Terrible Privateer - Captain Death
Coming upon such a reference as: “It was equipped at Execution Dock, commanded by Captain Death, The appellation of his Lieutenant was Devil, and the surgeon's name was Ghost” Demanded further research – the following extracts give clues to the source of the story -the Narrative pdf, below, contains the Declaration made out to obtain her Letter of Marque.
Perhaps history does not afford a more remarkable instance of
desperate courage than that shewn by the officers and crew of an English
Privateer called "The Terrible," of 26 guns and 200 men, under
the command of Captain Death. On the 23d December 1757, he engaged
and made prize of a large French ship, the Grand Alexander, from
St. Maloes, after an obstinate battle, in which his brother and sixteen
seamen were killed. He directed his course for England with his prize
and forty men; but in a few days fell in, off St. Domingo, with the
Vengeance, a Privateer of 36 guns and 360 men, the Commander of
which ordered an attack on the prize, which was easily retaken. The
two ships then bore down upon the Terrible, the mainmast of which
was shot away by the first broadside. Notwithstanding this disaster,
the Terrible maintained such a furious engagement against both, as can
hardly be paralleled in the annals of the British Navy. The French
Commander ( Mons. Bourdas) and his second Lieutenant were killed,
with two-thirds of the existing crew ; but the gallant Captain Death,
with the greater part of his officers and nearly his entire crew, having
met with the same fate, his ship was boarded by the enemy, who found
no more than twenty-six persons alive, sixteen of whom were mutilated
by the loss of a leg or an arm, and the other ten grievously wounded.
The ship itself lay a wreck upon the water, and presented a scene of
horror and desolation. The victorious vessel was so shattered that it
was scarcely able to tow the Terrible into St, Maloes.
This adventure was no sooner known in England than a subscription
was raised for the support of Death's widow and the surviving portion
of the crew.
There was a strange combination of names in connection with this
privateer, the Terrible. It was equipped at Execution Dock, commanded
by Captain Death, The appellation of his Lieutenant was Devil, and
the surgeon's name was Ghost. Ritson, in the second volume of " a
Select Collection of English Songs," in three volumes, Lond. 1783, in
a footnote to a version of Captain Death, observes, that "this strange
circumstance, mentioned by some writers, seems entirely void of foundation,"
but he gives no authority for contradicting the received impression.
He states that the ballad was "written, as 'tis said, by one of the surviving
crew," There are some slight differences between his version
and the present. We also find a copy in "Early Naval Ballads," contributed
to the Percy Society by J. O. Halliwell, in which there are
some variations, evidently modern.
At an early period, little more than sixteen years of age, raw and ad- venturous, and heated with the false heroism of a master who had served in a man-of-war, I became the carver of my own fortune, and entered on board the Terrible Privateer, Captain Death. From this adventure I was happily prevented by the affectionate and moral remonstrance of a good father, who, from his own habits of life, being of the Quaker profession must begin to look upon me as lost.