Paddy Scott: The Irish Pirate Who Plagued Mobile

January 30, 2016 in American History, general history, History, Nautical History

A scene of bayside pirates from the Pirates' Own Book

A scene of bayside pirates from the Pirates’ Own Book

Irish pirate Paddy Scott terrorized residents and visitors of the Mobile Bay area for some ten years over the 1820s and 1830s, earning himself national notoriety as that “vile pirate.” Oddly, no one now seems to know his story at all, and his legend lies dormant, buried with his bones. Only the old contemporary newspapers are left to tell his tale of mischief and mayhem.

The history of this freebooter begins with an 1818 ad seeking customers to send freight on his brand new “excellent forty ton barge” at Tuscaloosa Falls. Under his proper name, Patrick Scott, the young man boasted “the unusual goodness of his boat added to his practical experience of the navigation of the channel, offers an insurance of safety to whatever is committed to his charge.” (Alabama Republican, April 18, 1818)

By 1824, Patrick, now known as “Paddy” Scott, had gone the “breaking bad” route, leading Mobile newspapers to caution captains around Mobile and environs, as Scott and 10 Spaniards had gotten a long Spanish launch with a four pound shot hole in her gunwale which they were cruizing about the coast. The mayor of Mobile was concerned enough about this gang to offer a reward of $50 for the leader, as Scott had called on board the British Tar, lying in Mobile Bay a couple of days previous, and had helped himself and crew to provisions, etc., demanding liquors but finding none. The article stated they were bound for the lakes, and pulled for Pass Heron. A Pensacola man informed the newspaper that ten of the crew of the Spanish armed ship Ceres, prize to a South American Patriot privateer, had stolen a boat and absconded. “They have, it appears, made Scott, alias Glass, their commander. The public will do well to be on their guard.” (New York National Advocate, May 24, 1824)

(As one of his many aliases, Scott decided to appropriate the famous mountain man Hugh Glass’ name, probably inspired by the the current newspaper accounts of Glass’ near-fatal encounter with a grizzly bear and subsequent revenge trek seeking justice on his companions who had left him for dead. Paddy Scott, however, did not have the horrid scars of a bear attack and thus most definitely was not Glass.)

Not long after Paddy’s first foray into crime, Curtis Lewis, one of the inspectors of revenue for the Port of Mobile, returned from his expedition on Pascagoula Bay, having found a further quantity of goods which had been stolen from the schooner Barbaretta. Lewis also had taken and jailed two men who had stolen the goods in question from the first thieves (Scott and Francis). Six lots of goods were plundered from the Barbaretta, and recovered by the customs officer, who placed them in the custom house under lock and key. Seven of the original thieves were then caught, including the leader. Scott, Francis Keating, and Bruce, imprisoned for stealing the items from the ship, were sent on board the steamer Colombia, to be confined in jail at Cahawba, to face trial at the next session of the District Court. (Spectator, New York, N.Y. June 8, 1824)

However, Scott did not linger in irons very long, even in the supposedly more secure jail at Cahawba. By the 14th of July, Scott the desperado was again at large. He with four others made their escape from the Cahawba Jail. Reid, the celebrated smuggler, who was committed in Baldwin county a few months previous for passing counterfeit money and sent to Cahawba for safe keeping, was one of the escapees, and it was through his means the escape was effected. A reward of $200 was offered for their apprehension, and several parties went in different directions in pursuit. One of the five sprained his ankle in getting out, and was retaken before he left the town. Keating, one of Scott’s accomplices in plundering the Schooner Barbaretta, and who turned states’ evidence,  died in prison a few days after they reached Cahawba from Mobile. (Independent Chronicle and Patriot, Boston, Mass. August 25, 1824)

By summer of 1826, Paddy Scott had proven to be a constant pest on the Alabama and Mississippi coastline, particularly around Mobile Bay. The Pensacola Gazette of June 17, 1826 reported that Scott and a colorful accomplice known only as Smiley “are hovering in and around Mobile Bay, and have for some time past made Fowl River his rendezvous, with a sloop boat called the John Fowler, armed with muskets, pistols and sabers, all in good order. Is there not promptness enough in the country, to take such measures as will lead to the capture of so vile a pirate as he is known to be? Or shall we suffer him to go at large, to and fro, seeking whom he may devour?”

