Edward Davis (buccaneer)

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Edward Davis or Davies (fl. c. 1680–1688) was an English buccaneer active in the Caribbean during the 1680s and would lead successful raids against Leon and Panama in 1685, the latter considered one of the last major buccaneer raids against a Spanish stronghold. Much of his career was later recorded by writer William Dampier in A New Voyage Round the World (1697).

Early career[edit]

Possibly of Flemish ancestry, he is first recorded as one of the members of the "Pacific Adventure" led by Bartholomew Sharp and John Coxon in 1680. Briefly serving as a navigator, he and several others including James Kelly left the expedition within a year and returned overland through Panama with John Cook or Cooke.

Davis & Cook[edit]

In August 1683, while selling captured prizes in Virginia, he agreed to join a privateering expedition as a quartermaster under Cooke. Sailing eastward, they soon captured the 36-gun Delight (or Bachelor's Delight) shortly after arriving off West Africa. Sailing to the Pacific by way of Cape Horn, Davis and the others were joined by John Eaton before raiding Spanish cities along the coast of present day South and Central America.

Following the death of Cook in July 1684, the crew of the Delight elected Davis to succeed him. However, the expedition ran into some difficulty as a failed attack on El Realejo, Nicaragua would result in the departure of Eaton as well as raids against Paita, Peru and Guayaquil, Ecuador turning up little of value (although the capture of several slave ships resulted in 15 slaves joining the crew).

Turning back towards Panama, he raided Spanish shipping carrying silver from Peru to Spain before joining forces with a fleet under the command of Francis Grognet, Pierre le Picard and a Captain Townley.

Sailing back towards Ecuador, he encountered the Cygnet under Captain Charles Swan and Peter Harris (the nephew of privateer Peter Harris killed in the "Pacific Adventure" only four years before) and persuaded them to join the expedition.

With the Delight, the Cygnet and various smaller captured Spanish vessels, he would successfully lead an attack with Charles Swan and others against Panama. Although they planned to attack the Peruvian silver fleet, Spanish officials managed to transfer over 500,000 pesos in two galleons and escorted by three smaller warships which was able to evade the awaiting pirate fleet by sailing in an outwardly westward course. While awaiting the treasure fleet, Davis and the others encountered a Spanish patrol off the coast of Peru on June 8 and were eventually chased by a Spanish fleet to Corba Island.

Breakway from Grognet[edit]

Quarreling amongst themselves following their defeat, with many blaming Grognet, Davis left the expedition along with Swan, Townley, Harris, William Knight and sailed north with eight ships and 640 buccaneers.

However, raids against Leon and Realejo met with little success resulting in the departures of Swan and Townley who left for Mexico and Harris after much of his crew died from yellow fever in Honduras.

With William Knight, the buccaneers raided the coastal settlements of Peru taking £25,000 in jewels and silver from Sana in March 1686. Although later raids yielded smaller wealth, 39 African slaves were liberated from Paita and later joined the expedition. Raiding five more towns between the months of May and June, including the failed attack on La Serena, many priests and officials were killed attempting to hide the city's treasury until the defenders of Pisco agreed to pay £5,000 in ransom.

After arriving at the Juan Fernández Islands in November, he and Knight decided to divide the spoils with each crew member receiving £1,150 according to Raveneau de Lussan with Knight leaving for the Caribbean.

Davis continued with 80 men and looted £10,000 from Arica, Chile in February 1687. Learning from captives of Spanish plans to send a squadron from Peru against Captain Pierre le Picard, he arrived at Guayaquil in May and helped defeat the fleet and split £50,000 with the French buccaneer.

Later years[edit]

Leaving Guayaquil on June 12, he stopped at the Galápagos Islands and Juan Fernández Islands on his return voyage to the American colonies. He reported the discovery of land 600 leagues from the Galápagos at 27°20′S (later referred to as Davis' Land, this may have been Easter Island). He and the Delight arrived in the West Indies in early 1688 and eventually arrived in Philadelphia in May. Although he and Lionel Wafer would be imprisoned for piracy in Virginia for two years [1], he would eventually return to England in 1690 and successfully managed to have most of his former property and estates returned to him within two years.

He is claimed as one of the earliest buccaneers to have buried treasure on Cocos Island with his flagship, the Bachelor's Delight, in 1684 and 1702. Anchoring in Chatham Bay, he supposedly left behind several chests containing ingots, pieces-of-eight and £300,000 in silver bar and plate taken from settlements in Peru and Chile [2].

He may or may not have been the same privateer to accompany Captain William Kidd to America after a meeting at St. Mary's Island in 1697.

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