Brackish Buccaneers | Chesapeake Bay Magazine

New book looks at Chesapeake pirates

by Kristina Gaddy

Top Photo: Dominic Michael Serress depiction of the French cutter La Paix entering a harbor on a port tack. Credit: National Maritime Museum

An outlaw of the ocean was terrorizing the Chesapeake Bay. Someone had spotted La Paix near Lynnhaven Bay in the spring of 1700, and that meant merchants were in danger. 

The ironically named ship (it means The Peace in French) was captained by Louis Guittar, a Frenchman with a penchant for raiding and stealing. The Bay had been a commercial hub of the British colonies for decades, with ships coming and going from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and other ports in North America. Guittar arrived with his crew of 150 men to take advantage of this trade, seizing at least three vessels in a week, according to Jamie L.H. Goodalls Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars

Guittar is one of Goodalls favorite pirates covered in her new book. He had a very prolific, but short, career, she says. Hes also what a reader might imagine when they envision a pirate: a gutsy Frenchman of colonial times, boarding and plundering ships, taking men captive, stealing sails and rigging, and even burning boats when his crew felt so inclined.

Governor Francis Nicholson of Virginia, who did not share Goodalls opinion, quickly dispatched military vessels to capture Guittar and 124 pirates. A 12-hour battle raged before Guittar finally surrendered. Nicholson sent the pirates to England ....

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