Samuel Bellamy also known as Black Sam was one of the most successful pirates in the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy. Unfortunately, the greatest pirate treasure of all time went down with him 300 years ago.
The legend of Black Sam
The people of Cape Cod, on the Atlantic coast of southeastern Massachusetts, still repeat this painful love story. It is about Samuel Bellamy, an incredibly handsome young man who wanted to marry Maria Hallet, the love of his life. Her parents, however, were against her marrying a simple sailor.
So Samuel told his beloved that he would sail to the Caribbean and return only as a rich man. “Black Sam” Bellamy then became the most successful pirate of all time.
He had earned a huge fortune in just one year and set out to return to his sweetheart, who was still waiting for him.
But his ship, the “Whydah“, is caught in a violent storm just a few meters from the coast. Maria is informed of the incident and rushes to the shore. She watched helplessly as her rich, handsome boyfriend fell into the tumultuous tidal waters before her eyes. Samuel Bellamy sank with his boat and his immense treasure.
The origin of Sam Bellamy
Samuel Bellamy was born on February 23, 1689, in modest circumstances in the parish of Hittisleigh, Devonshire in southern England, according to historical records. At an early age Samuel Bellamy joined the Royal Navy and participated in many naval battles. This experience made him an excellent sailor.
Although there is no historical record of this, it is said that he left for the New World in search of wealth, leaving his wife and children in England.
Samuel Bellamy’s first steps in the New World
In 1715, Bellamy was on Cape Cod where he met Maria Hallet, with whom he fell sneezily in love. Maria was also known as the Witch of Eastham. It is difficult to know with certainty how old she was, between 16 and 25 years old according to some accounts.
Unfortunately for the two lovers, Maria’s parents did not approve of the relationship, seeing Samuel Bellamy as a simple, broke sailor.
Motivated to get rich and marry her, Black Sam left with some men and Palgraves Williams to search for the treasure of the Spanish wreck that had just run aground along the Florida coast.
After his departure Maria Hallet learned that she was pregnant with Bellamy. She gave birth to their son and hid him in a barn.
The baby did not survive, she was then accused of murdering the child and imprisoned in the old Barnstable prison. For the record, this prison is the oldest in the United States and is said to be haunted by Maria today. After serving her sentence, Maria would have been banished from the city, she took refuge in Eastham to wait for her beloved.
Beginning in piracy with Benjamin Hornigold before becoming captain
After many failures with the wrecks in Florida, Samuel Bellamy and his crew decided to go to the Caribbean to become pirates. Sam signed on with Nassau pirate leader Benjamin Hornigold in 1716 at the helm of the Marianne, the same year that the famous Edward “Blackbeard” Teach sailed with him as first mate.
As a former privateer, Hornigold adamantly refused to board English ships, which led to a mutiny among his crew.
The pirates of the Marianne dismissed Benjamin Hornigold and his loyal followers including Edward Teach. They left the ship in the summer of 1716 and Samuel Bellamy was elected as the new captain of the 90 remaining buccaneers.
He soon became the legendary “Black Sam” because of his long black hair, which he wore loosely braided. He was a very talented pirate captain because of his seamanship and expertise.
Black Sam’s gold rush with the capture of the Whydah
Success finally came to Samuel Bellamy, in command of his own pirate crew and his own skull and crossbones Jolly Roger, he captured a second ship, the “Sultana”. After the agreement of his men, Black Sam transformed this ship into a galley and took the helm to appoint his faithful friend Palsgrave Williams to the helm of the Marianne. During this period, he also sailed with the famous Olivier Levasseur.
In the spring of 1717, came his greatest catch, after a furious three-day chase, the pirates boarded the fast three-masted “Whydah” and took it under their control.
The former slave ship, ultra modern and very powerful with its 18 cannons, was then transformed into the flagship of Samuel Bellamy. On board this English ship, enormous wealth from the sale of slaves was found, gold, ivory, indigo and much more.
True to his reputation as the Prince of Pirates and his generosity, Bellamy left the Sultana to the men of the Whydah and their captain Lawrence Prince. During this exchange, he took the opportunity to equip the Whydah with 28 cannons, which made the ship a real war machine.
