Modern buccaneers or pirates still continue to horrify and terrorize some of the world’s most busy shipping routes just like their predecessors did some centuries ago. Most began their pirating career as sailors employed by governments; later functioning as marauders plundering enemy commercial vessels/ships in allocated zones.
Most pirates/buccaneers were terrifying, rest merciless, and then there were those who went on to become a part of piracy folklore and history. They relished a brief period, normally ephemeral, of fame in their respective waters.
Among the current crop of pirates operating off the coast of Somalia, Abdul Hassan and Asad Booyah Abdulahi are feared the most.
In this article, we take a look at top 10 most dreaded pirates who operated without any remorse whatsoever.
In The Article
Cheung Po Tsai- Master of the Seas
An uncanny Chinese pirate in the later years, Cheung Po Tsai was born in 1783 in a fishing family. Pirate Cheng I along with his wife kidnapped him at the age of 15. Po Tsai later took control of his kidnapped parents pirating business.
History states that he single-handedly controlled Guangdong area when the Qing government was in power. Cheung Po Tsai controlled and commanded more than 50,000 followers and maintained a fleet of more than 500 ships. Later, Cheung Po Tsai decided to surrender when Cai Qian(his mate) was killed by the then Qing government.
Today, it is still believed by the locals that he may have hoarded tons and tons of treasure inside a cave on an island near China.
Mary Read- Pirate Queen
One of the most feared female pirates who ruled the seas at the height of her pirating career, Mary Read was also called as Mark Read. She was born in 1685 in England. This famous English pirate along with Anne Bonny was one of the three known women pirates who was convicted of committing piracy during the start of the 18th century.
Having suffered intolerable pain and anguish in her childhood, Mary Read joined the navy to escape her troubled life, thereby beginning her pirating career. Later, she went to the Caribbean after boarding a Dutch ship. The ship was captured and plundered by the frightful Calico Jack (privateer).
The bonhomie shared between Anne Bonny and Read was truly remarkable and this friendship resulted in more conquests in the Caribbean.
Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy – Richest Pirate of His Time
Recognized as the wealthiest pirate in Buccaneer recorded history, Captain Bellamy was an unforeseen English pirate who plundered and raided more than 50 ships in his short pirating career. Born to Elizabeth and Stephen Bellamy in England, Devonshire County, in 1689, Samuel was their sixth and youngest child.
He was a terror on board, and his heroics include the capture of the famous massive slave ship “Wydah” earning him the nickname “Black Sam” of the coast of Caribbean. This ship carried huge treasures of rum and gold.
Mounting more than 28 powerful cannons into his prized catch “Wydah”, Captain Bellamy turned it as his bellwether companion. From there he went from strength to strength, thereby gaining a special reputation in the hall of fame for pirates.
Sir Francis Drake- Queen Elizabeth’s Favorite Pirate
Regarded as the finest privateer and captain belonging to the Elizabethan period, Sir Francis Drake has gained unique prominence for circumnavigating the entire world from 1577 for a period of 3 years. He was the first sea captain to do so.
Queen Elizabeth I hired Francis Drake to attack enemy Spanish ships and eventually, he earned the epithet “my pirate” from the majesty herself.
Infamously famous for his attacks on Puerto Rico’s largest port, San Juan, Drake was a politician to start with. During his circumnavigation expedition Drake survived countless scares including damage to his boat, a failed mutiny by his crew members, and also the capture of the treasure loaded Spanish vessels.
Francis Drake was later knighted by her majesty Queen Elizabeth I upon his successful return. He successfully saved England from the invasion of the Spanish Armada few years down the road.
Anne Bonny- Unsolved Mystery
Noted among the three women pirates who operated without much fanfare, Anne Bonny was distinct and unique in her own way. Bonny was born in Cork, Ireland in 1702. Her father, William Cormac was a lawyer cum businessman and her mother, Mary Brennen was a servant woman.
Anne Bonny was reported to have had red color hair and was regarded attractive too. More than her looks, her bravado was well received within the pirating community. It was Calico Jack (John Rackham) who inducted Anne bonny into his fold along with another woman pirate, Mark Read. Anne Bonny’s romantic interludes with the bloodthirsty pirate Calico Jack further enhanced her barbaric reputation.
