Stede Bonnet (1688 – 10 December 1718) was an early eighteenth-century Barbadian pirate, sometimes called "The Gentleman Pirate" because he was a moderately wealthy land-owner before turning to a life of crime. Bonnet was born into a wealthy English family on the island of Barbados, and inherited the family estate after his father's death in 1694. In 1709, he married Mary Allamby, and engaged in some level of militia service. Because of marital problems, and despite his lack of sailing experience, Bonnet decided he should turn to piracy in the summer of 1717. He bought a sailing vessel, named it Revenge, and travelled with his paid crew along the Eastern Seaboard of what is now the United States, capturing other vessels and burning other Barbadian ships.
Bonnet set sail for Nassau, Bahamas, to the haven for pirates known as the "pirates' republic", but he was seriously wounded en route during an encounter with a Spanish warship. After arriving in Nassau, Bonnet met Edward Teach, the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Incapable of leading his crew, Bonnet temporarily ceded his ship's command to Blackbeard. Before separating in December 1717, Blackbeard and Bonnet plundered and captured merchant ships along the East Coast. After Bonnet failed to capture the Protestant Caesar, his crew abandoned him to join Blackbeard aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge. Bonnet stayed on Blackbeard's ship as a guest, and did not command a crew again until summer 1718, when he was pardoned by North Carolina governor Charles Eden and received clearance to go privateering against Spanish shipping. Bonnet was tempted to resume his piracy, but did not want to lose his pardon, so he adopted the alias "Captain Thomas" and changed his ship's name to Royal James. He had returned to piracy by July 1718.
In August 1718, Bonnet anchored the Royal James on an estuary of the Cape Fear River to careen and repair the ship. In late August and September, Colonel William Rhett, with the authorization of South Carolina governor Robert Johnson, led a naval expedition against pirates on the river. Rhett and Bonnet's men engaged in combat for hours, but the outnumbered pirates ultimately surrendered. Rhett arrested the pirates and brought them to Charles Town in early October. Bonnet escaped on 24 October, but was recaptured on Sullivan's Island. On 10 November, Bonnet was brought to trial and charged with two acts of piracy. Judge Nicholas Trott sentenced Bonnet to death. Bonnet wrote to Governor Johnson to ask for clemency, but Johnson endorsed the judge's decision, and Bonnet was hanged in Charles Town on 10 December 1718.
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