John Bowen (pirate)

John Bowen (pirate)

Infobox Pirate
name=John Bowen
lived=c. Unknown-1704

type= Pirate
placeofbirth= Bermuda
placeofdeath= Mascarene Islands
serviceyears= 1700-1704
base of operations= Indian Ocean, Red Sea
commands= "Speaker",
"Speedy Return",
wealth= £170,000 [ [] In August 1703 they captured two Indian vessels... "" V'léOnica Roberts] [When the "Speaker" made the mouth ... p51 Seitz, Don Carlos, Howard F. Gospel and Stephen Wood. "Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates". 2002.]

John Bowen (c. Unknown - 1704) was a pirate of Créole origin active during the Golden Age of Piracy. [ [] Captain John Bowen was a Créole pirate... "" Julien Durup, 2004] He sailed with other famous contemporaries, including Nathaniel North (who would succeed him as captain of Bowen's final ship, the "Defiant") and George Booth, who was his captain when he served under him as a crewman aboard the "Speaker". Over the course of a four year period, Bowen took around £170,000 in goods and coinage and retired to Mauritius for a brief period of time before his death in 1704.

Early life

Born on Bermuda, Bowen moved to the proprietary colony of Carolina and joined an English ship, serving as Petty Officer. [While serving as a petty officer ... p47, Seitz, Don Carlos, Howard F. Gospel and Stephen Wood. "Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates". 2002.] After an unknown period of time, Bowen's ship was attacked and he was captured by French pirates. The pirates then crossed the Atlantic Ocean, heading to Madagascar, but ran aground near Elesa to the south of the island. There Bowen, along with a number of English merchant captains and seamen who had also been imprisned aboard the privateer's vessel, seized the ship's longboat and sailed the 15 leagues (45 miles) to St. Augustine. Bowen remained there for the next 18 months before entering piracy - he joined the crew of Captain Read, leaving the island and being elected sailing master by the crew.

Following the capture of a large Indian ship by Read, Bowen returned to Madagascar and joined George Booth as a member of the crew. In April 1699 the pirates captured the 450 ton, 50-gun former slave ship "Speaker". Bowen continued to sail under Booth's command until, in 1700 George Booth was killed by Arabs at the settlement of Zanzibar while attempting to negotiate the resupplying of the "Speaker".

Piratical career

As captain of the "Speaker"

Bowen was initially successful. He attacked a 13-strong fleet of Moorish ships and, despite a number of the ships escaping in darkness, captured a prize with an estimated value of £100,000. [ [] Near the mouth of the Red Sea ... "" V'léOnica Roberts] [When the "Speaker" made the mouth ... Seitz, p51, Don Carlos, Howard F. Gospel and Stephen Wood. "Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates". 2002.] Following this, Bowen attacked a number of ships, including an English East Indiaman commanded by Captain Conway in November 1701, off the coast of Malabar. Despite these attacks, Bowen was able to continue to trade in local ports - following his attack on the East Indiaman, Bowen openly towed her into the nearby port of Callicoon and sold her in three shares to local merchants. The "Speaker" was lost in late 1701 when, during a voyage to Madagascar, she ran aground St. Thomas' Reef off Mauritius.Lizé, Patrick. The wreck of the pirate ship Speaker on Mauritius in 1702. "International Journal of Nautical Archaeology." Volume 13 Issue 2 Page 121 - May 1984] However, Bowen and most of the crew were able to reach the shore. After three months on the island, they were able to purchase a sloop and, after converting it into a brigantine (later renamed as the "Content") he and his crew left and, upon arriving at Madagascar founded a town and at fort Maratan.

As captain of the "Speedy Return"

In early 1702, Bowen and a number of pirates seized the "Speedy Return", commanded by Captain Drummond, as well as an aged Brigantine which Drummond had planned to fill with slaves from Île Sainte-Marie, for sale to Portuguese cocoa plantation owners in Africa. The brigantine was found to be useless and was burned, but the "Speedy Return" was refitted for action against commercial vessels. The "Speedy Return" and the "Content" later left Maratan together but, on the first night of the voyage, the "Content" ran aground on a ledge. Unaware of this, Bowen continued to sail for the Mascarene Islands. There he expected to find the "Rook Galley", as it had been previously sighted there by former members of Drummond's crew. However, the "Rook Galley" was absent and Bowen sailed to Mauritius to look for her. Finding the "Rook" once again absent, he refused to attack the ships present in the harbour as he feared the unknown strength they may have possessed. Bowen then sailed to Augustin Bay, putting in at Port Dauphin briefly, where he met the "Content". However when the "Content" was surveyed she found to be worthless and was burned, with the crew coming aboard the "Speedy Return".

In late 1702 Bowen once again met Thomas Howard, who, after leaving Bowen's crew at Madagascar following the loss of the "Speaker" had, along with a group of pirates, taken the 36-gun "Prosperous", at the port of Mayotta. By Christmas, Bowen and Howard decided to join their forces. In March of 1703 Bowen had the "Speedy Return" careened and it was not until the August of 1703 that together they attacked and plundered the East Indiaman "Pembroke" near Johanna Island, one of the Comoros Islands. Bowen and Howard then attacked two Indian ships in the Red Sea, capturing the larger and renaming her "Defiant".

Return to Rajapura, retirement and death

After declaring the "Speedy Return" and "Prosperous" unsound, they were burned and Bowen took command of the "Defiant". Having also taken a sum of £70,000, Bowen returned to the port of Rajapura where the plunder was divided, and Thomas Howard remained, and then on to the Mascarene Islands where he and 40 others left the "Defiant", with his intention being to retire from piracy and to return to Madagascar. However, within six months Bowen died of an unspecified intestinal disease and was buried on the Mascarenes. Following his retirement, Nathaniel North was elected to replace him as Captain of the "Defiant".

Bowen's career as a pirate was later profiled by Captain Charles Johnson - commonly believed to be a pseudonym of Daniel Defoe - in "A General History of the Pyrates". [cite web|url=|title=Book Review:A General History of the Pyrates|author=Rob Ossian|accessdate=2007-11-29|Publisher=The Pirate King]


* Seitz, Don Carlos, Howard F. Gospel and Stephen Wood. Under the Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates. Mineola, New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-486-42131-7

External links

* [ John Bowen profile] by David Stapleton
* [ Account of John Bowen's life] by V'léOnica Roberts
* [ Brief biography of Bowen] by Julien Durup

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