Category Archives: All things Piratey

TftCN: Pirate Graveyards and Graves, The final resting place of pirates

     TftCN: Pirate Graveyards and Graves

Picture taken by Katherine Benbow, 10/30/2009,

Like most people, many members of The Colorado Rogues are caught up in the romance of piracy. (—not the illegal music downloading type), but piracy on the high seas. The Swashbuckling, Jolly Roger waiving, shiver-me-timbers, cutlass brandishing gents and all that. Forget those ridiculous Somali pirates who hijack oil tankers, the real pirates were the eighteenth century swashbucklers, terrors of the high seas, plague of the Spanish Main, wanderers of the Caribbean!

With many of the historical figures in life, good and bad, there are tangible things that we are able to track down that give us an idea of who they were, and how they lived or died. Stories and authentic historical items give us a sense of the person becoming “Real” for us.

For some people being able to visit the final resting place of a person accomplishes this. Though initially it may sound rather macabre, it is actually quite common practice. The problem with finding a “Pirate’s” last resting place however becomes a little more difficult, for several reasons. Contrary to movie history the highest mortality rates of pirates were due to infection, disease, falls and drowning. Pirates who died at high sea couldn’t be kept aboard until they reached a port. The body would cause too many health issues with the remaining crew.  For more information on medicine and cause of death for pirates, is an excellent source of information.

So it is believed that the common practice was to weight the bodies down and throw them overboard in a sort of burial at sea kind of fashion. If they were close enough to shore the body may have been buried in the traditional way, though doubtfully in a churchyard and more than likely without marker or description of who they were.  If the Pirates were captured and brought to justice on shore, they were typically hung at the gallows, or executed but again typically the bodies would not have been buried in a church graveyard, and if they had it is doubtful that they would have had their names inscribed on the marker or a tale of their deeds. Remember these were considered criminals of that time and the cemetery was a place thought to honor the dead.

There are random cemeteries all over the world where you may find a headstone with a jolly roger, just a skull, or just crossed bones that some believe are the final burial place of ancient pirates. Many  of these have legends or tales to accompany them.  However,  just the fact that there is a skull and crossbones upon a headstone does not necesisarily mean that a pirate lies underneath. That symbol was also used denote a person who died of the plague, or a terrible disease. It is hard to be sure in most cases whether the stories are fact or just tales that have been circulating for so  long that people just assume they are true.

The picture  at the top  of  this page was  found on a link to Thyatira Presbyterian Church, with  the caption four pirate graves in an old cemetery. Beneath  is this description:

These four stones, three of which bear skulls and crossbones, and the fourth bearing only crossbones, are a source of great interest to the children in the church.

“According to legend, the pirates were executed, and court allowed their burial only if their stones carried the pirate symbol, and bore no names.”

Due to the distance from the coast, some have speculated that these men may have been highwaymen instead. Some have said that the men were former pirates who moved to the area, and that they were found out, and hung for their past crimes. Also, some say that the elders of the church were the ones forbidding the names on the stones. It would be interesting to find the court records for this case, if this is the truth. Yet others have said that the images actually indicate deaths from an epidemic disease. Without the dates for the deaths, it is difficult to verify the information.

We hope to do future articles with the where abouts of pirate resting places in the future. If you know of any or have pictures you would like to share please feel free. Until  next week. TGIF!

~ Tempest Stormbringer

 Editor of Tales from the Crow’s Nest on Twiztedsails Blog


Posted by on March 23, 2012 in All things Piratey


TftCN: Jean Lafitte Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans

In honor of Fat Tuesday and the Mardi Gras festival,  todays article is about a Fench Pirate named Jean Lafitte. TGIF! 

TftCN: Jean Lafitte Gentleman Pirate of New Orleans

Jean Lafitte (ca.1776 – ca. 1823) was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used “Lafitte”, and this is the commonly seen spelling in the United States, including for places named for him.

