Laurens de Graaf
Laurens Cornelis Boudewijn de Graaf (1653 - 24 May 1704), also known as Laurens de Graaf or simply de Graaf was a famous Dutch buccaneer and responsible for two of the major assaults on Spanish settlements during the Buccaneering Era. Other names for de Graaf include Laurencillo, Lorencillo or Sieur de Baldran. He was responsible for spawning the career of Michiel Andrieszoon and was known to have collaborated with many of the famous buccaneers of the later half of the era. He was primarily based out of the French colony of Saint-Domingue and was one of the most successful of all the buccaneers.
De Graaf is described as tall, blonde with a mustache and handsome. Not many pirates or buccaneers are given descriptions so this is rare many artist illustrations are just interpretations. Like many other buccaneers and pirates not much is known about the early years of this buccaneer. Some historians believe he was a mulatto based on his nickname El Griffe in Spanish but this is highly speculative.
The most accurate account is that he was enslaved by Spanish slave traders and brought to the Canary Islands to work on a plantation at some point prior to 1674. At some point during the early 1670's de Graaf managed to get free and married his first wife Francois Petronilla de Guzmán in 1674 on the islands before moving to the West Indies. He ended up at the Spanish settlement of Saint Augustine in La Florida so his freedom was probably legitimately earned.
De Graaf's marriage was corroborated by a letter to the king of Spain in 1682 from the governor of Saint Augustine which described a "stranger who was married in the Canaries" that moved to the settlement. It is believed that de Graaf began his buccaneering career right around the time he married Guzman however, nothing is recorded about him until 1682. Then the governor of Saint-Domingue named Sieur de Pouancay wrote that de Graaf had been working as a buccaneer captain for the French under official commission since about 1675 or 1676.
During the later half of the 1670's de Graaf captured and looted many Spanish ships. He quickly built up a fleet by seizing the prizes and eventually became feared in his own right. By 1679 his fleet was large enough that he engaged the Spanish Armada de Barlovento and managed to capture a frigate with 24-28 guns which de Graaf renamed the Tigre.
Following the year 1682 de Graaf really burst onto the buccaneering scene. His exploits had become so well known in the region that ex-buccaneer Henry Morgan sent out the pirate hunter frigate named the Norwich under the captaincy of Peter Haywood to track down and capture de Graaf. However, the Spanish wanted to capture de Graaf for their own reasons and wanted revenge for the loss of the Barlovento frigate. In response the Spanish also sent the rest of the Armada de Barlovento to capture de Graaf as well.
De Graaf became aware of the Spanish intentions to capture him while making port in Cuba. Realizing that one of the best prizes in the West Indies was searching for him he decided to searching for it first. De Graaf eventually found the Armada and engaged it in a several hour long naval battle. After the prolonged conflict the Princesa struck her colors indicated a surrender after losing about fifty men. De Graaf had lost about eight or nine of his own buccaneers in the engagement.
During the naval engagement the Spanish captain was severely wounded. As a token of good will for him surrendering de Graaf let the captain go ashore with his surgeon and servant. The payoff for the capture of the Princesa was enormous. The treasure ship had been carrying the entire pay for the garrisons at Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo which amounted to about 120,000 pesos of silver. De Graaf took the Princesa as his new flagship, renaming it the Francesa and the rest of the buccaneers took their spoils back to Petit-Goave to enjoy their newfound wealth.
See Sack of Veracruz
After a while de Graaf returned to buccaneering and partnered up with fellow buccaneer Michiel Andrieszoon to raid the city of Cartagena de Indias. After deciding not to attack the port due to a lack of viable targets they moved into the Bay of Campeche where they found two empty galleons waiting to be loaded with goods.
In anticipation of plundering the ships as soon as they were loaded, the buccaneers went to Bonaco Island to careen their vessel and wait for the Spanish to finish doing the work for them. However, the carefully laid plans of the buccaneers were ruined when Nikolaas van Hoorn captured the empty Spanish galleons. After having seized the vessels he met up with the other Dutch buccaneers on Bonaco Island and proposed a partnership but was initially rejected.
