Bowles's Filibustering Expeditions

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BOWLES'S FILIBUSTERING EXPEDITIONS. In the early 1780s William Augustus Bowles traveled to the Bahamas, where he became the agent of the trading house of Miller, Bonnamy, and Company, reinforced with the benevolent and probable financial interest of Lord Dunmore, governor of the islands. In this capacity, Bowles sought to secure the trade of the Creek Indians in Florida, which another English firm, Panton, Leslie, and Company, held rather securely.

Bowles appeared in western Florida in 1788 with a cargo of goods, which he liberally distributed among the Indians without arousing suspicion. Bowles probably intended to attack the Spaniards through Indian allies, but he left after some of his men deserted. In 1791, the year after the Creek chief Alexander McGillivray made the Treaty of New York with the United States, Bowles returned to Florida with the idea of supplanting McGillivray in Creek leadership, being aided by the unpopularity of that agreement. He plundered the Panton, Leslie storehouse at Saint Marks, but after being tricked by the Spanish spent the next few years as a prisoner in Havana, Madrid, Cádiz, and the Philippines. He escaped and returned to Nassau in 1799, and soon embarked for Florida on his third and last filibustering expedition. In 1800 he seized the Spanish fort at Saint Marks and held it for a few months before being forced out. At the suggestion of the United States, the Spaniards offered a reward of $4,500 for his capture and in May 1803 he was seized on American soil. He died two years later in Morro Castle, Havana.


Saunt, Claudio. A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733–1816. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

E.Merton Coulter


See alsoCreeks ; Indian Treaties ; Spain, Relations with .

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Bowles's Filibustering Expeditions

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