William Kidd

Attempted to become a Privateer,
ended up a Pirate (but not a very good one)
   

Born: 1645 in
Greenock, Renfrew,
Scotland

Died: May 23rd, 1701
Execution Dock,
London


The notorious Captain Kidd was neither particularly ruthless nor successful. A New York merchant who had previously served as a privateer against the French in the West Indies,. He was commissioned in 1696 to hunt pirates but after a series of misfortunes began to raid vessels in the India Ocean.

He was arrested on his return to America in 1699 and sent to England to stand trial for piracy. Kidd bungled his own defense and his former backers concealed vital documents. He was hanged at Execution Dock (Located in Wapping, London, near the Thames River) and his body suspended in an iron cage called a "gibbet" at Tilbury Point for years as a warning to other seamen against piracy.

William Kidd, a.k.a Robert Kidd, Captain Kidd, 17th-century British privateer and semi-legendary pirate who became celebrated in English literature as one of the most colorful outlaws of all time. Fortune seekers have hunted his buried treasure in vain through succeeding centuries.

Kidd 's early career is obscure. It is believed he went to sea as a youth. After 1689 he was sailing as a legitimate privateer for Great Britain against the French in the West Indies and off the coast of North America. In 1690 he was an established sea captain and ship owner in New York City, where he owned property; at various times he was dispatched by both New York and Massachusetts to rid the coast of enemy privateers. In London in 1695, he received a royal commission to apprehend pirates who molested the ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

Kidd sailed from Deptford on his ship, the Adventure Galley, on Feb. 27, 1696, called at Plymouth, and arrived at New York City on July 4 to take on more men. Avoiding the normal pirate haunts, he arrived by February 1697 at the Comoro Islands off East Africa. It was apparently some time after his arrival there that Kidd , still without having taken a prize ship, decided to turn to piracy. In August 1697 he made an unsuccessful attack on ships sailing with Mocha coffee from Yemen but later took several small ships. His refusal two months later to attack a Dutch ship nearly brought his crew to mutiny, and in an angry exchange Kidd mortally wounded his gunner, William Moore.

Kidd took his most valuable prize, the Armenian ship Quedagh Merchant, in January 1698 and scuttled his own un-seaworthy Adventure Galley. When he reached Anguilla, in the West Indies (April 1699), he learned that he had been denounced as a pirate. He left the Quedagh Merchant at the island of Hispaniola (where the ship was possibly scuttled; in any case, it disappeared with its questionable booty) and sailed in a newly purchased ship, the Antonio, to New York City, where he tried to persuade the earl of Bellomont, then colonial governor of New York, of his innocence. Bellomont, however, sent him to England for trial, and he was found guilty (May 8 and 9, 1701) of the murder of Moore and on five indictments of piracy. Important evidence concerning two of the piracy cases was suppressed at the trial, and some observers later questioned whether the evidence was sufficient for a guilty verdict.

Kidd was hanged, and some of his treasure was recovered from Gardiners Island off Long Island. Proceeds from his effects and goods taken from the Antonio were donated to charity. In years that followed, the name of Captain Kidd has become inseparable from the romanticized concept of the swashbuckling pirate of Western fiction.

Among other stories concerning caches of treasure he supposedly buried is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold Bug."


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