Samuel Bellamy (c. February 23, 1689 – April 26, 1717), better known as "Black Sam" Bellamy, was an English pirate who operated in the early 18th century. Though his known career as a pirate captain lasted little more than a year, Bellamy and his crew captured more than 50 ships – making him the wealthiest pirate in history – before his death at age 28. Called "Black Sam" in Cape Cod folklore because he eschewed the fashionable powdered wig in favor of tying back his long black hair with a simple band, Bellamy became known for his mercy and generosity toward those he captured on his raids. This reputation earned him another nickname, the "Prince of Pirates". He likened himself to Robin Hood, with his crew calling themselves "Robin Hood's Men."

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Bellamy's Flag

Bellamy was probably the youngest of six known children born to Stephen and Elizabeth Bellamy in the parish of Hittisleigh in Devonshire, England in 1689. Elizabeth died in childbirth and was buried on February 23, 1689, three weeks before her infant son Samuel's baptism on March 18. The future pirate became a sailor at a young age and traveled to Cape Cod, where, according to local lore, he took up an affair with a local girl named Maria Hallett—the "Witch of Wellfleet".

He soon left Cape Cod—allegedly to support Hallett—by salvaging treasure from the Spanish Plate Fleet sunk off the coast of Florida, accompanied by his friend and financier Paul (or Palgrave, Paulgrave, Paulsgrave) Williams. The treasure hunters apparently met with little success, as they soon turned to piracy in the crew of pirate captain Benjamin Hornigold, who commanded the Mary Anne (or Marianne) with his first mate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach.

In the summer of 1716, the crew became irritated by Hornigold's unwillingness to attack ships of England, his home country. Hornigold was deposed as captain of the Mary Anne, and the crew elected Bellamy in his place.

Upon capturing a second ship, the Sultana, Bellamy assigned his friend Paul Williams as captain of the Mary Anne and made the Sultana his flagship. However, Bellamy's greatest capture was to come in the spring of 1717, when he and his crew chased down and boarded the Whydah Gally (pronounced "WIH-duh"). The Whydah, a 300-ton English slave ship, had just finished the second leg of the Atlantic slave trade on its second voyage and was loaded with a fortune in gold and precious trade goods. True to his reputation for generosity, Bellamy gave the Sultana to Captain Lawrence Prince of the captured Whydah, and, outfitting his new flagship as a 28-gun raiding vessel (upgraded from its original 18 guns), set sail northwards along the eastern coast of New England.

Bellamy was well-known to his contemporaries and to later chroniclers, and was a distinctive figure, even among pirates. Pirate recruitment was most effective among the unemployed, escaped bondsmen, and transported criminals. The high seas made for an instant levelling of class distinctions.

Just two months after acquiring the Whydah, as she and the Mary Anne approached Cape Cod, Williams told Bellamy that he wished to visit his family in Rhode Island, and the two agreed to meet again near Maine.


The location of the wrecked Whydah Gally in Cape Cod

If Bellamy intended to revisit his lover Maria Hallett, he failed. The Whydah was swept up in a violent Nor'easter storm off Cape Cod at midnight, and was driven onto the sand bar shoals in 16 feet of water some 500 feet from the coast of what is now Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At 15 minutes past midnight, the masts snapped and drew the heavily-loaded ship into 30 feet of water where she capsized and quickly sank, taking Bellamy and all but two of the Whydah's 145-man crew with her.
One hundred and three bodies were known to have washed ashore and were buried by the town coroner, leaving 43 bodies unaccounted for. The Mary Anne was also wrecked that night several miles south of the Whydah, leaving seven more survivors. All nine survivors from the two ships were captured and prosecuted for piracy in Boston, and six were hanged in October 1717 (King George's pardon of all pirates, issued the previous month in September, having arrived in Boston three weeks too late). Two were set free, the court believing their testimony that they had been forced into piracy. The last, a Native American from the Miskito tribe in Central America, John Julian, is believed to have been sold into slavery to John Adams, Sr., the father of U.S. President John Adams and grandfather of U.S. President John Quincy Adams.