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Alexander Dalzeel

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Alexander Dalzeel


Alexander Dalzeel (c. 1662 – December 5, 1715) was a seventeenth-century pirate and former officer under Henry Avery.

Born in Port Patrick, Scotland, Dalzeel went to sea as a child and, by the age of 23, was captain of his own ship with six successful voyages to his credit. Earning a reputation for dishonesty, Dalzeel arrived in Madagascar in 1685 and soon enlisted into the ranks of Captain Avery.

According to pirate lore, Dalzeel participated in the capture of the treasure ship Ganj-i-Sawai, which carried The Great Mogul's daughter to her arranged marriage. Avery, who had decided to take her as his own wife, gave Dalzeel his own ship and crew within Avery's fleet. Dalzeel would continue to serve under Avery until finally leaving for the West Indies on his own.

However, upon their arrival in the Caribbean, the pirates' search for targets was fruitless. With their supplies slowly running short, starvation began to set in before a Spanish vessel was sighted. As the ship came into view, Dalzeel realized the Spanish ship was a well-armed Spanish war galleon which had presumably become separated from its escorts. Despite their ship's smaller size, Dalzeel gave orders to close in on the ship.

Although the Spanish ship's captain had been informed of the pirate ship's presence earlier, he felt it too small to be a threat and retired to his cabin for a game of cards. As the ship approached the galleon, Dalzeel ordered a hole to be drilled in the side of his own ship so that his crew would be forced to fight to the death. Caught completely off guard, the Spaniards offered little resistance as Dalzeel's crew boarded the galleon. Within minutes the ship was theirs and, storming into the captain's quarters, they demanded his surrender at gunpoint.

After sailing his prize to Jamaica, Dalzeel was apprehended while attempting to capture a fleet of twelve Spanish pearl ships escorted by a Spanish man-o-war. In exchange for his surrender, Dalzeel and his crew were not forced into slavery or hard labor, as was common practice for captured pirates.

Released ashore, Dalzeel made his way back to Jamaica. There he began outfitting another ship and was soon sailing for Cuba. Again his outnumbered crew was captured by a Spanish naval patrol of three warships bound for Havana, where he was sentenced to be hanged at sea. Dalzeel, however, quickly made his escape after stabbing a guard and using two empty jugs to float to shore. Soon encountering another band of pirates, Dalzeel was able to convince them to attack and successfully capture the warship which had held him prisoner. As the pirates neared Jamaica, their ship sank in a sudden storm although Dalzeel was able to survive the storm in a canoe.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, Dalzeel was granted a commission by the French as a privateer. He enjoyed considerable success against British and allied nations before his eventual capture in 1712. Taken back to England, he was tried and convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, at the behest of the Earl of Mar, Dalzeel received a royal pardon and, upon his release, sailed for French waters, where he captured a French ship. He then had the captured crew's necks tied to their heels and thrown overboard to watch them drown.

Eventually captured in Scotland, he was returned to London, where he was hanged on December 15, 1715.

Further reading

  • Smith, Captain Alexander. History of the Highwaymen. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1926. ISBN 0-415-28678-6
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