The Legend of Thomas Lacy and the Pirate
The story of Thomas Lacy capturing a pirate, reputedly Blackbeard, has
come down through the generations. The furthest back it goes is to the
Rev. William Sterling Lacy, a man of outstanding character and the source
of much correct information on the family. This story has been suspect
because of the claims that it was the pirate, Blackbeard, who was captured
and slain. This could not possibly be because Edmond Drummond, a.k.a.
Edward Teach a.k.a. "Blackbeard" was born 1680-1690 and was
killed 22 November 1718 in a fight with Lieut. Robert Maynard and company.
The incredibly true story has now surfaced, much of it consistent with the important facts in William Sterling Lacy's version. It was found by Gene Lacy doing an on-line search in the Virginia Colonial Records Project on the Homepage of the Library of Virginia. The Library spent the years between 1955 and 1985 visiting more than one hundred libraries and archives in Great Britain, Ireland, and France to survey the collections. They subsequently obtained microfilm on 14,704 Survey Reports, and acquired 963 reels of microfilmed documents. It was among these documents that the story of Thomas Lacy and the pirate surfaced.
First we present the story as told by William Sterling Lacy. This is taken from Hubert Wesley Lacey's book, "The Thomas Lacy III Family of Hanover and Buckingham Counties, Virginia".
COPY OF OLD PAPER WRITTEN BY WILLIAM STERLING LACY, SON OF REV. DRURY LACY.
ORIGINAL IS IN THE POSSESSION OF ALFRED P. JONES, M..D. OF ROANOKE VA.
Passing through the upper end of Luta Prairie about the year 1828 or '29, I stopped at the house of old Mr. Wm. Rice; he said he was 85 or 86 years of age, and brother of Rev. David Rice, one of the first Presbyterian Ministers of Kentucky. His mind was unimpaired, his memory remarkable and he was esteemed a consistent Christian man. He told me that when a small boy, he saw my ancestor who emigrated from Wales, and was then residing in Hanover Co., Va., remarking that he was one of the oldest and tallest men he ever saw; his name was Thomas Lacy. He told me his history was very peculiar, that when a young man he embarked on board a vessel from Wales with other emigrants, with a view of settling in Virginia; that during the voyage he was captured by a notorious pirate who went under the familiar name of Black Beard, but whose name was Taike; that every passenger on board was made to walk the plank with the exception of Thomas Lacy, who the pirate swore was too fine a looking fellow to be drowned and that he would impress him into his service and make a noble pirate of him.
A short time after the pirate put into Ocracoke Sound, and cast anchor on a desolate coast, where he was in the habit of trading with some lawless accomplices.
A man of suspicious character, I think by the name of Minnis, applied to the Governor of Virginia, then residing on Jamestown Island, to aid him in fitting out a large Merchant Vessel and collecting a large number of desperate adventurers with a view of capturing the pirate. He was induced to do this, from the fact that a very large reward had been offered by the British Government and several of her colonies for the capture of the pirate.
It seems that Minnis was acquainted with the habits of Black Beard and knew at what time he would be on the coast. The vessel was fitted and crew collected. Immediately on entering Ocracoke Inlet the vessel was so fitted to appear almost a wreck. Taking advantage of a favorable wind and tide she sailed slowly under ragged sailes and crippled masts to where the piratical vessel lay, only four or five men on deck making signals of distress as they approached the pirate. All the men, completely armed, hid under the hatches of the vessel. The pirate seemed amused at her slow approach, supposing they had her entirely in their power. The piratical vessel was anchored over a half mile from shore. At this time nearly half the crew were on shore trading as above mentioned. As soon as she reached the pirate she was grappled and drawn up alongside of her. Instantly all the hatches were thrown up and armed men in large numbers rushed on the deck of the pirate. At this instant Thomas Lacy drew his cutlass and shouting with trumpet-voice, "I am a true man. I am a prisoner", began to cut down the pirates on the right and left. This circumstance increased their panic and threw them into some confusion so that they were quickly overcome by superior numbers. Not one would surrender and every one was slain. Black Beard recognized Minnis and cursed him as a traitor and was soon after killed.
