Piet Heyn

Piet Heyn was a Dutch Privateer who haunted the seas around 1620s. He was considered a pirate by the Spaniards. "Buena Guerra! GoodWar!" was the battle cry of the Dutch Privateers or Zeerovers.

Piet Heyn was a terror to the Spanish Main particularly around the island of Cuba. Heyn started out as a Dutch privateer of little consequence but after being captured by the Spaniards and enslaved in a ship's galley things changed. He was eventually freed in a prisoner exchange and took on duties as a captain of privateering ship.

Heyn was involved in several raids, Dutch West India Company’s Raid on Brazil in 1623, and in 1628 the capture of the silver fleet - galleons that collected the gold and silver along the coast from Panama to Mexico.

Heyn, who commanded a fleet of around 30 ships, knew the silver fleet would meet in Havana before heading out to Spain. So Heyn sailed toward Havana to make his fortune. Benavides, the Spanish Admiral, and his second in command Don Jaun de Loez saw the approach of Heyn's privateer fleet and according to witnesses attempted to avoid contact. Benavides claimed that he had attacked the Dutch fleet, but in real his ships were boarded by the Dutch before they could fire a single cannon. The Spanish Galleons were loaded with so much treasure that they had blocked many of their gun ports, making it impossible to effectively engage the Dutch privateers. Heyn's men quickly boarded the Spanish ships right in view of Havana, looted the valuable cargo for several days before sailing back to the Netherlands with over 34 tons of silver. Along with him he took around fifteen captured Spanish ships as well as his original fleet. The rest of the Spanish fleet was burned in Havana harbor.

When the battle had begun Benavides had deserted his ship in a row boat and was heading for the shore. He later testified that he had given orders for the ships to be burned and evacuated.

Heyn returned to the Netherlands as a hero, Benavides and de Loez were tried for cowardice and desertion. Benavides was beheaded and de Loez imprisoned for life.

Heyn enjoyed his status as Dutch hero for a few years. In March 1629, Hein received command of the Dutch navy being the first admiral who did not belong to the nobility. Hein was mortally wounded while attacking the pirates from Dunkirk and Ostend under Spanish commission on June 18th, 1629.