The Robin Hood of the Sea

Born to English parents in the late 17th century, Samuel Bellamy is recognized nowadays as one of the most romantic pirate figures ever known. His career at sea started when he joined the Royal Navy at an early age; but soon free of any military duty, he headed to Cape Cod (now Massachusetts) where he fell in love with a local girl named Maria Hallett.

Nonetheless, Maria’s parents did not consider their union seriously since the 24-year-old sailor was quite poor and had not achieved anything in life yet. So the following year, in 1716, a devastated Sam Bellamy went back to sea, with the first aim of hunting for sunken treasures, without success. Eventually he turned to piracy, probably planning on coming back to Cape Cod with enough riches to find his way to Maria’s heart…

In the meantime, Maria had given birth to his child in a barn, where the unwanted newborn died from suffocating in the straw. She was arrested and put into jail at Barnstable Gaol, the oldest wooden prison of the US and apparently one of the most haunted.

Let’s come back to the inconsolable lover, Samuel Bellamy, who at the time was about to start his pirate career… This is where the story of “Black Sam” begins. He joined the English pirate Benjamin Hornigold’s crew, and met aboard an ambitious man named Edward Teach (whose name may sound familiar to you; he would later gain worldwide fame as “Blackbeard”).

PRIZE
“Black Sam” and his crew. (Source: Whydah Pirate Museum)

There, waiting for his time to come, Sam was rising to power. A mutiny broke out in June, leading to the departure of Hornigold as well as Teach (among other crew members) and shifting powers to Bellamy. Now at the command of about a hundred men, he made one of the biggest catches in the history of piracy: he captured the Whydah Gally, an English ship stuffed with gold, silver, ivory and other precious materials earned from the triangular trade. Finally, his luck had turned!

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Hoist your colours! Black Sam’s flag (Source: WarX via Wikimedia)

At the time, was Maria still thinking about him? She had been released from jail but was not allowed to remain in her hometown, so she settled ten miles away in the village of Wellfleet. Legend holds that she would visit the shores every night, hoping that Sam would make his way back to her and appear at the sea horizon…

But Samuel Bellamy had a busy year, robbing and capturing more than 50 ships. He was nicknamed “the Robin Hood of the Sea” thanks to his generosity and clemency towards his enemies, as well as the fact he always considers his crew’s views. Once aboard a vessel owned by merchants he had just taken on, he said to their captain: “they [rich men] rob the poor under the cover of law, forsooth, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage. Had you not better make then one of us, than sneak after these villains for employment?”

In April 1717, her holds full of money, Bellamy’s ship sailed back to New England and the place where the captain, once a poor sailor, had left his pregnant lover. At the height of his glory, it was about time to go and seek Maria…

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So close, yet so far… (Source: Pirates & Privateers)

But a violent storm suddenly turned the boat upside down and broke it apart off Cape Cod.

This event, which took 145 lives from the pirates, including Sam’s, is said to have been witnessed by Maria from the shores. Since then, she was better known as “the Witch of Wellfleet”.

The wreck would only be discovered in the 1980’s and this shed light on the adventures of Samuel Bellamy, the Robin Hood of the Sea, who had gathered a fortune in loots worth $120 million but couldn’t win the heart of his true love.

 


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