Infamous Pirates > Capture of the Fancy
Capture of the Fancy
The Capture of the Fancy was the naval engagement which saw the Royal Navy victory over the infamous pirate named Edward Low who was under the command of two pirate ships. Edward Low was a brutal 18th century pirate from New England that was notorious for his cruelty and barbarism towards his victims.
At this point in his career Low was headed northwest from the Azores Islands in order to plunder British merchant shipping along the coast of British North America. One day, while cruising off the coast of Delaware Bay the pirates saw a British man-o-war that they thought was a whaling operation. What the pirates did not know was that the British had dispatched the HMS Greyhound to track down and eliminate Low.
As they approached the suspected whaling ship Low hoisted the pirate flag and prepared to board. However, as Low neared the ship the HMS Greyhound unveiled the full colors of the Royal Navy and unleashed a punishing broadside directly into the Fancy as the pirates attempted to board.
When off Delaware Bay Low attacked a Royal Navy man-of-war which he mistook for a whaler. The resulting combat lasted several hours and ended with the capture of one pirate vessel. He personally killed over fifty men and committed several atrocities such as forcing prisoners he captured to cannibalism. By summer of 1723 Low commanded the eighty-ton schooner named Fancy and was the most feared pirate in the Atlantic, so the British dispatched several warships on counter-piracy patrols. Accompanying Fancy was the sloop-of-war Ranger under Captain Charles Harris. Fancy was armed with ten guns and had a crew of forty-four, many of whom were forced into service. Ranger was a former French sloop which was captured by Low off Grenada earlier in 1723. Her armament and number of crew is not known. Some accounts cite Low as having commanded the sloop Fortune during the encounter with the British post ship HMS Greyhound under Captain Peter Solgard. The sixth-rate mounted a twenty gun armament and a complement of about 120 officers and crewmen. Capture Low's schooner took damage and began returning shot while Harris in the Ranger maneuvered into firing position. Ranger opened fire briefly with her guns but after only a few minutes both the sloop and schooner chose to flee. A running battle then continued for several hours. Fancy was dismasted by well-placed cannon fire but escaped, while Captain Harris in the Ranger was defeated. Wind was not in favor of the pirates, so they used oars to help steer their ships away from the British. The use of oars proved to be pointless when the faster Greyhound came alongside the Ranger and the two crews began skirmishing with small arms. Grappling hooks were thrown and the British sailors boarded the sloop. After a few more moments of intense close-quarters combat the pirates surrendered and were taken prisoner. Captain Low's schooner Fancy is said to have carried around £150,000 in gold during the engagement. Aftermath However, after several hours of combat Low and the pirates were defeated and
Following the battle between the pirates and the Royal Navy there would thirty-seven white prisoners and six black pirates taken captive. Eventually twenty-five of them including Harris would be hung on 19 June 1723 near Newport in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. As for the British who captured them, Captain Solgard became famous in both New York City and England and he received prize money for the capture of the sloop which had carried the pirates gold and treasure throughout the engagement. Solgard would eventually be promoted to Admiral.
Edward Low himself would continue his reign of terror and piracy and would grow increasingly cruel following his defeat at the hands of the Royal Navy. He would go on to seize more ships such as a 22-gun French warship before his unknown death around 1724.