From 1716 to 1717, Captain Benjamin Hornigold was a British pirate active in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. Hornigold’s most extraordinary claim to fame or infamy is that he taught Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, the ropes of piracy. But did you know that this particular pirate raided a merchant ship for a petty reason?
Because his crew had gotten too drunk the night before and thrown their hats overboard, the pirate Benjamin Hornigold once raided a merchant ship to steal the hats from the ship’s crew.
Raiding the Merchant Ship for Hats
Hornigold tracked down a merchant ship off the coast of Honduras in 1717. Hornigold explained the reason for this particular take as his crew boarded: he and his crew had gotten drunk the night before and threw their hats into the sea in their drunken haze.
They needed new ones and planned to get them by raiding, which was the only way they knew how to get things. The invaded ship’s merchants begged the pirates to spare their lives. They got what they wanted, much to their surprise. Hornigold allowed the merchants to continue their journey. (Source: The Way of the Pirates)
Benjamin Hornigold, the Pirate
Hornigold began his pirating career with more profit-oriented objectives. He started by robbing merchant ships off the coast of New Providence, the Bahamas’ most densely populated island. Hornigold organized small raids against larger vessels using sailing canoes and small boats.
He quickly established himself. By 1717, he was in command of the Ranger, a 30-gun ship that was the most heavily armed in the Bahamas. His 350-strong crew terrorized and pillaged every non-British merchant ship on which they could get their hands.
Hornigold professed to be a supporter of British economic policies. He never launched an attack on British ships. Hornigold’s crew decided in November 1717 that they couldn’t care less about Britain. They deposed him and began pillaging ships flying any flag.
Hornigold escaped in a small ship with only his most devoted crew members. Hornigold was pardoned by King George and the governor of Jamaica for his devotion to the crown. He was hired as a pirate hunter and spent the final 18 months of his sailing career pursuing his former allies. That’s the end of the Pirate Code. Self-preservation has no regard for loyalty. His ship was destroyed in a storm just over a year into his pirate-hunting career. Hornigold was never seen or heard from again. (Source: The Way of the Pirates)
Who was Benjamin Hornigold’s Apprentice?
Benjamin Hornigold is a typical example of a Caribbean pirate who turned to piracy following the War of the Spanish Succession. However, fate assigned him another duty in his career, and he became a pirate hunter. People described him as a skilled captain who treated the prisoners better than other pirates. Hornigold was perhaps best known as a companion to the notorious pirate Blackbeard.
Although details about his privateer days are unknown, Hornigold was a notable leader and captain. When the war ended and no more jobs were available, Hornigold sailed from New Providence and became a pirate captain. He had many skilled pirates on his crew. Some of them, such as Samuel Bellamy, became more famous and successful than him. Of course, his most famous pupil was the legendary Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. (Source: The Way of the Pirates)
Image from Pirateshowcancun