A Pirate “Takes” a Wife

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Marmalakè, Pirate of Micone. Watercolor portrait by Joseph Partridge, 1827-1828. (Accession#1940.687.01/QW160)

As promised, here is the rip-roaring story of how Manolis Mermelechas, a pirate of Mykonos, Greece, “took” his wife (and I mean “took” literally, not figuratively!).  Pay attention Hollywood…there’s a great plot for a pirate movie here!

Just in case you didn’t read my last post (which is too bad because Kevin Foster described it as a “ripping great yarn!”), Manolis Mermelechas was a native of the Greek island of Psara who fought against the Turks during the Greek War of Independence.  After the Turks invaded and captured Psara in 1824, Mermelechas and his men shifted their base of operations to the pirate haven of Mykonos and continued their attacks on Turkish merchant vessels (and the ships of other countries, hence the designation as pirates!).  On one cruise, Mermelechas and his men seized a Turkish merchant ship off the town of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos. It ended up being a capture that changed Mermemlechas’ life forever.    Read more

A ‘Bucko’ No More

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On ‘Talk Like A Pirate’ day in September 2019, we posted a message on Twitter showing a watercolor portrait of an ornately dressed man named “Marmalakè.” The artist had identified him as the “Pirate of Micone.” Our team had some fun with the image and described Marmalakè as a “bucko” and “a meditating pirate.”  That odd tweet caught the attention of Antonis Kotsonas, an assistant professor of Mediterranean History and Archaeology at New York University. Antonis was researching the activities of the United States Mediterranean Squadron during the latter years of the Greek War of Independence and believed the portrait might depict a Greek pirate named Manolis Mermelechas.

Along with the portrait, Antonis was interested in a group of watercolor landscapes of Greek islands painted by artist Joseph Partridge.  The images had been painted between 1827 and 1830 while Partridge was serving as a marine aboard the sloop of war USS Warren.  Those years corresponded with the final years of Greece’s War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire.  The war had been raging since 1821 and by 1826 had wrought such economic hardship that many Greek seamen had turned to piracy as a form of survival–not just for themselves, but for the communities they lived in as well.  In early 1827 Warren, captained by Master Commandant Lawrence Kearny, a man with extensive experience combating piracy, was sent to the Aegean to help protect American merchant ships and conduct antipiracy operations.    Read more

A Tour Through the Mediterranean with Joseph Partridge

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USS Warren, Act of Bearing Up in the Archipelago. The Archipelago referred to in the title is most likely the area between Cape Matapan and the western end of Crete. In a letter dated April 3, 1828 Kearny states about the voyage from Smyrna to Mahon: “We have had a long passage of 63 days, experiencing a succession of heavy gales of wind from the N.W. and squalls, rendering it not only tedious, but very dangerous to the safety of the vessel being light and badly provided with rigging.” Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1947.0851.000001)

Click on the map to tour the Mediterranean with the USS Warren!

A recent inquiry from the Assistant Professor of Mediterranean History and Archaeology at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World brought a really cool assemblage of watercolors in our collection to my attention. The images were painted by Joseph Partridge, an artist turned Marine stationed aboard USS Warren between 1827 and 1830.   Read more

Confederate Pirates: Capture of Steamer St. Nicholas

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Commodore George N. Hollins, CSN. Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command NH 49028

On June 28, 1861, the Union’s first charge of Confederate piracy since the Civil War erupted took place in the Potomac River when the passenger steamer St. Nicholas was captured. Captain George Hollins developed a daring scheme to capture the ship. Using the flamboyant Lt. Colonel Richard Thomas Zarvona masquerading as Madame La Force, the ship  was taken over by the Confederates and used to capture three other Union merchant ships. Hollins and Zarvona were proclaimed vicious pirates in the North and treated like heroes throughout the South.

THE DARING VETERAN: CAPTAIN GEORGE HOLLINS, CSN   Read more

Pirate Imagery in the Rare Book Collection – Day 5

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lewis
We are all gearing up for Pirates Pack the Park this weekend at The Mariners’ Museum and so I thought I’d share some of the Pirate treasures we have in the Library for each day leading up to the big event. In The Pirates Own Book or authentic narratives of the lives, exploits, and executions of the most celebrated sea robbers, I’ll be sharing some of the illustrations and bits of history that still make the pirates from long ago so intriguing. Here’s one for today: The Pirate Banister, hanging at the Yard Arm There are a couple of interesting stories here. I promise… Watching the execution of  the pirate Banister as a boy didn’t keep Captain Lewis away from the pirate life. As he grew into a young man, he took vessels here and there until he suddenly found himself with a crew of 40 men. Upon seeing a fine brigantine of 10 guns owned by Captain Tucker, Lewis sent him a letter offering 10,000 pieces of eight for the vessel, but if he did not comply, he would take the vessel “either by fair or foul means”. Very pirate-like! Capt. Lewis giving a lock of his hair to the Devil Throughout his career, Lewis plundered and “did an abundance of mischief”, but his crew believed him to consort with the devil as they were in a chase to capture the ship of Captain Smith. The fore and main top-mast had been carried away, so Lewis went up to the main-top and tore off a handful of his hair saying, “Good devil, take this till I come”. Afterwards, his vessel gained speed and was successful in capturing the ship of Captain Smith. In time, he stated that he, “could not withstand his destiny; for the devil told him in the great cabin he should be murdered that night”. And he was killed after the sinking of his last French ship. In the dead of night after this last conquest, the French boarded his vessel, went into his cabin and killed Lewis. So there it is! A whole week of pirates for you to get you into character and costume for The Mariners’ Museum Pirates Pack the Park event on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 10am – 5pm. We hope to see you there! It would be ARR-ible for you to miss. Sorry everyone… But hey, I made it the whole week without a pun! See you tomorrow.