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Chapter 6
Pirates of Charleston

Life as a Pirate


Pirate Duke reminds us that pirates were Real people who sailed in and out of Charleston harbor and around the coastal waterways. Most of us were introduced to our favorite pirates at the movies. The truth about pirates is a lot less romantic. According to local history, pirates in the 1600s were initially welcomed to Charleston because they had lots of stolen Spanish silver to spend.

It’s important to note that most pirates began their career as “legal” privateers hired by the Royal Navy to capture and loot enemy French and Spanish ships during the Queen Anne's War. Privateering was a very acceptable profession and very lucrative for investors until the privateers went rogue and began to hijack British merchant ships!  

By the early 1700s, the British colonists in the Carolinas took measures to capture and execute the thieving pirates because they were stealing from the locals!


1-Edward Teach was the first notable pirate to threaten the city, commonly known as Blackbeard. Legend has it that Blackbeard cultivated a very scary reputation. He was said to board hijacked vessels in a haze of smoke by burning little candles and pieces of fuses on the tips of his beard and hair.

2-Map of Charleston in 1711.

3-In 1718 Blackbeard joined forces with Stede Bonnet, known as the gentleman pirate because he was a wealthy planter from Barbados who actually bought his ship and paid his crew! Blackbeard died in battle in November,1718, Stede Bonnet was not as lucky!

4&5 Stede and his men were hung on the gallows in an area now called White Point Garden in December 1918. Over the course of five weeks, forty-nine pirates swung from the gallows at White Point.

6-The only woman pirate residing in Charleston was Anne Bonny, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1700 to a housemaid. Her English lawyer father moved her and her mother to Charleston, where she was expected to marry well.  At the age of eighteen, she ran off with pirate Calico Jack Rackham and another female pirate named Mary Read.  Anne made a formidable pirate, fighting, cursing, and drinking like her comrades. By the age of twenty, she was imprisoned. Nothing is known of her fate except that she was not executed because she was pregnant.  

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