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The pirates of West Africa

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posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 09:18 AM
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.

Howell Davis

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]

posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 09:24 AM
Nice bit of history, and please do continue to share!

Pirates are romantic figures to modern men, but to the people who lived back then they were roughly the equivalent of terrorists. A few pirates were actually doing their raiding under government licenses but most were, like Davis, people who took over a ship by inciting a mutiny and went raiding.

The very few female pirates that existed are also interesting figures.

posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 09:29 AM
Thanks Byrd, i have some interesting pictures coming shortly and intend to post a biography of a different West African pirate each week, glad you enjoyed it.


posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 09:41 AM
Some better photos of Principe island.

The cannons we discovered

external image

Mod edit: image resize

[edit on 12-2-2006 by parrhesia]

posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 09:57 AM
Awesome story and cannon pics !

I really dig this sort of stuff, please continue.


P.S. The "dig" pun was intended.

posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 02:29 PM
optimus fett

I will try to find some information about that here in Portugal, but our national archives are only now beeing made available to the public through the internet, so I do not promise anything.

I will also try to see if the army archive has something about that, but I do not think that they have.

posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 07:37 PM
Possibly pirates were the equivilent of terrorists in those times but they had far better terms of employment than the naval seamen of the times, which is the main reason they had no recruitment problems unlike the National Navies of the time who would use pressgangs to get the crews needed.

The pirates had their own code of conduct and women pirates had equal rights with men.

posted on Feb, 13 2006 @ 01:43 PM

TextThe pirates had their own code of conduct and women pirates had equal rights with men.

Thats exactly right mate! im going to be doing a post on a women pirate shortly, she wasnt to do with west Africa, but interesting never the less.

I will also print the pirates code for any that are interested!

posted on Feb, 13 2006 @ 02:45 PM
Are any archaeologists working on those cannon or other sites in the area??

And yes, please please continue to post material! There's a number of conspiracy angles (pirates acting as government agents) here as well as the hisotry angle.

posted on Feb, 24 2006 @ 03:05 PM
This is very interesting thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to reading more info from you

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 09:28 AM
‘Black Bart’ Bartolomew Roberts

Bartholomew Roberts was probably the most successful pirate of all time, noted for his stylish dress sense; wearing a rich crimson waistcoat and breaches topped with a hat with a red feather and a diamond encrusted cross around his neck, he captured over 400 ships and plundered a staggering 50 million pounds in loot, he is regarded by all as the last great pirate of the golden age.

Roberts was born a Welshman; around 1680, It was whilst working as ‘Third mate’ on board the slave ship the ‘princess’ that he was captured by the previously mentioned pirate Howell Davis and began is career in piracy, a career that was to see him rise to legendary ranking above others in his fiendish trade.

After avenging Davis’s death at the island of Principe, Roberts grew tired of the pickings around Guinea and made sail for the Brazilian coast. After taking several valuable prizes Roberts decided to head for ‘Devils Island’ in the Caribbean for some rest and re-cooperation, however his rapidly growing reputation had preceded him, avoiding capture he and his crew made for New England to sell their plundered wares.

The summer of 1720 in Newfoundland was an extremely profitable time for Roberts and his band, well noted for his capture and sinking of all but one of 22 merchant ships in the bay of Treffisi, the crews of these ships disembarked and fled for shore; simply on hearing of his arrival! The ship he spared; a French Brig, was re named the ‘Royal Fortune’, Roberts equipped his latest prize with cannons and after a failed attempt to sail for Africa made for the Caribbean once more.

In the autumn of 1720 Roberts began a mammoth looting spree down through the West Indies. Virtually un-challenged he captured over 100 ships, this of course upset several of the provisional governors; resulting in Roberts hanging one after stealing his warship, Shipping in the area was brought to a standstill and in the spring of 1721 Roberts once more headed for the West African coast.

After profiting from selling captured salves around the coast of Sierra Leone, Roberts headed east and in August of 1721; whilst on his way to Liberia, captured the Royal African Company’s ship ‘Onslow’, she was to be renamed once more as the ‘Royal Fortune’, however she was to be Roberts last flag ship, disaster was waiting around the corner.

Roberts remarkable 30 month career was finally brought to an end on the 10th of February 1722. The warship ‘HMS Swallow’; captained by Challoner Ogle, finally caught up with Black Bart of Cape Lopez (now Gabon). It is still uncertain to this day whether or not Roberts was trying to capture the Swallow or escape her clutches, however he was killed by flying grapeshot and tossed overboard as per his wishes, his disheartened crew finally gave up the fight and were captured.

After being imprisoned at the Cape Coast Castle the crew of the ship were to be famed in the largest trial and execution of the times. On March the 22nd of 1722, 54 were hanged, 37 received prison or hard time, 70 African pirates were sold into slavery and the rest acquitted.

Cape coast castle, Ghana.

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 09:34 AM
Olivier La Bouche.