By 1805, Jean appears operating a warehouse in New Orleans to help sell the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre and on Grand Terre, where the Lafittes made their privateering base, on the western tip of the island, facing Barataria Pass . The Lafittes grew rich from the sale of their privateered goods during the trade embargo before the War of 1812 and the British blockade. Grande Terre was six miles long and one to three miles wide . By 1809, it was well known that slaves fresh from Africa could be gotten at Grande Terre, which were kept in barracon, or slave barracks. Here they erected storehouses and a small brick fort . By 1810, their new port was very successful; the Lafittes pursued a successful smuggling operation and also started to engage in piracy.

Note: The last remains of the fort were destroyed by a hurricane in 1965.

Jean was reported to be tall for the time, an inch or two over six feet, with pale skin dark hair and hazel eyes and liked to dress in style. He could speak some English and Spanish, and was spoke Bordelaise French. New Orleans at this time was flooded with French refugees from Cuba, who had fled there from San Domingue. Cuba ordered the French to leave after Napoleon invaded Spain and put his brother on the Spanish throne. Out of a population of about 25,000 at this time, fewer than 3,300 were English or American. The French population was generally anti-American and sympathetic to the illegal activities of the Lafitte brothers .The Lafittes were often seen at the Coquet’s Ballroom on St.Phillip street, the Cafe des Refugies and the Hotel de la Marine while in New Orleans .The revenue from the lucrative slave trade allowed the Lafittes to buy a warehouse on Royal Street .

In 1811 there was a slave rebellion led by Charles Deslondes, a San Domingue slave in St.Charles Parish and marched upon New Orleans. The rebellion was stopped and many members of the rebellion were executed and their heads put on spikes as a warning . The rebellion put New Orleans into a panic, and thereafter authorities took greater notice of the Lafitte slave smuggling activities. The American governor of Louisiana, Gov Claiborne, angered by the privateer’s disregard for custom laws, ordered an attack on Grand Terre. The Gov also offered a reward of $300 for the capture of Lafitte, to which Lafitte responded by printing handbills offering a larger reward of $1,000 for the capture of the Gov if he were delivered to the Lafitte’s new base of operations on Cat Island. At the bottom of the handbill, it was written that this was only in jest.

During this time while awaiting an expected attack from the Americans on his home base, Grande Terre, a large British expeditionary force of 18,000 sailed from Jamaica under Sir Edward Pakenham. The British, expected to sweep aside the meager American force, seize the ‘Beauty and Booty’ of the rich trading port of New Orleans and with the Mississippi in their hands, separate the western states from the rest of the Union. The British expected the French settlers, Spanish settlers and the large slave population would aid them in their conquest of the Americans. They believed if they were able to take New Orleans they would be in a much stronger bargaining position at the ongoing peace talks, which had started at Ghent, Belgium on August 8, 1814. The British were making objections at the negotiations to drag the process out, counting on a victory at New Orleans. A British victory might even tip the New England states into succeeding, perhaps even ending the American ‘experiment’ and bring the colonies back into the English fold.

When they arrived, on Sept 3, 1814, a Captain Nicholas Lockyer and a Captain McWilliams, approached Jean Lafitte and attempted to bribe him into aiding the British cause with 30,000 British pounds and a commission in the British navy. The knowledge Laffite had of the bayous leading into New Orleans from Barataria bay and his being the leader or boss of the Baratarian privateers and smugglers on Grand Terre island and made him an important player to the British and Americans. The Laffite’s also had well trained gun crews and large stores of flints, gunpowder and other supplies.In response to the British’s offer, he requested 15 days to sound out his men on the matter. Despite the Americans holding his brother Pierre in jail on a smuggling charge, and threats of attack upon Grande Terre, Jean decided to warn to the American New Orleans leaders with his fastest courier, who could arrive within a day. The warning included a copy of the British offer, a plea for the release of his brother, and a  request a stop to the ‘persecution’ of his privateers.  In exchange he offered his services, those of his men and his supplies to the aid of New Orleans defense.

