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Thomas Tew, born in Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the first pirates to successfully sail the Pirate Round around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean and plunder the treasure ships of the Great Mogul of India.

In 1690, Tew moved to Bermuda to become a privateer. With a commission from Bermuda's Governor Isaac Richier, he set sail to take a French factory on the Gambia River in Africa. But once at sea, Tew told his crew that there was little to be gained in Africa and great danger in gaining it. Instead, he offered them a much more lucrative choice: sail to the Red Sea and plunder the treasure-laden ships of the Great Mogul of India. The proposition was greeted with great cheers and the unified cry, "A gold chain or a wooden leg, we'll stand by you!"

Captain Tew and his pirate crew of forty, emboldened by their new commitment, had the audacity to attack a huge, heavily armed Mogul treasure ship laden with gold, silver, pearls, gems, spices, ivory, and silk. After a brief battle, the 300 turban-clad Indian soldiers dropped their muskets and scimitars and fell to their knees in surrender. No one in Tew's crew was injured.

Tew sailed his eight-gun ship Amity to the tiny island of St. Mary's off the coast of Madagascar where the crew careened the ship, restocked supplies, and divided the plunder. Every man received 3,000 pounds sterling ($3.5 million by today's standards) with a double share for Captain Tew. It was an amazing amount of wealth.

When Tew returned to Rhode Island after his adventure, he was welcomed as a conquering hero and invited to dine with the most prestigious families. Tew, his wife, and two daughters were honored as the special guests of Governor Fletcher of New York. Every colonial wanted to see Tew's riches and hear his tales of Arabia.

In 1694, Tew embarked on another voyage, promising his family it would be his last. Unfortunately, it was. Roving once again in the Red Sea, his sloop was one of a squadron of six pirate ships led by Henry Every attempting to overpower a fleet of Mogul ships. This time his rich dreams were not to become reality.

In September 1695, Tew met his gory demise during the very first exchange of broadsides with the Mogul ships' great guns. His stomach was torn away with a cannon ball and he was said to be holding his bowels in his hands as he hit the quarterdeck. With their famous captain dead, the crew panicked and surrendered their fate to the enemy.

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Did you know?

  • In 1684, the pirate Andrew Ranson was found guilty of piracy and sentenced to death by garrote. The rope around his neck broke and the town's friar believed his near-death experience was a miracle and demanded he be spared.

  • The pirate motto for going into battle was "iron and lead first, followed by steel." Start with cannon and musket fire and proceed to close fighting with cutlasses and boarding axes.

  • Pirates had workman's comp! Each captain took care of the injured by compensating crewmen for being maimed or losing a limb. And each captain had his own "rates:" loss of right arm, 600 pieces; left arm, 500 pieces; right leg, 500, etc.

  • The Castillo de San Marcos was built immediately after Captain Robert Searles sacked St. Augustine, Florida in 1668. Sir Francis Drake razed the city 82 years earlier.

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