Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: Charles Vane

Like most pirates, the early career of pirate Charles Vane is not very well documented, although it is generally agreed that he began his life of piracy in 1716. At that time, he was among a group of pirates who were raiding Spanish salvage ships, sent to retrieve silver from the sunken Spanish treasure fleet off the coast of Florida. Vane successfully raided the Spanish ships, earning himself one of the richest cargos in history.

In 1718, the Governor of New Providence, Woodes Rogers, offered pirates a pardon in exchange for a guarantee they would quit plundering. While most pirates accepted the pardon, Vane righteously turned it down, taking shots at Rogers' crew on his way back out to sea.

For the next three years, Vane continued practicing piracy on the open seas, amassing a large crew and three ships. He was so successful, in fact, that Governor Rogers decided to send out Colonel William Rhett to hunt Vane down. Meanwhile, he had given command of one of his ships to a fellow pirate by the name of Yeats, and the two pillaged and looted vessels that were entering and leaving the port at Charleston.

Yeats began to believe that he was becoming a seasoned pirate in his own right, and didn't need Vane to be successful. One night while the ships were at anchor, Yeats snuck off with his ship, as well as 15 crew members. Some of the crew seized slaves, and a good deal of Vane's loot. Yeats eventually returned to Charleston, where he surrendered to the pardon offered by the Governor.

Vane later met up with famed pirate Blackbeard, and the two spent a week together enjoying a sort of pirate party. After this, Vane continued to raid ships until he realized that William Rhett was hunting him. His crew then planted information that they were heading South, which Rhett got wind of and headed off after them. Vane actually headed North, to the Windward Passage, avoiding capture at that time.

While there, Vane's crew approached a vessel with the intent of plunder, only to discover that the ship was actually a French war ship. Vane turned and fled, but his crew disagreed with this maneuver. Vane was confronted and the crew elected the ship's quartermaster, "Calico Jack," as their new captain. Vane and a small group of supporters headed back out in a smaller vessel, leaving the main ship.

Vane's ship was destroyed at sea during a storm, and Vane ended up marooned on a small island in the Bay of Honduras. He was eventually rescued, but unfortunately another ship recognized him and notified the ship's captain as to who his passenger really was. Not wanting to be associated with a pirate, and certainly not one as well-known as Vane, his rescuers turned him over to the authorities in Jamaica. He was tried as a pirate, found guilty, and in 1720 was hanged at Gallow's Point.

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