The History of the Pyrates, by Daniel Defoe

Of Captain Lewis. And his Crew.

THIS worthy Gentleman was an early Pyrate; we first find him a Boy on Board the PyrateBanister, who was hang'd at the Yard Arm of a Man of War in sight of Port-Royal in Jamaica. This Lewis and another Boy were taken with him, and brought into the Island hanging by the Middle at the Mizzen-Peak. He had a great Aptitude for Languages, and spoke perfectly well that of the Mosquill Indians, the French, Spanish and English. I mention our own, because it is doubted whether he was French or English, for we cannot trace him back to his Original.

He sailed out of Jamaica till he was a lusty Lad, and was then taken by the Spaniards at the Havana, where he staid some Time; but at length he and six more ran away with a small Canoe, and surprized a Spanish Periagua, out of which two Men joined them, so that they were now nine in Company: With this Pariagua they suprized a Turtleing Sloop, and forced some of the Hands to take on with them, the others they sent away in the Periagua.

He play'd at this small Game, surprising and taking Coasters and Turtlers, till with forced Men and Voluntiers he made up a Complement of 40 Men.

With these he took a large Pink built Ship, bound from Jamaica to the Bay of Campeachy, and after her several others bound to the said Bay; and having Intelligence that there lay in the Bay a fine Bermudas built Brigantine of 10 Guns, commanded by Captain Tucker; he sent the Captain of the Pink to him with a Letter, the Purport of which was, that he wanted such a Brigantine, and if he would part with her, he would pay him honestly 10000 Pieces of Eight; if he refused this, he would take Care to lie in his Way, for he was resolved, either by fair or foul Means, to have the Vessel. Captain Tucker having read the Letter, sent for the Masters of Vessels then lying in the Bay, and told them, after he had shewn the Letter, that if they would made him up 54 Men (for there were about 10 Bermudas Sloops) he would go out and fight the pyrates. They said, No, they would not hazard their Men, they depended on their Sailing, and every one must take Care of himself as well as he could.

However, they all put to Sea together, and spied a Sail under the Land, which had a Breeze while they lay becalmed; some said he was a Turtler, others, the Pyrate, and so it proved; for it was honest Captain Lewis, who putting out his Oars, got in among them. Some of the Sloops had four Guns, some two, some none. Joseph Dill had two, which he brought on one Side, and fired smartly at the Pyrate, but unfortunately one of them split, and killed him three Men. Tucker called to all the Sloops to send him Men, and he would fight Lewis, but to no Purpose; no Body came on board him. In the mean while a Breeze sprung up, and Tucker trimming his Sails left them, who all fell a Prey to the Pyrate; into whom however he fired a Broadside at going off. One Sloop, whose Master I won't Name, was a very good Sailer, and was going off; but Lewis firing a Shot at him, brought her to, and he lay by till all the Sloops were visited and secured. Then Lewis sent on board him, and ordered the Master into his Sloop. As soon as he was aboard, he asked the Reason of his lying by, and betraying the Trust his Owners had reposed in him, which was doing like a Knave and Coward, and he would punish him accordingly; for, he said, you might have got off, being so much a better Sailer than my Vessel. After this Speech he fell upon him with a Rope's End, and then snatching up his Cane, drove him about the Decks without Mercy. The Master, thinking to pacify him, told him he had been out trading in that Sloop several Months, and had on board a good Quantity of Money, which was hid, and which, if he would send on board a Black belonging to the Owners, he would discover it to him.

This had not the desired Effect, but one quite contrary; for Lewis told him he was a Rascal and Villain for this Discovery, and, by G— d, he would pay him for betraying his Owners, and redoubled his Strokes. However, he sent and took the Money and Negroe, who was an able Sailor. He took out of his Prizes what he had occasion for, 40 able Negroe Sailors, and a white Carpenter; the largest Sloop, which was about 90 Tuns, he took for his own Use, and mounted her with 12 Guns; his Crew was now about 80 Men, whites and Blacks.

After these Captures he cruised in the Gulf of Florida, lying in wait for the West-India homeward bound Ships which took the Leeward Passage, several of which falling into his Hands were plundered by him, and released; from hence he went to the Coast of Carolina, where he cleaned his Sloop, and a great many Men, whom he had forced, ran away from him; however, the Natives traded with him for Rum and Sugar, and brought him all he wanted, without the Government's having any Knowledge of him, for he had got into a very private Creek; tho’ he was very much on his Guard, that he might not be surprized from the Shoar.

From Carolina he cruized on the Coast of Virginia, where he took and plunder'd several Merchant Men, and forced several Men, and then return'd to the Coast of Carolina, where he did abundance of Mischief.

As he had now abundance of French on board who had entered with him, and Lewis hearing the English had a Design to Maroon them, he secured the Men he suspected, and put them in a Boat, with all the other English, 10 Leagues from Shoar, with only 10 Pieces of Beef, and sent them away, keeping none but French and Negroes; these Men, it is supposed, all perished in the Sea.

From the Coast of Carolina he shaped his Course for the Banks of Newfoundland, where he overhawled several Fishing Vessels, and then went into a commodious Harbour, where he cleaned his Sloop, and went into Trinity Harbour in Conception Bay, where there lay several Merchants, and siezed a 24 Gun Galley, called the Herman: The Commander, Captain Beal, told Lewis, if he would send his Quarter-Master ashoar he would furnish him with Necessaries. He being sent ashoar, a Council was held among the Masters, the Consequence of which was, the seizing the Quarter-Master, whom they carried to Captain Woodes Rogers; he chained him to a Sheet Anchor which was ashoar, and planted Guns at the Point, to prevent the Pyrate getting out, but to little Purpose; for the People from one of these Points firing too soon, Lewis quitted the Ship, and, by the Help of Oars and the Favour of the Night, got out in his Sloop, though she received many Shot in her Hull. The last Shot that was fired at the Pyrate did him considerable Damage.

