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Frederic Logghe
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José Gaspar [Gasparilla] (1756-1821)

José Gaspar, known by his nickname Gasparilla (supposedly lived c. 1756 – 1821), was a purported Spanish pirate, the "last of the Buccaneers," who raided the west coast of Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though he is a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century. His legend is celebrated every year in Tampa with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

The stories of Gaspar are fairly consistent. Most say he was born in Spain in 1756 and served in the Spanish Navy aboard the Floridablanca. Among his early exploits was his kidnapping of a young girl for ransom; some versions give his subsequent capture as the impetus for joining the navy. Simpler versions of the story have him starting a mutiny and becoming a pirate soon after, but more romantic ones say he achieved a high rank and became a councillor to King Charles III. He was popular in the court, but when he spurned one lover for another, the jilted lady levied false charges against him, often said to involve the theft of the crown jewels. To escape arrest he commandeered his ship and vowed to exact revenge on his country through piracy. Renaming himself "Gasparilla", he patrolled the coast of Spanish Florida for the next 38 years (often 1783 – 1821, approximately the dates of the second Spanish rule of Florida), sacking every passing ship and amassing a huge treasure, which was stored in his fabulous den on Gasparilla Island. Most male prisoners would be put to death or recruited as pirates, while women would be taken to a nearby isle, called Captiva Island for this reason, where they would serve as concubines or await ransom payment from their families.

This is one of several Gasparilla tales that attempt to explain a local place name – one of the most famous involves a Spanish (or Mexican?) princess Gaspar had captured. Allegedly named Useppa, she consistently rejected the pirate's advances until he threatened to behead her if she would not submit to his lust. Still she refused, and he killed her in a rage (or alternately because his crew demanded her death). The captain instantly regretted the deed and took her body to a nearby island, which he named Useppa in her honor, and buried her himself. Similarly, Sanibel Island is said to have been named by Gaspar's first mate, Roderigo Lopez, after his lover whom he had left back in Spain. Empathizing with his friend's plight, Gaspar eventually allowed Lopez to return home, and even trusted him with his personal log. Sanibel Island re-emerges in other stories as the headquarters of Black Caesar, a Haitian pirate whose story has become entangled with Gasparilla's.

Then in 1821, the year Spain sold the Florida Territory to the United States, Gasparilla decided to retire. But while the men were going about dividing up the treasure, they spotted a fat British merchant ship, an opportunity too good to pass up. But when they approached, the intended victims lowered the Union Jack and raised an American flag, revealing that this was no merchant vessel, but the pirate hunting schooner USS Enterprise. In the battle that followed, Gasparilla's ship was riddled by cannon balls. Rather than surrender, Gaspar chained the anchor around his waist and leapt from the bow, shouting "Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy's!" Most of the remaining pirates were killed or captured and subsequently hanged, but a few escaped, one of them being Juan Gómez, who would tell the tale to subsequent generations.

This Juan Gómez, or John Gómez, was a real person who lived in southwest Florida in the late 19th and very early 20th century. The old man was well known locally for his tall tales of his supposed life as a pirate, and was said to have been the oldest man in the US at the time he died (though this is very unlikely). Gómez is widely speculated to have been the foremost contributor to the development of the Gasparilla legend, though it should be noted that no pre-20th century account of him specifically associates his piratical exploits with José Gaspar, whose story, real or fictitious, does not appear in writing until about 1900, when it was included in an advertising brochure for the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad company.

This brochure was given to the guests of the Boca Grande hotel situated in Boca Grande, Florida, the largest town on Gasparilla Island. It refers to Old John Gómez's death in 1900 and mentions that Gaspar's massive treasure, hidden somewhere on the island, had never been found. The version of the Gasparilla story told in the pamphlet influenced all later accounts, and served as the inspiration for Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival, first held in 1904.

In 1923, a Boston historian named Francis B.C. Bradlee received a copy of the brochure from the president of Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad, and included the story of Gasparilla in a book he was writing about piracy. His book, Piracy In The West Indes And Its Suppression, was used as a source for works such as Philip Gosse's Pirates' Who's Who and Frederick W. Dau's Florida Old and New, the authors of which took Gaspar's historicity for granted. From this point on, historical works about pirates routinely included Gasparilla. At the same time, Tampa's Gasparilla Festival grew more and more elaborate every year; today it attracts thousands of people to the city. In 1980, French anthropologist Andre-Marcel d'Ans exhaustively chronicled the development of the Gasparilla story and the history of the festival in an article for Tampa Bay History.

