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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Books for Adults - Nonfiction


Admiral Sir Henry Morgan
Anne Bonny
Black Bart Roberts
Captain Kidd
Favourite of Fortune

Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
From Forecastle to Cabin
Jean Laffite Revealed
Landsman Hay
Memoirs of Captain Sam Bellamy
The Notorious Captain Hayes
Pirate Hunter
Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast
A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
Pirates of the Chesapeake

Samuel Smedley
Selkirk's Island
Sir Martin Frobisher
Slaver Captain
Treasure and Intrigue
The Whydah Pirates Speak



Admiral Albert Hastings Markham
Black Flag of the North

Blackbeard Reconsidered

De Ruyter
Dictionary of Pyrate Biography 1713-1720
Drake: For God, Queen, and Plunder
For God and Glory

Frigate Commander

If a Pirate I Must Be...
King of the Pirates
Lafitte the Pirate
The Last Days of Black Beard
The Life and Tryals of the Gentleman Pirate, Major Stede Bonnet

Man of War
The Pirate Captain Ned Low

The Pirate Hunter
 Pirate Women
The Pirate's Wife
The Pirates Laffite
Plow the Dirt but Watch the Sky

Quest for Blackbeard
Real Canadian Pirates
The Untold War at Sea


Apocalypse 1692
Atrocities of the Pirates

The Barbary Pirates

The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
(includes some fiction)
Born to Be Hanged

Box Office Archaeology

The Buccaneer’s Realm

Dark Voyage

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Documentation...Florida Keys

Elizabeth's Sea Dogs
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and Their War Against Spain

Flying the Black Flag

The Hated Cage

The History of Newgate Prison
Hitler’s Secret Pirate Fleet

Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653

Jefferson's War

The Last Buccaneers in the South Sea 1686-1695
Lost Pirate Treasures of Saint Croix

Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires

A New Voyage Round the World

Patriot Pirates

Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands
The Pirate Code
The Pirate Coast
Pirate Hunting
The Pirate King
Pirate Nation
The Pirate Queen
A Pirate's Life in the Golden Age of Piracy

The Pirate's Pocket-Book
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates? The Politics of Plunder
Pirates and Privateers of the 18th Century

Pirates of Maryland
Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay
Pirates of the Florida Coast

Pirates of the North Atlantic

Pirates on the Coasts of Peru 1598-1701
Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish
America 1810-1830
A Privateer's Voyage Round the World
The Punishment of Pirates

Quelch's Gold

The Sack of Panama

Scourge of the Seas
Seafarers, Merchants & Pirates...Middle Ages
Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots
The Spanish Main 1492-1800

To the Walls of Derne
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Treasure Wreck
Trimming Yankee Sails

Under the Bloody Flag

Victory in Tripoli

Why We Love Pirates
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720

The Alliance of Pirates
At the Point of a Cutlass

The Barbary Wars

Black Flags, Blue Waters

Blackbeard's Last Fight
British Piracy in the Golden Age
British Pirates and Society, 1680-1730

Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants
Colonial Virginia's War Against Piracy
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates

Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers
Empire of Blue Water
The Everything Pirates Book
The Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy

How History's Greatest Pirates Pillages, Plundered, and Got Away with It
Hunting the Last Great Pirate

Intrepid Sailors

The Legal History of Pirates & Privateers
The Lionkeeper of Algiers

No Limits to Their Sway
The Notorious Edward Low

Piracy: The Complete History

Pirate: The Golden Age
Pirate Killers
Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740
The Pirate Next Door
The Pirate Round

The Pirate Ship
The Pirate Soul
The Pirate World

Pirates: A History
Pirates: Fact & Fiction
Pirates: Truth and Tales
Pirates & Privateers from Long Island Sound to Delaware Bay

The Pirates' Code

Pirates in the Age of Sail

Pirates in Their Own Words
 Pirates of Barbary
Pirates of New England

Pirates of the Americas
Pirates of the East Coast...Caribbean Sea (CD)
Pirates of the Slave Trade
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates, Jack Tar, and Memory
The Pirates' Pact
The Politics of Piracy
Privateers of the Americas

Raiders and Natives
Rebels at Sea

The Republic of Pirates

Sailing East
The Sea Rover's Practice

Vikings at War

Villains of All Nations

The World Atlas of Piracy

The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast
The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 1759
The Battles of Copenhagen 1801 and 1807
Blunders & Disasters at Sea
Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Eighteenth Century
Britain and the Ocean Road

The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812

Captain's Wife
Catastrophe at Spithead
The Challenge
Command at Sea
Commanders of the Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century

Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
A Confederate Biography
Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860
The Cruise of the Sea Eagle

The Dictionary of British Naval Battles

East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages
East by Sea and West by Rail
8,000 Years...Maltese Maritime History

Enduring Journey

Fiddlers and Whores
French Warships in the Age of Sail, 1786-1861

The Gulf of Mexico
The Guide to America's Maritime History

The Hidden Galleon
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
How Britain Won the War of 1812
Hunting the Essex

In Pursuit of the Essex

Knights of the Sea

Life of a Smuggler
The Lion and the Fox

The Lost Story of the Ocean Monarch

A Mariner's Miscellany

Maritime Explorer...Age of Discovery
Maritime Maryland
Maritime Museums of North America
Maritime Taiwan
Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
Mutiny on the Rising Sun
The Myth of the Press Gang

Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Naval Miscellany
The Naval Mutinies of 1797
Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

The Real Jim Hawkins
The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England

Samuel Pepys and the Strange Wrecking of the Gloucester
Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipwrecks...Delmarva Coast
Shipwrecks...Treasures Outer Banks
Sink or Be Sunk!
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649

Splintering the Wooden Wall

Tales of the Seven Seas
The Terror of the Seas?
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 3
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Treasure Hunt
True Yankees

The Truth About the Mutiny on HMAV Bounty and
the Fate of Fletcher Christian

The U. S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
Utmost Gallantry

View from the Masthead

Whale Hunter
Wolf of the Deep

Young Men and the Sea


1812: The Navy's War

All Hands on Deck
Anson's Navy


Barons of the Sea

Bound for the East Indies
British Naval Captains of the Seven Years' War

Children at Sea
Citizen Sailors
The Coffin Ship
Conquering the Pacific
Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail

The Dutch in the Medway
Empire of Ice and Stone
Female Tars
The Four Days' Battle of 1666
From Across the Sea

The Glorious First of June

History of Navigation

The History of the Port of London
HMS Victory: First Rate 1765
Hornblower's Historical Shipmates
How to Survive in the Georgian Navy

I Am Fighting for the Union
In the Shadow of Nelson
Inside the US Navy of 1812-1815

Jack Tar’s Story

Kings of the Sea

Lion in the Bay
The Lost Story of the William & Mary

Man-of-War Life

Maritime Heritage ... Cayman Islands
Monsoon Traders
Most Secret and Confidential

Mutiny on the Spanish Main
Murder Aboard 

Nelson's Band of Brothers

Off the Deep End

The Palatine Wreck
Perilous Fight
Prisoners of the Bashaw

The Royal Navy 1793-1800
The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age

Royal Tars

Sailing the Graveyard Sea
The Shining Sea
Shipwrecks and Other Maritime Disasters of the Maine Coast
Ships of Oak Guns of Iron
Spanish Warships in the Age of Sail 1700-1860New review posted

Trading in War

Trafalgar Chronicle
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 2
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 4
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 5
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 8

Tudor & Stuart Seafarers

Voyage to Jamestown

The War of 1812
The Way of the Ship
Whaling Captains of Color

What Ship, Where Bound?

Wooden Warship Construction


1812: A Nation Emerges
Ahoy Mates! Leadership Lessons ...
The Battle of New Orleans: "But for a Piece of Wood"
Caribbean Pirates
Convicts in the Colonies

Enemies of All Humankind
Explorers and Their Quest for North America

 From Captives to Consuls
Government Manual for New Pirates

Hunting Pirate Heaven
In the Wake of the Gods
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Pirate Arrrt!
Pirate Fever!
Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
Pirates, Raiders & Invaders

Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
The Forgotten Slave Trade

The War of the Spanish Succession
Writing Pirates


The Battle of New Orleans: A Bicentennial Tribute
Bizarro Buccaneers
British Pirates in Print and Performance
A Furious Sky

Gentlemen’s Blood
The Greatest Fury

Guide to Pirate Parenting
A Night at Devil's Tavern
The Pirate Primer
Pirates in History and Popular Culture
Raising Black Flags
Revolutionary War Law and Lawyers

Television & Movies

Black Sails & Crossbones

Pirate Haiku

Pirates, Ghosts, & Coastal Lore


The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks
American Privateers of the Revolutionary War

Balchen's Victory

The Billy Ruffian

The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
Create Your Own Pirate Ship

Iron Coffin
Shipwrecks in 100 Objects
Spanish Galleon
Tudor Warship

Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC

Warships of the Napoleonic Era


1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
America's Privateer

American Privateers in the War of 1812
The Black Ship
Blackbeard's Sunken Prize
Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis
Building the Wooden Fighting Ship

Captain Kidd's Lost Ship
Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark Pocket Manual

Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana
First Rate

The Global Schooner
The Master Shipwright's Secrets
Nelson's Victory
The Pirate Ship 1660-1730
Pirate Hunters
Sovereign of the Seas 1637

Spanish Galleon vs. English Galleon 1550-1605

Vasa: A Swedish Warship
World & Modern Piracy

The Barbary Corsairs

Blood Ransom
The Brutal Seas

Captives and Corsairs
Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Maritime Private Security
Piracy & Privateering ... Netherlands
Pirate of the Far East
Pirate State
Pirates of the 21st Century
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia
Saint-Malo Cap Horn
Violence at Sea
The War for Muddy Waters

StarStarStarStarStarWorld & Modern Piracy

The Ballycotton Job
Barbary Captives
Contemporary...Piracy in Southeast Asia

Coping with Capture
Dangerous Waters
Dead Man's Chest

 The Desert and the Sea

Hostile Seas
Lords of the Sea
Modern Piracy
A Modern Plague of Pirates
The New Pirates
Piracy...Terrorism...Malacca Straits

Pirate Alley
The Pirates of Somalia
Pirates Aboard!
Pirates, Terrorists, and Warlords
Private Anti-Piracy Navies
Skull and Saltire
Somalia, the New Barbary?
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson
X Marks the Spot

Spanish Warships in the Age of Sail 1700-1860

Cover Art: Spanish
                    Warships in the Age of Sail 1700-1860
Spanish Warships in the Age of Sail 1700-1860: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates
by Rif Winfield, John Tredrea, Enrique García-Torralba Pérez, and Manuel Blasco Felip
Seaforth, 2023, ISBN 978-1-5267-9078-1, UK £50.00 / US $60.00

As history passes, change is inevitable. Sometimes, it’s hard to see how those changes influence fundamental elements within an organization and its equipment. Spanish Warships in the Age of Sail, the latest volume in the Warships in the Age of Sail series, seeks to alter this by showcasing how Spain’s naval fleet evolved during a specific span of time. In this case, the book focuses on the period in which the Bourbon monarchy came to power in November 1700 until steam began to replace sail. Whenever possible, the authors also discuss each ship’s career, where she sailed and fought, and what became of her.

The book opens with an explanation of the Spanish Navy’s structure and organization, which is followed by information concerning Spain’s weights and measurements, names, dates, naval ranks, monetary units, flags and royal arms, and conversions. Two chronologies are included; that of the Trastamara and Habsburg Eras covers 1492 through 1697, and the Bourbon Era begins with the death of Carlos II in 1700 and extends through the monarchy’s restoration in 1874. The next seventy-six pages provide a historical overview (before the Habsburgs into the mid-19th century), the leaders of the Bourbon Navy, Spain’s regional navies that were precursors to its national navy, auxiliary groups (such as the guardacostas or coastguard), the Manila Galleons, fleet lists, naval construction, departmental organization and dockyards, naval ordnance and architecture, copper sheathing, management of material resources, and acquiring, training, maintaining, and retaining naval personnel.

It is at this juncture that the authors discuss the sources and archives that were consulted, as well as the difficulties they encountered in identifying and providing information on individual vessels. There is also a bibliography, a glossary, and a list of the abbreviations used in the main portion of the book.

The heart of the book appears in twenty-four chapters where Spanish naval vessels are discussed, beginning with ships of the line with three decks and ending with lesser fore-and-aft rig boats. The major warships cover six chapters and each is arranged chronologically. Among the other vessels found in subsequent chapters are brigs, bomb vessels, storeships, fireships, packets, galleys, xebecs, barks, and cutters. There is also an addendum about paddle and screw warships that were powered by a combination of sail and steam; these are not reviewed in detail. Seven appendices pertain to vessels that participated in the 1588 Felicísima Armada and the 1639 Battle of the Downs; rules governing the building of ships during the 1600s; the types and numbers of ships in various years between 1782 and 1860; expenses for the Spanish Navy in different locales (1714-1800) as well as government expenditures (1801-1860); ordnance regulations; and official officer and crew numbers aboard different types of vessels.

Although there is an index, it lists only the names of specific vessels. Black-and-white illustrations (portraits, drafts, and maps) and tables are found throughout. Technical details for the different classes of vessels and single designs are provided, as is information on the ship architects, shipwrights, and building dates if known. Significant details about individual ships are provided, as is the order of battle for major sea battles. That being said, the authors make it clear that there are gaps in the provided information. Some of this stems from a fire that swept through naval archives in 1734.

Spanish Warships is not meant to be read from cover to cover. Written by eminently qualified authors, it is a reference book that provides researchers with invaluable information that is as accurate and comprehensive as it can be. Much of the source material comes from archival primary documents. It is highly recommended and is a great companion to previous titles in the series.

Review Copyright ©2024 Cindy Vallar

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The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast

Cover Art: The
                    Annotated Two Years Before the Mast
The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana
Annotated by Rod Scher
Sheridan House, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7598-0, US $27.95

For some time we could do nothing but hold on, and the vessel diving into two huge seas, one after the other, plunged us twice into the water up to our chins. (32)
These words recall what it was like to endure the freezing ice and snow and howling winds while working a wooden ship through the tempestuous seas of Cape Horn in the 19th century.

The author was Richard Henry Dana and his Two Years Before the Mast became a bestseller in 1840. Although he kept a journal during the voyage, he didn’t set out to write and publish the book. He went to sea to regain his health. After a bout of measles during his sophomore year at Harvard, Dana chose a unique way to do so. Most affluent men might take a sea voyage, but they would pay to do so. Not Dana. He felt it would be better to work as a merchant seaman and mingle with men less fortunate than him. When he departed Massachusetts in mid-August 1834, the brig Pilgrim was bound for the western coast of North America and would be gone for about two years. Or so he thought.

While previously published books about ships and the sea tended to provide romantic imagery, Dana opted to provide a firsthand look into what life “before the mast” was like and the gritty reality of a seaman’s life. He began his journey as a landsman, a novice with little clue about the strange new world he had entered. He returned home an experienced hand with a better appreciation for those who followed this trade as a career. Throughout the voyage, he never forgot where he came from and the privileges his family’s wealth and connections brought him.

Dana’s story is both a coming-of-age and an adventure narrative. It is also a tale of hard work, tedium, danger, new encounters, homesickness, and loss. He experiences firsthand what it is like to be at the mercy of a tyrannical master which merchant seamen daily faced throughout their lives and often with little recourse when wronged. While much of the book is about what happens on the voyage, Dana includes a chapter where he explains who’s who aboard the ship, what they do, and the ship’s daily routine.

