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  • Writer's pictureLuAnn Hooper

True Facts About Pirates

“The Golden Age of Pirates” was the period between 1650 and 1720, when these seafaring pirates saw the height of their fame.

Blackbeard, Edward Teach, was the most notorious and the most feared pirate. He was best known for his fierce image and his daring acts throughout the West Indies along the North American East Coast. His daring acts, which he committed both on land and sea, has been the inspiration for many depictions of pirates throughout history. Unfortunately, he met his fate on November 21st, 1718, while engaging in a bloody fight with Lt. Robert Maynard on board Maynard’s Ship, The “Ranger” in Ocracoke Inlet.

Samuel Bellamy, the “Robin Hood of the Sea”, saw piracy as a way for the socially disadvantaged to empower and enrich themselves. While robbing the rich to free the underclass, there is no record of Bellamy or his crew killing or holding anyone captured while gathering booty to boost their own fortunes. Bellamy, also known as “Black Sam,” became the wealthiest pirate in history, accumulating wealth equivalent to $120 million in today’s money! It’s believed that Black Sam Bellamy and his crew perished off the coast of Cape Cod when his final ship Whydah, shipwrecked.

Major Stede Bonnet, who was better known as the “Gentleman Pirate,” left his life of luxury and began his piratical career in 1717. He gave up his gentleman lifestyle, bought a sloop (The Revenge), hired a seventy-man crew, and set sail! He teamed up with Blackbeard for a brief time before his capture in 1718 in Charleston, SC. After his hanging, his body was buried in the marsh below the low water mark in Charleston.

There were also women pirates! America’s first female pirate was Rachel Wall. A young runaway that found her way to piracy in 1781. Rachel was accused of highway robbery and was hanged on The Boston Common on October 8, 1789. Several other women from around the world made their debut as women of the sea. France’s Jeanne de Clisson, England’s Mary Read, and Ireland’s Grace O’Malley, and Anne Bonny to name a few! However, the most powerful and feared female Pirate was Madame Ching Shih from China. She and her husband Zhengli had a fleet of more than three hundred Ships! She ended her career in 1810 when the Chinese Government promised amnesty if she gave up piracy. She died in 1844 at the age of sixty-nine.

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Sources:

Rankin, Hugh F. The Pirates of Colonial North Carolina. North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1960 Crawford, Amy. “The Gentleman Pirate.” Smithsonian Magazine. 2007 July 31. The Gentleman Pirate | History | Smithsonian Magazine “Black Sam Bellamy, the Pirate Who Fought Smart, Harmed Few, Scored Big.” New England Historical Society. 2017 April 7.

Black Sam Bellamy, The Pirate Who Fought Smart, Harmed Few, Scored Big - New England Historical Society Eldridge, Alison. "Swashbuckling Sisters: 6 Lady Pirates". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Sep. 2014.

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