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Biography: William Augustus Bowles born 1763, a young Tory

William Augustus Bowles
William Augustus Bowles



(1763 MD, USA – 1805)

Tallapoosa County, Alabama


“A yet more noted resident for a season upon the Tallapoosa was William Augustus Bowles, a Maryland boy, who, as a young tory, entered the British army as a soldier, fought for a year against the Americans, sailed to Jamaica as an ensign in 1777, came to Pensacola, flung his uniform into the sea, and in company with Creek Indians left for the wilds. For several years he remained by the Tallapoosa, and learned very thoroughly the Muscogee language. He married twice, a Cherokee and a Hitchiti Creek daughter of the prominent Chief Perryman. His new Creek father-in-law was the leader of a town along the Chattahoochee. William’s sons by both wives became important leaders among the Creek and Cherokee people during the Trail of Tears.

“His elegant and commanding form, fine address, beautiful countenance of varied expression, his exalted genius, daring, and intrepidity, all connected with a mind wholly debased and unprincipled, eminently fitted him to sway the bad Indians and worse traders among whom he lived.”

In 1781, with Creek warriors he aided General Campbell to defend Pensacola. He went next to New York, joined a company of comedians, and sailed to the Bahamas. There he acted comedy and painted portraits. The governor of the islands, Lord Dunmore, selected him as an agent to establish a commercial house on the Chattahoochie in opposition to the interests of William Panton, of Pensacola, and Alexander McGillivray Bowles was soon at work among the Lower Creeks.

But Milfort, the war chief, the French general, was sent to the Chattahoochie with a stern order for Bowles to leave the nation in twenty-four hours. He returned to the Bahamas, was sent by the governor with some Creek and Cherokee Indians to England, received valuable presents from the British court, returned to the Bahamas and became a pirate, having taught his Creek dependents to navigate the Gulf, preying especially upon the vessels of William Panton. His piratical success, having had with him “an abandoned set of white men from the prisons of London, together with hosts of savages,” increased his popularity among the Creeks. He endeavored now, advancing into the heart of the nation, to destroy the power of McGillivray The latter withdrew to New Orleans, and Bowles declared that he would never again show himself upon the Coosa. But the Scotch-Indian was too shrewd for the Maryland tory boy, and he soon arranged at New Orleans for the capture of Bowles, who was brought to New Orleans in chains and sent to Madrid, in Spain, as a captured pirate. This was in 1792. From Spain he was transported to the island Manilla, in the Pacific ocean.

In February, 1797, he was ordered back to Spain, but escaped at Ascension Island on the way, reached Sierra Leone, returned to London, sailed again to the Gulf in a schooner, and became again a pirate, and was wrecked on Fox Point in September, 1799. He advanced once more into the Creek nation, declared his hostility to both Spain and the United States. He issued a proclamation on October 31, expelling all U. S. and Spanish agents from the imaginary “state of Muskogee.” The State of Muskogee even had a flag, described as being rectangular, with a broad blue cross and white outline. The left upper and lower quarters, and the lower right quarters were red. The upper right quarter was blue with the sun having a face on it. He commenced depredations, and both American and Spanish authorities determined to remove him form the Creek country. A large reward was secretly offered for his capture.

Benjamin Hawkins laid a trap that put an end to Bowles. A great feast was prepared on the May 24, 1803, Coosa river, to which he was invited. At this feast he was suddenly seized, pinioned, placed in a canoe surrounded by armed warriors, and conveyed down the river. Stopping on the shore over night, while his guard slept, he gnawed the ropes from his arms and escaped. But Indians were on his track. His trail was found, and before many hours he was again their prisoner. He was taken down the Alabama to Mobile, was sent to Havana, and died in a few years in the dungeon of Moro Castle, having refused to eat. Thus ended his wild and varied career.