Scher’s enlightening introduction provides a good grounding of who Dana was and the impact this journey had on him. Equally informative are his annotations, which set this edition apart from others. He explains nautical jargon (something Dana often chose not to do), shares tidbits about quoted literature and other details of interest that Dana omitted from or emphasized in his writing, and points out discrepancies between what Dana writes and what is known about individual crewmen. Scher also includes highlighted boxes that feature “In the news” items, such as August 1834 when the British Emancipation Act abolished slavery or the March 1836 fall of the Alamo to General Santa Anna’s Mexican army. These current events cement setting and time for readers.

The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast, which uses the text from the original edition of the book, is a worthy addition to any collection. Readers new to the Age of Sail will find the annotations helpful and enrich their reading of Dana’s narrative. Those familiar with sailing ships will learn interesting details that may have been overlooked or unknown in earlier readings of this classic.

Review Copyright ©2024 Cindy Vallar

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The Two Battles of Copenhagen 1801 and 1807
Cover Art: The Two Battles
                    of Copenhagen 1801 and 1807
The Two Battles of Copenhagen 1801 and 1807
Britain & Denmark in the Napoleonic Wars
by Gareth Glover
Pen & Sword, 2023, ISBN 978-1399077295, UK £18.99 / US $38.95

A signal went up to break off the engagement, but Horatio Nelson was said to have brought his telescope up to his blind eye and claimed not to see his commander’s signal. This may be the only incident that readers are familiar with as regards these two battles. Many accounts of Nelson’s life mention the fight, but they don’t go into great depth and they often omit or gloss over what came before and after. They also recount the episode from a single perspective rather than including multiple sides of either conflict. Glover attempts to rectify this by showing the interconnecting threads in this period of history and how what transpired during the first battle impacted the second. He also shows the complexity of Anglo-Danish relations, as well as Denmark’s precarious situation as regards its neighbors and Napoleon’s aggressiveness.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark managed to remain neutral despite its strategic location that provided ingress and egress to Baltic ports which supplied products vital to Britain’s shipbuilding industry. In 1799, the Russian tsar proposed that Denmark and other countries form a league of Armed Neutrality, wherein the members would fight to stay impartial. The Danes were set to be the “front line” of defense for this alliance, but they weren’t keen on being in this position. Britain saw the policy as a subtle shift and wished to safeguard their supply source since the Royal Navy was a key component in the fight against Napoleon’s territorial expansion.

To that end, a fleet was assembled, and Vice Admiral Sir Hyde Parker was placed in command of the Royal Navy’s Baltic Fleet. The problem with this proved twofold: Parker was sixty-one at the time and, being recently wed, was more interested in his eighteen-year-old wife than in preparing the fleet for departure. His second-in-command was a rising star, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose seamanship, daring, and bravery were never in question, but some thought him arrogant and his private life involved scandals. Although their working relationship seemed to jibe, Parker’s orders weren’t explicit enough. He was to take or destroy the Danish fleet, but what then? The other difficulty was that Nelson craved action, while Parker had doubts even after decisions were made and commands given.

On the flipside, the Danes’ purpose during this time was to further fortify their defenses and stall long enough for the fleets of Sweden and Russia to arrive. Although the Danish navy was well-equipped, they didn’t truly plan for it to engage in battle. After all, if they lost their ships and men, who would defend their city and country? Even the Crown Prince, Commodore Fischer, and Admiral Wleugel doubted they could win against the British, but they didn’t see they had any alternative.

The outcome of this first battle depends on which side it is viewed from, as Glover shows. Afterward, there was a brief respite in the war until the conflict was renewed in 1803. Although Denmark maintained a strict neutrality once again, the defeat of Russian forces at the Battle of Friedland (1807) left Denmark as one of only three countries on the Continent that was still trading with the British. Napoleon’s new tactic involved economic warfare, which put Denmark in a tenuous situation. The British had no intention of losing their trading partner, but the Crown Prince of Denmark refused to hand over his fleet. Another confrontation between Denmark and Britain was inevitable, and it would involve a joint operation between the Royal Navy and the Royal Army. This time, the principals would be Admiral Gambier, General Arthur Wellesley, and Danish General Peymann.

Divided into twenty-three chapters, the narrative includes black-and-white illustrations throughout with color artwork at the center. An overview is provided as is a brief recounting of what visitors will see if they go to Copenhagen today. Aside from footnotes, a bibliography, and an index, Glover provides nine appendices concerning the 1801 battle and twenty-seven for the 1807 siege of the city.

Glover’s goal in writing this history is to heal any breaches that still exist and to provide a better understanding as to why each side did what they did. He provides a clear understanding of before, during, and after each battle and incorporates eyewitness reports, such as that of a student watching the battle who found his view obscured from all the gun smoke, or the twelve-year-old who climbed a crane and reported to the crowd below what transpired, or the private who believed he could win the battle by himself. This book is for anyone who wants a clearer, well-rounded picture of what happened and why.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates, Raiders & Invaders of the Gulf Coast
Cover Art:
                    Pirates, Raiders & Invaders of the Gulf Coast
Pirates, Raiders & Invaders of the Gulf Coast
by Ryan Starrett & Josh Foreman
History Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4671-5323-2, US $24.99

The Gulf Coast of the United States has a complex history populated with people from different walks of life and lands near and far. Between 1699 and 1819, six different nations flew their flags here: Spain, France, Great Britain, the State of Muskogee, the West Florida Republic, and the United States. It was a land inhabited by tough survivors and a region fought over more than once because its waterways provided access to land and opportunity.

Among the individual stories found within these pages are those of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, who sought peace between the Choctaws and the Chickasaws. Jean Baptiste Story served as a galley slave. Governor Bernardo de Galvez upset the balance of power along the Gulf Coast when he captured Mobile. William Augustus Bowles went AWOL from the British army, tried his hand at mutiny, and established the State of Muskogee. Emigrés from Haiti sought refuge in New Orleans and its environs, only to experience a well-organized slave insurrection in their new homeland. Jean and Pierre Laffite established a smuggling operation and eventually helped the Americans during the Battle of New Orleans. Lieutenant Robert Gleig, a veteran of the Duke of Wellington’s forces in the Peninsular War, participated in that final battle of the War of 1812. There are also accounts of the Massacre of Fort Mims and the Seminole Wars.

The book is laid out in chronological order and the chapters cover specific periods and people. It opens with the French and Indian Wars, which cover 1702 through 1759 and goes through Manifest Destiny (1816-1835). The authors include a preface, a list of key people, an introduction, an epilogue, notes, and sources. There are many illustrations, but no index, which makes it more difficult to locate information on specific people since they may be discussed in more than one place.

This is an interesting introduction to the early history of the Gulf Coast. The title is something of a misnomer, as the only pirates discussed here are the Laffites, even though many others found safe havens along the coast between Tallahassee in the east and Galveston in the west. For those seeking a quick, enlightening initiation into the history and people of this area, Pirates, Raiders and Invaders of the Gulf Coast is a good place to start.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Samuel Pepys and the Strange Wrecking of the Gloucester
Cover Art:
                      Samuel Pepys and the Strange Wrecking of the
Samuel Pepys and the Strange Wrecking of the Gloucester: The Shipwreck that Shocked Restoration Britain
by Nigel Pickford
Pegasus Books, 2023, ISBN 978-1-63936-320-9, US $27.95 / CAN $36.95
Also available in e-book format

Samuel Pepys. His is a name well-known in naval and maritime circles. In 1682, he was forty-nine years old and wanted to reclaim his former power and prestige. He had been ousted as secretary of the admiralty, where he had worked for two decades, until being accused of “Piracy, Popery and Treachery” and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. (6) Three years had passed and he was still unemployed, but now his prospects were looking up. Among his influential acquaintances was James, Duke of York, and his older brother, King Charles II, was finally permitting James to return to London. Pepys was determined to be among the first to greet the prince and renew their friendship.

James had been named heir to the throne, but he and his wife, Mary of Modena, were neither Protestant nor popular with many people of the country. In fact, there were more than a few who wanted him dead. Now, that he was back home, James wanted his wife, who was pregnant and still residing in Scotland, to join him. One might assume he would travel by land, but James loved ships and sailing, and never missed an opportunity to enjoy his passion, one that he shared with Pepys. So, in May 1682, he and some of his party boarded the Gloucester. Although invited to sail with James, Pepys decided to board one of the other vessels that comprised the small flotilla heading north. This last-minute decision would later be described as one of divine providence.

The Gloucester had been built in 1654 as a third rate of 755 tons and with a crew of 210 men and 52 guns. But she was an old warship, had been in ordinary (meaning laid up rather than plying the oceans), and corruption was rife in the Royal Dockyards. Still, she and the vessels that would accompany her were made ready to sail. Soon after this flotilla set sail, observers could see that navigation skills left much to be desired. One ship became grounded on a sandbank. Two others got lost. Eventually, only five vessels remained with Gloucester. Then, at 5:30 in the morning, while sailing at around seven knots with a strong wind propelling her forward, Gloucester ran aground, the waves alternately lifting and dropping her onto a sandbank. Forty-five minutes later, she was gone and 200 people lost their lives.

Pickford recounts the events leading up to, during, and after the wrecking of the Gloucester based on historical records (such as letters, diaries, log books, wills, and charts) to recreate what happened and to relate how it affected those who were participants either on the voyage or in the aftermath. The primary focus is on Pepys and James, but many others’ stories unfold here, including those who often go unnamed, such as Thomas Smith, who had signed on as an able seaman to get out of debtor’s prison, leaving behind a wife who was blind and indigent; or Rowland Rowleson, who, two weeks before his departure, legally declared what should happen to his belongings should he die. The book includes two appendices (People On Board the Gloucester and Bounty Payments), eight pages of color illustrations, notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Perhaps more interesting than the groundwork and the wrecking itself is Pickford’s rendering of the aftermath of the wreck. He focuses not just on the facts, but also incorporates the rumors that popped up, such as the Fanatick Party’s avowal that the wreck had been a plot to kill James. Equally compelling is the fact that two court-martials were held on the same day and at the same place, but only the transcript of the second trial remains. And the court-martial for the Gloucester was anything but impartial, given that seven of the judges had commanded other vessels in the same flotilla and one had publicly argued with the defendant before the sinking. Pickford also ably demonstrates how media was manipulated even in the 17th century. Although he tends to jump back and forth in time throughout the narrative, Samuel Pepys and the Strange Wrecking of the Gloucester is an entertaining and enlightening glimpse into the past that reveals that, although centuries have passed, not much has changed.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Writing Pirates
Cover Art: Writing
Writing Pirates: Vernacular Fiction and Oceans in Late Ming China
by Yuanfei Wang
University of Michigan, 2021, ISBN 978-0-472-03851-0, US $29.95
Also available in other formats

In 1827, the German writer Goethe coined the phrase “world literature.” One might think this referred to literature written in all countries; in reality, he had a narrower perspective: books translated into European languages and in which the characters sailed from European ports to visit other locales.

This narrow Western view also pertains to colonial expansion. During the Ming dynasty, many Chinese emigrated and established communities elsewhere in Asia. Such diasporas, however, weren’t state-sponsored as they were in the West. Key to such expansion is the ocean, for conveyance to other locations often involved the maritime world. Trade was a key component of that during this time period, despite the Ming government’s occasional sea bans prohibiting foreign trade. When these occurred, legitimate merchant traders turned to piracy and smuggling to conduct business.

The author combines these two themes – piracy and colonialism – to study Ming literature that was published for the general public as opposed to more formal writings meant for the educated class. Her purpose is to show that these 16th- and 17th-century offerings provide fresh perspectives and new ways of looking at Chinese literature and the Chinese way of life. This period was one of upheaval and terror, but it also produced a wide offering of unofficial histories, vernacular fiction, and regional depictions of confrontations at sea and Chinese communities in places like Siam, Japan, and Korea.

The book is divided into three parts: Southeast Asia, Japan, and Jiangnan, China. Each of these has two chapters that examine how the writers depict Chinese culture and race within those regions and among the pirates found there. Literary passages are provided in both English and Chinese. Color illustrations are found throughout the book. The book includes footnotes and an index. At the end of her conclusion, the author poses questions geared toward future studies.

One of this book’s strengths is the author’s understanding of piracy. She makes it clear from the start that words and images most readers use to identify pirates do not equate to those found in Asian waters. At the same time, she shows common threads to demonstrate parallels between Western and Eastern literature. Her approach is twofold: to emphasize the importance of history and to show how depictions of that history change over time.

Writing Pirates is an interesting and eye-opening look at an often-studied historical period but from a different perspective. Although some familiarity with Asian piracy may be helpful, it’s not essential. While Writing Pirates is a bountiful and valuable treasure for any academic library where literature and piracy are popular fields of study, this book has a limited audience because it is a scholarly work. Since it is a study of vernacular literature, Writing Pirates would gain a wider and equally appreciative audience if there were also a version written for the general public.

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Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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The Lion and the Fox

The Lion and the Fox
The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy
by Alexander Rose
Mariner Books, 2022, ISBN 978-0-358-39325-2, US $28.99 / CAN $35.99
Also available in other formats

When civil war comes to the United States, the Union possesses forty-two warships of various sizes. The Confederate States of America have one. Their attorney general, Judah Benjamin, wants to change this and he knows just the man to accomplish this, James Bulloch is not your run-of-the-mill sea captain; in addition to the usual skills of an officer, he is knowledgeable about the latest nautical technology (steam) and has helped to build ships. More importantly, he is least likely to be seen as someone the Union should be leery of. He works for a Northern steam company. He’s a civilian. He has no land in the South. He seems innocuous, because he keeps personal opinions to himself. In reality, he is Southern born and bred and he possesses just the right traits to make him the right man for the job: guile, cunning, restraint, and obscurity.

Late in 1861, Thomas Dudley and his family arrive in Liverpool, England. It is a city with a vicious and volcanic reputation, teeming with people of ill repute. It is the last place the devout Quaker wants to be, but he has little choice. He is the new American counsel and is determined to do whatever he can to abolish slavery. One of his tasks is to doggedly pursue Bulloch and prevent him from carrying out his mission for the Confederacy.

Lacking the necessities to build their own navy, the Confederacy must go overseas to gain a fleet of modern, deadly vessels. To that end, Bulloch and Benjamin devise a three-point plan. Bulloch’s first objective is to purchase blockade-runners that will smuggle in needed weaponry and ammunition. Then he will acquire commerce-raiders capable of harassing Union merchant ships to such an extent that President Lincoln will have to reassign vessels currently on blockade duty to hunt down enemy ships. Finally, Bulloch will design and have built two ironclad warships capable of causing untold damage and confusion to the United States Navy. The ultimate goal is to gain British support as a Confederate ally. He and Benjamin think these are highly achievable outcomes. There is just one flaw: the Union knows the who and what. They just don’t know where Bulloch is. But Dudley is determined to thwart them no matter what.

This book contains a few pictures of key people and ships, as well as a double-page spread showing 1860s’ Liverpool. Notes, a bibliography, and an index are also included. Readers get to see how Bulloch operated and how Dudley finally pierced his “wall of secrecy.” The final chapter explains what happened to each principal player.

