Ota Benga


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Ota Benga (circa 1883 – March 20, 1916) was a Congolese man, an Mbuti pygmy known for being featured in an anthropology exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, and in a controversial human zoo exhibit in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo. Benga had been purchased from African slave traders by the white supremacist explorer Samuel Phillips Verner, a businessman hunting Africans for the Exposition. He traveled with Verner to the United States. At the Bronx Zoo, Benga had free run of the grounds before and after he was “exhibited” in the zoo’s Monkey House. Except for a brief visit with Verner to Africa after the close of the St. Louis Fair, Benga lived in the United States, mostly in Virginia, for the rest of his life.

Displays of non-Western humans as examples of “earlier stages” of human evolution were common in the early 20th century, when racial theories were frequently intertwined with concepts from evolutionary biology. African-American newspapers around the nation published editorials strongly opposing Benga’s treatment. Dr. R.S. MacArthur, the spokesperson for a delegation of black churches, petitioned the New York City mayor for his release from the Bronx Zoo.

The mayor released Benga to the custody of Reverend James M. Gordon, who supervised the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn and made him a ward. That same year Gordon arranged for Benga to be cared for in Virginia, where he paid for him to acquire American clothes and to have his teeth capped, so the young man could be more readily accepted in local society. Benga was tutored in English and began to work. When, several years later, the outbreak of World War I stopped ship passenger travel and prevented his returning to Africa, he became depressed. He committed suicide in 1916 at the age of 32.

Life

Early life

As a member of the Mbuti people, Ota Benga lived in equatorial forests near the Kasai River in what was then the Belgian Congo. His people were killed by the Force Publique, established by King Leopold II of Belgium as a militia to control the natives for labor in order to exploit the large supply of rubber in the Congo. Benga lost his wife and two children, surviving only because he was on a hunting expedition when the Force Publique attacked his village. He was later captured by slavers.

The American businessman and explorer Samuel Phillips Verner traveled to Africa in 1904 under contract from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World Fair) to bring back an assortment of pygmies to be part of an exhibition. To demonstrate the fledgling discipline of anthropology, the noted scientist W. J. McGee intended to display “representatives of all the world’s peoples, ranging from smallest pygmies to the most gigantic peoples, from the darkest blacks to the dominant whites” to show what was commonly thought then to be a sort of cultural evolution. Verner discovered Ota Benga while ‘en route’ to a Batwa village visited previously; he negotiated Benga’s release from the slavers for a pound of salt and a bolt of cloth. The two spent several weeks together before reaching the village. There the villagers had developed distrust for the muzungu (white man) due to the abuses of King Leopold’s forces. Verner was unable to recruit any villagers to join him until Benga spoke of the muzungu saving his life, the bond that had grown between them, and his own curiosity about the world Verner came from. Four Batwa, all male, ultimately accompanied them. Verner recruited other Africans who were not pygmies: five men from the Bakuba, including the son of King Ndombe, ruler of the Bakuba, and other related peoples – “Red Africans” as they were collectively labeled by contemporary anthropologists.

As exhibit

St. Louis World Fair

The group arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in late June 1904 without Verner, who had been taken ill with malaria. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition had already begun, and the Africans immediately became the center of attention. Ota Benga was particularly popular, and his name was reported variously by the press as Artiba, Autobank, Ota Bang, and Otabenga. He had an amiable personality, and visitors were eager to see his teeth, which had been filed to sharp points in his early youth as ritual decoration. The Africans learned to charge for photographs and performances. One newspaper account, promoting Ota Benga as “the only genuine African cannibal in America”, claimed “[his teeth were] worth the five cents he charges for showing them to visitors”.

When Verner arrived a month later, he realized the pygmies were more prisoners than performers. Their attempts to congregate peacefully in the forest on Sundays were thwarted by the crowds’ fascination with them. McGee’s attempts to present a “serious” scientific exhibit were also overturned. On July 28, the Africans’ performing to the crowd’s preconceived notion that they were “savages” resulted in the First Illinois Regiment being called in to control the mob. Benga and the other Africans eventually performed in a warlike fashion, imitating American Indians they saw at the Exhibition. The Apache chief Geronimo (featured as “The Human Tyger” – with special dispensation from the Department of War) grew to admire Benga, and gave him one of his arrowheads. For his efforts, Verner was awarded the gold medal in anthropology at the close of the Exposition.

American Museum of Natural History

Benga accompanied Verner when he returned the other Africans to the Congo. He briefly lived amongst the Batwa while continuing to accompany Verner on his African adventures. He married a Batwa woman who later died of snakebite, and little is known of this second marriage. Not feeling that he belonged with the Batwa, Benga chose to return with Verner to the United States.

Verner eventually arranged for Benga to stay in a spare room at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City while he was tending to other business. Verner negotiated with the curator Henry Bumpus over the presentation of his acquisitions from Africa and potential employment. While Bumpus was put off by Verner’s request of the prohibitively high salary of $175 a month and was not impressed with the man’s credentials, he was interested in Benga. Wearing a Southern-style linen suit to entertain visitors, Benga initially enjoyed his time at the museum. He became homesick, however.

The writers Bradford and Blume imagined his feelings:

What at first held his attention now made him want to flee. It was maddening to be inside – to be swallowed whole – so long. He had an image of himself, stuffed, behind glass, but somehow still alive, crouching over a fake campfire, feeding meat to a lifeless child. Museum silence became a source of torment, a kind of noise; he needed birdsong, breezes, trees.

The disaffected Benga attempted to find relief by exploiting his employers’ presentation of him as a ‘savage’. He tried to slip past the guards as a large crowd was leaving the premises; when asked on one occasion to seat a wealthy donor’s wife, he pretended to misunderstand, instead hurling the chair across the room, just missing the woman’s head. Meanwhile, Verner was struggling financially and had made little progress in his negotiations with the museum. He soon found another home for Benga.