  1. A Glance into THE GREAT SOUTH-EAST or CLARKE COUNTY, ALABAMA and its surroundings from 1520 to 1877 by Rev. T. H. BALL, A.M. GROVE HILL 1882;
  2. Wikipedia;
  3. )
  4. Find A Grave Memorial# 26846943

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. […] I will here relate a daring deed of Weatherford and Moniac. There was a man by the name of Bowles who came into the Nation and represented himself to the Indians as a British Col. He raised a large body of Indians to go to war against the Spanish. The Spanish authorities at St. Marks, St Augustine, Pensacola and Mobile complained to our Government and expected the Government of the U.S.A. to prohibit Indians residing within her limits to make encroachment upon their territory. Col. Hawkins, the Indian Agent of the U.S.A. was instructed to arrest Bowles. […]

  2. As a volunteer at Uprton House, Warwickshire, England, a National Trust property, at which the famous portrait of Bowles is displayed, and which I give a resume of his life to visitors,there seem to be several accounts of his life, all at variance to one another, at least in details. One has to wonder just what the truth is. For example, was the thrown out of the army or did he leave of his own accord? Was he captured by the Creek indians or did he simply join them?No mention in most accounts does he go the Bahamas, and exactly when did he take to piracy? And how can he be English if he was born in America? The account of him becoming a comedian and a painter seem at odds with his character

  3. BILLY BOWLEGS! Our festival in Fort Walton Beach, Florida every June celebrates Billy Bowlegs! <3

  4. I’d love to know who painted this portrait.

  5. I am descended from a Benjamin Hawkins who fought in the Revolutionary War. I wonder if it is the same Hawkins mentioned here.

    1. Cindy Jennings run it down on Ancestry!

    2. Cindy Jennings This Benjamin Hawkins was once a US Senator, friend of Washington and Jefferson, and chosen by Jefferson to
      “Civilize” the Indians in the SE working out of South Ga. There are some great books on this man check Amazon books . He was a good man but his long effort to teach farming , weaving, etc ended abruptly with the Massacre of Ft Mims and the following Creek Wars of 1813-14. Hawkins was well loved by most Indians except the “Red Sticks” who led the Massacre of Ft Mims .

    3. I have a small portion of Benjamin Hawkins diary. Covering some of the area around Alexander City. It’s copies of the actual pages.

    4. Tom Phillips Yes, I am related to him. I believe during the Revolutionary War he was a French interpreter for Washington. He is buried in Georgia.

    5. Tom Phillips Thank you, I will check Amazon out as far as books on him goes. I would like to read one

    6. Frank Porter I checked out Ancestry- Col Benjamin Hawkins was my 1st cousin 8x removed.

    7. Since Colonel Benjamin Hawkins was your first cousin, eight times removed, you are related to me, Cindy Jennings.

    8. Howard Rankin how are you related to him?

    9. Send me a friend request. I will be able to message you my connection with Benjamin Hawkins.

    10. I will post my connection with Benjamin Hawkins as well.

    11. I just posted Benjamin Hawkins on my timeline.

  6. Good Gravy! What a story! And this hasn’t been made into a movie? That awesome portrait alone could inspire one. Thank you for sharing this story.

    1. Susan Hammond I have actually worked on such a project involving Chief Alexander McGillivray and William Augustus Bowles who knew each other from serving in the British Army in Pensacola during the time of the Revolution.
      The larger story is that of Chief McGillivray and how Bowles tried to steal his role as Chief. The motive was money and the control of the British/Indian trade out of NW Florida at Pensacola and St Marks.
      Bowles was financed by an ex colonial Gov of Va who had a trading Co in the Bahamas. Chief McGillivray was a partner in the huge trading firm of William Panton who had an exclusive trade agreement with Spain which controlled Florida again after 1780.

  7. Kathy Braswell Bowles Adcock

  8. Im sorry….That Is Detective Stabler in a head dress

  9. Some men live more life in one month than the rest of us live in a lifetime …

  10. That was a bad link for me.

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