Readers familiar with the history of the Confederate navy may know about some of the ships that Bulloch acquires. After all, one of them is the most famous and successful commerce raider CSS Alabama, captained by Rafael Semmes. What may be both new and illuminating are the behind-the-scenes sly scheming and artful trickery, or the Union’s diligent pursuit of Bulloch. Rose deftly weaves together characters and elements to craft a true account of espionage and counterespionage: a quintessential maverick, a lace-and-chandelier front man, a private investigator, a mole in the Foreign Office, a drunk captain who runs into a coal brig, a rooster that crows at a critical moment, legal manipulation, arms trafficking, racism, phantom ships, mutiny, a sea duel, bigamy, and betrayal.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Dark Voyage

Cover Art: Dark Voyage
Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s African Slave Trade
by Christian McBurney
Westholme, 2022, ISBN 978-1-59416-382-1, US $35.00
Also available in e-book format

When Thomas Jefferson penned an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, one passage condemned slavery. Those words were omitted from the final document, in part because many considered the practice of enslaving people acceptable in the 18th century. Another practice during the American Revolution was the issuance of letters of marque that allowed individuals to profit from seizing enemy shipping regardless of whether they did so because of patriotic fervor or for personal gain. Some of these privateers captured British slave ships, although the majority of these were homeward bound after delivering their African cargo in the Caribbean. One man, however, devised a plan to strike at the heart of the British slave trade.

John Brown was a prominent merchant in Providence, Rhode Island. He was also a fervent patriot who supported American independence. The information he gleaned from slave ship captains and privateers, as well as his knowledge of trade, permitted Brown to think beyond the normal parameters of privateering. He wanted to make a statement, and he did so with his plan to attack the British slave trade where no one else had: the west coast of Africa. First, to up his chances of success, he needed a new vessel.

Marlborough was a brig of 250 tons, with two gun decks housing twenty guns. She was sleek and fast, essential qualities for a privateer. Her full crew complement was set at 125 officers and sailors, although when she set sail from Martha’s Vineyard in January 1788, she carried only 96 men. Brown selected a virtual unknown for her captain, although he was already acquainted with the man who had served aboard two of Brown’s other privateers.

George Waite Babock was already an experienced ship’s officer when he took command of Marlborough in late 1787, even though he was only in twenty-seven at the time. He wasn’t one to discipline those who served under him with the whip. When decisions needed to be made, he often sought the counsel of his officers before making a decision. He demonstrated boldness and courage. Among the crew that he handpicked were John Linscom Boss, who kept the ship’s log – one of many documents the author consulted in writing this book – and his younger brother, Samuel Babcock.

Their journey began with running a Royal Navy blockade. After making the dangerous 3,800-mile trek across the Atlantic, the men aboard the Marlborough struck, attacking and seizing not only British slave ships but also a British factory (trading post). The damage done exceeded any wrought by other American privateers during the revolution, with an unexpected consequence; they disrupted the enemy’s slave trade, albeit only temporarily. While they captured both ships (twenty to twenty-eight) and their cargoes, as well as merchandise stored at the British factory, they also solicited assistance from native peoples and captured captains, such as William Moore, the shipmaster of Sally who possessed local knowledge that Babcock lacked.

Dark Voyage relates the stories of the men and the vessel, from John Brown’s original idea through its fruition. Specific episodes examine life at sea (including an attempted revolt, illness, accidents, legal obstacles, and encounters with Royal Navy warships). In between, McBurney weaves details about privateering in general, dangers privateers faced, and the slave trade in Britain as well as Rhode Island. He also shares what is known or can be assumed about the Marlborough and her prizes on their return voyages and what became of the men who crewed them. In some regards, the author views the 18th century through a 21st-century lens, rather than strictly relating the history from a contemporary perspective. This is not a flaw, but rather an aspect that readers should keep in mind as they read. He provides a wealth of information often overlooked in other accounts of privateering during the Revolutionary War, which he supplements with maps, pictures, end notes, a bibliography, an index, and appendices. The last include lists of those who served aboard the Marlborough and other people who appear in the ship’s log; a comprehensive record of British slave ships captured by revolutionary privateers; the numbers of enslaved Africans carried on British and American ships between 1752 and 1792; and Liverpool merchants involved in the slave trade who declared bankruptcy as a result of seizures by American privateers.

Dark Voyage is a provocative account of a little-known facet of American privateering during our fight for independence. The writing is both expressive and enlightening. The book is a must-read for anyone seeking information on the American Revolution, privateering, or the slave trade.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Prisoners of the Bashaw
Cover Art: Prisoners of the Bashaw
Prisoners of the Bashaw: The Nineteen-Month Captivity of American Sailors in Tripoli, 1803-1805
by Frederick C. Leiner
Westholme, 2022, ISBN 978-1-59416-386-9, US $35.00
Also available in other formats

The last day of October 1803 finds the USS Philadelphia sailing near the coast of Tripoli where lookouts spot a xebec heading for the harbor. With orders to prevent such an occurrence, Captain William Bainbridge intervenes. There’s just one problem; the navigator has no chart that accurately depicts the coastline. Although shots are fired, the xebec reaches its destination and Bainbridge issues the command to return to station. Instead, Philadelphia runs aground. His attempts to dislodge the frigate fail; she is stuck fast on the reef at such an angle that the gun ports of her gun deck touch water. When Tripolitan corsairs see this, they hurriedly surround Philadelphia and fire on her.

After being bombarded for four hours and seeing more enemy vessels approaching, Bainbridge consults with his officers. He sees only two options: blow up the ship or surrender. The seamen clamor for him to fight, but he and his lieutenants concur there is no way to successfully defend the frigate with their guns out of commission. Rather than consign the 307 men aboard to death, he orders the Stars and Stripes hauled down. In doing so, he becomes the only commander to twice surrender during the six years of the United States Navy’s existence.

Although orders are given to mitigate the loss, including the flooding of the frigate so it will be of no use to the Tripolitans, not all of these commands are successfully carried out. He also forgets to destroy information vital to national security. After the corsairs swarm over the gunwale, Bainbridge, his officers, and his men become prisoners, but only the officers are treated as such. The majority of men are treated as slaves even though Tripoli and the United States are at war, a war instigated by the bashaw because he failed to receive the tribute he deems his right. The Philadelphians’ captivity will last for nineteen months and not all will survive.

What sets this book apart from other volumes dealing with the Barbary Wars and this particular event is that Leiner shines a spotlight on the captives. He contrasts the living conditions of the officers to those that the rank and file experienced. He shares excerpts from their own letters and remembrances that speak to or hint at the physical and mental effects of their captivity and enslavement. Leiner also discusses diplomatic efforts, both American and European; how the navy dealt with the captured frigate; the ways in which popular culture integrated this historic episode; and what happened to the various participants after the Philadelphians were freed.

Thorny questions, sometimes glossed over in other accounts, are raised as well. One examines the differences in brutal exploitation of people by different cultures, as well as the ethical paradox of white Christians captured far from home and enslaved versus the seizure and bondage Africans experienced in America. A second question addresses paying ransoms. As Leiner writes in the introduction: “The loss of the Philadelphia . . . is sometimes employed as proof of a core precept of principle and policy: the United States does not pay ransom for hostages. This bold statement is wrong historically and sometimes has caused tragic results. As the story of the American prisoners in Tripoli shows, history is not so tidy, and the lessons are not so clear.” (xii)

Illustrations and maps provide readers with an opportunity to understand where these events occurred and to meet some of the individuals involved in them either directly or indirectly. The book also includes end notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Although other books cover these events of the Barbary Wars, this is the first to do so from the captives’ perspectives. The firsthand accounts provide vivid glimpses into what they did, how they survived, and what they suffered. History remembers only a few captives, such as Bainbridge, David Porter, and Daniel Patterson. Prisoners of the Bashaw changes this, making it a worthy addition to history collections.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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The Punishment of Pirates

Cover Art: The
                    Punishment of Pirates
The Punishment of Pirates: Interpretation and Institutional Order in the Early Modern British Empire
by Matthew Norton
University of Chicago, 2023, ISBN 978-0-226-82311-9, US $30.00
Also available in e-book format

Off the coast of West Africa in 1722, two forces engage in battle. It is not a conflict between nations. Rather, it pits the Royal Navy against pirates. The latter fight for their very existence. The former is intent on eradicating these seafaring vermin. So, when the two come together, the pirates understand their choices. They can surrender and hang, or they can fight and die. With death the inevitable outcome, they choose to fight. Bartholomew Roberts will be one of the lucky ones, cut down by enemy fire. But the majority of his men will face the hangman’s noose.

Inevitable death was not always the only option pirates faced. Once, the British government and society either welcomed or tolerated the pirates, especially during the 17th century. But time and circumstances eventually led to a shift in public and private opinion and by 1717, the government and the people had had enough. By the end of the following decade, piracy ceased to be an all-encompassing problem that endangered lives and livelihoods or threatened the very existence of the British empire. The Punishment of Pirates examines how and why this transformation occurred and what methods were tried, tested, and proved effective in stamping out piracy.

Battles at sea and trials and executions often come to mind as examples of how the government struck out against piracy. But, as Norton ably demonstrates, these were not the only ways in which they attacked the problem. First, he analyzes how “pirate” and “piracy” came to be defined. He identifies who wished to institute law and order to stem the violence that characterized England’s colonial maritime world during the 1600s. He discusses the strengths and weaknesses in the laws that were enacted. In the process, readers learn about the inner workings of the government and the actions that laid the foundation for Britain to become a maritime superpower. Secondly, he focuses on institutions and their power to alter society to conform to what they deem right and proper. Piracy serves as an excellent case study to illustrate this because history shows how the British government achieved their goal, and their successes and failures provide researchers with the opportunity to better understand “the relationship between institutions and social meaning.” (7)

Pirates, colonial governors, legislators, ministers, and others played significant roles in this process. Among those showcased within these pages are John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Henry Morgan, Bartholomew Sharpe, Edward D’Oyley, Benjamin Fletcher, John Dean, Joseph Bannister, William Kidd, William Markham, Thomas Lynch, Thomas Modyford, George Larkin, John Quelch, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Stede Bonnet, Thomas Davis, Woodes Rogers, John Rose Archer, William White, the Reverend Cotton Mather, and William Fly. Charleston, South Carolina and Port Royal, Jamaica and their ties to piracy are also highlighted, as are vice admiralty courts and specific laws. The book also includes end notes, references, and an index.

Norton provides a fresh perspective on how society dealt with pirates. This is a scholarly book, but it is not pedantic. Even if readers don’t understand all the jargon, they will still comprehend the essence of Norton’s arguments and conclusions. The Punishment of Pirates is an absorbing examination of how societal views toward piracy transformed from acceptable and tolerated to immoral and intolerable. It provides readers with a better understanding of this change, and allows them to view pirates and the fight against them in a new and intriguing light.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Shipwrecks in 100 Objects
Cover Art:
                    Shipwrecks in 100 Objects
Shipwrecks in 100 Objects: Stories of Survival, Tragedy, Innovation and Courage
by Simon Wills
Frontline Books, 2022, ISBN 978-1-52679-221-1, US $49.95 / UK £25.00
Also available in e-book format

A rosary from the wreckage of the Mary Rose, which Henry VIII witnessed sink. “The Shipwreck,” William Falconer’s poem based on his experience aboard the Ramillies as a midshipman. A letter placed within a bottle from an officer who thought he and his family were about to die. The life jacket that saved one man’s life when his comrades, who wore none, died. The anchor of a ship that sank in 1878 but has been seen several times since then.

These are a few of the items showcased in this book about shipwrecks. They do not represent the 100 worst shipwrecks in history nor vessels other than British. Instead, the author seeks to touch our heartstrings, to make us care about the lives lost, the living, and the aftermaths of such tragic occurrences. To guide him in achieving this goal, Wills asked himself two questions: “is there a notable personal story to tell” and did the shipwreck contribute “something to the overall narrative of ancestors’ experiences at sea across centuries”? (13)

While tragedy abounds within these stories, there is also hope. Mention “shipwreck” and our thoughts immediately turn to the men, women, and children on the vessels at the time of the sinking. Or perhaps to their loved ones who bear the grief and adjust to severe changes in their circumstances because of the losses suffered. But there are also those determined to survive or to help, such as Grace Darling, who helped her father, the lighthouse keeper, rescue stranded victims.

Wills, perhaps better than another author, is the best person to write these stories. His family has gone to sea since the time of Queen Elizabeth I and some experienced the wrecking of their ships firsthand. As a result, Wills’s abiding respect for the sea and empathy for victims, survivors, and rescuers are evident in each tale.

The selected objects include artifacts, medals, images, writings, charts, memorials, music, and buildings. Some are as intangible as storm clouds or sea monsters. Of particular interest to readers interested in maritime piracy are William Dampier’s giant clam, a Jolly Roger (representing pirates, like Samuel Bellamy who died in a shipwreck or Edward Teach who wrecked his flagship), and a first edition of Robinson Crusoe, the lone survivor of a fictional shipwreck who survived on an island for twenty-eight years before being rescued.

Wills arranges the entries in chronological order, beginning with 1539 and ending in 2012 when two Titanic museums opened 100 years after that ship sank. Both an index and a table of contents that identifies and dates each object allows for easy access to individual shipwrecks.

This book is an eclectic collection of objects that introduces us to shipwrecks we probably may not know about but should. Wills hopes these intriguing stories spur us to learn more about the vessels and the tales they have to reveal.

Review Copyrighted ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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The Hidden Galleon
Cover Art: The Hidden
The Hidden Galleon: The True Story of a Lost Spanish Ship and the Legendary Wild Horses of Assateague Island
by John Amrhein, Jr.
New Maritima Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9796872-0-4, US $32.95

A sunken Spanish ship. Legendary ponies. A barrier island off the Virginia coast. These are ingredients that inspired Marguerite Henry to craft what became a well-known children’s story, Misty of Chincoteague.

Oftentimes, legends have their basis in fact. As centuries pass, divining what is truth and what is fiction becomes difficult. Research plays a key role in this endeavor, as this narrative clearly demonstrates. In this case, the journey begins at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Amrhein discovers a letter, written by a Spaniard, to Maryland’s governor in 1750. The information leads Amrhein to believe it will be easy to find what remains of the sunken vessel. (Yes, that incident actually occurred.) It also leaves him with an unanswered question: If finding the wreck is so simple, why has no one done so? As he soon learns, his supposition is anything but easy. The journey will span years and involve a court-martial, a con man, a ship that never sets sail, fraud, uncooperative governments, and legal battles.

The true beginning of this voyage is neither the ponies nor the hunt for a hidden shipwreck. It starts in August 1750 in Havana, Cuba, where Don Daniel Huony is the captain of La Galga de Andalucia, a worn-out warship built nearly two decades earlier. She can carry 632 tons worth of cargo and measures 120 feet from stem to stern, but numerous tweaks and modifications have left her less seaworthy than in her early days. After taking on cargo and passengers, including English prisoners taken captive by Spanish privateers, La Galga escorts five merchants on their journey to Spain. It is late in the year to be voyaging, but delays have left Huony little choice. They encounter a hurricane soon after their departure, which scatters the fleet. La Galga successfully navigates the seething water and wind until Assateague Island, where she strikes an impediment that damages her hull. Unable to stem the water flowing into the ship, Huony orders those aboard to abandon ship; all but five make it to shore.

