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Captain Howell Davis

    Born in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales, Davis first started his piracy career on July 11th, 1718. He is best known for starting the career of the infamous pirate Bartholomew Roberts. Before becoming a pirate, Davis was a mate aboard a slaving ship named Cadogan. When the ship was captured by pirate Edward England he was conscripted into joining their crew. However he said he would rather die than sign the pirate articles which impressed England so much he gave Davis command of the Cadogan. Then Davis and the crew set out for Brazil on July 18th, 1718 in order to sell the ship. However en-route his new crew mutinied against him and he found himself imprisoned on Barbados with charges of piracy. He was released within three months and set sail for Nassau on New Providence Island in the British controlled Bahamas in order to recruit a pirate crew from the famed pirate haven. However Nassau was under occupation by Woodes Rogers at the time and there were no pirates to be found there to assist him.

    From Nassau, Davis left aboard the sloop 'Buck'. While traveling, Davis and six crew members including Thomas Anstis and Walter Kennedy mutinied and overthrew the captain of the Buck near the coast of Martinique. Davis was elected captain of this ship and they set up their base at Coxon's Hole. Davis was one of the few pirates that ventured out of the West Indies in order to continue pirating. Traveling as far away as the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Davis captured a ship named the Saint James. This was a 26 cannon ship that Davis made his flagship after its capture. Later Davis, along with Edward England tried to form a partnership with the French pirate Olivier Levasseur and another pirate Thomas Cocklyn. One time while they were partners, Davis and Cocklyn seized a ship named 'Bird' captained by William Snelgrave. When seeing the abuse of Snelgrave at the hands of Cocklyn's men, Davis took it upon himself to protect the captain. This made a favorable impression on captain Snelgrave who documented the incident later for the authorities. After a while, the partnership between these pirate captain's soon fell apart and ended after a drunken confrontation.

    Transferring onto a 32-gun ship named the 'Rover', Davis and his crew sailed south and captured many ships off the Gold Coast of Africa. Davis was known for capturing at least fifteen known ships during his lifetime. He often conscripted crew members from captured ships to join his crew, and one ship in particular would contain Bartholomew Roberts who Davis forced to join his crew. Roberts however, was destined to become much more famous than his teacher in the later years of the 1720's. Davis next ventured to the Royal African Company slaving fort in Gambia. Here he pretended to be a legitimate merchant and privateer looking to buy slaves. Once he gained the confidence of the fort commander he and the crew were invited to a welcoming dinner. Once at the dinner, Davis pulled a pistol on the commander and his men captured the fort without a shot fired. Davis and the pirates then locked up all the soldiers, drank all of the rum and fired off the forts cannons for fun. They then ransomed the commander and made off with nearly £2,000.

    Davis quickly gained a reputation for his ingenuity and his remarkable pirating skills. Awhile later he managed to capture a French ship by flying a pirate flag high above a large but under-equipped ship, forcing the more heavily armed French ship to surrender thinking it was outmatched. But his luck would finally run out when he tried one of his boldest moves yet on the Portuguese island of Principe. Davis and his crew pretended to be Royal Navy pirate hunters in order to trick their way into kidnapping and ransoming the governor of the island. However, the governor was not fooled and set up an ambush of his own. As Davis was invited to call at the governor's fort for wine, the pirate were ambushed and killed on June 19th, 1719. In the aftermath of his death by the Portuguese governor, Bartholomew Roberts was elected captain. He proceeded to return to the island later that night avenging Davis death, by slaughtered most of the male population, along with looting and burning the city itself. While the career of Howell Davis was a short one at eleven months, his boldness as a pirate captain made him well respected by his peers.