Bronx Zoo

At the suggestion of Bumpus, Verner took Benga to the Bronx Zoo in 1906. There the Mbuti man was allowed to roam the grounds freely. He became fond of an orangutan named Dohong, “the presiding genius of the Monkey House”, who had been taught to perform tricks and imitate human behavior. The events leading to his “exhibition” alongside Dohong were gradual: Benga spent some of his time in the Monkey House exhibit, and the zoo encouraged him to hang his hammock there, and to shoot his bow and arrow at a target. On the first day of the exhibit, September 8, 1906, visitors found Benga in the Monkey House. Soon, a sign on the exhibit read:

The African Pigmy, “Ota Benga.”

Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches.
Weight, 103 pounds. Brought from the
Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Cen-
tral Africa, by Dr. Samuel P. Verner. Ex-
hibited each afternoon during September.

William Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo director, considered the exhibit a valuable spectacle for visitors; he was supported by Madison Grant, Secretary of the New York Zoological Society, who lobbied to put Ota Benga on display alongside apes at the Bronx Zoo. A decade later, Grant became prominent nationally as a racial anthropologist and eugenicist.

African-American clergymen immediately protested to zoo officials about the exhibit. Said James H. Gordon,

“Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes … We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.” Gordon thought the exhibit was hostile to Christianity and a promotion of Darwinism: “The Darwinian theory is absolutely opposed to Christianity, and a public demonstration in its favor should not be permitted.”

A number of clergymen backed Gordon.

In defense of the depiction of Benga as a lesser human, an editorial in The New York Times suggested:

We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering. The pygmies … are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place … from which he could draw no advantage whatever. The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.

After the controversy, Benga was allowed to roam the grounds of the zoo. In response to the situation, as well as verbal and physical prods from the crowds, he became more mischievous and somewhat violent. Around this time, an article in The New York Times stated, “It is too bad that there is not some society like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. We send our missionaries to Africa to Christianize the people, and then we bring one here to brutalize him.”

The zoo finally removed Benga from the grounds. Verner was unsuccessful in his continued search for employment, but he occasionally spoke to Benga. The two had agreed that it was in Benga’s best interests to remain in the United States despite the unwelcome spotlight at the zoo. Toward the end of 1906, Benga was released into Reverend Gordon’s custody.

Later life

Gordon placed Benga in the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, a church-sponsored orphanage which he supervised. As the unwelcome press attention continued, in January 1910, Gordon arranged for Benga’s relocation to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lived with the McCray family. So that Benga could more easily be part of local society, Gordon arranged for the African’s teeth to be capped and bought him American-style clothes . Tutored by Lynchburg poet Anne Spencer, Benga could improve his English, and he began to attend elementary school at the Baptist Seminary in Lynchburg.

Once he felt his English had improved sufficiently, Benga discontinued his formal education. He began working at a Lynchburg tobacco factory. Despite his small size, he proved a valuable employee because he could climb up the poles to get the tobacco leaves without having to use a ladder. His fellow workers called him “Bingo.” He often told his life story in exchange for sandwiches and root beer. He began to plan a return to Africa.

In 1914 when World War I broke out, a return to the Congo became impossible as passenger ship traffic ended. Benga became depressed as his hopes for a return to his homeland faded. On March 20, 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth, and shot himself in the heart with a stolen pistol.

He was buried in an unmarked grave in the black section of the Old City Cemetery, near his benefactor, Gregory Hayes. At some point, the remains of both men went missing. Local oral history indicates that Hayes and Ota Benga were eventually moved from the Old Cemetery to White Rock Cemetery, a burial ground that later fell into disrepair.

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Brandon Teena


Brandon Teena

Brandon Teena (December 12, 1972 – December 31, 1993) was an American trans man who was raped and murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska. His life and death were the subject of the Academy Award-winning 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, which was based on the documentary film The Brandon Teena Story. Teena’s violent death, along with the murder of Matthew Shepard, led to increased lobbying for hate crime laws in the United States.

Life

Teena was born Teena Renae Brandon in Lincoln, Nebraska, the younger of two children to Patrick and JoAnn Brandon. His father died in a car accident eight months before he was born, and he was raised by his mother. JoAnn named her second child after their German shepherd dog, Tina Marie. Teena and his older sister Tammy lived with their maternal grandmother in Lincoln, before they were reclaimed by their mother when Teena was three years old and Tammy was six. The family resided in the Pine Acre Mobile Home Park in northeast Lincoln, and JoAnn worked as a clerk in a women’s retail store in Lincoln to support the family. As young children, Teena and Tammy were sexually abused by their uncle for several years, and Teena sought counseling for this in 1991. JoAnn remarried once from 1975 to 1980, with the marriage having failed due to her husband’s alcoholism. Teena’s family described him as being a tomboy since early childhood; Teena began identifying as male during adolescence and dated a female student during this period. His mother rejected his male identity and continued referring to him as her daughter. On several occasions Teena claimed to be intersex though this assertion was later disproved.

Teena and his sister attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and Pius X High School in Lincoln, where Teena was remembered as being socially awkward. During his sophomore year, Teena rejected Christianity after he protested to a priest at Pius X regarding Christian views on abstinence and homosexuality. He also began rebelling at school by violating the school dress-code policy to dress in a more masculine fashion. During the first semester of his senior year, a U.S. Army recruiter visited the high school, encouraging students to enlist in the armed forces. Teena enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his eighteenth birthday, and hoped to serve a tour of duty in Operation Desert Shield. However, he failed the written entrance exam by listing his sex as male.

In December 1990, Teena went to Holiday Skate Park with his friends, binding his breasts to pass as a boy. The 18-year-old Teena went on a date with a 13-year old girl. He also met the girl’s 14-year-old friend, Heather, and began dressing as a male regularly in an attempt to attract teenage women. In the months nearing his high school graduation, Teena became unusually outgoing and was remembered by classmates as a “class clown”. Teena also began skipping school and receiving failing grades, and was expelled from Pius X High School in June 1991, three days before high school graduation.

