7 May 1694
Updated: May 7, 2021
The Spanish Expedition Shipping endeavor was the brainchild of prestigious London financier James Houblon. A small, well-provisioned fleet loaded with guns and cannon would sail to the West Indies and trade those arms to the Spanish there in exchange for salvage rights to sunken Spanish galleons in the area. When recruiting crewmen for the expedition, Houblon and his investors promised regular wages, with a month’s advance up front - a significantly higher rate than anything the Royal Navy offered. Roughly 200 men signed up for the voyage, including the circumnavigating scientist William Dampier, who would be second mate aboard the Dove.
The first leg of the expedition was a two-week voyage to A Coruña, a Spanish port city where they would make a quick stop to take on additional supplies and finalize paperwork before catching the trade winds eastward across the Atlantic. Things soured almost immediately, however, when the paperwork from Madrid never showed up and this brief stop turned into five months of stagnant unrest for the crew, exacerbated by the fact that none of them had received their promised wages, and they were all broke.
The crew of Charles II were stuck in port with no promise, no money, and a captain with a severe drinking problem. The seeds of mutiny had been sown, and the time to reap their harvest was fast approaching. Charles II had an able-bodied Royal Navy veteran seaman onboard serving as first mate by the name of Henry Every, and when he was approached by the other crew members to lead the mutiny, he had one stipulation: he would lead, but there would be no killing. When the other crew members agreed, the plan began falling into place.
The mutiny had spread across the fleet, with members of Charles II and James both involved. On the moonlit evening of May 7th, a small pinnace rowed up alongside the James and shouted the following inquiry to the night watchman: "Is the drunken boatswain on board?" This was the signal that the mutiny was underway and that the mutinous crewmen needed to begin making their way secretly over to the Charles. Back on the Charles, a group of men - including Henry Every - were cheerfully enjoying a bowl of punch, drinking a toast "to the health of the Captain, and the prosperity of our voyage."
As the sailors from the James were quickly piling themselves into a pinnace, the night watchman was off alerting Captain Humphries. By the time they had gotten back to the deck, the pinnace was in the water and the sailors were rowing furiously toward the Charles. In a split second decision, Captain Humphries fired two shots from the bow of the James at his now-former crew members. Every's plan had been to peaceably confront Charles II's captain, Charles Gibson, the next morning with the hope of getting Gibson and anyone loyal to Gibson off the Charles before sailing it away. With those two thunderous shots from the James, that plan would have to be scrapped and the mutineers would have to get moving, quickly.
With the entire harbor now on alert, Every and company weighed anchor and made for open water. Fortunately for them, the Charles II was significantly faster than every other ship at anchor, and they quickly outran all that were in pursuit. The mutiny had been a success.
The next morning, Captain Gibson - who had fallen ill the night before from too much drink - awoke to the feeling of his ship adrift. Alarmed, he called for Every and asked him what the matter was; had the anchor cables snapped? Every informed Captain Gibson that now HE was the captain of the Charles, and that they were under sail in calm waters roughly ten miles from shore. Alarmed, Captain Gibson listened as Henry Every detailed his plan to take the Charles around the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar, and then to the Red Sea to prey on rich Mughal shipping. Every offered Gibson the chance to join the crew and sail with them as an officer, or even as the captain of the voyage, if he would do so peaceably. Gibson firmly declined, and therefore he and the remaining sailors who did not wish to join them were put in a small, leaky boat to get back to port.
"I am a man of fortune, and I must seek my fortune," Henry Every is quoted as saying. He would go on to capture great prizes about the Charles II, which he would rename Fancy. He became one of the most successful pirates in history.