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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: America's Privateer
America’s Privateer: Privateer Lynx and the War of 1812
J. Dennis Robinson
Lynx Educational Foundation, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7868-8644-7, US$34.95

Often forgotten, the War of 1812 played an important role in America’s history. Not because of who won or lost – the peace treaty returned relations and boundaries to the status quo prior to the conflict – but because England finally acknowledged that her former colony had the right to remain free and earned her seamen, whether naval or merchant, respect in the eyes of the Royal Navy. America’s Privateer tells a part of that tale from the perspective of the intrepid privateers, who helped defend their fledgling country. This book is also about Woodson K. Woods’ dream to rebuild one of these rakish privateer-built schooners and to carry forth the legacy of our nation’s maritime history.

Lynx isn’t an exact reproduction of her predecessor, but she is only one of two Baltimore privateers that sail the oceans today. (The other is Pride of Baltimore II.) She is modeled after the first Lynx, built by Thomas Kemp, one of the noted shipwrights of Fells Point, who “‘pushed the envelope’ to gain maximum speed.” (xi) Unfortunately, the British captured the original privateer in 1813. But the shortfalls of these vessels, lessons learned from the loss of the first Pride of Baltimore, and today’s Coast Guard regulations guided the design and building of the modern Lynx.

The ten chapters in this book cover the following:
  1. “Unfurling the Forgotten War” summarizes the causes, the war, the endemic icons still associated with the conflict, and the people.
  2. “Pirates or Patriots?” focuses on the privateers, who and what they were, what distinguished them from pirates, and what people thought of them.
  3. “Re-Imagining Lynx” begins with Woods’ inspiration for building a ship, how he decided on a Baltimore privateer, his background, Melbourne Smith and how he designed her, and how her name came about.
  4. “The Baltimore Privateers” examines the original privateers from Baltimore, a daring captain named Thomas Boyle, and shipwright Thomas Kemp.
  5. “Building a Dream” discusses how Woods’ vision became a reality, Rockport Marine where she was built, and those who worked to craft r.
  6.  “The Spoils of War” looks at the first two schooners to bear the name of Lynx, how the British captured the privateer, and what happened to her and her crew.
  7. “Launching Lynx” recaps her launch in 2001, problems encountered, and the re-enactors who helped celebrate her rebirth.
  8. “Ready to Serve” is about the Lynx’s current mission to “tell tales of America’s defense of freedom” and her home ports. (111)
  9. “A Sailor’s Life for Me” covers what it’s like to live and work aboard the Lynx and how her crew teaches students about life on a 19th-century schooner.
  10. “Making History Matter” summarizes her journeys, her participation in recreations, and the ways in which she brings the past to life so that we don’t forget our past.
Gorgeous photographs show the Lynx while being built, at the dock, and at sea. The opening picture for the preface shows her deck awash in rough seas. Maps, pictures, artifacts, plans and specs, and flags flown also document the war, the privateers, and Lynx. The book includes a Selected Bibliography, Author’s Notes, and an index.

This is an engrossing meld of history and modern day that is inspirational. Robinson knew little about the War of 1812 and privateers before he began this book, but his research and interviews provide readers with a worthwhile overview that any reader will understand. The illustrations are informational and awesome, and enrich the narrative and the reader’s experience. Anyone interested in the heyday of the privateers, Baltimore shipbuilding, and the War of 1812 should read this book. You’ll savor the journey long after the voyage ends.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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