The Pirate's Own Book. It is probably safe to say that they were real individuals who sailed together in the vast Caribbean sea, but how much their brief life stories have been altered for the sake of entertainment is up for speculation.
Jonnia and Bolivar (or Bolidar according to Ellms) were in that last wave of piracy that sprang up out of the revolutions in Central and South America. When nations like Argentina, Chile and particularly Simon Bolivar's Grand Columbia discontinued their habit of doling out letters of marque against the Spanish, many a man turned from privateer to pirate. While that cannot be said to be the absolute case with our current subjects, their years of operation - 1821 in particular - hint at such goings on.
Gosse tells us that Jonnia, a Spaniard by birth, commanded a "fast schooner in 1821." He carried a crew of 40 men and for a small ship he appears to have been armed to the teeth. A curious aside in the short paragraph that Gosse allows for Jonnia notes that the schooner "had three Mexican negresses" aboard. Whether or not the ladies were wives or paramours of crewmen or were actually a-pirating themselves is not discussed. What a wonderful piece of historical fiction could be made of their possible adventures, however.
Jonnia's schooner took a Boston merchant, Exertion, on December 17, 1821. Gosse notes that the crew was "considerably drunk at the time" and plundered the merchant with reckless abandon:
The pirates took everything from their prisoners, even their clothes, but as a parting gift sent the captain a copy of the "Family Prayer Book" by the Rev. Mr. Brooks. The prisoners were marooned on a small mangrove quay, but they eventually escaped.
This torturous disposal of the prisoners - imagine being marooned naked on a sun baked, mosquito infested salt water quay - seems to have fallen to Lieutenant Bolivar, whom Gosse describes in particular and amusing detail as:
... a stout, well-built man of swarthy complexion and keen, ferocious eyes, huge black whiskers and beard, and a tremendously loud voice.
Jonnia and his crew took the booty they had carried away from Exertion to Principe, Cuba, doubtless to sell and/or trade. Their next cruise was not so felicitous, however, as Gosse ends the entry: "Jonnia and some of his crew were afterwards captured by an English ship and taken to Kingston, Jamaica, and there hanged." Whether or not the jovial Lieutenant Bolivar was in that batch, Gosse does not say.
Header: Pirates by Howard Pyle via Wikimedia