Scott and Smiley were soon apprehended. Reports from Mobile said  that “a man named Paddy Scott has been arrested and imprisoned with a man named Smilie (sic). He was captured off Horn Island, in a small sloop, by Capt. Foster of the Revenue Cutter. Six shots were fired at him before he surrendered. Scott has long been accused of piracy, and is said to be a desperate fellow. He broke from prison at Cahawba and had been occasionally seen about the coast of Alabama. Since he has been taken, a party of armed men had been seen about the jail, supposed for the purpose of rescuing their companion, Scott, but they were pursued, and effected their escape in a boat.” (New York Daily Advertiser, June 30, 1826)

By July 3, 1826, Scott had acquired such a dangerous reputation that the Daily National Journal of Washington, D.C. devoted a lengthy article to him: “Paddy Scott has rendered himself notorious in Mobile by his depradations. About two years ago a prize to the Colombian privateer Centilla, lying in the river, was robbed of a quantity of dry goods and other articles of value; the District Court being in session, a bill of indictment was found against Scott and several others for piracy, but they were not apprehended until after the court adjourned. Scott broke jail..a few weeks afterward, he went on board a Mobile packet for New Orleans under the promise of being landed somewhere along the coast. He was brought to Mobile and delivered up to the Marshal. The jail being considered insecure, the prisoners were taken to Cahawba. Before the next term, however, all but one escaped, and he who had turned state’s evidence died in jail. For several months Scott was seen about the Bay, and suspected of piratical intentions; it was said he threatened to burn the city, for which the Mayor offered a large reward for his apprehension. He then disappeared, and had been only recently seen, and then in a boat, with several armed men. Once they boarded a vessel in the bay, and how they subsisted is unknown. He is a native of Ireland and says his real name is Glass.”

The jail at Mobile was indeed as insecure as authorities feared, for by late September 1826, both Scott and Smiley made good their escape. The Charleston Courier of Oct. 14, 1826 reported from Mobile that Smiley had by some means managed to saw off his irons, and late in the afternoon called upon the jailer to give him some water, whereupon entering the cell the jailer was knocked down. Smiley then wrested the keys from him and locked him in the cell, and deliberately proceeded to Scott’s cell, unlocked it, took off his irons, and both escaped after carefully locking the jail door.

Scott and Smiley headed for New Orleans, a bad move on their part, as Scott was arrested on Oct. 5 and Smiley the next day.

Strangely, the newspapers are silent about Paddy’s actions for almost two years. He and his cronies do not pop up again until early September 1828, in an article in the Louisiana Advertiser headed “Pirates.” Paddy Scott was said to be leading a group of 12 desperadoes on a small sloop called the Lalla Rookh, of about 10 tons, 30-35 feet long, fitted out at Pensacola, with black upper works, white molding and green interior, complete with a quantity of arms and provisions on board. The Advertiser stated the sloop called at the Bay of St. Louis on August 26 and Paddy and co. stole a whale boat from Charles Matthews along with other petty thefts, then loitered in the area, presenting several “very impudent threats to those on shore.” The writer opined that the general presumption is that they are bound on a piratical cruise and said “Should they not be looked after?”

Once again, Paddy went to New Orleans, and once again, he got arrested there, and taken to the New Orleans mayor for examination, according to the Baltimore Gazette of October 9, 1828. Nothing appears to have come of this arrest, and he was apparently released.

