Capt. Samuel Bellamy

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Samuel Bellamy

Also Known As: "Black Sam", "Prince of Pirates"
Birthplace: Hittisleigh, Devon, England
Death: April 26, 1717 (28)
Eastham, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Son of Stephen Bellamy and Elizabeth Bellamy
Husband of Maria Muldaur Bellamy
Fiancé of Mehitable "Goody" Hallett the Witch of Wellfleet
Father of Child Bellamy
Brother of Rose Bellamy; Hirana Bellamy; Elizabeth Bellamy; Soloman Bellamy and Joan Bellamy

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Capt. Samuel Bellamy

Samuel Bellamy (c. February 23, 1689–April 27, 1717), aka "Black Sam" Bellamy, was an English pirate who operated in the early eighteenth century. Before the Disney theme ride and before the billion-dollar movie franchise starring Johnny Depp, a real life pirate captain plundered the Atlantic coast from New England to the Caribbean Sea. His name was Sam “Black Sam” Bellamy. Born in Devon, England in 1689, Bellamy left his home for a life at sea at an early age before making his way to Cape Cod in the early 1700’s. In the tiny Cape Cod village of Wellfleet, the young Bellamy met his true love, a blonde teenaged beauty named Maria “Goody” Hallett. The young couple soon became inseparable, taking long strolls across the rolling dunes where they talked about getting married and raising a family in their picturesque ocean-side community where a man with a strong knowledge of the sea could support his wife and children through fishing, which was bountiful. Bellamy had worked on rigged ships for several years and had strived to become a prosperous sea captain. Goody’s father however, believed that his beautiful daughter had more promising prospects for marriage and halted his ambitions. Bellamy was soon driven out of Wellfleet by the elder Hallett who told him to “leave this place and never return”. Though his known career as a pirate captain lasted little more than a year, Bellamy and his crew captured more than 50 ships before his death at age 28. Called "Black Sam" in Cape Cod folklore because he eschewed the fashionable powdered wig in favor of tying back his long black hair with a simple band, Bellamy became known for his mercy and generosity toward those he captured on his raids. This reputation gained him the second nickname of the "Prince of Pirates," and his crew called themselves "Robin Hood's Men."

Bellamy was probably the youngest of six known children born to Stephen and Elizabeth Bellamy in the parish of Hittisleigh in Devonshire in 1689. Elizabeth died in childbirth and was buried on February 23, 1689, three weeks before her infant son Samuel's baptism on March 18. The future pirate became a sailor at a young age and traveled to Cape Cod, where, according to local lore, he took up an affair with a local girl named Maria Hallett. He soon left Cape Cod—allegedly to support Hallett—by salvaging treasure from the Spanish Plate Fleet sunk off the coast of Florida, accompanied by his friend and financier Paul (or Palgrave, Paulgrave, Paulsgrave) Williams. The treasure hunters apparently met with little success, as they soon turned to piracy in the crew of pirate captain Benjamin Hornigold, who commanded the Mary Anne (or Marianne) with his first mate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach.

In the summer of 1716, Bellamy challenged Hornigold for the position of captain. Bellamy was irritated by Hornigold's unwillingness to attack ships of England, his home country. Hornigold was deposed as captain of the Mary Anne and Bellamy was elected by the crew in his place. Upon capturing a second ship, the Sultana, Bellamy assigned his friend Paul Williams as captain of the Mary Anne and made the Sultana his flagship. However, Bellamy's greatest capture was to come in the spring of 1717, when he and his crew chased down and boarded the Whydah Gally (pronounced "wih-duh"). The Whydah, a 300-ton English slave ship, had just finished the second leg of the Atlantic slave trade on its maiden voyage and was loaded with a fortune in gold and precious trade goods.[2] True to his reputation for generosity, Bellamy gave the Sultana to Captain Lawrence Prince of the captured Whydah, and, outfitting his new flagship as a 28-gun raiding vessel (upgraded from its original 18 guns), set sail northwards along the eastern coast of New England.