Amrhein uncomplicates a series of convoluted episodes from recent and distant history to provide readers with a comprehensive and straightforward account that fascinates and astonishes. To further enhance the reading experience, he provides endnotes, a bibliography, an index, illustrations, diagrams, charts, and two sections of color plates. For those who enjoy mysteries and tales of searching for shipwrecks, The Hidden Galleon masterfully achieves both.

The Notorious Captain Hayes

Cover Art: The
                    Notorious Captain Hayes
The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of William “Bully” Hayes, Pirate of the Pacific

By Joan Druett
HarperCollins, 2016, ISBN 9781775540977, NZ $36.99
e-book ISBN 9781775491351, US $10.99 
William Henry Hayes. After newspapers in Hong Kong and Singapore first print stories of him in 1859, the headlines are just the beginning of a legend that begins while he lives and grow after he dies in 1877. People want to read the latest grisly details about the man described as a “remarkable scoundrel,” “notorious maritime swindler,” and “thief, pirate, plunderer, kidnapper.” He is an American sea captain with magnetic charm, an aptitude for persuasion and bluff. He is also adept at cheating people out of merchandise, monies due, and ships, as well as evading the law.

His past is somewhat murky; one story recounts that he hanged twenty-five Chinese pirates without a trial and was then court-martialed for doing so. Or maybe he resigned in disgrace from the Imperial Chinese Navy, for blackmailing coastal merchants in order to protect them from pirates. Or perhaps tale neither is true.

He has friends of influence. He trades and mortgages one ship for another, even if he doesn’t have the authority to do so. He marries more than once, although at least once he may have two wives at the same time. He captures island natives and sells them elsewhere. Several girls accuse him of attacking them. His demise comes at the hands of his own men.

Druett examines the life of this notorious sea captain and shows readers how difficult it is to separate fact from myth. She traces events from period newspapers and documents, and the story unfolds chronologically through each ship that he acquired. The histories of these vessels and accounts of the people who crossed paths with Hayes are intricately woven into the telling to give readers a fuller appreciation of who, what, when, and where, even if the why isn’t always known. While there are occasional references to piracy, and in particular the pirate Eli Boggs and his connection to Hayes, Druett clearly shows that Hayes was not a pirate, but a consummate con man who knew how to manipulate others to get what he wanted.

Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
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In the Wake of the Gods

Cover Art: In the Wake of the
In the Wake of the Gods: A Cruising Companion to the World of the Greek Myths
by Sam Jefferson
Adlard Coles, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4729-7536-2, US $28.00 / UK £20.00

Who hasn’t heard of Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, or any of the other gods and goddesses who dwell on Mount Olympus? What of such heroes as Herakles, Perseus, Thesus, Jason, Achilles, and Odysseus? We study these and other figures of Greek mythology in school, but what if we could visit the places where their tales take place? This is one goal behind Sam Jefferson’s In the Wake of the Gods, which shows how and where sailors can voyage to various islands in the Ionian Sea and Saronic Gulf to visit the world of Ancient Greece, as well as modern Greece, and learn about the Titans and Olympians.

He begins his journey with a brief introduction to the original gods, the twelve Titans, and how they were superseded by the fourteen gods and goddesses known collectively as Olympians. What readers quickly learn is that humans often crossed paths with these mythological creatures, finding themselves tormented or defiled. Jefferson includes short biographies of all these and then explains how the heroes mentioned above evolved. His tour begins on Ithaca and progresses from there to Othoni, Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos, Ammoudia, Lefkas, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Strofades, Pylos, Kardamyli, Cape Tainaron, Kythira, Cranae, Cape Maleas, Learna (now Myloi), Argos, Nafplio, Tiryns, Cape Skili, Troezen, Poros, Aegina, Agistri, Corinth, Megara, Eleusis, and ending at Athens and Cape Sounion. The author also provides information about sailing in these waters and suggests tips on mooring when you stop to visit the islands. In addition to an index, there is a section on the ruins of Greek temples that can be visited throughout the region.

The narrative is laced with humor (sometimes dry wit and other times tongue-in-cheek, usually always geared toward adults), which sometimes makes learning about the gods and goddesses far more interesting than they were in school. The book is beautifully illustrated with paintings and photographs. Passages from early retellings of the myths are woven into the text to allow readers the chance to learn the stories from other perspectives. Where actual landmarks pertaining to the myths exist, he provides information on where they can be found and where to moor while visiting them. The myths that are recounted are sometimes gruesome, but definitely show that the gods weren’t perfect and liked to act in mischievous ways. Heroes were equally flawed. Jefferson’s storytelling captivates, entertains, and enlightens without getting bogged down in detail.

This is an intriguing guidebook for those seeking to create their own itinerary for a voyage around the Greek isles. One cautionary note is that the book does not include any information about crime and dangers, other than those involved in the actual sailing and mooring of vessels. Readers are left to their own devices to find that type of information. The only drawback is that on a few pages the small black print against the blue sky may be difficult to read. Aside from that, this book is reminiscent of coffee-table books of old, but at a more reasonable price.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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The Untold War at Sea

Cover Art: The Untold War at
The Untold War at Sea: America’s Revolutionary Privateers
By Kylie A. Hulbert
University of Georgia Press, 2022, ISBN 978-0-8203-6071-3, US $29.95

Once the thirteen original colonies had enough of a king’s tyranny, they declared war and fought for independence. Much has been written about the American Revolution on land and at sea, but the members of the colonial army, militias, and navy weren’t the only ones to fight. Some chose to fight an economic war. These privateers held legal commissions that permitted them to attack enemy ships during times of war. History books may or may not mention them, even though they played an integral part in the war. This book corrects this dearth of information; Hulbert recounts their stories from financing and building the ships, to recruiting crews and setting sail, through navigating the admiralty courts that decided whether a prize was legally or illegally captured. Once deemed heroes, they came to be treated as pariahs and Hulbert shows how and why this happened.

The story of privateering unfolds in five chapters, each titled after a line from a popular song of 1776 about a privateer named Manly. Chapter one, “Hardy Sons of Mars,” focuses on how privateering came to be one of the avenues that the colonies and Continental Congress pursued as a means of fighting the war. It also concerns the steps in acquiring a ship, manning it, and acquiring the necessary legal documents for a privateering venture. The second chapter, “A Privateering We Will Go,” shares what life at sea was like, from the mundane to the exciting, while chapter three discusses actual engagements from the sighting of a potential prize to pursuit and capture. “Make Your Fortunes Now, My Lads,” the fourth chapter, examines the prize court system and how it could be as perilous or as rewarding to privateers as the actual captures were. The final chapter, “To Glory Let Us Run,” scrutinizes how privateers were viewed during and after the conflict.

Those who participated in privateering, either in actual combat or behind the scenes, came from different walks of life. Some were prosperous. Some dreamt of becoming so. The gamut of motivations ranged from patriotism to self-interest. What cannot be denied is that the privateers and their deeds impacted the war effort. Initially, they were hailed as heroes, especially when most reports of the conflict were grim. Later, their reputations became tarnished and didn’t fit the persona of how the fledgling nation wished to be portrayed.

Declaring independence was a bold deed, especially when the new nation had no navy to speak of. Privateers filled that void and took the war directly to the British. Among the events discussed in the book are the Rhode Islanders’ attack on HMS Gaspee before the war, Massachusetts’s determination to lead the way in authorizing privateering, and case studies from the prize courts. Many individuals are introduced, some of whom are unknown to most readers, such as Elbridge Gerry, Thomas Willing, John Langdon, Josiah Bartlett, and Gustavus Conyngham. Others – John Adams, Edward Rutledge, Elias Hasket Derby, Captain Jonathan Haraden, and Benjamin Franklin to name a few – are more familiar. End notes provide source citations and additional information, while the bibliography provides additional avenues to explore, and the index permits readers to locate information directly. In addition, occasional illustrations enhance the reading experience.

One of Hulbert’s goals in writing The Untold War at Sea is to show the complexity of privateering and how it was viewed. In doing so, she demonstrates that the American Revolution was far more complex than we think and that privateers played a pivotal part in helping the colonies win their independence from Great Britain. This facet of maritime history and culture needs to be better understood and integrated into the historical narrative, and she does an excellent job in laying the groundwork for this. Even readers knowledgeable about privateering and the War of Independence will be surprised by what she has unearthed. All readers come away with a better understanding of who the privateers were, how they did what they did, and why it’s taken so long for their stories to be shared.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Balchen's Victory

Cover Art:
                      Balchen's Victory
Balchen’s Victory: The Loss and Rediscovery of an Admiral and His Ship
By Alan M. Smith
Seaforth, 2022, ISBN 978-1-3990-9412-2, US $52.95 / UK £25.00
Also available in e-book formats

HMS Victory. The name brings to mind one particular ship, the one on which Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson succumbed during the Battle of Trafalgar. But she wasn’t the first to be so named, and this is the story of her predecessor and her admiral, both of which were lost on a stormy night in October 1744. A great lamentation resulted from the deaths of Admiral Sir John Balchen, Victory’s captain, and the 1,100 men who went down with the ship. Yet, as time passed, they have faded from memory, even though their losses triggered fundamental changes in the ways navy ships were designed and built, as well as in how the royal dockyards were administered. This book explores the man, the ship, and their legacies in hopes of bringing both back to the fore of conscious memory, rather than relegating them to a blip in the historical record.

John Balchen was born in 1669 in Godalming, Surrey, England. Once he joined the Royal Navy, duty became a hallmark of his career. He didn’t always agree with the status quo and raised serious questions about the way ships were designed and maintained. He cared about the men who served under him. He survived two courts-martial and several wars during his fifty-eight years of service – a time that encompassed the reigns of seven different monarchs. He retired in 1744 at the age of seventy-five.

Victory was the finest warship of the Royal Navy in her day. Her origins dated back to 1673 when orders for a 100-gun First Rate ship of the line were received. She was rebuilt several times, the last time in 1733, and was commissioned four years later. In spite of being a new and modern warship, she was considered a “crank” ship, one that was top heavy and prone to rolling. Still, she was needed and she would serve as the flagship of the White Squadron at a time during a most dire situation for the country.

French Admiral Rochambault and his squadron had corralled a convoy of English ships laden with food and stores near Lisbon, Portugal during the War of the Austrian Succession. Their supplies were destined for the Mediterranean Fleet and 17,000 men, who were in desperate need, but the convoy was unable to escape the enemy’s blockade. Admiral Balchen was summoned back from retirement to command a fleet of warships to relieve the convoy and see it safely to Gibraltar. 

The mission was a success, but the homeward bound squadron encountered a storm. All the ships but one limped into port. Last seen on 4 October 1744, Victory went down with all hands. She was believed to have foundered on Les Casquets reef because of where wreckage came ashore. When Odyssey Marine Exploration found the wreck site 264 years later, it turned out she sank somewhere else entirely.
The book is comprised of chapters that cover the shipwreck, the aftereffects, the stories of the ship and the admiral, their legacy, and the discovery of the wreck site and what transpired as a result. Two timelines are included that highlight events in both Admiral Balchen’s and Victory’s careers. Color and black-and-white pictures provide visual representations of information presented in this volume. In addition to the maps, end notes, bibliography, and index, five appendices are included. The first provides experts’ answers to a question the author posed: “Why, in your opinion, do you think the man and the ship are no longer of any importance or relevance to naval, or even national, history today?” Three document the grief as it was shown in literary examples. The last discusses Balchen and his hometown.

Many questions still remain about Victory’s loss, and Smith explores and analyzes the various theories. Her discovery also led to conflict as to whether or not the wreck site should be excavated. These, too, are discussed, as is the resulting outcome of that conflict.

Smith does not simply relate the stories of an admiral and a ship. He places both in context with what was happening within the Royal Navy and in the world at large. His goal is to provide readers with an understanding of who Admiral Balchen was and why he should be remembered for more than just a shipwreck. In this, Smith achieves what he set out to do in a manner that is straightforward and enlightening.

HMS Victory -- 1744

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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The Forgotten Slave Trade

Cover Art: The
                Forgotten Slave Trade
The Forgotten Slave Trade: The White European Slaves of Islam

By Simon Webb

Pen & Sword, 2021, ISBN 978-1-52679-709-4, US $26.95 / UK £14.99

Mention “slavery” and most people immediately think white masters and black slaves. The former exploited the latter by uprooting Africans from their homelands, transporting them across the Atlantic, and selling them in Caribbean and American slave markets. These forced laborers were also abused and mistreated, considered property rather than human beings. What Webb brings to light is the fact that this concept of slavery – black versus white – is relatively modern. He concurs that this was a horrendous practice, but to suggest that only Africans suffered and endured forced servitude and horrendous indignities is misleading and is an example of “cultural erasure.” His goal is to correct this misinterpretation of history.

The book’s primary emphasis is on people of the British Isles, including Ireland, who found themselves victims of slavery. Webb also mentions other countries and people from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East throughout history, as well as Western nations’ attempts to bring an end to Barbary slavery. He does point out that slavery remains prevalent even today; according to a 2019 report by the United Nations, around 25,000,000 people are still enslaved.

This volume delves into the history of slavery, concubines and eunuchs, Mamluks and Janissaries, galley slaves, and Barbary corsairs and pirates (including the Salé Rovers). In addition, he discusses European nations’ tendency to pay tribute rather than engage in military action to stop this abhorrent practice and the upstart United States defied that tradition and helped to end Barbary slavery against Western countries – a forerunner of what Webb sees as the Americans’ tendency to serve as the “world’s policeman.” The book also contains a list of references, an index, and twenty black-and-white illustrations.

No one knows when the first slaves appeared in England, but it was considered a normal state of affairs even before Anglo-Saxon times. The Vikings came not only to plunder monasteries and towns, but they also sought slaves for themselves and for people in other regions of the world. Slave raids were particularly prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Cornwall was visited on more than one occasion, losing sixty dragged from a church in 1625 and 240 adults and children two decades later. All were destined for the slave markets of North Africa; only a few ever made it back to their home villages. One Scots woman who did not was Helen Gloag; she became a gift to the sultan of Morocco and eventually was elevated to empress of the sultanate.

In tracing the history of slavery, Webb shows that it was a universal practice. The earliest documented mention dates back 4,000 years. Two early examples involve Joseph of the Bible, whose brothers sold him, and a boy named Patrick, who became an English slave and eventually a Christian missionary (better known today as Ireland’s Saint Patrick). Initially, slaves are victims of war, where winners enslave losers, but in time, religion plays a role in who can be a slave. Muslims can own slaves, but only if those slaves are not of the Islamic faith. This is a guiding principle behind the Barbary corsairs preying on ships and lands outside of their own. Any captive who converts to Islam is freed. For example, Samson Rowlie converts and becomes the Treasurer of Algiers, while Jan Janszoon becomes the Admiral of the Salé Rovers and conducts numerous raids, as far away as Iceland.

Several organizations helped arrange ransoms for the captives, enabling them to return home. Of the 109 residents of Baltimore, Ireland taken in 1630, only three women were ransomed. When King William III arranged the release of all enslaved English and Irish in 1689, one of the men who went home to Ireland was Richard Joyce, who had been sold to a goldsmith. He took with him a design for a ring that he later produced. Today, it is an early example of the Claddagh Ring.

