Special Report

The Most Infamous Pirates in History

Source: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Calico Jack
> Lifespan: 1682-1720

John Rackham, or Calico Jack, was a quartermaster for Charles Vane. He is known for instigating a vote that unseated Vane as ship captain for cowardice, and then taking over Vane’s crew and ship. After many successful acts of piracy in the Caribbean, Calico Jack was captured by an English privateer and hanged.

Source: Engraved by Benjamin Cole (1695–1766), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts
> Lifespan: 1682-1722

Known as the most successful pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Bart is said to have captured 400 ships during his career, working the Atlantic Ocean from the western coast of Africa to Newfoundland to Brazil. He was killed in a battle with the Royal Navy ship HMS Swallow, and his crew dutifully gave him a sea burial so that his body wouldn’t fall into the hands of the authorities.

Source: Allen & Ginter, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stede Bonnet
> Lifespan: 1688-1719

Also known as the Gentleman Pirate, Stede Bonnet was the son of a wealthy landowner on Barbados. He inherited his family’s estate at age 6 when his father died. Possibly bored with his privileged married life, he decided to seek adventure on the seas and funded a ship and crew, attacking vessels along the east coast of North America and briefly teaming up with Blackbeard before being tried and hanged in Charles Town, South Carolina.

Source: Allen & Ginter, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Samuel Bellamy
> Lifespan: 1689-1717

Also known as Black Sam and the Prince of Pirates, Samuel Bellamy was famously merciful toward the sailors on ships he captured. Black Sam was elected captain of Benjamin Hornigold’s ship after Hornigold was deposed by the crew. He proceeded to capture dozens of ships including the impressive British slave ship Whydah Galley. Bellamy’s life ended early when the Galley sank in a storm off the coast of Cape Cod.

Source: Allen & Ginter, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Howell Davis
> Lifespan: 1690-1719

Howell Davis was a sailor who decided to join the pirates who captured a slave ship he was working on. During his 11-month career, he managed to charm authorities into thinking he was a privateer, allowing him to loot at will and even kidnap the commander of a Gambian fort, for whom he received a large ransom. Davis was shot dead while trying to kidnap the governor of the Portuguese island of Príncipe.