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6 Famous Pirate Strongholds

This 6-lb. For captured guns to be effective, a wide range of shot sizes was needed for ammunition. These three sizes of shot would have been used for anything from clearing the decks of enemy ships to hunting birds along the shallow coastal waters of North and South Carolina.

Langrage was any kind of scrap iron, like nails, bolts, or spikes, that would fit into the muzzle of a cannon. It was shot at the sails and rigging of an enemy ship to disable it. It could also be fired at the deck to wipe out the crew. Pirates knew that if they were caught in the act, they would be hanged swiftly and without mercy. They also knew that politicians regularly issued pardons to encourage pirates to end their thievery and keep the sea lanes open. Neither the threat of swift justice nor the prospect of a pardon had much impact.

Pirates tended to live hard and for the moment. Blackbeard deliberately grounded the ship. He abandoned it and sailed off with a few of his crew, probably so there would be fewer and thus larger shares to distribute among his men. This strategy gave Blackbeard time to take the most valuable things as he left the ship.

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Before cigarettes, many people smoked tobacco in ceramic pipes with small bowls. Dozens of animal bones have been found—mostly leg and rib bones from young pigs. These were probably from living animals, kept aboard until they were needed for food. This pewter charger, or large platter, was placed under a dinner plate at formal meals. It is one of several found aboard the wreck, along with other expensive pewter tableware. A cook fire aboard the Revenge is the likely source of this charcoal.

Aboard ships, cooking fires were carefully contained in bricked cook stoves to prevent fires from spreading.

Pirate ships needed the same sorts of materials and supplies as merchant vessels to outfit their crews. Nails were a multipurpose fastener aboard ships.

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In addition, a handful thrown into the muzzle of cannon served as an effective antipersonnel weapon or sail shredder during a battle. Lead patches of various sizes and thicknesses are common finds on the wrecks of wooden ships. They were used for patching holes in the decks and hulls. On sailing ships, barrels were the most common containers for food, cargo, and other storage. These fragments represent a nest of barrel hoops.

On many ships, the barrel hoops and staves were stacked and stored belowdecks; the barrels were only assembled as needed. Blackbeard eluded the British by using his knowledge of local waters to sail into shallow areas where bigger warships could not safely follow. He lowered this sounding lead over the side to learn the water depth under his vessel.

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The depression in the bottom was filled with tallow or wax to sample the bottom. Knowledge of the bottom conditions was needed for anchoring. It was quickly translated into French, German, and Dutch, and spawned many other books on piracy.


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On the Water Exhibition Collection. Pirates in the Atlantic World With so much valuable cargo crisscrossing the Atlantic, piracy flourished. Seaworthy ships were especially necessary for the Caribbean, where devastating hurricanes are a yearly occurrence. Since the best ports and harbors were usually off-limits to pirates, they often had to ride out storms at sea.

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Speed was very important: if they could not run down their prey, they would never capture anything. It was also necessary to outrun pirate hunters and navy ships.

They needed to be well-armed in order to win fights. Smaller sloops had advantages as well, however. They were quick and could enter shallow inlets to hide from searchers and evade pursuit. It was also necessary to "careen" ships from time to time. This is when the ships were intentionally beached so that the pirates could clean the hulls. This was easy to do with smaller ships but a real chore with larger ones. He renamed her Queen Anne's Revenge and refitted her, mounting 40 cannons on board. The Queen Anne's Revenge was one of the most powerful ships around at the time and could go toe-to-toe with any British warship.

The ship ran aground some say Blackbeard did it intentionally in and sank. Researchers believe they have found it in the waters off of North Carolina. Some items, such as an anchor, bell, and spoon have been found and are displayed in museums. Most of Roberts ' flagships were named Royal Fortune, so sometimes the historical record gets a little confusing.


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  • The largest was a former French man of war that the pirate had refitted with 40 cannons and manned by men. Roberts was aboard this ship during his fateful final battle in February of The Whydah was a massive merchant ship captured by Bellamy on her maiden voyage in The pirate modified her, mounting 26 cannons on board. She was shipwrecked off of Cape Cod not long after she was taken, however, so Bellamy did not do much damage with his new ship.

    The wreck has been found, and researchers have found some very interesting items which have allowed them to learn more about pirate history and culture. Cawthorne, Nigel.

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    Edison: Chartwell Books, Defoe, Daniel Captain Charles Johnson. A General History of the Pyrates. Edited by Manuel Schonhorn.