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September 19, 2012

The Life and Trial of Albert Hicks, Pirate!

In recognition of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we bring you this short excerpt from a book in our Rare Book collection, Celebrated Trials. This collection includes the following account of the crime of Albert W. Hicks, pirate and murderer.

"On Thursday, March 16th, the sloop "E.A. Johnson," sailed from the foot of Spring street, New York, for Deep Creek, Va., for a cargo of oysters.

...Wednesday the 22nd of March, the sloop was picked up by the schooner "Telegraph" of New London, in the lower bay, between the West Bank and the Romer Schoals. On being boarded, she was found to have been abandoned, as also to bear the most unmistakable evidence of foul play having taken place at some time, not remote. It was also evident that a collision had taken place with some other vessel, as her bowsprit had been carried away, and was then floating alongside, attached to her by the stays. Upon further examination, her deck appeared to have been washed with human blood, and her cabin bore dire marks of a desperate struggle for life."

The opening statement for the government instructs the jury on the difference between robbery on a street corner and the same act when it occurs in open water.
"The punishment, as you will perceive, for the offence [sic] committed upon the high seas [death], is different from its punishment when committed upon land. It is to protect more effectually and punish more thoroughly offences occurring upon vessels upon the high seas, where the protection for person and property is not so great as it can be on land, where individuals are so much surrounded by the police regulations to protect them and their property."

A detailed description of the evidence, crime scene, and Hicks' every move around the time of the crime followed the opening statement. Additional witnesses brought further tales of the Hicks' past pirate and privateer exploits.

The life, trial, confession and execution of Albert W. Hicks, pirate and murderer, executed on Bedloe's Island, New York Bay, on the 13th of July, 1860, for the murder of Capt. Burr and Smith and Oliver Watts, on board the oyster sloop E.A. Johnson ; containing the history of his life (written by himself) ... with a full account of his piracies, murders, mutinies, high-way robberies, etc., comprising the particulars of nearly one hundred murders! To which is added the account of his arrest, imprisonment, trial and execution. Also, his phrenological character, as described by L.N. Fowler

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