Black Bart, South to Saint Bartholomew. (page 4)
They finally arrived at St. Bartholomew in the West Indies where they were given a marvellous welcome. They spent freely and indulged themselves as pirates would, the natives being more than happy to oblige. Here they planned their next adventure, another trip across the Atlantic.
Roberts was still on the lookout for a better ship and a few days out of St. Bartholomew he found exactly what he wanted. French ship from Martinique, christening her ‘The Royal Fortune’’ they left the original captain with the tired old sloop saying “exchange is no robbery”.
However, as rich as they were, the new ship was not prepared for a transatlantic crossing. Roberts could have taken all the provisions from the sloop but he left plenty for the French Captain and his crew, typically humanitarian. It was a mistake. Before ‘The Royal Fortune’’ could make Africa they found themselves dry as a bone. With a hundred and twenty four men to water and feed he was forced to change course following the quicker trade winds back to the West Indies. This was a disaster; they lost numerous crewmen to starvation and thirst before reaching Suriname at northern shoulder of South America. This voyage shocked them, some of the crew took it as a warning and voiced an opinion as to leaving piracy and returning to law abiding civilian life. With this in mind they sailed north, taking their chances.
Soon they met with a ship sailing from St. Christopher and found not only proper provisions but also a friendly captain who joined with them. He informed Roberts of the treachery at Dominica and let him know that when the governor at Martinique heard they might be headed his way, he fitted two sloops ready to take action against him, taking a lead from the Barbadian governor mentioned earlier. Roberts was furious, all thoughts of becoming private citizens were thrown away as the crew voted to take action against Martinique, they saw this as an act of war. He had a new flag made picturing a man standing with a flaming sword. Under each foot a skull. Under the right skull the letters “ABH” and under the left “AMH”. Meaning, A Barbadian’s Head and A Martinican's Head respectively.
At Martinique he first met a procession of traders. Using a rouse with his signal flags, he convinced them that he was there to trade and one by one as they came to he robbed and sank the lot Twenty ships in all. He did however save just one, so that prisoners could get ashore safely. Satisfied with his haul Roberts sailed south for Guadeloupe and found a quite hold up where they could prepare for another Trans Atlantic trip, back to Guinea.
It was during this stop over the seeds of his downfall were sown. Within his command was a Captain Antis who had no real axe to grind with Roberts other than he felt over shadowed by the man. Antis commanded a brigadine, the ‘Good Fortune’ and resented the fact that Roberts treated his ship as a supply to his own, the ’ Royal Fortune’. One day, a fight broke out leaving a crewman, one James Perry (an illiterate and particularly underhanded scoundrel) dead; run through by Roberts. Perry was close friends with Richard Jones an ordinary crewman who had been ashore at the time. On his return Jones, distraught at the death of his friend attacked and injured the captain.
As was their way, a court was assembled and with the possibility of a death sentence hanging over him Jones used Roberts own articles to plead his case. They voted to let him off with just two lashes from each crewman as punishment. But Jones was not finished. Before they set sail he met with Antis and together they plotted against Roberts. One night, close to the African coast, Antis slipped away taking over seventy men and what treasure Roberts had stored with him.
The crew of ‘The Royal Fortune’’ took this split badly though Roberts himself made light of the matter. We can assume he knew something was afoot and thought it a better outcome than an out and out mutiny. But of course it left his command short handed. Strength of force goes a long way in piracy. He cruised about Senegal for a few weeks, robbing passers by of meager but important pickings of both goods and provisions.
Continued on page 5, The Jackpot again!..