Joseph Thompson (pirate)

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Joseph Thompson (died 1719) was a pirate from Trinidad, Cuba[1], and was active in the Caribbean. He is primarily known for a single incident involving grenades.


Thompson was among hundreds of pirates on New Providence who accepted a 1718 offer of amnesty and pardon for their crimes. Along with Charles Vane and a few others, he soon returned to piracy.[2] After picking up additional crew for his sloop Eagle (some of whom had served with William Moody), he captured and looted several ships in the vicinity.[3] In December 1718 in full view of Port Royal[4] Thompson captured a ship called Kingston whose cargo was worth over £20,000. The ship’s owners complained to Jamaican Governor Nicholas Lawes but there were no Royal Navy warships available.[5]

Instead Lawson issued commissions to two sloops in the harbor[4], promising them a share of the pirates’ treasure in addition to the rewards guaranteed by King George’s September 1717 proclamation to combat piracy.[5] The two sloops sailed before year’s end, encountering the pirate ship and another captured vessel. The pirate vessel under Captain Thompson raised a black flag and moved to attack.[1]

Thompson’s ship came alongside one of the pirate-hunters and “threw vast numbers of powder flasks, granado shells, and stinkpots into her which killed and wounded several, and made others jump overboard.”[5] The other pirate-hunter picked up the survivors, whose stories of the fight “so disheartned the men on board ye other vessell, the pyrate having a superior force, that they made the best of their way back to Port Royal.”[5] Thompson’s 150-man crew, “banditti of all nations,” marooned the remaining sailors on the Cayman Islands.[5]

Jamaica’s merchants pleaded again with Lawes to do something about Thompson. Lawes commissioned four more 10-gun, 80-man sloops with help from the merchants[6], and after refitting another in Port Royal plus the arrival of the fifth-rate frigate[7] HMS Ludlow Castle, divided his forces to protect incoming merchants and hunt down Thompson. Four of the sloops soon cornered Thompson's ship, killing him and recovering the Kingston.[6] Some of his surviving crew were captured to await trial in Bermuda, where they were found guilty and hanged in 1720.[3]

See also[edit]

  • Fifth-rate, the ship class of HMS Ludlow Castle (which was itself scrapped in 1721).[7]


  1. ^ a b Little, Benerson (2010). Pirate Hunting: The Fight Against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present. Washington DC: Potomac Books, Inc. ISBN 9781597975889. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  2. ^ "Pearse to Admiralty 3 Jun 1718". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Fox, E. T. (2014). Pirates In Their Own Words. Raleigh NC: Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9781291945218. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Woodard, Colin (2008). The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Orlando FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0547415753.
  5. ^ a b c d e Headlam, Cecil (1933). America and West Indies: January 1719 | British History Online (January 1719 ed.). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. pp. 1–21. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b Curtin, Marguerite R. (2012). The Story of Hanover - A Jamaican Parish. Portland OR: BookBaby. ISBN 9781623098483. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b Shipley, John (2015). Little Book of Shropshire. Stroud UK: The History Press. ISBN 9780750963428. Retrieved 28 July 2017.