Pirate ship HMS Fox unearthed after Hurricane Michael?

The hurricane may have washed a long-lost British military ship ashore near Carabelle.

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The hurricanes taketh away, and the hurricanes giveth... - Florida State Archives
Florida State Archives
The hurricanes taketh away, and the hurricanes giveth...

If you're looking for pirates, look no further: The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Hurricane Michael unearthed a few ships — all sunk during the 1899 hurricane that decimated Carabelle.

All, perhaps, but one, but we'll get to that.

Hurricane Michael's storm surge exposed these boats. Ordinarily, the state would dispatch archaeologists to examine the boats (and preserve anything historical) but right now, the state has no plans to investigate, as currently the folks in the panhandle are using state funds for other things, like surviving.

click to enlarge The track of the 1899 hurricane. Note that it came ashore in almost exactly the same place as Hurricane Michael. - via the National Hurricane Center
via the National Hurricane Center
The track of the 1899 hurricane. Note that it came ashore in almost exactly the same place as Hurricane Michael.

Now, about that one that some suspect didn't sink in 1899: It was a pirate ship.

Maybe.

One ship could be the HMS Fox, which sank in 1799. The Fox, a 150-ton schooner that was part of the British military fleet, sank off the eastern end of Dog Island during a storm. British loyalists — remember, we're talking about a time right after the Revolutionary War — wanted to support local Indians and were trying to help the Indian Nation of Muskogee become a separate and sovereign nation. The endgame? Stop the U.S. from expanding. Why Florida? Because Florida remained loyal to the Brits during the Revolutionary War.

click to enlarge William Bowles was a "soldier of fortune" or, as some like to say, pirate. He wanted to help the Muskogee Indians in Florida's panhandle establish a sovereign nation. - Public Domain
Public Domain
William Bowles was a "soldier of fortune" or, as some like to say, pirate. He wanted to help the Muskogee Indians in Florida's panhandle establish a sovereign nation.

One such loyalist (also called a Tory) was Billy Bowles, who was on the HMS Fox when it ran aground and broke up during the 1799 storm. Bowles was notorious for not being wholly truthful, but one thing is certain: He was a "soldier of fortune" assisting the British. In other words, Bowles was a pirate — at least, as far as the United States and Spain were concerned. The British remember him more favorably, as he was assisting the crown in fighting U.S. expansion.

The HMS Fox was rumored to have treasure aboard, but no historian has been able to substantiate those claims. However, historians do believe the ship had some 14 cannon as well as goods intended for trade aboard when it sank.

The seven-mile-long Dog Island lies 21 miles east of Apalachicola. Some estimates put the number of sunken ships near Dog Island at 118.

Right now, the panhandle is more concerned with restoring power, shoring up roads and finding shelter for the legions of panhandle residents who lost their homes in the October 10 hurricane.

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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