As I read the introduction, I questioned whether I really wanted to review a book that some readers may see as controversial, or even tantamount to heresy. A librarian – which I was for two decades – is trained to provide resources that present topics from all sides of the coin and to allow readers to decide what is wrong or right for themselves. Webb’s research is spot on and his sources are qualitative.

Nor is this a dry treatise on the history of slavery. It’s highly readable and, at times, illuminating. In no way does he minimize or ignore what happened to Africans who became victims of the triangle trade. His primary goals are to show that slavery doesn’t encompass this one period and that Europeans were also victims. He succeeds in meeting these goals, while providing the framework for why and how this came about. His narrative incorporates numerous points and counterpoints that certainly lend themselves to generating discussion. The Forgotten Slave Trade is a worthy and well-researched resource for anyone seeking a more complete picture of the history of slavery. It’s equally important to remember that it is but one volume to be consulted when delving into this controversial subject.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 1759
Cover Art: The Battle
                of Quiberon Bay, 1759
The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 1759: Britain’s Other Trafalgar
By Nicholas Tracy
Pen & Sword, 2021, ISBN 978-1-39901-449-6, UK £14.99 / US $29.95
Also available in e-book format
On the whole, this battle . . . may be considered one of the most perilous and important actions that ever happened in any war between the two nations; for it not only defeated the projected invasion, which had hung menacing so long over the apprehensions of Great Britain; but it gave the finishing blow to the naval power of France.
Tobias Smollett wrote those words in 1800 in The History of England. Many readers outside of Great Britain might be unfamiliar with the Battle of Quiberon Bay, but it was a victory that had major repercussions for the French and the British. It led to the end of the former’s North American colonies, brought Canada into the latter’s fold, and began that nation’s rise to become a world empire.

What happened at Quiberon Bay in 1759 was but one confrontation during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). This conflict had begun three years earlier and pitted Britain, Hanover, and Prussia against France, Austria, Spain, and Russia, but its roots date back to the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). Secret intelligence warned the British government of an impending invasion by the French and Sir Edward Hawke was tasked to command the fleet meant to stop the enemy forces before they came close enough to carry out their threat. To that end, he established a close blockade, determined to make certain that Maréchal Conflans and his ships did not escape Brest. But the French did elude Hawke, who set off after them and trapped them at Quiberon Bay in November. In spite of being understaffed, ill-trained, and riddled with typhus, the French attempted to get free. Hawke and his men braved a fierce storm and dangerous rocks and shoals to stop them.

Other books have been written on this battle, but Tracy attempts to place it within the context of world events and politics. He explores its roots and then gradually takes readers through what led up to and transpired during and after the confrontation in eight chapters. He includes illustrations and maps, as well as two appendices to enhance the reading experience. Endnotes, a list of references, and an index are also provided. Quotations from primary documents are interspersed throughout the text to allow firsthand participants to share their thoughts and deeds. One drawback is that French passages are sometimes not translated within the narrative; readers must consult the endnotes for the English. This book is a worthwhile addition to naval history collections, and Tracy does a good job orienting readers to the background events of this decisive victory with long-reaching impact.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks
Cover Art: The 50
                  Greatest Shipwrecks
The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks
By Richard M. Jones
Pen & Sword, 2017, ISBN 978-1-39900-800-6, UK £19.99 / US $23.97
Also available in e-book formats

According to the author, history has seen more than 3,000,000 shipwrecks through the years. There is no way to narrow down that number to the fifty greatest. Any such list is subjective, especially if the parameters of the criteria used to select them isn’t stated. The author concurs with this assessment: “It would be impossible to truthfully dictate what the fifty most interesting wreck stories would be,” although he goes on to make such a list. “[I]n my opinion, those in these pages come as close as you can get to a list that is as diverse and varied as possible: a mixture of the world’s worst number of deaths – both wartime and peacetime – and wrecks that register no deaths at all.” (x)

A handful of the ships mentioned will be known by the majority of readers. Titanic struck an iceberg in April 1912, and more than 1,500 of those aboard died, while Carpathia – a ship that sank six years later – rescued 705 survivors. A similar ratio of victims to survivors happened after a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania in 1915. It is the many unanswered questions surrounding her loss, however, that make for compelling reading. Two others are the USS Arizona and the Edmund Fitzgerald. Those within maritime circles will recognize the names of other vessels, such as the Mary Rose and the Vasa – two warships that heeled over and sank because water poured in through the gunports – or the Endurance, the vessel that carried Ernest Shackleton and his crew to Antarctica in 1915. She was crushed by ice and sank; they survived. Many other vessels will be unfamiliar to the many readers. For example, the Waratah that disappeared off South Africa in 1909; the Mendi which was struck by another ship that kept on going rather than stopping to render aid in 1917; or the Musashi that sank in 1944 after being hit by nineteen torpedoes and seventeen bombs.

Each of the entries in this book averages three to six pages. A summary of the ship’s history prior to her sinking is provided, as are details of her demise and what happened to her afterwards. Some, like Vasa and Mary Rose, are now museums. The latter is the earliest ship mentioned, having sunk in 1542. The most recent two sinkings pertain to Costa Concordia in 2012 and an unknown vessel carrying migrants in 2015. In addition to warships and passenger liners, Jones’s list includes oil tankers, submarines, cargo ships, and ferries. There are also plates of black-and-white photographs.

While Jones includes a wide variety of vessels, it’s interesting to note that steamboats are missing. For example, neither Sultana (1865) nor General Slocum (1904) make the list. Only four vessels are included from the many shipwrecks before 1800, but there are none from the nineteenth century. There is no index, but the table of contents provides a chronological list of the shipwrecks and the year each sank. Also absent is a bibliography, which is surprising given that the author’s intention is to arouse readers’ interest sufficiently that they go on to learn more about the shipwrecks.

The author specializes in researching lost ships and maritime disasters. In the epilogue he writes, “Each one has its own story, each has real people affected by the loss of the vessel, cargo, and crew. No disaster should be forgotten and it has always been my intention to get as many on record as possible.” (157) In this regard, he is correct and this book contains compelling accounts of fifty shipwrecks, although some readers may argue that HMS Scylla may technically fall under the definition of shipwreck, but doesn’t truly qualify as one since she was sunk on purpose to serve as an artificial reef. For readers who seek an introduction to maritime disasters, The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks is a decent starting point.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Favourite of Fortune

Cover Art:
                      Favourite of Fortune
Favourite of Fortune: Captain John Quilliam, Trafalgar Hero
By Andrew Bond, Frank Cowin, and Andrew Lambert
Seaforth, 2021, ISBN 978-1-3990-1270-6, UK £25.00 / US $44.95
 Also available in other formats

A native son of the Isle of Man, John Quilliam is feted in artwork and museums there. Elsewhere, few know his name or what he achieved during his lifetime. Favourite of Fortune changes this.

Quilliam, the eldest of seven children, was baptized in 1771; it is the only historical record of his existence until he left the island in 1785. Once he joined the Royal Navy, he rose from able seaman through the ranks to become a post-captain. Early in his career, he served aboard the ship that carried Britain’s first ambassador to China. He took part in the fleet actions at Camperdown, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar. As the fourth most important figure aboard Victory during the last battle, he would be included in Benjamin West’s painting depicting Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s death.

During two plus decades of service, he came to the notice of influential men and numbered Nelson, James de Saumarez, and Richard Keats among his friends. He also acquired the necessary skills, experience, judgment, and perseverance that made him a good officer. He possessed an uncanny knack for refitting and repairing vessels, while his varied experiences included convoy and blockade duty, shipwreck, smugglers, privateers, Spanish gold, and prize money. He served on a court martial and was later brought up on charges even though he was obeying secret orders. Even after his retirement, he maintained an interest in the navy and in technology, especially if the innovation might help save sailors’ lives.

From historical records, the authors provide an almost complete timeline of his naval career and strip away the inaccuracies and myths surrounding him. They incorporate maps, illustrations, and end notes, as well as a bibliography, glossary, and index. Each author has a connection to this man, be it a familial relationship or through research. They combine their knowledge of the Royal Navy, the Isle of Man, and this “man who steered the Victory at Trafalgar” to craft an authoritative, yet highly readable biography. (vii)

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar
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Explorers and Their Quest for North America
Cover Art:
                          Explorers and Their Quest for North America
Explorers and Their Quest for North America
By Philip J. Potter
Pen & Sword, 2017, ISBN 978-1-52672-053-5, UK £25.00 / US $34.95
Also available in other formats

The fastest means of traveling from point A to point B is a straight line. In this case, point A is Europe and point B, the Middle East, India, and China. The overland route is arduous, long, and relatively straight. The only other option is to sail south along the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Indian Ocean to points east. Or so the majority of Europeans believe. After all, sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean means eventually the ship will fall off the world. What if that belief is false? What if the world is round and, by sailing west, the ship reaches Asia faster than the known routes?

In the latter half of the fifteenth century, this idea is relatively untried and quite a risk. (The Norse sagas claim that Bjarni Herolfsson did it in 985 and, far in the future, evidence will show that Leif Eriksson reached Newfoundland less than two decades later.) One intrepid seaman is convinced that this novel idea is doable and, after convincing the monarchs of Spain to fund the attempt, Christopher Columbus sails west and discovers the New World – although he believes he has reached the edge of Asia. Thus begins the Age of Discovery (also known as the Age of Exploration), which will span over three centuries.

Within the pages of this book, Potter introduces readers to fourteen explorers, beginning with Christopher Columbus and ending with Meriwether Lewis, who with his friend William Clark, will travel overland to explore and map the United States’ recent purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1804. In between, readers meet the following men, many of whom are well-known and a few who are lesser known, to learn why they are remembered today:

John Cabot – First European to Reach and Explore the North American Mainland
Hernan Cortes – Conqueror of Mexico

Jacques Cartier – Founder of New France
Hernando de Soto – Explorer of American South-east and Discoverer of the Mississippi River
Francisco Coronado – Laid the Foundation for the Spanish Colonization of the American South-west
Samuel de Champlain – Father of French Canada
Captain John Smith – Mercenary Soldier, Governor of Jamestown Colony and Explorer of the American Coastline
Henry Hudson – Explorer of the Hudson River Valley and Canadian Arctic
Robert Cavelier de La Salle – Explorer of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley
Vitus Bering – Discoverer and Explorer of the Coastline of Alaska
Daniel Boone – Frontiersman and Pioneer of the Ohio Valley
Sir Alexander Mackenzie – Pathfinder of Western Canada
This book includes maps and illustrations, while each chapter lists the author and title of selected books about each man. There is a bibliography, but it is just one compilation of all the recommended sources. There are no notes or an index, which means there is no way to interconnect individuals or accomplishments without reading specific chapters. While the narrative mentions some of the books that individual explorers wrote, these are not included in either the selected sources or the bibliography even though some of them are still available today.

Explorers and Their Quest for North America is by no means an inclusive list of explorers. While each makes a significant contribution to the subject this book explores, Potter doesn’t explain why he chose these particular men or left out others. What this book does best is serve as an engaging refresher for readers about people they first met in history classes as youngsters. In so doing, Potter presents each man with warts and all, making it clear that each was a product of his time and that not all of his accomplishments fall under the “good” category.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Mutiny on the Rising Sun
Cover Art:
                            Mutiny on the Rising Sun
Mutiny on the Rising Sun: A Tragic Tale of Slavery, Smuggling, and Chocolate
By Jared Ross Hardesty
New York University, 2021, ISBN 978-1-4798-1248-6, US $25.00
Also available in other formats

The Rising Sun peacefully navigated Caribbean waters in June 1743. “Murder! Murder!” The sudden cries rent the air as three mutineers carried out their bloody work. At least seven people died that night. Two survived because of the knowledge they possessed. And chained in the hold, bearing witness to the bloody deeds, were thirteen children and two young men, all enslaved and bound for the slave market in Barbados.

This is far more than a simple trade venture gone awry. As Hardesty recounts the events of that gruesome night – providing insight into what is known and can be hypothesized about the mutineers, the victims, and the witnesses – he reveals details of the smuggling cartel behind the voyage, the miseries of human trafficking, and an insatiable craving for wealth, power, and chocolate. How the mutineers were caught and what happened afterward brings the story to a conclusion.

Newark Jackson, a respected sea captain in Boston, had no idea this would be his final voyage aboard the schooner. Many knew that he owned a store that sold chocolate and that he owned slaves who turned the cacao beans into the popular commodity that people enjoyed; what was less known was that he also smuggled contraband into seaports.

Ferdinand da Costa, Joseph Pereira, and Thomas Lucas carried out the foul deeds. Ship’s mate William Blake and bosun John Shaw survived because of their training and experience, both of which aided them in thwarting the mutineers and bringing them to justice – a justice that was as brutal and horrific as the mutiny itself.

Two appendices cover circumstantial evidence, newspaper reports, and witness testimonies. Maps, advertisements, artwork, ship drawings, and photographs are also included. End notes and an index round out the book.

In his introduction, Hardesty describes this book as a “human history of smuggling.” (4) He deftly shows how and why illicit trade played a role in the lives of all those involved, either firsthand or peripherally. What happened aboard the Rising Sun allows him to show us what drove these colonists to participate in the buying and selling of contraband, and how smuggling could result in the consequences that occurred. The Mutiny of the Rising Sun is an eye-opening examination of capitalism, exploitation, and racism during colonial times that still has repercussions for us today.

Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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The Truth About the Mutiny on HMAV Bounty

Cover Art:
                            The Truth About the Mutiny on HMAV Bounty
                            and the Fate of Fletcher Christian
The Truth About the Mutiny on HMAV Bounty and the Fate of Fletcher Christian
By Glynn Christian
Pen & Sword, 2021, ISBN 978-1-39901-418-2, US $36.95 / UK £19.99

reviewed by Irwin Bryan

This latest version of the Bounty mutiny is billed as “the truth” and claims to be based on details that come from the author’s exhaustive research into every aspect of the story. Newly-discovered details and contradictions of the known story are used to present this revised history.

What follows are the details about Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian, beginning with their first merchant voyage together and incorporating their subsequent naval voyages too. Bligh had the higher rank and was Christian’s commander for years prior to the Bounty voyage. This was lorded over him often.

When some thinkers of the Royal Society considered ways to improve the diet and nourishment of Caribbean slaves, the botanists touted the breadfruit plants found in Polynesia. King George III was asked to send an expedition to get the plants. The small merchant ship Bethia was converted to house the plants for the voyage to the Caribbean, and re-christened as His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty. Bligh and Christian were captain and lieutenant. A couple of midshipmen joined the crew, which included a master, carpenter, boatswain, cooper, and botanist, but no marines for keeping watches and defending the officers from harm.
The preparations for departure took too long and Bounty left late in the season, with winter storms and heavy seas expected off Cape Horn. After weeks of horrible weather, Bligh gave up and took the opposite course, heading east to the Indian Ocean. One midshipman, Peter Heyward, wrote an account of their battle with the storms in a letter sent from Cape Town. Despite the fact that his story was previously published and parts of his writings appear in other books or documents, including Frank Snyder’s Life Under Sail (1964), the author of The Truth about the Mutiny claims he discovered this “new account.”

The months between the Bounty’s departure from England, until the breadfruit plants are loaded for the voyage to the Caribbean, are discussed in detail. Also covered is Bligh’s treatment of the men, including how he micro-managed them, the lack of a fresh diet aboard Bounty while surrounded by fruits and animals on Tahiti, and his restrictions on the men’s lust for the Polynesian women.

