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Pirates ... In The ... Long Island ... Region By ... Pierce Rafferty ...

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

...1... On July 12 ... 1690 ... the Residents of Block Island were Alarmed when a Small Fleet ... Consisting of One Bark ... One Ketch ... Two Sloops and Smaller Crafts ... Appeared off Their Coast ... Although the vessels were flying English colors ... there was no certainty of their allegiance to the ... English crown ... King William’s War ...1688 To ...1697 ... had broken out in North America two years earlier ... Pitting the ... English Against the French ... New England Against New France ... And ... A Smaller Part of ... The .... Nine Years War Raging in Europe ... Pirates and privateers were frequenting the waters outside and within ... Long Island Sound ... these marauders were masters at masquerading their true loyalties ... When They Bothered to Have Them ... 2 ... After the Fleet Anchored Outside the Harbor ... a Flat-Bottomed Sailboat Carried a Landing Party to Shore ... but only ... One man Stepped Out ... He was met by a large ... anxious crowd ... Including Armed Soldiers ... who demanded to know his party’s intentions ... Where Did They Come From ... Where were they going ... What was the name of their commander ... The Solo Man Identified Himself as William Trimming ... An Englishman ... Who Answered Each Question Forthrightly ... He assasured the Assembled Men and Women that He and His Compatriots ... were ... Friends ... Not Foes ... He told them that his fleet’s commander was ... George Asten ... an English Privateer well Known to all in the Crowd for His ... Successes Against the French and Spanish ... He stated That They Were Coming From Jamaica ... Headed to Newport and Needed a Pilot Boat to Lead Them into the Harbor ... Where They Could Purchase Supplies and Secure Water Before Proceeding ... Trimming Provided Enough Details About His Commander ... Captain Asten ... That The islanders Were Assured ... 3 ...They Allowed ... The Landing Party to Return to the Fleet So That it Could be Guided Safely into the Harbor ... The voluble Trimming had neglected to mention that ... he was the Only Englishman Aboard Any of the Vessels ... All the Rest of His Mates Were ... French Pirates ... with a few ... Spanish and Mestizos Thrown in ... He also left out the detail that their ... French captain ... had a good deal of experience in ... 4 ...Plundering ... Trimming ... Rejoined his fleet ... And Summoned a Pilot Boat ... The moment it's crew Stepped Aboard ... 5 ... They were Seized and Thrown into the Hold for Questioning ... The pirates needed to determine the relative strength of the defending forces at Newport and ... Block Island ... before deciding which site to plunder ... Because the Block Islanders had Swallowed Trimmings Lies Hook ... Line and Sinker Because ... That Site ... was chosen as the easier prey ... 6 ... Three Boats Brought About 150 Armed Men to Shore ... Upon landing ... they pulled out their hidden weapons ...disarmed the soldiers ... and quickly took control ... The Penalty for Resistance ... they announced was ... 7 ... Death ... The Gullible Islanders Were Shocked to Discover that ... The Englishman Trimming had Betrayed Them ... for he had played his role of decoy perfectly ... Foreign Pirates ... Technically “Privateers” ... under license to ... France ... were now in perfect position to loot and terrorize ... After Herding and Locking the Men ... Women ... and Children ... Into a large Stone House ... The Pirates ... began to strip it's land of its ... Valuables ... 8 ... The Occupation Lasted a Week ... During Which Time the Invaders Pillaged Most Houses and Farms on the Island ... There Were Cruel Beatings ... Whippings ... and Several Killings Carried out as the Marauders Tried to Discover the Location of any Hidden Wealth ... The Vandals Slaughtered Cattle and Other Livestock both for Food and to Deprive the Islanders of Property and Provisions ... Afterword ... They Received News from the Mainland that French Pirates had Seized Block Island ... 9 ... Local Citizens and ... Guards lit Beacon Fires That Signaling Alarms Along the Shore From ... 