The Great Gunsway Robbery (1695)

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Site of the Mughal Ships Carrying the Pilgrams in the Red Sea
Duration: September 7th, 1695
—September 8th, 1695
Total Haul Value
Modern Estimates
$200 million—$400 million
Ships Looted +
Cargo Value
(1695) +
——Boarding Date
"Fateh Muhammad"?
£50,000—£60,000
——September 7th, 1695
"Ganj-i-Sawa'i"?
£325,000—£600,000
——September 8th, 1695
Total Bounty
Value (1695) +
Modern Estimates
£1,000 (per person)
£1,500—£2,000 (Henry Avery)
$45 million—$125 million (total)
Involvement
Mu mughal flag2.png Mughal Empire
2000px-Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg.png East India Company
1303334135.png British Empire
Pirates:
2000px-Flag of Henry Every red.svg.png Henry Avery Pirates
2000px-Pirate Flag of Thomas Tew.svg.png Thomas Tew Pirates

The Gunsway Robbery was a mass murder theft hijacking that occurred on September 7th and 8th, 1695, when the bountiful Mughal Empire had had their ships looted, their brethren murdered, their women raped and their wealth robbed by English pirates. A total of 5 ships from crews stretching across England to the US colonies, participated in boarding two large slow wooden ships, which were only defended by two others, with a small, motley crew of bodyguards, who ultimately proved ineffective. The ships had initially been making their trip back to India after having reached Mecca, having exchanged goods, services and trade. The ships themselves were carrying gold, gems, coins, silks, leather, fabrics, weapons, cannons, ammunition, diamonds, and all manner of other items worth of any value. The contact however between the pirates and Mughals was extremely bloody and violent, and involved perhaps one of the most tragic events in history; the death of Aurangzeb's great grand-daughter, which flew him into such a rage that he immediately declared war on the British Empire. The economic loss was also one of the greatest suffered by the Mughals.

The British fearful of the backlash instead declared war on the Avery pirates and set high-rise bounties totalling upto an estimated $125 million dollars, whilst also paying compensation to the Mughal Emperor. The pirates sailed immediately for the African continent, and split apart into their separate ways. This was not without trouble however, as Avery even conned his own men, robbing them of their wealth in order to increase his own. However, despite the huge sums of money and bounties involved, the Avery pirates were never caught, and were never seen alive again. Although a few were eventually apprehended, the majority of what became of the crews passed down into legend. The entire saga was however a testament to how rich and powerful just this one Muslim empire was at the time, ruling so much so that the British were under their thumbs. The saga was immortalised in 2016's "Uncharted 4", a PS4 game by Naughty Dog.

Background

Shaista Khan.

A Diplomatic Catasrophe:— The historical events under which the pirate-robbery took place happened under severely strained circumstances between the East India Company and the Mughal Empire. The British had previously launched a violent four-year war against the Mughals (1686—1690),[1][2] which after they ended up losing, brought them under closer scrutiny.[3][4] The Bengal had long been the political and economic powerhouse of the Company, and since they had grown more daring, they were clearly challenging Emperor, Aurangzeb, himself.[3] The rights to the economic state of Bengal had been given to the British as a sign of diplomacy.[3] They also later attained the rights to Bihar and Orissa in 1765.[3] The British did this not through peaceable means like before with Bihar, but through warring with the very country that had opened up to trade with them.[3] The Company had had a long history in India prior to their full takeover by 1765 (their very first factory was set up there in 1651).[3] By 1688 they'd declared war on the Mughals when the Company's director, Josiah Child, became incessantly aggressive.[3][n. 1] His brother John also blocked all the ports of the Western Coast of India; and also blocked all Muslims from going to pilgrimage to Makkah.[3] From their perspective the war was a necessary protest for the custom duties that they were forced to pay in order to sell goods to the India market.[3] The British then sacked the city of Hugli in October 1686.[3] Shaista Khan immediately launched a counter-offensive by sending his troops to repel the British;[3] and forced them to flee towards the Western Delta of the Ganges.[3]