Once the ship sailed, there is clear evidence of Bligh’s harassment of Fletcher Christian. The author highlights several ways this animosity kept increasing and how most of the crew witnessed its impact on Christian. He knew the voyage would take many months before he saw England again, and that he could not survive under Bligh and his ways. He considered taking one of the boats to escape, but decided it would be better to make Bligh leave and install himself as the captain to lead and care for the crew.

The book’s author includes a chapter entitled “Mad to do it – or Mad?” in which he discusses the question of Fletcher Christian’s health and sanity. Here again, the author touts his research for uncovering this “new” suggestion. But this issue of Christian’s mental state appears in earlier published accounts about the mutiny, including Sir John Barrow’s Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences (1831), which quotes Fletcher Christian’s statement, “That, — Captain Bligh, — that is the thing; — I am in hell! — I am in hell!” This statement clearly indicates Christian feels pressure from Bligh’s treatment and explains why he removed Bligh.

The mutiny is told in great detail, followed by a chapter about Bligh’s open boat voyage and an account of Bounty as a storeship travelling through Polynesia in search of a home. The author also talks about a second breadfruit expedition; HMS Pandora’s search for the mutineers; and their subsequent capture and courts-martial. There is an inset of black-and-white photos, a short list of sources, and an index to provide more details to readers.

In addition, this book covers life on Pitcairn Island. It includes a step-by-step recounting of Massacre Day when male natives killed several white men and took their women, as well as Bounty’s post-mutiny wandering through Polynesia. This new information comes from Jenny, the only native woman to leave the island. She told the stories to a sea captain in 1817. More than a century later, the incidents and places she described were mapped out to show Bounty’s many wanderings.

Written by the great-great-great-great grandson of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian consort, Mauatua, this book is an enjoyable retelling of the Bounty mutiny and its aftermath with some new material added. Royal Navy fans and folks interested in examples of the life of a sailor, or law students interested in following every detail of the courts-martial and punishments will benefit from reading this new entry on the subject.

Review Copyright ©2021 by Irwin Bryan

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Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

                            Art: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects
Nelson’s Navy in 100 Objects
By Gareth Glover
Frontline, 2021, ISBN 978-1-52673-132-6 US $49.95 / UK £25.00

reviewed by Irwin Bryan

Frontline, an imprint of Pen & Sword, has commissioned over two dozen coffee-table books of 100 Objects. While I am not familiar with any of the other books, I was certainly interested in this title and was curious to see which items would be presented and those that were omitted.

The result is a truly wonderful volume of naval history with gorgeous, mostly color, photographs. The author provides short essays regarding each chosen item to explain its significance. Some essays closely follow the objects shown while others are only casually related to the object.

Barrel of Salt Pork (Source: Pen &
                            Sword, used with permission)Lloyd's
                            Patriotic Fund £100 Sword (Source: Pen &
                            Sword, used with permission)
Left: #68. Barrel of Salt Pork -- the weekly ration was 2 pounds (907 grams) per man
Right: #96. Lloyd's Patriotic Fund £100 Sword awarded for demonstrations of great valor

(Source: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects, used with permission from publisher)

There is no information about the selection policy of the objects or even who selected them. A former Royal Navy officer, Glover is a historian whose expertise on the Royal Navy and Napoleonic wars makes him a perfect choice to author this book. There is no apparent significance in being numbered object one or 100. After the first few items introduce organizations that controlled the Royal Navy, such as the Admiralty, Navy Board, and Transport Board, the remaining objects seem to be randomly distributed.

With 100 objects to evaluate, there are a few questionable items presented. I expected everything chosen would have been familiar to Admiral Nelson and pertain to the Royal Navy. Some objects do not meet that criterion. This includes a whaleship, a French explorer’s chronometer, and slave shackles. Then there are three items about HMS Trincomalee, a frigate not launched until 1817, twelve years after Nelson died. Two of these use the same photograph of the ship – one in color and one in black-and-white.

Some essays and pictures are also mismatches. The brig HMS Pickle has three pictures of three-masted vessels instead of two-masted brigs. The essay for the painting of the Battle of Basque Roads in 1809 tells all about fireships. Although fireships were used in the battle, the selected painting does not show any. One object is a captured water cask, but the essay is about fleet actions. “Contemporary View of the Naval Base at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1804” begins with the actual picture and a paragraph about the Halifax Station. The rest of the entry, however, concerns Bermuda and its base.

That said, many objects and their essays include information one might not expect or realize. An early example concerns the Royal Ordnance, which provided weapons to both the Army and Navy. The essay explains how foundry skills and technical expertise made cannons better and safer, but this also meant the Navy had no control over the weapons for the fleet.

The Gunpowder Magazine has a very detailed write-up that includes information about how much powder different barrels held and how much was needed for the various sized guns. Having a photo of the inside of this space provides an intimate view of a generally hidden place.

                            Victory's Gunpowder Magazine & Filling
                            Room (Source: Pen & Sword, used with
#18. HMS Victory's Gunpowder Magazine & Filling Room
(Source: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects, used with permission from publisher)

I expected to see some items that are not included. Although different cannons are shown, none of the implements used in loading and firing them are mentioned. The many ropes aboard ship need pulley blocks, belaying pins, and fife rails to manage these lines and control the sails. But these were also not chosen. At least, the inclusion of the Rope Walk at Chatham Dockyard explains how ropes were manufactured.

Most people who are interested in the Royal Navy and Age of Sail will find Nelson’s Navy in 100 Objects a great introduction to many aspects of this time. There are objects from shipbuilding and the Royal Dockyards to feeding the crews and the provisions taken aboard each ship, as well as various armaments and weapons for boarding actions or repelling boarders. Whether someone comes across this book out on display or chooses to purchase it, they will enjoy the many photos and learning much about Nelson’s sailing navy.

Meet the author
Who was Nelson?

Review Copyrighted © 2021 Irwin Bryan

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Jean Laffite Revealed
                              Art: Jean Laffite Revealed
Jean Laffite Revealed: Unraveling One of America’s Longest-running Mysteries
by Ashley Oliphant and Beth Yarbrough
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-946160-72-0, $20.00

 Jean Laffite was a master of deception. He muddied the water to such an extent that separating truth from fiction is a monumental undertaking – one that often leads to disagreement among historians as to which “truth” is real. His time in New Orleans and Galveston is well documented, but even 200 years later some mysteries remain, especially as regards his life once he departed Texas. The authors of Jean Laffite Revealed believe that they have unearthed the truth about this period and it is up to readers to read and weigh the evidence in order to determine whether their hypothesis is correct.

Their search for Jean Laffite actually sprang not from an interest in this “gentleman pirate,” but from tales of another man, Lorenzo Ferrer, who lived in Lincolnton, North Carolina, from 1839 until his death in 1875 at the age of 96. Supposedly, this man was really Laffite. This book is a culmination of their research, detailing how they backtracked his true identity and what documentary evidence they uncovered to support their suppositions.

To conduct their research, they followed the protocol of any scholarly research, but they chose to write in the vernacular of a wider audience. As they pen in their preface, “Prepare yourself for one of the most unbelievable yet verifiably true stories you can imagine, a tale complete with international Freemason plots, double agents, explorers charging into open frontier, jail breaks, miraculous rescues, faked deaths, shady financial scams, and murder – all of it hinging upon control of the Gulf of Mexico and the sustainability of one of the most effective black market operations the United States has ever known. Parts of our hypothesis contradict commonly accepted Laffite historical chronology and challenge long-held beliefs about what ultimately happened to him. . . . Hang on to your hat because this is not our mama’s sleepy history book.” (xii)

Their investigation is divided into three parts. Part I summarizes the known facts about Laffite during his years as a pirate/privateer. They sift through two centuries of the best published resources to recount his life in Louisiana, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. Part II concerns when Ferrer first appears in Mississippi, since before then they find no documentary evidence to prove his existence. This section also discusses connections he made that eventually bring him to North Carolina, which is the subject of Part III. Here is where they delve into their theory and demonstrate that contemporaries of Ferrer’s began speculating about his true identity in the nineteenth century.

In addition to the narrative, the authors include a sampling of the documents they collected during their search. Unfortunately, the poor quality of some of these copies makes it difficult to see what they saw. Several appendices and endnotes are included, as is a list of the works they cite. The preface does include a cast of characters. What is missing is an index, which would make it easier for other researchers to find information.

This book requires readers to make a leap of faith, yet there is one segment for which there is no documentation in support of their hypothesis. It is this gap that is the most telling. Whether Laffite died at sea following a battle or he survived and lived a long life remains a matter of debate and conjecture. Since they have been unable to find any proof of Ferrer’s existence prior to his arrival in Mississippi, they believe he is Laffite. Yet there is no definitive evidence to prove this. They do point out similarities between these two men, who may well have known some of the same people. They did turn up an interesting clue in one letter that could be a code name for Laffite.

Jean Laffite Revealed is an interesting addition to Laffite history. Each reader must decide the veracity of what is proposed. The strengths of this book are the depth of research that the authors conducted and that they recognize this as a starting point for other seekers who wish to prove their hypothesis. This is also a great resource for those seeking information on North Carolina history and genealogy.

Review Copyrighted © 2021 Cindy Vallar

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Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and Their War Against Spain

Cover Art: Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and
                              Their War Against Spain
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and Their War Against Spain
By Brian Best
Frontline, 2021, ISBN 978-1-52678-285-4, US $34.95 / UK £19.99

reviewed by Irwin Bryan

This new book is the latest in centuries of works about the English Sea Dogs who preyed on the wealth of Spain, including John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Martin Frobisher. Drake was a memorable figure in his own lifetime. He was known to his Spanish enemies as El Draco, "the Dragon." The English came to know him as a stalwart defender of Queen Elizabeth's realm.

Other leading men in England also took to the sea against Spanish ships and lands. For the most part, their stories are presented in chronological order starting with Hawkins and his young nephew, Drake. With so much treasure being produced in the Americas, there were several ways and varied locations to strike a blow and become rich in the process. Along the coasts they plundered unprotected merchant ships, headed into the jungle to ambush a silver mule train, or confronted a treasure galleon at sea with broadsides and boarders.

Drake's own rise to shipowner and captain of his own vessel shows how he prepared to lead an expedition into the South Seas. He was only the second person to oversee a circumnavigation of the the world, and the first leader to complete the trip. Unlike the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who died during his attempt, Drake's primary focus was to capture a Manila galleon. He returned to England a hero.

With knowledge of the Spanish intentions to send an armada against England, a preemptive strike on Cadiz was planned. Under Drake, a small fleet of ships carrying troops and supplies attacked and caused great damage and destruction to the vessels already gathered at the Spanish port. Coastal shipping was plundered and destroyed, including a full cargo of the staves and wood for building barrels. This critical loss helped postpone the Great Armada until the spring of 1588.

The author relates the actions against Spain and aftermath of the armada in a clear and complete manner. Other Englishmen who campaigned on land or sea have their own stories told, but only Hawkins, Drake, and Thomas Cavendish get their own chapters. The deaths of Hawkins and Drake are presented and the death of their queen in 1603 ends the story.

Black-and-white pictures depict the people and places mentioned in the text. Some maps and illustrations are also included. There is a brief bibliography and index.

This appears to be a well-researched tale, but without any notes or cited sources there is no way to know if what is presented is truth or conjecture. There are some statements in the text that I was not familiar with. These include that Drake's first ship was seized and destroyed by the Spanish, and that San Domingo in the "Dominican Republic . . . was the seat of government for the Spanish Main." (20) (I have since verified the latter.)

As sea stories go, there is enough that occurs on a ship or during a voyage for this qualify as one. This book is ideal for someone unfamiliar with the history of these times or the ways of the sea. Much of England's post-medieval history is clearly told, such as the court intrigue and different people trying to ascend to the English throne. Anyone interested in this era or the early Age of Sail should consider this the perfect introduction to read before England's enemies shift to the Dutch and French.

Review Copyrighted ©2021 Irwin Bryan
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From Captives to Consuls

                              Art: From Captives to Consuls
From Captives to Consuls: Three Sailors in Barbary and Their Self-Making Across the Early American Republic, 1770-1840
By Brett Goodin
Johns Hopkins University, 2020, ISBN 978-1-4214-3897-9, US $49.00
The early days of a fledgling nation are a time of birth and rebirth, a time to establish both the identity of one’s nation and an individual. Such was the case when the United States shed its colonial yoke and emerged into a world where national character and liberty were relatively new concepts. It was also a time when the definition of manliness and intrusions into society’s hierarchical elite began to evolve. Freedom, however, came with consequences, one of which involved the hazards of maritime trade. Before the revolution, American sailors were protected by British treaties. After the war, seamen found themselves fair game for the corsairs who prowled the Mediterranean in search of slaves because the United States hadn’t paid annual tributes to safeguard their citizens. Three such Americans were Richard O’Brien (1758-1824), James Cathcart (1767-1843), and James Riley (1777-1840), who found themselves in this predicament. During their servitude, they had to learn to adapt and redefine themselves in order to survive. Each was eventually ransomed and published a narrative about his time and suffering in Algiers. From Captives to Consuls examines their experiences and writings to showcase how adaptation and reanalysis allowed them to weather captivity, as well as to subsist once they returned home to a country where nationhood, masculinity, and liberty continued to change.

From Captives to Consuls, the most recent title in the Studies in Early American Economics and Society series, is divided into six chapters that explore these men’s ability to adapt during the evolution of these three key concepts.
Introduction: Victims of American Independence
1. Farmers, Privateers, and Prisoners of the Revolution
2. Diaries of Barbary Orientalism and American Masculinity in Algiers
3. Captivity in Correspondence
4. From Captives to Consuls and Coup-Makers
5. Accidentally Useful and Interesting to the World
6. Sailing the Inland Sea
Conclusion: Opportunities of Empire
Goodin examines their lives before, during, and after captivity, as well as their narratives. He shares snippets from their correspondence, diaries, and government reports, and, when history is scarce, he supplements these with examples from other captivity narratives. He also incorporates maps and pictures into the text and includes an Essay on Sources, endnotes, and an index.

This is not an exploration of maritime history or piracy; rather, it is an insightful and scholarly analysis of what it meant to be a self-made American at a time when the nation and its place in the world were being defined. These three sailors who sold into slavery serve as the anchor that allows Goodin to accomplish this. O’Brien and Cathcart were taken when their ships were captured, but Riley became a slave after the ship he commanded wrecked on the African coast. After their releases, they became authors, diplomats, and politicians. Goodin deftly demonstrates how these men, time and again, overcame adversity to their benefit, showing others that it was possible to better themselves contrary to the prior belief that they must remain in the station of life into which they were born.

 Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay

Cover Art:
                              Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay
Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars
By Jamie L. H. Goodall
History Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-4671-4116-1, US $23.99
Also available in e-book formats

Sometimes people turn to piracy strictly because they want easy money. Other times they are driven to piracy. The latter is what happened to the first documented pirate of the Chesapeake Bay, a man named William Claiborne. His felonious activities occurred during the 1630s and are discussed in the introduction to Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay. Contrary to what this title suggests, Goodall describes her book as “a collection of stories that follow some of the Chesapeake’s most notorious pirates and valiant privateers and the local residents, merchants and government officials who aided, abetted and sometimes captured them.” (23) Her goals in bringing these individuals together in a single volume are to (a) identify who took part in these piratical acts and what role did they play; (b) locate where the nefarious exploits occurred; (c) explain why the Chesapeake Bay was both a haven and a target of piracy; and (d) identify what caused the depredations in this 200-mile region that extends from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Virginia Beach, Virginia to be suppressed. Of course, this supposes that all the depredations described within are acts of piracy. In actuality, they are not.

