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Le Chevalier Nicholas de Grammont, famous French corsair, began his career at sea with the French Royal Marines. He eventually gained command of a frigate and acted as a privateer. On his second voyage, the frigate broke up on a reef during a storm. He bought a new ship with 50 guns and became a corsair captain.

Known for gambling and a haughty manner, Grammont was notoriously successful as a pirate, acquiring major treasures and capturing several Caribbean and Central American forts and port cities. In 1686, he met defeat trying to lay siege to St. Augustine.

Grammont had planned to join forces with five British ships to attack St. Augustine, but he grew impatient. He joined another Frenchman, Captain Nicholas Brigaut, instead and they went off on their own.

Under Grammont's command, Brigaut's 80 men entered the Little Matanzas Inlet at the south end of Anastasia Island. They seized the watchtower at Ayamon, just 21 miles south of St. Augustine.

When the townspeople heard of the attack, they barricaded themselves inside the fort. The Spanish governor sent 90 soldiers out to foil Brigaut's advance. Brigaut retreted southward after several skirmishes on Anastasia Island and the arrival of Spanish reinforcements. He left his ship aground to rendezvous with Grammont at Mosquito Inlet. On the way, they were attacked by Indians who killed all but two men and Brigaut.

Grammont stayed in the area for several days hoping to rejoin his men. But he weighed anchor and positioned his vessels off St. Augustine Inlet and maintained the blockade for 16 days. The citizens believed the pirates were waiting for ships to bring the troop pay fund and food from Havana. The pirates hoped their blockade would starve St. Augustine to  surrender. Grammont finally abandoned his attack on St. Augustine and any hope of finding Brigaut and sailed north to take on provisions.

Some historians say that the fear sparked by Grammont's attack drove the governor to finish the Castillo de San Marco without interruption.

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Did you know?

  • The Jolly Roger was a black flag flown to identify the vessel as a pirate ship. While the skull and crossbones is the most common of these flags, many great pirate captains designed custom symbols to identify exactly who is attacking.

  • "Shiver me timbers" is an expression of excitement or awe. Its origin has to do with sailing in heavy seas, when the ship is lifted up and pounded down so hard that the timbers are said to shiver.

  • Although pirates have been around since the Romans and Vikings, most pirating happened during the Golden Age of Piracy between 1680 and 1730.

  • Pirates believed that whistling on a ship would cause the weather to turn stormy. Consider the phrase 'to whistle up a storm.'

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