He lay off and on the Harbour, swearing he would have his Quarter-Master, and intercepted two fishing Shallops, on board of one was the Captain of the Galley's Brother; he detained them, and sent Word, if his Quarter-Master did not immediately come off, he would put all his Prisoners to Death; he was sent on board him without Hesitation. Lewis and the Crew enquired, how he had been used? and he answered, very civilly. Its well, said the Pyrate; for had you been ill treated, I would have put all these Rascals to the Sword. They were dismiss'd, and the Captain's Brother going over the Side, the Quarter-Master stopp'd him, saying, he must drink the Gentlemens Health ashoar, in particular Captain Roger's, and, whispering him in the Ear, told him, if the Crew had known of his being chain'd all Night, he would have been cut in Pieces, with all his Men. After this poor Man and his Shallop's Company were gone, the Quarter-Master told the Usage he had met with, which enraged Lewis, and made him reproach his Quarter-Master, whose Answer was, that he did not think it just the Innocent should suffer for the Guilty.

The Masters of the Merchant Men sent to Captain Tudor Trevor, who lay at St. John's in the Sheerness Man of War; he immediately got under Sail, and miss'd the Pyrate but four Hours.

She kept along the Coast, and made several Prizes, French and English, and put into a Harbour where a French Ship lay making Fish: She was built at the latter End of the War for a Privateer, was an excellent Sailer, and mounted 24 Guns. The Commander haled him; the Pyrate answered, from Jamaica with Rum and Sugar. The French Man bid him go about his Business; that a Pyrate Sloop was on the Coast, and he might be the Rogue; if he did not immediately sheer off he would fire a Broadside into him. He went off and lay a Fortnight out at Sea, so far as not to be descry'd from Shoar, with Resolution to have the Ship. The French Man being on his Guard, in the mean while raised a Battery on the Shoar, which commanded the Harbour. After a Fortnight, when he was thought to be gone off, he return'd, and took two of the fishing Shallops belonging to the French Man, and manning them with pyrates, they went in; one Shallop attack'd the Battery, the other surpriz'd, boarded, and carry'd the Ship, just as the Morning Star appear'd, for which Reason he gave her that Name. In the Engagement the Owner's Son was kill'd, who made the Voyage out of Curiosity only. The Ship being taken, 7 Guns were fired, which was the Signal, and the Sloop came down and lay a Long-side the Ship. The Captain told him, he suppos'd he only wanted his Liquor; but Lewis made Answer, he wanted his Ship, and accordingly hoisted all his Ammunition and Provision into her. When the French Man saw they would take away his Ship, he told her Trim, and Lewis gave him the Sloop; and, excepting what he took for Provision, all the Fish he had made. Several of the French took on with him, who, with others, English and French, had by Force or voluntarily, made him up 200 Men.

From Newfoundland he steer'd for the Coast of Guiney, where he took a great many Ships, English, Dutch, and Portuguese; among these Ships was one belonging to Carolina, commanded by Captain Smith.

While he was in Chace of this Vessel an Accident happen'd, which made his Men believe he dealt with the Devil; for he carried away his Fore and Main-Top Mast; and he, Lewis, running up the Shrouds to the Main-Top, tore off a Handful of Hair, and throwing it into the Air, used this Expression, Good Devil take this till I come: And, it was observed, that he came afterwards faster up with the Chace than before the Loss of his Top-Masts.

Smith being taken, Lewis used him very civilly, and gave him as much, or more in Value, than he took from him, and let him go, saying, he would come to Carolina when he had made Money on the Coast, and would rely on his Friendship.

They kept some Time on the Coast, when they quarrell'd among themselves, the French and English, of which the former was more numerous, and they resolved to part: The French therefore chose a large Sloop newly taken, thinking the Ship's Bottom, which was not Sheath'd, damaged by the Worms.

According to this Agreement they took on board what Ammunition and Provision they thought fit out of the Ship, and put off, chusing one le Barre Captain. As it blew hard, and the Decks were encumbered, they came to an Anchor under the Coast, to stow away their Ammunition, Goods, &c. Lewis told his Men, they were a Parcel of Rogues, and he would make ’em refund; accordingly run a Long-side his Guns, being all loaded and new primed, and ordered him to cut away his Mast, or he would sink him. le Barre was obliged to obey. Then he ordered them all ashoar; they begged to have Liberty of carrying their Arms, Goods, &c. with ’em, but he allow'd ’em only their small Arms, and Cartridge Boxes. Then he brought the Sloop a Long-side, put every Thing on board the Ship, and sunk the Sloop.

le Barre and the rest begg'd to be taken on board; however, though he denied ’em, he suffered le Barre and some few to come, with whom he and his Men drank plentifully. The Negroes on board Lewis told him, the French had a Plot against him. He answer'd, he could not withstand his Destiny; for the Devil told him in the great Cabin, he should be murdered that Night.

In the dead of Night came the rest of the French on board in Canoes, got into the Cabbin and killed Lewis; they fell on the Crew, but, after an Hour and Half's Dispute, the French were beat off, and the Quarter-Master, John Cornelius, an Irish Man, succeeded Lewis.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53