Eventually in 1683 de Graaf decided to join van Hoorn and Michel de Grammont for a buccaneer raid on Veracruz. During the engagement de Graaf went ashore with Yankey Willems where they incapacitated the defenses of the defenses of the city. The buccaneers soon convened on Veracruz and plundered it for two days. On the second day the Spanish fleet was spotted on the horizon and the buccaneers retreated to nearby Isla de Sacrificios with some hostages to ransom them back to the Spanish.
However, soon an argument came about between van Hoorn and de Graaf over the treatment of the hostages and the division of the spoils. The buccaneers decided to end the dispute with a duel and while neither was gravely injured van Hoorn suffered a wound that later became infected and caused him to die two weeks later. Soon the pirates decided to leave the island and the Spanish gave them no chase.
The next exploit of de Graaf was at the end of November in 1683 when he and a fleet of seven buccaneer captains blockaded the Spanish city of Cartagena for over a month. Local governor, Juan de Pando Estrada, commandeered three private slave trading vessels - the 40-gun San Francisco, the 34-gun Paz and a smaller 28-gun galliot. 800 Spanish, led by a 26 year old commander, set out to meet the pirates on Christmas Eve but immediately struggled against De Graaf's more experienced pirates. 90 Spaniards were killed compared to only 20 pirates. The San Francisco was grounded and the other two ships were captured. De Graaf re-floated the San Francisco as his new flagship and renamed it the Fortune, later the Neptune. Andrieszoon took the Paz and renamed it the Mutine ("Rascal") and Willems was given command of the Francesca. The group released a large number of Spanish prisoners on Christmas Day and sent them ashore with a note for Governor Estrada thanking him for the Christmas presents. The pirates then proceeded to blockade the town. In January 1684 an English convoy, led by the 48-gun HMS Ruby, arrived carrying a note for de Graaf from his wife offering a Spanish pardon and commission. De Graaf ignored the note, not trusting the Spanish to keep their promises, and invited English officers to board his vessels and trade with his men. The English were allowed to pass without incident and soon after, de Graaf and his compatriots left for Petit-Goâve. In the summer and fall of 1684, de Graaf remained in Petit-Goâve. He sailed in November 1684, but had little or no success in raiding the shipping lanes.
De Graaf was next spotted on Isla de Pinos collecting buccaneers for a raid on Campeche. On 6 July 1685 the buccaneers struck and after a long fight the Spanish retreated inland with their wealth and left the buccaneers with nothing. After spending two months sacking and looting the Spanish failed to pay a ransom so the buccaneers began torching the building and executing hostages.
The pirates eventually left Campeche in September of 1685 with Spanish citizens for hostages. De Graff soon engaged with two Spanish ships in a day long battle and only succeeded in getting away by dumping all his stolen loot and cannons. In February 1686, the Spanish staged a raid on de Graaf's plantation on Saint Dominque. In retaliation, de Graaf raided Tihosuco, where the buccaneers looted and burned buildings. Returning to Petit-Goâve, de Graaf wrecked his ship while pursuing a Spanish barque. Nonetheless, he managed to take the barque with only his ship's long boat. In 1687, de Graaf engaged in a battle off southern Cuba with a Biscayan frigate and the Cuban Guarda del Costa (Coast Guard). He sank several piraguas and took a small ship as prize. De Graaf returned to Saint Domingue, where he defended the harbor at Petit-Goâve against Cuban invaders. In December 1689, he took ships off Jamaica. He went on to blockade the Jamaican coast for more than six months before leaving. Proceeding to the Cayman Islands, de Graaf there captured an English sloop. In January 1691 de Graaf attacked near Santo Domingo but was soundly defeated by a Spanish force three times the size of his French forces. He narrowly escaped with his life.
In March of 1693 de Graff married his second wife Anne Dieu-le-Veut. He proposed to her after she threatened to shoot him for insulting her. De Graaf would spend the summer of 1693 leading buccaneer raid on Jamaica. In May of 1695 the English retaliated against him and attacked Port-de-Paix at Saint Domingue where they ransacked the town and kidnapped de Graaf's family. De Graff was last spotted off the coast of Louisiana where he was assissting the French in setting up a colony near present Biloxi in Mississipipi. There are conflicting sources about his final years with some claiming he settled down in Alabama and others say he died in Louisiana.