This is a chilling report of Bartholomew Roberts’ aka Black Bart’s last fight– and it was a good one! What this report does not mention is that the battle was fought in driving rain with “lightening and thunder and a small tornado. “Bartholomew Roberts “Black Barty” was probably the most successful pirate, (after Henry Morgan) there ever was. He was born a Welshman in 1682 and was second mate on the Princess when her captain died. He then was named captain. His other ships were named the Royal Rover, Fortune, Royal Fortune, and Good Fortune. He captured more than 400 hundred ships from as far North as Newfoundland, through the Caribbean, South America and in 1722 was felled by grapeshot in the throat doing battle with a British warship off the coast of Guinea, Africa. Roberts was an attractive man and a snappy dresser. He would wear a rich crimson waistcoat and breeches, a hat with a red feather, and a diamond cross hanging from a gold chain around his neck. In battle he would carry two pairs of pistols at the end of a silk sling across his shoulder. According to his wishes he was thrown overboard wearing his finest duds and ornaments.
Below is the text of Bartholomew Roberts’ Death 1722.
Bartholomew Roberts’ Death
As the warships approached the anchorage,
Captain Ogle of the HMS Swallow hoisted a French ensign, which confused the pirates, who debated whether she was the Ranger returning, a Portuguese ship, or a French slave ship. A seaman called Robert Armstrong, who was a deserter from the
Swallow, identified her correctly, but the pirates continued to have doubts until the warship ran out her guns and hoisted the King’s colors.
Bartholomew Roberts aboard the Royal Fortune must have realized that the situation was desperate, but he put on a crimson waistcoat and breeches, a hat with a red feather, slung a pair of pistols on a silk sling over his shoulders, and issued orders with a bold unconcern for the likely outcome.
At 10:30 A.M. the Royal Fortune slipped the anchor cable and got underway. The clearest account of what happened next is from the evidence which the Swallow’s officers gave at the trial of the pirates two weeks later:
About eleven o’clock she being within pistol shot abreast of us, and a black flag, or pendant hoisted at their main topsail head, we struck the French Ensign that had continued hoisted at our staff till now, and displayed the King’s colours, giving her at the same time our broadside which was immediately returned by them again but without equal damage, their mizzen top-mast falling and some of their rigging being disabled.
The pirate sailing better than us, shot ahead above half gun shot, while we continued firing, without intermission, such guns as we could bring to bear…till by favour of the wind we came along side again, and after exchanging a few more shot, about half past one, his main-mast came down, being shot away a little below the parrel.
At two she struck, and called for quarters, proving to be the (5. Pirate vessel’s name) Royal Fortune of 40 guns, formerly the Onslow, and the prisoners assured us that the small ship remaining in the road…was called the Little Ranger and did belong to their company…The total of the men on board were 152 of which 52 were negroes.
Roberts himself was killed by one of the broadsides from the Swallow, his throat torn out by grapeshot. He collapsed across the blocks and tackles of a gun, where he was found by a member of his crew, who burst into tears when he found he was dead. His body was thrown overboard, as he frequently requested during his lifetime. Two other pirates were killed, and ten wounded. The Swallow did not suffer a single casualty.