As the Whydah and the Mary Anne approached Cape Cod, Williams told Bellamy that he wished to visit his family in Rhode Island, and the two agreed to meet again near Maine. If Bellamy intended to revisit his lover Maria Hallett, he failed. The Whydah was swept up in a violent Nor'easter storm off Cape Cod at midnight, and was driven onto the sand bar shoals in 16 feet of water some 500 feet from the coast of what is now Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At 15 minutes past midnight, the masts snapped and drew the heavily-loaded ship into 30 feet of water where she capsized and quickly sank, taking Bellamy and all but two of his 146-man crew with her. One hundred two bodies were known to have washed ashore and were buried by the town coroner, leaving 42 bodies unaccounted for. The Mary Anne was also wrecked that night several miles south of the Whydah, leaving seven more survivors. All nine castaways from the two ships were captured and prosecuted for piracy in Boston, and six were hanged in October 1717 (King George's pardon of all pirates, issued the previous month in September, having arrived in Boston three weeks too late). Two were set free, the court believing their testimony that they had been forced into piracy. The last, Native American from Mosquito tribe in Central America John Jullian, is believed to have been sold into slavery to the father of U.S. President John Adams and grandfather of U.S. President John Quincy Adams (though both presidents were themselves extremely hostile toward slavery, with John Adams almost preventing American Independence when his refusal to agree to the demand of the Southern Colonies - that Thomas Jefferson should strike his anti-slavery comments in the Declaration of Independence - caused all of the Southern representatives to storm out of Independence Hall).

In 1984, Bellamy became famous again when the wreckage of his flagship Whydah was finally discovered, the first confirmed pirate ship recovered in modern times. At the time of its sinking, the Whydah was the largest pirate prize ever captured, and the treasure in its hold included huge quantities of indigo, ivory, gold, and over 30,000 pounds sterling (approximately 4 and a half to 5 tons). The discovery of the wreck was made in July 1984 by a diving crew led and funded by underwater explorer Barry Clifford. In 1985, Clifford recovered the ship's bell upon which were the words "THE WHYDAH GALLY 1716", and subsequently founded The Whydah Pirate Museum on MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown, Massachusetts dedicated to Samuel Bellamy and the Whydah. It houses many artifacts which were brought from the actual wreck, including a cannon found to be stuffed with precious stones, gold and artifacts. A portion of the some 200,000 artifacts so far recovered are currently on a six-year tour around the United States under the sponsorship of The National Geographic Society.

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Some legends do not blame Maria, but claim that alcohol wrecked the Whydah: "One night, when the pirates were drunk, he [Bellamy] ran his vessel ashore, near Eastham, and the Whydah was wrecked." This may very well have been true, for a few days before the disaster, Bellamy captured the Agnes off the coast of Virginia. Bellamy and his men took Madeira wine and rum from this vessel. Between the storm, the alcohol, and perhaps Maria, there was very little chance for the pirates to save the Whydah.***

Because of all of these variations, the fate of the Whydah has raised many questions and has become a story that might involve more fiction than fact. Yet Bellamy remains a real historical figure. Accurate sources describe him as "Black Sam" Bellamy, a raven-haired former English sailor, thought to be in his late twenties who lead the pirates of the Whydah:

He made a dashing figure in his long deep-cuffed velvet coat, knee breeches, silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes; with a sword slung on his left hip and four pistols on his sash. Unlike some of his fellows, Bellamy never wore the fashionable powdered wig, but grew his dark hair long and tied it back with a satin bow.

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Fall, 1715: Inspired by tales of sunken treasure from a retired pirate, Samuel Bellamy and his partner, a onetime goldsmith named Palgrave Williams (black-sheep son of a former Rhode Island Attorney-General), are believed to have sailed from Cape Cod to search for treasure on a sunken Spanish shipwreck. According to legend, Bellamy leaves behind his lover, a beautiful Cape Cod girl named “Goody Hallet”, but treasure- hunting is easier said than done…

February 1716: Bellamy is reported as a pirate operating from two “periaguas” (a type of large sailing canoe) off the coast of Central America–possibly from an island-base off the coast of Belize known as “Banister’s Key”.

March 1716: Bellamy and his periaguas work their way south along the Central American coast and raid near Portobello, Panama.

April 1716: In a spectacular boarding action worthy of the big screen, Bellamy and his followers assist the pirate Henry Jennings in taking a large French frigate, the Ste. Marie, with 30,000 “pieces of eight”, at Baya Honda on the northwest coast of Cuba.

