THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
                 Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SUNDAY, June 19, 1994                    TAG: 9406160458 
SECTION: COMMENTARY                     PAGE: J3    EDITION: FINAL  
DATELINE: 940619                                 LENGTH: Medium 


{LEAD} A BATTERED EARLY 18th century tombstone in a deserted graveyard near present-day Hampton recalls one of the most daring piratical raids ever made on Colonial Virginia commerce. The stone memorializes Peter Heyman, collector of customs for the lower James River, who died during a bloody engagement between a buccaneer and a British naval vessel that had recently arrived in the Old Dominion to discourage freebooting.

Late in April 1700, Virginia's domestic and overseas shipping was bought to a standstill when the La Paix, a French pirate ship commanded by Capt. Louis Guittar, entered the Virginia Capes. A bloodthirsty sea rover, Guittar had left a trail of captured, looted and burned merchant vessels behind him in Caribbean and lower Atlantic waters. Sailing boldly into Lynnhaven Bay with the Jolly Roger flying from his masthead, Guittar fell upon merchant vessels anchored there. He began a campaign of despoliation and murder that sent chills down the spines of law-abiding Virginians.

{REST} News of the pirate's misdeeds had already been brought to the attention of Virginia officials by the captain of the ship that Guittar had plundered earlier. But nothing was done to end his activities until he turned up in Norfolk-area waters.

Shortly before Guittar's arrival, the British man-of-war Shoreham had arrived in Hampton Roads from England to serve as a guard ship. While Guittar and his crew were pillaging the shipping in Lynnhaven Bay, a captain of a small vessel, who had seen what was afoot when he sailed nearby, hastened into Hampton Roads to alert the proper authorities. Although the Shoreham was about to undergo repairs, her skipper got her under way nearby quickly, and soon Guittar had the mortification of seeing a formidable enemy bearing down upon him.

At the time the alarm was given, Gov. Francis Nicholson was at Kecoughtan (now Hampton) sealing official letters to be dispatched to England. On April 28, 1700, he and an official party, including Heyman, went aboard the Shoreham to be present during her engagement with Guittar's heavily armed ship. Contrary winds prevented the Shoreham from attacking that day, but the next morning found the two vessels within firing range. After a battle royal, during which Heyman was killed, the La Paix was demasted and run ashore.

Fearing capture, the pirates had laid a powder train across the deck of their ship to 30 barrels of gunpowder in the hold, planning to blow up the La Paix rather than surrender. Fortunately, several prisoners aboard Guittar's ship persuaded him to permit them to swim to the governor's ship to plead for amnesty. Nicholson sent back his assurances for temporary clemency under his own hand and seal. Once the smoke of the battle had cleared, the surviving freebooters were arrested and taken ashore to await trial for piracy.

Most of them were eventually hanged. Guittar and his principal henchmen were sent to England for trial, however, and were also hanged late in 1700.

Peter Heyman was buried on what was then known as Pembroke Farm near Hampton, after which the governor ordered a tombstone for him from England. Even though it is now badly weather-beaten, the inscription can still be deciphered. It reads:

``This Stone was Given by his Excellency FRANCIS NICHOLSON Esq. Lieutenent and Governor Generall of Virginia in Memory of PETER HEYMAN Esq. Grandson of Sr. PETER HEYMAN of Sumerfield in the County of Kent he was Collector of the Customs in the Lower District of James River and went Voluntarily on Board the Kings Shipp Shoreham in Pursuit of a Pyrate who Greatly Infested this Coast after he had Behaved himself seven hours with undaunted Courage was killed with a Small Shott the 29th Day of April 1700 in the Engagement as he Stoody Next the Governour Upon the Quarter Deck and was here Honourably Interred by his Order.'' by CNB