In the summer of 1991, Teena began his first major relationship, with Heather. Shortly after, Teena was first employed as a gas station attendant in an attempt to purchase a trailer home for himself and his girlfriend. His mother, however, did not approve of the relationship, and convinced her daughter to follow Teena in order to know if the relationship was platonic or sexual.

In January 1992, Teena underwent a psychiatric evaluation, which concluded that Teena was suffering from a severe “sexual identity crisis”. He was later taken to the Lancaster County Crisis Center to ensure that he was not suicidal. He was released from the center three days later and began attending therapy sessions, sometimes accompanied by his mother or sister. He was reluctant to discuss his sexuality during these sessions but eventually revealed that he had been raped. The counselling sessions ended two weeks later.

In 1993, after some legal trouble, Teena moved to the Falls City region of Richardson County, Nebraska, where he identified solely as a man. He became friends with several local residents. After moving into the home of Lisa Lambert, Teena began dating Lambert’s friend, 19-year-old Lana Tisdel, and began associating with ex-convicts John L. Lotter (born May 31, 1971) and Marvin Thomas “Tom” Nissen (born October 22, 1971).

On December 19, 1993, Teena was arrested for forging checks; Tisdel paid his bail. Because Teena was in the female section of the jail, Tisdel learned that he was transgender. When Tisdel later questioned Teena about his gender, he told her he was a hermaphrodite pursuing a sex change operation, and they continued dating. In a lawsuit regarding the film adaptation Boys Don’t Cry, this was disputed by Tisdel. Teena’s arrest was posted in the local paper under his birth name and his acquaintances subsequently learned that he was assigned female at birth.

Sexual assault and murder

During a Christmas Eve party, Nissen and Lotter grabbed Teena and forced him to remove his pants, proving to Tisdel that Teena was assigned female at birth. Tisdel said nothing and looked only when they forced her to. Lotter and Nissen later assaulted Teena, and forced him into a car. They drove to an area by a meat-packing plant in Richardson County, where they assaulted and raped him. They then returned to Nissen’s home where the two men ordered Teena to take a shower. Teena escaped from Nissen’s bathroom by climbing out the window, and went to Tisdel’s house. He was convinced by Tisdel to file a police report, though Nissen and Lotter had warned Teena not to tell the police about the rape or they would “silence him permanently”. Teena also went to the emergency room where a standard rape kit was assembled, and later lost. Sheriff Charles B. Laux questioned Teena about the rape; reportedly, he seemed especially interested in Teena’s transsexuality, to the point that Teena found his questions rude and unnecessary, and refused to answer. Nissen and Lotter learned of the report, and they began to search for Teena. They did not find him, and three days later the police questioned them. The sheriff declined to have them arrested due to lack of evidence.

Around 1:00 a.m. on December 31, 1993, Nissen and Lotter drove to Lambert’s house and broke in. They found Lambert in bed and demanded to know where Teena was. Lambert refused to tell them. Nissen searched and found Teena under the bed. The men asked Lambert if there was anyone else in the house, and she replied that Phillip DeVine, who at the time was dating Tisdel’s sister, was staying with her. They then shot and killed DeVine, Lambert and Teena in front of Lambert’s toddler. Nissen would later testify in court that he noticed that Teena was twitching, and asked Lotter for a knife, with which Nissen stabbed Teena in the chest, to ensure that he was dead. Nissen and Lotter then left, later being arrested and charged with murder.

Brandon Teena is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska, his headstone inscribed with his birth name and the epitaph daughter, sister, & friend.

Nissen accused Lotter of committing the murders. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Nissen admitted to being an accessory to the rape and murder. Nissen testified against Lotter and was sentenced to life in prison. Lotter proceeded to deny the veracity of Nissen’s testimony, and his testimony was discredited. The jury found Lotter guilty of murder and he received the death penalty. Lotter and Nissen both appealed their convictions, and their cases have gone to review. In September 2007, Nissen recanted his testimony against Lotter. He claimed that he was the only one to shoot Teena and that Lotter had not committed the murders. In 2009, Lotter’s appeal, using Nissen’s new testimony to assert a claim of innocence, was rejected by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which held that since—even under Nissen’s revised testimony—both Lotter and Nissen were involved in the murder, the specific identity of the shooter was legally irrelevant. In August 2011, a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected John Lotter’s appeal in a split decision. In October 2011, the Eighth Circuit rejected Lotter’s request for a rehearing by the panel or the full Eighth Circuit en banc. Lotter next petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for a review of his case. The Supreme Court declined to review Lotter’s case, denying his petition for writ of certiorari on March 19, 2012, and a further petition for rehearing on April 23, 2012, leaving his conviction to stand.

Cultural and legal legacy

Because Teena had neither commenced hormone replacement therapy nor had sex reassignment surgery, he has sometimes been identified as a lesbian by media reporters. However, some reported that Teena had stated that he planned to have sex reassignment surgery.

JoAnn Brandon sued Richardson County and Sheriff Laux for failing to prevent Teena’s death, as well as being an indirect cause. She won the case, and was awarded $80,000. District court judge Orville Coady reduced the amount by 85 percent based on the responsibility of Nissen and Lotter, and by one percent for Brandon’s alleged contributory negligence. This led to a remaining judgment of responsibility against Richardson County and Laux of $17,360.97. In 2001, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the reductions of the earlier award reinstating the full $80,000 award for “mental suffering”, plus $6,223.20 for funeral costs. In October 2001, the same judge awarded the plaintiff an additional $12,000: $5,000 for wrongful death, and $7,000 for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Laux was also criticized after the murder for his attitude – at one point Laux referred to Teena as “it”.

In 1999, Teena became the subject of a biopic entitled Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Hilary Swank as Teena and Chloë Sevigny as Tisdel. For their performances, Swank won and Sevigny was nominated for an Academy Award. Tisdel sued the producers of the film for unauthorized use of her name and likeness before the film’s release. She claimed the film depicted her as “lazy, white trash, and a skanky snake”. Tisdel also claimed that the film falsely portrayed that she continued the relationship with Teena after she discovered Teena was assigned female at birth. She eventually settled her lawsuit against the movie’s distributor for an undisclosed sum.