She was caught when Captain Barnet raided her ship along the coast of Nassau. She pleaded for mercy as she was pregnant. Her hanging was temporarily halted till she gave birth according to common English law.
What happened to her after that is still a mystery giving room for many speculations, including her escape from jail and so on.
Henry Morgan-The Governor Pirate
A man of many hats, Sir Henry Morgan was at one point of time the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, a successful landowner, and more than that a Welsh privateer. Born in 1635 in an unconfirmed location in Wales, in England, much of Henry’s early years are unknown.
One of a kind fascinating piece of hearsay information about Henry Morgan is the locking up of the occupants of Puerto Príncipe, located in Cuba inside a prayer hall (maybe a church) for trouble free plunder of the town. He raided towns in Panama City, Venezuela, among other brutal incursions.
Even though he was arrested in 1672, his administrative acumen and sharpness earned him the post of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica which he occupied from 1678 till 1682 with career breaks.
Moreover, Sir Morgan was instrumental in passing an anti-piracy act and also aided in pirate inquiries.
Albert W. Hicks – The Psycho
Born in 1820, Pirate Hicks or John Hicks as he was known as a sailor who later turned into a pirate. He was America’s last person to have been executed for committing acts under piracy laws.
In 1860, Hicks was sailing southward in A.E Johnson when he suddenly turned barbaric without any provocation, attacking and killing three members on board including the captain of the ship. Later he claimed to have been possessed by the devil at the time of committing the crime.
After a long, strenuous chase he was finally captured in Rhode Island. It is believed that he had killed more than 100 persons till the time he was captured by the police.
Albert W. Hicks was finally hanged in now known Liberty Island on 13th July 1860. Around 10,000 people viewed the execution in New York Bay area from their boats.
Peter de Neumann-The Man from Timbuctoo
A well known 20th century Commander cum convicted pirate, Peter de Neumann was born on September 18th, 1917. He served the British navy as a Royal officer, then as harbormaster in Kent, and later worked as Dockmaster in Essex.
For displaying exemplary bravery de Neumann was awarded the highest honor for a serving officer, the Lloyd’s Medal and George Medal for saving the ship (HMS Tewkesbury) and its crew members from a fatal bomb attack during 2nd World War.
Peter and his crew members were convicted for piracy when they were captured during a mission in 1941 aboard HMS Criton. Later they managed to ask escape from the prison walking around 640 kilometers along the Niger and were recaptured before being sent to Timbuktu.
A man of never-ending action, De Neumann lost his life in an accident on 16th September 1972 at Tilbury Docks.
Felix Von Luckner-The Sea Devil
Famously called as Count Luckner, Felix Von Luckner was a sailor, author, naval officer, and a German noble officer. Born in 1881 in Germany’s Dresden city, his great-grandfather was a French Marshall.
In his maritime career, he earned the moniker Der Seeteufel and his crew members were known as Die Piraten des Kaisers for their exploits during 1916-17 in SMS Seeadler.
One interesting fact about Felix was that Adolf Hitler offered him the role of a propaganda officer and Freemason Felix blatantly refused the offer. He was later convicted of committing incest and was released without any trail.
Felix Von Luckner passed away in 1966 in Sweden. He was 84 years old.
Ching Shih/Madame Ching – Deadliest Female Pirate of Asia
A ruthless pirate in Qing China who solitarily terrorized and ransacked in the beginning of 19th century in China Sea, Ching Shih or Madame Ching was also called as Cheng I Sao.
At the height of her pirating career, she commanded around 70,000 men and 1700 ships after her husband’s death. Later, she joined hands with her lover and adopted son Cheung Po Tsai demanding racket money from villages along the coast. At one point in time, her crew members even kidnapped around seven English sailors.
In 1810, she was granted government pardon and she moved into opium smuggling business in her later years. Part of a prostitute ring in her younger days, Madame Ching was an unforgettable women pirate history has ever witnessed.