Captain Ben Johnson.

When a lad he had served as a midshipman in an East Indiaman, the Asia, but having been caught red-handed robbing the purser of brandy and wine, he was flogged and sent to serve as a sailor before the mast. In 1750, while in the Red Sea, he deserted his ship and entered the service of the Sultan of Ormus. Finding Johnson to be a clever sailor, the Sultan appointed him admiral of his pirate fleet of fourteen vessels. The young admiral became a convert to Brahminism, and was ceremoniously blessed by the arch-priests of the Temple. Amongst his crew Johnson had some two hundred other Englishmen, who also became followers of Brahmin, each of whom was allowed, when in port, a dancing girl from the Temple.

Johnson proved a most capable and bloodthirsty pirate, playing havoc with the shipping of the Red Sea, taking also several towns on the coast, and putting to death his prisoners, often after cruel tortures. His boldest exploit was to attack the fortified town of Busrah. This he did, putting the Sheik and most of the inhabitants to death, and taking back to his master, the Sultan, vast plunder of diamonds, pearls, and gold.

On another occasion Johnson landed his crews on the Island of Omalee, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, a favourite place of pilgrimage, and raided the temples of the Indian God Buddha. Putting to death all the two thousand priests, he cut off the noses and slit the upper lips of seven hundred dancing girls, only sparing a few of the best looking ones, whom he carried away with him along with plunder worth half a million rupees.

On their way back to the Red Sea the pirates met with an English East Indiaman, which they took and plundered, and Johnson, remembering his previous sufferings in the same service, murdered the whole crew.

Shortly afterwards Johnson and ten of his English officers contrived to run away from their master, the Sultan, in his best and fastest lateen vessel, with an enormous booty. Sailing up to the head of the Persian Gulf, Johnson managed to reach Constantinople with his share of the plunder, worth £800,000. With this as an introduction, he was hospitably received, and was made a bashaw, and at the end of a long life of splendour died a natural death.

Taken from The Pirates' Who's Who:Giving Particulars Of The Lives and Deaths Of The Pirates And Buccaneers by Philip Gosse. Originally published by Burt Franklin of 235 East 44th St., New York 10017 in 1924 and in the public domain.