JoAnn Brandon publicly objected to the media referring to her child as “he” and “Brandon”. Following Hilary Swank’s Oscar acceptance speech, JoAnn Brandon took offense at Swank for thanking “Brandon Teena”—the name Teena Brandon adopted—and for referring to him as a man. “That set me off”, said JoAnn Brandon. “She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don’t know.”

The British duo Pet Shop Boys released a song called “Girls Don’t Cry” (a bonus track on U.K. issue of I’m with Stupid) about Teena in 2006.

Teena’s violent death, along with the murder of Matthew Shepard, led to increased lobbying for hate crime laws in the United States.

Kid Curry


Harveylogan

Harvey Alexander Logan (1867 – June 17, 1904), also known as Kid Curry, was an American outlaw and gunman who rode with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s infamous Wild Bunch gang. Despite being less well known than his counterparts, he has since been referred to as “the wildest of the Wild Bunch”. He reputedly killed at least nine law enforcement officers in five different shootings, and another two men in other instances, and was involved in several shootouts with posses and civilians during his outlaw days.

Early life

Kid Curry was born in Richland Township, Tama County, Iowa. His mother died in 1876, and his brothers, Hank, Johnny and Lonny, moved to Dodson, Missouri, to live with their aunt Lee Logan. Until at least 1883, Curry made his living breaking horses on the Cross L ranch, near Rising Star, Texas. While there, he met and befriended a man named “Flat Nose” George Curry, from whom he took his new last name. His brothers soon adopted the same last name. The three brothers were known as hard workers until they got paid. Money didn’t stay in their pockets for long. They all had a taste for alcohol and women. Kid Curry would often return from a train or bank robbery, get drunk and lay up with prostitutes until his share of the take was gone. After Kid Curry became famous, the prostitutes would frequently name him as the father when they became pregnant. The children were referred to as “Curry Kids.” It is believed that Kid Curry was credited with as many as eighty-five children. The number of children he actually fathered was probably fewer than five. Descendants of the “Curry Kids” remain scattered throughout Eastland County and the surrounding areas to this day.

He rode as a cowboy on a cattle drive to Pueblo, Colorado, in 1883. While in Pueblo, he was involved in a saloon brawl. To avoid arrest, he fled, settling in southern Wyoming. In Wyoming, Curry worked at the “Circle Diamond” ranch. By all accounts, when sober, Curry was mild-mannered, likable, and loyal to both friends and his brothers.

Outlaw life

The events that changed the course of his life began when his brother Hank and friend Jim Thornhill bought a ranch at Rock Creek, in what was then Chouteau County, Montana and is now Phillips County, Montana. The ranch was near the site of a mine strike made by local miner/lawman Powell “Pike” Landusky. Landusky, according to some reports of the day, confronted Curry and attacked him, believing Curry was involved romantically with Landusky’s daughter, Elfie. Landusky then filed assault charges against Curry, who was arrested and beaten.

Two friends of Curry’s, A.S. Lohman and Frank Plunkett, paid a $500 bond for Curry’s release. Landusky’s daughter, Elfie, later claimed it was Curry’s brother, Lonny, with whom she had been involved. However, the confession came much too late. On December 27, 1894, Curry caught Landusky at a local saloon, and hit Landusky, stunning him. Curry, evidently believing the fight was over, began walking away. Landusky pulled his pistol and began threatening Curry, who was unarmed. Curry’s friend and his brother’s partner, Jim Thornhill, gave Curry his pistol. Landusky’s gun jammed and Curry shot him dead.

Curry was arrested and at an inquest was released when it was judged that he acted in self defense. However, a formal trial was set. Curry believed he would not get a fair trial, because the judge was close friends with Landusky. For this reason, Curry left town.

Riding with the Black Jack Ketchum gang

He started riding with outlaw “Black Jack” Ketchum. Pinkerton detectives began trailing Curry shortly after his departure from Montana. In January 1896, Curry received word that an old friend of Landusky’s, rancher James Winters, had been spying on him, for the reward offered in his arrest. Curry and two of his brothers, Johnny and Lonny, went to Winters’ ranch to confront him. However, a shootout erupted. Johnny was killed, while Curry and Lonny escaped. Shortly after, Curry and Lonny argued with Black Jack Ketchum over the take in a train robbery. The two brothers left the gang and joined the circus.

Forming his own gang

They both received employment on a cattle ranch, arranged by their cousin, Bob Lee, near Sand Gulch, Colorado. Pinkerton agents trailing Curry gave up his trail briefly. Curry, Lonny, Walt Putnam and George Curry formed their own gang around this time. He temporarily left Colorado, intending to scout good targets for potential robberies. Around April 1897, Curry was reportedly involved in the killing of Deputy Sheriff William Deane of Powder River, Wyoming, as he and his gang gathered fresh horses on a ranch in the Powder River Basin. After this, he returned to Colorado to the ranch where he was working.

By June 1897, the cowboy job had ended, and Curry ventured north with the rest of the gang. They robbed a bank in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and met resistance outside the bank from the townspeople. One of their friends, Tom O’Day, was captured when his horse spooked and ran away without him. The others escaped, but while planning a second robbery a posse from the town caught up with them in Fergus County, Montana. During a shootout, Curry was shot through the wrist, and his horse was shot from under him, resulting in his capture. George Curry and Walt Putnam were also captured. All three were held in the Deadwood, South Dakota jail, but only briefly; they overpowered the jailer and escaped. They headed back into Montana and robbed two post offices.

Riding with Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch

During this time he began riding with the Wild Bunch gang under Butch Cassidy. On June 2, 1899, the gang robbed the Union Pacific Railroad Overland Flyer near Wilcox, Wyoming, a robbery that became famous. Many notable lawmen of the day took part in the hunt for the robbers, but they were not captured.