To achieve these objectives, she divides the book into five time periods: colonial (1630-1750), the Revolutionary War (1754-1783), the War of 1812 (1805-1815), the Civil War (1860-1865), and the Oyster Wars (1865-1959). (The latter is really about poaching, rather than piracy, although contemporary newspapers referred to those involved as “pirates.”) The majority of people mentioned will be unknown to most readers: Richard Ingle, Joseph Wheland Jr., George Little, John Yates Beall, and William Frank Whitehouse, among many others. A few – Lionel Delawafer (better known as Lionel Wafer, the pirate surgeon), William Kidd, Sam Bellamy, and Thomas Boyle, for example – are often discussed in books about pirates and privateers. Readers will also find a timeline of major conflicts, maps, pictures, glossary, notes, bibliography, and index.

This is an interesting summary of piratical and privateering activity in a vital, but often overlooked, region that introduces readers to individuals rarely discussed in other maritime history books. That said, some missteps call into question this historian’s research. For example, on page 36, the vivid description of a body gibbeted in May 1699 in the Thames River is identified as being that of Captain Kidd. Four pages later, the text reads, “On May 23, 1701, Kidd ultimately met his fate at the end of the hangman’s noose.” (In 1699, Kidd was in American colonial waters trying to clear his name after sailing the Quedah Merchant to the West Indies.) On page 45, Sam Bellamy’s first victim is identified as the Whidah. He had already captured at least two vessels the previous year after going on the account. In fact, when he captured the Whidah, he was aboard the Sultana, which he had taken in December 1716. Nor did the pirates run Whidah aground, as stated on page 47. A severe nor’easter drove her ashore. The final paragraph states: “Sam Bellamy and his few surviving crewmembers were imprisoned, condemned and executed for piracy. They met their makers at the end of the hangman’s noose.” While several members of Bellamy’s crew were hanged, Bellamy was not one of them and they weren’t aboard Whidah at the time that she sank. He died in the shipwreck. Only two men survived Whidah’s sinking; Thomas Davis was acquitted while John Julian was sold into slavery.

Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar
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Britain and the Ocean Road

Cover Art: Britain and the Ocean
Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks and People, 1297-1825
By Ian Friel
Pen & Sword, 2020, ISBN 978-1-52673-836-3, UK £25.00 / US $49.95
Also available in e-book formats

If you seek information about shipwrecks, this book isn’t for you. If your interest lies in the victims and survivors of such wrecks, you’re likely to find more information in other volumes. If, however, you want a fascinating and outside-the-norm presentation of British maritime history, Britain and the Ocean Road may prove the perfect cup of tea. Presented in a chronological sequence, beginning in 1297 and ending in 1825, this first in a two-volume set explores that history using a particular shipwreck of a specific period as a facet of the development of the country’s dominance of the sea. Yet it’s not just a tale about ships and oceans; it’s also the story of England through the centuries, as well as her place on the world stage. Nor does it omit the people who played various roles in that history. During the voyage, readers discover tidbits about the oceans, weather, trade, naval warfare, and merchant shipping.

The first chapter, “Wine, Herrings and Blood,” discusses medieval seafaring, which was a combination of naval, merchant, and piratical shipping. It explores the rise of the Cinque ports, as well as the Anglo-French war during King Edward I’s reign that culminated in the destruction of the St Cross and twenty-two vessels from Great Yarmouth in 1297.

“Flimsy Cells” examines ships and pilgrims making their way to and from the Holy Land in 1446. Little is known about the men who died or the Cog Anne, one of the few ships to sail directly to the Mediterranean, and her final voyage. This necessitates the use of other firsthand accounts to recount what pilgrims endured on their inbound and outbound journeys during the Middle Ages.

The story of Henry VII’s royal warship Regent and the origins of the Royal Navy are the focus of chapter three, “Like a Volcano.” She was one of the earliest vessels built specifically to wage war at sea, and her size necessitated a new shipyard that eventually became the Portsmouth Naval Base. The chapter is principally about the development and technological advancements during a period when sailors, soldiers, and gunners comprised the crew of a warship. Life at sea, conditions aboard ship, and wages earned are also discussed, as is the Regent’s demise during the Battle of St. Mathieu in 1512.

“Trade, Not War” tells the story of the expansion of British commercial shipping beyond the Atlantic. The pride of the infant East India Company (EIC), Trade’s Increase, was the largest merchantman when she was launched in 1609. Five years later, she was gone, but it was merely the last in a series of stumbles that began on that day. Her birth and loss serve as the backdrop for exploring the rise of London as the dominant port in foreign trade, the origins and early years of various trade companies, and what it was like to be a sailor serving aboard an EIC ship.

The latter half of the seventeenth century is the age of buccaneers and chapter five uses “The Pirates of the Resolutions” to delve into piracy in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

“Line of Battle” is the focus of chapter six, which uses the 74-gun Berwick to discuss the similarities and differences between the Royal Navy and France’s Revolutionary navy between 1795 and 1805. The reason this particular ship stands out is because she began life as a British warship, but was captured in 1795 and taken into the French navy, only to be retaken at Trafalgar a decade later.

Chapter seven relates the story of “The Middle Passage” through the last voyage of the slave ship Eliza in 1806. With her colonies, England was a significant player in the selling of slaves, but Friel also shows that some Africans played complicit roles in these transactions. This chapter covers the voyages between Africa and the Caribbean, Liverpool’s rise as a center for the trade, conditions aboard the ships, Olaudah Equiano and John Newton, the abolition of the slave trade, and the Royal Navy’s role in suppressing slavery.

The final chapter, “‘In the very silence there is a deadness’,” recounts the story of HMS Fury. The difference between her voyage, which takes place in 1825, and the better-known Franklin Expedition two decades later, is that Captain William Parry and all but two of his men made it home. History has forgotten both him and the Fury while remembering the disappearance of Franklin’s, even though both dared to explore the Arctic’s unforgiving conditions in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage.

Throughout the book, Friel provides “see” references so readers know where certain information is discussed in greater detail or where pictures can be found. He includes maps, engravings, artwork, photographs, and diagrams. Nautical terms are described within the text, allowing readers to understand without having to search for a glossary. Also provided are endnotes, an index, and a bibliography.

The author’s purpose in writing this book is to introduce lay readers to England, the British, and the maritime world in which they played significant roles over the course of centuries. This volume covers the Middle Ages through Britain’s climb to the pinnacle of maritime dominance. The second volume, slated for release in May 2021 and entitled Breaking Seas, Broken Ships, will cover the years 1854 through 2007. It will examine not only the decline of Britain’s control of the seas, but also how humans have impacted that environment.

While Friel uses shipwrecks as the focal point of each chapter, readers need to understand three things about the use of this word. Here, “shipwreck” simply means a ship that is lost. Second, the known information about the individual vessels may be scant. Third, few people will be familiar with these ships. While each chapter teaches facets of Britain’s maritime history, often including tidbits rarely addressed in more thorough accounts of the subject, the author succeeds to greater and lesser extents in providing a riveting maritime history while teaching readers about the people, ships, dangers, and environment in which this history has evolved. For example, chapter two suffers from an excess of repetition and, while the discussion on pilgrims and pilgrimages is interesting, it’s not until the final paragraph that readers understand the true significance of the topic’s inclusion in this book: “English ships would not transport large numbers of passengers again until the seventeenth century, with the exception of soldiers carried for military campaigns.” (39) Chapter three provides the best demonstration of how shipwrecks serve as a device to discuss a grander topic under a unifying theme. Of all the chapters, seven provides the most information about the ship highlighted in the chapter title, although modern thoughts and opinions infiltrate the historical recounting. Chapter eight focuses specifically on the ship and the expedition, yet digresses into a discussion on the contact with and treatment of the Inuits.

Of the eight chapters included in the book, chapter five is perhaps the weakest. Much of the information provided here comes from the testimonies of seven pirates. Assumptions more than historical facts are provided to readers, and not all of the assumptions are correct. The reason that the captured pirates were transported to London in 1684 had nothing to do with authorities feeling that that city was the better place to hold their trial. The law said that all pirates had to be transported to London to face an admiralty court, and admiralty courts weren’t established in the colonies until 1701. Nor was it surprising for pirates to elude the hangman’s noose; in fact, prior to Henry Every’s capture of the Gang-i-Saway in 1695, captured pirates were rarely executed. The pirates in this chapter seem to acquire items through purchase rather than pillaging, and while pirates found that slave ships made tempting targets, they were more inclined to convert them into pirate ships than sail in consort with slavers. This chapter, by recounting the tale of three ships named Resolution and her four captains and their crews, supposedly reflects common piracy during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. This may be true during the 1600s, but there are many other pirates and their ships, some of which became shipwrecks, that would be more reflective of the golden age. Also, there were decided differences between the buccaneers of the seventeenth century and the pirates of the eighteenth. As for the inclusion of information about modern-day pirates, that information belongs in the second volume rather than being included in this chapter.

Those readers who venture within the pages of this book will find it readable and, at times, engrossing. No prior knowledge of maritime history is needed, because Friel does a commendable job entwining the necessary background information with the maritime history. Britain and the Ocean Road is perfect for anyone seeking information on English history from less common perspectives. Along the way, don’t be surprised if you discover answers to questions that you’ve not uncovered solutions to in reading other maritime texts.

Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of the North Atlantic

                                Art: Pirates of the North Atlantic
Pirates of the North Atlantic
By William S. Crooker
Nimbus, 2019, ISBN 978-1-4930-5136-6, US $18.95 / UK £14.95
e-book ISBN 978-1-4930-5156-4, US $18.00 / UK £13.95

Many accounts of piracy focus on the period in which these sea marauders were the most prolific (1650 to 1730) and in the region where they were most prevalent (the Caribbean). Crooker shows that this was neither their only hunting ground nor the only time when they prowled. They also plied their “trade” in the North Atlantic along America’s eastern seaboard. He introduces readers to pirates of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries who left indelible footprint on history, with particular emphasis on those whose attacks took place in Canadian waters.

Some of the pirates included in this volume are well-known: Edward Low, Blackbeard, William Kidd, and Bartholomew Roberts. Others are lesser-known, but still conspicuous for one reason or another: John Phillips, Edward and Margaret Jordan, Samuel Hall, Thomas Pound, and Peter Easton and Henry Mainwaring. A trio of incidents are remembered for what occurred on ships – Saladin, Mary Celeste, and Zero – rather than for the pirates themselves. A fourth chapter involves a piratical mystery on Canada’s Isle Haute and the maritime historian and pirate raconteur, Edward Rowe Snow.

This is the second edition of the book, which was originally published in 2004, and includes a glossary, occasional illustrations, and a bibliography, but no index. As the back cover claims, this is “a thrilling collection of stories,” yet it is not without a few imperfections. Crooker presents the myth of Blackbeard having thirteen wives as fact. He states that the Royal Navy’s encounter with Bartholomew Roberts took place in the West Indies; in reality, it occurred off the west coast of Africa. The chapter on Thomas Pound, who pretended to be a pirate to free an imprisoned governor and ended up becoming an actual pirate, is a bit confusing to follow. While the mystery of the Mary Celeste still fascinates readers, this chapter provides no evidence of piracy; one sentence near the end merely mentions that rumors and suspicions existed.

Even so, Pirates of the North Atlantic is one of the rare accounts of piracy in northern waters available today. It also provides information on the gruesome deeds of Canadian pirates, who are mostly ignored by other authors. Crooker entertains and informs readers with accounts of greed, mutiny, murder, barbarity, and a touch of romance.

Review Copyrighted ©2020 Cindy Vallar

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                                Art: Pirates by Nigel Cawthorne
Pirates: The Truth Behind the Robberies of the High Seas
By Nigel Cawthorne
Arcturus, 2019, ISBN 978-1-78950-844-4, US $9.99 / UK £7.90
Also available in e-book formats

Since the first trading boats traveled by sea, piracy has plagued mankind. As early as 694 BC an Assyrian king attempts to suppress the marauding, but still it continues. More than one man, including Miguel de Cervantes, suffers because of pirates. Whether in the past or today, these sea rogues endanger passengers and seamen alike, yet of all the various time periods in which it has been rife, piracy reached its zenith from the west coast of Africa to the Spanish Main, from Canadian waters to the South Seas during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This historical period, often referred to as the “golden age,” is the focus of this book.

Unlike many volumes on these pirates, this one opens with the victims. It includes some firsthand accounts, such as those experienced by victims of George Lowther or Aaron Smith – a man who tangled with pirates twice, was forced to accompany one group, and was tried three times for piracy.

From there, the book delves into privateering and the buccaneers. This period begins with Jean Fleury’s astounding capture of Spain’s treasure-laden ships – an event that confirmed rumors of fantastic wealth and spurred other countries to explore for these riches. According to the subheading within privateering, those of England are featured. Yet half the chapter focuses on the French Huguenots, while the remainder concentrates on the exploits of Sir Francis Drake, concluding with a snippet about the Dutch, especially Piet Heyn.

Other chapters examine Port Royal, the weapons and ships of the pirates, what life was like for one of these marauders, the lure of oriental riches, tactics, and attempts to stop piratical depredations. The usual suspects can be found within these pages – Bartholomew Roberts, William Kidd, and Blackbeard to name a few – as well as lesser-known ones, such as Charles Gibbs, Robert Waal, and François le Clerc (better known as Pie de Palo or Peg Leg). Mention is also made of two primary sources: Captain Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates and Alexandre Exquemelin’s Bucaniers of America.

This is a highly readable introduction to piracy. The majority of the presented information is factual, although source citations are omitted for the most part. Readers should be aware, however, that there are occasional statements that aren’t true or supported by facts. For example, not everyone believes that Daniel Defoe and Captain Johnson are one and the same; in fact, there is supporting evidence to suggest someone else as the author. Or that Blackbeard frequently strangled and tossed his female victims overboard; in reality, there is little historical evidence to support such violence, although he was a master of intimidation. A third example is the blanket statement that the majority of pirates were homosexuals without any supporting documentation to back up this claim.

In spite of these caveats, Pirates is an entertaining and informative romp through the golden age of piracy. Additional kudos to the author for giving victims first priority in this account, when many volumes often give them secondary or even lesser attention. Combined with a list of titles for further reading, an index, and occasional pictures, Pirates is also a good jumping off point for readers who want to dip their toes into the history of sea marauders before diving deeper.

Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2020 Cindy Vallar

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Catastrophe at Spithead
                                Art: Catastrophe at Spithead
Catastrophe at Spithead: The Sinking of the Royal George
By Hilary L. Rubinstein
Seaforth, 2020, ISBN 978-1-5267-6499-7, $32.00 / £25.00

reviewed by Irwin Bryan

This new book looks at a tragic incident that befell a Royal Navy ship of the line in August 1782. The heavy loss of life included the families of crewmen and members of the public, who were visiting the ship at its home port.

The Royal George was Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s flagship, and sadly, he was also lost. His career included several naval battles, and he was an innovator whose improvements to flag signals greatly expanded the words and phrases which could be sent between ships.