In 1904, members of the Tampa business elite put on an "invasion" of their city based on the increasingly popular figure of Gasparilla. Under the guise of "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla", an organization modeled after the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade krewes, the invaders donned pirate costumes and rode through the streets on horseback. The event was a hit, and the Krewe planned an even more elaborate spectacle the next year, when all 60 of Tampa's cars were paraded through downtown. Now the invasion is lead by the pirate parade float, pictured on the left. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been celebrated every year since then, with only two lapses, and today, over 400,000 attend the event, which contributes over $20 million to the local economy. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Charles Gibbs (1794/1800-1831)

Charles Gibbs was an American pirate.

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Pedro Gilbert (17??-1834)

Pedro Gilbert [Don Pedro Gibert] (c. 1800-March 11, 1834) was an early 19th century pirate, who was one of the few remaining pirates continuing to raid shipping on the Atlantic coast.

A former privateer in the service of the Columbian government, Gilbert began raiding American merchant vessels off the eastern coast of Florida in early 1832 and, with his schooner the Panda, held the distinction of taking part in the last recorded act of piracy in Atlantic waters. On September 21, 1832, Gilbert boarded the Mexican, an American brig bound from Salem to Rio de Janeiro carrying $20,000 in silver. Following the crew's surrender, a crew member asked Gilbert what was to be done with their captives to which the pirate captain reportedly remarked "Dead cats don't mew. You know what to do."

Locking the crew inside the focsle, Gilbert's crew ransacked the ship looting the Mexican's stores. Slashing the rigging and sails, the pirates filled the ship's galley with combustibles and set the ship afire with the crew trapped inside.

However, the crew managed to break out after an hour and eventually doused the fire (although they continued to let enough smoke billow until the pirates were out of sight). After six weeks at sea, the crew finally made it back to Salem where they were able to report the incident. Captured in West Africa after his ship was sunk was sunk in a naval engagement with the HMS Curlew two years later, Gilbert was extradited to the United States where, in Boston, Massachusetts, he was tried with three of his crew members and executed on March 11, 1834. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Nathaniel Gordon (1834-1862)

Nathaniel Gordon (c.1834 – February 21, 1862) was the first and only American slave trader to be tried, convicted and executed "for being engaged in the Slave Trade" in accordance with the Piracy Law of 1820.

Gordon was born in Portland, Maine. He loaded 897 slaves aboard his ship Erie at Sharks Point, Congo River, West Africa on August 7, 1860 and was captured by the USS Mohican 50 miles from port on August 8, 1860. After one hung jury and a new trial, Gordon was convicted November 9, 1861 in the circuit court in New York City and sentenced to death by hanging on February 7, 1862.

President Abraham Lincoln issued a stay of Gordon's execution setting the new date for February 21, 1862. Lincoln made clear that the respite was only temporary to allow Gordon time for his final preparations. The evening before the execution, Gordon unsuccessfully attempted suicide with strychnine poison prompting the local authorities to move back the execution to noon from 2:30 p.m. due to Gordon's health. Gordon was survived by his wife, son and mother. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Captain Mitch Harris (1750-1780)

Captain Mitch Harris was a Canadian pirate.

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Bully Hayes (c. 1829-1877)

William Henry "Bully" Hayes (c. 1829 - +/-1877 ) was a South Sea pirate born in Cleveland, Ohio, and is sometimes referred to as "the last of the Buccaneers". He earned his nickname "Bully" as a result of his rude behaviour toward his crew, although toward others he could be very charming if he chose to.

With his ship, "Leonora", he mainly ran trading missions throughout Oceania specializing in rum and rifles, but he was not averse to blackbirding (slave trading) and filibustering (privateering).

The Leonora sank in 1874 and Bully Hayes was murdered around 1877 by former crewman Peter Radeck, or "Dutch Pete", after a violent disagreement, his body thrown into the ocean.

The adventures of "Bully" were the subject of the 1983 pirate adventure film Nate and Hayes, also known as Savage Islands, which starred Tommy Lee Jones as Hayes. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Albert W. Hicks (????-1860)

Albert W. Hicks (d. July 13, 1860) also known as William Johnson and 'Pirate Hicks', was the name of the last person executed for piracy in the United States.

