Stede Bonnet bigraphy, stories - Barbadian pirate

Stede Bonnet : biography

ca. 1688 - 10 December 1718

Stede Bonnet (c. 1688 – 10 December 1718)All dates in this article are in the Old Style form used in Britain and her colonies during Bonnet's life, except that the new year is dated from 1 January. was an early 18th-century Barbadian pirate, sometimes called "The Gentleman Pirate" because he was a moderately wealthy landowner before turning to a life of crime. Bonnet was born into a wealthy English family on the island of Barbados, and inherited the family estate after his father's death in 1694. In 1709, he married Mary Allamby, and engaged in some level of militia service. Because of marital problems, and despite his lack of sailing experience, Bonnet decided to turn to piracy in the summer of 1717. He bought a sailing vessel, named it Revenge, and traveled with his paid crew along the Eastern Seaboard of what is now the United States, capturing other vessels and burning other Barbadian ships.

Bonnet set sail for Nassau, Bahamas, but he was seriously wounded en route during an encounter with a Spanish warship. After arriving in Nassau, Bonnet met Edward Teach, the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Incapable of leading his crew, Bonnet temporarily ceded his ship's command to Blackbeard. Before separating in December 1717, Blackbeard and Bonnet plundered and captured merchant ships along the East Coast. After Bonnet failed to capture the Protestant Caesar, his crew abandoned him to join Blackbeard aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge. Bonnet stayed on Blackbeard's ship as a guest, and did not command a crew again until summer 1718, when he was pardoned by North Carolina governor Charles Eden and received clearance to go privateering against Spanish shipping. Bonnet was tempted to resume his piracy, but did not want to lose his pardon, so he adopted the alias "Captain Thomas" and changed his ship's name to Royal James. He had returned to piracy by July 1718.

In August 1718, Bonnet anchored the Royal James on an estuary of the Cape Fear River to careen and repair the ship. In late August and September, Colonel William Rhett, with the authorisation of South Carolina governor Robert Johnson, led a naval expedition against pirates on the river. Rhett and Bonnet's men fought each other for hours, but the outnumbered pirates ultimately surrendered. Rhett arrested the pirates and brought them to Charleston in early October. Bonnet escaped on 24 October, but was recaptured on Sullivan's Island. On 10 November, Bonnet was brought to trial and charged with two acts of piracy. Judge Nicholas Trott sentenced Bonnet to death. Bonnet wrote to Governor Johnson to ask for clemency, but Johnson endorsed the judge's decision, and Bonnet was hanged in Charleston on 10 December 1718.

Battle of Cape Fear River

By the end of August, news had reached Charleston that Bonnet's vessels were moored in the Cape Fear River. Robert Johnson, governor of South Carolina, authorised Colonel William Rhett to lead a naval expedition against the pirates, even though the Cape Fear River was in North Carolina's jurisdiction. After a false start due to the appearance of another pirate ship near Charleston, Rhett arrived at the mouth of the Cape Fear River on 26 September with two eight-gun sloops and a force of 130 men.Butler (2000), p65. Bonnet initially mistook Rhett's squadron for merchantmen and sent three canoes to capture them.Seitz (2002), p136–137. Unfortunately for Rhett, his flagship Henry had run aground in the river mouth, enabling Bonnet's canoe crews to approach, recognise the heavily armed and manned sloops as hostile and return uninjured to warn Bonnet. The sun had set by the time the rising tide lifted the Henry off the river bottom.Seitz (2002), p137.

The 46 pirates were scattered among the three sloops. During the night, Bonnet brought all of them aboard the Royal James and planned to fight his way out to sea in the morning rather than risk the Cape Fear River's narrow channels in the dark. Bonnet also wrote a letter to Governor Johnson, threatening to burn all the ships in Charleston harbor. At daybreak, on 27 September 1718, Bonnet set sail toward Rhett's force, and all three sloops opened fire, initiating the Battle of Cape Fear River. The two South Carolinian sloops split up in an effort to bracket the Saint James. Bonnet tried to avoid the trap by steering the Saint James close to the river's western shore, but ran aground in the process. Rhett's closing sloops also ran aground, leaving only the Henry in range of the Saint James.Johnson (1724), pp97–99.

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