Buccaneers > Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration


Daniel Johnson (1629 - 1675) was a British buccaneer who served under other famous captain such as Pierre le Picard, Moyse Van Vin and many others. He was known to the Spanish as 'Johnson the Terror' or 'The Juggernaut' and may or may not have been a real person. He was not mentioned in Alexander Exquemelin's primary source document known as De Americaensche Zee-Roovers which did mention the exploits of Picard. He was first mentioned historically in Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography (1887) which like the character of Charlotte de Berry probably means they are fake.

Regardless, according to the 1887 account John was born in Bristol in England and began his career as a merchant sailor. In 1654 his ship was captured by a Spanish ship and he was taken as a slave to Santo Domingo. After more than three years he finally escaped captivity and made it to the island and buccaneer haven of Tortuga. Obviously angered at the Spanish for his enslavement he quickly joined a buccaneering crew captained by Moyse Van Vin.

Johnson was an ambitious buccaneer and within two years he rose from simple crew to chief and later to lieutenant by 1659. One day after a buccaneering he argued with Van Vin over the shares of the loot and the two ended up dueling. Van Vin was gravely injured in the duel and Johnson left the crew. Following his abandonment of the crew he joined with Pierre le Picard and was involved in the raids against Maracaibo led by Henry Morgan in 1661.

Buccaneering Raids

Two years later in 1663 he was involved in the sack and plunder of Spanish settlements around the Bay of Honduras. He seized and razed the city of Puerto Cabello after he looted around $1,500,000. The following year in 1664 he was in command of a 24-gun brig and successfully captured a massive 900-ton, 56-gun Spanish Galleon nearly double his size. After an hour long naval battle the Spanish surrendered and the buccaneers looted a massive shipment of gold that was headed from Guatemala back to Spain.

In response to the raid on the Spanish treasure ship the colonial authorities offered a $25,000 bounty for his head. This was one of the largest bounties at the time but did not deter the buccaneer from raiding the coasts of the West Indies for the next two years. In 1666 after pillaging the coast of Venezuela Johnson and his fellow buccaneers decided to head back to Tortuga to sell their loot and relax. On their way back to the notorious pirate haven their ship sank off the coast of Cuba but Johnson and a few others managed to survive.

After hearing about the buccaneers in the area the colonial governor of Havana dispatched a 15-gun brig pirate hunter to arrest or kill them. The buccaneers encountered the Spanish brig and the two engaged, emerging victorious and seizing the Spanish vessel. According to the account his small remaining crew of buccaneers was too small to guard the 200 captured soldiers on the boat so they were murdered and their heads sent back to the governor as a message.

Johnson and his crew took their new prize and managed to outrun the Spanish for a few more years but he was eventually captured. The Spanish had dispatched four massive warships to capture him and he was taken down after sustaining over seventeen wounds during the battle. Despite his injuries he survived and was taken to Panama where he was restored to health by local doctors. He then stood trial for piracy and was convicted. The Spanish hung him in the square of Panama in 1675.


So is this story even true? It is hard to imagine that a buccaneer of this notoriety especially one that was known to have traveled with Henry Morgan and Pierre le Picard was not mentioned by Alexander Exquemelin. Also given his sufficient exposure to the Spanish colonial authorities there should be some record of his existence. There should be some records of the capture of the massive Spanish treasure galleon or related to the Havana governor or the bounty or the pirate hunters.

Overall, until more research is done to verify the authenticity of this buccaneer his story is open for debate as to weather it is credible or not. More archaeological and historical evidence is needed to make a claim regarding his status as legitimate or fiction.



Primary Sources

Secondary Sources