Have you ever wondered what happens to pirates’ prisoners? Were they killed? Tortured? Made to walk the plank? Sold into slavery? Although every pirate ship had its own policy about what would happed to its prisoners, mostly pirates tended to follow the same guidelines and procedures.
What Happened to Pirates’ Prisoners?
As a rule, pirates would leave the crew members alive if they surrendered immediately, and there was no need to waste ammunition and no pirate had been injured or killed. In the case of an easy surrender, the pirates would go aboard the enemy ship, steal all the goods they could carry, and leave the crew alive and leave. This tactic was to make it easy for pirates to operate in the future, sending out a message, that if you cooperate, you will remain alive.
However, if there was any type of fighting against the pirates, the chances of the pirates leaving any crew member alive if they are success at boarding the ship and defeating the crew was very slim. After the pirates had started a battle, there was little chance they would then accept a surrender, leaving the captain and crew alive. If pirates had to shoot away the ship’s sails and rigging, then the pirates would be frustrated and most likely not to accept a surrender. The captain would surely die.
Once the pirates board the ship of an enemy under battle terms, they would give no mercy to anyone on board, because the pirates had already gave the ship and its crew plenty of time and warning to surrender. If individual crew members surrender, there is a chance that the pirates may accept him as a prisoner or welcome him to their crew. Depending on how vicious the battle was, some crewmembers would be taken as slaves to work on the ship. This was beneficial to pirates, because having a large crew would help in the future.
The captain, however, would not be so lucky. The pirates would be very angry with the captain, because the captain was the one who told his crew to fight the pirates. In many of the pirate’s policies they would shoot the captain on sight. This would set an example to any other ship that tries to resist pirates. Sometimes the pirates would take the captain and kill him in front of his crew or leave his marooned somewhere. This was a way the pirates would use the captain for an example for all.
On some occasions, selected crewmembers would be left free to tell the tale of what happened. Usually after bearing witness to some terrible deaths. This was one way to spread the word about how terrible the pirates were, to make their jobs easier in the future.
What Pirates would do to prisoners:
There are a variety of reasons that pirates would take prisoners. They would want other ships to know that it was okay to just surrender, and also to get volunteers from other ships to join their crew. In general, pirates thought it was a good idea to keep passengers alive, especially if they were important people, so they could be used as ransom. They would want to recruit carpenters, surgeons and other skilled crew, so they could use them on their own ship, and the rest they would just sell off as slaves.