Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
All hopes of obtaining deliverance were now past and gone. . . . I could see no possible way of escape; and who can express the concern and agony I was in?
– Philip Ashton, 1722 after Edward Low forced him aboard the pirate ship (33-34)
One Friday evening in June 1722, Philip Ashton and his crew found themselves prisoners of pirates. Not just any pirate, but a particularly nasty one named Edward Low, “who captured more ships and killed more people than even Blackbeard – often by hacking the lips or ears off his victims or slaughtering them and roasting their hearts over a fire.” (3) After enduring nine months of punishing coercive techniques to induce him to become a pirate – which he steadfastly refused to do – Ashton escaped in March 1723, and lived alone on uninhabited Roatan Island until rescued by Baymen, logwood cutters in Honduras. When he finally returned home to Marblehead, Massachusetts three years after his abduction, he provided his minister, who had the foresight to write down the account and later publish it, with an account of his survival and his time among the pirates. The book, which was sold in America and Britain, serves as the basis for At the Point of a Cutlass, and may have provided Daniel Defoe with the inspiration for The Four Years Voyages of Capt. George Roberts (1726).
The subtitle of this book is somewhat misleading, for Ashton’s story makes up only a small portion of the book. Rather this book is a story of many people: Joseph Libbey, taken prisoner at the same time as his friend Philip Ashton; Edward Low, George Lowther, and the other pirates who sailed with them; Nicholas Merritt, Ashton’s cousin who was also taken at the same time; Charles Harris, Low’s quartermaster and the captain of the pirate ship that was eventually captured in 1723 near Newport, Rhode Island; Francis Spriggs, another of Low’s quartermasters who would become a captain; John Fillmore, the future great-grandfather of Millard, who would become president of the United States, and a captive of pirate John Phillips; the Reverend Cotton Mather, who often preached to and about pirates; and the Reverend John Barnard, who used Ashton’s story to demonstrate “how God did protect those who were faithful” and published Ashton’s Memorial: An History of the Strange Adventures and Signal Deliverances of Mr. Philip Ashton.
Flemming includes a map that shows the voyage of Edward Low’s ship from 1722 through 1724, as well as several pages of black-and-white illustrations, end notes that provide additional information plus the source citation, a bibliography, and an index. He expertly weaves together the various story threads to create an absorbing account of the harrowing life of a seaman living amid brutal pirates in the waning years of the period that has become known as the Golden Age of Piracy.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
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