Child's War:— Job Charnock had to negotiate a return to the mainland with the Mughals, and managed to secure permission to return to Sutanti (Calcutta) one year later.[3] However, Josiah Child sent the British fleet, lead by William Heath, to seize Chittagong.[3] However the Mughals crushed the British, who fled to Madras.[3] The war eventually ended in 1690 when John Child pleaded with the emperor for a pardon, which Aurangzeb, in hind-sight, should never have granted.[3] The British promised to return 40 ships they'd captured from the Mughals,[2] and promised to pay compensation as well as exhibit "good behaviour"[3]—which they would not;[n. 2] indeed they would take over India and reduce it's global economic contributions from 25% of the worlds GDP to 3%—4%. Another condition was the handing over of John Child, however he died prior to this being fulfilled.[2] According to the Indian National Archives; "The period from 1688 to 1690 then saw a futile armed conflict between the English Company and the Mughal empire of Aurangzeb, largely provoked by the belligerence of Sir Josiah Child. Child could hardly have chosen a worse moment to pick such a fight, for in the years 1686-1687 the Mughals completed their conquest of the sultanates of Bijapur and Golkonda, and thus emerged as a major power in the southern peninsula."[5] Aurangzeb was a strong leader, who refused to capitulate to the British, and this was why the British went to Aurangzeb to "plead" for a pardon.[6] During Aurangzeb's reign the British would never challenge him again, and it was not until after his death did they fully try to overtake India. The British would go onto rule India; from 1757 to 1947; ending a 231 year rule and starting their 190 year rule.

Aurangzeb's Empire (c. 1690).

History

The Robbery

Captain Avery:— Avery left the UK to join the British East India Company in 1693 as a second mate on the ship "Charles"; intending to pursue naval activities against the powerful Spanish empire colonies in the West Indies.[7] However a mutiny amongst the ship caused him and his crew to turn to piracy.[7] They had turned to this after having waited for a fleet squadron to be formed.[7] They sailed for the West African colonies, and found it profitable.[7] Their crew grew larger and their ship was renamed to the "Fancy".[7] After a while, they reached Madagascar, and them the Muslim country of Comoros, at Johanna.[7] They were almost caught on the island by East India agents; and they fled to evade their attention.[7] By February 1695, Avery issued a declarion of war against the merchant ships in the Mughal seas.[7] He however declared that he would not attack any British East India Company vessel if they flew certain flags in a certain way.[7] This only further cemented suspicions from the perspective of the Mughals that the British were operating piracy across their Muslim oceans.[7] The Dutch had long been warning the Mughals that all the pirates in the area were English.[7] Nevertheless, American pirate crews were operating in the area as well; and significantly nearly all of the American ships Avery came across were on their way to rob the grand Mughal fleet that was making it's annual trip from Surat to Makkah, laden with spices and cloth in exchange for coffee and gold.[7] The crews he met were the "Portsmouth Adventurer" pirates (lead by Joseph Faro), "Dolphin" (Want), "Pearl" (William Mace), "Amity" (Thomas Tew) and "Susannah" (Wake) pirates.[7] These pirates decided to form a pact and together attack the powerful Royal Mughal Fleet.

Mughal Navy[1]
The "Ganj-i-Sawai", being pursued by several smaller pirate ships, including "The Fancy".[n. 3]

Isolation and Attack:— Avery's pirates waited by the Red Sea to hijack the ships carrying the valuable cargo, treasures, and pilgrims.; but proceeded to kidnap some locals who confirmed that the "Moor[ish]" fleet was making its way to Surat from Mocha.[8] The Mughal Fleet passed by the pirates under the cover of night, but Avery had found this too late, launching an immediate and zealous pursuit.[8] One of their ships, "The Dolphin", could not pick up significant speed and so was abandoned and burned.[8][9] Whatever crew was left from this ship was added to "The Fancy". The other ships that were able to carry on were the "Pearl", "Portsmouth Adventure" and "The Amity";[n. 4] the others were similarly left behind.[8] The "Fateh Muhammed", not knowing "The Fancy" was full of pirates came within a pistol shot of the pirates who overtook it's autonomy.[8] The cargo from this ship alone was worth between £50,000—£60,000 pounds, including having carried silver and gold.[8][9] The "Ganj-i-Sawai" (anglicized; "Gunsway"), was better armed with 40—80 cannons/guns and 400—500 fighting men,[10][11][n. 5] and was also personally owned by Emperor Aurangzeb.[8] The battle lasted for 2—3 hours.[8] Tragically, the "Ganj-i-Sawai's" attempts to set fire to "The Fancy" fell through when one of it's own guns exploded killing many on board, causing significant damage.[8][12] The pirates guns also managed to ruin the mainmast,[12][13] rooting the ship to it's spot.[8] This gave the pirates an immense amount of morale.[8][n. 6] Afterwards, Avery's men said they would give mercy on the condition of surrender, however the pirates raped and murdered for at least a week after.[8][14]

