Infamous Pirates > Thomas Anstis

Thomas Anstis

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Background

Thomas Anstis was a pirate in the 18th century who served under both Howell Davis and Bartholomew Roberts. In fact, he is well known for becoming a captain by stealing one of Robert's brigantines the Good Fortune. along with starting the career of John Phillips.

Infamous Pirates - Thomas Anstis 1888 Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Card

Thomas Anstis - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

The first records of Anstis were as a crew member on the sloop Buck, which sailed out of Providence at the Colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations in 1718. During the trip, Anstsis and six other crew members including Howell Davis mutinied against the present captain and became pirates in their own right. Davis was elected captain and they sailed south into the Caribbean to begin plundering.

After Howell Davis was murdered on the island of Principe, Bartholomew Roberts was elected captain. After capturing the first of many ships to be named the Royal Fortune, Anstsis was made captain of the Good Fortune. On April 18th, 1721 as Roberts and his fleet headed for Africa, Anstsis and the crew aboard the Good Fortune sailed away in the night in order to continue pirating around the Caribbean. Between British Jamaica and Spanish Hispaniola, Anstis and his crew captured two vessels. On one of the ships, Irwin, Anstis' crew gang raped and murdered a female passenger before looting the goods.

On April 19th, 1721 Anstis and his crew captured a ship and forced its carpenter John Phillips to join their crew. As the pirates next traveled towards Bermuda, Anstis captured a treasure ship named the Morning Star headed from Guinea to the Province of South Carolina. After the pirates seized the ship they added cannons, making the total 32. The heavier war ship was placed in command of John Fenn, the ships gunner. Anstis chose to keep control of the Good Fortune.

Thomas Anstis - King George I Portrait

King George I Portrait

Anstis and his crew continued piracy throughout the Caribbean until there was much inner conflict among his crew members. Many of the pirates claim to have been forced into piracy by Roberts and Anstis and therefore wanted to petition King George I in order to pardon them.

While they waited to hear from the King, Anstis and his crew sailed to and island off the coat of Cabo San Antonio in Cuba. After nine months they got word that the King had denied their pardon and actually sent pirate hunter Admiral Sir John Flowers in order to find, capture and possibly kill the pirates. Leaving the island fearing their position was compromised, Anstis and his crew sailed south to the Cayman Islands.

Here, the Morning Star ran aground on a sandbar. As the crew were being transported onto the Good Fortune, the pirates encountered even more pirate hunters aboard the HMS Hector and the HMS Adventure. Anstis cut the anchor cable on the Good Fortune and escaped using oars. However he had sacrificed forty of his men on Grand Cayman, who all ended up being captured by Flowers.

After escaping from the Royal Navy, Anstis sailed to the Bay of Honduras in order to careen his vessel and restock with food and supplies. On his way there, Anstis and his diminished crew captured three or four more vessels and added some of their crews to his own. In early of December of 1722 Anstis sailed for the Bahama Islands. Along the way he captured a sloop named Antelope, along with another 24 gun ship. These ships were added to his fleet and he continued to sail around the Caribbean, pirating whatever he fancied.

Death

Anstis met his end in April of 1723 off the coast of the Trinidad Province. Intending to careen their ship, Anstis and his crew were ambushed quickly by Admiral Sir John Flowers who was captaining the British man-of-war the HMS Winchelsea. Anstis and his crew quickly burned the ships in the bay along with another sloop, heading into the island in order to find cover. However the marines aboard the ship quickly assaulted the island and captured the crew. Some crew members such as John Phillips hid out in the woods and evaded capture. They would eventually escape to England where most of them would be caught. Anstis escaped aboard the Good Fortune, however his fortune was not so good.

In the middle of the night, Anstis was murdered in his hammock while he slept by a few of his remaining crew. The remaining crew then took prisoner all those loyal to Anstis and sailed into Curacao in order to try and get a pardon from the Dutch authorities there. The remaining crew was successful and received amnesty, with their prisoners being not so lucky.

Thomas Anstis - Curacao Map (1758)

Curacao Map (1758)

Overall the story of Thomas Anstis was short and swift, his legend mostly growing from being apart of Bartholomew Roberts crew.

Bartholomew Roberts Gang

Bartholomew Roberts Crew

Sources

Primary Sources

Johnson, C. (1724). A General History of the Pyrates (2nd Edition, Volume I). London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Johnson, C. (1724). General History of the Pyrates (2nd Edition Volume I) - Chapter X, Of Captain Antsis and his Crew. London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Secondary Sources

Johnson, C., & Fraser, C. L. (1922). Pirates..the Lives and Adventures of Sundry Notorious Pirates. New York: R.M. McBride and Company.