One of the most common forms of punishment used by pirates was flogging. This involved the offender being tied to a wooden frame and beaten with a whip or cat o’ nine tails. The severity of the punishment varied depending on the nature of the offense, with more serious crimes resulting in a greater number of lashes. According to the book “The Republic of Pirates” by Colin Woodard, flogging was used by pirates to maintain order and ensure that their crews followed their commands. Some captains were known to be particularly harsh, such as the infamous Blackbeard, who was said to have flogged his crew so severely that “they would sometimes die under the lash”.
Flogging was a common form of punishment used by pirates during the Golden Age of piracy (1650-1730). It was typically used for minor offenses, such as disobedience or drunkenness, and involved the offender being tied to a mast or other fixed object and struck with a whip or cat-o’-nine-tails.
The whip used for flogging was made of multiple cords or “tails” with knots or pieces of metal attached to the ends. This made it a more painful and dangerous weapon than a regular whip. The number of lashes given during a flogging varied depending on the offense and the captain’s discretion. However, it was not uncommon for a pirate to receive dozens or even hundreds of lashes during a flogging.
Flogging was a brutal and painful punishment, often leaving the offender with severe welts, bruises, and even permanent scars. In some cases, the punishment was so severe that the offender died from their injuries.
According to historical records, flogging was often carried out in public to serve as a deterrent to other crew members. The severity of the punishment was meant to instill fear and maintain discipline among the crew.
One of the most infamous floggings in pirate history was that of William Fly in 1726. Fly was a pirate captain who was captured and brought to trial in Boston. He was found guilty and sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until he was dead,” but before his execution, he was publicly flogged 30 times. The punishment was so severe that it took over an hour to administer and left Fly’s back covered in bloody welts.
Flogging was eventually abolished as a form of punishment in the British Navy in 1881, but it continued to be used by some pirate crews well into the 19th century.
- Rediker, M. (2004). Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Beacon Press.
- Woodard, C. (2007). The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Houghton Mifflin.