Aftermath

Romanticization:— Europeans romanticized Aurangzeb's grand-daughter's death, preferring to say that Avery had married the princess out of her own choice, and settled in the mythical pirate empire in Madagascar.[15] Sources also vary on the amount of men Avery was said to have. According to the some authors he had a crew of between 400—500 pirates.[15] Others claim it was between 180—260.[8][11] The ship's loot was immense, worth between £325,000[16][17][18][19][n. 7]—£600,000 pounds.[17][19][20] The British East India Company filed a £600,000 pound insurance claim as a result.[21] The entire treasure is estimated to have been worth in excess of $400 million dollars in today's value,[17] which included 500,000 gold and silver pieces,[21] and $250 million dollars worth of diamonds.[20] The crew of "The Fancy" kept at least £325,000 pounds ($200 million dollars[22]) of the treasure (some authors claim that this would amount to about $500,000 dollars per person).[20] A small victory for the Mughals was that they had killed Captain Thomas Tew,[23] who suffered a horrific death;[8] he had his stomach ripped open by a Mughal bullet, which was so damaging that Tew was not able to hold his own bowels from spilling out and eventually dropped to the floor.[8] The Mughals were also angered at Captain Ibrahim Khan of the "Ganj-i-Sawai", insulting and berating him in their chronicles; who they said had tried to get the concubine women to fight for him instead.[8] Avery was never arrested, and it is unknown what happened to him. He is said to have landed in Scotland;[17] later reported to have moved to Devonshire, England.[17][n. 8]

The rape & murder of Aurangzeb's grand-daughter was romaticized in Europe.
Mughal account (1782).

Treachery & Betrayel:— Avery later robbed his fellow captains by tricking them into moving all the acrued wealth into his ship, which he claimed was more secure and less prone to being intercepted by the authorities.[16] He split his wealth none-the-less with his current crew, and every man on his ship received £1,000 each (a lifetimes salary for a sailor was approximately £500 in the 1600s).[16] He made his way to the Carribean, specifically the Bahamas where he bribed officials into allowing him to land there.[16] He was declared a hero by the poor in England.[16] He himself receieved a bounty of £1,500—£2,000 pounds, with his men at a £1,000 each ($250,000 dollars in 2008's money).[16][19][14] This means that the entire crews bounty must have been somewhere in the region of £180,000 pounds to £260,000 if his crew was between 180 to 260 men, and may even have been as high as £400,000 pounds to £500,000 pounds if his crew numbered between 400 to 500 men; excluding Avery's own bounty. By 2008 standards, this amounts to a bounty of $45 million—$65 million dollars; or $100 million—$125 million dollars for the entire crew respectively, minus Avery's personal bounty. What made this robbery astounding was the fact that the "Ganj-i-Sawai" was only ever protected by two ships.[24] Emperor Aurgangzeb was so angered, incensed over the loss of his family and treasure over the incident that he declared war on the English, and sent an army to Bombay (Mumbai).[n. 9][25] He also ordered the seizure of the British East India Company.[25] The Mughals were also convinced the English were nothing more than pirates or pirate colluders.[26] Avery's robbery was romaticized, such as his pirate utopia in Madagascar, and his 15,000 followers.

