|"Of all the pyratical crews that were ever heard of, none of the English name came up to this in barbarity. Their mirth and their anger had much the same effect, for both were usually gratified with the cries and groans of their prisoners; so that they almost as often murdered a man from the excess of good humour as out of passion and resentment; and the unfortunate could never be assured of safety from them, for danger lurked in their very smiles."|
- Daniel Defoe, A General History of the Pyrates
As we all know, tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day; a magical, mysterious time where we all harvest our inner scalawags, hoist the mainsails, drink a bunch of rum, and celebrate our love of piracy by ruthlessly plundering the shipping vessels of our least-favorite European nations. Well, as all of you are no doubt planning on attending massive ITLaPD costume/raiding parties, it is the moral obligation of this website to provide you with some badass pirate-related material to talk about with your mateys while you're gimping around on peg legs, yelling at parrots, and making your enemies walk the plank into a river of molten-hot magma. So this year, don't simply emulate the more mainstream sea-dogs like Blackbeard, Black Bart, and pretty much anybody else with the word "black" in their names, but consider mixing it up a little bit and busting out some shit about the man who, at the time, was almost universally recognized as the most ruthless, most bloodthirsty, and most sadistic bastard to ever hoist the black flag and fling a couple dozen cannonballs into someone's crotch for no good reason: The infamous Captain Edward Low.
Low – who evidentially during his lifetime was simply known by any combination of the names Ed, Edward, Eddie, Edmund, Ted, Ned, Nedly, or Nedsworth and Lo, Loe, Low, Lowe, Loewe, or Loewewewe – was a hard-working, enterprising connoisseur of felonious behavior who started his career at the bottom of the criminal scumbag ladder and worked his way all the way up to the top through a tough combination of back-stabbing, face-punching, and general bastardship. His formative years were spent enjoying his favorite pastimes, which generally involved roaming the streets of Westminster, England, beating people up, mugging wealthy aristocrats, and snatching handbags from the shoulders of unsuspecting dames. Eventually he got bored of making a living by cracking people in the face with homemade knuckle sandwiches, so he moved to Boston, Massachusetts and found work as a ship-rigger. Of course, old habits die hard, and while on a trading trip to South America in 1722 Low had a falling out with his commanding officer (who, in Low's defense, was actually kind of a giant raving dickhead) and tried to blow his face off with a pistol. Well, here's a fun tip: when you flip out and try to frag your commander in the brain with a flintlock handgun, it's important that you don't miss. Low did. For his loyal service to his captain, Eddie and twelve of his fellow mutineers were put overboard in a crappy little rowboat and left in the Gulf of Honduras to die.
Have fun with that, suckers.
This is where things get interesting. While most people would have rowed for a few hours and then passed out and died from exhaustion/lameness, Low took charge and declared that these twelve men were all going to sack up and go pirate. It wasn't very long before they came across another sailing vessel, and despite having no cannons, no sails, and very little in the way of food, ammunition, or weapons, Edward Low and his twelve men managed to board the ship, kill their captain, and take the helm. Low ordered his men to hoist the black flag from the main sail, and officially "declared war on all the world."
Seeing as how this crazy scurvy bastard was able to capture a full-size sailing ship with nothing more than a dinky little rowboat and his own two fists, you can imagine how successful he was once he got his hands on some shipboard artillery. Low and his hearty band of scurvy knaves cruised the Antilles for the next two years, capturing ships, recruiting/capturing sailors into their service, destroying everything they came across, and punctuating their sentences by randomly exclaiming the word "yearghhhh!" at seemingly-arbitrary occasions. Aboard his flagship, the 80-ton, 10-gun schooner Fancy, which generally sailed at the head of a small fleet of pirate ships, Low was notorious for capturing vessels along the coasts of New England and the Caribbean, killing everyone on board in exceedingly violent manners, plundering their treasure, and then torching the ships when he was done. He also had a pretty sweet pirate flag:
While he was definitely an expert at kicking ass and blowing ships into flotsam with some combination of cannonballs, fireballs, and regular balls, what really sets Edward Low apart from his pirate brethren was the fact that he really got his roger jolly by committing insane acts of brutality on those sailors unfortunate enough to find themselves in his custody. This guy was completely insane, and quickly became notorious and appropriately-feared by men across the Atlantic for his penchant for finding new and colorful ways to torture those captured sailors who were unwilling to voluntarily join his vicious, lawless crew of pirates. This guy would cut peoples' ears and noses off, set fire to their hands and feet (Jom Gabbar style), burn them alive, decapitate them, throw them off the yardarm of his ship, and whip them relentlessly with pistols, cat o' nine tails, rubber hoses, and/or large wet noodles. While he mostly did this crazy, borderline-kinky shit to people just for the hell of it or because he had nothing better to do, he reserved his most barbaric tortures for people who had the dumbass audacity to hid their treasures from him. For instance, one time this dude threw a chest full of gold and jewels overboard to prevent Low and his crew from taking them, so Edward "Get" Low apparently responded by cutting off the dude's lips (how the eff do you cut off someone's lips anyways?), boiling them, force-feeding them to him (how did he eat them without lips?), and then personally murdering his entire crew with a cutlass. Another time he boarded and captured a warship, arbitrarily killed all 53 men on board, and then had the ship torched into ash just for good measure.
As you can probably imagine, this horrible shit, combined with his skill in capturing merchant vessels laden with gold, rightfully earned Low a reputation as pretty much the baddest dude on the seven seas. It also helped that he had a totally gnarly scar on his face from one time when he got his mouth slashed open by a cutlass, which made him look incredibly menacing despite the fact that he wore breeches, silk leggings and a funny tri-corner hat. Interestingly, Low had actually been a loving family man back in Boston, but lost his wife and their son in childbirth. It is noted in a couple places that because he never got over the loss of his beloved, Low always let women and married men go free unharmed when he captured them. Of course, you shouldn't let this fool you in to thinking that he wasn't a total bastard. Because he totally was.
Just another day on board Low's flagship.
Being a badass murderous pirate doesn't make you a whole lot of friends, however, and eventually this guy's insane brutality and hate-filled, murderous temper finally caught up with him. One day in 1724, he had an argument with his first mate about something ridiculous, so Low responded by sneaking into the dude's cabin that night and shooting him in the balls with a pistol until he died from it. When the men woke up the next morning and found that their captain had just murdered the first mate in cold blood, they all decided they'd had enough of his bullshit. So, once again Edward Low was put into a longboat and tossed overboard without any kind of food or provisions. Just as before, Low was picked up by a merchant ship, only this time instead of taking over the ship and running off to continue his demented life of bloody sociopathic adventures, the sailors on board the vessel instantly recognized Low as the infamous bastard-pirate that he was. Ed was thrown in the brig, shipped back to the French-controlled island of Martinique, and promptly executed.
The Cayman Islands still printed a postage stamp in his honor for some reason.
Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag. Harcourt, 1997.
Defoe, Daniel. A General History of the Pyrates. Courier Dover, 1999.
Ellms, Charles. The Pirates Own Book. BiblioBazaar, 2009.
Johnson, Charles. A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. Globe Pequot, 2002.
Seitz, Don Carlos. Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates. Dover, 2002.
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