Benjamin Hornigold was a prolific pirate. The golden age of pirating was wrapping up around 1730, and Hornigold was there to finish it with a bang. And with a name like Hornigold, expectations were high. Like all pirates, he was randy for gold. When he wasn’t looting booty, he was snatching hats off the heads of helpless sailors.
The hat-hungry Hornigold
In 1717, Hornigold hunted down a merchant ship off the coast of Honduras. As his crew boarded, Hornigold explained the reason behind this particular plunder: He and his crew had gotten wasted the night before and in their drunken haze, threw their hats into the sea.
They needed new ones and intended to get them the only way they knew how to get things in general: raiding. The merchants of the invaded ship pleaded with the pirates to spare their lives. To their surprise, they got what they wanted. Hornigold let the bare-headed merchants continue on their journey.
Before the hat thievery
Hornigold started his pirating career with more profit-oriented goals. He began by looting merchant vessels off the coast of New Providence, the most densely populated island in the Bahamas. Hornigold organized small raids using sailing canoes and a small ship to attack larger vessels.
He built a reputation quickly. By 1717, he was at the head of a 30-gun ship named “Ranger.” At the time, it was the most heavily armed ship in the Bahamas. His crew of 350 hardened men terrorized and pillaged every non-British merchant ship they could get their hands on.
Ruthless but loyal
Hornigold claimed to be a defender of British economic policies. He never attacked British ships. In November of 1717, Hornigold’s crew decided they couldn’t care less about Britain. They overthrew him and began pillaging ships under any flag.
Hornigold barely escaped in a small ship with only his most loyal crewmen. For his loyalty to the crown, Hornigold was pardoned by King George and the governor of Jamaica. He was recruited as a pirate hunter, and spent the last 18 months of his sailing career chasing his former allies. So much for the Pirate Code. Apparently, self-preservation knows no loyalty. Just over a year into his pirate-hunting career, his ship wrecked in a storm. Hornigold was never seen again.