British Empire > Woodes Rogers
Signaling the end of the classical conception of pirates, Woodes Rogers (1679 - 1732) ironically himself was once a pirate and privateer. Coming from a wealthy seafaring family in Bristol, the same home as Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach, he eventually joined a sea captain apprenticeship until his father died. Given his families multiple shares in ships, he quickly rose to take over the family business.
In 1707 Woodes Rogers was approached to become a privateer for Britain in the war against the Spanish. In his privateering career Rogers traveled around the world capturing many Spanish ships and even rescuing the marooned Alexander Selkirk which the story Robison Crusoe is based off of. By 1711 Rogers had circumnavigated the globe and doubled his investors money. He was an instant success upon returning home to England.
Bearing the Kings Pardon in 1718 to bring to the pirates along with the commission to be the Governor of the Bahamas, Rogers successfully rooted out the pirates and fought off the Spanish but was given nothing but debt and financial ruin for his trouble.
Sailing to Nassau with seven tall ships, Rogers arrived on July 22nd, 1718 and blockaded the port and forced all the pirates to accept the pardon, or the gallows. In a final act of defiance, pirates including Charles Vane and others launched a daring assault at the blockade involving a fire ship which allowed them to slip away under the cover of darkness. Some of the pirates had escaped, by Nassau and Providence Island had fallen into the hands of the British. This signaled the end of the pirate port of Nassau.
At the time of Rogers blockade, there were about two hundred former pirates and several hundred other fugitives who had escaped from nearby colonies and even other countries. Taking immediate control, Rogers organized a provisional government and started to rebuild the island, however he soon began to realize more problems were brewing.
Less than a month into taking over Nassau for the British, Rogers received a letter from Vane threatened an alliance with Blackbeard and a forceful reclamation of the pirate haven island. He also quickly learned the Spanish were planning an assault after finding out the pirate defenders had been forced off of the island. Facing even more problems, one hundred of Rogers crew died due to a tropical disease and all three of his ships left to pursue other missions in the Atlantic.
Finally on September 14th, 1718 Woodes Rogers received information that Charles Vane was spotted near Green Turtle Cay near Abaco Island about 120 miles (190 km) north of Nassau. Upon hearing this news many pardoned pirates took up arms and boats and sailed for Vanes location. Fearing a larger pirate reprisal, Rogers sent former pirate and current pirate hunter Benjamin Hornigold along with a small crew to locate and eliminate Vane and his followers. Rogers then declared martial law and set about trying to rapidly rebuild Nassau's defenses.
After several fear-wrought weeks the pirate hunters returned with little success but were sent again on another mission to try and eliminate more pirates in the region. Rogers had all of the pirates captured by Hornigold hung at the gallows which almost promoted a civilian overthrow of his government.
In 1722 or 1723 Rogers was approached by a man interested in writing a history of the pirates and Rogers happily supplied him with first hand information. This work went on to become called A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates which was published under the pseudonym Captain Charles Johnson. This work was an immediate success and has been used for a lot of the source material for this website and much research into the lives and history of pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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Death & Legacy
Rogers died in Nassau at the age of 53 in 1732