Ahoy there, fellow adventurers of the high seas! Prepare to set sail on a swashbuckling journey into the world of the pirate cutlass – that wickedly stylish blade that’s as essential to a pirate’s ensemble as a parrot on the shoulder.
With its curved blade and fearsome reputation, the pirate cutlass has carved its way into maritime history and popular imagination. So, grab your tricorn hat and secure your peg leg, for we’re about to uncover the salty tales and gleaming steel behind the infamous pirate cutlass!
What is a Pirate Cutlass
A pirate cutlass is a short, broad sabre or slashing sword that was commonly used by sailors and pirates during the early Age of Sail. It features a straight or slightly curved blade with a sharpened cutting edge and is often characterized by a solid cupped or basket-shaped hilt guard.
This weapon evolved from the medieval falchion and is akin to the 17th-century backsword known as a hanger. The cutlass gained popularity as a naval sidearm due to its robustness, versatility, and suitability for close-quarters combat. Pirates adopted the cutlass for its effectiveness in boarding actions and intimidating adversaries.
While its association with pirates is well-documented, the cutlass was also used in various contexts, including as an agricultural tool in rainforest and sugarcane areas. Its design made it a versatile implement for both combat and practical tasks.
Notable Pirates Who Used a Cutlass
William Fly, an English pirate whose career spanned a mere three months, left an enduring legacy in the realm of piracy. Born in obscurity, Fly’s life took a fateful turn in April 1726, when he joined Captain John Green aboard the Elizabeth for a voyage to West Africa.
Tensions simmered between Green and Fly, reaching a boiling point that culminated in a mutiny led by Fly. The mutineers overpowered Green and cast him overboard, leaving Fly in command of the ship.
With their newfound control, Fly and his cohorts hoisted the infamous Jolly Roger flag and renamed the ship the Fames’ Revenge. Embarking on a spree of audacious raids, they targeted shipping fleets along the coast of North Carolina and ventured northward to New England. In a whirlwind two months, Fly and his crew seized five ships, amassing a reputation that would soon seal their fate.
However, their reign of piracy was short-lived. The tides turned against Fly when their vessel was captured by another ship’s crew. Fly was subsequently transported to Boston, Massachusetts, where his life took a somber turn. On 12 July 1726, Fly faced the gallows at Boston Harbor, marking the culmination of his journey.
Even in the face of his impending execution, Fly displayed remarkable defiance, brazenly engaging with the hangman’s noose. His final moments were punctuated by a poignant message to shipmasters everywhere – a plea for just treatment and timely wages for sailors, echoing the injustices he and his crew had endured.
With the noose securely around his neck, Fly’s words carried a weight that would transcend his mortal existence. After his execution, his body was hung in chains on Nixes Mate Island in Boston Harbor, serving as a haunting reminder of the consequences of piracy.
As the waters lapped against the island’s shore, Fly’s legacy endured, etched into the history of piracy and serving as a cautionary tale for those who would tread the same treacherous path.
William Kidd, widely known as Captain Kidd, was a Scottish privateer whose life unfolded in the tumultuous realm of piracy during the late 17th century. Born around 1654 in Dundee, his early life remains shrouded in conflicting accounts, but he eventually settled in New York City.
By 1690, Kidd had risen to prominence as a successful privateer, commissioned to safeguard English interests across North America and the West Indies.
Kidd’s most defining moment came in 1695 when he received a royal commission from the Earl of Bellomont, governor of New York and other regions, to apprehend pirates and French enemy ships in the Indian Ocean. Armed with a letter of marque, Kidd embarked on the Adventure Galley to fulfill this mission.
His journey was fraught with challenges—failed encounters, crew losses, and threats of mutiny. Despite these setbacks, Kidd captured the prized Quedagh Merchant in 1698, a monumental achievement that would soon become overshadowed by controversy.
In a twist of fate, political winds turned against Kidd in England, branding him a pirate. Bellomont orchestrated his arrest upon his return to Boston, leading to Kidd’s trial in London.
Despite his insistence on innocence, Kidd was found guilty of piracy and murder, resulting in his public execution in 1701. His body swung from the gibbet over the Thames, serving as a macabre warning to would-be pirates.
Captain Kidd’s legacy extended beyond his actions. The tale of his buried treasure ignited the imaginations of many and sparked numerous treasure hunts in various locales, such as Oak Island, Gardiners Island, and Block Island. His life was romanticized, immortalized in pirate-themed tales, and forever intertwined with the enigmatic allure of piracy.
Stede Bonnet, commonly known as the “Gentleman Pirate,” was born in 1688 on the island of Barbados into a wealthy English family. Following his father’s death in 1694, Bonnet inherited a substantial estate.
Despite his lack of maritime experience, he diverged from his well-off background and turned to piracy in the early 18th century, earning him the intriguing epithet of the “Gentleman Pirate.”
Choosing a life of piracy, Bonnet acquired a sailing ship named the Revenge and assembled a crew. Navigating the waters along the Eastern Seaboard of what is now the United States, he engaged in capturing ships and setting fire to Barbadian vessels.
His ambitions led him to Nassau in the Bahamas, a notorious sanctuary for pirates, where he formed an association with the infamous pirate Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach. Temporarily relinquishing control of his ship to Blackbeard, they embarked on a period of piracy together, targeting merchant ships along the Eastern coastline.
