Historian: Murderous Pirate Hid Out in US Colonies

Jim Bailey says Arabic coins, newly surfaced documents place Henry Every there
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2022 3:25 PM CST
Historian: Murderous Pirate Hid Out in US Colonies
Four 17th century silver coins with Arabic inscriptions rest together on a table in Warwick, R.I., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. The coin, at top left, was found in Connecticut, while the other three were found in Rhode Island.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

One tarnished silver coin at a time, the ground is yielding new evidence that in the late 1600s, one of the world's most ruthless pirates wandered the American colonies with impunity. Newly surfaced documents also strengthen the case that English buccaneer Henry Every—the target of the first worldwide manhunt—hid out in New England before sailing for Ireland and vanishing into the wind. "At this point, the amount of evidence is overwhelming and indisputable," historian and metal detectorist Jim Bailey, who's devoted years to solving the mystery, told the AP. "Every was undoubtedly on the run in the colonies."

In 2014, after unearthing an unusual coin engraved with an Arabic inscription at a pick-your-own-fruit orchard in Middletown, Rhode Island, Bailey began retracing Every’s steps. Research confirmed that the exotic coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen. Bailey then discovered that it was consistent with millions of dollars’ worth of coins and other valuables seized by Every and his men in their brazen Sept. 7, 1695, sacking of the Ganj-i-Sawai, an armed royal vessel owned by Indian emperor Aurangzeb. Historical accounts say Every's band tortured and killed passengers aboard the Indian ship and raped many of the women before escaping to the Bahamas, a haven for pirates.

But word quickly spread of their crimes, and English King William III—under enormous pressure from a scandalized India and the influential East India Company trading giant—put a large bounty on their heads. Detectorists and archaeologists have since located 26 similar coins stretching from Maine to the Carolinas. "Every single one predates the sacking of the ship," said Steve Album, a rare coin specialist who helped identify some of the coins. Bailey had already found records showing that the Sea Flower, a ship used by Every and his men after they ditched the vessel they'd used in their murderous raid in the Bahamas, arrived in 1696 in Newport, Rhode Island.

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Captured pirates William Phillips and Edward Savill testified on Aug. 27, 1696, that one of two ships that left the Bahamas went to Virginia and New England before reaching Ireland. Critically, Bailey said, the newly surfaced records clarify a muddy timeline that long has been misinterpreted by historians to suggest Every lingered two months on the Caribbean island. "There's no way he stayed in the Bahamas to sit on the beach and work on his tan while waiting to be captured," Bailey said. "Indeed, Every was in New England for over a month weighing his options for starting his life anew in the colonies or going back home to England." Bailey’s next challenge: figuring out what happened to Every after the trail ran cold following his arrival in Ireland on June 20, 1696.

(More discoveries stories.)

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