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Thomas Tew Flag
Thomas Tew

(16?? - 1695)

Not much is known about Thomas Tew before his arrival in Bermuda in 1692. Thomas Tew, the Rhode Island Pirate was active in the 1690s in the Red Sea, based in Bermuda, Rhode Island and New York. Reports of his death in 1695 are a bit gory, but apart from this isolated incident he was very successful in his chosen profession.

Thomas, a young seaman hailing from Rhode Island, arrived in Bermuda with gold in his pockets and after a time purchased a share in the sloop "Amity", owned by merchants and officials living on the island. Having interested his part-owners in the "Amity", a privateering commission was obtained from the governor.

Tew left Bermuda in command of the Amity by Governor Ritchier, with the aim of attacking the French at Goree on the river Gambia in West Africa, with another privateering sloop commanded by Captain George Drew.

On the voyage out a violent storm came up, Drew's sloop sprung her mast and the two vessels lost sight of each other.

Tew called his crew and persuaded them to abandon their mission and organize themselves on a piratical basis, on the basis that an attack on the French factory would be of little value to the public and of no particular reward to them for their bravery. The crew cried out 'A gold Chain, or a wooden Leg, we'll stand by you'. The crew chose a quartermaster to represent them, without whose agreement the captain could not proceed.

Tew had applied to the governor of Boston for a new privateering commission, but had been refused. For the sum of 500 pounds he obtained one in Rhode Island, which authorized him to seize the ships of France and the enemies of the Crown of England. In New York he found Frederick Phillips who was not averse to making profitable voyages to Madagascar, and soon the ship Frederick was dispatched with a full cargo. Seven years later Phillips was reported as having attained an estate of 100,000 pounds, much of it gained in the pirate trade to Madagascar.

Tew was made Admiral of the Fleet, and urged the building of an arsenal and the augmenting of the fleet. This was rejected on the grounds that men were required to till the soil at that time. Tew then proposed that he should go on a cruise in search of recruits, and went on a cruise on the Victoire and 300 men to bring in some volunteers. Tew first called on his former crew members where he went ashore. The governor (the ex-quartermaster) received him well but could not be persuaded to leave his comfortable situation where his company were free and independent of all the world. He wrote down some thoughts he had on the English government forming a colony in Madagascar, with the hope that the odious label of 'pirates' would be removed from his men. Late that afternoon a violent storm came up suddenly with seas so high that Tew could not go out to his ship. The storm increased and in less than two hours the Victoire parted her cables and was driven ashore and the whole crew drowned in sight of Tew, who could not help them.

Tew returned to Newport, where his crew took their share of the treasure and quietly dispersed while Tew settled down to a quiet life. One of his company, Thomas Jones (not one of the crew in 1692), who had formerly sailed with "Long Ben" Avery, married Penelope Goulden and also settled down and lived in Rhode Island, but others squandered their shares and began soliciting him to make another voyage. For a time he refused, but was eventually persuaded to undertake one more voyage.

In June 1695 Tew was at Liparu Island at the mouth of the Red Sea, where with other English vessels he joined the fleet commanded by Captain Avery. Tew at that time had a crew of 'thirty to forty' men. After gaining information on ship movements they came across twenty-five ships, which they followed. The Amity was a slow ship and could not keep up. The rest of the fleet captured two vessels.

Tew was killed on an attack on the Fateh Muhammed, an Indian trading ship, in the engagement, a shot carried away the rim of Tew's belly. When he dropped, it struck such a terror into his men, that they offered themselves to be taken, without any resistance".


Anne Bonney
Bartholomew Roberts
Charles Vane
Edward Low

Edward Teach
Emanuel Wynne
Henry Every
Jack Rackham
Mary Read

Richard Worley
Stede Bonnet
Thomas Tew
Walter Kennedy
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