Nauset and vicinity

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  • ID: I8306
  • Name: Samuel Bellamy
  • Prefix: Captain
  • Name: Black Sam Bellamy
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 1689 in Devonshire, England
  • Death: 26 Apr 1717 in galley Whidah at Eastham, Massachusetts
  • Note:
    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.

    Marriage 1 Maria Hallett b: 1690 in Dangerfield, Cape Cod
    • Married:
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