The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation


Albert Hicks was a feared, shadowy figure of the New York underworld in the mid-1800s. Handsome and charismatic, he was known to frequent the dive bars and gin joints of the Five Points, the most dangerous neighborhood in maritime Manhattan. For years, he operated out of the public eye, rambling from crime to crime, working on the water, in ships, sleeping in the nickel-a-night flops, drinking in barrooms where rat-baiting and bear-baiting were great entertainments.

Hicks's criminal career reached its peak in 1860, when he was hired, under an alias, as an extra hand on an oyster sloop. His plan was to rob the ship, make his getaway, and disappear in the teeming streets of lower Manhattan, as he'd done numerous times before. But the plan went awry, and the voyage turned into a massacre. In the straits of Coney Island, on a foggy night, the ghost sloop, adrift and unmanned, was rammed by another vessel. When police boarded the ship to investigate, they found blood and gore everywhere, no bodies, only the grisly signs of struggle. A manhunt was launched for the mysterious merchant seaman on the manifest.

Long fascinated by gangster legends, Rich Cohen tells the story of this notorious underworld figure for the first time, from his humble origins to his incarnation as a demon who terrorized the Five Points and became the gangster most feared by other gangsters, at a time when pirates anchored off of 14th street.


A true-crime story from New York set in 1860 where Albert Hicks became the last known or one of the last to be publicly executed. Hicks was a known criminal mainly in the Five Points area and for the most part, had his way with people. Most were fearful of him or of his reputation so he could pretty much do what he wanted and did so. This was before organized crime which would still be about 25 to 30 years from showing up in New York. He would have lasted longer except for his last crime.
He went to the docks and after finding the right boat to find work got a job on an oyster sloop. He would do his crime and then make his getaway in the lower part of Manhattan. He did get the job and during the night of the voyage, he committed the crime, or crimes of killing everyone aboard along with robbing. He then thought he thought he had sunk the ship. Well, he did not hence the name ghost ship. The ship rammed into another ship and when the police arrived, they discovered the murder scene.
The author then takes you through the detective and his investigation and tracking of Hicks, when finding him he also had items from the crew especially a pocket watch from the captain. You are also given a look back into Hick’s life as much as possible. The author does a good job in research since not much is left about the trial, his confession, and execution. This was a fascinating story I thought and one I had never heard about from any of my relatives that live in New York a very good book. I received this book from Follow us at

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