A terror to all shipping in the Gulf of Mexico in the early part of the nineteenth century. Brought to Boston as a prisoner in 1823, taken thence to Kingston, Jamaica, and there hanged. For some extraordinary reason the American juries seldom would condemn a pirate to death, so that whenever possible the pirate prisoners were handed over to the English, who made short shift with them.
Ran away from Port Royal, Jamaica, in June, 1684, on a "privateering" venture in a ship of thirty guns. Caught and brought back by the frigate Ruby, and put on trial by the Lieutenant-Governor Molesworth, who was at that time very active in his efforts to stamp out piracy in the West Indies.
Bannister entirely escaped punishment, capital or otherwise, as he was released by the grand jury on a technical point, surely most rare good fortune for the captain in days when the law was elastic enough to fit most crimes, and was far from lenient on piracy. Six months later the indefatigable captain again eluded the forts, and for two years succeeded in dodging the frigates sent out by Governor Molesworth to capture him. Finally, in January, 1687,
Captain Spragge sailed victoriously into Port Royal with Bannister and three other buccaneers hanging at the yard-arm, "a spectacle of great satisfaction to all good people, and of terror to the favourers of pirates."
BARNARD, Captain. Buccaneer.
In June, 1663, this buccaneer sailed from Port Royal to the Orinoco. He took and plundered the town of Santo Tomas, and returned the following March.
Tried for piracy at Newport in 1723, but found to be not guilty.
Taken by Captain Roberts out of the Martha snow (Captain Lady). Turned pirate and served in the Ranger in 1721.
BELLAMY, Captain Charles. Pirate, Socialist, and orator. A famous West Indian filibuster.
He began life as a wrecker in the West Indies, but this business being uncertain in its profits, and Bellamy being an ambitious young man, he decided with his partner, Paul Williams, to aim at higher things, and to enter the profession of piracy. Bellamy had now chosen a calling that lent itself to his undoubted talents, and his future career, while it lasted, was a brilliant one.
Procuring a ship, he sailed up and down the coast of Carolina and New England, taking and plundering numerous vessels; and when this neighbourhood became too hot for him he would cruise for a while in the cooler climate of Newfoundland.
Bellamy had considerable gifts for public speaking, and seldom missed an opportunity of addressing the assembled officers and crews of the ships he took, before liberating or otherwise disposing of them.
His views were distinctly Socialistic. On one occasion, in an address to a Captain Beer, who had pleaded to have his sloop returned to him, Captain Bellamy, after clearing his throat, began as follows: "I am sorry," he said, "that you can't have your sloop again, for I scorn to do anyone any mischief—when it is not to my advantage—though you are a sneaking puppy, and so are all those who will submit to be governed by laws which rich men have made for their own security, for the cowardly whelps have not the courage otherwise to defend what they get by their knavery. But damn ye altogether for a pack of crafty rascals, and you, who serve them, for a parcel of hen-hearted numbskulls! They vilify us, the scoundrels do, when there is the only difference that they rob the poor under cover of the law, forsooth, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage. Had you not better make one of us than sneak after these villains for employment?"
Bellamy's fall came at last at the hands of a whaler captain. At the time he was in command of the Whidaw and a small fleet of other pirate craft, which was lying at anchor in the Bay of Placentia in Newfoundland. Sailing from Placentia for Nantucket Shoals, he seized a whaling vessel, the Mary Anne. As the skipper of the whaler knew the coast well, Bellamy made him pilot of his small fleet. The cunning skipper one night ran his ship on to a sand-bank near Eastman, Massachusetts, and the rest of the fleet followed his stern light on to the rocks. Almost all the crews perished, only seven of the pirates being saved. These were seized and brought to trial, condemned, and hanged at Boston in 1726. The days spent between the sentence and the hanging were not wasted, for we read in a contemporary account that "by the indefatigable pains of a pious and learned divine, who constantly attended them, they were at length, by the special grace of God, made sensible of and truly penitent for the enormous crimes they had been guilty of."
BENDALL, George, or Bendeall.
A flourishing pirate, whose headquarters, in the early eighteenth century, were in New Providence Island.
In the year 1717, King George offered a free pardon to all freebooters who would come in and give themselves up. But the call of the brotherhood was too strong for a few of the "old hands," and Bendall, amongst others, was off once again to carry on piracy around the Bahama and Virgin Islands. Within a few years these last "die-hards" were all killed, drowned, caught, or hanged.