Disappearance:— After Avery and his men were satisfied with the rapes, murders and robbery on board they left South for Madagascar, wanting then to leave for the Cape of Good Hope.[27] At Reunion Island, which was halfway towards the cape, Avery divided his treasure, and the crew went their separate ways.[27] Each man received £1,000 pounds of the plunder, the equivalent of 20 years worth of wages, according to some.[27] They then made their way to Nassau, fleeing from the revenge of the Emperor should he make himself known.[27] By November 1695, the pirates made their way to New Providence Island. Whilst at Nassau, Avery had set up a business deal with Governer Trott of Nassau—in actuality a bribe—spending some amount of time there (said to have been several days), being treated Trott himself who hosted their arrival.[27] Several of Avery's men decided to stay in Nassau and marry local women whilst the other pirates split up into three crews.[27] Around 23 men were led by Thomas Hollingsworth, bought a 30 tonne ship called the "Isaac", and sailed for England in April 1696.[27] The second party were made up of 50 men, who sailed to Charleston in the state of Carolina, United States—then an English colony—400 miles to the north of where they were.[27] The third group was made up of Avery himself and 20 others.[27] They paid £600 pounds for a 50 tonne ship called the "Sea Flower".[27] This ship was armed with 4 small cannons, and they left on June 1st, 1696, making their way for the north of Ireland, via passage through the the Gulf Stream.[27] After Avery had left, and Governer Trott had run aground the "Fancy" and picked it clean, Avery was never heard from again.[27]

Mughal India. Surat is visible in the lower left hand side.

Sources

Further Reading

Footnotes

  1. ^ Aurangzeb made sure not to grant the British any special privallages in 1686, which may have been another contributing factor for the war.
    1. Burwick (8 December 2014). Romanticism: Keywords. Wiley. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-118-89309-8.
  2. ^ The British East India Company did not take over fully until 1757, well after Aurangzeb's death in 1707. Colonial rule began in 1757 and ended only 1947, after World War II had severely broken the British Empire. The East India Company had been founded in 1600, mainly to rival the Portuguese monopoly in Indonesia. They very first trading post set up by the company was in 1612, and did not attain political significance until after the 17th century. The Mughals gave the company a "farman" in 1716. This was an imperial Mughal directive which "explicitely detailed the Company's territorial and commercial rights and legitimized action against anyone infringing on those rights. The company abused this position to replace the Nawab of Bengal. By 1765, the Mughal had allowed governers to rule instead of a rule by proxy.
    1. David M. Darst (15 November 2013). Portfolio Investment Opportunities in India. Wiley. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-118-82425-2.
  3. ^ The ship may actually have been called "The Fanny" according to some authors.
    1. George Francis Dow; Johan Henry Edmonds (26 April 2012). The Pirates of the New England Coast 1630-1730. Courier Corporation. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-486-13814-5.
  4. ^ The Pearl, Portsmouth Adventurer, and Amity were from the American colonies. The first two were homed in Rhode Island and the Amity's was in New York.
    1. Gail Selinger; W. Thomas Smith Jr. (4 April 2006). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates. DK Publishing. p. 214. ISBN 978-1-4406-9650-3.
  5. ^ The "Ganj-i-Sawai" was, however, under-equipped when it sailed from Surat. It could hold 800 guns/cannons and 400 muskets, but on the day that it was robbed and hijacked by the Avery pirates, it only had 40 guns/cannons and no muskets.
    1. Neil Rennie (12 September 2013). Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates. p. 3-7. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-967933-1.
    2. Kaushik Roy (30 March 2011). War, Culture and Society in Early Modern South Asia, 1740-1849. Taylor & Francis. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-136-79087-4.
    The pirates had in contrast 46 guns/cannons.
    1. Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe (23 March 2009). Secrets of the World's Undiscovered Treasures. Dundurn. pp. 189–190. ISBN 978-1-77070-384-1.
  6. ^ The crew of the Ganj-i-Sawai were massacred, hacked to death with swords and knives, shot with muskets or pushed into the sea and drowned.
    1. Mitchell Lane Publishers Inc. (1 September 2015). Long Ben (Henry Every). Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-68020-041-6.
  7. ^ The £325,000 pound figure is actually considered to be a low estimate from the East India Company.
    1. Jon E. Lewis (4 August 2011). The Mammoth Book of Pirates. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-78033-271-0.
  8. ^ Authors of childrens book in European countries even state he "wheedled" his partners out of their fortunes.
    1. Islands Magazine. 1994-07 - 1994-08. p. 114. ISSN 07457847.
  9. ^ This was totally out of character for the Mughals who were very open with foreigners in their lands, keen to learn about them. However the robbery and rape saw Aurangzeb completely furious to the point where he sent an army against the British, and he even threatened to invade Britain.
    • Quote: "The Mughal regime brought peace and prosperity in the country and thus political stability. India came in contact [sic] with other parts of the world, and travellers from distant places started pouring in; Mughal emperors and huis nobles were very liberal and accepted new discoveries with open mind and heart. They collected good maps, watches, globes and other western scientific instruments."
    1. Chandramani Singh, Attilo Petruccioli (1993). Cartographic Tradition of India: A Study in Medieval Indian Maps and Plans. Journal of the Islamic Environmental Design Research Centre 1-2. p. 169. Retrieved May 19th, 2016.
    2. Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.

