The plague of Pirates that marked the end of the American War of Independence almost put an end to merchant trade on the Eastern Seaboard of North America and the West Indies; only French ships came and went unhindered. In just eleven months three-hundred and sixteen American merchant vessels were attacked and stolen. In an almost unheard of spirit of co-operation in the period that history has designated the Quasi War, the navies of both America and Britain embarked on what might be called a loose association, exchanging signalling codes and the supplying of powder and ammunition and joined in the war against the Pirate menace strangling trade in these Oceans.
Due to the war with France, Spain and Holland the theatre of war greatly extended the resources of Britain, leading to the Squadrons in the West Indies being greatly reduced, so as to be almost ineffective against this pirate scourge. Repeated pleas for assistance from Admiral Ferguson of the Leeward Island Squadron, stationed in Antigua, led to the Admiralty sending out three large French-built frigates; the Osprey, Commanded by Captain James Morgan, the Merlin Commanded by Acting-Captain Rab Stuart, and the Falcon Commanded by Acting-Captain Shakespeare Jones; their mission being ...to find and destroy the pirates.
While enjoying a great measure of success, their endeavours were complicated by the news that the Earl of Oxford, a very powerful and influential Member of Parliament, along with his wife and daughter had gone missing while on transit to their Estates in Barbados. It was feared that they had been captured by pirates and were being held for ransom. It fell to Captain Morgan and his frigates to find and rescue the Earl – which they did, only to fall foul of a French Invasion Fleet sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to recapture possessions previously invaded and captured by the British Navy. and hidden away in Caribbean Harbours then looted and sold on - probably to other freelance French pirates. I am unable to discover what happened to the thousands of American crewmen, but I am prepared to bet that many found themselves in plantations cutting cane under armed guard.
Author: Glyn Adams
Series: The Battle of Antigua
First Published by: Glyn Adams
Date: 27 December 2015