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