Legend has it that these were the last words penned by Captain William Kidd before he was hanged in 1701.

My name was Captain Kidd,
when I sail'd, when I sail'd,
And so wickedly I did,
God's laws I did forbid,
When I sail'd, when I sail'd.

I roam'd from sound to sound,
And many a ship I found,
And then I sunk or burn'd,
When I sail'd.

I murder'd William Moore,
And laid him in his gore,
Not many leagues from shore,
When I sail'd.

Farewell to young and old,
All jolly seamen bold,
You're welcome to my gold,
For I must die, I must die.

Farewell to Lunnon town,
The pretty girls all round,
No pardon can be found,
and I must die, I must die,

Farewell, for I must die.
Then to eternity,
in hideous misery,
I must lie, I must lie.

Pirate by Choice or by Chance?

William Kidd was born in Scotland circa 1645. As a youth, sailing was in his blood and he quickly rose through the ranks to achieve the rank of captain. He was then issued a contract to become what was known as a privateer for the British government. This was sort of like being a government sanctioned pirate whose duty was to attack and loot any French ships that they might encounter since France and England were engaged in a war at the time. Another of his duties was to seek out and destroy any other pirate ships that were terrorizing British ships. Kidd was given command of a ship named the “Adventure Galley” and set sail to roam the seas in search of his quarry.

The Adventure Galley was barely underway when it was stopped by a warship from the Royal Navy. Many of Kidd’s crew were impressed into service and by the time all was said and done he had barely enough crewman left to manage the ship. Kidd was facing a dilemma; he had originally intended to sail to the Indian Ocean but without ample crew could not undertake such a voyage. Instead he set sail for New York where he recruited about 85 men in order to replace those men he lost to their impressment

Kidd then set sail for Madagascar, a known pirate haven, with all intentions of fulfilling his contract. Along the way he was said to have plundered and looted several ships. Unfortunately, the booty from these ships did not meet up to his crews demands for salary and were threatening mutiny. One of his crew, William Moore, was killed by Kidd when he suggested that they attack any ship they encountered.

Upon arrival in Madagascar, much of Kidd’s crew deserted and he was left with barely enough men to continue. It was then that his luck changed (sorta). He stumbled upon a 400 ton treasure ship called the “Quedagh Merchant” that was sailing under a French pass. He and his crew managed to capture the ship and its cargo which included gold, silk, opium, sugar and various other assortments of the day. Unbeknownst to Kidd, most of the cargo belonged to the British East India Company and his stealing it did not put him in the good graces of the English government.

Kidd then scuttled the Adventure Galley, claiming it was no longer seaworthy and took command of the “Quedagh Merchant”, renaming it the “Adventure Prize”. He then set sail for the West Indies. Upon his arrival he found out that he was being hunted and made what would turn out to be a fatal decision. He decided to turn himself over to the colonies.

On his way back to the colonies, Kidd decided to make a pit stop. Outside New York, Kidd buried the bulk of the treasure on Gardiner's Island (one of the few verified instances of a pirate actually burying a treasure) and attempted to use it as a bargaining chip for a pardon. It didn't work. Kidd was arrested and imprisoned and the bulk of the the treasure was recovered. He was charged with piracy and murder and shipped back to London to stand trial.

The trial lasted all of one day. Kidd was found guilty on both counts and was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence also called for his body to be displayed on a dock of the Thames until it rotted away as a means of discouraging any future pirates

As fate would have it, the hanging didn’t even go well. On the first attempt, the rope snapped and Kidd had to be re-hung. The second time worked like a charm and Kidd was dead.

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