Buccaneers > "Red Legs" Greaves

"Red Legs" Greaves

Chapter Decoration

Background

'Red Legs' Greaves was a 17th century Scottish buccaneer during the 1670's. Greaves was born on the island of Barbados"Red Legs" Greaves was a Scottish buccaneer active in the Caribbean and the West Indies during the 1670s. His nickname came from the term Redlegs used to refer to the class of poor whites that lived on colonial Barbados. Although considered a successful pirate during his career, most notably his raid of Margarita island in the mid-1670s, he is best known for his escape from Port Royal prison during an earthquake June 7, 1692. Born in Barbados, Greaves' parents had been tried for treason for their participation during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and sold into slavery, as were many Royalists and Covenanters in Scotland. He is thought to have been born in 1649. Born a short time after his parents' arrival in Barbados, Greaves became the servant of a kindly master. However, his parents and master died a short time after another, and the orphaned boy was sold to another man who was claimed to have been violent and to have often beaten Greaves as a teenager. Piratical career[edit] During this time, concerned for his survival, he attempted to escape his servitude and successfully managed to swim across Carlisle Bay, stowing away on a ship preparing to leave Barbados. Although he assumed the vessel was a merchantship on its way to a far off port, the ship was actually a pirate ship commanded by a Captain Hawkins. Hawkins was known throughout the Caribbean as an unusually cruel pirate, often torturing captives, especially women, and rarely showing mercy to the crews of ships he attacked. Although feared by his crew, he was respected and very successful in capturing rich prizes. After being discovered on board, Greaves was given the option of signing with the crew "offering the articles on a platter along with a pistol". Although reluctant to join the crew under force, Greaves showed promise and quickly gained a reputation as a capable and efficient sailor. However, he soon grew to resent and hate Captain Hawkins, both for being forced into his crew as for his distaste for brutality towards captured prisoners. The two eventually fought a duel, often claimed to be over the torture of a prisoner, although it is more likely Hawkins attacked Greaves for failing to obey his orders. During the fight, Greaves killed Hawkins and was elected by the crew to succeed Hawkins as captain.

Buccaneer Captain

Accepting their request, Greaves rewrote the Ship's Articles, specifically prohibiting the mistreatment of prisoners and allowing the surrender of merchant captains during battle. Throughout the decade, Greaves found great success as well as gaining a reputation as an honorable captain widely known for his humane treatment of prisoners and never participating in the raiding of poor coastal villages. Around 1675, he captured the island of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela. After capturing the local Spanish fleet, he used their guns against the coastal defences and successfully stormed the town. After taking a large amount of pearls and gold, he soon left without looting the town, or harming the inhabitants.

Capture & Escape

Following the raid and plunder of Margarita, Greaves moved to the island of Nevis to begin a new life as a farmer. However, his past soon caught up with him and a former victim of his buccaneering recognized him and alerted the local colonial authorities to his whereabouts for the reward. Greaves was captured by the authorities, found guilty and sentenced to hang in chains.

However, while imprisoned in the jail of Port Royal awaiting his execution the town was catastrophically destroyed in the 1692 Port Royal Earthquake. He managed to escape and was one of the very few survivors from that fatal day. He made aboard a whaling ship and soon joined their crew. Later Greaves became a pirate hunter and earned a royal pardon by hunting down pirates that had been raiding local whaling ships.

After receiving his royal pardon he settled down on a plantation on an unknown island and was said to have been very generous in his later years with his wealth. He was known to have funded public works projects and charities before his death of natural causes. Not much else is known about the final years of his life.

Buccaneers

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources