Benito de Soto
Copyright 2001, David Stapleton
According to the record, Benito de Soto was raised in a small village near Courna and trained to be a mariner. The first notice of him turning to piracy picks up in 1827 in Buenos Ayres. He signed on to a ship being outfitted for the coast of Africa, where it would smuggle slaves in excess of the number available to a normal trader. Owing to the nature of the trip, the men hired on were of questionable morals, at best.
Having loaded slaves off the coast of Africa, the ship�s mate and de Soto conspired to take the vessel and it�s cargo for their own profit. Through various means the two convinced about half the crew to side with them. While the captain was ashore, the mate and de Soto distributed weapons to their faction and demanded that the rest either join up or depart the vessel. Deciding to maintain their lawful state many departed the ship in a small boat, and as the weather turned foul and they were far from shore; it is assumed that they perished.
In the drunken uproar that followed, the mate was declared captain and showed his tyrannical nature. Benito de Soto, seeing the way things would go under this captain, shot him in his sleep, and declared to the rest of the crew that he had done it for their benefit and assumed the roll of captain himself. The pirates steered for the West Indies and sold the slaves. The piracies recorded of this crew include the taking of an American brig, and in 1828, the British ship, Morning Star, carrying several invalided soldiers from India. The American ship was burned with all hands, and the Morning Star faired little better. The crew was tortured, the women abused, and the ship set afire, before the pirates left; fortunately the men and women left aboard were able to extinguish the fire and were picked up by another ship that passed the next day.
The pirate�s ship was named the Defensor de Pedro (another source lists the ship's name as the Black Joke, presumably translated from Portuguese), and setting course for Europe, taking a small brig along the way, and put all aboard to death, except for a mariner to guide them to Corunna; who was killed when the pirates were within sight of the port. After disposing of much of the booty, the pirates set sail for Cadiz, but foul weather forced the ship upon the coastal rocks and the crew abandoned the ship, intending to sell it for salvage in Cadiz. The stay in Cadiz was short as the authorities began to suspect the nature of the men in their midst, and the pirates were forced to flee. Six were arrested, de Soto and one other fled to Gibraltar and the last six made their escape to Carraccas. De Soto was arrested in Gibraltar and tried for his crimes and in January of 1830 executed (although another source puts the attack on the Morning Star at February 21, 1832, so this date may not be accurate). All of the others except one were eventually arrested, tried and executed as well.
The brief resurgence in piracy during the early nineteenth century seems to have grown out of the turbulence of the Caribbean as many of the nations gained their independence and hired privateers to aid their cause. The added effect of the War of 1812, between the United States and the British seems to have given birth to a short lived second Golden Age of Piracy. However, if anything, the pirates of this period were more ruthless and cruel than their earlier counterparts. The rebirth was doomed from the start, though. Nations with large stakes in trade, like England, France and the United States were all in command of large navies, and better able to police the seas than during the first Golden Age.
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