John Roberts (Robert Bartholomew, Black Bart)
Roberts began his career as a pirate in 1719 and ended in 1722 - off the Ivory Coast, in Africa. During these three years, he managed to capture more than 400 ships (researchers call the figure from 456 to 470) and received production in the amount of 32 to 50 million pounds. He even managed to write his version of the "Pirate Code" (the authors of other versions of the "pirate code" were Henry Morgan, George Lauter, Bartolomeo Portuguese - all these codes were mandatory only for members of their teams that signed this agreement).
John Roberts: The Beginning of the Way
Like Morgan, Roberts was a Welshman - he was born in 1682 in Pembrokeshire. The Roberts family could not boast of nobility or wealth. Therefore, at the age of 13 years, John was forced to get a young ship on a merchant ship. Apparently, he still managed to get some kind of education, because later on he served as a navigator on different ships. In 1718, we see him on the island of Barbados as assistant to the captain of a small sloop, and a year later he serves as the third assistant on the ship Princess, assigned to the port of London, which was engaged in transporting slaves from Africa to America.
Slave Ship “The Diligent” (Diligent)
Slave ship, scheme
In early June of that year, off the coast of Ghana, his ship met with two pirate ships - the Royal Rover (“Royal Tramp” or the wanderer, wanderer) and “Saint James”, and was captured by them. By a strange coincidence, the Welshman from Pembrokeshire Howell Davis turned out to be the commander of the pirates, who, apparently feeling his temper, took his fellow countryman to his team. However, Roberts, as we recall, was also a navigator, and sailors of this profession could always count on a good reception on corsair's ships.
Captain Davis seemed to be a great original, because he divided the crews of his ships into “Lords” and “Communes” (there was no such division on any other pirate ship). Roberts, due to his specialty, ended up in the Lords. It was then that he changed his name, taking as the "pseudonym", the name of the famous and authoritative bookwriter, filibuster Bartholomew Sharpe. The pirates reduced this new name to "Bart", adding to it the epithet "Black" - not for cruelty, as many people think, but for hair color.
According to contemporaries, Davis and Roberts quickly found a common language, and among the pirates Bart's authority grew literally before our eyes.
Meanwhile, the ships of the pirate squadron headed for the island of Principe (Gulf of Guinea).
On the way, they were lucky: they managed to capture the Dutch brig, which, among other goods, turned out to be gold worth 15 000 pounds. But on the other hand, one of the ships, Saint James, caused a serious leak, the crew of which had to switch to Royal Rover. Having reached the island, Davis invited the Portuguese Governor to his ship, hoping to keep him there and demand a ransom. But everything went wrong according to the scenario of the pirate captain, who, as a result, was killed in the ensuing skirmish. When choosing a new captain, the "Lords" (the most authoritative members of the team) unexpectedly voted for Roberts, who had been on their ship for no more than 6 weeks. Surprised Roberts at first refused such “high honor”, but then said that “since he got his hands dirty in dirty water and should be a pirate, it is better to be a captain than a simple sailor.” Corsairs did not have to regret their decision. The new captain immediately ordered the shelling of Fort Principe, whose purpose was declared revenge for the deceased Davis. After this, the Royal Rover left the inhospitable island at sea, where very soon another Dutch brig and an English ship carrying black slaves were captured by pirates.
Dutch ships of the 17th century, engraving
Captain bartholomew roberts
As we recall, the pirate republic in Nassau had already ceased to exist, and the production had to be sold, so Bart sent his ship to the coast of Brazil. In September 1719, pirates approached the coast of the province of Bahia, where they suddenly saw the Portuguese flotilla: 42 merchant ships guarded by two frigates. The order to attack this caravan seemed suicidal to many, but at night one of the smaller ships was hijacked, and then it was possible to cut off one of the warships that had been boarded from the main group. The boarding team was led by Roberts himself.
Pirate with a grappling hook, tin figurine
On board this ship, among other values, was a golden cross decorated with diamonds - a gift intended for the king of Portugal.
Subsequently, a merchant sloop from Rhode Island was seized, from the skipper of which information was received about a brigantine heading here with a rich load. Landing a man on the captured 40 sloop, Roberts set off in search of this ship.
British sloop walks past the Boston lighthouse, 1717 engraving
However, it turned out that not all crew members liked the election of a newcomer: the acting assistant Walter Kennedy declared himself captain, promising the others to fairly share the rich booty so that they could "run away" with whom. He stole the Royal Rover, and Roberts then vowed that he would never take any Irish into his team.
Kennedy ended his life, just like most pirates: he was executed in London.
But back to our hero. Named the captured sloop “Fortune” (“Luck” - apparently, in spite of fate), Roberts went on it to hunt for merchant ships. Luck, indeed, was on the side of the novice corsair: he captured several more ships, and then safely realized the production in the ports of New England. From there, in the summer of 1720, he went to the coast of Newfoundland, where he very quickly captured 26 ships. They said that during the attack, the musicians on board his ship would certainly perform some warlike tune - do you remember that Roberts was a great music lover?