During one shootout with lawmen following that robbery, both Kid Curry and George Curry shot and killed Converse County Sheriff Joe Hazen. Noted killer-for-hire and contract employee of the Pinkerton Agency, Tom Horn, obtained information from explosives expert Bill Speck that revealed that George Curry and Kid Curry had shot Hazen, which Horn passed on to Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo. The gang escaped into the Hole-in-the-Wall, an area that the gang used as its hideout. Curry and the Sundance Kid used a log cabin at Old Trail Town as a hideout before they robbed a bank in Red Lodge, Montana. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other desperados met at another cabin brought to Old Trail Town from the Hole-in-the-Wall country in north central Wyoming. It was built in 1883 by Alexander Ghent.

Siringo had been assigned the task of bringing in the outlaw gang. He became friends with Elfie Landusky. Effie was using the last name of Curry, alleging that Lonny Curry had got her pregnant. Through her, Siringo intended to locate the gang. Siringo changed his name to Charles L. Carter, disguised himself as an on-the-run gunman, and began mingling with people who might know the Currys, becoming friends with Jim Thornhill.

However, Kid Curry was in a place referred to as “Robbers Roost”, in Utah. Curry then went to Alma, New Mexico, with Cassidy and others, intending to hide for a while. On July 11, 1899, while working at the W.S. Ranch, Curry robbed a Colorado and Southern Railroad train near Folsom, New Mexico, with gang members Elzy Lay and Sam Ketchum. A posse led by Huerfano County (Colorado) Sheriff Ed Farr cornered the gang near an area called Turkey Creek, which resulted in two gun battles over a period of four days. Lay and Ketchum were both wounded and later captured, with Lay killing the sheriff and wounding Colfax County Deputy Henry Love in the process. He received a life sentence for the murders. Ketchum died from his wounds days later while in custody, and deputy Love died from wounds he received. Curry escaped, but he, Cassidy, and other members of the gang were forced to leave New Mexico. Sam Ketchum was the brother of Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum. Curry traveled to San Antonio, where he stayed briefly. While there he met prostitute Della Moore (also known as Annie Rogers or Maude Williams), with whom he became romantically involved. At the time of their meeting, she was working in Madame Fannie Porter’s brothel, which was a regular hideout for the Wild Bunch gang.

Moab revenge gunfight, other killings to avoid capture

On February 28, 1900, lawmen attempted to arrest Lonny Curry at his aunt’s home. Lonny was killed in the shootout that followed, and his cousin Bob Lee was arrested for rustling and sent to prison in Wyoming. Kid Curry was now the last surviving brother. In March 1900, Curry was identified in St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona as he was passing notes suspected of being from the Wilcox robbery. Local Apache County Sheriff Edward Beeler gathered a posse and began tracking Curry, who was accompanied by Bill Carver. The posse shot it out with Curry and Carver on March 28. Curry and Carver killed Deputy Andrew Gibbons and Deputy Frank LeSeuer. On May 26, Kid Curry rode into Utah and killed Grand County, Utah Sheriff Jesse Tyler and Deputy Sam Jenkins in a brazen shootout in Moab. Both killings were in retaliation for them killing George Curry and his brother Lonny.

Curry then returned with the Wild Bunch. On August 29 they robbed Union Pacific train No. 3 near Tipton, Wyoming, which newspaper stories claiming the gang got more than $55,000. The gang again split up, with Kid Curry and Ben Kilpatrick heading south to Fort Worth, Texas, while Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Bill Carver immediately pulled off another robbery in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Siringo, still working the case for the Pinkertons, was in Circleville, Utah, where Butch Cassidy had been raised. Curry rejoined the gang, and they hit a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana on July 3. This time, they took over $60,000 in cash. Gang member Will Carver was killed in Sonora, Texas by Sutton County Sheriff Elijah Briant during the pursuit following that robbery.

Again the gang split up. In October 1901, Della Moore was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee for passing money tied to an earlier robbery involving Curry. On November 5 and 6, gang members Ben Kilpatrick and Laura Bullion were captured in St. Louis, Missouri. On December 13, Kid Curry shot Knoxville, Tennessee policemen William Dinwiddle and Robert Saylor in a shootout and escaped. Curry, despite being pursued by Pinkerton agents and other law enforcement officials, returned to Montana, where he shot and killed rancher James Winters, who was responsible for the killing of his brother Johnny years before.

Capture, escape, death

Curry then traveled back to Knoxville. In a pool hall on November 30, 1902, Curry was captured after a lengthy physical fight with lawmen. He was convicted of robbery because facts in the murder of the two policemen were not definite and no witnesses would testify, and he received a sentence of 20 years of hard labor and a $5,000 fine. On June 27, 1903, Curry escaped. Rumors that a deputy had received an $8,000 bribe to allow his escape spread, but nothing could be proven.

On June 7, 1904, Kid Curry was tracked down by a posse outside of Parachute, Colorado. Curry and two others had robbed a Denver and Rio Grande train outside Parachute. As they escaped, they stole fresh horses owned by Roll Gardner and a neighbor. The next morning, when they discovered their horses had been stolen, Gardner and the neighbor set out in pursuit of the gang. They joined up with a posse and continued tracking the outlaws. The gang shot Gardner’s and his neighbor’s horses from under them. Gardner found cover while his neighbor started running. Kid Curry took aim at the neighbor and Gardner shot Curry. The wounded Curry decided to end it at that time, and fatally shot himself in the head to avoid capture. The other two robbers escaped. The rifle Gardner used is still in the family today. Rumors persist that Curry was not killed in Parachute, and was misidentified, having actually departed for South America with Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Charlie Siringo resigned from the Pinkerton’s, after believing they got the wrong man.

Curry is buried in Pioneer (Linwood) Cemetery overlooking Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a short distance from fellow gunfighter Doc Holliday’s memorial.

William Laws Calley, Jr.


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William Laws Calley, Jr. (born June 8, 1943) is a former United States Army officer found guilty of murdering 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War. After several reductions, Calley’s original sentence of life in prison was turned into an order of house arrest, but after three years, President Nixon reduced his sentence with a presidential pardon.

