Pirates, 1726: The Regionalism of Danger in the Early Northeast

This article originally appeared at Borealia and is reposted here with their permission.

by Alexandra L. Montgomery

When Samuel Doty put in to Mirligueche Bay in Nova Scotia for water on 25 August 1726, everything still seemed to be going according to plan.[1] Doty, the master of the sloop Tryal, had likely been cautious and concerned when he sailed from Massachusetts on a fishing voyage earlier that month. After all, the four-year-long war between the English on one hand and Northern New England and Nova Scotia’s original inhabitants on the other had only ended the previous December, and the peace had been ratified in Annapolis Royal barely two months before Doty arrived in the province. Fishing vessels such as the Tryal were fair game during war, and a great many Wabanaki were skilled mariners who time and again had shown their willingness and ability to take English ships during times of both declared and undeclared hostilities.[2] So when Doty and his crew spied several people on the shore near the site of a Mi’kmaw village close to modern Lunenburg, his feelings were doubtless mixed.

Thomas Durell, A Chart of the Sea Coast of Nova Scotia, Accadia and Cape Breton [map]. 14 miles to 1 inch. 1736. (Detail). National Archives, U.K. Used with permission. Merligueche is located on the far right edge, spelled “Marligash”

Thomas Durell, A Chart of the Sea Coast of Nova Scotia, Accadia and Cape Breton [map]. 14 miles to 1 inch. 1736. (Detail). National Archives, U.K. Used with permission. Merligueche is located on the far right edge, spelled “Marligash”

Still, however, things seemed to be going well. He felt comfortable enough to hail the people on shore, and invite the two Acadian men present—but not those he identified as Mi’kmaq—to come aboard for drinks and an exchange of news. Those Acadians were Jean-Baptiste Guedry dit Laverdure, and his thirteen-year-old son and namesake, Jean-Baptiste fils. They, too, were watching the situation unfold cautiously. But their reasons were quite different from Doty’s: they, along with Laverdure’s Mi’kmaw brothers-in-law James and Philippe Meuse, had resolved to take Doty’s ship and men captive—by whatever force necessary. Within a few hours, Doty and his crew were prisoners on their own ship. While the conspirator’s methods were similar to those of pirates sailing the eighteenth-century ocean world from India to the Spanish Main, their motivations were regional and personal. Doty and some of his crew were to be held as prisoners in Mirligueche to ensure the return of Guedry’s son Paul, and James and Philippe’s brother François, who had been captured by the English during the war and were still held at Boston. This was not the first time that members of the extended Guedry-Meuse clan had experienced captivity in New England. During the height of the war, Laverdure’s brother Augustin and sister-in-law Jeanne Hebert had been held for at least several months in Boston, where Jeanne had given birth to twins.

But Guedry and the Meuse brothers’ plans, too, were not to be. In a dramatic reversal of fortune, Doty and his crew were able to overcome their mostly Native captors the next morning, taking advantage of the pirates’ over-enjoyment of the ship’s rum stores the night before. At the end of the brief skirmish, three Mi’kmaw men had jumped overboard, later to be rescued by a passing French ship, while Jean-Baptiste père had to be fished out of a life boat. The Guedrys, the Meuse brothers, and a young Mi’kmaw man named John Missel were taken back to Boston and put on trial, no doubt spending time in the same jail where their family members had been—or still were—held.[3] All five were found guilty of piracy and hanged. The trial proceedings were swiftly printed as The Trials of Five Persons for Piracy, Felony, and Robbery and consumed by a Boston audience eager for stories of justice done to pirates and news of the safety of an important fishing site.

Continue reading at Borealia …


About The Acadiensis Blog

The Acadiensis Blog is a place for Atlantic Canadian historians to share their research with both a scholarly and general audience. We welcome submissions on all topics Atlantic Canadian. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact Acadiensis Digital Communications Editor Corey Slumkoski at corey.slumkoski@msvu.ca.
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