Belonged to the Island of St. Thomas.
One of Captain Roberts's crew. Hanged at the age of 27.
BONNET, Major Stede, alias Captain Thomas, alias Edwards.The history of this pirate is both interesting and unique. He was not brought up to the seafaring life; in fact, before he took to piracy, he had already retired from the Army, with the rank of Major. He owned substantial landed property in Barbadoes, lived in a fine house, was married, and much respected by the quality and gentry of that island. His turning pirate naturally greatly scandalized his neighbours, and they found it difficult at first to imagine whatever had caused this sudden and extraordinary resolution, particularly in a man of his position in Society. But when the cause at last came to be known, he was more pitied than blamed, for it was understood that the Major's mind had become unbalanced owing to the unbridled nagging of Mrs. Bonnet. Referring to this, the historian Captain Johnson writes as follows: "He was afterwards rather pitty'd than condemned, by those that were acquainted with him, believing that this Humour of going a-pyrating proceeded from a Disorder in his Mind, which had been but too visible in him, some Time before this wicked Undertaking; and which is said to have been occasioned by some Discomforts he found in a married State; be that as it will, the Major was but ill qualified for the Business, as not understanding maritime Affairs." Whatever the cause of the Major's "disorder of mind," the fact remains that at his own expense he fitted out a sloop armed with ten guns and a crew of seventy men. The fact that he honestly paid in cash for this ship is highly suspicious of a deranged mind, since no other pirate, to the writer's knowledge, ever showed such a nicety of feeling, but always stole the ship in which to embark "on the account." The Major, to satisfy the curious, gave out that he intended to trade between the islands, but one night, without a word of farewell to Mrs. Bonnet, he sailed out of harbour in the Revenge, as he called his ship, and began to cruise off the coast of Virginia. For a rank amateur, Bonnet met with wonderful success, as is shown by a list of the prizes he took and plundered in this first period of his piracy:
The Anne, of Glasgow (Captain Montgomery).
The Turbet, of Barbadoes, which, after plundering, he burnt, as he did all prizes from Barbadoes.
The Endeavour (Captain Scott).
The Young, of Leith.
The plunder out of these ships he sold at Gardiner Island, near New York.
Cruising next off the coast of Carolina, Bonnet took a brace of prizes, but began to have trouble with his unruly crew, who, seeing that their captain knew nothing whatever of sea affairs, took advantage of the fact and commenced to get out of hand. Unluckily for Bonnet, he at this time met with the famous Captain Teach, or Blackbeard, and the latter, quickly appreciating how matters stood, ordered the Major to come aboard his own ship, while he put his lieutenant, Richards, to command Bonnet's vessel. The poor Major was most depressed by this undignified change in his affairs, until Blackbeard lost his ship in Topsail Inlet, and finding himself at a disadvantage, promptly surrendered to the King's proclamation and allowed Bonnet to reassume command of his own sloop. But Major Bonnet had been suffering from qualms of conscience latterly, so he sailed to Bath Town in North Carolina, where he, too, surrendered to the Governor and received his certificate of pardon. Almost at once news came of war being declared between England and France with Spain, so Bonnet hurried back to Topsail, and was granted permission to take back his sloop and sail her to St. Thomas's Island, to receive a commission as a privateer from the French Governor of that island. But in the meanwhile Teach had robbed everything of any value out of Bonnet's ship, and had marooned seventeen of the crew on a sandy island, but these were rescued by the Major before they died of starvation. Just as the ship was ready to sail, a bumboat came alongside to sell apples and cider to the sloop's crew, and from these they got an interesting piece of news. They learnt that Teach, with a crew of eighteen men, was at that moment lying at anchor in Ocricock Inlet. The Major, longing to revenge the insult he had suffered from Blackbeard, and his crew remembering how he had left them to die on a desert island, went off in search of Teach, but failed to find him. Stede Bonnet having received his pardon in his own name, now called himself Captain Thomas and again took to piracy, and evidently had benefited by his apprenticeship with Blackbeard, for he was now most successful, taking many prizes off the coast of Virginia, and later in Delaware Bay.