Unfortunately many of the leaders assumed this was just a ploy in order to  evade the planned attack on Grand Terre. The Carolina, a schooner with 14 guns under command of the American Commodore Daniel Patterson and six gunboats left New Orleans, sailed down the Mississippi River and attacked Grande. Lafitte’s men, not knowing if the attacking fleet was British or American, took battle stations. The Carolina raised a flag offering pardon for deserters. The Baratarians abandoned their vessels. The Americans seized 8 ships, 20 canons and an estimated $500,000 worth of goods and captured 80 Baratarians. Most of the 500 or so Baratarians escaped. The seized goods never were returned. Most of the 500 or so Baratarians escaped. Ironically, the Carolina was to play a decisive role in the Battle of New Orleans, and would not have been there except for the attack on Grande Terre.

After two weeks, a British brig-of-war appeared off Barataria Pass awaiting Jean’s reply to the British offer. No ship from Lafitte came to meet it and it sailed off, no doubt cursing the Lafitte’s and the time they had wasted. Now the British knew they could not count on Lafitte. Andrew Jackson at this time was placed in command of the Seventh Military District, and was in Mobile, Alabama fighting the Creek Indians. On the same day as the Grande Terre attack, Edward Livingston, a former mayor of New York who had fled to New Orleans to escape legal trouble, organized a committee of defense. Jackson arrived in New Orleans on Nov 30, 1814 , severely weakened by dysentery. Despite this, his presence inspired the inhabitants of New Orleans.

Jackson, who needed every man, still would not release the men captured at Grande Terre or take up Lafitte on his offer. After the defeat of the gunboats, Claiborne meet with Jackson and changed his mind .Claiborne issued a proclamation on Dec 17, offering amnesty to all Baratarians if they joined the fight against the British. Jean Laffite who had evaded capture by seeking refuge with some plantain owners with whom he was friends,  returned to New Orleans, and arranged a meeting with Jackson through Edward Livingston at the general’s headquarters at 106 Royal Street. Jackson was reported to  be surprised by the sophistication of Lafitte and found him not to be the ‘hellish banditti’ he had imagined. Jean Laffite was sent to Barataria on Dec 22nd to watch for any invasion from the Barataria Bay route and did not see action in the battle of Jan 8. Pierre Laffite remained at Jackson’s HQ to provide his knowledge of the land around New Orleans . During the battle on Jan 8, 1815, Lafitte seemed to be sincerely patriotic in his help for the American cause and furnished Jackson’s small army of 2,000 men, who faced 10,000 British veterans with 366 cannons and a large supply of powder and shot and trained artillerymen who played havoc with the British at the Battle of New Orleans . Jean was out of sight, perhaps reconnoitering to the south at Grand Isle. The Baratarians made up about 50 of the 5,000 men on Jackson’s main line.

After the battle, due to  their reported valor and actions during the Battle of New Orleans, President James Madison gave full pardons to the Barataria privateers for their actions. But it was obvious that Lafitte could not continue his privateering operations at Grand Terre . He needed someplace not under American control. and moved to Galveston Island, which they called Campeche, where they developed the colony. In 1816 Lafitte explored the interior of the Louisiana territory with Major Arsene Latour, a hero of the Battle of New Orleans. The Lafittes turned agents for Spain and moved to Galveston Island, which they called Campeche, where they developed the colony.  The Spanish government asked them to determine the attitudes of the Americans and Indians to Spain’s lands that were west of the Louisiana Purchase. Spain was afraid of Indian raids and possible filibuster actions against its territory. For 8 months they explored what is now the Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri areas and returned to New Orleans.

Lafitte continued pirating around Central American ports until he died trying to capture Spanish vessels sometime around 1823. Speculation about his life and death continues among historians.

For more information there are several  books and website which go  into greater detail where you may  find out more about this Famous pirate.

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in All things Piratey


TftCN: Ching Shih: Famous Chinese Female pirate.

