PIRATES ON THE HUDSON RIVER OF NEW YORK
Transcribed by Cliff Lamere
Source: Pirates on the Hudson by E. Davis, published in Hudson River Magazine, November 1939, page 12
In 1687 not only traders and travelers were sailing our Hudson River, but occasional pirates as well. When the Dutch and English merchant companies were bringing home rich cargoes from the Orient, pirates would often seize the treasure, make swift course to the mouth of the Hudson, producing some worn records and swear they had obtained this Oriental cargo from some French vessel lawfully. Or perhaps a pirate would steer for Madagascar, await a merchant vessel from New York, exchange gold, gems and eastern shawls for rum, firearms and fur pelts and when the merchant vessel returned to the Hudson no special questions were asked as to where or how he had picked up his precious cargo.
The pirates did not stop at the little town at the mouth of the river. They boldly sailed up-river. According to the Albany Records of 1696, "pirates in great numbers infest the Hudson River at its mouth and waylay vessels on their way to Albany, speeding out from covers and from behind islands and again returning to the shores, or ascending the mountains along the river to conceal their plunder."
At times the pirate captains cut quite a figure in New York Town. On one occasion there were nine pirate ships in its harbor at the same time. One resplendent rascal, Captian William Tew, was the honored guest of the royal governor and rode in the governor's "coach and six." Coates, another pirate, loaded the governor with gifts and even gave him his ship to be sold for 8,000 pounds.
When all this crooked business was at its height, the Earl of Bellomont was made governor of New York with instructions above all to break up the piracy on the Hudson. Before he left London for the colony a stock company was formed to aid him in this and along with the king and men of title, one of the shareholders was Robert Livingston, first lord of Livingston Manor on the Hudson. A galley called the Adventure carrying thirty-six guns was secured and command of it was given to a dependable sea captain living on Liberty Street in New York,--no less than Captain William Kidd, himself! He sailed the Adventure out of New York harbor for Madagascar and for two years nothing was heard of him. Then it was charged that the pirate-chaser had himself turned pirate! While he explained that because of mutiny, starvation and poor luck in finding pirates he had been obliged to do this, (and may people still believe he may have been "framed") Kidd was hanged in England.
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