Biographies of Famous Pirates
Captain Henry Every
Flag Attributed to Captain Every
Every and crew set sail for Madagascar with the intent to make their fortunes at the expense of others. Along the way they plundered three British ships off the Cape Verde Islands, captured a French privateer near the island of Johanna along with loot taken from the Moors. It was here at Johanna that Every wrote his famous letter.
To All English Commanders.
Let this satisfy that I was riding here at this instant in the Fancy, man-of-war, formerly the Charles II of the Spanish expedition who departed from La Coruna 7th May 1694, being then and now a ship of 46 guns, 150 men, and bound to seek our fortunes. I have never yet wronged any English or Dutch, or ever intend whilst I am commander. Wherefore as I commonly speak with all ships I desire whoever comes to the perusal of this to take this signal, that if you or any whom you may inform are desirous to know what we are at a distance, then make your ancient [ship's flag] up in a ball or bundle and hoist him at the mizzen peak, the mizzen being furled. I shall answer with the same, and never molest you, for my men are hungry, stout, and resolute, and should they exceed my desire I cannot help myself. As yet an Englishman's friend,
At Johanna, 18th February 1695
- Henry Every
Here is 160 odd French armed men at Mohilla who waits the opportunity of getting any ship, take care of yourselves.
In early 1695 the Fancy had reached the Comoros Islands, where Every's crew raided a French vessel and narrowly escaped capture by three East Indiamen. The Fancy then sailed north to the Arabian Sea, where a 25-ship convoy of Grand Mughal vessels was making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, including the treasure-laden 62 gun flagship Ganj-i-Sawai and its escort, the Fateh Muhammed. Joining forces with several pirate vessels, Every found himself in command of a small pirate squadron, including a sloop captained by English pirate Thomas Tew. As the pirates gave chase, the smaller vessels in the squadron gradually fell behind, and at some point Tew was killed in an engagement with a Mughal ship. Every had more success, however, capturing the Fateh Muhammed which put up little fight and later overtaking the Ganj-i-Sawai, snapping its mainmast in a cannonball volley. Following several hours of ferocious hand-to-hand combat on deck, the pirates emerged victorious. They then proceeded to brutalize and rape the passengers. Although many pirates were reportedly killed, the payoff was astonishing. The treasure aboard the ship was the stuff of pirate dreams, 500,000 pieces of silver and gold, jewels, a saddle set with rubies meant as a gift for the Great Mogul. When the pirates finished plundering the ships they set them adrift, but without the surviving women. The Indian ships eventually made their way to Surat, but the fate of the women is unknown, most likely they were thrown overboard or put ashore at Reunion, where the pirates put in to share out the plunder. Estimates of the treasure put the value at between 325,000 and 600,000, of which each pirate's share was more than 1,000 (Every got two shares as captain).
Every's fleet split up at this point, with Every's band to the Bahamas, briefly sheltering in New Providence, a known pirate haven. Here they further fatten their purses by selling off some of the various stolen cargo. At the Bahamas, the pirates showered the governor with gifts and bribes, even going so far as to give him the Fancy. Unfortunately, the plunder of Ganj-i-Sawai caused considerable damage to England's fragile relations with the Mughals. In response to Every's attack, a combined bounty of £1,000 an immense sum by the standards of the time was offered for his capture by the Privy Council and the East India Company, leading to one of the first worldwide manhunts in recorded history. The result being that they were not welcome in the West Indies or any of the British colonies. After adopting aliases, the crew broke company, most choosing to sail home to the British Isles and the rest remaining in the British West Indies or taking to the North American colonies. Twenty-four of the pirates were eventually captured, and six were tried, convicted, and hanged in London in November 1696. Yet Every eluded capture, vanishing from all records in 1696; his whereabouts and activities after this period are unknown. Unconfirmed accounts state he may have changed his name and retired from piracy a wealthy man, quietly living in a life of luxury in either Britain or an unidentified tropical island. It is also told that he tried to sell off his share of the treasure, mostly in diamonds, only to be cheated by the merchants he was dealing with. This however seems very unlikely. Although Every's career as a pirate lasted only two years, his exploits captured the public's imagination. His resulting celebrity inspired quite a few others to take up a life of piracy, and also spawned numerous works of literature.