Infamous Pirates > Samuel Bellamy

Samuel Bellamy

Chapter Decoration

Background

Sam Bellamy (23 February 1689 – 26 April 1717), also known as 'Black Sam' Bellamy was an infamous pirate that pirated for a little more than a year in the West Indies and elsewhere. He is famous for being one of the original members of the Flying Gang and launching the careers of some of the most infamous pirates of all time. Sam Bellamy is regarded as the most successful pirate in recorded history at over $130 million in plundered loot, with him an his crew capturing more than 53 ships in the short span of his career.

Samuel Bellamy - Samuel Bellamy (1888 Pirates of the Spanish Main Trading Card)

Samuel Bellamy - Pirates of the Spanish Main (1888)

Sam Bellamy was a tall, strong and well mannered man who like expensive and flashy clothes like most other pirates. He usually carried four dueling pistols in his sash and he had an early version of the pirate code and his ship was considering very democratic. He usually pirated with two ships, one heavily armed and another smaller one that he could maneuver to block ships and easily take them over. His coordinated and balanced attacks allowed him to take ships intact and with most of their cargo.

Samuel Bellamy - The Urca de Lima (William Trotter)

The Urca de Lima - William Trotter

After arriving in the Caribbean in 1715 to try and salvage treasure from the Spanish Treasure Fleet along with Henry Jennings and Charles Vane that sunk off the coast in Florida, Bellamy soon turned to piracy to help fund his new life.

Samuel Bellamy - 1715 Treasure Fleet Map

1715 Sunken Treasure Fleet Map

Soon he partnered with pirates Benjamin Hornigold and his first mate Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach's aboard the Marianne. Near the summer of 1716 Hornigold's crew became annoyed he would not attack ships from England and was deposed from his captaincy along with Teach. Sam Bellamy was left in charge of the remaining 90 man crew.

Samuel Bellamy - Black Sam Bellamy Pirate Flag

Samuel Bellamy Pirate Flag

After captaining the Marianne around for a while Bellamy came upon the Sultana Galley, and after capturing it made his friend Palsgrave Williams the commander of the Marianne while he made the Sultana his flagship. Bellamy was to get another ship upgrade in the spring of 1717 as his crew chased and captured the treasure laden Whydah, pronounced WID-uh. The Whydah was a state of the art ship built in 1715 in England that was 300-tons, 102 feet long and loaded with 18 cannons.

The Whydah was built as a slaving ship, making the trip around the Atlantic at 13 knots. It was on its maiden voyage in 1716 when they had just finished the second leg of the Triangular Trade, dropping 500 slaves off in the Caribbean and picking up boatloads of gold, treasure and goods to return to England with. After capturing the ship, Bellamy stayed true to his reputation as the 'Robin Hood of the Seas' and actually traded the Sultana to Captain Lawrence Prince for the Whydah.

After making a few modifications to the ship including removing the captains quarters and aiding 10 more cannons, Bellamy and his crew started pirating the coast of the British colonies in North America. In Captain Charles Johnson's primary source document, A General History of Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, he recalls the story of the Whydah taking over a ship captained by Captain Beer. Bellamy wanted to let the captain keep his ship, however the captain declined to join the pirates and his crew had voted to burn it. Bellamy then went on to say:

"I am sorry they won't let you have your sloop again, for I scorn to do any one a mischief, when it is not to my advantage; damn the sloop, we must sink her, and she might be of use to you. 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 knavery; but damn ye altogether: damn them 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 only this difference, they rob the poor under the cover of law, forsooth, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage. Had you not better make then one of us, than sneak after these villains for employment?"

[Beer replied that his conscience would not let him break the laws of God and man, and Bellamy continued]

"You are a devilish conscience rascal! I am a free prince, and I have as much authority to make war on the whole world as he who has a hundred sail of ships at sea and an army of 100,000 men in the field; and this my conscience tells me! But there is no arguing with such snivelling puppies, who allow superiors to kick them about deck at pleasure."

- A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724)

Shipwreck & Death

Just two months after Bellamy captured the Whydah he made plans to continue pirating around the Northeast coast of the Atlantic while he was waiting to meet up with another pirate in his crew. However, around midnight on April 26th, 1717 Bellamy and his crew were caught in a violent Nor'easter storm off the coast of Cape Cod and smashed into a sandbar shoals.

Samuel Bellamy - Whydah Shipwreck Map

Whydah Wreck Map - The Whydah Museum

Next the ship was caught by waves that destroyed the masts and pulled the treasure laden ship into high waters where she capsized and sunk. The ship took all of the 145 man crew including Bellamy except two down to Davy Jones Locker where the ship rested until it was discovered in the late 1980's by a dive crew. More than one hundred bodies washed ashore in the counting days and were buried near the town of Wellfleet in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. One of the men was a former slave named John Julian who was jailed briefly and then sold into slavery while Thomas Davis the only other survived crewman went on to pass down his account of the shipwreck, the only authentic one known.

Legacy

Its unfortunate we never got to see much more of Samuel Bellamy as he was clearly a competent and capable pirate and perished right as he was starting to peak. However, due to having such a fully laden ship he sealed his own fate and was not able to continue his career. If he had sold the treasure and not carried such a heavy cargo the ship would have easily survived the journey.

The third richest pirate according to contemporary research with an estimated haul of $120 million, Samuel Bellamy's greatest legacy is in the group of pirates that he helped train, the Flying Gang. These pirates including Benjamin Hornigold and Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach's who would go on to become the great outlaw pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Post Spanish Succession Period.

The Flying Gang

Sources

Primary Sources

Johnson, C. (1728). A General History of the Pyrates (2nd Ed., Volume II). London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Johnson, C. (1728). A General History of the Pyrates (2nd Ed., Volume II) - Of Captain Bellamy. London, Great Britain: T. Warner.

Secondary Sources