Mobirise

Who is Major Stede Bonnet? 

The most misunderstood pirate of the caribbean.

Born in Barbados

Born in 1688 in the Parish of St. Michael. Barbados, Stede Bonnet lost his father at the age of 6 and his mother shortly after, leaving him to lead and raise his sisters. A relative helped to look after the children until Bonnet was old enough to manage the affairs.  

The Life of a Planter

Being a planter came with some priviledges and in the 1600's this would have meant that the plantation was mainly worked by endentured servants and slaves. But the Bonnet plantation (later called Upton) was not a vast country estate. The Bonnet's would have to connect with the right people to get ahead. 

A Few Men Very Rich

Bonnet was not the weathiest planter on the island, far from it. An excerpt from the report on Sugar-Plantations to the House of Commons in 1691 confirmed that the sugar business in Barbados "only makes a few Men very rich, and other Planters very poor;" The Bonnet's though owning a plantation on the island of Barbados were more than likely "other Planters." Something needed to change.

Tragedy

Stede and his young wife Mary lose their first born son Allamby, at the age of 3. This was devastating to the young couple. It is believed that this was another critical loss that set Stede to change his path in life. Bonnet set his mind to work, but something else was burning deep inside. 

Becoming a Major

As a Planter, Stede Bonnet would have been given a rank in Her Magesty's Army. Armed combat training, drills, uniforms, along with lessons on proper conduct would have been provided to him. Though there are many ranks in HM Army, Bonnet was promoted/placed in the rank of Major likely with some level of identified leadership qualities, and based on the demeanor of his decendants, we would add seriousness and intensity. This image depicts the military dress circa 1687. This no doubt influenced Bonnet's attire and choice of weapons on the high seas. It would have been in Bonnet's best interest to help keep the peace on the island. Major Stede Bonnet was sworn in as Justice of the Peace January 24, 1716. A model citizen and keeper of the peace.     

Going on the Account

Early 1717 Major Stede Bonnet sought out and purchased a Sloop. He then outfitted this sloop called the Revenge with 10 cannons and he hired a full crew. Unlike most crews, this crew was recorded as have been paid instead of just setting off with the hopes of plunder. From April 1717 until September 1718 Major Stede Bonnet and his crew terrorized the Caribbean & Atlantic shores. 

Success

Major Stede Bonnet was a successful Pirate. Many pirate "experts" paint Bonnet in a negative light, ignorant, and unfit to be a pirate captain. However, the record is clear. From April 1717 unti August 1717 Major Stede Bonnet was captain of the Revenge while they terrorized the Virginia Capes and coast of the Carolinas. They captured and plundered. The full list of reported prizes can be found here.     

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Blackbeard

After early success Major Bonnet & crew headed to the caribbean. There they tangled with a ship much larger and more powerful, a spanish man-of-war looking for a fight. The Spanard mangled the Revenge and her captain while claiming a few of the lives of her crew. They retreated to a known safe haven of the Bahamas to refit and recover, and to no doubt replace the much needed crew. They got an upgrade, which would later become a mistake. Edward Thatch known as "Blackbeard" agreed to come aboard and co-captain the Revenge while Bonnet healed. Dispite other stories, Bonnet was not diposed and replaced. Had that been the case, he would have been left in the Bahamas or simply killied. Yet he remained aboard as captain and was later restored once another ship could be taken for Blackbeard. (There are multiple stories before this time where this type of arrangement played out including in the book the Voyage to the South Seas of which an except was recovered from inside a cannon on the wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge. The expectation is that this book would have certainly belonged to the Major.)
Major Stede Bonnet the "Gentleman Pirate" and Edward Thatch "Blackbeard" were seemlingly unlikely companions. Somehow. this match worked, for a time. They raided and plundered with great success even blockading Charles Town.  

Betrayed

In August 1718 it was decided that they would take the king's pardon and become privateers. However, Blackbeard had other plans. It is believed Blackbeard intentially ran two ships aground to breakup the company. Once Major Bonnet had gone ashore to get his pardon, Blackbeard double-crossed him and took all of the possessions of the ships aboard his last remaining ship then marroonded some of the crew and left the rest aboard the Revenge. Upon his return Bonnet was furious and once he had rescued the remaining crew, set out in hot persuit after Blackbeard. 

How Did I End Up Here?

Bonnet never caught Blackbeard and was instead captured after a battle at the Cape Fear river inlet. Bonnet was brought to Charles Town for trial. He escaped momentarily and was recaptured on Sullivan's Island. He was then put on trial. 29 of his men were tried and executed. After his trial, Major Stede Bonnet expressed his regret and repentance with a commitment to reform, but to no avail. His life ended in Charles Town on December 10, 1718. 

Legacy

Most historians have taken a negative approach with regards to Major Stede Bonnet. The historical evidences supports a different narrative. Major Stede Bonnet was a successful and cunning pirate. Whose early success led to greater challenges. And whose partnerships led to betrayal. How has he been portrayed? In a word, poorly. We have yet to see an accurate portrayal of Major Stede Bonnet. We can tell you, his legacy goes beyond the pages of history as his descendants, some of whom operate this page, are very much alive and committed to correcting the narrative. We've recently commissioned artist Thomas Kelly Pauley, whose depiction of Bonnet has been the most realistic up to this point. Having provided some family images of his descendants, we believe we will have a first picture of the man Major Stede Bonnet.