Work Title: Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Lives and Legends of the Pirate Charles Gibbs
Work Author(s): Joseph Gibbs
University of South Carolina Press
19 b/w illustrations, 232 pages, Hardcover $29.95
Reviewer: Joe Taylor
While Charles Gibbs waited in the "living grave" of a death-row jail cell in a New York prison in 1831, he made a shocking confession. Consigned to the gallows for his role in a botched mutiny/piracy attempt off the Atlantic coast, the convict told a police magistrate that his real name was James Jeffers and that he'd once led a gang of Caribbean pirates who captured and looted up to forty ships and murdered hundreds of passengers and crew. His recollections were laden with inconsistencies and contradictions. His claims, for example, that he was a veteran of the War of 1812 and once operated a Boston grocery store would later be largely dismissed. But Gibbs provided many concise details about his activities between 1817---when he participated in a mutiny aboard the schooner Maria---and the day of his arrest for crimes aboard the brig Vineyard in 1830. He revealed the names of captured ships, locations, dates, cargo items, and the fates of victims who were often butchered with cutlasses or set adrift without provisions.
The confessions of Charles Gibbs, according to his biographer Joseph Gibbs, "appear to provide a firsthand account of Caribbean piracy's last, glorious epoch." Joseph Gibbs has been a reporter and editor with several newspapers in Massachusetts, and he has written two previous histories, Gorbachev's Glasnost and Three Years in the Bloody Eleventh. Here he...