Late April 1716: Bellamy and his periaguas then desert Jennings, and assist pirate Ben Hornigold in taking a six-gun French sloop, the Marianne at Puerto Mariel near Havana. Hornigold gives Bellamy and his men the Marianne. Together, they rob a series of ships near Cape Corrientes and the Isle of Pines off the coast of Cuba.

May 1716: As partners, Hornigold and Bellamy move eastward along the south shore of Cuba. At the eastern tip of Cuba they meet a French pirate known as “La Buze” (“the Buzzard”). The pirates agree to operate together.

June-August 1716: Hornigold, La Buze and Bellamy refit their vessels at a secret pirate base on the north coast of Hispaniola. Bellamy persuades the pirates to vote out Hornigold as commodore of the pirate flotilla, together with some of his followers (including one known to history as “Blackbeard”!). Bellamy is elected in Hornigold’s place, and moves eastward along the coast of Hispaniola in company with La Buze.

September 1716: Bellamy attacks a forty-four gun French ship off Porto Rico with his small sloop Marianne. He wisely withdraws after a hour-long fight.

October 1716: Bellamy and La Buze attack and capture a variety of English and French vessels along the northeast coast of the modern Dominican Republic.

November-December 1716: Basing out of St. Croix, Bellamy and La Buze take a dozen or more vessels in the vicinity of the Virgin Islands and the Leewards. One of these, the Sultana, is converted to a pirate ship–of which Bellamy is elected commander. His partner, the sometime- goldsmith Palgrave Williams, is elected captain of their old sloop, the Marianne.January 1717: Bellamy and Williams part company with La Buze at Blanquilla off the coast of Venezuela. After refitting at Los Testigos, they return to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands where they rescue a number of French pirates whose ship was sunk by a Royal Navy vessel.

February 1717: Bellamy and Williams take The Whydah Galley off Long Key in the central Bahamas after a three-day chase. On the homeward leg of her triangular slave-trading voyage, the Whydah is carrying 30,000 lbs. sterling–a pirate’s dream come true! The pirates commandeer the vessel, giving the merchant captain and crew their ship, the Sultana.

March 1717: The newly-refitted pirate flagship Whydah takes the richly-laden Tanner Frigate near the coast of Haiti. The pirates turn northward, moving back up the Gulf Stream.

Mid-April 1717: Bellamy and his pirates raid shipping off the Delaware Capes taking a half-dozen inward-bound vessels, and Bellamy reportedly delivers his famed “Free Prince” speech to Simon Beer, a captured merchant captain.

April 26, 1717: Enroute to Cape Elisabeth on the coast of Maine, Bellamy and the Whydah are caught off Cape Cod by a raging storm. The vessel hits a sand bar and capsizes with–legend has it—Goody Hallett witnessing the tragedy from the clifftops. With 144 men aboard, only two are known to have made it ashore alive from the stricken ship. Other vessels in Bellamy’s pirate fleet are likewise wrecked or seriously damaged. A total of nine pirates are apprehended.

October 1717: Eight survivors of Bellamy’s fleet are put on trial for piracy. Two are acquitted; six are found guilty and sentenced to hang on November 15, 1717. The ninth man, an afro- amerindian named John Julian, is believed to have been sold into slavery.


There are 2 articles copied from web sites about Bellamy and the Whydah: ----------------------------------------------------- by Jill Tattersall

Sam Bellamy was a big black-haired, intelligent and popular leader of men, with little respect for authority, whose reputation for being generous to his victims caused him to be remembered as the Prince of Pirates.

In the early 1700s Black Sam left his native Devon to seek his fortune in the West Indies, where he joined the British privateering fleet then at war against the Spaniards. He sailed under Captain Jennings on the sloop Barsheba, based at Port Royal in Jamaica.

When the war ended in 1713, many former privateers became pirates, and it was not long before Sam and his mate Paul Williams decided to 'go on the account'. They were taken aboard the sloop Postillion by Captain Leboose, who was cruising the Caribbean for prey, in company with the well-known pirate Ben Hornigold in the 10 gun sloop Mary Anne.

By May of 1716, Black Sam had become an elected officer of the Postillion. He made a dashing figure in his long deep-cuffed velvet coat, knee breeches, silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes; with a sword slung on his left hip and four pistols in his sash. Unlike some of his fellows, Bellamy never wore the fashionable powdered wig, but grew his dark hair long and tied it back with a black satin bow.

