammunition along with them.

John Rackam was voted Captain of the Brigantine, in Vane's Room, and proceeded towards the Caribbee Islands, where we must leave him, till we have finished our Story of Charles Vane.

The Sloop failed for the Bay of Honduras, and Vane and his Crew put her into as good a Condition as they could by the Way, to follow the old Trade. They cruised two or three Days off the North-West Part of Jamaica, and took a Sloop and two Pettiagas, and all the Men entered with them; the Sloop they kept, and Robert Deal went Captain of her.

On the 16th of December the two Sloops came into the Bay, where they found only one at an Anchor, call'd the Pearl, of Jamaica, Captain Charles Rowling Master, who got under Sail at the Sight of them; but the Pyrate Sloops coming near Rowling, and shewing no Colours, he gave them a Gun or two; whereupon they hoisted the black Flag, and fired three Guns each, at the Pearl; she struck, and the Pyrates took Possession, and carried her away to a small Island called Barnacko, and there they cleaned, meeting in the Way with a Sloop from Jamaica, Captain Wallden Commander, going down to the Bay, which they also made Prize of.

In February, Vane sailed from Barnacko, in order for a Cruize; but some Days after he was out, a violent Turnado overtook him, which separated him from his Consort, and after two Days Distress, threw his Sloop upon a small uninhabited Island, near the Bay of Honduras, where she was staved to Pieces, and most of her Men drowned: Vane himself was saved, but reduced to great Streights, for want of Necessaries, having no Opportunity to get any Thing from the Wreck. He lived here some Weeks, and was subsisted chiefly by Fishermen, who frequented the Island with small Craft, from the Main, to catch Tuttles, & c.

While Vane was upon this Island, a Ship put in from Jamaica for Water, the Captain of which, one Holford, an old Buccaneer, happened to be Vane's Acquaintance; he thought this a good Opportunity to get off, and accordingly applied to his old Friend; but he absolutely refused him, saying to him, Charles, I shan't trust you aboard my Ship, unless I carry you a Prisoner; for I shall have you caballing with my Men, knock me on the Head, and run away with my Ship a pyrating. Vane made all the Protestations of Honour in the World to him; but, it seems, Captain Holford was too intimately acquainted with him, to repose any Confidence at all in his Words or Oaths. He told him, He might easily find a Way to get off, if he had a Mind to it: I am now going down the Bay, says he, and shall return hither, in about a Month; and if I find you upon the Island when I come back, I'll carry you to Jamaica, and hang you. Which Way can I get away? Answers Vane. Are there not Fishermen's Dories upon the Beach? Can't you take one of them? Replies Holford. What, says Vane, would you have me steal a Dory then? Do you make it a Matter of Conscience? Said Holford, to steal a Dory, when you have been a common Robber and Pyrate, stealing Ships and Cargoes, and plundering all Mankind that fell in your Way? Stay there, and be d — n'd, if you are so Squeamish: And so left him.

After Captain Holford's Departure, another Ship put in to the same Island in her Way home for Water; none of whose Company knowing Vane, he easily passed upon them for another Man, and so was shipp'd or the Voyage. One would be apt to think that Vane was now pretty safe, and likely to escape the Fate which his Crimes had merited; but here a cross Accident happen'd that ruin'd all: Holford, returning from the Bay, was met with by this Ship; the Captains being very well acquainted together, Holford was invited to dine aboard of him, which he did; and as he passed along to the Cabin, he chanced to cast his Eye down the Hold, and there saw Charles Vane at work; he immediately spoke to the Captain, saying, Do you know who you have got aboard here? Why, says he, I have shipp'd a Man at such an Island, who was cast away in a trading Sloop, he seems to be a brisk Hand. I tell you, says Captain Holford, it is Vane the notorious Pyrate. If it be him, replies the other, I won't keep him: Why then, says Holford, I'll send and take him aboard, and surrender him at Jamaica. Which being agreed to, Captain Holford, as soon as he returned to his Ship, sent his Boat with his Mate armed, who coming to Vane, shewed him a Pistol, and told him, He was his Prisoner; which none opposing, he was brought aboard, and put in Irons; and when Captain Holford arrived at Jamaica, he delivered his old Acquaintance into the Hands of Justice; at which Place he was try'd, convicted, and executed, as was, some Time before, Vane's Consort, Robert Deal, brought thither by one of the Men of War.


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