After the downfall of Númenor, the Umbar settlers further descended into evil, and were called the Black Númenóreans. They took to pillaging and piracy along the coasts of Gondor. During the Kin-strife, the defeated rebels of Gondor fled to Umbar. At this time Umbar became the hated enemy of Gondor. Over time these sailors drew to their number various outlaws and brigands from outlying settlements surrounding the Anduin, and they took to raiding along the southern Gondorian coast, intercepting merchant vessels and abducting women to bolster their dissident community. They were also slavers and would often seize a ship's crew along with her cargo; if any resisted, they would be thrown overboard.
During the War of the Ring at the time of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a Corsair fleet on route to Harlond after overrunning Pelargir with intentions of further raids on Gondor and to aid the forces of Mordor in the battle. Aragorn, with the help of the Grey Company, Legolas, Gimli, and the Army of the Dead, drove the Corsairs off and captured their ships and rowed them to Minas Tirith to relieve the siege of the city. In that battle, the Dead fulfilled their oath to Isildur and were finally able to rest in peace.
The Corsairs sailed in large, dark, wooden galley ships with large black junk-like sails and were probably made to look dreadful. They were possibly powered by human oarsmen.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
Peter Jackson The Return of the KingsEdit
The Corsairs are only seen once for a few seconds in the movies. It is when Gandalf is talking to Pippin about who will fight for Sauron in the battle for Minas Tirith. The boats are also seen in an extended scene, where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli send the Army of the Dead to attack the frightened corsairs (including Peter Jackson himself, in a cameo as a Corsair) and conquer the ships.
Though this cannot be confirmed, it is possible that the Corsairs of Umbar are friends, or at least allies, of the Goblins of the Mountains. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there are a few Goblins and Goblin Drummers that appear in the Anduin River: Anduin Banks level along with the Corsairs.
More significant evidence is shown in the Battle for Middle-earth II game. The Corsairs, in Campaign Mode, join forces with the Goblins led by Gorkil and launch an assault upon the Grey Havens. While the attack fails in the Good Campaign, in the Evil Campaign the conjoined attack is completely successful, and thanks to the armada brought forth by the Corsairs the Grey Havens are destroyed. Also, the special unit recruitable at captured Inns for the Goblins is the corsairs.
The Corsairs are shown to use daggers in The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II as their primary weapon. They were stronger than typical orcs and like to stab their enemies. They also used firebombs which, while not much more powerful than their daggers and can cause a friendly fire, could set their enemies ablaze or do some significant damage nonetheless.In the movie they are shown with basteases mounted on their ships.