While its merchant vessels were regularly plundered by them,
Boston’s closest encounter with the Flying Gang pirates came
in the late spring of 1717 when nine members of Sam Bellamy’s
gang were held there.
The pirates had been apprehended on Outer Cape Cod and
brought to Boston overland under heavy guard. They were
incarcerated at Boston Jail, located at what is now 26 Court
Street, a stone’s throw from the Old State House. Eight of the
men were tried on the latter building’s second floor in October
1717, found guilty, and hung on the mudflats of the Charlestown
ferry landing (now filled in) on November 25. Cotton Mather, the
Puritan divine best known for his role in the Salem Witch Trials,
took an interest in the pirates, visiting them in their cells and
delivering long-winded sermons about their impending, eternal
A ninth pirate, John Julian, a man of mixed Afro-Indian descent, was not tried, and was probably sold
at Boston’s slave market. The Republic of Pirates cites evidence suggesting he may have been
purchased by the ancestors of a future president.
At the time Boston was the largest and most sophisticated city in British North America, with a
population of 10,000. It was also the hub of the continent’s information infrastructure, being home to
its only newspaper, The Boston News-Letter. This weekly was published by John Campbell, the city’s
postmaster, who developed a network of correspondents along the New York, Philadelphia, and
Portsmouth post rider routes, and was the first to receive mail and information from newly-arrived
ship captains. Campbell devoted considerable coverage to the activities of the pirates, providing a
wealth of information for subsequent researchers.
The Old State House (1713), where eight of
Sam Bellamy's pirate gang were tried in
|The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man who Brought
them Down by Colin Woodard. The Official Homepage. (c) 2008 Colin Woodard.