The Newgate Calendar - Supplement 3

The Newgate Calendar - MAJOR STEDE BONNET.

MAJOR STEDE BONNET.


Wealthy Landowner turned Pirate, Hanged 10th December 1718


            THIS pirate was a gentleman of a considerable fortune in the island of Barbados; it was therefore surprising that he should embark in such a dishonourable and dangerous undertaking. Having formed his resolution, he equipped a small vessel of ten guns and seventy men at his own expense, and in the night commenced his voyage.

            In this vessel, named the Revenge, he sailed for the Cape of Virginia, where he captured several vessels, which he plundered. After several good prizes, he directed his course to Long Island, where he took a sloop bound for the West Indies, and then landed some men at Gardner's Island, paid for whatever provisions were necessary, and retired without doing any injury. His next adventure was the capturing two other vessels.

            The major found no small difficulty in reconciling the different opinions of his crew, on what course they should next steer; being himself no sailor, he was frequently under the necessity of yielding to the erroneous opinion of others. He at last found an accomplished coadjutor in Edward Teach, commonly called Black Beard. To him the major's crew united their fortunes, while he himself went on board Teach's ship, and remained as a private sailor. In this station, Bonnet soon began to reflect upon his past life, and was filled with remorse and shame in consequence of his conduct. This change in his sentiments was discovered by his companions, and he avowed his ardent wish to retire into some foreign country, to spend the remainder of his days in solitude.

            Black Beard some time after surrendered to the royal proclamation, and obtained pardon. The major then assumed the command of his own ships, immediately sailed to Bath Town in North Carolina, and likewise surrendered to his majesty's proclamation.

            The war now commenced between the triple allies and Spain, and Major Bonnet went to the island of St. Thomas, to obtain leave of the emperor to privateer upon the Spaniards. Upon his return, he found that Black Beard had pillaged the great ships of money and arms, and set on shore on a desolate island seventeen of the men; which Bonnet being informed of by two who had escaped, he sent the long-boat to their assistance; so that, after remaining two days without food, and in the prospect of a lingering death, they were all taken on board the major's ships.

            Bonnet then informed his men, that his intention was to take a commission to act against the Spaniards; and that he would take them along with him if they were inclined. To this they all readily complied. Just, however, as they were about to sail, they received intelligence, that Black Beard was not far off, with only eighteen or twenty men. The major pursued, but was too late to apprehend him. Disappointed in their pursuit, they directed their course to Virginia. When off the Capes, they met a vessel, out of which they took twelve barrels of pork, and four hundred weight of bread, and, in return, gave them eight or ten casks of rice, and an old cable. Two days after, he captured a vessel off Cape Henry; in which were several casks of rum, and other articles of which they stood greatly in want.

            Under the name of Captain Thomas, Major Bonnet suddenly resumed his former depredatory courses. Off Cape Henry, he took two ships bound from Virginia to Glasgow, which only supplied them with some hundreds weight of tobacco. The following day he seized one bound to Bermudas, which supplied him with twenty barrels of pork, and in return, gave her two barrels of rice, and a hogshead of molasses. From this ship, two men entered into their service. The next prize was a Virginiaman bound for Glasgow, from which they received nothing of value. In the course of their cruising, several vessels were captured, though of no considerable amount.

            Our pirates next sailed for Cape Fier river, where they waited too long, because their vessel proved leaky, and they could not proceed until she was refitted. A small shallop now afforded the materials for this purpose. Meanwhile, the intelligence was received, that a pirate was discovered with her prizes at no great distance; upon this information, the Council of South Carolina was alarmed, and two vessels were equipped and sent in search of the pirates. After a considerable search, they were discovered, a severe engagement ensued, and Bonnet and his crew were made prisoners. In a short time, however, the major and one Herriot made their escape. This greatly alarmed the inhabitants, lest he should again find means to get a vessel, and wreak his vengeance upon them. Accordingly, one Colonel Rhet was sent in pursuit of him, and a reward of seven hundred pounds offered for his apprehension.

            They were discovered; Herriot was killed upon the spot, the major surrendered, was brought to Charlestown, and, along with several others, was tried, found guilty, and received the sentence of death, which was carried out in Charlestown, 10 December 1718.

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