The new pirate gang was soon capturing ships and crews. Leboose took a seaman named John Brown off an English vessel and this man became friendly with Black Sam, and seemed to bring good luck to him. Hornigold suddenly decided to retire, and his 90 man crew made Bellamy captain of the Mary Anne.

Bellamy and Leboose set off for St. Thomas to provision and make enquiries about a secluded place where they could careen their weed-grown ships. Beef Island was reputed to be the haunt of renegades and buccaneers, and when Bellamy realised that the deputy Governor of Tortola was Captain Hall, an old privateering acquaintance from Port Royal and a well-known desperado to boot, he lost no time in sailing up to Trellis Bay where Hall was living at that time.

Captain Hall was encouraging about Black Sam's prospects of preying on the fat cargoes passing almost daily down Sir Francis Drake's Channel, and he recommended that the pirates make their base on Blanco, the tiny islet in Trellis Bay known today as Bellamy Cay.

Black Sam was delighted with Blanco Islet, where an untidy settlement soon sprang up: a muddle of driftwood shacks, makeshift tents and palm frond shelters. Cannon were mounted to command the approaches to the cay, as careening would leave the crews vulnerable for several weeks. While some men cleaned the ships, the rest kept busy barbecuing the Beef Island cows and hogs, and smoking strips of meat to preserve them in the buccaneer fashion. Soon passing fishermen were stopping to trade with the pirates and, according to John Brown who later wrote of his experiences, Blanco Islet became a sort of market even before there was much pirate loot on offer.

When their ships were ready, Bellamy and Leboose began cruising the area looking for victims. Their first was the Sultana, an English man-of-war which Black Sam boldly captured as his flagship, giving the Mary Anne to Paul Williams to command. Their next prize fell into their hands like manna from heaven a merchant ship from Ireland with a cargo of ham, butter, cheese and other much-needed provisions.

While on their way back for a further spell of careening and carousing on Blanco Islet, Bellamy seized the St. Michael as she was passing through the Sir Francis Drake Channel, and put a prize crew of his own men aboard. When the pirates were ready for their next cruising venture they took the St. Michael with them, leaving her original crew marooned on the tiny cay to wait for their return. But Black Sam found the St. Michael too slow and gave the sloop back to her captain, allowing him to leave Trellis Bay at last.

A friend in Virgin Gorda sent Bellamy news of another gang of pirates which had roared into Spanish Town that winter, led by the vicious Charles Martel. Their behaviour inspired a Mr. Hornby to write a complaint to Governor Hamilton about the dealings of unscrupulous Virgin Islanders with such renegades. It is probable that Martel and Black Sam spent that holiday together, as pirate crews took every opportunity to meet and drink in company with their fellows. Another infamous pirate of the day who was in the area and never could resist a wild party was Blackbeard. The hills around Trellis Bay must have echoed with music, raucous shouts and drunken laughter throughout that Christmas of 1716.

In January, Governor Hamilton responded to Hornby's letter by sending Captain Hume in HMS Scarborough to Virgin Gorda with orders to apprehend the offending pirates. While Bellamy and his mates laid low in Trellis Bay, the Scarborough chased Martel to St. Croix, and then was itself driven out of the area by Blackbeard, leaving Bellamy and his men to resume their relentless patrol of the Virgins' Channel.

The Prince of Pirates is said to have taken more than fifty prizes in the Virgin Islands that winter; but he eventually decided it was too dangerous to linger there now that the Navy knew where he was based. He was leaving the Caribbean when his predatory eye fell on the finest ship he had ever seen. He was determined to take her for his own, but because the Whidah was a ship of such quality, Bellamy knew he would need the Devil's luck to capture her.

For three days Black Sam pursued the alluring Whidah. As he slowly gained on her, she fired off her stern guns and Bellamy prayed to the Black Powers that she would not force him to fire back and damage her. The Dark Forces may have heard him, for the 18- gun Whidah mysteriously surrendered without any further struggle still unscathed.

