Captain Dirk Chivers


Chivers, Dirk (or Richard, Robert) – Some reports say Chivers hailed from Hamburg, others have the Republic of the United Netherlands (Holland) as his nation of birth. A succesfull sea rover, settled in New York. Sailed in > Reiner’s Bachelor’s Delight (1688-’92) and with > Avery in the Red Sea. First mate in the 90-ton privateer Portsmouth Adventure  from Rhode Island, Joseph > Farrell commander, January 1694. These were the days of the infamous Pirate Round, with shipowners like Fredryck > Flypse. But the vessel became unseaworthy. Transferred to the 200-ton Resolution, 18 guns and 110 men, under command of Robert > Glover. This vessel took several Moorish vessels in the Red Sea. The command of 180-ton, 20-gun prize ship Charming Mary was given to Chivers who renamed her Soldado.

However, some historians differ on this subject, maintaining that Chivers fell in with > Tew but the ship went under in a storm off the island of Mayotte (Comoro’s), January 1695. Part of the crew made it to Réunion, others, among whom Chivers, joined captain > Glover’s 200-ton Resolution, 90 men, 20 guns. Every man of the Pirate Round was willing to fight whatever the cost as long there was plunder to win. So, Resolution felt fine with these new men but did not meet with much success. Chivers, having his mouth full of glorious tales of gold and jewels to be had, was elected as their leader. According to American documents, Glover represented Resolution’s owners. By 1695 legal ownership carried little weight on ships operating at the other half of the world. Except during battle, democracy was practiced on pirate ships, and decisions were made by a majority vote.

Chivers was quick with success. Had the victims on board the prize worked over the side and Glover take her to Madagascar. Now Resolution changed into Soldado (originally she had been called Algerine Galley, a French ship taken from Barbary searovers). And joined the company of Flypse’s John en Rebecca (also a vessel taken from the French) and Charming Mary, capt. J. > Hoar. The three took several rich prizes, one being East India-man Ruparel. Her captain, Sawbridge, suggested that ship & passengers (plus some Arabic horses) would earn the rovers a fortune in Aden, Arabia. However, when arriving there a shot was heard from the shore as a signal that the ransom would not be paid. Thus insulted the pirates looted the ship of anything usable and returned to St. Mary’s, their safe haven off the coast of Madagscar. Someone later made up a terrible story of this feat, with the poor Sawbridge having his lips sewed together and the like. Other merchant prisoners said that the pirates had treated them with consideration during their time on board. No sign of atrocities in Soldado.

Boldly entered the port of Calicut on November 23, 1696. Hit the outermost ship with a broadside, throwing the whole city in a stroke of panic. His men in longboats captured four vessels, including one belonging to the East India Company and also one of the Mogul’s merchant ships. Cut the cables of other vessels, sending them onto the beach. The outraged Indian authorities, on behalf of the merchantmen and shipowners in Calicut, arrested all local representatives of the East India Company. Chivers waited patiently for a negotiator to come on board to hear his ultimatum: pay 10.000 pounds sterling (about $ 5.000.000) or he would burn all the ships in the harbor. The city would not pay more than 5.000. During the night moved the prizes to deeper water. Next day the negotiator asked Chivers to take pity on the white men ashore, with their business now halted and the leaders in jail. The pirate leader replied that pirates were outlaws owing allegiance only to themselves, and the men of his ship "acknowledged no countrymen, that they had sold their country and were sure to be hanged if taken, and that they would take no quarter, but do all the mischief they could." Meanwhile the city’s governor had sent messages to native pirates. When these arrived Soldado hoisted her sails and took off. It is no use fighting pirates.

Late 1696 met up with > Culliford’s Mocha, took to some "happy plundering", dividing the loot in the Maldives before returining to the Strait of Malacca for more opportunities to earn some extra’s. With good result.

Adam > Baldridge reported: "June 9th 1697. Arrived Captain Chivers, commander. [He] had met with a mossoon and lost all the masts, and put into Madagascar about ten leagues to the Northward of Antogil Bay and there masted and fitted his ship. Whilst there took the brigtantine Amity, captain Glover [!] for her water casks, sails, rigging and masts, and then turned the hull adrift to run upon a reef and be lost. Captain Glover promised to forgive them what was past, if they would let him have his ship again, and go home to America with him, but they [Chiver’s men] would not, except he would go into the Indies with them. September 2t5th set sail for the Indies."

"Wednesday, 12th April 1698. Sedgwick’s captain Watts reports that he was chased by > Kidd the Pirate for 3 days and nights and only escaped with the greatest difficulty, it being calm and Kidd outrowing him. On his return from Anjengo he was chased and taken by another Pirate, Chivers the Dutchman, with excellent rowing and sailing, fetched up with him in 9 hours. Her cargo of pepper not being to their liking, they dismissed the ship after they had taken out of her two courses, her sheet anchor and cable, cordage, pitch, tar, and other stores which they required. Though some of the Pirates wee mightily taken with the build of the Sedgwick, saying she would make a fine Pirate cruiser, Capt. Watts in the end prevailed on them to give him back his ship by merry management of a bowl of punch which caused them to say ‘He is an honest old fellow, let him go with his ship.’"

In the end of June that year took a prize on the coast off Madras, India, with a cargo of sugar which he was desirous of exchanging for saltpeter for use in making gunpowder, or fuse match. Also offered guns for sale, always in demand by native princes. On September 23, in consort with two other pirate vessels, took Great Mohammed, a rich Moors ship from Jeddah, Arabia. The value of the goods taken from this trading vessel was reported as 130.000 pounds. > Culliford, one of Chivers’s companions during this feat, testified that the capture went smoothly, however, de Indian owner of the ship told a different story: "The villaines turned adrift in the ship boats, without Oars, sail or Provisions, 150 of the pilgrims, whom the Tide carryed to Bassen. The women passengers, about 60 were kept aboard, and inhumanely abused them. To avoid such indignity five stabbed themselves."

Soldado now being in a bad state, unseaworthy and wormeaten, Chivers transferred his armament to Great Mohammed, having brought up the numbers to near a 200, renamed her New Soldado and continued his exploits. It was rumored that the gold coins and ingots in her amounted to 100.000 pounds or more, each man received a share worth 700 to 800 pounds (about $ 375.000 to-day). Legend has it that the pirates on their way back to St. Mary’s met a pirate ship Pelican with a Portuguese prize laden with cloth and wine in tow. The pirates, much excited by their success, bought two barrels of wine for 100.000 of 8. This did not prevent them to catch a last ship (November 10, 1698) before definitely returning to St. Mary’s, arriving there December 12.

A month later a naval ship showed up, offering pardons to anyone willing to give up piracy. Chivers was one of those who wanted to return to New York or other places in North America. He paid $ 100 for a passage home in > Burgess’s Margaret. For many reasons Margaret arrived only in December 1699 on the roads of Cape Town, to be taken there by Loyal Merchant, a rover with a commission to hunt pirates. The life of a seaman was complicated in those days. A rover? Thief? Hero? Pirate? Margaret was taken to Bombay but Chivers cum suis traveled with the merchantman Vine to the America’s to start a career as a happy, retired lord there, never to sail again.

There were those who said that Chivers was the first pirate to claim St. Mary Island as his nation. And spent the rest of his life there in peace with himself and the whole world. Others firmly stated Vine had delivered the ex-pirates to a man-of-war who brought them to New York. There their bodies gently swayed in the breezes for a year or so, in chains.

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