Bonnet now sailed in a larger ship, the Royal James, so named from feelings of loyalty to the Crown. But she proved to be very leaky, and the pirates had to take her to the mouth of Cape Fear River for repairs. News of this being carried to the Council of South Carolina, arrangements were made to attempt to capture the pirate, and a Colonel William Rhet, at his own expense, fitted out two armed sloops, the Henry (eight guns and seventy men) and the Sea Nymph (eight guns and sixty men), both sailing under the direct command of the gallant Colonel. On September 25th, 1718, the sloops arrived at Cape Fear River, and there sure enough was the Royal James, with three sloops lying at anchor behind the bar. The pirate tried to escape by sailing out, but was followed by the Colonel's two vessels until all three ran aground within gunshot of each other. A brisk fight took place for five hours, when the Major struck his colours and surrendered. There was great public rejoicing in Charleston when, on October 3rd, Colonel Rhet sailed victoriously into the harbour with his prisoners. But next day Bonnet managed to escape out of prison and sailed to Swillivant's Island. The indefatigable Colonel Rhet again set out after the Major, and again caught him and brought him back to Charleston.
The trial of Stede Bonnet and his crew began on October 28th, 1718, at Charleston, and continued till November 12th, the Judge being Nicholas Trot. Bonnet was found guilty and condemned to be hanged. Judge Trot made a speech of overwhelming length to the condemned, full of Biblical quotations, to each of which the learned magistrate gave chapter and verse. In November, 1718, the gallant, if unfortunate, Major was hanged at White Point, Charleston.
Apart from the unusual cause for his turning pirate, Bonnet is interesting as being almost the only case known, otherwise than in books of romance, of a pirate making his prisoners walk the plank.
BONNY, Anne. Female pirate.
Anne was born in County Cork, Ireland and her father was an Attorney-at-Law, who practised his profession in that city, her mother being lady's maid to the attorney's lawful wife.
The story of the events which led to the existence of Anne may be read in Johnson's "History of the Pyrates," where it is recounted in a style quite suggestive of Fielding. In spite of its sad deficiency in moral tone, the narrative is highly diverting. But as this work is strictly confined to the history of the pirates and not to the amorous intrigues of their forbears, we will skip these pre-natal episodes and come to the time when the attorney, having lost a once flourishing legal practice, sailed from Ireland to Carolina to seek a fortune there, taking his little daughter Anne with him. In new surroundings fortune favoured the attorney, and he soon owned a rich plantation, and his daughter kept house for him.
Anne was now grown up and a fine young woman, but had a "fierce and courageous temper," which more than once led her into scrapes, as, on one occasion, when in a sad fit of temper, she slew her English servant-maid with a case-knife. But except for these occasional outbursts of passion she was a good and dutiful girl. Her father now began to think of finding a suitable young man to be a husband for Anne, which would not be hard to do, since Anne, besides her good looks, was his heir and would be well provided for by him. But Anne fell in love with a good-looking young sailor who arrived one day at Charleston, and, knowing her father would never consent to such a match, the lovers were secretly married, in the expectation that, the deed being done, the father would soon become reconciled to it. But on the contrary, the attorney, on being told the news, turned his daughter out of doors and would have nothing more to do with either of them. The bridegroom, finding his heiress worth not a groat, did what other sailors have done before and since, and slipped away to sea without so much as saying good-bye to his bride. But a more gallant lover soon hove in sight, the handsome, rich, dare-devil pirate, Captain John Rackam, known up and down the coast as "Calico Jack." Jack's methods of courting and taking a ship were similar—no time wasted, straight up alongside, every gun brought to play, and the prize seized. Anne was soon swept off her feet by her picturesque and impetuous lover, and consented to go to sea with him in his ship, but disguised herself in sailor's clothes before going on board. The lovers sailed together on a piratical honeymoon until certain news being conveyed to Captain Rackam by his bride, he sailed to Cuba and put Anne ashore at a small cove, where he had a house and also friends, who he knew would take good care of her. But before long Anne was back in the pirate ship, as active as any of her male shipmates with cutlass and marlinspike, always one of the leaders in boarding a prize.
