Very little is known about the early life and exploits of Christopher Moody. A feared pirate in his own rite he is also linked to two more well known pirates, Howell Davis and Bartholomew Roberts. The red background of his flag suggests he may have been a privateer in Queen Anne's war. His flag may also explain why so little is known of his early career. It is true, dead men tell no tales.
The first mention of Moody's name in history books appears in a brief sentence: "Olivier le Vasseur (La Buse) sails in consort with Christopher Moody". The first official record is in October 1718 when Moody's ship captured the merchant vessel, Minerva, off the Virginia coast. The Minerva was laden with wine from Midera, coveted in the colonies. Moody took both vessels southward to Charles Towne with the intention of doing a bit of illicit trading. Somehow, word got to Governor Johnson in Charles Towne that Captain Moody, "with 50 gun and 200 men", was to be expected any day and the Governor immediately set about making plans for the pirates' capture.
This tells us two things. Christopher Moody had been pirating long enough to take on a sizable crew and he was known and feared. Fortunately for him his career would not end here. When Moody arrived at the entrance to Charles Towne harbor with his two ships "some unscrupulous citizens" warned him of the trap and he sailed away. The next day another pirate captain, Richard Worley appeared, also with two ships and was quickly captured after a brief battle. Governor Johnson was greatly disappointed to learn that he had not captured Christopher Moody. Three days later Moody captured a merchant ship bound for Charles Towne. His men looted the prize but Moody spared the lives of the captain and crew and gave them specific orders to report to Governor Johnson that Christopher Moody was alive and well.
At some point later Moody surrendered himself to Woodes Rogers, the Governor of the Bahamas and accepted King George's "Act of Grace". From there he sailed with another reformed pirate, Howell Davis, and the two soon reverted back to piracy. Davis, who preferred deception to violence, appreciated Moody's style and included him in his "house of lords". Remember, there were no officers among pirates so this was Davis's unofficial group of leaders.
In June of 1719 Davis captured the slaver ship Princess and many of the crew willingly joined the pirates. The second mate of the Princess was not one of those, but because of his knowledge of navigation he was forced to join Davis's crew against his will. His name was Bartholomew Roberts.
Roberts must have made a good impression on the pirates because just six weeks after taking the Princess Davis was killed in an ambush arranged by the governor of the Portuguese island of Principe. Davis's house of lords approached Roberts that evening and elected him as the ship's new Captain. Robert's first action was to get revenge for Davis's death. The pirates destroyed much of the island where he was killed.
Roberts maintained the house of lords and went on to become the must successful pirate in history. By February of 1722 he and his men had taken over 460 ships. Roberts was killed in battle against HMS Swallow and before surrendering, his men threw his body overboard, fulfilling his pledge that the British would never get his body.
Moody and the five other members of the house of lords were held together in jail. They quickly escaped but were apprehended within a day. They were tried at Cape Corso Castle and found guilty of piracy. All six were hanged for their crimes.
As recorded in;
A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, and also their Policies, Discipline and Government by Daniel Defoe, 1724.
The Court on the 31st of March, remanded the following six before them, for Sentence, viz. Dav. Sympson, Wm. Magnes, R. Hardy, Thomas Sutton, Christopher Moody, and Valentine Ashplant.
To whom the President spoke to the following Purpose: The Crime of Piracy, of which all of ye have been justly convicted, is of all other Robberies the most aggravating and inhumane, in that being removed from the Fears of Surprise, in remote and distant Parts, you do in Wantonness of Power often add Cruelty to Theft.
Pirates unmoved at Distress or Poverty, not only spoil and rob, but do it from Men needy, and who are purchasing their Livelihoods thro’ Hazards and Difficulties, which ought rather to move Compassion; and what is still worse, do often, by Persuasion or Force, engage the inconsiderate Part of them, to their own and Families, Ruin, removing them from their Wives and Children, and by that, from the means that should support them prom Misery and Want.
To a trading Nation, nothing can be more destructive than Piracy, or call for more exemplary Punishment; besides the national Reflection it infers, it cuts off the Returns of Industry, and those pitiful Importations that alone can make an Island flourishing; and it is your Aggravation, that ye have been Chiefs and Rulers in these licentious and lawless Practices.
However, contrary to the Measure ye have dealt, he have been head with patience, and tho’ little has, or possibly could have, been said in Excuse or Extenuation of your Crimes, yet Charity makes us hope that a true and sincere Repentance (which we highly recommend) may entitle ye to Mercy and Forgiveness, after the Sentence of Law has taken Place, which now remains upon me to pronounce.
You, Dav. Simpson, William Magnes, R. Hardy, Tho. Sutton, Christopher Moody and Val. Ashplant. Ye, and each of you, are adjudged and sentenced, to be carry’d back to the Place from whence you came, from thence to the Place of Execution, without the Gates of the Castle, and there within the Flood-Mark, to be hanged by the Neck till ye are dead.
After this, ye, and each of you shall be taken down, and your Bodies hanged in Chains.
Other Pirate Flags.
Most authorities agree that this is flag of Christopher Moody. There is a bit of redundancy in this flag: The red background indicates "no quarter" as does the message depicted by the emblems.
Reading from the hoist end: The first symbol is a hourglass with wings (fleeting time). The second symbol is an arm carrying a sword (fight). The third symbol is the skull and bones (death). Together, the message is; "Your time is running out. If you fight you will die."
The black background on most pirate flags also had a meaning: As the white flag meant peace, parlay, or surrender the black flag meant the opposite to all those..
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