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Monday, July 27, 2015

Pirates and Their Weapons

Susan F. Craft
Author, The Xanthakos Family Trilogy

        I'm sharing some of the history about pirate weapons I found while researching for my novel, Cassia, which takes place in the NC Outer Banks and along the Atlantic Coast in 1799.
        Contrary to what we have seen in movies, for real fighting pirate captains big floppy boots, belts with huge buckles, and long swords would have been nuisances. Instead of long swords, they used curved cutlasses that wouldn’t interfere with their mobility in climbing tangled ropes and boarding other ships.
        They wanted to be able to shoot often, so they carried multiple smaller pistols. The infamous pirate, Blackbeard, was known to carry as many as eight pistols attached to his clothing with fabric hooks.
Two images of Blackbeard




   Long distance weapons, though rare, included six-foot spears called boarding spikes. Boarding axes were used to cut netting strung to make it harder to board. These axes were also used to break down doors once the pirates were aboard.

       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Here’s another weapon that’s yucky, but interesting—caltrop.
        In the 1700s, pirates would sometimes toss caltrops onto the decks of the ships they wanted to capture. These diabolical little antipersonnel weapons remind me of current-day jacks from the game Ball and Jacks (well, sort of). About an inch tall, they were fashioned out of iron or steel with four barbed-wire like points, constructed in such a way that, no matter how they landed, one point was always sticking up.
        The reason behind this weapon? Eighteenth century sailors went barefoot, mostly for comfort, but also because it made it easier to climb up into the sail rigging. So, if you stepped on a caltrop, it was mighty painful and would delay you from fighting back as pirates boarded your ship.
        Barbaric -- you think?

Susan F. Craft is the author of The Xanthakos Family Trilogy, historic romantic suspense: The Chamomile (Revolutionary War and winner of the SIBA Okra Pick, re-released in April 2015); Laurel (post-Revolutionary War, released in January 2015); and Cassia (1799-1836) to be released September 2015--publisher is Heritage Beacon imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. 

6 comments:

  1. Wow. Interesting and disappointing....I prefer the Hollywood versions with long swords and boots! Arrgh, aye, that be me way of seein' them, Matey!
    Looking forward to reading Cassia!

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  2. Whoever invented the caltrop had been to SW Kansas. They have things that grow in the grass out there called "goat heads." They are shaped like these caltrops (or a goat's head) and embed in whatever steps on them. I never went barefoot while we lived there! And a spent a lot of time pulling those little nasties out of our dogs' paws.

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  3. That's very interesting about the amount of guns actually carried by Blackbeard but it makes sense with how long it took to reload and to fire gun back then. Jenny

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  4. I'm new to this site, and I love it! I'm in the beginning stages of a novel set in Colonial America, and this is a wonderful resource to learn and connect with like-minded writers. Thanks for the great post!

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  5. I've read about Tristan Jones, a contemporary sailor that wrote about how he would spread a box of tacks across the deck each night to keep undesirables from boarding his small cruising sailboat. It's a "tactic" still used today. LOL

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