Samuel Bellamy a pirate captain apart
His crew was made up of people from all over the world: British, Irish, Scots, Welsh, former slaves from the colonies of the time and even Swedes. As elected captain, Black Bellamy led the small fleet of ships that had been built up over 53 raids.
Witnesses say that on board, a democracy reigned supreme, with pirates having the ability to not only challenge, but overrule the captain’s choices.
Samuel Bellamy was a valued leader and motivator. He cared about his crew and even his prisoners. He was a pirate captain who advocated non-violent boarding.
It is hardly surprising that pirates proudly called themselves “Robin Hood’s Men”, Samuel Bellamy being nicknamed the Robin Hood of the Sea or “Prince of Pirates”.
Black Sam is said to have uttered this phrase:
They condemn us, those scoundrels, while the only difference between us is that they rob the poor with the law, and we rob the rich armed only with our courage
The survivors of the great storm of April 1717 later testified in court that Bellamy never drew attention to himself by his brutality, even against his opponents, and that he always convinced them by his professionalism.
A tragic end for the Prince of Pirates
A few months after his capture of the Whydah and rich as many plunderings, Samuel Bellamy undertook a return to Cape Cod to find Maria Hallet.
However, a catastrophic storm in the spring of 1717 cut short the illustrious career of the “Robin Hood of the Seas”. The “Whydah” ran aground on a sandbar just 150 yards off the coast of Cape Cod on the night of April 26, 1717, far too laden with gold, silver, gems, ivory and indigo from over 53 raids.
The majestic three-masted ship capsized, the mainsail broke and the stern crashed under the effect of ten meter high waves. The “Whydah” sank forever in the middle of the fierce storm, with Black Sam Bellamy, his famous treasure and 146 sailors. He left his mark on the history of piracy.
Only two men on board, ship’s carpenter Thomas Davis and helmsman John Julian, survived. Not far away, another ship in Samuel Bellamy’s fleet sank, leaving seven other survivors.
While Davis and another pirate were acquitted in the subsequent trial because they could convincingly claim that the piracy was forced upon them, the Indian Julian was sold into slavery.
The other six pirates in Bellamy’s crew were killed in Boston on November 15, 1717. Pirate Peter Hofer testified at their trial on October 18, 1717 that the booty aboard the “Whydah” was so large that “each man should receive a 50-pound sack.”
Samuel Bellamy’s wreck contains a priceless treasure
According to the survivor Hofer, there were 180 men on board at the time of the count and 50 pounds for each member, or 23 kg of the loot each.
According to Robert Cahill of the Massachusetts Underwater Archaeology Authority (BUAR), the treasure is worth over $400 million today. This would make it the largest pirate loot ever discovered, according to experts.
Thus, Black Sam Bellamy would have had more success in a single year than his far more famous fellow pirates, Sir Francis Drake and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, combined.
Discovery of the Black Sam wreck by Barry Clifford
A pirate story that Bill Clifford kept telling his nephew Barry Clifford as a child. The treasure, however, was still there, according to the uncle’s account at the time. Barry Clifford couldn’t get the story out of his head for 30 years, especially the rumor of the treasure still at the bottom of the ocean.
A priceless sum that convinced the diver and adventurer Barry Clifford that the hunt for the wreck of the “Whydah” was worthwhile. So he dug into the archives, searching for nautical charts and comments from witnesses of the time.
In the process, he came across the notes of cartographer Cyprian Southack, who had been tasked by the government of the day to secure the ship and everything on board, but to no avail, according to the letters.
Barry Clifford therefore tried his luck in the dangerous waters near Cape Cod, on the other hand, were teeming with wrecks, with experts estimating that there were between 3000 and 6000. Nevertheless, in July 1984, he discovered the wreck of the “Whydah” buried under 4 m of water and 1.5 m of sand.
In 1985, Barry Clifford raised the bell of the Whydah with the inscription “The Whydah Gally 1716” from the water. Numerous artifacts followed, including a cannon filled with gold and precious stones.
Even today, work continues under these difficult conditions. In the meantime, Clifford founded the “Whydah Pirate Museum” in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, housing more than 200,000 relics from the wreck of Samuel Bellamy.
Articles that may interest you :