Captain Kidd

Ch. 9:  Captain Kidd
Boston, Massachusetts

Our Story:

In a dingy tavern in the dark streets of 17th century Boston, two men meet who have been looking for each other for more than two decades. As the strangers become acquainted, they realize they are on a common quest: to recover a lost map leading to the last of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure. Their travels take them to the home of a third accomplice in the plan, but all three men share one problem: they must trust each other, the least trustworthy among men, in order to accomplish their goal and find the treasure.

The Real Story Behind Captain Kidd

Ironically, the notorious William Kidd seems to have turned to piracy only after he failed at pirate-hunting, but his good intentions were not enough to save him from the noose when he was caught and tried in London in 1701. Little is known of the native Scot’s early life: he was likely the son of a minister and moved at a young age to the American colony of New York. He was already in his mid-forties when, much like Blackbeard, he took control of a privateering vessel after a mutiny ousted the previous captain. His first noteworthy act was to raid a French colony on the Caribbean island of Mariegalante with the blessing of the English governor of Nevis, taking about 2,000 pounds sterling, worth about $300,000 today.

In 1695, the governor of New York asked the “trusty and well beloved Captain Kidd” to help clear the Eastern Seaboard of French ships and suspected pirates. Several British lords paid for Kidd’s expedition, and he received an official letter of marque from King William III himself. But bad luck dogged Kidd as he attempted to fulfill his commission: he failed to find the expected pirates along the eastern short of Africa, a third of his men were killed by cholera, and the rest either deserted or became mutinous as Kidd’s failures mounted. Kidd reportedly killed one crewmember with an iron bucket after a heated exchange and gained a reputation for cruelty to his captives, though his crew might have been more responsible for their mistreatment.

In desperation, Kidd turned to piracy and took an Armenian ship with a rich cargo, an English captain, and French credentials. The Cara (or Quedagh) Merchant replaced Kidd’s former ship, and English naval commanders began to pursue him. Kidd did attempt to seize one of the pirates named in his original commission, but most of his disgruntled crew abandoned him to join the other captain, and Kidd had no choice but to leave empty-handed.  Upon learning that he was wanted for piracy, he left the Cara Merchant in the Caribbean and returned to New York in 1699 to plead for clemency from the governor, who instead had Kidd arrested and placed in solitary confinement for over a year.

Kidd eventually was transported back to England, where he was held in the infamous Newgate Prison and sentenced to death by the High Court of the Admiralty for piracy and murder. The first rope used to hang him broke, so the executioner had to rig a second — and Kidd’s body was left to hang in an iron cage over the Thames River for 20 years.

Despite Kidd’s relative lack of enthusiasm and success as a pirate, many stories have circulated about the treasures he might have buried in a wide variety of locations. He is known to have stashed most of the gold and silver from the Cara Merchant on an island off the coast of New York, but he unwisely revealed its whereabouts to the governor, who used it as evidence against Kidd. It is possible that the captain stashed more of loot elsewhere before returning to New York, but historical records indicate that he had left the ship and all its remaining cargo in the hands of his crew and some merchants, who removed everything of value from the ship after his arrest and set fire to the ship. After many years of searching by treasure hunters, the Cara Merchant was discovered off the Dominican island of Catalina in 2007, and indeed the shipwreck has so far yielded only cannon and other small finds, but no gold.

Some believe, however, that Kidd had either started to bury treasure earlier in his life or was not entirely truthful about the fate of the Cara Merchant booty, and stories continue to circulate about a number of possible hiding spots: the Connecticut River, Money Cove, Oak Island, Block Island, and even Japan and southeast Asia.



The Chapters: 12 Lost Treasures

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