William Knight (pirate)

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William Knight (fl. ca. 1686) was a 17th-century English buccaneer known for joining privateering expeditions against the Spanish colony of Peru in 1685 and 1686, where they looted cities along the coast, in some cases being paid a kind of ransom to depart.


In 1684, William Knight led a landing party consisting of forty English and twenty French buccaneers in an attack on La Serena in the Spanish colony of Chile, but was forced to retreat in the face of strong cavalry.[1] The following year he joined a privateering expedition with Swan, Townley and Harris under the command of Captain Edward Davis that raided and looted the town of Realejo and, the island of Pueblo Novo early in July. They were joined by William Knight and his crew on 15 July. He had brought Francois Grogniet and his French pirates with him. The crews fell out and fell into fighting; the French and English parted agreeing to occupy opposite sides of the island.

On 7 September, three of the English captains, Davis, Knight and, Harris decided they would leave and head back to Peru with four ships and three hundred men. A "spotted fever"[2] broke out on board ship contracted from the raid into Nicaragua, so they put into the shelter of Amapala Bay. Lying up on the a small island for weeks many of the sick among the crews died.

They careened off the Galapagos Islands, had engagements with the Spaniards, and took prizes. With fewer than 250 men, in March they raided and looted the Spanish town of Sana, Peru south of Trujillo, carrying away an estimated 100,000 pesos (£25,000).

Although their similar raid against Paita gained slightly less, the buccaneers liberated forty slaves who joined their expedition. The expedition attacked five more cities during the months of May and June, reportedly murdering city officials and priests who refused to reveal information on hidden treasure. The city of Pisco paid the raiders £5,000 in July.

Knight and Captain Davis parted company at the Juan Fernández Islands, where each crew member received £2,500. Knight's later activities are unknown, other than crossing the Atlantic where he is thought to have been lost.[3]


  1. ^ "William Knight", Historical Text Archive
  2. ^ a tick typhus
  3. ^ Peter Gerhard, (2012) "Pirates of New Spain, 1575-1742," Courier Dover Publications.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rogozinski, Jan. Pirates!: Brigands, Buccaneers, and Privateers in Fact, Fiction, and Legend. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996. ISBN 0-306-80722-X