Pirates hijack an American ship. Illustration from Cassell's Illustrated History of England
Bart’s reputation already at that time was such that when his 10 cannon sloop (the same one - “Luck”) entered the Trepassey Bay (Newfoundland) to the sound of music, the sailors of the 22's ships standing there simply jumped into the water giving him the opportunity to calmly and slowly rush their ships. Roberts captured the 18 cannon whaleboat and the French frigate with the 28 guns on board, which he made the flagship of his squadron, giving it the name "Royal Fortune" ("Royal Fortune").
The Caribbean Adventures of Black Bart
Port in the Caribbean. Dutch engraving, around 1700. In the foreground - pirates on the shore and pinas
From the shores of North America, Roberts wanted to go to Africa, but adverse weather conditions and the lack of fresh water made him return. In the fall of 1720, he came to the Caribbean Sea, luck again accompanied him, and fame reached its limit.
Initially, he attacked the harbor of St. Kitts, captured one ship there and burned several others.
Bartholomew Roberts on a postage stamp of St. Christopher and Nevis Islands
Then, already at sea, in just four days - from 28 to 31 of October, he captured and robbed 15 of French and English ships. On the courage, Roberts tried to seize the French island of Martinique, but the landing operation was unsuccessful. The governors of French Martinique and English Barbados joined forces in an attempt to capture the elusive corsair. Roberts was so indignant at the “impudence and audacity” of these representatives of the official authorities that he changed the flag on his ship: now it was a black canvas depicting a pirate standing on two turtles, one of which symbolized the governor of Martinique, and the other - Barbados.
The first flag of the ship is Bartholomew Roberts. According to many authors, the image symbolized the contempt of his team for death: a pirate drinking for his death
Second flag of Bartholomew Roberts: on a black background is a pirate with a naked saber standing on the heads of the governors of Barbados (AVN, “A Barbados Head”) and Martinique (AMS, “A Martinique's Head”)
At the beginning of 1721, the 32 boarded a cannon slave frigate under the Dutch flag. He sent this ship to Martinique, in view of the harbor by his people, with the help of flags, an invitation was sent to the island of Saint Lucia, where, supposedly, a sale of slaves at extremely low prices would take place. Roberts' hopes for the greed of the French planters came true: 15 ships went to sea and were captured or burned by a pirate squadron. A particularly valuable “prize” was the 18-gun ship “Brigantine”, to which Roberts rightly gave a new name - “Great Luck”.
Caribbean Pirate, Painted Tin Figurine
In April 1721, Bartholomew Roberts captured the 50-gun frigate of the governor of Martinique, whom he, fulfilling his promise, hanged on a rail. This ship became the new flagship of the pirate squadron. The name of Bart's flagship has remained unchanged: Royal Fortune.
Royal Fortune ship by Bartholomew Roberts and 2 version of the flag of this pirate
Last trip to Africa
Africa still beckoned Roberts, to its shores he went immediately after the capture of the governor's frigate. At his disposal were 2 large ships: “Royal Luck” with a crew of 228 people, 48 of which were blacks, and “Big Luck”, on board which were 140 sailors, including 40 blacks. And here история with the riot of the crew of one of the ships, it suddenly repeated: Thomas Enstis, captain of "Great Luck", a veteran of the Roberts team, who had inherited him from Howell Davis, took his ship away from him. Bart again did not pursue the traitors, he continued on his way, and luck did not change him: four ships were captured, three of which were burned, while the fourth, renamed “Little Ranger”, replaced the ship of Enstis.
In June 1721, the pirates approached the shores of Africa, another frigate was captured here, also attached to their squadron. Roberts was apparently tired of inventing new names for the captured ships, and perhaps he decided that it was impossible to give this frigate a better name than the Royal Fortune. And now in his squadron were two "Royal Luck." 6 slave ships were seized off Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, and 11 were seized off the coast of Benin. One of the newly captured frigates became the new flagship of the squadron - Roberts called it "Ranger" ("Tramp").
You probably remember that the name of the first ship of Bart, which he got from Davis - “Royal Rover”, can be translated as “Royal tramp”. Now in the Roberts squadron there were as many as two “Tramps”, which may indicate some sentimentality of this pirate.
Roberts now did not rob the captured ships, but took a ransom from the captains. Only one of the owners of these ships, a certain Portuguese, refused to pay, and two of his ships were burned. In August 1721, the pirates even managed to capture the city of Onslow (in what is now Liberia), which was the headquarters of the Royal African Company.
Roberts was about to go to Brazil to realize the captured values, however, in his misfortune, two English military frigates approached the shores of Africa. One of them - "Swallow" ("Swallow"), captured the flagship of the pirate squadron - "Ranger", which rashly attacked the British, mistaking him for a merchant ship. Roberts was not on the “Tramp”: at the “Royal Fortune” he attacked and captured another “merchant” at that time. But this was the last success of the famous corsair.
The death of the last hero of a great era
Most likely, many remember the ironic “Song about the dangers of drinking” from the Soviet cartoon “Treasure Island”:
"Lords, sirs, peers,
Know the sense of proportion
Avoid drinking -
You are trapped.