As of late March 1829, Scott and some four associates stole a small boat near New Orleans and were said to be lurking among the islands off the Bay of Biloxi, according to the Custom House Collector of New Orleans. (Commercial Advertiser, New York, N.Y. April 6, 1829)

Another lull in Scott’s dramatic misdeeds occurred until the fall of 1832, when the Charleston Courier reported that Scott was again actively doing nefarious deeds. Some “respectable citizens” of Charleston who apparently were unaware of Scott’s piratical tendencies hired him to take them in a small boat from the Bay of St. Louis to the Bay of Biloxi, stopping midway to go on shore for a bit of hunting while leaving their trunks and other effects on the boat. Scott of course seized the opportunity to cast off and put out into the lake at once, leaving his victims stranded on shore. Unhappily for Scott, Capt. Benjamin Holly ran across him fleeing the scene in his boat, thought it odd there was only one man in a schooner rigged craft, and successfully pursued him. He took possession of the craft, and brought the trunks and baggage to the Bay of St. Louis, where the owners were so happy to see their belongings they gave Holly a reward of $50. Nothing was mentioned about what happened to Paddy, and for some years, once again, he was idle__until a land pirate raid on some settlers in Baldwin County, Ala., in August 1837.

The Mobile Register of August 28, 1837 and New Orleans Times-Picayune of Sept. 23, 1837 reported vile outrages against some female settlers were committed in Baldwin County by a gang of desperadoes led by Paddy Scott. Bailey, one of Scott’s accomplices, was soon taken on Mobile Point but Paddy escaped in his schooner. He soon turned up walking the streets in New Orleans while citizens of Mobile offered a reward of five hundred dollars for his arrest. New Orleans authorities seemed to turn a blind eye to the wronged Mobile citizens: although Paddy was arrested in New Orleans under the vagrant act, for want of any evidence to justify his detention, he was soon liberated. (Evening Star, New York, Oct. 2, 1837)

By late 1839, the New Orleans Times-Picayune was calling Paddy Scott “the modern Lafitte” and noted that after he had been in the city about five days, he was arrested on the Levee. In a description of him given that year, he is said to be above the middle size, and “on the wrong side of 40.”

Paddy’s luck would soon turn sour after his next release. In January 1840 he murdered James Burgoyne in New Orleans by stabbing him in the back, then fled to his old haunts around Mobile.

The coroner’s inquest on Burgoyne’s body, reported in the Times-Picayune of Feb. 6, 1840, said the deceased was stabbed in the back just below the shoulder, the wound entering the chest cavity and penetrating the lungs. Dr. J.E. Kerr noted a singular peculiarity about Burgoyne in that his heart was on the right, rather than left, side of his body,

The Grand Jury at New Orleans issued a bill of indictment for murder against Scott, and he was arrested in June of 1840 in Mobile, then transferred to New Orleans. His aliases in addition to Hugh Glass included John Scott and John Carney.

The Sept. 6, 1840 Times-Picayune reported that after being found guilty of murder and at his death sentencing, Paddy Scott was asked by Judge Canonge if there was anything he wished to say. Seeming half-choked with “fear and feeling” Scott said in a voice “scarcely audible” that he should wish the court to defer passing sentence on him. The jury, he understood, were about addressing the Governor on his behalf. Six of the jury members which found him guilty signed a memorial to the Governor, praying that Scott not be made to suffer capital punishment. The T-P writer said at the sentencing hearing Scott “cried like a child. He is an idiotic, mindless looking man, and apparently devoid of all physical courage.”

By February of 1841, Scott had been pardoned by the Louisiana governor, and the sentence of death recorded against him was commuted to two years’ imprisonment at hard labor. (Times-Picayune, March 3, 1841)

Scott’s last appearance in the press was in the Jan. 3, 1844  issue of the Times-Picayune. The brief article stated “Paddy Scott, well known as a pilot on Lake Ponchartrain, died suddenly at Milneburg on New Year’s night.”

 

 

1 response to Paddy Scott: The Irish Pirate Who Plagued Mobile

  1. Your article on the real Patrick Scott was fascinating. I grew up on the Mississippi coast with old men who mentioned the pirate Patrick Scott to me and his supposed connection with Louis Groue, the latter who was buried in St. Martin. I had never seen such a Scott remarked in earlier years (1790-1820) and always wondered where the legend came from. It seems it, or rather he, came from Alabama…

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