He confessed to murdering his three companions, the crew of the oyster sloop A.E. Johnson, throwing the bodies overboard. He then took all the money on board and abandoned ship in a yawl.

He also claimed to have killed 93 others in California gold camps. He had a wife and a child, residing in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was arrested.

He gave his reason as "...the devil took possession of me." He was executed by hanging, on Bedloe's Island, now known as Liberty Island. Ten thousand people viewed the event from boats in New York Bay. His last wish was to see the steamship Great Eastern, which was docked in New York at the time. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Rahmah bin Jabir al-Jalahimah (c. 1760-1826)

Rahmah bin Jabir al-Jalahimah was an Arab ruler and pirate in the Persian Gulf (1760? 1826). His first name means 'mercy' in Arabic. He was born in Qurain (modern day Kuwait) in the north of the Persian Gulf. Ironically, he also wore an eye-patch because he lost one of his eyes in battle.

He first formed an alliance with the first Saudi kingdom, and founded the fort of Dammam in 1809. In 1816 he allied himself with the rulers of Muscat, and turned away from the Saudis, angering them. The Saudis then destroyed the fort of Dammam, causing him to move to Khor Hasan in Qatar. He initially targeted the shipping of his tribe of al-Utoob ?????? who are his own kinsmen, due to a quarrel with them. He also targeted Bahrain's shipping and the ruling al-Khalifah family there for four decades. His reputation was for being ruthless and fearless.

He died in his ship, al-Ghatroushah, in a sea battle against the Al-Khalifa ships, lighting the gunpowder kegs with his eight year old son on his side, killing everyone that was onboard including his men and the Al-Khalifa men that were raiding his ship, preferring to die by his hands than to die by the hands of Al-Khalifa. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Jasim bin Jabir (18??-18??)

Jasim bin Jabir was a pirate from the 19th century in the Persian Gulf.

Jasim had his base at Udaid, and attacked British ships in the Persian Gulf, with caravans carrying the booty inland. Khalifa, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, having gotten permission from the resident British authorities, attacked Udaid in May 1836 killing 50 men, and destroying the houses and fortification. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Edward Jordan (17??-1809)

Edward Jordan was a Canadian pirate.

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Jean Lafitte (c. 1780-1826?)

Jean Lafitte(1780? - 1826?), was a privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century.

Lafitte was a colorful character, who lived much of his life outside the law, and a number of details about his life are obscure. He was said to have been born in France. Though well known in history and folklore, both his origins and demise are uncertain. The accurace of some accounts of his life are open to doubt, and an autobiographical journal is suspected of being a forgery by some historians. His father was said to be French and his mother either a Spaniard, or Sephardi, but is not currently known[citation needed]. His family fled from Spain for France in 1765 after his maternal grandfather was put to death for Judaism. According to his journals, Lafitte describes childhood in the home of his Jewish grandmother, who was full of stories about the family's escape from the Inquisition. Raised in a kosher Jewish house, Lafitte later married Christiana Levine, from a Jewish family in Denmark. Along with his 'crew of a thousand men', Lafitte sometimes receives credit for helping free Louisiana from the British in the war of 1812, with his nautical raids along the Gulf of Mexico.

Lafitte established his own "Kingdom of Barataria" in the swamps and bayous near New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. He claimed to command more than 3,000 men and provided them as troops for the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, greatly assisting Andrew Jackson in repulsing the British attack. Lafitte reportedly conducted his operations in the historic New Orleans French Quarter. General Jackson was informed of Lafitte's gallant exploits at the Battle of New Orleans by Colonel Ellis P. Bean, who then recruited Lafitte to support the Mexican Republican movement.

After being run out of New Orleans around 1817, Lafitte relocated to the island of Galveston, Texas establishing another "kingdom" he named "Campeche". In Galveston, Lafitte either purchased or set his claim to a lavishly furnished mansion used by French pirate Louis-Michel Aury, which he named "Maison Rouge". The building's upper level was converted into a fortress where cannon commanding Galveston harbor were placed. Around 1820, Lafitte reportedly married Madeline Regaud, possibly the widow or daughter of a French colonist who had died during an ill-fated expedition to Galveston. In 1821, the schooner USS Enterprise was sent to Galveston to remove Lafitte's presence from the Gulf after one of the pirate's captains attacked an American merchant ship. Lafitte agreed to leave the island without a fight and, in 1821 or 1822, departed on his flagship, the Pride, burning his fortress and settlements and reportedly taking immense amounts of treasure with him. All that remains of Maison Rouge is the foundation, located at 1417 Avenue A near the Galveston wharf.