TftCN: Ching Shih: Famous Chinese Female pirate.

Ching Shih(郑氏)  or Ching I Sao (“Wife of Zheng”), as she was then known, was a famous female pirate in late Qing China. Ching Shih’s real name is unknown as is where she was born. She was born in 1785.

In 1801, before becoming a pirate she was working as a prostitute on one of the city Canton’s floating brothels. It did not take her long to leave this unfortunate profession and marry a notorious pirate, Zheng Yi. They married in 1801.

Zheng Yi was part of a family that had been very successful in pirating.

After their marriage Zheng Yi gathered together a coalition of the competing Cantonese pirate fleets into an alliance. Within a few years the coalition was a force to be reckoned with and one of the most powerful pirate fleets in all of China.  By 1804 this alliance, known as the Red Flag Fleet, was the most powerful pirate force in China; it was comprised of over 1500 ships, over 60,000 pirates, and ranged all the way from Korea to Malaysia.

 In 1807 Zheng Yi was killed in a typhoon, and his widow (now called Ching Shih) quickly made a pact with Chang Pao, the late commander’s chief lieutenant, which placed her in absolute command of the fleet with him as her executive officer. At this time in history it was quite something for a woman to be in the top position.

According to some accounts,  Ching Shih realized that in order to maintain control she had to establish strict discipline lest the men believe that a female commander could be defied with impunity.  She therefore imposed a code of behavior far more severe than the pirate “articles” common in the Spanish Main:  disobedience, theft, desertion, dereliction of duty, cowardice and rape of female prisoners were all punishable by beheading.  Her power grew at a frightening pace, and within a year the Red Flag Fleet boasted two hundred oceangoing junks of twenty guns each, eight hundred small ships, dozens of riverboats ; it was one of the largest navies in the world and nothing could stand against it.  She extorted tribute from merchants all over the China Seas and from coastal towns from Macau to Canton, and became a de facto government in her own right; soon she began to impose taxes and levies and enforced her own laws.

The Chinese government could not ignore this, so in 1808 it sent a fleet against Ching Shih; she easily defeated it, capturing 63 ships and impressing hundreds of sailors into her navy (those who remained loyal to the Emperor were beaten to death with clubs).  In desperation, the Chinese government asked for help from the British and Portuguese; their forces, too, were defeated by the Ching Shih and the Red Flag Fleet. Under her leadership cultural dominance was taken by the fleet over many coastal villages. On occasion they would even tax the people and enforce levies. Ching Shih and her fleet were known to rob markets, towns and villages from Macao to Canton. 

 By 1810 the government was forced to admit defeat and offered a general amnesty to all pirates who would give up their ships and arms. Stepping back from her position, she kept her loot and got married to her adoptive son Cheung Po Tsai. Ching Shih thus retired from piracy at 35 and opened a combination casino and brothel which she operated until death claimed this Chinese history-making pirate at the age of 69 in 1844. She was survived by at least one son.

     This sketch from 1836 imagines what Ching Shih might have looked like in battle.

Interesting fact: It is believed that the character of Mistress Ching from The Pirates of the Caribbean Movie was based on Ching Shih.  
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in All things Piratey


TftCN: The Pop Culture Pirate: Clothing Essentials??, More like guidelines or ideas anyway

TftCN: The Pop Culture Pirate

For those of you who read last Fridays blog we discussed Historical pirate clothing essentials, but realistically the vast majority of “pirate enthusiasts” fall into a less regimented catagory of pirates which we will call the Pop Culture Pirates. This brand of pirates are less concerned with historical accuracy and more interested in expressing thier own individuality whith a piratey flair. They tend to get their inspiration from Hollywood and other classical works of fiction which are much more romantizied than the actuality of actual pirates. Movies like Pirates of the Caribean, (ALL four of them), Peter Pan, The Pirates of Penzance, Treasure Island, Cutthroat Island, The Princess Bride, The Black Pirate, Captain Blood, The pirates of Black water,etc.( the list goes on and on), are places where people get their inpiration, stereotypes, and ideas to create. Though some will try to match their favorite pirate as closely as possible, many more want to put their own unique spin on it to make it their own. There are very few hard and fast rules for these pirate costumes so we will just generalize some of the more common aspects that tend to pop up in this trend to give you a place to start. In films, books, cartoons, and toys, pirates often have an unrefined appearance that symbolizes the rogue personality and adventurous, seafaring lifestyle.

