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Stede Bonnet

Born July, 1677. Died January 14, 1721

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Captain Stede Bonnet - The Gentleman Pirate

Captain Stede Bonnet was indeed one of the most colorful and flamboyant Pirates to have ever come ashore at Cape May, New Jersey.
Born to a refined and Upper Class family of England in 1677, Stede Bonnet was raised and educated with impeccable values. Serving the British Navy in an illustrious and distinguished career, Bonnet retired from service in the year 1711 at the age of 34. Dabbling in British politics he soon became weary of life on land and again set to sea as the Captain of a merchant vessel. Bonnet soon learned that honest work on the seas was tedious, difficult and paid very little.
In 1713 he attacked the Spanish vessel "Nueva Rosa" in his first act of piracy. The ship quickly surrendered to a heavy burst of cannon fire and while the English sailors looted and plundered the vessel, Bonnet drank rum with and entertained the Spanish Captain with dignified grace. Stede Bonnet then executed all the subordinate crew members of the Spanish vessel but spared the officers, mates and the Captain. Setting them adrfit in a lifeboat, Bonnet apologized for the "inconvenience" and departed.
Stede Bonnet began a rampage across the High Seas in which he attacked and plundered 27 vessels before reaching the port of Cape May. Each time he had spared the officers, mates and Captain and tales of this "Gentleman Pirate" swept through France, England, Spain, Holland, Germany and America.
Bonnet was quite the popular man in Cape May, New Jersey. Not only did he generously tip for services but he often shouldered the bill for total strangers at taverns and hostels. The colonial governor of New Jersey was so taken by Bonnet's refined dignity that he openly offered him a full pardon and amnesty for his crimes of piracy on the High Seas. However, Bonnet refused to accept this gracious offer as he "could not assure" the governor that he would end his acts of piracy. Instead, he marauded up and down the Atlantic Coast attacking ships as far north as the Boston harbor and as far south as the Florida Keys. Bonnet never had trouble finding a safe port as his lavish spending made him too popular to arrest. Once in the port of St. Augustine, Florida, soldiers did attempt to arrest Stede Bonnet at a tavern. However the locals who were enjoying his hospitality, defended Bonnet with cutlass and pistol. Gradually, Bonnet's popularity began to wane on the east coast.
Returning to the High Seas, Stede Bonnet continued to attack ships throughout the Spanish Main and found sympathetic governors in Port Royale, Barbados and St. Kitts. It wasn't until November of 1720 that several French vessels identified Bonnet's ship in the harbor at Nevis. As the Pirate attempted to set sail the French vessels released their moorings and attacked him with fury. Bonnet surrendered and was arrested. He was hanged at Execution Dock for the crimes of Piracy on January 14, 1721.

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