In a previous post, I began the story of Captain Richard Worley, my first cousin – eight times removed, who was a real-life pirate in the early 1700’s. His story continues:
After leaving the Bahamas, Worley and his crew began working their way back towards Virginia. Soon, they captured a ship called the Eagle which was inbound to the colonies from London. With the Eagle in convoy, Worley headed for Charleston. He was not aware that at that moment, the Royal Governor of Charleston, Robert Johnston, was putting together a convoy to capture him and other pirates.
While Johnston was assembling his war flotilla, Worley arrived outside Charleston. He sent a signal to request a pilot to assist in guiding his ship and the Eagle into the harbor. However, officials in Charleston, believing the ships to be another pirate of the era, Christopher Moody, refused to acknowledge the signal. Worley’s ships laid off the harbor but several times approached Sullivan’s Island for water. Each time, they were warned off by the patrol.
A Magnificent Deception
Governor Johnston finally succeeded in enlisting three hundred volunteers to man three ships, the Philadelphia, the Revenge, and the King William. At daybreak, the ships weighed anchor and by 8:00 AM, were outside the harbor.
Johnston had ordered the ships’ gun ports to be closed and that no show of force be made. Believing the ships to be a flotilla of merchants, Worley slipped his moorings. He chose the Philadelphia as his first victim and hoisted his black flag.
As Worley approached within half a gunshot distance, Johnston ordered all gun-ports thrown open and all volunteers to man the decks. The Revenge also joined the fight.
The two heavily armed ships made short work of Worley’s smaller vessel, while Charleston residents gathered on their rooftops to watch. All of the pirate crew except Captain Worley and one sailor were killed. Both of them were seriously injured.
A Speedy Trial
But Governor Johnston was not finished. He did not want the notorious pirate to ‘escape justice.’ So he ordered that Worley be immediately taken ashore in a small boat. There, a court was hastily convened. The next morning, February 17, 1719, Captain Richard Worley was tried on the docks of Charleston harbor and convicted of piracy. He was immediately hanged on the dock before he could succumb to his battle injuries.
Despite his short tenure — Richard Worley was only a pirate for five months — he is now listed as the 12th most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, the late 1600s to early 1700s. Most of his loot — probably secreted somewhere in the Bahamas — was never recovered.
But his enduring legacy is that he was the originator of the ‘Jolly Roger.’