Charles Vane was a pirate who attacked English and French shipping in the Caribbean. His pirate career lasted for a bout 5 years and his death was typical of a pirate during that time. While he is not as well-known as Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, or other Caribbean pirates, Vane effectively terrorized the open sea.
Charles Vane Facts: Pirate Career
Before Charles Vane was a pirate he lived in Port Royal. There is little known about his early life but he did tend to target English and French vessels so it is possible he sailed under a Spanish flag.
After a short naval career, Charles Vane became the leader of the pirates that operated out of Nassau. King George I offered pardon to all the pirates, but instead of taking the pardon Vane led a group of pirates against the English crown. In his attack he was captured by the British and sent to prison. It was there that he accepted the King’s pardon and was freed. It did not take long for Charles Vane to take up pirating again. He along with Edward England and Calico Jack Rackham captured a Jamaican sloop. He harassed the English around Nassau and eventually drove the British presence from the island. Nassau was again controlled by pirates
Vane quickly gained a reputation for cruelty and would often raid ships and torture the sailors he captured. His actions did not do him any favors with the English as they continued to plot to capture him. Vane continued to raid around the Caribbean and capture ships. The largest ship he captured was a 20 gun French ship which became his new flagship.
Vane was back at Nassau on 22 July 1718 when Woodes Rogers reached Nassau to take office as the new governor. Rogers’ ships trapped Vane in the harbor; Vane’s ship was too large to pass one of the harbor’s two entrances, and the other was blocked by Rogers’ fleet. That night, Vane turned the French ship into a fireship, setting it on fire and sailing it towards Rogers’ ships. The fireship failed to damage any of Rogers’ fleet except one, but the ships were forced to pull away, unblocking the channel. Vane commandeered a small 24 gun sloop, the Katherine, and escaped out the smaller entrance as Rogers’ ships returned.
Charles Vane Facts: Death
Charles Vane attacked a frigate off the coast of Eluethera. He hoisted up the Jolly Roger and the response from the frigate was to hoist up the French flag and fire into them. Due to being outgunned Vane retreated which was seen as an act of cowardice by his men. Vane was replaced by Calico Jack Rackham and placed on a sloop with 16 men that supported him. He continued to capture sloops and raid other shipping before a hurricane ran him aground.
When an English ship found he and his men Vane tried to join the English crew, however an old acquaintance remembered him and Vane was arrested. He was sentenced to death and hanged at the gallows. His corpse was hung in chains at Gun Cay.