The Civil War Connections Blog

Jefferson Davis and Somali Pirates

What do the Confederates States and Somalia have in common? Lawlessness? No. Low literacy rates? Nope, well maybe but that’s a different story. Arrrg, put your  eye patches thinking caps on. It’s PIRATES, matey!


While reading through some old issues, 150 years old to be exact, of Scientific American (because that’s what history buffs do on the weekends) I came across and article entitled “SOUTHERN PRIVATEERS AT WORK” dated June 5, 1861. Privateers is a basically a sugar coated way of saying pirates. They were named this because it was private ship crews who would sack ships and usually gave a percentage of their spoils to whoever authorized their actions.  According to this article it was Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, who authorized these pirates to troll the waters of the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  Scientific American was a northern based publication so in the Confederate States they would not have thought of these ships as pirate ships.  In the South these privateers may have been celebrated and at the very least seen as a necessary force of war times.

People may think pirates, like the Civil War,  are a thing of the past. I certainly did until a few years back ago when a story broke about pirates based in the eastern African country of Somalia.  Spurred by Somalia’s own civil unrest, now it seems that every few months if not more there is a story of Somali pirates kidnapping people, usually Western tourists, and holding them for ransom.  While the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are safer from such terror, the Indian Ocean remains dangerous.

Just as North and South viewed the Confederate privateers very differently, the Somali pirates are viewed differently from different parts of the world.  While the prevailing image around the world of the Somali pirates is a negative one, a writer for the the world news website Al Jazeera shows that Somali’s have many different views of the pirates and their motives. Follow the link to read more on these modern day pirates: