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SLOOP WILLIAM
Anne Bonny's and Mary Reed's pirate ship
 

The sloop William was a small but fast twelve-ton sloop.  Her armament was light, consisting of at least four cannons and at the time of the final battle carried thirteen crewmen.   Her captain, Calico Jack, was famous for two thing: the design of his Jolly Roger flag--a skull with crossed swords, and having two female crew members.


Anne Bonny was commonly referred to as "Toothless Annie." She earned he reputation of being the most famous female pirate to sail the Spanish Main.  A ruthless plunderer, raider, this women was a menace to the sea faring vessels in the Caribbean Sea. 

Anne was born in Ireland during the 1690's.  What surprised most people is that she came from a well-off family.   Her parents moved to America and became well respected plantation owners.  She grew up in South Carolina and was fascinated with stories of pirates.  At Charleston she met and married a pirate named James Bonny and the two of them moved to an island in the Caribbean named Nassau. This island was basically run by pirates, and Anne Bonny hung around with famous pirates.

Soon after, James became a coward and a traitor, becoming a paid snitch for the governor.  And Anne distanced herself from him, preferring the company of the island's notorious pirates.  She soon became romantically involved with the dashing pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham.   James Bonny objected to the affair by abducting Anne and bringing her naked to the governor who ordered her whipped on charges of adultery.  Calico Jack intervened and suggested put Anne up for sale to the highest bidder--a 'kinder' legal practice for divorce at the time.

However, the court did not take Jack's proposal and forbade Jack and Anne to see each other.   The pair (with a new crew) then escaped to sea together by stealing a sloop.  They sailed the Caribbean for two months, overtaking other pirate ships. Often Rackham would invite the crew of ships he attacked to join his own. Anne worked hard and fought just as the rest of the crew did. When eventually was discovered and some of the crew members who openly voiced their opinions, Anne "kindly" replied by killing them. Anne became pregnant and went to Cuba to give birth.  There, Anne met Mary Read, a cross-dressing Englishwoman who had also spent time as a man.  Not knowing her gender, Rackham welcomed Mary Read to join his crew. 

Anne Bonny started to have feelings for Read, Mary learned Anne's secret when Anne seduced her, thinking her a handsome guy.  And after some flirtation, Mary revealed her sex to Anne.  The women became friends.  Rackham, becoming jealous of the amount of attention Bonny was giving Read, threatened to kill Read until Anne divulged the secret.  Mary soon shared the same man with Anne!

Mary Reed's background is interesting enough.  Her mother who had a legitimate son became pregnant after her husband died.  She fled to the country to give birth to Mary.  During this time, her son died.  The mother returned and brought Mary up in place of the dead son to get support money from her husband's parents.

Still pretending to be male, Mary joined first the navy, then the cavalry.  She loved and married a fellow soldier.   When her husband died a few years later, she put on male clothes again and went to the Caribbean.

Before long, Mary fell in love with a man who had been forced to join the pirates. She let him know her secret "by carelessly showing her breasts, which were very white."  Soon after he quarreled with another pirate and was challenged to a duel.  Before the duel time, Mary deliberately picked a fight with the same man and ran him through with her cutlass.

Both women were very good at pirating, never shirking from battle.  According to one witness, none among the crew were "more resolute, or ready to board or undertake anything that was hazardous."

Around 10:00 PM on October 20, 1720 the sloop William was spotted by the HMS Tyger in Dry Harbor Bay near the shore, while the crew being mostly drunk and sleeping. Barnet ordered his men to extinguish all lights and to silently approach the pirates. Once his sloop was near the William, Barnet ordered the pirates to surrender but the pirates answered with a few shots from their swivel gun.  Captain Barnet then order his ship to fire a broadside and to close in to beginning boarding.  

The pirates immediately set sail, but lacked manpower as most of the crew retreated into the cabins.  The poor William made it only a few yards before the Tyger caught up and continued the boarding.  Onboard, there were only three pirates trying to fight off the boarding party.  They fought wildly using pistols, cutlasses and boarding axes.  One of them fired a pistol into the hold where the other pirates were hiding while screaming they should come up and fight like men.  Two of those brave souls were Anne Bonny and Mary Read.  The other one? Not captain Jack.

A trial followed and Rackham, Bonny, Read and many other members of the crew were sentenced to hang.   When asked if they had anything to say the women replied, "Milord, we plead our bellies."  Both were pregnant.  The court decided it could not hang any woman who carried a child.

Mary died of a fever before she could deliver her child.  It is not known what happened to Anne, but she may have been paroled because of her father's influence. No matter what happened to her, Anne is probably most famous for the words she exchange with Calico Jack when he was granted the permission to see Anne the last time on the night before his execution.  She scolded him: "I'm sorry to see you here, Jack, but if you'd have fought like a man you needn't hang like a dog."

 





This sloop William ship model features:

  21" long x 16" tall x 7" wide     $690    S & H is $70

  30" long x 28" tall x 9" wide     $990    S & H is $90

  

Display case: http://www.modelshipmaster.com/products/accessory/displaycase.htm

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A copy of this model is permanently exhibited in South Carolina State Museum

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"MSM Team,
   The sloop William arrived today in perfect condition. While originally intended for the den, he was found to be so handsome that a berth in the living room was determined to be more appropriate for him. Thanks MSM! - Bill"