Piet Pieterszoon Hein

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Pieter Pietersen Heyn (November 25, 1577 – June 18, 1629) was a Dutch naval officer and folk hero during the Eighty Years' War between the United Provinces and Spain.


Early life

Hein was born in Delfshaven (now part of Rotterdam), the son of a sea captain, and he became a sailor while he was still a teenager. In his twenties, he was captured by the Spanish, and served as a galley-slave for about four years, probably between 1598 and 1602, when he was traded for Spanish prisoners. Between 1603 and 1607 he was again held captive by the Spanish, when captured near Cuba.

In 1607, he joined the Dutch East India Company and left for Asia, returning with the rank of captain (of the Hollandia) five years later. He married Anneke Claesdochter de Reus and settled in Rotterdam. In 1618, when he was captain of the Neptunus, both he and his ship were pressed into service by Venice. In 1621 he left his vessel behind and traveled overland to the Netherlands. For a year in 1622 he was a member of the local government (schepen) of Rotterdam, although he didn't even have citizenship of this city: the cousin of his wife, one of the three burgomasters, made this possible.

In 1623, he became vice-admiral of the new Dutch West India Company (WIC) and sailed to the West Indies the following year. In Brazil, he briefly captured the Portuguese settlement of Salvador, personally leading the assault on the sea fortress of that town. Then he attacked Luanda in Angola but failed to capture the city.He then crossed the Atlantic ocean again to try and capture merchant ships at the city of Vitória,but was defeated by a resistance organised by the local civilians,with assistance by a Portuguese garrison. In subsequent raids in 1627 at Salvador, he attacked and captured over thirty richly laden Portuguese merchant ships before returning to the United Provinces.

Hein is today often called a pirate, though he was a privateer as the Republic was at war with the Habsburgs and this was what would make Hein most famous. Of course some privateers behaved no better than common pirates, but Hein was a strict disciplinarian who discouraged unruly conduct among his crews and had for the day rather enlightened views about "Indian" tribes, slaves and members of other religions. Also he never was an individual privateer but commanded entire fleets of warships.

Spanish treasure fleet

In 1628, Admiral Hein, with Witte de With as his flag captain, sailed out to capture a Spanish treasure fleet loaded with silver from their American colonies and the Philippines. With him was Admiral Hendrick Lonck and he was later joined by a squadron of Vice-Admiral Joost Banckert, as well as by the pirate Moses Cohen Henriques. Part of the Spanish fleet in Venezuela had been warned because a Dutch cabin boy had lost his way on Blanquilla and was captured, betraying the plan, but the other half from Mexico continued its voyage, unaware of the threat. Sixteen Spanish ships were intercepted; one galleon was taken after a surprise encounter during the night, nine smaller merchants were talked into a surrender; two small ships were taken at sea fleeing, four fleeing galleons were trapped on the Cuban coast in the Bay of Matanzas.

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