Clothing Essentials??, More like guidelines anyway

1) The Pirate Boot, or footware. These tall usually brown or black boots, with or without a cuff folded over are widely associated with your friendly, and some not so friendly hollywood pirates. They even make the high heeled one for the ladies who care for a less utilitarian shoe.

2) The Tricorn Hat or scarf Head covering: Not only does it make good sense to cover your head when on the high seas (or faire) to keep from sunstroke and heat exhaustion but it also is a great way to make that pirate fashion statement. Though it doesn’t have to be a tricorn these tend to be widely associated with the pirate.

3) The Pirate Sash: In addition to your belt the sash will give you that extra pirarety flair.

4) The Captains Coat, Vest or Corset. These are seen in most of the pirate movie characters in some combination. Though not necessary it adds to the pirate look.

5)The weapons: Most associate the cutlass, rapier, dagger,sword or flintlock as weapons the pirates would carry.

6) The Jolly Roger, Treasure Map, or nautical embellishment: The pirates could hoist their jolly roger upon their ship, but many other use it to decorate their costumes or clothing to accentuate their inner pirate.

With a simple basic outfit to start with, a poets or swordsman shirt, or a wench’s blouse, pants or a skirt for the ladies if you prefer, some of these ideas may give you a place to start.

See you next week.

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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in All things Piratey


Pirate Costuming – Part 1: Top eight essentials

For all of us who never grew up and still love to  dress up  like pirates, there comes a time when we all go searching for inspiration. If all you  know about  pirates is what you see in Halloween costume shops, you might stop to  wonder how pirate women could possibly swab decks in 6 inch heels and short skirts with little petticoats without falling overboard, or seriously breaking an ankle during a storm.  A great  reference for reenactors is Gentlemen of . If you  have never visited their site, you  should take a moment and check it out.

“But what if I’m a girl????” Sadly I hate to  break it to  you  but HISTORICALLY accurate costuming wise, most women cross dressed and pretended to  be men. “But I  don’t want to  look like a boy…” Then join us next week and we will discuss the top eight essentials for womenpirates . NOT historically accurate. 😉 TGIF!!!!– For ease we have copied thier page here.


Gentlemen of Fortune

Pirate Living History 1680-1725

Getting Started With a Basic Kit

The pirate re-enacting/Living History community is filled with captains, and very few “crew” members. Or in other words, lots of chiefs and very few Indians. Our modern interpretation is that “Captains” dressed a certain way, (pirate coat and pirate bucket boots) and crew members dress another. This was probably the exception, rather than the rule during the GAoP.

While there were no restrictions put on sailors on Pirate ships as to what they could wear and what they couldn’t, the fact is that being a sailor was an occupation that required a practical suit of clothes that was suited to the profession..

Josh Red

Most of the evidence that survives from the GAoP suggests that a “period” pirate looked much like other sailors of the same era.

This is not too surprising, really, as sailors wore specific sailor clothing to do the job of running a ship. Much like a blacksmith wears particular clothing to suit the specific needs of his craft (heavy apron etc).

The historical record (period wills and probate sales pertaining to seamen) show that sailors had several sets of clothes… but that these are normally the same types of clothes, just varying in quality and possibly materials. So instead of a sailor having a short jacket for sea duty and a Justaucorps for going ashore, what we see is that a sailor would have had a short jacket to work in, and a nicer short jacket for going ashore.

It seems that sailors were partial to sailor clothing whether they were on shore or on land.

