Stede Bonnet


Stede Bonnet, nicknamed the "gentleman's pirate" for his pre-criminal life as a wealthy landowner, was born on the island of Barbados. His father owned a large estate, and after his death in 1694 the property and its assets were bequeathed to Stede. At the age of 21, he married Mary Allamby, who later gave birth to three sons and a daughter. Mary passed away before 1715, but his young children would live to see their father, driven away by the nagging of his wife, abandon them and turn, rather unexpectedly, to a life of piracy.

Despite his lack of experience or knowledge of shipboard life, Bonnet set out in the spring of 1717 to sail the high seas and plunder all those he met. He purchased a ship, equipped it with six guns, and named it the Revenge. Bonnet's initial voyage took him to Virginia, where he captured and plundered four vessels before sailing north to New York and taking two more ships. By August, he had returned to the southern coast and set course for Nassau, an famous pirate den. On the way there, he encountered a Spanish warship, which he finally managed to escape, his ship badly injured and half his crew killed. At Nassau, he refitted the Revenge and replaced his crew.

While at Nassau, Bonnet also met for the first time the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Stede temporarily ceded command of the Revenge to Teach, who attacked several ships before returning to the Caribbean in November. Bonnet regained his ship after some time, but when he and Blackbeard met once more, his crew deserted him for the better pirate, and Stede found himself as a guest aboard Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge while another was put in command of his own ship. The two pirates sailed to Bath, where they received pardons under King George on the grounds that they would renounce piracy in the future. Bonnet remained in Bath and prepared for a new career as a privateer, but by the time he returned to the Revenge, it had been robbed by Blackbeard. With no supplies and few, if any, crewmembers, Bonnet immediately set out to hunt down his enemy, but he ultimately failed, and the two would never meet again. Instead, Bonnet violated his pardon and returned to piracy under the alias "Captain Thomas," his ship renamed the Royal James. In July 1718 he sailed to Delaware Bay, where he plundered eleven ships and took several prisoners.

Bonnet met his end that same year, following the Battle of Cape Fear between himself and the governor of South Carolina. After his arrest, the pirate escaped but was recaptured after an extensive search. He was tried and convicted of two acts of piracy, and on December 10, 1718, he was hanged at White Point, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Key events during the life of Stede Bonnet:

Born into a wealthy family on the island of Barbados.
Inherited the family estate after his father's death.
Married Mary Allamby.
  Served in the militia.
Mary passed away.
Became a pirate.
  Abandoned by his crew when he failed to capture the Protestant Caesar.
Returned to piracy under the alias ‘Captain Thomas.'
  Was captured and hanged.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Greenhorn under the Black Flag  in  Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts  by  Frank R. Stockton

Short Biography
Blackbeard Notorious pirate of the Spanish Main who haunted the Coast of North Carolina and the West Indies.
George I First Hanoverian Monarch of Britain. Entrusted government to Robert Walpole
Anne of England Last of the Stuart queens, lived during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Captain Kidd Experience sailor who eventually became involved in piracy, and is said to have hid his treasure on Long Island.