Eventually, Bonnet’s crew abandoned him to join Blackbeard, prompting his brief hiatus from piracy. Seeking official absolution, he obtained a pardon from North Carolina’s governor and was authorized to engage in privateering against Spanish ships. However, enticed back into piracy, he reappeared under the alias “Captain Thomas” and with a new ship called the Royal James.
In 1718, Bonnet anchored the Royal James along the Cape Fear River for repairs, but his actions drew the attention of a naval expedition led by Colonel William Rhett. Engaging in combat, Bonnet’s crew faced superior numbers and ultimately surrendered.
This marked the turning point in Bonnet’s pirate career. After a trial, he was found guilty of piracy and hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, on December 10, 1718.
Bonnet’s leadership as a pirate captain was questionable due to his limited knowledge of seafaring and his background as a landowner. His interactions with his crew often led to disputes and challenges to his authority.
During his partnership with Blackbeard, Bonnet assumed a secondary role, while Blackbeard held sway. Nevertheless, Bonnet made decisions as a pirate captain and orchestrated raids along the Eastern Seaboard before his eventual capture and execution.
François l’Olonnais, born Jean-David Nau around 1630, was a renowned French pirate who operated in the Caribbean during the 1660s. His early life saw him born in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, and he ventured to the Caribbean as an indentured servant in the 1650s. By the 1660s, he had transitioned from servitude to becoming a buccaneer, targeting Spanish shipping in the Caribbean and the Spanish Main.
One particular incident in his piratical career involved surviving a shipwreck near Campeche in Mexico. After being attacked by Spanish soldiers and almost losing his entire crew, l’Olonnais managed to escape by disguising himself with the blood of his fallen comrades.
With the aid of escaped slaves, l’Olonnais reached Tortuga, where he led his crew in holding a town hostage and demanding ransom from its Spanish rulers. This act caught the attention of the governor of Cuba, who dispatched a ship to eliminate l’Olonnais and his crew. Despite the attack, l’Olonnais emerged victorious and issued a declaration that he would no longer show mercy to any Spaniards.
One of l’Olonnais’ most infamous exploits was the sacking of Maracaibo in present-day Venezuela. In 1666, he sailed from Tortuga with a fleet of ships and a crew of pirates. Joining forces with fellow buccaneer Michel le Basque, l’Olonnais captured a Spanish treasure ship en route to Maracaibo, acquiring a substantial amount of wealth.
Upon reaching Maracaibo, l’Olonnais devised a cunning strategy to overcome the formidable San Carlos de la Barra Fortress that guarded the city entrance. Approaching from the unguarded landward side, he captured the fortress and proceeded to pillage the city.
Despite most of the residents having fled and hidden their valuables, l’Olonnais’ brutal methods of torture forced them to reveal the locations of their possessions.
L’Olonnais’ reign of terror continued as he and his crew tortured, pillaged, and eventually set fire to much of Maracaibo before moving on to San Antonio de Gibraltar. There, they slaughtered a garrison of 500 soldiers, held the city for ransom, and continued their ruthless plundering. Despite the ransom payment, l’Olonnais carried out further raids, amassing significant wealth and inflicting fear across the region.
His reputation for cruelty earned him the moniker “The Bane of Spain.” L’Olonnais’ brutal techniques of torture included slicing flesh, burning victims alive, and using knotted ropes to forcibly remove victims’ eyes.
His ferocity and audacious actions solidified his place in pirate lore and contributed to his enduring legacy as a fearsome and infamous figure in the Caribbean during the 17th century.
Where Can I Get My Own Pirate Cutlass?
Kult of Athena – Ritter Steel Pirate Cutlass
- Sharpened Carbon Steel Blade: The cutlass boasts a sharp carbon steel blade designed for effective cutting and combat.
- Blackened Steel Cup Hilt: Its distinctive cup hilt is made from blackened steel, giving it an aged and weathered appearance reminiscent of a pirate’s weapon.
- Matching Wood Scabbard: The cutlass comes with a matching wood scabbard that features a brown leather wrap, providing both protection and authenticity.
- Moderately Sharp Edge: The blade features a moderately sharp edge suitable for battle-ready use.
- Overall Dimensions: The cutlass has an overall length of 33 1/2 inches, a blade length of 27 1/4 inches, and a weight of 2 pounds 6.4 ounces, making it a substantial and historically accurate reproduction.
Medieval Collectibles – Black Hilt Pirate Sword
- Decorative Design: This sword is designed for decorative purposes, making it an ideal addition to home or office decor.
- Black D-Shaped Hilt: The hilt of the sword features a distinctive D-shaped design with a black finish, adding to its pirate-inspired aesthetics.
- Saber-Style Blade: The saber-style blade includes a curved tip, giving it an authentic pirate cutlass appearance.
- Matching Scabbard: The sword comes with a matching black scabbard that features a silver-colored skull and crossbones design at the top.
- Quality Materials: Crafted from stainless steel, this sword is both durable and visually appealing.
Etsy – Custom Monogram Pirate Cutlass by KnivesRemembered
The pirate cutlass, a weapon as iconic as it is deadly, has etched its mark on the pages of pirate lore and maritime history. With its unmistakable silhouette and tales of swashbuckling escapades, the cutlass has sailed its way through time, becoming a symbol of piracy that’s as enduring as the open sea.
So, next time you catch a glimpse of that distinctive curve and gleaming steel, remember the legends it carries – of treasure maps, hidden coves, and the daring adventurers who wielded it with a hearty “Yo-ho-ho!”