18th CenturyCrimeJamaicaOctoberPiracy

20 October 1720 – The End of the Road for Captain Jack

A Skull and Crossed Cutlasses - The Flag of Captain Jack Rackham
A Skull and Crossed Cutlasses – The Flag of Captain Jack Rackham

‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Anne Bonny and Mary Read are Captured.

On the night of 20 October 1720, Captain Jack Rackham, known as Calico Jack was probably feeling pretty pleased with himself. For a few weeks, he had been pirating around the coast of Jamaica and was meeting little resistance. No-one it seemed was safe from Calico Jack and his crew, which was also known to include two of the most feared pirates of the time, who also just happened to be women, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Now, his ship, the William, was safely moored in Dry Harbour Bay and he was enjoying the booze with his men before falling sound asleep.

However, the pleasure enjoyed by Captain Jack and his crew was to last no longer. Unknown to the sleeping Jack, the sloop of Captain Jonathan Barnet was silently approaching and the first that Jack knew about it was when Barnet shouted out an order to surrender. Calico Jack was quick to wake and started to give orders to both get underway and to open fire, but he was way too late and soldiers had already started boarding the William. It was all over in a few moments and the only casualty was one of Rackham’s men who had been shot for cowardice by Mary Read.

Captain Barnet’s sloop headed back to Port Royal with its cargo of the most wanted man in the Caribbean along with Mary Read and Anne Bonny. All of them would have been held in irons and would have plenty of time to consider their fate. Fortunately for the two women, they were both pregnant, and, because of this were spared the hangman’s noose. Captain Jack wasn’t so lucky. He was tried for piracy on the high seas a few weeks later and on 18 November 1720, he was hanged. His body was displayed on an island, now called Rackham’s Cay, as a warning to others.

Mary Read was alleged to have said at the time, “If he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a dog.”

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