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Bartholomew Roberts, A stolen sloop to Barbados

Black Bart, A stolen sloop to Barbados. (page 3)

There were numerous laws including the banning of some pastimes pirates would normally take for granted. For instance, anyone caught stealing from the ship would be marooned, no gambling with cards or dice, and no drinking alcohol below deck after eight in the evening. No children or women were allowed on board; further to this if a man smuggled one aboard the penalty was death!

Although there was a clause in case they had to rescue random women. In these circumstances a guard was to be placed on them at all times. No man was to strike another on board; quarrels were to be settled ashore. Once entered into their company one could not leave until he had acquired a share of plunder of at least 1000. Finally, despite the purpose of the oath Roberts insisted each man swear on the Bible.

An 18th Century Sloop sporting Barts Flaming Sword Jolly Roger.  Illustration © Wayne Stock, 2007

They prepared the stolen sloop as best they could for a Trans Atlantic voyage and set sail for the West Indies. They robbed a couple of similar vessels along the way and were lucky enough to come by a brigantine too.

Off Barbados they robbed an English ship but mercifully left her enough cargo to make her journey from England to the Indies worth while and sent her on her way.

This merciful act nearly led to their downfall.

As soon as she arrived at Barbados her captain alerted the authorities to the robbery. The governor immediately ordered two vessels fitted for a police action and appointed trustworthy men to command them. A Captain Rogers and a Captain Graves were sent to search for the pirates.

It didn't take them long to find 'The Rover' - just a few days. Roberts spotted the Galley commanded by Rogers and of course having no idea he was being hunted went on the offensive. We can only imagine the profanity when instead of surrendering their prey they turned and fired!

The pirates immediately saw they were out gunned and fled. Captain Rogers, true to his commission, gave chase.

The action lasted a couple of days but Roberts finally slipped away. This scared them, it was the first time they had experienced the wrong end of a cannon and they didn't like it. From then on, whenever they came by a Barbadon ship they were especially cruel.

Trepassy harbor

A slight diversion, He made for Dominica where they knew the natives to be friendly to traders. This was a well-known pirate haunt but they only stayed long enough to repair the sloop and find men willing to swell their ranks. As soon as they could they sailed north to Grenada. Why this diversion is interesting is because it shows how precarious the balance between friend and foe was, for the governor there sent word to Martinique that pirates were on their way!

Roberts already knew things were heating up and though he eventually discovered proof of the treachery at Dominica for now he had only suspicions. He changed his plans mid stream and rather than cruising about Granada he kept on, eventually finding the coast of Newfoundland. It was obvious their sloop was not up to the job. She was maneouverable and quick but they were on the lookout for something better. In June1720 they came to a town called Trepassy where they engaged in one of the most infamous pirate assaults recorded. We can only speculate why they were especially brutal here but no doubt there was some grudge or perhaps even a commission to stir the madness. Pirates were after all, mercenaries.

Whatever the cause they entered Trepassy harbor in a very strange manner. With their black flags flying and weapons at hand the whole crew were on deck. Roberts had some blowing trumpets and rolling drums too, quite a show!

Trepassy harbor was full; over twenty ships lay at anchor. They destroyed all bar one, which they took with them but not before going ashore and burning the towns trading quarter to the ground. It was such a savage attack the town did not recover for a decade. Straight after, they went hunting around the Newfoundland coast and found surprisingly rich pickings. One ship, the Samuel especially so. She was filled with commodities but more importantly she carried numerous passengers. After plundering her they felt it was time to head south again knowing such a haul would attract trouble especially since her passengers witnessed everything.

Continued on page 4, South to St. Bartholomew...