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Black Sam Bellamy and the Whydah

Updated on September 12, 2012
Black Sam Bellamy - the Prince of Pirates.
Black Sam Bellamy - the Prince of Pirates. | Source

Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy was a pirate captain for only about a year, but in that short time he became one of history's most successful pirates. According to Forbes Magazine, Bellamy was the top-earning pirate of all-time, having plundered over $120 mllion in today's dollars.

Centuries later, in 1984, Bellamy again gained fame when the wreck of his ship, the Whydah, was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Prince of Pirates

Bellamy gained the nickname "Black Sam" because, rather than wear a powdered wig, as was common at the time, he chose to display his own long, back hair. Because he also showed mercy toward his prisoners, and was often actually quite generous with them, he also became known as the "Prince of Pirates".

Cape Cod and Maria Hallett

Born in England in the late 1600s, Sam Bellamy moved to Cape Cod as a teenager, where he fell in love with a girl named Maria Hallett, from Eastham, Massachusetts. In 1715, Bellamy heard of a Spanish fleet that had sunk off the coast of Florida. Supposedly to aquire enough wealth to support Hallett, Bellamy went to Florida and attempted to salvage treasure from the sunken ships.

Unfortunately, most of the treasure was gone by the time Bellamy arrived. He discovered that there was money to be made in piracy, however, and was soon serving under the pirate captain Benjamin Hornigold, alongside first mate (and future pirate captain) Edward "Blackbeard" Teach.

Bellamy Becomes Captain

By the summer of 1716, the ambitious Bellamy had replaced Hornigold as captain of his ship, the Mary Anne. He soon had a second ship, the Sultana, under his command. For the remainder of 1716, and into the early months of 1717, Bellamy, with his two-ship fleet, successfully plundered a number of ships in the Caribbean, amassing a great deal of wealth.

Capture of the Whydah

In the spring of 1717, Bellamy captured the Whydah, a 300-ton English ship used in the slave trade. The ship contained a fortune in silver, gold, ivory and other valuables, making it the greatest capture of Bellamy's career. He increased the number of guns on the ship to 28 (from the 18 it had been equipped with), and made the Whydah the flagship of his fleet.

In April, 1717, Bellamy made the decision to sail northward to Cape Cod. Some speculate that, because he was now extraordinarily wealthy, Bellamy had decided it was time to return to his love, Maria Hallett.

A markerMarconi Point -
Marconi Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet, MA 02667, USA
get directions

In 1984, the Whydah was discovered a quarter-mile off-shore from Marconi Point, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Sinking of the Whydah

Upon reaching Cape Cod, Bellamy encountered a violent storm. The date is unclear, but on the night of either April 26 or May 17, 1717, the Whydah sank off the coast of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. All of her crew, including Bellamy, were drowned, save for two crewmembers who made it to shore. Seven men from one of Bellamy's other ships also survived. Of the nine survivors, six were hanged for piracy, two were acquitted, and one was sold into slavery.

According to some legends, the ghost of Maria Hallett still roams the cliffs of Wellfleet, waiting for Sam Bellamy's return.

Recovery of the Whydah

In 1984, the Whydah was discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford. It was the first positively identified pirate ship ever discovered, and the artifacts, many of which are on display at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, MA, have added tremendously to our understanding of how pirates actually lived during the "Golden Age of Piracy".


References

  • Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Orlando, Florida: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008.
  • Age of Pirates, Pirate Encyclopedia. Captain 'Black Sam' Bellamy. http://ageofpirates.com/article.php?Captain_Black_Sam_Bellamy
  • Taylor, Kathryn, writer. The Pirate Code: Real Pirates. National Geographic, 2008. DVD.


Comments

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    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      Again, your artwork is amazing , Glen. It is so stylish and intense. Any publisher who is looking for a great illustrator would be lucky to hire you! Interesting article, too!

      HubHugs~

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks for those recommendations, Marntzu. I'll check them out.

    • profile image

      Marntzu 5 years ago

      good resource for you are the books Under The Black Flag by David Cordingly & Raiders And Rebels by Frank Sherry. Both are very good accounts of the golden age of piracy. The 2nd book was written by the curator of the British naval history museum and is very well written.

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Patrice, you're correct, there were black pirates. I know some of them were members of Sam Bellamy's crew, but I don't know much beyond that. It would be an interesting subject to reseach, though.

      Thanks for the comments. To answer your question, I did create the artwork.

    • profile image

      PWalker281 5 years ago

      I enjoy stories about pirates as well, although, based on your title, I was sure this one was African-American :-). Oh well ... there were black pirates about. I used to have a book about them, but I don't know what happened to it (sigh). Voted up and interesting.

      P.S. Is that you art work, Glen??

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Marntzu and iantoPF, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's nice to find other people who are also interested in history.

    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 5 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Voted up and interesting. As a bit of a history buff myself I enjoy these snippets from the past. Thank you for a well written and informative piece.

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      dmop, I didn't know about the history of the word mullet. Thanks for that interesting historical fact.

    • profile image

      Marntzu 5 years ago

      Love stories about pirate history. voted up and interesting.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Very good information you have presented here. It reminded me of the story behind the word mullet. As the poor couldn't afford the fancy wigs of the wealthy they grew their hair in similar fashion and became known as mullet heads. Voted up and interesting.

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