Early life

William L. Calley Jr. was born in Miami, Florida. His father was a United States Navy veteran of World War II. Calley graduated from Miami Edison High School in Miami and then attended Palm Beach Junior College in 1963. He dropped out in 1964 after receiving unsatisfactory grades, consisting of one C, two Ds, and four Fs. Calley then worked at a variety of jobs before enlistment, including as a bellhop, dishwasher, salesman, insurance appraiser, and train conductor.

Military career

Calley underwent eight weeks of basic combat training at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by eight weeks advanced individual training as a company clerk at Fort Lewis, Washington. Having scored high enough on his Armed Forces Qualification tests, he applied for and was subsequently accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS). He then began 26 weeks of junior officer training at Fort Benning in mid-March 1967. Upon graduating from OCS Class No. 51 on September 7, 1967, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. Following his commission, Calley was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade, and began training at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in preparation for deployment to South Vietnam.

Calley’s evaluations described him as “average” as an officer. Later, as the My Lai investigation progressed, a more negative picture emerged. Men in his platoon reported to army investigators that Calley lacked common sense and could not read a map or compass properly. A number of men assigned under Calley claimed that because he was so disliked some secretly discussed fragging him.

Murder trial

The events in My Lai had initially been covered up by the U.S. Army. In April 1969, nearly 13 months after the massacre, Ron Ridenhour, a GI who had been with the 11th Brigade, wrote letters to the president, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretary of defense. In these letters Ridenhour described some of the atrocities by the soldiers at My Lai that he had been told about.

Calley was charged on September 5, 1969, with six specifications of premeditated murder for the deaths of 109 South Vietnamese civilians near the village of My Lai, at a hamlet called Son My, more commonly called My Lai in the U.S. press. As many as 500 villagers—mostly women, children, infants, and the elderly—had been systematically killed by American soldiers during a bloody rampage on March 16, 1968. Upon conviction, Calley could have faced the death penalty. On November 12, 1969, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh broke the story and revealed that Calley was charged with murdering 109 Vietnamese.

Calley’s trial started on November 17, 1970. It was the military prosecution’s contention that Calley, in defiance of the rules of engagement, ordered his men to deliberately murder unarmed Vietnamese civilians despite the fact that his men were not under enemy fire at all. Testimony revealed that Calley had ordered the men of 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry of the 23rd Infantry Division to kill everyone in the village. In presenting the case, the two military prosecutors, Aubrey Daniel and John Partin, were hamstrung by the reluctance of many soldiers to testify against Calley. Some refused to answer questions point-blank on the witness stand by citing the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

However, one holdout, a soldier in Calley’s unit named Paul Meadlo, after being jailed for contempt of court by the presiding judge, Reid W. Kennedy, reluctantly agreed to testify. In his testimony, Meadlo described that during the day’s events, he was standing guard over a few dozen My Lai villagers when Lt. Calley approached him and ordered him to shoot all the civilians. When Meadlo balked at the orders, Calley backed off 20 feet (6 m) or more and opened fire on the people himself, and Meadlo joined in. Another witness named Dennis Conti, who was also reluctant to testify, described the carnage, claiming that Calley had started it and the rest of the 105 soldiers of Charlie Company followed suit. Another witness, named Leonard Gonzalez, told of seeing one of the soldiers of Calley’s unit herd some men and women villagers together and order them to strip off their clothing. When the villagers refused, the enraged soldier fired a single round from his M-79 grenade launcher into the crowd, killing everyone.

Calley’s original defense that the death of the villagers was the result of an accidental airstrike was quashed by the few prosecution witnesses. In his new defense, Calley claimed he was following the orders of his immediate superior, Captain Ernest Medina. Whether this order was actually given is disputed; Medina was acquitted of all charges relating to the incident at a separate trial in August 1971. Taking the witness stand, Calley, under the direct examination by his civilian defense lawyer George Latimer, claimed that on the previous day, his commanding officer, Captain Medina, made it clear that his unit was to move into the village and that everyone was to be shot for they all were Viet Cong. Twenty-one other members of Charlie Company also testified in Calley’s defense, corroborating the orders. But Medina publicly denied that he had ever given such orders and stated that he had meant enemy soldiers, while Calley assumed that his order to “kill the enemy” meant to kill everyone. In his personal statement, Calley stated that

I was ordered to go in there and destroy the enemy. That was my job that day. That was the mission I was given. I did not sit down and think in terms of men, women, and children. They were all classified as the same, and that’s the classification that we dealt with over there, just as the enemy. I felt then and I still do that I acted as I was directed, and I carried out the order that I was given and I do not feel wrong in doing so.

After deliberating for 79 hours, the six-officer jury (five of whom had served in Vietnam) convicted him on March 29, 1971, of the premeditated murder of 22 Vietnamese civilians. On March 31, 1971, Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, which includes the United States Disciplinary Barracks, the Department of Defense’s only maximum security prison. Of the 26 officers and soldiers initially charged for their part in the My Lai Massacre or the subsequent cover-up, only Calley was convicted. Many observers saw My Lai as a direct result of the military’s attrition strategy with its emphasis on body counts and kill ratios.

Many in America were outraged by Calley’s sentence. Georgia’s governor, Jimmy Carter, instituted American Fighting Man’s Day and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on. Indiana’s governor asked all state flags to be flown at half-staff for Calley, and Utah’s and Mississippi’s governors also disagreed with the verdict. The Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina legislatures requested clemency for Calley. Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, visited Calley in the stockade and requested that President Nixon pardon him. After the conviction, the White House received over 5,000 telegrams; the ratio was 100 to 1 in favor of leniency. In a telephone survey of the American public, 79 percent disagreed with the verdict, 81 percent believed that the life sentence Calley had received was too stern, and 69 percent believed Calley had been made a scapegoat.