However, the day of retribution was at hand. While cruising near Jamaica in October, 1720, the pirates were surprised by the sudden arrival of an armed sloop, which had been sent out by the Governor of that island for the express purpose of capturing Rackam and his crew. A fight followed, in which the pirates behaved in a most cowardly way, and were soon driven below decks, all but Anne Bonny and another woman pirate, Mary Read, who fought gallantly till taken prisoners, all the while flaunting their male companions on their cowardly conduct. The prisoners were carried to Jamaica and tried for piracy at St. Jago de la Vega, and convicted on November 28th, 1720. Anne pleaded to have her execution postponed for reasons of her condition of health, and this was allowed, and she never appears to have been hanged, though what her ultimate fate was is unknown. On the day that her lover Rackam was hanged he obtained, by special favour, permission to see Anne, but must have derived little comfort from the farewell interview, for all he got in the way of sympathy from his lady love were these words—that "she was sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog."
BRADISH, Captain Joseph.
A notorious pirate. Born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 28th, 1672. In March, 1689, was in London out of a berth, and shipped as mate in the hake-boat Adventure, bound for Borneo on an interloping trade.
In September, 1698, when most of the officers and passengers were ashore at the Island of Polonais, Bradish and the crew cut the cable and ran away with the ship. The crew shared the money which was found in the bread-room, and which filled nine chests, amounting to about 3,700 Spanish dollars.
Bradish sailed the Adventure to Long Island, arriving there on March 19th, 1699. After leaving their money and jewels on Nassau Island, they sank their ship. Most of the crew bought horses at the neighbouring farmhouses and disappeared. Bradish and a few others were rash enough to go to Massachusetts, where they were promptly arrested and placed in the Boston Gaol. But the gaolkeeper, one Caleb Ray, was a relation of Bradish, and allowed him to escape. An offer of a reward of £200 brought the escaped prisoner back, and he sailed in irons on H.M.S. Advice, with Kidd and other pirates, to England, and was hanged in chains in London at Hope Dock in 1700.
Master of Captain Fenn's ship, the Morning Star, wrecked on the Grand Caymans in August, 1722. The crew got ashore on an island and hid in the woods. Bradley and the other pirates afterwards surrendered themselves to an English sloop, and were carried to Bermuda. Bradley escaped to England, and was last heard of at Bristol.
BREAKES, Captain Hiram.
This Dutch pirate was the second son of a well-to-do councillor of the Island of Saba in the West Indies. Hiram was appointed in the year 1764 to a ship which traded between that island and Amsterdam. In the latter port, Hiram, who was now 19 years of age and a handsome fellow standing over six feet in height, fell in love with a certain Mrs. Snyde.
Getting command of a small ship that traded between Schiedam, in Holland, and Lisbon, Breakes for some time sailed between these ports. Returning to Amsterdam, he and Mrs. Snyde murdered that lady's husband, but at the trial managed to get acquitted.
Breakes's next exploit was to steal his employer's ship and cargo and go out as a pirate, naming his vessel the Adventure. His first exploit was a daring one. Sailing into Vigo Harbour in full view of the forts, he seized a vessel, the Acapulco, lately come from Valparaiso, and took her off. On plundering her they found 200,000 small bars of gold, each about the size of a man's finger. The captain and crew of this Chilian vessel were all murdered. Breakes preferred the Acapulco to his own ship, so he fitted her up and sailed in her to the Mediterranean.
Breakes was one of the religious variety of pirate, for after six days of robbing and throat-slitting he would order his crew to clean themselves on the Sabbath and gather on the quarter-deck, where he would read prayers to them and would often preach a sermon "after the Lutheran style," thus fortifying the brave fellows for another week of toil and bloodshed.
Gifted with unlimited boldness, Breakes called in at Gibraltar and requested the Governor to grant him a British privateer's commission, which the Governor did "for a consideration." Sailing in the neighbourhood of the Balearic Islands, he took a few ships, when one day, spying a nunnery by the sea-shore in Minorca, he proposed to his crew that they should fit themselves out with a wife apiece.
This generous offer was eagerly accepted, and the crew, headed by Captain Breakes, marched up to the nunnery unopposed, and were welcomed at the door by the lady abbess. Having entered the peaceful cloister, each pirate chose a nun and marched back to the ship with their spoils. Soon after this Breakes decided to retire from piracy, and returned to Amsterdam to claim Mrs. Snyde. But he found that she had but lately been hanged for poisoning her little son, of which the pirate was father. This tragedy so preyed upon the mind of Captain Breakes that he turned "melancholy mad" and drowned himself in one of the many dykes with which that city abounds.