Navy Slop System

Before we go further, lets discuss the meaning of “Sailors Slops” and put it into a historical perspective.

The term “slops” is the old 16th century word for the fashion of wide, puffy trousers with a knee band that came into style in the late 16th century. They were popular with seamen because they were easy to move in.

The knee bands would be left open, and by the early 17th century they cut it off.

This was the birth of the seaman’s trousers. They were called slops until the 17th century, when the English navy introduced the ‘slop’ system.

Sailor’s Clothing ca 1700 – Hermitage

Slops then became a term applied to all sea clothing sold by a Purser. So by the late 17th through the 18th centuries, if you said ‘slops’ everyone would think that you were talking about seaman’s “fit outs” or sailors clothing in general, not a pair of trousers.

An interesting set of supposedly original sailor clothing comes to us via the Hermitage Musuem in Russia. Peter the Great spent a good amount of time visiting Dutch and English sea ports and naval yards. Upon his returned to Russia, he reinvigorated the Russian Navy modeling at least some of it on what he saw while abroad.

The set to the left is a sailor’s jacket, breeches and hat, that look like they could fit with any western sailor of the time. The jacket lacks pockets, but has the split cuffs closed by 3 buttons. The cut of the jacket follows the body closely including the arms. There are a ton of buttons on the jacket that go from the throat to slighlty below the waist where the jacket then flairs. The buttons appear to be made like the ones from the Gunnister and Arnish Moor jackets, that is, the same material as the body of the coat over wooden discs.

A few years ago I was asked by someone, “What should I get first?” This is really under the parent question of, “What things do I need to get to participate?”. This led me to develop a Top 8 list of the “basics” one needs whether they are just starting out or have been around a while. The folks at Gentlemen oF Fortune encourage all pirate groups (and individuals getting into the hobby) to develop a basic list of clothing items that their members are advised to acquire. As they gain experience and learn more about the History of the GAoP and its dress, they can add to the basic kit to flesh it out, or, obtain a different one to create a particular “persona”, and still have their basic stuff to serve as a loaner to other new members.



GoF ranks shoes as the number one piece of kit that a pirate re-enactor should acquire. Now, I have been accused of having a shoe fetish, and while that may be true, its not the reason that this is the number one item to have folks buy.

Here is why they are number 1

  • Shoes are one of the most expensive non-weapon items of the pirate kit, and folks hate to spend “weapon-kinda-money” on something so un-sexy as a pair of shoes. Thus, it is something that most re-enactors never get around to make right. If you get them first, you will avoid this problem
  • Most pirate re-enactors don’t have correct shoes for themselves, let alone an extra pair to loan to a new guy. So “borrowing” shoes is not as easy as borrowing a sword, shirt, hat, or spoon. If you don’t have good shoes that fit, chances are nobody else will have good shoes that fit you either.
  • Shoes are a bespoke item, that is, they have to be made for you as there are no off the shelf, ready made 18th century shoes available. It normally takes a minimum of 12 weeks to get a pair of shoes made for you and often up to a year (and sadly, sometimes more). So the sooner you start down the path, the better off you will be as the time to get correct shoes is not 3 days before an event.

From “Elizabeth and Mary” Wreck

Correct shoes seem to be the bane of most re-enactors, not just the pirate re-enactor. If you pardon the expression, shoes are often the Achilles’ heel of an otherwise authentic kit. Shoes and buckles in the 18th Century could be expensive clothing items and authentic reproductions are expensive today as well.

In general, shoes should be constructed from vegetable tanned leather, have timber or leather heels, a square or round toe, and be straight lasted (no right or left designation).

So, if a person has made the commitment to do pirate living history (that is, not just a casual thing) they should immediately contact a shoe maker (cordwainer) and begin the process of having some shoes made.

For detailed info on GAoP shoes and buckles, please follow the links to Footwear and The Shoe Project


Trying to decide what comes next, is a tad difficult. You need them all, but often there are stop gaps available until you can get your own righteous pirate kits items. So, next I suggest you get sailors trousers. This is a simple item that you really can make yourself.

