Charles Swan (pirate)

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Charles Swan (died 1690) was a reluctant buccaneer. Captain Swan was forced into piracy by his crew in the 1680s, and proceeded to write letters to the owners of his ship Cygnet in London, begging them to intercede with James II of England for his pardon - even as he looted his way up and down the coast of South America.

He was present at the attack on Payta in 1684, where he petulantly burned the town after no booty was found. On 25 August 1685, he separated from his confederates Peter Harris and Edward Davis, and sailed up the coast of Mexico, but met with little success. He seized the town of Santa Pecaque but lost fifty men to a Spanish counter-attack, including Basil Ringrose.[1]

On 31 March 1686 he set out across the Pacific to ambush the Manila treasure galleon, but failed to over-take the ship. Due to the failure of the assault on Santa Pecaque provisions were short, and by the time they reached the East Indies the crew were plotting to eat their officers of the Cygnet as it crossed the Pacific (starting with the Captain).[2] (Swan is reported to have remarked that the lean William Dampier would have made them a poor meal; the captain himself was a remarkably fat man.) Fortunately they arrived at Guam without resorting to cannibalism, and made their way on to the Sultanate of Mindanao. The arrogance of Swan and unruliness of his men soon spoiled their good relations with the local ruler, Raja Laut; and when the captain decided to abandon the attempt on the galleon, his men mutinied.[3]

He managed to save five thousand pounds (legally the property of the Cygnet's owners) from the mutineers, and remained in Mindanao, becoming an officer in Laut's army; but in 1690 he attempted to escape back to England on a Dutch ship with the money, and was chased by Laut's warriors, who capsized his boat and speared him in the water.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gosse, Philip (1988). The Pirates' Who's Who. BiblioLife. p. 259.
  2. ^ Dampier, William (1991). A Voyage to New Holland. Nonsuch Publishing.
  3. ^ a b Wilkinson, Clennell (1929). William Dampier. John Lane at the Bodley Head.