Many others were outraged not at Calley’s guilty verdict, but that he was the only one within the chain of command who was convicted. At the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War January 31–February 2, 1971, veterans expressed their outrage, including 1st Lt. William Crandell of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division:

We intend to tell who it was that gave us those orders; that created that policy; that set that standard of war bordering on full and final genocide. We intend to demonstrate that My Lai was no unusual occurrence, other than, perhaps, the number of victims killed all in one place, all at one time, all by one platoon of us. We intend to show that the policies of Americal Division, which inevitably resulted in My Lai, were the policies of other Army and Marine divisions as well. We intend to show that war crimes in Vietnam did not start in March 1968, or in the village of Son My or with one Lieutenant William Calley. We intend to indict those really responsible for My Lai, for Vietnam, for attempted genocide.

In a recollection of the Vietnam War, South Korean Vietnam Expeditionary Forces commanding officer Chae Myung Shin stated, “Calley tried to get revenge for the deaths of his troops. In a war, this is natural.”

Colonel Harry G. Summers Jr. declared that Calley and Medina should have been hanged, drawn, and quartered, with their remains placed “at the gates of Fort Benning, at the Infantry School, as a reminder to those who pass under it of what an infantry officer ought to be.”

House arrest

On April 1, 1971, only a day after Calley was sentenced, President Richard Nixon ordered him transferred from Leavenworth prison to house arrest at Fort Benning, pending appeal. This leniency was protested by Melvin Laird, the secretary of defense. On August 20, 1971, the convening authority—the commanding general of Fort Benning—reduced Calley’s sentence to 20 years. The Court of Military Review affirmed both the conviction and sentence (46 C.M.R. 1131 (1973). The secretary of the army reviewed the sentence and findings and approved both, but in a separate clemency action commuted confinement to 10 years. On May 3, 1974, President Nixon notified the secretary that he had reviewed the case and determined he would take no further action in the matter.

Ultimately, Calley served only three and a half years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning. He petitioned the federal district court for habeas corpus on February 11, 1974, which was granted on September 25, 1974, along with his immediate release, by federal judge J. Robert Elliott. Judge Elliott found that Calley’s trial had been prejudiced by pretrial publicity, denial of subpoenas of certain defense witnesses, refusal of the United States House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session of its My Lai investigation, and inadequate notice of the charges. (The judge had released Calley on bail on February 27, 1974, but an appeals court reversed it and returned Calley to U.S. Army custody on June 13, 1974.) Later in 1974, President Nixon tacitly issued Calley a limited presidential pardon. Consequently, his general court-martial conviction and dismissal from the U.S. Army were upheld; however, the prison sentence and subsequent parole obligations were commuted to time served, leaving Calley a free man.

At his release, the press eagerly awaited his arrival at the prison’s South Gate, as promised by the prison commandant. Instead, at Calley’s request, he was released at West Gate and taken directly to the airfield, where his escort had him flown home. The press were notified of his departure after the fact.

The Army appealed against Judge Elliott’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and asked an appeals judge to stay Calley’s immediate release, which was granted. However, the full court upheld the release pending appeal and decided the entire court would hear the appeal (normally not done in the first instance). The Army won a reversal of Judge Elliott’s habeas corpus grant and a reinstatement of the judgment of the courts martial, with five judges dissenting. (Calley v. Callaway, 519 F.2d 184, 9/10/1975). In a long and extremely detailed careful opinion, the reviewing court disagreed with Judge Elliott on the law and significantly on Elliott’s scope of review of the courts martial proceedings. On November 9, 1974, the court noted that although by now Calley had been “paroled” from confinement by the Army, that did not moot the habeas corpus proceedings.

After release

Sometime in 2005 or 2006, Calley divorced his wife, Penny, whose father had employed him at the V.V. Vick jewelry store in Columbus, Georgia, since 1975, and moved to downtown Atlanta to live with his son, William Laws Calley III. In October 2007, Calley agreed to be interviewed by the UK newspaper the Daily Mail to discuss the massacre, saying, “Meet me in the lobby of the nearest bank at opening time tomorrow, and give me a certified check for $25,000, then I’ll talk to you for precisely one hour.” When the journalist arrived to question Calley without a check, Calley left.

On August 19, 2009, while speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Calley issued an apology for his role in the My Lai massacre. Calley said:

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry…. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them—foolishly, I guess.

Henry Smith


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Henry Smith (1876-1 February 1893) was an African-American handyman who was tortured and murdered at a public lynching at the Paris Fairgrounds in Paris, Texas. Accused of murdering the three-year-old daughter of a policeman known for his cruelty to prisoners, Smith had fled to Arkansas and was brought back for the staged, public murder.

Background

Henry Smith was born in 1876 in Texas, and would likely have attended its segregated schools. He became a handyman in Paris, Texas. He was known to have a drinking problem, which occasionally resulted in run-ins with the law. Arrested for drunkenness, he was said to have been beaten by Vance, a policeman known for his brutality mistreating prisoners.

In late January 1893, Myrtle Vance, the policeman’s three-year-old daughter, disappeared and was later found murdered. When the police found no clues to the child’s death, people in the area decided Smith must have committed the crime in retaliation for his treatment at Vance’s hands. Witnesses claimed that Smith allegedly: “picked up little Myrtle Vance … near her father’s residence, and … carried her through the central portion of the city… En route through the city he was asked by several persons what he was doing with the child.” Learning that he had been accused, Smith fled to Hope, Arkansas.

Smith was captured in Arkansas and returned as a prisoner by train to Paris. His captors, accompanied by a mob of an estimated 10,000 residents took him from his captors and placed him on a prepared carnival float. They transported him through town and out to the Paris Fairgrounds on the prairie. There organizers had built a lynching scaffold, painted with the word “Justice”.

Smith was tied up and tortured for 50 minutes by male members of the girl’s family, who thrust hot iron brands into his flesh, from his feet and legs to his head. They included Myrtle’s father, uncles, and twelve-year-old brother. A February 2, 1893 article in the New York Sun reported, “Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd.” Eventually, the family stuck the irons into his eyes and down his throat.