Woodes Rogers 1712

There is a debate raging about what kinds of trousers, shorts, or breeches that GAoP era sailors (or pirates) would have worn. The pictorial record of 1690-1720(ish) seems to show that trousers or a pair of breeches seem to be the most common type of garment used to cover the legs. At the same time, we have a vision of a sailor with the wide leg shorts that have become synonymous with pirates, and we need to put them in historical perspective.

Dutch Sailor – Picart 1720

The information that we do have about them is that there are written references to open knee’d’ breeches being worn, and by the 1730s, we begin to see the pictorial evidence of the “slop shorts” that we are familiar with. What is uncertain, for now at least, is how the evolution of these develops during the GAoP.

When we talk about sailor’s leg coverings, we can divide them into different categories.

  • The long “trousers” or “slop hose”
  • Petticoat britches (the real wide skirt-like pleated shorts)
  • The plain wide shorts/trousers that we normally think of as slops (we will refer to them here as “short slops.”)

Of these, the most commonly pictured are the long trousers, followed by breeches. Breeches are specifically referred to in the 1706 Admiralty Slop Contracts, and are the fashionable thing for the landsmen of the time. Petticoat breeches or britches were a holdover from the 17th century, and for the most part are dying out during the beginning of the GAoP.

#3 Sailors Short Jacket

Look through any period pictures of sailors during our GAoP period (see Woodes Rogers above) and you will notice that just about every sailor/pirate wears some sort of short jacket. You should be wearing one too.

If you are already moaning because its brutally hot in your area, get one in linen. Some had pockets, some didn’t. Most have a split style “mariners” cuff. Brass, pewter, or bronze buttons (with shank) are appropriate.

#4 Neckerchief

If you followed my advice above and took a look at contemporary pictures of pirates and sailors, you should have noticed that 99% of the time, the sailors/pirates in the picture are wearing a neckerchief. This is a double edge sword as it makes it a bear to find supportive information about shirt collars using the pictorial record because the damn things (neckerchief) are blocking the view of the shirt. But at the same time, it can be used by the re-enactor to hides a lot of sins in the “I ain’t got a decent pirate shirt” department.

You have a lot of options for neckerchiefs, but the simplest would be a 1 yard square piece of linen. You can slightly roll the edge and whip stitch around it to keep it from fraying, and by the time you finished re-watching a Firefly episode, the thing will be done. Silk is nice, but it doesn’t have to be silk. My particular choice as “The best option,” would be a 1 yard square of block printed hand woven cotton calico. Please steer clear of paisley prints and cowboy look-alike bandanas.


The shirt of this period is best made from linen, hemp, or fustian, and dare I say, cotton. This will not be the place for a discussion of cotton textiles, but I will go into if further on a different page. Right now, recommended fabrics for shirts that are unarguable would be blue and white checkered linen (in line with the Admiralty Slop Contract of 1706 & 1717), or light to medium weight plain linen.

You can make your own shirt with directions at this site.

shirt pattern.

And there is another shirt pattern here.The basic “shirt” pattern seems to be the same or similar for the mid to late 17th Century through the mid-18th Century. It is has two square front and back panels, a stand up collar, and gussets under the arms. There is some evidence that shirts this early had a “yoke” (support piece that strengthened the shoulder line) and for a fold down collar, but you can’t go wrong with a stand up collar and a yokeless shirt. Gathers at the wrist and neck can be made with linen tape going through a button hole and then tied.

If a shirt is being marketed online as a “pirate shirt”, I would almost certainly stay away from it. The shirt is a very simple item to make. With a little time and effort, you can make an authentic piece of kit with your own grimy little hands.

#6 HAT

The options here are a cocked hat/tricorne or one of the knitted styles. For a cocked hat, I suggest getting a wool felt blank and cock it your self. It is probably the best way to get one that you like (for the least amount of coin).

