STORY CORNER: The Adventures of Captain Kidd
William Kidd has been on virtually everyone’s list as one of the world’s most notorious hackers for over 400 years, and he’s still a subject of controversy:
Was he really a pirate – or a legitimate privateer commissioned by the king and forced into a thug by a dangerous and mutinous crew – and then ended up at the gallows in a travesty of justice?
And where is his buried treasure?
After researchers have delved into all of Captain Kidd’s mysteries, what will historians say about him 100 years from now?
William Kidd was born in Scotland near Dundee, the son of a sailor. When he was only 5 years old his father died and after he was old enough the youngster went to sea.
Over the next 30 years he served on numerous ships, including pirate ships, and became an accomplished sailor. In 1789 he was elected or appointed captain of a British privateer tasked with attacking the French navy during the Nine Years’ War, and was based in the colony of Nevis, West Indies.
He renamed his ship Blessed William.
Kidd then rejoined his ship with the Royal Navy, but the crew mutinied – preferring a pirate’s pay.
While the captain was ashore, the crew picked up the vessel and moved away.
After failing to find them, Kidd ended up in the New York Colony. There he met and married a wealthy widow Sara Bradley Cox Oort, lived in luxury, became a successful shipowner and member of the social elite.
But he soon became restless about returning to the sea, so with the blessing of Richard Coote, Earl of Bellamont, governor of the colonies of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts and an unpopular former Member of Parliament, Kidd asked King William III a royal commission to pursue the French as a privateer.
The king liked his plan and the 10 percent cut he would get in loot – and quietly joined a handful of his top officials, including Lord Bellamont, who funded the private enterprise.
Captain Kidd was also involved after selling his ship Antigua.
Investors bought a new 124ft vessel for Kidd called Adventure Galley for £ 8,000 (around £ 1million today). Built in London for speed and maneuverability, it was armed with 34 cannons, piloted by a crew of around 150.
Specially equipped with oars, the Adventure could overtake sailboats bogged down by the lack of wind.
Kidd’s first mission was to catch pirates attacking the British ships of the giant East India Company sailing in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
After the launch of the Adventure, the crew showed disrespect to a royal barge on the Thames, so the Royal Navy stopped the ship and enlisted most of its crew.
With only a reduced crew, Kidd sailed to New York to recruit more crew before heading to the Indian Ocean.
In 1797, while patrolling the Indian Ocean, Captain Kidd refused to attack a Dutch ship because Holland was a British ally and attacking it would violate racing protocols.
Hungry for loot however, Kidd’s crew weren’t in the mood for these legal niceties and were ready to mutiny.
During an argument with ship’s gunner William Moore, Kidd hit him on the head with an iron banded bucket. Moore died the next day.
This outburst of anger would become a murder charge about three years later.
Soon after, Adventure Galley’s lookouts spotted a merchant ship twice the size of the Adventure, the Quedagh Merchant, sailing off the southwest coast of India.
After a four hour chase, they grabbed the ship with its cargo of silk, muslin, calico, gold, silver, sugar, opium, iron, saltpetre and rum.
From then on, the life of Captain Kidd will become very complicated and will end tragically on the gallows.
The Quedagh was an Armenian-chartered Indian vessel, flying the Armenian flag, commanded by an Englishman, and had on board two Dutch senior officers, a French artilleryman, over 90 Indian crew members and 30 Armenian merchants – and the Company English East Indian had negotiated the trip, the French promising safe passage.
All of this made Kidd believe the capture was legal, but fearing that it could be interpreted otherwise, he decided to have his crew vote on whether to keep the ship and its cargo, or sell it back to the Armenians. They voted to keep it.
With the Quedagh and another captured ship named Rouparelle, he sailed the three ships to India to sell part of the goods to finance their return trip to England.
The next stop was Île Sainte-Marie off the coast of Madagascar where they met the famous pirate Robert Culliford.
Preferring piracy to privateer racing, Kidd’s crew voted 100 to 15 to revolt and join Culliford. They unloaded Kidd’s treasure, leaving only Kidd and the remaining part of the crew, before stripping the three ships of their precious accessories.
Kidd recovered the remaining parts for the Quedagh – renamed the Adventure Prize – from the other two ships and sank the Adventure which was no longer seaworthy.
Then they sailed to the Caribbean.
Arriving in Anguilla, east of Puerto Rico in the West Indies, he was surprised to learn that word had spread about his exploits in the Indian Ocean and that he had been labeled a pirate.
