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Captain John Ward
a.k.a Yusuf Reis

The first mention of Ward is in 1602 when he was jailed for plundering a Danish ship in the Caribbean. In 1603 he was forced into the Royal Navy, which by some is considered to be a fate worse than death. Shortly after his impressment, he & 30 others deserted at Plymouth & stole a small bark. Despite their small bark they captured a larger ship & then were able to capture a French ship carring six guns. Ward established himself as the band's leader & sailed to the Mediterranean. During the next two years he a warship with 32 guns which was renamed the Gift. They proceeded to plunder several merchantmen loaded with spices & silks.

In 1605, Ward was at Salé, Morocco, where several English & Dutch sailors joined his crew, including Richard Bishop & Anthony Johnson. By August 1606, Ward had worked a deal with Uthman Dey, the ruler of Tunis. He was permitted to use Tunis as a safe haven from where he could strike out in hunt for prey. In return, Uthman Dey would buy their booty for a fifth of its true value. From their base, they took several rich prizes, including the Reniera e Soderina, a 60 ton ship loaded with £100,000 worth of cargo. Ward returned to Tunis in June 1607 assured of fame & wealth.

The winter of 1607 was very harsh for Ward. The Reniera e Soderina was rotting & had begun to sink. Ward deserted his men, taking only some close friends & secretly transferred to a French ship they had taken. The Reneira sank off Greece & 250 muslim & 150 English sailors perished. Soon after Ward lost the French ship at sea & two of his warships were captured by the Venetians. The Tunisians were outraged at Ward's actions concerning the Reneira & the loss of the muslim sailors, but Uthman Dey, having been made very wealthy from his dealings with Ward, offered him protection. Ward however, not feeling very secure in returning to Tunis, offered King James I, in 1608, £40,000 for a pardon. King James I refused & Ward was forced to return to Tunis. Uthman Dey was good to his word & Ward had nothing to fear in the way of retaliation at Tunis. Ward converted to muslim & took on the name Yusuf Reis. It was as Yusuf Reis, that Ward took part in several raids until 1622, when he neared the age of 70. He married an Italian woman & also sent money to his English wife.

He lived out his life in luxury & was known to free captured English sailors as well as lavishly entertain many guests. It is thought he died of the plague, but at his age, which was quite old during these times is speculative.

In the June 1608 accounts of an English sailor, Ward is described thus: Very short with little hair and that quite white, bald in front, swarthy face and a beard. Speaks little and almost always swearing. Drunk from morn till night. Most prodigal and plucky. Sleeps a great deal and often on board when in port. The habits of a thorough ''Salt''. A fool and an idiot out of his trade.


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