Pirate Hunter Of The Caribbean: The Adventurous Life Of Captain Woodes Rogers by David CordinglyPirate Hunter Of The Caribbean: The Adventurous Life Of Captain Woodes Rogers by David Cordingly

Pirate Hunter Of The Caribbean: The Adventurous Life Of Captain Woodes Rogers

byDavid Cordingly

Paperback | September 4, 2012

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From renowned pirate historian David Cordingly, author of Under the Black Flag and film consultant for the original Pirates of the Caribbean, comes the thrilling story of Captain Woodes Rogers, the avenging nemesis of the worst cutthroats ever to terrorize the high seas. Once a marauding privateer himself, Woodes Rogers went from laying siege to laying down the law. During Britain’s war with Spain, Rogers sailed for the crown in sorties against Spanish targets in the Pacific; battled scurvy, hurricanes, and mutinies; captured a treasure galleon; and even rescued the castaway who inspired Robinson Crusoe. Appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1717, the fearless Rogers defended the island colony of King George I against plundering pirates and an attempted Spanish invasion. His resolute example led to the downfall of such notorious pirates as Blackbeard, Calico Jack, and the female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. A vividly detailed and action-packed portrait of one of the early eighteenth century’s most colorful characters, Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean serves up history that’s as fascinating and gripping as any seafaring legend.
David Cordingly was for twelve years on the staff of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, where he was curator of paintings and then head of exhibitions. He is a graduate of Oxford, and the renowned author of the definitive book on pirates, Under the Black Flag, as well as Seafaring Women and Cochrane: The Real Master an...
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Title:Pirate Hunter Of The Caribbean: The Adventurous Life Of Captain Woodes RogersFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 7.96 × 5.15 × 0.72 inPublished:September 4, 2012Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812980174