Kidd then dropped anchor in a lagoon on Santa Catalina Island, off the southeast coast of what is now the Dominican Republic. When a sloop belonging to merchant Henry Bolton passed, Kidd bought the ship and then sailed to Boston to clear its name – awaiting help from Lord Bellamont – while leaving Bolton in charge of the Quedagh with the loot on board.
While he was gone, Bolton stripped the ship, sold all the loot, burned the ship and left for Holland.
(The remains of the Quedagh were not discovered until 2007.)
A few days after Kidd arrived in Boston, Bellamont had him arrested and jailed until he sent him to England to stand trial – not only for piracy but also for the murder of William Moore, calling it murder.
In England, Captain Kidd languished in the infamous Newgate Prison before being brought to Admiralty court and, within two days, was convicted of piracy and murder in a mock trial.
At trial he had two lawyers but was not allowed to collect evidence and was unable to present the French safe passage documents from Quedagh which would have exonerated him from the piracy charge as they mysteriously disappeared – to be discovered in the archives of the Admiralty. 200 years later.
On the afternoon of May 23, 1701, naval marshals led by the Admiralty Marshal carrying a silver oar – the symbol of the Admiralty – carried Kidd and several other convicted prisoners in two drawn carts by horses to the Quay Quay on the Thames at Wapping, about a mile downstream from the Tower of London.
Kidd was drunk on his arrival, having been entitled to a bottle of spirits for the trip.
On the quayside, he made a last rambling speech, denouncing “those who had testified against him, warning sailors to learn of his fate and to be wary of politics.”
On the first attempt to hang him, the gallows rope snapped and he hit the ground stunned but survived.
On the second attempt, the executioner succeeds in front of a “large and lively” crowd of spectators.
Captain Kidd’s body was placed in an iron cage and hung from a gallows above the Thames for three years to deter others.
His trial was a travesty of justice. Lord Bellamont was supposed to defend him, but instead denounced him, fearing that he was involved – being an investor in Kidd’s maritime adventures.
He was not there to witness the execution – having died in New York City 11 weeks earlier.
What happened to Captain Kidd’s treasure?
Suspecting a trap, Kidd hid some of his treasure on Gardener’s Island off the eastern tip of Long Island in case he needed it to buy his freedom. The treasure included more than 200 silver ingots, a diamond encrusted silver box, a diamond ring and 67 rubies.
Somehow, Lord Bellamont found it.
According to one report, this was only “a tiny fraction of Kidd’s fortune.”
Since then, fortune hunters have been looking for the rest.
The Cloak and Sword Captain Kidd was a legend during his lifetime and will undoubtedly remain a subject of fact and fiction portraying him either as an evil pirate or as a heroic sea captain who did not deserve his tragic end.
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Contact Syd Albright at [email protected]
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“Authorized pirates” …
Corsairs had their own armed ships and were tasked by governments to attack enemy ships, with crews entitled to a portion of the value of the cargo captured. This amounts to “authorized hacking”. Captain Kidd started out as a privateer commanded by King William III, then moved on to piracy, under pressure from a mutinous crew who rejected the rules governing the race.
Kidd’s freedom proposal refused …
Writing to the Board of Trade in England, Captain Kidd proposed to Lord Bellamont that if he were allowed to return to his captured ship, the Quedagh Merchant, he “would bring back a treasure worth fifty or sixty thousand pounds, which would be otherwise lost. . “To disassociate himself from Kidd, Bellamont rejected the proposal.
The pirate Robert Culliford …
One of the pirates that Captain Kidd had originally planned to capture was Robert Culliford who had accepted Kidd’s mutinous crew in Madagascar. One of his tactics was to load his cannons with porcelain dishes which, when they fired at the ships he was attacking, tore the sails with shards.
Captain Kidd in fiction …
Captain Kidd has become an inseparable character in the fictionalized concept of the swashbuckling pirate and buried treasure of Western fiction, including in classics such as Jonathan Swift’s “Treasure Island” and Edgar Allan’s “The Gold Bug” Poe.
Controversy continues to drive the story of Captain Kidd …
Today, even the United Nations has embarked on the Captain Kidd saga by scorning the discovery by American underwater archaeologist Barry Clifford of a metal bar he says is silver from the wreckage. of the Adventure Galley. The United Nations agency for UNESCO says it is 95 percent lead.