Sadly little is known; or documented, of the French born pirate Olivier La Bouche, which is strange considering he sailed with some of the most famous pirates in our stories.

The first reference to our French man in West Africa comes in 1719-20 where La Bouche is mentioned to have arrived on a plundering spree in Ouidah on the Bight of Benin along the Slave Coast.

In 1719 La Bouche ready his crew for an attack on a ship anchored of Gambia Castle, this vessel turned out to be no other than Howell Davis and the two men entered into a piracy partnership. After traveling down the coast to Sierra Leone (plundering along the way) the two rogues met up with the Pirate Thomas Cocklyn and the three fiends formed a mini pirate armada they captured the fort there and spent the next seven weeks repairing their vessels. After departing together an argument of some description took place and the three men parted company.

La Bouche continued his piracy with some success in the Indian Ocean but his most profitable haul came from an attack on a Portuguese vessel sailing from Goa carrying the personal wealth of the Archbishop there.

Our pirate continued to ply his trade on and off until 1730 where upon he was captured by the French warship ‘Medusse’ off Fort Dauphin, he was finally hanged on the 17th of July that same year.

Olivier La Bouche certainly captured a large fortune from the Archbishop and some believe that it still lies buried on the island of ‘Mahe’ in the Seychelles where he is said to have hid for several years between 1720 and 1730. Although Maps, strange texts and other possible clues to the location of his treasure have surfaced over the years, it still remains to be found.

The island of Mahe in the Seychelles.

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 10:14 AM
NIce thread Optimus. I love reading about history in obscure places. I hvaen't read much about West Africa and her pirates, so keep it coming.

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 10:35 AM
Hey Optimus,

Just to say good job.

I enjoy reading your history lessons. Pirates of old have always intrigued me and wish I had the time to research them such as yourself.

Keep em' coming. Again, fantastic job

ps. wheres the pirate's codes ???

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 11:56 AM
The 'Articles' of Bartholomew Roberts (pirates code of conduct)

ARTICLE I. Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time seized, and shall use them at pleasure unless a scarcity may make it necessary for the common good that a retrenchment may be voted.

ARTICLE II. Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes, because over and above their proper share, they are allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defraud the company to the value of even one dollar in plate, jewels or money, they shall be marooned. If any man rob another he shall have his nose and ears slit, and be put ashore where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.

ARTICLE III. None shall game for money either with dice or cards.

ARTICLE IV. The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights.

ARTICLE V. Each man shall keep his piece, cutlass and pistols at all times clean and ready for action.

ARTICLE VI. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man shall be found seducing any of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise he shall suffer death.

ARTICLE VII. He that shall desert the ship or his quarters in time of battle shall be punished by death or marooning.

ARTICLE VIII. None shall strike another on board the ship, but every man's quarrel shall be ended on shore by sword or pistol in this manner. At the word of command from the quartermaster, each man being previously placed back to back, shall turn and fire immediately. If any man do not, the quartermaster shall knock the piece out of his hand. If both miss their aim they shall take to their cutlasses, and he that draweth first blood shall be declared the victor.

ARTICLE IX. No man shall talk of breaking up their way of living till each has a share of £l,000. Every man who shall become a cripple or lose a limb in the service shall have 800 pieces of eight from the common stock and for lesser hurts proportionately.

ARTICLE X. The captain and the quartermaster shall each receive two shares of a prize, the master gunner and boatswain, one and one half shares, all other officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of fortune one share each.

ARTICLE XI. The musicians shall have rest on the Sabbath Day only by right. On all other days by favour only.

The pirates code or 'Articles' differs for all pirates but stays pretty similar to the above....Geez.....thats some jobs description eh?


posted on Mar, 1 2006 @ 06:38 AM
Hey thanks for posting that.

I had no idea the 'Pirates Code' was so detailed. I expected maybe.. 4-5 rules but not all that.

It amazes me that they go into that much detail.

They even had provisions for Workers Compensation.LOL

posted on Mar, 1 2006 @ 04:55 PM
If you are interested, optimus fett, I have found that at least one archive, the "Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino" has some maps and drawings of what I suppose was the fort shelled by Bartholomew Roberts.

The "Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino" is the archive where almost all documents related to the Portuguese overseas possesions are stored.

I would post the pictures I have found but they are surely copyrighted.

I found them in this site:

Arquivo virtual de cartografia urbana portuguesa

They require registration.

posted on Mar, 2 2006 @ 07:39 AM
ArMap..thanks alot mate...ive just registered and am awaiting conformation.....i really apprecite your help!


posted on Mar, 8 2006 @ 10:47 AM
Hey ArMap, many thanks for that took ages for me to get it to work but it did bring up 4 maps of the bay of Santa Antonio, and the fort was pictured there, without me having a particullarly good grasp of portuguese yet, you really helped me out, many thanks.

Unfortunatley the images are copyrighted so i cant publish them.


posted on Mar, 20 2006 @ 10:09 PM
A really good thread and a good read, this may interest you


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