Finding he was still breathing, the crowd poured oil on Smith and set him on fire. According to some newspaper accounts, Smith remained alive during the burning. He was reported to have torn himself away from the post and fallen off the scaffolding, where he died. The crowd fought over the hot ashes to collect Smith’s bones and teeth as souvenirs.

Sadie the Goat


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Sadie Farrell (fl. 1869) was an American criminal, gang leader and river pirate known under the pseudonym Sadie the Goat. She first came to prominence as a vicious street mugger in New York’s “Bloody” Fourth Ward. Upon encountering a lone traveler, she would headbutt men in the stomach and her male accomplice would hit the victim with a sling-shot and rob them. Sadie, according to popular underworld lore, was engaged in a longtime feud with rival female bouncer Gallus Mag. Mag bit off Sadie’s ear in a bar fight.

Leaving the area in disgrace, she ventured to the waterfront area in West Side Manhattan. It was while wandering the dockyards in the spring of 1869 that she witnessed members of the Charlton Street Gang unsuccessfully attempting to board a small sloop anchored in mid-river. Watching the men being driven back across the river by a handful of the ship’s crew, she offered her services to the men and became the gang’s leader. Within days, she engineered the successful hijacking of a larger sloop and, with “the Jolly Roger flying from the masthead”, she and her crew reputedly sailed up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages, robbing farm houses and riverside mansions and occasionally kidnapping men, woman and children for ransom. She was said to have made several male prisoners “walk the plank”.

Sadie and her men continued their activities for several months and stashed their cargo in several hiding spots until they could be gradually disposed of through fences and pawn shops along the Hudson and East Rivers. By the end of the summer however, farmers had begun resisting the raids, attacking landing parties with gunfire. The group abandoned the sloop and Sadie returned to the Fourth Ward, where she was now known as the “Queen of the Waterfront”. She made a truce with Gallus Mag, who returned Sadie’s ear. Mag had displayed it in a pickled jar at her bar. Sadie afterward kept it in a locket and wore around her neck for the rest of her life.

Sadie is referenced in several historical novels, most notably, J. T. Edson’s Law of the Gun (1968), Tom Murphy’s Lily Cigar (1979), Bart Sheldon’s Ruby Sweetwater and the Ringo Kid (1981) and Thomas J. Fleming’s A Passionate Girl (2003).

 

Anne Bonny


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Anne Bonny (c. 1700 – c. 1782) was an Irish woman who became a famous pirate, operating in the Caribbean. What little is known of her life comes largely from Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates.

Early life

Anne Bonny was born around the year 1700. Her birth name was Anne Cormac, and her birthplace wasKinsale, County Cork, Ireland. She was the daughter of a servant woman, Mary Brennan, and Brennan’s employer, lawyer William Cormac. Official records and contemporary letters dealing with her life are scarce and most modern knowledge stems from Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates (a contemporary collection of pirate biographies, the first edition accurate, the second much embellished).

Bonny’s family travelled to the new world very early on in her life; at first the family had a rough start in their new home. Her mother died shortly after they arrived in North America. Her father attempted to establish himself as an attorney, but did not do well. Eventually, Bonny’s father joined the more profitable merchant business and accumulated a substantial fortune. It is recorded she had red hair and was considered a “good catch”, but may have had a fiery temper; at aged 13 she supposedly stabbed a servant girl with a table knife. She married a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. James Bonny hoped to win possession of his father-in-law’s estate, but Anne was disowned by her father.

There is a story that Bonny set fire to her father’s plantation in retaliation; but no evidence exists in support. However, it is known that sometime between 1714 and 1718, she and James Bonny moved to Nassau, on New Providence Island; known at that time as a sanctuary for English pirates called the ‘Pirates’ republic’. Many inhabitants received a “King’s Pardon” or otherwise evaded the law. It is also recorded that after the arrival of Governor Woodes Rogers in the summer of 1718, James Bonny became an informant for the governor.

Rackham’s mistress

While in the Bahamas, Bonny began mingling with pirates in the local taverns. She met Jack “Calico Jack” Rackham, captain of the pirate sloop Revenge, and Rackham became her lover. They had a child in Cuba, who eventually took the name of Cunningham. Many different theories state that he was left with his family or simply abandoned. Bonny rejoined Rackham and continued the pirate life, having divorced her husband and marrying Rackham while at sea. Bonny and Rackham escaped to live together as pirates. Bonny, Rackham, and Mary Read stole the ship Revenge, then at anchor in Nassau harbour, and put out to sea. Rackham and the two women recruited a new crew. Rackham’s crew spent a lot of time in Jamaica and the surrounding area. Over the next several months, they enjoyed success, capturing many, albeit smaller, vessels and bringing in an abundance of treasure. Bonny did not disguise herself as a man aboard the Revenge as is often claimed. She took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates. Her name and gender were known to all from the start. Governor Rogers had named them in a “Wanted Pirates” circular published in the continent’s only newspaper, The Boston News-Letter. Although Bonny was historically renowned as a female Caribbean pirate, she never commanded a ship of her own.

Capture and imprisonment

In October 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a “King’s ship”, a sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet under a commission from the Governor of Jamaica. Most of Rackham’s pirates did not put up much resistance as many of them were too drunk to fight; other sources indicate it was at night and most of them were asleep; however, Read and Bonny fought fiercely and managed to hold off Barnet’s troops for a short time. Rackham and his crew were taken to Jamaica, where they were convicted and sentenced by the Governor of Jamaica to be hanged. According to Johnson, Bonny’s last words to the imprisoned Rackham were: “sorry to see you there, but if you’d fought like a man, you would not have been hang’d like a Dog.”

After being sentenced, Read and Bonny both “pleaded their bellies”: asking for mercy because they were pregnant.

In accordance with English common law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. Read died in prison, most likely from a fever, though it has been alleged that she died during childbirth.

Disappearance

There is no historical record of Bonny’s release or of her execution. This has fed speculation that her father ransomed her; that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity.