Thursday, June 5, 2008

Billy Bowlegs and The Imminent Loss of our Town

Wikipedia tells us that Billy Bowlegs is this guy:

William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805), also known as Estajoca, was a Maryland-born English adventurer and organizer of Native American attempts to create their own state outside of Euro-American control.

Some sources give his date of birth as 1764.[1] Bowles was born in Frederick County, Maryland. He joined the British Army as a foot solider at 13 and served with the Maryland Loyalists Battalion as an ensign during the American Revolution. After the Battle of Monmouth he went to Jamaica. He was officer in Royal Navy by age 15, but was cashiered for dereliction of duty for returning too late to his ship. This occurred at Pensacola, Florida.

Here in Fort Walton, Billy Bowlegs is this guy:

The year is 1779. Adventurer, wanderer, scoundrel, pirate extraordinaire, and notorious bad boy, William Augustus Bowles, affectionately known as Billy Bowlegs, bursts on the scene. A charismatic leader of men uses his egotistical ambition and superior strength of will for self gain.

Bowles originally came to Pensacola with British forces to hold Pensacola from the Spanish. When the effort failed, he developed an undying hatred for the Spanish visitors. At this time, three countries were vying with the new Americans for control of the sea lanes and trade with Europe. Pursuing his idea of an American Indian state after the end of the American Revolution, Bowles managed to get himself received by King George III as 'Chief of the Embassy for Creek and Cherokee Nations' and it was with British backing that he returned to the Bahamas to train Creek Braves as pirates to attack Spanish ships.

Motley crews in the area were a force to be reckoned with and pirating became a very lucrative business on the high seas. As Bowles' popularity rose, his opponents became more distrustful and vowed to stop at nothing to get him under their control. Resistance came form all sides: the English became afraid Bowles was an agent for the Spanish, the Spanish offered him a Maj. General commission to “change sides” (and later offered $6000 and 1500 kegs of rum for his capture when he refused) and the Americans considered murder to be rid of his devilish activities.

He was briefly captured by the Spaniards. He managed to escape, commandeering a ship and returning to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1795, along with the Seminoles, he formed a short-lived state in northern Florida known as the "State of Muskogee", with himself as its president, and in 1800 declared war on Spain.

In 1803, not long after having declared himself 'Chief of all Indians’ at a trial council, he was betrayed by disenchanted Indians. They led him into a trap and turned him over to the Spanish authorities. He was imprisoned in Havana where he would neither speak to his captors nor eat their food and subsequently starved to death at the age of 42. This obscure episode in American history has given rise to a festival which is now an integral part of the Fort Walton Beach Community, the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival.

..........the year is 2008. Very soon local residents will batten down the hatches in preparation for the invasion of the infamous yet ever popular, Captain Billy Bowlegs. Captain Billy Bowlegs, along with his Queen, has been spotted at several local schools trying to persuade local youngsters to join his Motley Krewe. Captain Billy and his Krewe plan to invade Fort Walton Beach at the 53rd Annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival in June at Fort Walton Landing. Although Captain Billy's record stands at 52 wins and 0 losses, nothing is a sure thing when it comes to the city militia. The Fort Walton Beach Mayor and his brave Militia are not about to give up control of the city without a fight. Reports also say the militia has a secret weapon in store for those spineless thieves."

THIS is a mighty Pirate Bounty Ye Mateys!

This weekend we will be welcoming Billy Bowlegs to our town. He will arrive by ship, fight the Mayor and his minions for control of our town. His Krewe will make merry all week. There is a ball and a parade (all events raise money for different charities) and who can forget his imminent arrival!

I will regale you all with pictures as he arrives (or I will try through the throngs of people).

Pray for our small town as we are invaded!


Nancy said...

Very interesting post! Sounds like a fun time! I hope the event raises a lot for charity!

I just read your last comment on my blog...okay, you will have a new post to read tomorrow sometime, I promise! You're a hoot, know that? LOL

Yor're a sweet friend, too!


hippochick said...

oh michelle,

i wish we could be there. i love the panhandle. did i tell you we have vacationed in panama city beach at our friends' condo. wish we were there now.

when we come again, maybe we can meet.

in the meantime, good luck with the pirates, matey.

hippo hugs,

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great time! Everything I know about pirates comes from Pirate Mini Golf, Eric and my anniversary treat in remote northern Minnesota. It's as cheesy as it sounds, and Eric makes jokes about my booty, but he also puts his foot in the right place so I always get a hole in one. Yeah, I love him!

How do you get to BE Billy Bowlegs?

Nancy said...

OK, GIRL, I gave you the post you asked for. Now where are you? Your turn to get off the stick this time! I see you haven't even read it yet! LOL

Have a fun weekend with your family!


Diane said...

Some great history there...I'm sure the festivities are tons of fun. It would be a blast to be part of all that! Can't wait to see pictures.

Nancy said...

I would love to keep Pam in fresh fruit, but she lives in upstate NY and I live in upstate SC. The fruit would be buggy by the time I drove it up to her! LOL Your thought was a sweet one, anyhow!

Waiting for that post soon as you get home!!!


郭富城Jason said...