They then proceeded with their prize to Jamestown where the good Conduct of Thomas Lacy being reported to the Governor, he gave him a share of the prize money, and a tract of land on the frontier in which is now Hanover Co., saying he would make a fine Indian fighter. In a few years after Thomas Rice sailed from Wales and settled in the same neighborhood of Thomas Lacy. Thomas Lacy married his daughter to whom he had been engaged before leaving Wales.
This Thomas Rice was the ancestor of this William Rice who gave me the above narrative.
Signed: William S. Lacy
FROM THE COLONIAL RECORDS PROJECT-LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
Survey Report No. 4385
13 May 1700 This document contains 21 depositions sworn before the Court of Oyer & Terminer for the trial of pirates in Virginia before Peter Beverly, Clerk of Arraigns. Some of the depositions are sworn by individual mariners, others by groups of mariners from different ships captured by Lewis Guittar. All ships were outward bound from Virginia, except the Pennsylvania Merchant, which was inbound from England. On 17 April (1699) the BALTIMORE was captured; on 18 April the GEORGE of Pennsylvania bound for Jamica. The master of the FRIENDSHIP of Belfast-Hans Haniel-was killed when the pirates fired on his ship. On 28 April 4 ships were captured within the Cape of Virginia including the PENNSYLVANIA MERCHANT, and the INDIAN KING of Virginia and the NICHOLSON. The PENNSYLVANIA MERCHANT WAS BURNT. The crews taken prisoner were confined in the hold of the pirate ship which was call LA PAIX (PEACE); some other being made to throw cargoes of tobacco and other goods to Lyn-Haven by the pirates. On 28 April Captain John Alread, Commander of H.M.S. ESSEX having heard of the pirates' exploits came ashore and informed H. E. Francis Nicholson H.M. Governor General of Virginia and Captain Passenger of H.M.S. SHOREHAM that there was a Pirate in Lyn-Haven Bay. Whereupon captain Passenger and His Excellency, together with Captain Alread and Peter Hayman Esquire, went aboard H.M.S. SHOREHAM and in coming out of the James River engaged the Pirate ship. Captain Guittar fought under a blood red flag. Peter Hayman Esquire was slain. After an engagement which lasted 6 to 8 hours John Lympany, a passenger from the PENNSYLVANIA MERCHANT, was ordered by Lewis Guittar to swim aboard the SHOREHAM to inform H. E. the Governor that there were English prisoners aboard his ship and that they and the ship would be blown up unless H. E. was prepared to grant Quarter to Guittar and his men if they surrendered. The Governor gave his promise. About 124 pirates were taken prisoner and some 25 to 30 pirates were slain. Between 40 and 50 English prisoners were liberated.
Survey Report No. 4378
Part I contains two documents 17 and 18 relating to charges of Piracy against Lewis Guittar and others and 18 also relates to a charge of Piracy against David Evand and Turlagh Sulivan and others.
8 November 1700. The warrant for the execution of Lewis Guittar and members of his crew for Piracy upon the High Seas.
21-21 October 1700. Not of Judgment at Sessions, sentencing Lewis Guittar and a number of his crew to death.
Survey Report No. 5918
An Admiralty memorial, dated 12 September 1701, recommending an allowance of 23 shillings a month for 5 months to Thomas Lacy and William Woolgar for the capture of the French pirate Lewis Guittar, within the Cape of Virginia.
Survey Report No. 6672
Lords of the Admiralty to the Navy Board. 17 September 1701. By direction of the Lords Justices, their Lordships ordered the Navy Board to pay Thomas Lacey and William Woolgar each five months pay as A.B. of the Royal Navy as a gratuity for their voluntary service on board H.M.S. SHOREHAM, Capt. Passenger, in her action with a pirate ship off the Capes of Virginia.
Conclusion: Thomas Lacy was listed as a sailor from one of the ships that was captured on the 28th of April 1699. Of the three ships captured, only the Nicholson was reported as leaving crew behind in its attempt to escape from the pirate. The above report makes it clear that Thomas Lacy served on the Shoreham during the battle. Thus, we conclude that he was a seaman aboard the Nicholson, was left in port in the hasty departure, volunteered to serve on the Shoreham and received his reward for this service.
Elton Lacey asked David Davis to draw a cartoon story based on the above facts. Research has not made it clear whether or not Thomas Lacy was captured by Guittar or whether he served on the Shoreham during the capture.