Attacking Merchant Ships

Attacking Merchant Ships


Two ships draw alongside during battle.

Pirate ships would draw alongside a merchant vessel so that grappling hooks could be thrown over the side to latch onto the merchant vessel. Pirates would then board the merchant vessel, ready for a fight on deck. Many crews were to frightened to put up much of a fight against the pirate onslaught.

The use of a pirate ship’s guns was usually a last resort since pirates tried not to damage the very ship they were trying to take as booty.

Captured ships were completely looted. Pirates took anything they could use, including weapons, tools, medicine chests, flags, ropes, and sails. They often took whole ships and forced their crews to join them.

Of course, gold, silver, jewels, sugar, tobacco and spices could all be sold for a handsome profit.

Stolen weapons were of great value to pirates. They liked to swagger around with cutlasses and pistols. The cutlass was the weapon of choice for close combat on the decks of boarded ships.


A pirate throws a grappling hook
over the side during an attack.


Ship’s gun at a gunport. The thick rope anchored to the hull kept
the gun from rolling back when it was fired.


The cutlass, a cheap but effective cutting weapon. It could be slashed or thrust.


A flintlock pistol.


The blunderbuss, which fired a spray of shrapnel.

Next: The Pirate Code of Conduct

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