Benjamin Hornigold (c. 1680 - 1719) was a famous pirate possibly out of the English county Norfolk. His pirating career lasted three years after which he turned into a pirate hunter under Woodes Rogers after accepting the 1718 Kings Pardon. Benjamin Hornigold is famous for starting both the Republic of Pirates at Nassau on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas along the career of the infamous Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach. Starting as his first mate, Blackbeard far surpassed his teacher in both scale and infamy.
He is also famous for turning against all of his former friends and working with the British government to try and uproot piracy in the Caribbean and beyond. While once a leader among the brethren and one of the founding fathers of the pirate haven at Nassau, his betrayal signified the beginning of the end of the golden age of piracy.
However, his first act of recorded piracy took place during the winter of 1713-1714 when he used periaguas (sailing canoes) and a small sloop to loot merchant ships off the coast of Nassau, New Providence island. In 1717 Hornigold commanded a thirty gun sloop named the Ranger which was most likely the most powerful pirate ship in the region at the time.
Hornigold's first mate was Edward Teach who would later become known as Blackbeard. In the early spring of 1717 Teach commanded Stede Bonnet's the Ranger along with a captured sloop and the two seized three merchant ships, making off with 120 barrels of flour bound for Havana, rum from a Bermudan sloop and a cache of white wine from a Portuguese ship.
During this time Hornigold was known for being more of a leader of pirates and was working to help build and establish the Republic of Pirates along with fellow pirate Henry Jennings and Thomas Barrow at the fledgling settlement of Nassau and transform it into a real republic. He also took a mentorship role for many ex-privateers who wished to turn pirate. While it is easy to overlook him as a pirate who did not accomplish much in terms of loot, the advances he made for pirates were some of the most democratic of the time.
In March of 1717, Hornigold and his crew attack an armed merchant ship that was sent by the Governor of the Province of South Carolina to hunt for pirates. After an engagement, the merchants ran the ship aground on Cat Cay and the crew fled. The ships captain later reported Hornigold's fleet had expanded to five ships and around 350 crewmen. Hornigold next attack a sloop off the coast of Honduras, however the most they did was as one crewman explained later:
"They did us no further injury than the taking most of our hats from us, having got drunk the night before, as they told us, and toss'd theirs overboard"
Height of Power
Hornigold was a true patriot in his pirating. He never attacked English ships as apparently to maintain the appearance of being a privateer against the Spanish and French. However, this was approach was not well liked among his crew who in the summer of 1716 voted him out of the captaincy after they chose to attack whatever ships they wanted. Hornigold's crew was now captained by Samuel Bellamy.
At the time, Edward Teach was commanding Hornigold's second ship and did not learn of the turn of events until they met again later in 1717. At this point Hornigold and Blackbeard went their separate ways as Hornigold was only in command of a small crew and a single sloop. He continued his piracy from Nassau until December 1717 when he heard about the 1718 Kings Pardon. Hornigold sailed to British Jamaica in January of 1718 to accept the pardon from the regional governor.
See Pirate Hunter
After accepting the Kings Pardon, Hornigold became a pirate hunter to hunt down his past allies including Edward Teach by governor Woodes Rogers. Hornigold spent the next year and a half sailing around the Bahamas to try and capture Stede Bonnet and 'Calico' Jack Rackham.
Near the end of 1719 as he was chasing pirates across the West Indies, Hornigold's ship was caught in a hurricane and was wrecked on a reef between the Bahamas and Mexico. Hornigold died during this wreck and only a few of his men who managed to get away in a canoe survived. To this day no one has recovered Hornigold's ship wreck.
Thus ended the story of the man of both built and destroyed his pirate republic of Nassau along with spawning the careers of many of the other famous pirates of legend including Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach. While some think of Hornigold as a bad-guy traitor within pirate lore he simply was a patriot and did not want to pirate his own British ships. However, all the other pirates disagreed with him as this was the age of outlaw piracy. He was mutinied and easily accepted the Kings Pardon from Woodes Rogers when he came strolling into Nassau.