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Gunsway (Persian/Hindustani: گنج سواہی, Ganj-i-Sawai, in English "Exceeding Treasure") was an armed Ghanjah dhow (trading ship) belonging to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb which, along with her escort Fateh Muhammed, was captured on 7 September 1695 by the English pirate Henry Avery en route from present day Mocha, Yemen to Surat, India.
In August 1695, Avery, captaining the Fancy, reached the Mandab Strait, where he teamed up with four other pirate ships, including Thomas Tew's 8 gun, 46 man sloop-of-war Amity. Although a 25-ship Mughal convoy bound for India had eluded the pirate fleet during the night, the following day they encountered the Gunsway, and her escort Fateh Muhammed, both stragglers passing the straits en route to Surat.
Avery and his men attacked Fateh Muhammed, which had earlier repulsed an attack by Amity, killing Captain Tew. Perhaps intimidated by Fancy`s 46 guns or weakened by their earlier battle with Tew, Fateh Muhammed's crew put up little resistance, and Avery's pirates sacked the ship for £600,000 worth of treasure.
Avery now sailed in pursuit of the Gunsway, overtaking her about eight days out of Surat. The Gunsway was a fearsome opponent, mounting 62 guns and a musket-armed guard of four to five hundred, as well as six hundred other passengers. But the opening volley evened the odds, as one of the Indian ship's cannons exploded, killing some of its gunners and causing great confusion and demoralization among the crew, while Avery's broadside shot his enemy's mainmast by the board. The larger Fancy drew alongside, and a number of her 113 man crew clambered aboard, overpowering the crew, passengers and slaves of the Gunsway.
The victorious pirates then subjected their captives to several days of horror, raping and murdering prisoners at will, and using torture to force them to reveal the location of the ships' treasure. The pirates raped women on the ship, and some of the women committed suicide by jumping into the sea. The other survivors were left aboard their ships, which the pirates set free.
The loot from the Gunsway totalled between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces. Avery and the surviving pirate captains set sail for Réunion, where they shared out £1,000 and some gemstones to every pirate in the crew.
In popular culture
- Woodard, Colin (2007). The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 20–23. ISBN 978-0-15-101302-9.
- Botting, Douglas (1978). The Seafarers: The Pirates. Time Life Books. Time-Life Books Inc. pp. 82–83.
- The Great Gunsway Robbery (1695) at Materia Islamica