While in the vicinity of Cuba in 1668, English pirate Robert Searles captured a Spanish supply ship and a brigantine on its way to Florida. On board was French surgeon Pedro Piques who had worked at the fort in St. Augustine. When he told Searles about the vulnerable city, Searles decided to sail there.

Searles maneuvered one of his captured ships into view of the fort and ordered the imprisoned crew to appear on deck and perform their usual tasks. The "supply ship" disguise fooled the presidio launch. The townspeople thought the supply ship would wait for favorable wind and dock in the morning.

Around midnight, Searles quietly maneuvered his ship into harbor. He and his pirates landed and quickly spread out, killing or capturing anyone they found while pillaging homes and shops. The townspeople, including the governor and the soldiers, fled into the woods.

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Mary Read was a seaman on a ship that was captured by pirates and she turned then to a life of piracy.

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Did you know?

  • The Jolly Roger was a black flag flown to identify the vessel as a pirate ship. While the skull and crossbones is the most common of these flags, many great pirate captains designed custom symbols to identify exactly who is attacking.

  • "Shiver me timbers" is an expression of excitement or awe. Its origin has to do with sailing in heavy seas, when the ship is lifted up and pounded down so hard that the timbers are said to shiver.

  • Although pirates have been around since the Romans and Vikings, most pirating happened during the Golden Age of Piracy between 1680 and 1730.

  • Pirates believed that whistling on a ship would cause the weather to turn stormy. Consider the phrase 'to whistle up a storm.'


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