One of the sea’s strangest and most unlikely pirates came from the Virginia coast. He was originally a high ranking officer, Major Stede Bonnet. Bonnet came from an upright English family. He received a liberal education, and was known to be "a man of Letters". By middle age he seemingly had everything he needed to settle down, and live a comfortable life as a successful planter. His sugar plantation brought him reasonable income, and he found himself among the high society of Bridgetown on the island of Barbados.
Therefore, it was a great shock to his high society friends when, for no apparent reason, Major Bonnet left his life as a gentleman planter to become a pirate. In Doing so he mortified, and embarrassed his neighbors who thought his actions the result of some "disorder in his mind". A thought that was not utterly unreasonable. There were also those who believed that he had an aversion toward respectability, and it was this that drove him to such an extreme change of career.
As a pirate, Bonnet was never more than an amateur. Instead of stealing or capturing a ship, as any respectable pirate would do, he purchased his own. This was completely unheard of in the annals of piracy of the time. it was a fast little ship, purchased in early 1717. She had ten guns on her single gun deck. He named her the Revenge, probably in imitation of earlier famous pirates like Drake.
Bonnet did another unheard of thing by paying his crew out of his own pocket, rather than operating "on the account" as most pirates. However it was this very oddity that allowed him to remain in command instead of being deposed by a vote of the crew. He recruited his men from the taverns and bars of Bridgetown, and ended up signing on about seventy destitute seamen.
For several days after its purchase the Revenge remained in the Bridgetown harbor. Bonnet explained the purchase of the ship, an signing on of a crew as an intention to pursue inter-island trade. But one night he cast off without a word to his friends or his wife, and set course for the Virginia Capes. There he captured and plundered a few vessels. Finally he captured a Barbadian ship, the Turbes, which he burned. After this every Barbadian ship taken by Bonnet was burned, as if to cover his trail.
After stalking the waters off the New England coast, and further north, he returned to the south. However his inexperience was beginning to become apparent to the crew. They were slowly becoming hostile, and began whispering amongst themselves of deposing Bonnet, or of mutiny. During the increasing tensions Bonnet dropped anchor in the Bay of Honduras. There he encountered the Queen Anne’s Revenge, along with her captain the fearsome Edward Teach, nicknamed "Blackbeard". The two quickly became friends, and this strange duo decided to cruise together.
Their alliance soon proved to have been a mistake on the part of Bonnet. Teach noticed his inexperience, and "invited" Bonnet aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Bonnet became a virtual prisoner. Teach tried to convince him that a man of his education and character should not be forced to endure the rigors and indignities of commanding a ship like the Revenge. Rather someone of Bonnets calibre should transfer himself to the more comfortable and spacious quarters on board the Queen Anne’s Revenge. There was little Bonnet could do or say. Soon one of Blackbeard’s lieutenants, by the name of Richards, took over command of the Revenge. He quickly qaushed any threat of mutiny by imposing stern discipline. This also gained the crew’s confidence.
Eventually Bonnet convinced Blackbeard to allow him to command the Revenge again. Soon after the two parted. Bonnet then left his ship for the town of Bath and surrendered himself as a reformed pirate to the Governor of North Carolina, Charles Eden. This act, however, did not sate Bonnet’s desire for Piracy. He continued to engage in piracy until his capture by Colonel William Rhett. He escaped only to be recaptured, and was brought to trial under a Court of Vice-Admiralty in Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina. Sir Nicholas Trott Esq., who at that time was the judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court, sentenced Bonnet to death on the gallows. Stede Bonnet was hung for piracy on December 10, 1718.