After his departure from Galveston, Lafitte was never heard from again. Rumors have long circulated that Lafitte died in a hurricane in the Gulf or in the Yucatan around 1826. A controversial manuscript, known as the Journal of Jean Laffite, relates how, after his announced death in the 1820s, he lived in several states in the United States, and raised a family until his death in St. Louis in the 1840s. Reportedly at his request, the publication of the journal was delayed for 107 years and surfaced in the 1950s in the hands of a man claiming to be the pirate's descendant.

The authenticity of the Lafitte Journal is hotly debated among Lafitte scholars, with some accepting the manuscript and others denouncing it as a forgery. The problem of authenticating the diary is confounded by the scarcity of genuine documents in Lafitte's handwriting for comparison. The most reliable genuine Lafitte documents are two short manuscripts from the library collection of Republic of Texas president Mirabeau B. Lamar, which are currently held by the Texas State Archives. Paper tests confirm that the Journal is written on paper from the 19th century, though no consensus exists about authenticity among the small number of handwriting experts who have studied the document. The original manuscript was purchased by Texas Governor Price Daniel in the 1970s and is on display at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas. Translated versions of the journal have been in print since the 1950s.

Among other things, this diary demonstrates that Jean Lafitte was Jewish, through descent from his maternal grandmother Zora Nadrimal. According to Harold I. Sharfman in Jews on the Frontier: An account of Jewish Pioneers and Settlers in Early America, Lafitte was of Jewish descent. The family were Marranos who converted under pressure to Roman Catholicism in the 14th century, but continued to practice Judaism secretly. In 1765, Jean's grandmother, Maria Zola, fled with her mother from Spain to France to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Maria Zola's husband, Abhorad (Jean's grandfather), was put to death by the Inquisition for "judaizing." (Sharfman, Harold I., Jews on the Frontier, Henry Regnery Company, Chicago. 1977. pp. 132-145). Recent scholars recognize Lafitte as a Corsair or Buccaneer who operated with Letters of Marque to legitimize his commerce raiding. As such, technically, Jean Lafitte was not a Pirate in the true sense of the word.

Lafitte claimed never to have plundered an American vessel, and though he engaged in the contraband slave trade, he is accounted a great romantic figure in Louisiana. The mystery surrounding Lafitte has only inflated the legends attached to his name. Lafitte was said to be a master mariner; according to one legend he was once caught in a tropical storm off the coast of North Galveston and steered his ship to safety by riding the storm surge over Galveston island and into the harbor. Lafitte's lost treasure has acquired a lore of its own as it, like his death, was never accounted for. He reportedly maintained several stashes of plundered gold and jewelry in the vast system of marshes, swamps, and bayous located around Galveston bay. One such legend places the treasure somewhere on the property of Destrehan Plantation, and Lafitte's spirit walks the plantation on nights of full moons to guide someone to the treasure's location. Other rumors suggest that Lafitte's treasure sank with his ship, the Pride, either near Galveston or in the Gulf of Mexico where some believe it went down during an 1826 hurricane. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Samuel Hall Lord (1778-1844)

Samuel Hall Lord "Sam Lord" (1778-1844) was one of the most famous buccaneers on the island of Barbados. Sam Lord as he was usually known, ammased himself a great wealth for his castle-mansion in Barbados. He did this through the direct plundering of ships stranded in the coral reefs just off the coast of his estate. According to legend, Sam Lord would hang lanterns high in the coconut trees around his estate. Passing ships far out at sea would think it was the port city of Bridgetown and would sail towards the reef in the area leading them to wreckship. Sam Lord would then board the ships and keep the riches for his castle that existed in the parish of Saint Philip.

Eventually his castle estate was turned into a hotel called the Sam Lord's Castle. However due to massive debt this hotel was auctioned off and parts of it are scheduled to be demolished in 2006 to make way for a larger hotel development on the property by the new owners. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Last additions - Period 1730-1900: Decline of Piracy
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(c) 2009 Frederic Logghe GNU Free Documentation License Birds in the sky
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