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Black Sam Bellamy

Born: ?  Died: 1717

Samuel Bellamy - also called Black Sam Bellamy - was known as the "Pirate Prince," supposedly because he was unusually generous to his victims. Once he even returned a stolen ship that wasn't fast enough for his needs. But as one might expect, Black Sam Bellamy's early days are shrouded in mystery. It's believed that he grew up in Devonshire, England, then, in the early 1700s, sought a fortune in the New World by joining the British privateering fleet that preyed on treasure-heavy vessels headed back to Spain.

By 1715, he was living on Cape Cod. That summer a ferocious hurricane in the Caribbean sent as many as a dozen Spanish treasure galleons to the ocean bottom. Bellamy, like others who knew how much gold and jewels these ships carried, saw a chance to get rich quick. He convinced a local goldsmith named Palgrave Williams to finance the purchase and the outfitting of a ship that could be used to search for wrecked gold. They didn't have much luck, but while hanging around the Bahamas, they decided to pursue what most other men there pursued. They went "on the account," which is a nice way of saying they joined a pirate crew.

Bellamy clearly had leadership qualities. Soon he was elected captain of a sloop named the Postillion, and then moved up to head the crew of the Mary Anne. Bellamy apparently looked the part, too. He's been described as something of a dashing figure, a man who wore four pistols in the sash over his velvet coat. He grew his dark hair long and tied it with a black bow. No powdered wig for Black Sam.

He and small fleet were so bold and so lucky that they reportedly looted 50 ships in the Caribbean in a little more than a year. The biggest prize, of course, was the Whydah, with its cargo of ivory, indigo, sugar, gold bars and thousands of Spanish silver coins. No one is sure why Bellamy and his five ships left the pirate treasureland of the Caribbean for New England. Some historians have suggested that he knew that he was a marked man around the West Indies and sought safer waters. Others point to more personal reasons. Bellamy's long-time partner, Palgrave Williams, wanted to visit his family on Block Island near Cape Cod, and it could be that Black Sam figured he'd take the opportunity to visit his lover, a Cape Cod woman named Maria Hallet.

Whatever the reason, soon after Williams' vessel peeled off from the others, the fleet was hammered by a fierce storm with blinding rain and winds of 70 mph. On April 26, 1717, two of the ships, the Whydah and the Mary Anne, ran aground. Only two of the 146 men on the Whydah made it to shore. Black Sam Bellamy didn't.