As part of the project i am working on for Island expeditions, i thought some of you may find my research interesting?...Its probably in the wrong
section so mods feel free to move.
The Welsh born Pirate Howell Davis is of a particular relevance and interest to our research.
Davis’s was a true seaman. Serving on ships from an early age he was promoted to the position of chief mate onboard the slave ship ‘Cadogan’. It
was some time during 1718 that this vessel was captured of the West African coast by the pirate Edward England. England; a man of supposed generous
nature, took a liking to Davis and returned the ‘Cadogan’ to him with a crew, it was at this point that a decision was made to sail for Brazil and
sell the vessel, however somewhere along the way Davis’s crew persuaded him to change course for Barbados, whence putting ashore all were imprisoned
on suspicion of piracy. It was on his release some 3 months later that Davis made a drastic career move and entered into the throws of piracy, a move;
that like many in his chosen profession, was to shortly cost him his life.
A pirate needs a ship and a crew, Davis headed for the New Providence (the Bahamas) but on arrival thought better of drawing attention from the
governor Woodes Rodgers; a former British privateer with a now new tough ‘Anti-pirate’ stance.
After traveling on board a cargo vessel to Martinique, Davis rallied a mutiny and was elected captain. With a crew of 35 men, Davis captured a further
2 French Vessels North of Hispaniola, he did this by forcing his prisoners to brandish their swords upon the decks, tricking their prey into believing
they were a superior force, subsequently the second vessel surrendered without a fight.
After this event Davis sailed for the Cape Verde Islands where the Portuguese Governor at St. Nicholas mistook Davis’s ship; the ‘Buck’, for a
British privateer vessel and welcomed him and his crew with open arms.
Davis continued to the island of Maio and quickly seized ships and crew, his ranks were swelling to the size of a small army and were fast becoming a
force to be reckoned with. Keeping one of the ships he had captured; the ‘Saint James’, Davis visited the Royal Africa Companies Fort in the
Gambia River and dressed like Dandies he and 2 of his men deceived the governor into offering a dinner invitation, this was to cost the Governor the
relief of £2000 after he had had the indignity of being made a prisoner.
Once under sail again, Davis took the position of Admiral, with the pirates Olivier la Bouche and Thomas Cocklyn under his command, although; only
briefly documented, this ‘partnership’ did not last long, rumored to be due to the inability of all concerned unable to decide on a course of
action. After parting company amicably, Davis continued to plunder away on the West African coast and after seizing 4 large English and Dutch ships
loaded with ivory and gold dust, exchanged the ‘Buck’ for the 32 gun ship re-named the ‘Rover’.
Shortly after acquiring the ‘Rover’, Davis captured 3 British slave ships, one such officer on board was Bartholomew Roberts, later to become the
infamous ‘Black Bart’, after deciding himself also to turn to piracy, Roberts headed for the island of ‘Principe’, with Davis, them taking a
Dutch prize and £15,000 in gold along the journey.
Although not stated where, the ‘St James’ was abandoned due to being badly damaged in the previous fire fight; perhaps she is one of the wrecks
discovered by ‘Island expeditions’s’ divers of the coast ? When arriving in Principe in June 1719, with his typical style and charm, Davis
convinced the Portuguese governor that he was in fact a Royal Naval officer hunting pirates and seeking ‘re-supply’ further commandeering a French
vessel that entered the harbor, claiming they had been observed trading with pirates.
Just as Davis’s Career seemed to be growing to legendary status, tragedy struck. All though details are sketchy at best, it would appear that the
Portuguese Governor had not been entirely fooled with Davis’s trick of confidence. It was rumored that Davis was to take the Portuguese governor
hostage to raise a ransom, a day before Davis was to leave port he was invited to the governors palace, it was here he was ambushed in cowardly
fashion and gunned down, taking 5 bullets before finally having his throat slit. Bartholomew Roberts was elected captain and shelled the fort and town
in the bay of ‘Santa Antonio’ in retaliation of his friend’s death.
It would appear our story is missing some very interesting and relevant details.
In the summer of 2005 ‘Island Expeditions’ Director; Martin Corlett and the ‘Corlett line’ fleet manager; Michael Brennan, started a day long
journey; armed with machetes, through the jungle surrounding the bay of Santa Antonio, there mission to find the fort mentioned in Davis’s story.
After several hours of hard work they finally hacked their way through to the remains of this once splendid garrison, they had found the fort built in
1695 by the Portuguese and named ‘Santa Ana de Santo Antonio da Ponta Mina’.
(pictures of cannons we found, coming shortly)
Some of our sources report that Bartholomew Roberts shelled the fort from the bay using the cannons on board his ship; did the Portuguese retaliate
with theirs and if so, are these the cannons pictured, cannons that have over 250 years ago smoked in their defense of Santa Antonio?
We are presently in the process of tracing details of the damage caused at the fort by Bartholomew Roberts, the fort and surrounding land has now been
purchased by ‘Island Expeditions’ and we continue in our attempts to ascertain the facts surrounding Howell Davis’s death. By corresponding with
the Portuguese government and their records in Lisbon, we intend to clarify the facts as they were reported back to the Portuguese crown in 1719,
perhaps they will yield the details of Howell Davis’s death and possibly his burial on the Island of Principe?
Our research points to Howell Davis’s ships being heavenly laden with plunder as he entered Principe, after abandoning the ‘St. James’ Davis
would have required the acquisition of further large vessels to continue with his crew and their loot, it entirely possible that a sizable amount of
Davis’s booty was buried on Principe for collection at a later date with larger ships. Were the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death
linked to a failed attempt by a corrupt Portuguese governor to ascertain the buried location of this treasure? In true pirate fashion it is unlikely
that Davis would have revealed its location, were each of the 5 bullets fired into him an attempt to make him talk and only in the end when he would
reveal nothing he was silenced forever with a knife?
Does this treasure still lay buried somewhere on the forgotten island of Principe?
[edit on 12-2-2006 by optimus fett]
[edit on 12-2-2006 by optimus fett]