ISBN - 13:9780812980172

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Prologue   In the autumn of 1717 the following item appeared in a London newspaper: ‘On Wednesday Capt Rogers, who took the Aquapulca Ship in the South-Seas, kissed his Majesty’s hand at Hampton Court, on his being made Governor of the Island of Providence in the West Indies, now in the possession of the Pirates.’   Behind this brief statement lies an extraordinary story. It is the story of a tough and resolute sea captain who led a privateering raid on Spanish ships in the Pacific, rescued a castaway from a deserted island and then played a key role in the fight against the pirates of the Caribbean. It is also a tale of treasure ships and treasure ports, of maroonings and hangings, and the genesis of Daniel Defoe’s most famous book, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The story is played out against the background of fierce colonial rivalry between Britain, France and Spain; and it is linked with the fabulously rich trade in gold and silver from Central and South America, the trade in silks and spices from the Far East and the shipment of black slaves from the west coast of Africa to the sugar plantations of the West Indies. Many of the events centre on two groups of islands: the Bahamas and the remote archipelago of Juan Fernández in the South Pacific.   For several years the harbour of Nassau in the Bahamas was the base for a roving band of pirates which included many of the leading figures of the so-called Golden Age of Piracy – figures such as Ben Hornigold, Charles Vane, Calico Jack, Sam Bellamy and Edward Teach, otherwise known as Blackbeard. This nucleus of ‘loose and disorderly people’ produced a generation of pirates whose operations extended from the Caribbean to the east coast of North America as far as Newfoundland, and across the Atlantic to the slave ports of West Africa and beyond to the Indian Ocean. The usual explanation given for this explosion of piracy is the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which brought an end to eleven years of war and caused Britain, France and other maritime powers to reduce the size of their navies. This threw thousands of redundant sailors on to the streets of coastal towns and cities. Unable to find work elsewhere, some of these seamen turned to piracy. They were joined by the crews of privateer ships who had been legally authorised by letters of marque to attack enemy shipping when their country was at war but, with the declaration of peace, were tempted to exchange their national ensigns for the black flag of piracy.   Redundant sailors and privateers were certainly among the crews of the pirate ships but there were other events which sparked off the alarming surge in piracy following the Treaty of Utrecht. The first was the wrecking of a Spanish treasure fleet on the coast of Florida in 1715. This attracted sailors and adventurers from across the Caribbean to go ‘fishing on the wrecks’ for Spanish gold and silver. The second was the misguided action of the Spanish in expelling the logwood cutters from the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Honduras. Described by one observer as ‘a rude, drunken crew, some of which have been pirates, and most of them sailors’,2 the logwood men alternated the laborious work of cutting down the valuable logwood trees with extended bouts of heavy drinking. When the Spanish seized the ships involved in the logwood trade, the cutters migrated to Nassau, which was already being used by the treasure hunters as a base for their operations. The sheltered harbour on the north coast of the island of New Providence in the Bahamas became a magnet for a motley group of seafaring men who found piracy to be an easier and more profitable occupation than life on a merchant ship or cutting logs in the steamy jungles of Central America.   Colonial governors sent disturbing reports back to the Council of Trade and Plantations in London. In 1718 the Governor of South Carolina asked for the assistance of a naval frigate to counter ‘the unspeakable calamity this poor province suffers from pyrates’3 and the Governor of Jamaica reported that ‘there is hardly one ship or vessel, coming in or going out of this island that is not plundered’.4 The situation was most critical in the Bahamas, where there was so little provision for the defence of the islands that most of the law-abiding inhabitants had fled, ‘whereby the said islands are exposed to be plundered and ravaged by pirates and others, and in danger of being lost from our Crown of Great Britain’.5 It would be the task of Captain Woodes Rogers to rid the islands of the pirates and to put an end to the raids of Spanish privateers.   The Juan Fernández islands were a refuge for generations of mariners who had rounded Cape Horn and survived the icy storms and mountainous waves of that bleak region. It was here that several buccaneer ships called in for wood and water in the 1680s. During one of these visits a Miskito Indian called Will was inadvertently marooned, his rescue three years later being witnessed and recorded by William Dampier. And it was on the same island that the most famous of castaways, Alexander Selkirk, was abandoned in 1704 after an argument with Captain Stradling, who had parted from an ill-fated privateering expedition led by Dampier. When Captain Woodes Rogers dropped anchor off the island four years later he and his crew were greeted by ‘a man clothed in goat-skins, who looked wilder than the first owners of them’.6 On his return to London after his successful privateering expedition Rogers published a book entitled A Cruising Voyage Round the World which described his raid on the town of Guayaquil and his capture of a Spanish treasure galleon, and included vivid accounts of faraway anchorages and exotic native peoples. But it was his detailed description of how Selkirk survived his lonely ordeal on Juan Fernández which proved of more interest than anything else which took place during the epic voyage of the two Bristol ships under his command.   