Of Jamaica and Tortuga.
In 1663 commanded a frigate of six guns and seventy men.
On July 24th, 1702, sailed from Jamaica in command of the Blessing—ten guns and crew of seventy-nine men, with the famous Edward Davis on board—to attack the town of Tolu on the Spanish Main. The town was taken and plundered, but Brown was killed, being shot through the head.
BROWN, Captain Nicholas.
Surrendered to the King's pardon for pirates at New Providence, Bahamas, in 1718. Soon afterwards he surrendered to the Spanish Governor of Cuba, embraced the Catholic faith, and turned pirate once more; and was very active in attacking English ships off the Island of Jamaica.
In 1679 sailed from England to the West Indies. He was taken by the Spaniards off Campeachy and carried to Mexico. A seaman, Russel, also a prisoner there, and who escaped afterwards, reported to Lionel Wafer that he last saw Captain Buckenham with a log chained to his leg and a basket on his back, crying bread about the streets of the city of Mexico for his master, a baker.
BURGESS, Captain Samuel South.
Born and bred in New York, he was a man of good education, and began his career on a privateer in the West Indies. Later on he was sent by a Mr. Philips, owner and shipbuilder, to trade with the pirates in Madagascar. This business Burgess augmented with a little piracy on his own account, and after taking several prizes he returned to the West Indies, where he disposed of his loot. He then proceeded to New York, and, purposely wrecking his vessel at Sandy Hook, landed in the guise of an honest shipwrecked mariner.
Burgess settled down for a time to a well-earned rest, and married a relative of his employer, Mr. Philips.
Philips sent him on two further voyages, both of which were run on perfectly honest lines, and were most successful both to owner and captain. But a later voyage had an unhappy ending. After successfully trading with the pirates in Madagascar, Burgess was returning home, carrying several pirates as passengers, who were returning to settle in America, having made their fortunes. The ship was captured off the Cape of Good Hope by an East Indiaman, and taken to Madras. Here the captain and passengers were put in irons and sent to England to be tried. The case against Burgess fell through, and he was liberated. Instead of at once getting away, he loitered about London until one unlucky day he ran across an old pirate associate called Culliford, on whose evidence Burgess was again arrested, tried, and condemned to death, but pardoned at the last moment by the Queen, through the intercession of the Bishop of London. After a while he procured the post of mate in the Neptune, a Scotch vessel, which was to go to Madagascar to trade liquors with the pirates who had their headquarters in that delectable island. On arrival at Madagascar a sudden hurricane swept down, dismasted the Neptune, and sank two pirate ships. The chief pirate, Halsey, as usual, proved himself a man of resource. Seeing that without a ship his activities were severely restricted, he promptly, with the help of his faithful and willing crew, seized the Neptune, this satisfactory state of affairs being largely facilitated by the knowledge that the mate, Burgess, was all ripe to go on the main chance once more. The first venture of this newly formed crew was most successful, as they seized a ship, the Greyhound, which lay in the bay, the owners of which had but the previous day bought—and paid for—a valuable loading of merchandise from the pirates. This was now taken back by the pirates, who, having refitted the Neptune, set forth seeking fresh adventures and prizes. The further history of Burgess is one of constant change and disappointment.
While serving under a Captain North, he was accused of betraying some of his associates, and was robbed of all his hard-earned savings. For several years after this he lived ashore at a place in Madagascar called Methalage, until captured by some Dutch rovers, who soon after were themselves taken by French pirates. Burgess, with his former Dutch captain, was put ashore at Johanna, where, under the former's expert knowledge, a ship was built and sailed successfully to Youngoul, where Burgess got a post as third mate on a ship bound to the West Indies. Before sailing, Burgess was sent, on account of his knowledge of the language, as ambassador to the local King. Burgess, unfortunately for himself, had in the past said some rather unkind things about this particular ruler, and the offended monarch, in revenge, gave Burgess some poisoned liquor to drink, which quickly brought to an end an active if chequered career.
BURGESS, Captain Thomas.
One of the pirates of the Bahama Islands who surrendered to King George in 1718 and received the royal pardon. He was afterwards drowned at sea.