The Sack of Baltimore took place on 20 June 1631, when the village of Baltimore in West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by pirates from the Barbary Coast of North Africa – Dutchmen, Algerians and Ottoman Turks. The attack was the largest by Barbary slave traders on Ireland.
The attack was led by a Dutch captain, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also known as Murad Reis the Younger, who was enslaved by Algerians but released when he renounced his faith. Murad's force was led to the village by a man called Hackett, the captain of a fishing boat he had captured earlier, in exchange for his freedom. Hackett was subsequently hanged from the clifftop outside the village for conspiracy.
Murad's crew, made up of Algerians, launched their covert attack on the remote village on 20 June 1631. They captured 107 villagers, mostly English settlers along with some local Irish people (some reports put the number as high as 237). The attack was focused on the area of the village known to this day as the Cove. The villagers were put in irons and taken to a life of slavery in Algiers.
Some prisoners were destined to live out their days as galley slaves, rowing for decades without ever setting foot on shore while others would spend long years in harem or as labourers. At most three of them ever returned to Ireland. One was ransomed almost at once and two others in 1646.
In the aftermath of the raid, the remaining villagers moved to Skibbereen, and Baltimore was virtually deserted for generations.
There are conspiracy theories relating to the raid. It has been suggested that Sir Walter Coppinger, a prominent Catholic lawyer and member of the leading Cork family, who had become the dominant power in the area after the death of Sir Thomas Crooke, 1st Baronet, the founder of the English colony, orchestrated the raid to gain control of the village from the local Gaelic chieftain, Sir Fineen O'Driscoll. It was O'Driscoll who had licensed the lucrative pilchard fishery in Baltimore to the English settlers. Suspicion also points to O'Driscoll's exiled relatives, who had fled to Spain after the Battle of Kinsale, and had no hope of inheriting Baltimore by legal means. On the other hand, Murad may have planned the raid without any help; it is known that the authorities had advance intelligence of a planned raid on the Cork coast, although Kinsale was thought to be a more likely target than Baltimore.
The truth soon emerged and he was hanged from the cliff top outside the village for his conspiracy