Little is known of Rackham’s upbringing or early life, except for the fact that he was English and born in Jamaica around the year 1682. The first record of him is as quartermaster was on Charles Vane’s sloop Ranger in 1718. After robbing several ships outside of New York City, Vane (pictured right) and his crew encountered a large French ship dubbed “Man-o-War”.
The ship, which was at least twice as large as Vane’s sloop, went after them. Vane, claiming caution as his reason, commanded a retreat from battle. Jack Rackham however quickly spoke up and contested the decision, suggesting they fight the “Man-o-War”, because it would have plenty of riches. Not only that, but if they captured it, he argued, it would place a much larger ship at their disposal. Of the approximately ninety men on the ship, only fifteen supported Vane in his decision.
Despite the overwhelming support for Rackham’s cry to fight, Vane declared that the captain’s decision is considered final and they fled the man-o-war. On November 24, 1718 Rackham called a vote in which the men branded Vane a coward and removed him from the captaincy, making Calico Jack the next captain. Rackham gave Vane, and fifteen supporters, the other sloop in the fleet, along with a decent supply of ammunition and goods.