The driving force behind the early privateering expeditions into the Pacific, and the raids of the buccaneers and the pirates in the West Indies, was the age-old lure of gold and silver. Ever since the conquest of the Aztec civilisation in Mexico by Hernando Cortés in 1519, and the brutal overthrow of the Inca ruler in Peru by Pizarro in 1533, a constant stream of gold and silver bullion had been transported by mule trains across the mountains and through the jungles of South and Central America to the treasure ports of the Spanish Main. On the hot and humid waterfronts of Nombre de Dios, Portobelo, Cartagena and Vera Cruz the precious cargoes of gold and silver, together with spices, hides and hardwood, were loaded on to ships which sailed first to Havana in Cuba for refitting and victualling, and then across the Atlantic to Seville and Cadiz in Spain.   The treasure galleons were an irresistible target for British, Dutch and French privateers. In 1523 the French corsair Jean Fleury intercepted three Spanish ships off Cape St Vincent as they neared the end of their homeward journey. He attacked and boarded the vessels and found their holds filled with the treasure which Cortés had looted from the Aztecs. There were three cases of gold ingots, 500 pounds of gold dust, 680 pounds of pearls, coffers of emeralds and Aztec helmets, shields and feathered cloaks. The quantity of treasure shipped across the Atlantic rose steadily during the sixteenth century and was given a spectacular boost with the discovery in 1545 of the silver mountain at Potosí in Bolivia (then part of the vice-regency of Peru). The great cone of the mountain known as Cerro de Potosí soared to 15,827 feet (4,824 metres) above sea level and proved to be one of the richest sources of silver ore in the world. By 1650 the sides of the mountain were peppered with mine shafts and at the base of the mountain there was a town of more than 160,000 people –– larger than Amsterdam or Madrid. The Spanish were reliant on local Indians for extracting and refining the silver, but working at such a high altitude was exhausting and thousands died from the hard labour, the brutal treatment and mercury poisoning. Although there were 150,000 black African slaves working in Peru and the Andean region in 1640, it was found that the Africans were unable to work with their usual energy in the rarefied air of Potosí.   The treasure ships which transported the silver across the Atlantic were so vulnerable to the attacks of swift, heavily armed privateers that in 1543 the Spanish instituted a convoy system with fleets of up to 100 vessels being escorted by warships. This measure proved so effective that it was rare for any ships to fall into the hands of predators. When they did so the rewards for the captors were enormous. In 1628 the Dutch admiral Piet Hein intercepted one of the treasure fleets in the Bay of Matanlas on the north coast of Cuba and captured four treasure galleons and eleven smaller vessels. The total value of the gold, silver and trade goods taken was more than eleven million guilders, enough to fund the Dutch army for eight months and ruin Spanish credit in Europe that year.   In addition to the treasure fleets or flotas making their regular crossings of the Atlantic there were treasure galleons which made annual crossings of the Pacific. In 1571 the Spanish had founded a trading settlement at Manila in the Philippines and this had become the focal point for a hugely lucrative trade between the Spanish Empire in the New World and the Far East. Once a year a consignment of silver from the mines of Central and South America was transported in one or two galleons from Acapulco on the coast of Mexico across the vast expanse of the Pacific to Manila. There the silver would be traded for silks from the Chinese ports of Macao and Canton, and for spices and other exotic goods from India and the Spice Islands. These would be loaded on to the galleons at Manila for the long voyage back to Acapulco. The galleons were known by the port of their departure, so the east-going galleon was called the Manila galleon and the same ship was called the Acapulco galleon on her west-going voyage.   Unlike the treasure fleets which crossed the Atlantic, the Acapulco and Manila galleons travelled alone and without an accompanying escort of warships. The Spanish had good reason to be confident in their ability to survive the journey unscathed. The ships themselves were among the largest merchant ships of their day, ranging from 500 to 1,000 tons. They were strongly built of teak, were usually armed with 50 to 80 guns and carried crews of up to 700 sailors and soldiers. Moreover, Spain jealously guarded her sovereignty over the Pacific, which, with some justification, had come to be known as ‘the Spanish Lake’. Her warships patrolled the coasts of her empire in the New World and the crews of any foreign ships captured were subject to imprisonment, torture or death.  

Editorial Reviews

“A rousing account . . . vivid and hair-raising . . . a fine mix of . . . hard-headed history and a richly evoked atmosphere, with its murderous characters, exotic locations and fabulous cargoes of treasure.”—The Sunday Times (U.K.)   “The true story of the rise and fall of the pirates of the Caribbean makes for a tale more interesting and surprising than the legends themselves. . . . Woodes Rogers’ resolute actions . . . proved a defining step in the campaign against the pirates, inspiring the fight-back against men like Blackbeard, Calico Jack and Bartholomew Roberts.”—Historic Naval Fiction   “An excellent primer in the barnacle-infested field of piratology.”—Booklist   “A colourful and rollicking biography.”—The Express (U.K.)