References

  1. ^ David M. Darst (15 November 2013). Portfolio Investment Opportunities in India. Wiley. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-118-82425-2.
  2. ^ a b c Marguerite Eyer Wilbur (1945). The East India Company: And the British Empire in the Far East. Stanford University Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-8047-2864-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q James Stuart Olson; Robert Shadle (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-313-29366-5.
  4. ^ Stuart Laycock (29 February 2012). All the Countries We've Ever Invaded. History Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-7524-8335-1.
  5. ^ India. Imperial Record Department; National Archives of India (2013). Calendar of Persian Correspondence: 1759-1767. National Archives of India. p. xiv. ISBN 978-93-80607-64-1.
  6. ^ Burwick (8 December 2014). Romanticism: Keywords. Wiley. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-118-89309-8.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Graham Harris (1 September 2002). Treasure and Intrigue: The Legacy of Captain Kidd. Dundurn. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-1-55488-033-1.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Neil Rennie (12 September 2013). Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates. p. 3-7. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-967933-1.
  9. ^ a b Robert A. Geake (2013). The New England Mariner Tradition: Old Salts, Superstitions, Shanties & Shipwrecks. The History Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-62619-228-7.
  10. ^ Robert Hendrickson (1 January 1992). The Ocean Almanac. Hutchinson Reference. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-09-177355-7.
  11. ^ a b Joel Baer (1 January 2005). Pirates of the British Isles. Tempus. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-7524-2304-3.
  12. ^ a b Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  13. ^ Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe (23 March 2009). Secrets of the World's Undiscovered Treasures. Dundurn. pp. 189–190. ISBN 978-1-77070-384-1.
  14. ^ a b Gail Selinger; W. Thomas Smith Jr. (4 April 2006). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates. DK Publishing. p. 213-214. ISBN 978-1-4406-9650-3.
  15. ^ a b Mark G. Hanna (15 June 2015). Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740. UNC Press Books. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-4696-1795-4.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Stuart Robertson (2008). The Pirates Pocket Book. Conway. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-84486-077-7.
  17. ^ a b c d e John Madinger (19 April 2016). Money Laundering: A Guide for Criminal Investigators, Third Edition. CRC Press. pp. 17–18 (XVII-XVII). ISBN 978-1-4398-6914-7.
  18. ^ Jon E. Lewis (4 August 2011). The Mammoth Book of Pirates. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-78033-271-0.
  19. ^ a b c Angus Konstam (19 August 2008). Piracy: The Complete History. Osprey Publishing. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-84603-240-0.
  20. ^ a b c Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. x. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  21. ^ a b Douglas R. Burgess (10 September 2008). The pirates' pact: the secret alliances between history's most notorious buccaneers and colonial America. McGraw-Hill. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-07-147476-4.
  22. ^ Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  23. ^ Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  24. ^ Stuart Robertson (2008). The Pirates Pocket Book. Conway. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-84486-077-7.
  25. ^ a b Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  26. ^ Jan Rogoziński (1 April 2001). Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Story of Pirate Island. Conway. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-85177-792-4.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Colin Woodard (12 May 2008). The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 23–24. ISBN 0-547-41575-3.

Further Reading

External Links