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The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate…

The American Revolution and the War of 1812 would not have been won by the Americans without the use of privateers operating under letters of marque. Although the Navy and Marines would acquit themselves admirably in defeating the Barbary Pirates and the Mexican Navy when the Civil War started the northern fleet was composed largely of conscripted vessels and the Southern Navy was always augmented by privateers operating under letters of marque. Just as the union army was made up of conscripts and the Armies of the Confederacy were filled with volunteers neither side had maintained a large enough standing army or navy for a protracted conflict and both sides were dependent upon men like Gibbs who had operated in American waters since the time of Columbus. This is an excellent recounting of the life of one such sailor.

Dead men tell no tales : the lives and legends of the pirate Charles Gibbs  Joseph Gibbs  Columbia, S.C. : University of South Carolina Press, c 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 211 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [187]-198) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Dead men tell no tales, or so the pirate maxim goes. But when facing execution in 1831 for mutiny and murder, the previously enigmatic pirate Charles Gibbs recounted the infamous crimes of his harrowing life ar sea in a self-aggrandizing series of “confessions.”


Wildly popular reading among nineteenth-century audiences, such criminal confessions were peppered with the romanticized mythology that informs pirate lore to this day. Joseph Gibbs takes up the task of separating fact from fiction to explicate the true story of Charles Gibbs — an alias for James Jeffers (1798—1831) of Newport, Rhode Island in an investigation that reveals a life as riveting as the legend it replaces.


Jeffers was the child of a Revolutionary War privateer captain with his own history in the “rough work.” After a heroic career in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812, Jeffers eschewed military life and took to the privateer trade himself. As Charles Gibbs, pirate, he sailed from the ports of Charleston and New Orleans to wreak havoc in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Stripping away 170 years of embellishment, Joseph Gibbs maps the still shockingly violent career of Charles Gibbs across the seas and in the process challenges and discredits much of his self-made mythology.


Gibbs recounts Jeffers’s well-documented role in the infamous mutiny and murders in 1830 aboard the brig Vineyard while the vessel was carrying a load of Mexican silver. The pirate was captured the following year and brought to New York. The case against Jeffers and accomplice Thomas Wansley culminated in a sensational trial, which led to their subsequent executions by hanging on Ellis Island.


In addition to recounting the exploits of a ruthless cutthroat, Gibbs tells the larger story of American piracy and privateering in the early nineteenth century and illus­trates the role of American and European adventurers in the Latin American Revolutions. Carefully researched, engagingly written, and enhanced by twenty illustra­tions, this is pirate history at its most credible and readable.



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