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Calico Jack Facts and Piracy

Calico Jack Facts and Piracy

John Rackham, known as Calico Jack, was a pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. He operated in the Bahamas and Cuba for most of his career. Calico Jack is known for two things: The creation of the Jolly Roger and his lover Anne Bonny. He also deposed Charles Vane, retired from piracy and then came out of retirement. 

Calico Jack Career

Calico Jack Rackham Facts

Calico Jack first shows up on the record books as the quartermaster for Charles Vane.

A situation arose when a man-of-war came into the distance of Vane’s ship. Vane opted to retreat rather than fight, despite overwhelming support to fight. This decision gave grounds for Calico Jack to brand his captain as a coward.

He deposed Vane and gave his supporters the other sloop in the fleet.

Rackham made a career of plundering small vessels close to shore once he became captain. He and his crew captured the Kingston, a small Jamaican vessel, and made it their flagship. They made several conquests in the West Indies, taking a couple of large ships off of Bermuda.

In 1719, Rackham sailed into Nassau in the Bahamas, taking advantage of a general amnesty for pirates to obtain a royal pardon and commission from Governor Woodes Rogers. Rogers had been sent to the Bahamas to address the problem of pirates in the Caribbean who had started to attack and steal from British ships.

In December, he captured the merchant ship Kingston. The Kingston had a rich cargo and promised to be a big score for Rackham and his crew. Unfortunately for him, the Kingston had been taken within sight of Port Royal, where outraged merchants outfitted bounty hunters to go after him. They caught up with him in February 1719, while his ship and the Kingston were anchored at Isla de Los Pinos off of Cuba. Rackham and most of his men were onshore at the time, and they escaped capture by hiding in the woods—but their ship and rich trophy were taken away.

Calico and his men made their way back to Nassau, where they appeared before Governor Rogers and asked for the royal pardon, claiming that Vane had forced them to become pirates. Rogers hated Vane and chose to believe them, granting them the pardon and allowing them to stay. Their time as honest men did not last long.

Calico began an affair with Anne Bonny who would become his lover and partner on his next pirate voyage. The two would eventually marry.

Mary Read would also join this notorious crew and terrorize the Caribbean for the next few years.

Rogers who issued a pardon for Calico Jack soon gave orders to capture or kill him and his crew.

Calico was caught around Jamaica and then sent to Spanish Town, Jamaica for trial.

He was executed on 18 November 1720 in Port Royal.

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