Calico Jack

Calico Jack the Pirate

John 'Calico Jack' Rackham - Pirate (c1682 - 1720)

Calico Jack was an English pirate, however little is known of his life before piracy. He was active during what was known as ‘The Golden Age of Pirates’ and gained his notoriety from having two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, serving under his command. His greatest legacy was his flag, which has become the best known of all pirate flags. Calico Jack appeared as a character in the video game Assassins Creed IV Black Flag.

This page details facts about Calico Jack's life and the events that shaped his history.

Calico Jack the Pirate - Fun Facts for Kids !

1: He was born as John Rackham in England around 1682.

2: John Rackham became known as Calico Jack because of his clothing, which was made from brightly coloured Indian Calico cloth.

3: He served as a Quartermaster aboard the sloop ‘Ranger’ under the pirate Charles Vane.

4: While serving under Vane, Calico Jack, along with the rest of the ship’s company, snubbed the offer of the King’s Pardon.

5: On 24th November 1718 he was voted Captain in place of Vane, who was branded a coward for ordering them all to sail away from a French Man of War rather than risk boarding her.

6: He had his own flag which was to become the most recognised of all pirate flags. His flag was a skull with two crossed swords beneath it, now commonly known as the Jolly Roger.

7: Several ships were plundered by him including a ship from Madeira, which they detained for two to three days before letting it go.

8: Calico Jack and his crew spent Christmas 1718 ashore, drinking and merrymaking until they ran out of liquor. He then returned to the sea to get more.

9: Although he was fairly successful, he didn’t take any great prizes except for a ship full of prisoners on their way from Newgate prison to the plantations. A few days later, he lost this prize to an English Man of War.

10: Two more ships were taken by him before he went to the Bahamas to refit his own ship using the stores, pitch and tar that he’d plundered. He stayed there a little too long, resulting in the Governor, Woodes Rogers, sending a sloop out after him. The sloop managed to retake the ships, however he managed to escape.

11: Calico Jack sailed for Cuba and stayed there until his money and provisions ran out. As he was preparing to leave, a Spanish Man of War approached, with an English sloop they’d captured, and attacked them. As evening came the Spanish ship stayed where it was, intending to finish them off the next morning. Realising he was trapped and his situation desperate, he waited until nightfall before taking his crew, armed with pistols and cutlasses, to the captured English Sloop. Calico Jack and his crew overcame the Spaniards on the ship and took command. He then sailed out to sea and escaped.

12: In August 1720, he had only a small crew and was attacking small craft and fishing boats off the coast of Jamaica.

13: In September 1720 he headed for Hispaniola where he took on some French crew. Calico Jack went on to plunder two sloops before returning to Jamaica, and on 19th October 1720 he took a schooner.

14: The next day, he took a sloop, and the sloop’s crew joined them.

15: The Governor came to hear of Calico Jack’s exploits and sent a heavily manned sloop, commanded by Captain Jonathan Barnet of the Royal Navy, to find him.

16: Barnet caught up with Calico Jack at Point Negril and boarded his ship. Calico Jack and most of the crew retreated below the deck leaving Anne Bonny, Mary Read and another crew member to fight. After a short fight, his ship was taken.

17: On 16th November 1720 at an Admiralty court in St. Jago de la Vega, Jamaica, Calico Jack and his crew were convicted of piracy and sentenced to hang.

18: Calico Jack was hung on 18th November 1720 at Gallows Point in Port Royal. His body was later taken down and hung in chains from a gibbet.

19: Calico Jack has been included as a character in the popular video game Assassins Creed IV, Black Flag, along with Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Benjamin Hornigold, Mary Read and Charles Vane. He has also appeared in the fictional TV series Black Sails, which was released in the United States in 2014. The series was created as a prequel to Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island and is set around 20 years earlier.

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