Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: Benito de Soto

Benito de Soto was one of the most feared and ruthless pirates, which positively accounts for the stories and legends that surround him. De Soto began his career as a Portuguese slaver after leaving his home in Galacia, a province of Spain, for Brazil, already trained as a mariner. It was there that he signed on to the Defense de Pedro, a ship headed to Africa. The purpose of the trip was to smuggle slaves in large numbers, more than would be available to a normal trader, and given the tone of the trip, attracted men of questionable character and status.

The year was 1827 and de Soto immediately began scheming a plan to take over the ship. A mutiny occurred, led by de Soto, but with the help of other crewman. After patiently waiting, as the captain took the brunt of the work and the slaves were loaded onboard, the attack was fierce. There are two opinions of how those loyal to the captain departed the ship: trying to maintain their lawful state, they left the ship in a small boat, the other were simply thrown overboard. Regardless of how they left the ship, the weather did turn stormy, and being far from shore, it is agreed they died at sea.

Selling the slaves and collecting his profits, de Soto began attacking the waters of the Caribbean, renaming the Defense de Pedro the Black Joke (most likely translated from Portuguese). As word spread about the torture, murder and torching of vessels, ships sailing from South America formed convoys in the hope of deterring pirates and being allowed safe passage.

After taking a small American brig and flying first British flags, then Buenos Aires flags, some of the pirates boarded the Morning Star, a ship sailing in the South Atlantic. and beat the crew, abused the women, pillaged all valuables, and finally set fire to the ship. The pirates continued their plundering in the Atlantic before making their way to Spain. After unloading some of their booty in Northwest Spain, the pirates set sail for the Strait of Gibraltar, but instead wrecked their ship near Cadiz. As rumor circulated about the nature of the men, they were forced to flee, eventually leading to the capture of all the men but two. It is believed one man got away entirely, and de Soto, the pirates' leader, escaped to Gibraltar. With heavy pressure to capture the infamous de Soto, the British searched tirelessly and finally caught de Soto.

After a long battle over jurisdiction, two trials emerged: the crew was tried in Spain and de Soto in Gibraltar and both were executed by hanging. It is believed that de Soto was defiant even in his last minutes, not allowing anyone to fix his noose, but instead placing it around his neck as he jumped to his death. He is also believed to have shouted "Adeus Todos" or "Adios Todos" (so long, everybody), creating a debate whether a Spaniard sailing out of Brazil would have used Spanish or Portuguese. In the end, de Soto's head was stuck on a pike as a vicious warning to pirates and would-be pirates alike.

Copyright 2006 CleverMedia
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