10 ... Pawcatuck Point Connecticut ... Then ... Part of Rhode Island ... to ... Seaconnet Rhode Island ... Then to Part of Massachusetts ... These Bonfires Helped InForm the Pirates’ Decisions ... to Leave Block Island and to Bypass the Forewarned Newport City with a Large Population and Fortifications ... However ... The Pirates Chose Instead to Attack New London ... Suspecting That its Citizenry Would be ... Less Aware That They Were In ... The Neighborhood ... But ... 11 ... As Their Fleet Once Again Was flying English Colors ... It Passed Watch Hill and Napatree Point ... Residents of Stonington Caught Sight of The English Colors ... Those on Shore had Enough Concern to dispatch a Cautionary Warning to New London by Messenger on Horseback ...The Pirate's Fleet Sailed Around the South side of Fishers Island to Mask Their Approach to New London ... As They Rounded Race Point ... Triming’s Boat ... Carrying a Small number of men ... 12 ... broke off from the rest of the fleet and made a landing on ... Fishers Island ... This was likely in West Harbor ... The Other Pirate's vessels Continued on Toward New London ... 13 ... On Fishers Island ... Concerned residents of Stonington ... Seeing the Single Boat Peel Off ... Organized a Force of ... 14 ... Men to Sail to ... Fishers Island ... where they planned to make inquiries and intervene ... if needed ... They Landed at a Different Location than the Pirates had Reached ... The only House On the Island ... Likely Located Near Today’s Ballfield ... During This Period ... there were only a few tenant farmers and Indian farm laborers living and working on the island ... I5 ... Fitz John Winthrop ... the New London-based owner of the Island ... was away Commanding English Forces Against the French ... And Preparing to ... invade Canada ... Preoccupied by a distant campaign ... Winthrop Would Have Been Shocked to Know That ... the enemy had already landed on his island ... And Was About to Attempt the Sacking of His Hometown ... As the Stonington group approached the house ... 16 ... William Trimming Emerged From inside and Greeted them in a Casual and Friendly Manner ... According to Witnesses ... 17 ...he Kept his Gun Hidden behind his back. When queried as to what he and his men were doing on Fishers Island ... Trimming replied that they had recently been ... shipwrecked ... a blatant lie ... that was immediately apparent to the Stonington men who had just witnessed his approach to the harbor ... 18 ... With his men’s fear palpably rising ... the Stonington Group’s leader Tried to Defuse the situation ... He Addressed the Pirates, Saying ... If You are Friends, ... lay Down Your Gun ... and come behind us ... Before the Pirates Could Answer... A Man In The Stonington Group ... 19 ... Aimed his Pistol ... and Shot Trimming in the Head ...The other pirates scattered and fought their way back to their boat ... They Managed to Rejoin the Larger Fleet ... Suffering the loss of Only One Additional Man During the Skirmish ... 20 ... After the Pirates Made Their Escape ... An Indian Farm laborer ... Scalped Triming’s corpse and Took the Trophy to the ... Mainland ... As a Gift for the English ... The Stonington man who Had Killed Trimming ... Came under Criticism for Firing Prematurely ... But Many Had a Sense That Poetic Justice Had Been Served ... Samuel Niles ... a chronicler of the encounterS expressed this sentiment ... 21 ... Thus He that Delighted in False Hood in Life Died with a lie in His Mouth ... and Received ... it Seems ... 22 ... The Just Reward of His Perfidious ... Villainous ... and Multiplied Treacheries ... 3 ... New London ... On July 17 ... 1690 ... The Pirate Fleet Began it's Raid on ... New London ... Flying English Colors as they Entered the Harbor ... the fleet sailed past the town and anchored upriver within shouting distance of shore at ... Mamacoke Point ... Across From Today’s ... 23 ... Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut ... There they repeated some of the tactics they’d used at ...Block Island ... professing friendship while explaining that they had come from ... Jamaica ... The Crowd on Shore, ... Already Numbering About ...150 ... And growing ... Included many who had come in from the countryside ... Seeing no Advantage in Their Location ... 