Michel de Grammont
Michel de Grammont (1645 – 1686) was a famous French nobleman turned buccaneer who operated out of the island of Tortuga during the height of the era. He was born in Paris and was forced to leave France after he killed his sisters suitor in a duel. He ventured to the French colony of Saint-Domingue where he became a privateer like many others during this time period. He was primarily active between 1670 and his disappearance in 1686, a long career for a pirate.
Grammont began his buccaneering career around 1670 and with his first act of buccaneering to be capturing a Dutch trade convoy that was worth about 400,000 livres or about $4 million in current US dollars. After his massive success he set out on another cruise of the West Indies but ran aground on a reef and sunk his ship. Next Grammont naturally gravitated to the pirate haven of Tortuga where he used his massive wealth to purchase another ship and recruited another crew to attack Spanish shipping.
Grammont was one of the most successful buccaneers of the Buccaneering Era and came in at a time when other famous buccaneers like Henry Morgan and others had retired. He continued to buccaneer even after the imperial governments attempted to outlaw it, commanding a fleet that rivaled anything the various imperial navies had at the time.
Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 Michael de Grammont joined with Comte d'Estrées for the raid on Dutch Curacao. However, the seventeen ship fleet was wrecked on the Las Aves Archipelago and never made it. From here he was made commander of the six ships and the 700 men salvaged from the disaster in June of 1678. He took the reduced French fleet and sailed towards Lake Maracaibo where he captured Maracaibo, Gibraltar and many other smaller towns. The buccaneers penetrated as far inland as Trujillo and remained in the region for six months plundering as they saw fit.
After six months of controlling the region around Lake Maracaibo the buccaneers captured the port of La Guaira however, only briefly as the Spanish forced their hasty retreat. Grammont next appears in June of 1680 when he and fellow English buccaneer Thomas Paine along with another captain named Wright met at the Spanish island of La Blanquilla and worked together to capture the town of Cumana. Despite the fact that the town was defended by 2,000 Spanish soldiers the fifty buccaneers managed to raid the town.
Grammont was injured in a sword battle during this engagement and returned to the Las Aves to heal from his injuries. At this point de Grammont would be in command of eight ships. In 1682 the French governor of Petit-Goave gave de Grammont a commission along with Nikolaas van Hoorn to raid Spanish shipping. During this time the two pirates attacked ship that belonged to the Dutch buccaneer Laurens de Graaf. They took the prize to nearby Bonaco Island where they found out who de Graaf was and then recruited him after some argument.
In May of 1683 de Grammont along with van Hoorn, de Graaf and Michiel Andrieszoon led a group of buccaneers that sacked the city of Veracruz and demanded a ransom for the 4,000 prisoners they captured. Following this de Grammont was known to be raiding Spanish settlements on La Florida such as Saint Augustine and the Mocama Mission Province.
In July of 1685 the three buccaneer captains would meet up once again and sack the Spanish city of Campeche. The buccaneers looted and pillaged the city for two months with little result so they proceeded to ransom the governor for the lives of the colonists. The governor refused to negotiate with the buccaneers and de Grammont and van Hoorn killed twelve prisoners and sent their heads to the governor as in retaliation. However, de Graaf and challenged van Hoorn to a duel. Wounding van Hoorn, this stopped the massacre and soon de Grammont left the informal group to do his own buccaneering.
The last recorded location of de Grammont was in April of 1686 as he was sailing off the coast of La Florida near the settlement of Saint Augustine. No one really knows what happened to de Grammont but many accounts suggest his ship went down in a hurricane with no survivors. How someone managed to relay this tale is not known and no one truly knows the final fate of this buccaneer.