A short path awaits us
And the stronger the whiskey
All the more so, sirs, there will be your days. ”
Know the sense of proportion
Avoid drinking -
You are trapped.
A short path awaits us
And the stronger the whiskey
All the more so, sirs, there will be your days. ”
When the Swallows appeared, most of the pirates were drunk. This circumstance causes some bewilderment, because we remember that Roberts was a supporter of a “healthy lifestyle” and forbade drinking on his ships. This contradiction is easily explained: the pirates drank on the shore, where the captain's power was significantly weakened. He could leave some kind of “abuser” on the shore, taking a new sailor in his place, but forbidding his subordinates to “recover from stress” outside the ship was not in his power.
Bartholomew Bart team feasting on Calabar River
Calabar River, Nigeria
At first, drunken pirates even mistook the Swallow for the “Tramp” returning with booty. Having lost precious time, the three remaining pirate ships nevertheless set sail. It is said that in his last battle, Roberts went in a scarlet camisole, silk breeches and a dandy hat with a red feather. His chest was decorated with a gold chain with a cross studded with diamonds, a sword in his hand, and two pistols behind his belt. Alas, already the second volley of the English defeated Black Bart, standing on the captain’s bridge. If not for his early death, perhaps the outcome of the battle would have been different. The death of Roberts, who, until then, was considered an invulnerable lucky man, demoralized his subordinates.
Left without a captain, the pirates soon surrendered to the British, but, before that, carrying out Bart's last will, they wrapped his body in a piece of canvas and threw it into the water. Captivity was escaped by some pirates of the "Little Tramp" who, together with their captain, reached the shore in a boat. The rest were taken to Ghana, where the court sentenced to death 44 of them, 37 were sent to hard labor, but 74, for some reason, were acquitted - they probably managed to prove that they were “recruited” from other ships by force and nothing they did not manage to commit especially illegal. Black pirates, who, as we recall, were also in the Roberts team, were sold into slavery. The captain of the "Swallows", Chaloner Ogl, received the title of knight for this battle, and later he rose to the rank of admiral.
So Bartholomew Roberts died, about whom they said that he was the last great pirate of the "Golden Age" of corsairs of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean.
Black Bart on a coin in 1 dollar, Tuvalu
Bartholomew Roberts, Bahamas Postage Stamp
In the XI chapter of the novel “Treasure Island” L. Stevenson speaks about this:
“A scientific surgeon amputated my leg - he went to college and knew all Latin by heart ... He was lifted up like a dog to dry in the sun ... next to others. Those were the people of Roberts, and they died because they changed the names of their ships. Today the ship is called Royal Happiness, and tomorrow it’s somehow different. And in our opinion - as the ship was christened, so it should always be called. We did not change the name "Kassandra", and she safely delivered us home from Malabar after England captured the Viceroy of India. "Walrus", Flint's old ship, did not change his nickname. "
The era of filibusters steadily went to its sunset. There were less and less land plots uninhabited and beyond the control of the authorities of any country. More and more warships appeared in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The sea was no longer hospitable, and the land, not only on the mainland, but also on the islands of the West Indies, was literally burning under the feet of corsairs. Every year they became less and less, until, finally, piracy became the destiny of lonely doomed to quick destruction. But what happened to Nassau and the other islands of the Archipelago after Britain took control of New Providence?
Bahamas after the Pirates
At the end of the 18th century, New Providence, like the other islands of the Archipelago, was attacked by the Spaniards who occupied the Bahamas in 1781, but in July 1783, the British regained their power over them.
Nassau was also attacked by the Americans, who in March 1776, even before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, attacked this city with the aim of capturing weapons and gunpowder evacuated there by the Virginia authorities.
Landing of Americans at Nassau, 3-4 March 1776
This raid is considered to be the first US Marine Corps operation in the United States. In her honor, the name "Nassau" at different times received 2 US warships.
The landing ship of the US Navy "Nassau"
During the American Revolutionary War, about 7 thousand loyalists moved to the Bahamas.
In 1973, the city of Nassau became the capital of a new state - the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Coat of arms of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, approved in 1971 by Queen Elizabeth II. Marlin and flamingos support the shield, which depicts the rising sun and the ship personifying the "Santa Maria" - the caravel of Christopher Columbus. At the top of the shield is a royal helmet, typical of the former British colonies, a sea shell and branches of a coconut palm. Below is the motto: “Together forward, higher and further.”
Coat of arms of the island of New Providence
Currently, there are about 275 000 people living in Nassau. The city receives many tourists, especially a lot of them come in the "dry" season - from November to April. In addition, almost every day, huge cruise ships enter Nassau's harbor. About the turbulent "filibuster" past of Nassau and the New Providence Island, only a small pirate museum on the corner of George and Marlboro Streets now recalls.
At the Pirate Museum, Nassau:
Another popular building that is usually associated with the era of filibusters - Fort Charlotte, in fact, was built much later - during the time of George III, in 1788.
Charlotte Fort, Nassau
Charlotte Fort, Nassau, aerial view
The cannons of the old fortress are now looking towards the cruise liner in the port of Nassau