24 ... The French Pirates Changed Course and Sailed Back to New London ... They Made Anchorage Next to a ... Docked Ship in The Town ... 25... From That Position ... The Pirates Called out Several Invitations for Those ... Onshore to Come Aboard ... but these invitations went unanswered ... Had They Been Accepted ... The Taking of Hostages Would Have Almost Certainly Resulted in ... 25 ... Being ... Followed by Threats of Ransom Demands and Attempted Pillaging ... As the Ranks of the Shore Defenders Continued to Swell ... It Exceed 400 People By One Count ... The Prospect of a Successful Pirate Attack Grew Dimmer ... With the Wind Turning Against Them ... 26 ... it was ... Now ... Or Never ... The French Privatiers' Flag was Suddenly Raised ... 27 ... Apparently Triggering The Signal ... for All of The Ships Began to Fire a Coordinated volley Shoreward ... Their Fusillade was Met by Counter Volleys ... From Land Based Cannons ... The Pirate Fleet ... Now in a Strategically Untenable Position ... 28 ... retreated to the middle of the river under power of oars ... ... Before Pulling into the Mouth of the Harbor ... Beyond Cannon Range To Anchor for the Night ... They were relatively unscathed but They had ... Not Achieved Any of Their Goals ... One observer scornfully contrasted the fleet’s formidable and swaggering entrance into the harbor with their ... 29 ... Sneaking and Shameful Exit ... A large guard of ... 350 men kept watch from shore throughout the night to prevent any new ... Incursions or Attacks ... Back on Fishers Island ... The Next day ... 30 ... Three Smaller Ships ... From the Pirate's Fleet ... Sailed to Fishers Island and Anchored Off The West End Between the Hammocks and the Main Harbor ... A 50 Ton Bark ... Was The Largest Vessel ... In The Fleet ... It Ventured Out into the Sound and Captured a Sloop ... it then Returned and Anchored With the other Boats ... 31 ... Fishers Island Was Theirs For The Taking ... As all the Farm Workers and Indian Laborers Had Fled After the Skirmish Between ... Trimming and the Stonington Men ... A letter Dated ... August 11... 1690 ... From Wait Winthrop to His Brother Fitz-John ... Reveals What little Is Known of the pirates Activities On The Island ... ... The pirates Remained in the harbor ... within the island for ...Two or Three Days and ... Burnt the House down ... 32 ... The Tone of the Pirates was ... Remarkably Dispassionate ... Given That the House ... was The Only one On the Island and ... Fitz John Winthrop Was it's Owner ... 33 ...The fire on Fishers Island Was Quite Evident from Stonington ... triggering ... 34 ... Concerns Among the Farm Hands Who Had Fears About ... the ... Availability of Future Housing on Fishers Island ... This Concern That Remains Relevant More Than ... 325 years later ... In His Letter ... Wait Winthrop assured FitzJohn that he had convinced the men to return again to the island farm ... Promising That ... They Shall Have a House Before winter Even if it May be in the MeanTime Have Sent to the Indians at the Farm to Help Them About a ...Wigwam ... While They Secure the Corn and Hay ... Until winter Set ... wigwams Would have to Suffice ... 35 ... After Departing From Long Island Sound ... The Pirates ... Largest Vessel ... The 50-Ton bark ... Was Routed in an Engagement With a Heavily Armed Rhode Island Sloop off Block Island ... 36 ... The Captain of One of the Pirate Ships and 13 Crew Members were killed ... Following the Battle ... The .. The Rest of the Fleet Made Their Escape Under Cover of Darkness ... Although ... 37 ... Were Saddened By this Successful Flight ... Block Islanders and All In The Region ... Must Have Gotten Great Pleasure From Accounts of the ... 38 ... French Pirate Captain’s ... Final Moments ...During The Battle ... He Brashly Shouted Insults at the Opposing Captain ... Promising That the English vessel Would Soon Be ... 39 ... Boarded To Accentuate His Swaggering Display ... He ... 40 ...Began Drinking a Bottle of Wine as he Stood Fully Exposed on Deck ... 41 ... He was Still Swigging His Wine ... And Presumably Still Shouting ... When ... An English Musket Ball ... Pierced His Neck ... Ending His Insults ... Forever...


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