There is more information, and links to hat sellers at the Sailors Hats page.


The current recommendation is to choose a light wool or cotton stocking. It was fashionable to have stockings that match the color of your clothing so don’t feel limited to just “white”. Also, a friend of mine had a great idea to tone down the bright white of his new stockings. He “dyed” them on the stove in hot water and a couple of tea bags and/or some instant coffee. Keep an eye on these though unless you want a brown pair of stockings. 5-8 minutes ought to be enough to dull them to a more reasonable shade.

There are no authentic knitted stockings available. Authentic stockings were shaped to fit the leg (either by reductions if knitted by hand, or seamed that way if knitted on a frame) rather than stretching to accommodate the leg & foot like cotton/lyrca modern reproductions. Plus there should be a seam up the back (if frame knit) or a fake seam up the back (a column of purl stitches to simulate a seam) if hand knit.

If wearing breeches, stockings during the early 18th Century were being worn over the knee and over top of the breeches instead of tucked in underneath.


Dutch Pistol 1710

Now, I know a lot of you are pissed off that I rank weapons so low on the priority list. Its not that I don’t think they are important, its just that, of all the pirate gear available, weapons are usually available to “be loaned to you.” Most re-enactors don’t have a pair of correct shoes, but they probably have 3 swords, 2 pistols, and a Brown Bess.

The other sticky wicket is that very few weapons on the market are authentic to our time period, despite what the vendor says. I go into more detail about specific weapons on the Firearms page. You can get away with a cudgel for a shore going weapon, as most period pictures of sailors and pirates depicted on land have some sort of stick with them.

I guess I have officially just taken all the fun out of pirate re-enacting if I have recommended a “stick” over a sword or gun for a newbie to get, but I would rather the new folks get their feet wet in the hobby before jumping in and getting something that might not be appropriate.

Its a good idea to find out what the members of your group, or the group that you would normally do events with, does as far as weapons go. If you are with a group that demonstrates period sword fighting techniques, or with one that likes to fence with each other, you should probably get weapons that will be compatible with the other group members.

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in All things Piratey


TftCN: All things piratey- Pirate treasure

Today  is  the  first installment of a new set of articles featuring Pirate history,  facts, fiction, and trivia. We will be listing these articles under “All things Piratey” .  Though many of the people who love pirates may be well versed in the stories of many of the famous characters thoughout history, we would like to  share with those who may  not.  So without further adieu.

Pirate treasure

During the Golden age of Piracy Spain minted their currency in silver and gold. Spanish money was originally  minted by hand. The silver and gold was melted down into  thin strips. As the metal cooled it was beaten into  the desired thickness by  hand. Then the coins were cut out to  the approximate size and the blank was placed into a coin die ( or stamp). The face or head side would be struck , and then the tails, with  a hammer and the die into  the  soft metal. It would then be weighed and if over , small pieces would be “nipped off”.

Later,  a coin press was used pressing both sides at once and cutting off the extra metal  making them more uniform.

The word “doubloon” is derived from the Spanish dobla, which means “double,” a reference to the fact that the doubloon was worth twice that of the pistole, the regular Spanish gold coin. Going progressively down the scale of value, the Spaniards also dealt in reales, coins of much smaller denomination. Incidentally, the “pieces of eight” which crop in stories about pirates would have been worth eight reales, or around 1/16 of a doubloon.

Finr Full 8 Gold Doubloon

Pieces Of Eight

Spanish Pieces of Eight from Spanish shipwreck off Florida Coast Photo Courtesy of Dr. Robert E. Lee Spence


Picture of Authentic 8 escudo Spanish Doubloon from Florida Shipwreck 1715 Senora de la Regla

This is a picture of a Rare US minted Doubloon Minted by a man named Ephraim Brasher. This picture is the coin from the Smithsonian collection.

Brasher Doubloon Smithsonian Collection. Reverse side

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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in All things Piratey