John Martel (pirate)

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James or John Martel
— Pirate —
Type Privateer, later Pirate
Place of birth Jamaica Jamaica
Base of operations Jamaica
Commands John and Martha
Wealth Equiv. US $1.6 million today;[1] #20 Forbes top-earning pirates[2]

John Martel, sometimes called James Martel, was a Jamaican pirate captain.

Martel is believed to have been a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession. After the war, like many other privateers, he turned to piracy. He was considered ruthless even by his own men, who claimed that he had killed the entire crew of one merchant ship he captured.

In September 1716, Martel plundered shipping off Jamaica, using an 8-gun sloop. Sailing northward to Cuba, he captured the logwood freighter John and Martha and adapted her for piracy, cutting down her afterdeck and fitting her with 22 guns. The pirates then sailed toward the Mona Passage, and at some point en route, Martel was deposed as captain, his men replacing him with a pirate named Kennedy. Martel continued with the crew, in command of his original sloop, while Kennedy commanded the John and Martha.[3]

The pirates stopped at Santa Cruz to careen and clean their vessels in January 1717. They were surprised there by HMS Scarborough, and the pirates were compelled to flee and abandon their ships. Martel's ultimate fate is unknown.[4]


  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ Woolsey, Matt (September 19, 2008). "Top-Earning Pirates". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, pp. 65–66; Don Carlos Seitz, Under the Black Flag, pp. 116–17.
  4. ^ Seitz, p. 119.