Famous Pirates

Anne Bonny

1700-1782

An Irish-American woman pirate born to a wealthy family and disowned when she married a small-time pirate, James Bonny, at 16. Anne left James for the pirate, John “Calico Jack” Rackham and posed as a man to join his crew. Anne never commanded a ship but is famous for being one of few female pirates. She and Mary Read both “pleaded the belly” to escape execution. She may have been rescued by her father and remarried, living as a respectable woman to an old age.

 

 

Black Bart (born Bartholomew Roberts)

1682- 1772

A Welsh pirate who commanded several ships, including the Fortune, off the coasts of West Africa and the Americas. He was originally pressed into piracy and accepted nomination of Commander even as he openly expressed his disapproval. Roberts is known for upholding pirate governing articles that he and his crew constructed. One article outlined punishment by death or marooning for a crew member’s involvement in rape of a woman. Unlike most pirates, Roberts preferred drinking tea over rum.

 

 

Black Sam (born Samuel Bellamy, also known as the "Prince of Pirates")

1689- 1717

Bellamy sailed off the eastern coast of North America on the Whydah. Originally part of Benjamin Hornigold and Edward Teach’s (Blackbeard's) crew aboard the Mary Anne, Bellamy rose to captain and soon gained fortune when he captured the ship Whydah, a gigantic slave ship carrying riches on its second leg in the Atlantic. Bellamy attempted to sail the ship back to a lover he left in New England but never made it, sinking off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts during a violent storm.

 

 

Blackbeard (born Edward Teach or Edward Thatch)

1680- 1718

An English Pirate who sailed the Caribbean and Atlantic aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, formerly a French merchant vessel which he captured and outfitted with forty cannons. He turned pirate after serving as a privateer for Britain during the Spanish War of Succession. He was nicknamed for his menacing appearance and large black beard. Rumor has it he adorned his thick beard with hemp wraps and lit matches during battle. Though he was romanticized posthumously in fictional works as barbarous and bloodthirsty, in actuality Blackbeard rejected violence and behaved benevolently toward those he commanded. There is no evidence he ever murdered or even harmed his crew or anyone under his captivity.

 

 

Calico Jack (born Jack Rackham, misspelled Rackum or Rackam)

1682-1720

An English pirate famous for flying a flag of skull and crossed cutlasses and nicknamed for the colorful calico clothing he wore. He is also know for employing two of the only known female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Originally a quartermaster, Rackham took over his ship when Captain Charles Vain failed in an attack against a French Warship mistaken for another vessel. As captain, Rackham mostly pillaged small vessels close to shore. He was captured by Jonathan Barnet, a pirate hunter, in 1720 and hanged to death in Port Royal, Jamaica. 

 

 

Captain William Kidd

1645- 1701

A Scottish-American who captained the Blessed William, sailing the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, and the coast of North America. He was hired by England to catch pirates, but after returning from his voyages, he was, perhaps falsely, charged with piracy himself. When he was first hanged, the noose broke, and he had to be hanged a second time. It is believed that Kidd had so much wealth from his plunder that he buried many of his riches before his death. The act of bringing on board a boy or woman was also punishable by death or marooning which contradicted Calico Jack’s practices.

 

 

Mary Read (also known as Mark Read)

1695-1721

An English woman born illegitimately to a widow who disguised her as a boy after the woman's legitimately born son died, in order to continue receiving money from his paternal grandmother. During military service, still dressing as a boy, Mary served on a ship captured by "Calico" Jack Rackham. She joined his crew and befriended Anne Bonny who eventually learned of her secret. Mary later died in prison. There are no official documents stating a specific cause of death and, although she was supposedly pregnant during her incarceration, there is no record of the burial of her child.

Mary Read and Anne Bonny are documented as the only two women to have been charged with piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy.

 

 

Stede Bonnet (known as the “Gentleman Pirate,” and temporarily as Captain Thomas)

1688-1718

A Barbadian pirate who sailed the American Eastern Seaboard aboard the Revenge. After marital problems in 1717, he used inherited wealth to purchase an armed sloop and turned pirate. His lack of leadership experience led him to give temporary command of his fleet to Blackbeard whom he had met in Nassau, Bahamas.