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James Naish about “Dragon Pirate” - 15 Jun 1720

Letters – James Naish about “Dragon Pirate”—15 Jun 1720

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Letter 139 James Naish on board the House of Austria off of the coast of Dover to the Court reporting that their ship was taken by the pirates after some resistance – 15 June 1720


IOR/E/1/11 ff. 226-227v : 15 Jun 1720


Hon:ble Sr:s                     139 (red marker)  226 (circled in pencil)

I cannot doubt the St. Joseph & Brussels Gally arrival Ostend & Therefore conclude You have been advis'd to Expect Several Letters by me, But Tis my Misfortune to Inform Your Hon:rs that they were Seiz'd on by the Officers of the Dragon Pirate, in Expectation of Intelligence other Ships & their Cargoes, Tho it Concerns Me to Assure You they then Knew too well when & where to Cruize for, & fall in with Many; but from a Particular Account of their designs I am to Begg You will at Present Excuse me, & Therefore Please to lett it Suffice That on Feb:ry 9/20, after as Good a Resistance as we were capable of making, we fell into their hands with The Loss of Chief Third mate & Two Seamen, & many others Slightly wounded; She [Dragon] Sails Princely Well, Mounts forty Guns, & Twenty Brass Pieces upon Swiffles on their Gunnil, Two of them also, with one Chorn, in each Top & Small Arms for Twice her Complement, being Three hundred & Twenty Men when I left them on Feb:ry 16/27; they were compleately Stored with Ammunition, & Provision at full Allowance for fiveteen Months. We found them a Generous, tho' Common, Enemy, for Our Loss inconsiderable in the Ships Large & Valuable Cargoe; Our Greatest Suffering was the Necessity he Put us under of Running to Bahia de Todos Santos for a fresh Supply of Provision, In my Passage to That Place I sent my Boat ashoar to your Hon:rs Island St. Hellens & in a Letter to the Governours Council a brief Account Our Misfortune desiring it will Personally give them a More Exact Information of the Pirate's designs, Signals, & Other Circumstances which thought being to:? be foreever ??? ?? to your Hon:rs Settlement ?? ???? by the Ship That annually Calls at the Island Outward bound; & Very Probably be with them Sooner then the Pirate Which be there Cruizing, but the Gov:r(?) came to understand that my Intelligence was not worth his Notice, That he Exulted at My Misfortune, & That I might be Sure Not to mistake him in his Aboundant Humanity Positively Refus'd to take a Letter. which I sent Purposely With Desire to be forwarded to My Family, that they might not be in Pain, by my being an absent Ship, & this Digressive Observation I Should have Omitted, had he not Justified himself by your Hon:rs Instructions, Which I will Never Believe directed him to Such an illnatur'd Refusal, Because I have had The Honour to Serve under them, & will Still hope to be again Thought Capable, it being my greatest Ambition to Demonstrate that I am


Hon:ble S:rs


Your Most Devoted, Most Obed:t

& Most Humble Serv:t


James Naish




This document clearly shows that the name of the pirate ship that attacked Prince Eugene and House of Austria near the Cape of Good Hope was named “Dragon.” Edward Congdon was the only pirate known to have used this name for his vessel. The document also gives an excellent first-hand description of Dragon. Another detail of note is the use of a double entry dating style. As Catholic Imperial nations of the time were already using a Gregorian Calendar and since James Naish was an Irishman then working for a Catholic nation, he would have been familiar with using two different dates, 11 days difference, representing the Julian dates (still in use by 18th-century Britain) and the Gregorian style utilized by France, Spain, Belgians, Ostenders, etc. Naish understood that officials from both Britain and Ostend might read his letter and he indicated both dating styles, as shown in the photo from page 1 of the document:

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