John Halsey (privateer)
|Died||1708 (aged 45–46)
|Type||privateer (c. 1704–5);
|Allegiance||Great Britain (as privateer); none (pirate)|
|Base of operations||Atlantic Ocean (privateer); Madagascar (pirate)|
|Wealth||Equiv. US$14.3 million in 2015; #8 Forbes top-earning pirates|
John Halsey (died 1708) was a colonial American privateer and a later pirate who was active in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans during the early 18th century. Although much of his life and career is unknown, he is recorded in A General History of the Pyrates which states "He was brave in his Person, courteous to all his Prisoners, lived beloved, and died regretted by his own People. His Grave was made in a garden of watermelons, and fenced in with Palisades to prevent his being rooted up by wild Hogs."
Born in Boston, Halsey became a privateer in the service of Great Britain commanding the 10-gun brigantine Charles during the War of the Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne's War as it was known in the American colonies, and raided French fishing fleets in the Newfoundland and later sailed to Fayal in the Azores and the to the Canary Islands where he attacked Spanish ships en route to Barcelona during 1704. During the voyage, several of his men deserted as he put his lieutenant ashore at Cape Verde. However they were subsequently returned to Halsey by the Portuguese governor who recognized the validity of his privateer's commission.
However, as his letter of marque expired the following year, he turned to piracy and sailed to Madagascar. As he made his way through the Cape of Good Hope, putting into Augustine Bay for water, wood and other provisions, Halsey picked up several castaway sailors of the lost Degrave, formerly under the command of Captain Young. Leaving Augustine, he sailed for the Red Sea in search of treasure ships the Great Mogul of India operated in the Indian Ocean.
In late 1706, the Charles spotted a large Dutch ship which Halsey declined to attack, reluctant to offend a European power. His crew condemned the captain and his gunner for cowardice and relieved them of their posts. The crew, who presumed the ship to be a lone merchantman, pressed forward with their attack only to discover, as they approached their intended victim, that the Dutch ship was well gunned. It fired a warning shot towards the Charles, which injured a crew member manning the wheel as well as unstripping the swivel gun and severely damaging the topsail. The Dutch attack caught the crew off guard and many to fled into the ship's hold. Despite the damage, the Charles escaped and Halsey was reinstated as commander shortly afterwards.
After seizing two coastal traders off the Nicobar Islands in February 1707, he sailed to the Straits of Malacca fared poorly due to the low morale of the crew following the incident of the Dutch ship.
Returning to Madagascar, Halsey recruited additional men including his Quartermaster Nathaniel North. Setting sail for Mocha, he encountered a British squadron consisting of five warships shortly after entering the Red Sea in August 1707. Despite facing a combined 62 guns, Halsey chose to engage the British fleet and, after forcing the largest to flee, the remaining warships scattered with Halsey capturing two of the warships, along with £50,000 in money and cargo.
Following his return to Madagascar in January 1708, his flotilla was virtually destroyed in a hurricane. Halsey died of a fever soon after.
- Pringle, Patrick. Jolly Roger: The Story of the Great Age of Piracy. New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-486-41823-5
- Rogozinski, Jan. Pirates!: Brigands, Buccaneers, and Privateers in Fact, Fiction, and Legend. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996. ISBN 0-306-80722-X
- Rogozinski, Jan. Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Pirate Democracy in the Indian Ocean. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2000. ISBN 0-8117-1529-9
- Seitz, Don Carlos, Howard F. Gospel and Stephen Wood. Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates. Mineola, New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-486-42131-7