But the devilish luck of the Prince of Pirates was about to change, perhaps because he had left John Brown behind in Trellis Bay. At the end of April, Sam Bellamy set the Whidah on a northeasterly course which sent her straight into dense fog. The cold mist grew even thicker as night fell, and it was raining so hard that nothing could be seen. At midnight on April 26th, Sam Bellamy's pact with the Devil ran out as the increasing turbulence of breaking seas warned too late of danger. The beautiful ship was torn apart and Black Sam and all but two of her crew were drowned in the thundering surf.

These survivors testified at their trial that the Whidah had been carrying three million dollars' worth of gold, silver, jewels and ivory tusks: the plunder taken by her captain during his time in the Caribbean.

Perhaps Black Sam Bellamy's last thoughts when he went down with the Whidah were of the clear warm waters of Trellis Bay, and those triumphant celebrations of his pirate victories on Blanco Islet in the Virgin Islands. -------------------------------------------------------

The Whydah's story begins in London in 1715 when the hundred-foot [31-meter] three-master was launched as a slave ship under the command of Lawrence Prince. Named for the West African port of Ouidah (pronounced WIH-dah) in what is today Benin, the 300-ton [272-metric-ton] vessel was destined for the infamous "triangular trade" connecting England, Africa, and the West Indies. Carrying cloth, liquor, hand tools, and small arms from England, the Whydah's crew would buy and barter for up to 700 slaves in West Africa, then set out with them on three to four weeks of hellish transport to the Caribbean. Once there, the slaves were traded for gold, silver, sugar, indigo, and cinchona, the last being a source of quinine, all of which went back to England.

The Whydah was fast-she was capable of 13 knots-but in February of 1717, on only her second voyage, she was chased down by two pirate vessels, the Sultana and Mary Anne, near the Bahamas. Led by Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy, a raven-haired former English sailor thought to be in his late 20s, the pirates quickly overpowered the Whydah's crew. Bellamy claimed her as his flagship, seized a dozen men from Prince, then let the vanquished captain and his remaining crew take the Sultana.

By early April the pirates were headed north along the east coast, robbing vessels as they went. Their destination was Richmond Island, off the coast of Maine, but they diverted to Cape Cod, where legend says Bellamy wanted to visit his mistress, Maria Hallett, in the town of Eastham near the cape's tip. Others blame the course change on several casks of Madeira wine seized off Nantucket. Whatever the reason, on April 26, 1717, the freebooter navy sailed square into a howling nor'easter.

According to eyewitness accounts, gusts topped 70 miles [113 kilometers] an hour and the seas rose to 30 feet [9 meters]. Bellamy signaled his fleet to deeper water, but it was too late for the treasure-laden Whydah. Trapped in the surf zone within sight of the beach, the boat slammed stern first into a sandbar and began to break apart. When a giant wave rolled her, her cannon fell from their mounts, smashing through overturned decks along with cannonballs and barrels of iron and nails. Finally, as the ship's back broke, she split into bow and stern, and her contents spilled across the ocean floor.

The following morning, as farmers and other locals arrived at the wreck site, more than a hundred mutilated corpses lay at the wrack line with the ship's timbers. To halt looting, colonial governor Samuel Shute sent Cyprian Southack, a cartographer and sea captain, to recover what might be salvaged for the crown. When Southack arrived, he reported "at least 200 men from several places at 20 miles [32 kilometers] distance plundering the Pirate Wreck of what came ashoare [when] she turned bottom up."

Of the Whydah's crew of 146, only two men survived: John Julian, a half-blood Indian who soon vanished, and Thomas Davis, a Welshman who was captured and put on trial in Boston. There he testified that the amount and variety of stolen booty on the Whydah were dizzying, including 180 bags of gold and silver that had been divided equally among the crew and stored in chests between the ship's decks.

After Southack issued public demands for the return of items salvaged from the wreck, the cape's locals handed back some wooden beams, guns, and a few gem-studded rings cut from the fingers of dead pirates. But Southack recovered little of the Whydah's legendary booty. He did, however, note the location of the shipwreck on one of his maps. This map, along with Southack's journals and letters, became Barry Clifford's most valuable tool in his search for the lost treasure. Person ID

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Capt. Samuel Bellamy's Timeline

February 23, 1689
Hittisleigh, Devon, England
Eastham, Barnstable, MA, United States
April 26, 1717
Age 28
Eastham, Barnstable County, Massachusetts