Several Whig peers—and even the King—invested in Kidd’s scheme, forming a syndicate to enable him to purchase a large fighting ship, hire another tough buccaneering crew, and sail to the Indian Ocean to take both pirate ships and French merchantmen. The usual financial arrangements for paying the crew and the investors hinged on selling captured ships and contents in prize courts. Letters of marque were obtained to hunt down “Pirates, Freebooters, and Sea Rovers,” especially Captains “Thomas Tew, John Ireland, Thomas Wake and William Mace.” The King (William III), allowed for Kidd to skip the Admiralty Courts so he could receive direct payments himself!
An artist’s rendition of a scene aboard Captain Kidd’s ship while anchored in New York Harbor
The 34-gun Adventure Galley set sail in April 1696 for New York to recruit the 152-man crew described by the Governor of New York as “men of desperate fortunes, and necessitous of getting vast treasure.” Serving under Captain Kidd was no picnic, for he was “a very lusty man, fighting with his men on any occasion, often calling for his pistols and threatening any one that durst speak anything contrary to his mind to knock out their brains, causing them to dread him.”
The Charles Galley, a ship of similar build and contemporary of Adventure Galley
After months of no action, the crew became mutinous, and Kidd decided to attack the “pilgrim fleet” moving toward the Red Sea. The Adventure Galley then seized a merchant ship flying the English flag, the turning point in Kidd’s career. The Portuguese sent two warships to track down Kidd’s ship, now considered a pirate. He defeated them and sailed to a small group of islands nearby, where his crew committed various atrocities on the inhabitants. Captain Kidd struck down a recalcitrant crew member, who died the next day, Kidd saying he would be exonerated by friends in England. They next took the Quedah Merchant, flying the French flag, but with an English captain. That cargo was quickly sold so the crew could receive long deferred pay. He took over the captured ship and with a crew of just twenty men, sailed to the Caribbean.
The French pass Kidd acquired from the Quedagh Merchant
England declared Captain Kidd a pirate, alerting all the colonial governors to apprehend him and the crew if opportunity afforded. Unfortunately, Kidd got blamed for a number of depredations by other pirates, enhancing his reputation in a way guaranteed to be detrimental to his future. He returned to New York, hoping to negotiate a pardon from Governor Lord Bellomont, his business partner and financier of his voyages. After an absence of three years, Captain Kidd was reunited with his wife and daughters, and spent time on Gardiner’s Island off Long Island. Upon a visit to the governor, Kidd was arrested.
Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont and 12th Governor of New York (1636-1701)