The opening chapter details the design and construction of the Royal George and how she was armed with 100 guns. The loss of the ship is described along with some eyewitness reports of the tragedy. But it is the loss of Kempenfelt that is chiefly lamented here.

Admiral Kempenfelt’s life and service history are detailed in the next three chapters. (Although his future flagship is present at some of his battles, it is only the Admiral’s story that is told.) On 7 April 1782, his flag was hoisted on Royal George. After a few months off Brest, an outbreak of illness caused his fleet to return to England. On 14 August, they arrived at Spithead, the fleet anchorage. Fifteen days later, the ship was lost.

Only after this eighty-page biography does the author go into greater detail regarding the ship’s demise. Why and how she sank is explained, and many survivors’ stories are shared. These tell what those final seconds aboard were like for those who survived. There was a frenzied attempt to launch boats by the other ships in the fleet in an effort to save lives; most individuals who escaped the wreck drowned because they could not swim. The eyewitness accounts identify where each was at the time of the sinking, what they were doing, and how they came to be rescued. These survivors were from the Royal George’s crew and officers; family and visitors belowdecks had no chance to escape the tragedy.

Whenever a naval vessel was lost, a court-martial was held to investigate what happened and determine who and/or what were responsible for the loss. At the court-martial delving into the loss of the Royal George, Waghorn, the ship’s captain, gave a prepared statement describing the circumstances that led to the loss. He claimed neither negligence nor impropriety led to the sinking. (His entire statement is included in the text.) Acting Lieutenant Durham, as officer of the watch, also testified at the court-martial. The proceedings, as well as the court’s judgement, are discussed in the book’s next chapter.

There is also a more detailed and scientific look into the catastrophe. This includes what the nearby ships’ logs say about the sea and wind conditions at the time, whether there were possible defects known about the vessel – other than that which was being addressed when the tragedy occurred – and what it might have taken to cause or prevent what happened.

Rubinstein shares poems written, and memorials erected to honor and remember the ship, her admiral, and her crew. Although there were many plans and attempts to raise the ship over the years, none came to fruition; only some of her cannons were ever brought to the surface.

Along with the text, a color plate section includes diagrams and illustrations of the ship’s plans and construction, the Royal George in action and the day she was lost, and portraits of the admiral and Acting Lieutenant Durham. A section of notes and an extensive bibliography are followed by the index.

Here is a book with a lot of appeal for those interested in the Royal Navy, the Age of Sail, and shipwrecks. I would have preferred to learn more about the ship’s history and less about the admiral’s career. Events are described clearly and without technical jargon. Anyone fortunate enough to read this book will gain a complete understanding of this historical event and the tragedy that ensued.

Review Copyrighted ©2020 by Irwin Bryan

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The War for Muddy Waters

Cover Art: The War for Muddy
The War for Muddy Waters: Pirates, Terrorists, Traffickers, and Maritime Insecurity
By Joshua Tallis
Naval Institute Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-68247-420-4, US $34.95

To truly understand this book’s content, it is essential to understand three points. First, the term “maritime security” lacks a definitive meaning; it connotes one thing to some, another thing to others, depending on who is explaining what it encompasses. Second, the word “littoral” once referred to the water surrounding a nation’s coast. At one time this extended three miles from the shore; later that distance was extended to twelve. But it encompasses more than just the water, coming to incorporate a portion of the land, people, and economy near the water. For example, if a littoral extends 200 miles inland, this means that “75 percent of the world’s population, 80 percent of capital cities, and practically ‘all major centres of international trade and military power’” lay within this littoral, which turns this area into a more inviting target for terrorists and other criminals. (3)

Third, “broken windows theory” is a way of explaining the connection between the growth of crime in and the decay of urban neighborhoods. For example, if the window of an establishment is broken and then repaired, those who live there take pride in their community and flourish. If, however, the broken window is not repaired, it can lead to other windows being broken, a lack of caring, a growth of fear in the inhabitants, and a rise in crime because those breaking the law know there is little or no policing. What the author attempts to do in this book is to apply broken windows theory to littoral regions of the world to show that this criminological principle can be effectively applied to maritime security and thus, provide those tasked with maritime security, such as the United States Navy, with an out-of-the-box method of addressing a danger that all nations already do or will face in the future.

In the past, the navy’s traditional role has been to safeguard its nation’s interests at sea and far from land. This is no longer the case, since nowadays the highest threats impacting nations can be found much closer to home. For example, Tallis recounts the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, India when Pakistani terrorists hijacked a fishing trawler, killed the captain, and successfully infiltrated the city and killed 100 people and wounded many more.

But applying a theory originally deemed as an appropriate means of policing crime, doesn’t automatically make it applicable to addressing issues of maritime security. This is what Tallis sets out to do in this book. He shows how this theory can be and has been applied to trafficking crimes, as well as how it can impact other types of crimes, such as money laundering and corruption, that are integral to successful criminal enterprises. Then he tests his hypothesis by showing how it can be applied to two regions where maritime piracy threatens maritime security. To achieve his goals of showing that broken windows theory is applicable and to spark new conversations in strengthening maritime security, he begins by exploring the current literature on maritime security and the challenges strategists face. Then he focuses on the theory itself and elucidates the key themes of the book.

The second part of the book focuses on the Caribbean and the trafficking of cocaine and crimes tangentially connected to drug smuggling. By the conclusion of these three chapters he successfully provides readers with the necessary foundation to test his conclusions in part three, where he integrates piracy into the broken windows theory. This section is divided into two chapters, one that examines West African piracy – a relatively new region for this crime – and then moves to Southeast Asia, which has been combatting piracy with varying degrees of success for centuries.

Tallis readily admits that his book isn’t geared toward the general lay reader. He identifies his audience as being either researchers or naval strategists. This doesn’t make the material less interesting to other readers, but it is written in a more academic style than a down-to-earth book on modern maritime piracy, such as John Burnett’s Dangerous Waters or Jay Badahur’s The Pirates of Somalia. What makes The War for Muddy Waters an invaluable addition to collections on modern piracy is that Tallis uses a different approach to examine and address dangers that navies and nations face today and in the future. Since pirates and terrorists have access to modern technologies and tend to think outside normal parameters to achieve their goals, it makes sense that those who study maritime security issues and devise strategies to address these issues should do so as well.

Review Copyrighted ©2020 by Cindy Vallar

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The Gulf of Mexico

Cover Art: The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History
By John S. Sledge
South Carolina Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-64336-014-0, US $29.99

Since 1550 this body of water, which contains over 600 quadrillion gallons and ranks tenth in size worldwide, has been known as el Golfo de Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico. It began to form when the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart approximately 200,000,000 years ago, but the oval-like shape we recognize formed far more recently (5,000 to 10,000 years). Today, it covers 600,000 square miles and its shores include numerous lesser bodies of water (such as bays and lakes, as well as rivers that feed into it) and land (such as shorelines, deltas, and barrier islands). Elizabeth Custer likened the Gulf to “almost always a tempest in a teapot” when she accompanied her husband, Captain George Armstrong Custer, to his new assignment in New Orleans. (7) 

Others have written about the Gulf of Mexico, but Sledge offers a history that is geared toward the general reader and encompasses far more than the narrow focus of the water itself. He includes information on the people whose livelihoods and existence depend on it, as well as the various boats and ships that have plied the water since the days when Mayans, Seminoles, Calusa, and other Native Americans lived near and relied on the fruits of the Gulf to survive. He discusses European explorers, pirates and smugglers, fishermen, loggers, and many others. Among those of particular note are William Dampier, William Bartram, Juan Ponce de Leon, René Robert Cavalier, Laurens de Graff, the Laffite Brothers, and Commodore David Porter. Also incorporated into the narrative are details on the flora and fauna, cultures, conflicts, memories (personal and firsthand), and historical events. Examples of the last topic cover conflicts – Seven Years’ War, Pastry War, Mexican War, and American Civil War to name a few – and natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The book is divided into eight chapters that present the history of the Gulf in a chronological sequence. These are comprised of Indian Shore, Spanish Sea, Colonial Crossroads, Pirates’ Haunts, King Cotton’s Pond, Violent Sea, American Sea, and Blowout! Maps, illustrations, and two sections of color plates enhance the reading experience. Notes, a bibliography, and an index provide readers with sources consulted and where to find additional information.

Readers seeking an all-encompassing, entertaining introduction to the Gulf of Mexico will enjoy Sledge’s book. No matter how much or how little you know, you will come away from the experience having learned something new about the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, and gaining a new appreciation for a body of water that “is by turns beautiful, bountiful, frightening, and destructive.” (8)

Review Copyrighted ©2020 by Cindy Vallar

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Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots

Cover Art: Smugglers, Pirates,
                                    and Patriots
Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots: Free Trade in the Age of Revolution
By Tyson Reeder
University of Pennsylvania, 2019, ISBN 978-0-8122-5138-8, US $45.00 / UK £39.00
Also available in ebook formats

The War for Independence in the American colonies during the second half of the eighteenth century issued in a new age, one that has become known as the Age of Revolution. That conflict inspired other nations to seek freedom from tyranny as well, and in the first decades of the following century, republicans in the United States felt that one way to fight against monarchies and their empires was through free trade. This is the focus of this book, which shows the interconnections between smugglers, pirates, and patriots, especially as it relates to the way Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in the nineteenth century.

The book is divided into four parts: Negotiating Empire, Regulation and Revolution, A Liberty of Trade, and “Connexions of Commerce and Liberation.” What soon becomes clear is that those who advocated free trade did so not just to help others achieve independence but to also influence the growth of commerce in ways that were to their best advantage. Americans believed their model was the right one, but not everyone agreed, and this is best shown in the struggle between Brazil and Portugal, especially since during part of the nineteenth century, the Portuguese monarch resided in Brazil and, in the end, the Brazilians chose a monarch over a president.

These struggles focus on both commercial changes and networks, as well as politics. Empires instituted a number of laws and edicts to limit trade, which then resulted in the growth of smuggling contraband. When the monarchy chose to lift some, if not all, of these restrictions, free trade prospered and smuggling died. This plays a crucial role in why history unfolds as it did in Brazil, as Reeder aptly demonstrates. He provides numerous examples of commodities, both illicit and legal, such as wine, sugar, gold, flour, and slaves. Aside from smugglers, pirates and privateers are also discussed, in particular those who sailed under letters of marque from the revolutionary leader José Gervasio Artigas. Since his government never acquired recognition from other nations, these men plied their trade in the murkiness of legal privateer or illegal pirate.

Scattered throughout the book are maps, graphs, tables, and illustrations to show points Reeder makes in the narrative. The Notes section provides citations for sources consulted or quoted, as well as additional information on particular topics mentioned in the main text. The extensive bibliography lists manuscript collections in Brazil, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States; newspapers and periodicals; primary sources; and published works. There is also an index.

Readers with a special interest in Brazil and its relationships with the early United States, as well as those seeking information on maritime commerce, will find this book particularly interesting. Those seeking a rousing account of maritime piracy and privateering may want to look elsewhere. Reeder does discuss both throughout the narrative, especially in chapter eight, and does mention North African corsairs (91) and the suppression of piracy in the 1820s (211), but his primary focus is on trade, traders, and trade networks and their effects on the shaping of Brazil as it strove toward independence. He does an excellent job of providing readers with a good understanding of the Monroe Doctrine and how it evolved.

Review Copyright ©2020 by Cindy Vallar


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The Whydah Pirates Speak

Reviewed by Irwin Bryan

                                    Art: The Whydah Pirates Speak volume

The Whydah Pirates Speak Volume Two
By Laura Nelson
Independently published, 2019, ISBN 978-1096132448, $9.95
Also available in e-book format

This book is a collection of articles originally appearing on the Pirates and Privateers website (www.cindyvallar.com). All of the material deals with men who were part of pirate Samuel Bellamy’s crew, including two men that survived the Whydah’s destruction and several others that also wrecked in a captured prize.

As this book is the second volume in a series about the Whydah pirates, you would hope to see all new material. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of new information presented and much of it deals with the pirate Oliver Levasseur and his career after parting with Bellamy. Although the chapters are new, many cover the same stories that appeared in Laura’s first book. Once again, the details of John Julian and John King becoming pirates are given, as is the entire testimony of the pirates’ trials.

There are also repetitions of the text within this book. Thomas South was a carpenter forced to join Bellamy’s crew. In trying to have him released, South’s captain was told the pirates “would shoot him before they would let him go.” (33) The same quote is also found in a new chapter just three pages later.

Another example occurs in the chapter on Levasseur when describing his trial in 1730, thirteen years after the Whydah sank. His punishment included having him “make amends in front of the main door of the church of this parish, naked in a shirt, a rope around his neck and holding in his hand a burning torch . . . and there to declare with loud and intelligible voice, that maliciously and recklessly he made for several years the job of piracy of which he repents.” This lengthy quote is found on page 111 and again in the next paragraph on page 112.

Shortly after being chosen as pirate captain, Bellamy and crew went to La Blanquilla, a small island north of Venezuela. When they were ready to leave, Nelson says, Bellamy and Williams decided to “head back towards the Leeward Islands and the Windward Passage.” (37) This is confusing. Being close to Venezuela means the entire Caribbean Sea is to the north. The Windward Islands are close by to the east; the Leeward Islands are north of the Windward Islands. But the “Windward Passage” is between Cuba and Hispaniola, over 800 miles from the nearest Leeward Island.

As it turned out, they stopped in Spanish Town, on Virgin Gorda, and took shelter from a storm at St. Croix. After this, they did head to the Windward Passage and capture the Whydah, in February 1717.

Some tales offer contradictory versions of the same subject. Bellamy joined Paulsgrave Williams to search for wrecked Spanish treasure. On page 43 it says, “Historians agree that it was probably Williams who had the money to finance the trip.” But on page 65 it says Bellamy “managed to persuade . . . Williams . . . to join him.”

There are even differences in the stories of the wreck. In the first version, after capturing the Whydah, the pirates head north to America and are caught in a storm off Cape Cod. But another story about Bellamy says they first sailed to Maine, where they performed maintenance and built a fort, before sailing south from Maine and wrecking in the storm.

Supporting the text are footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. The last is useful for searching for people and vessels, but no geographic locations are included.

If you missed Nelson’s first volume or are interested in learning about Sam Bellamy, the Whydah, or Barry Clifford’s recovery of pirate treasure, you are encouraged to read this book as an introduction to the full tale and the treasure still waiting to be recovered. More information can be found by reading Barry Clifford’s Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her or A.T. Vanderbilt’s Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah.

Review Copyrighted ©2019 Irwin Bryan

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Convicts in the Colonies
Cover Art: Convicts in the
Convicts in the Colonies: Transportation Tales from Britain to Australia
By Lucy Williams
Pen & Sword, 2018, ISBN 978-1-52671-837-2, $39.95 / £19.99

Here is a book that looks deeply into the lives of some of the convicts who were sentenced in court to be transported to Botany Bay, the first colony established in New South Wales, Australia. Through their lives we learn about criminal justice and punishment in Great Britain. We delve into the places where convicts were kept, conditions on the ships that transported them across the oceans, and the dangers they faced along the way. Readers are told about life in the different colonies that were eventually formed and how free convicts lived out their years as members of a developing country.

Our guide is an author who works on a major project to create individual histories for as many as possible of the 168,000 people transported to Australia between 1787 and 1868. In a lengthy introduction she explains her background as “a social historian of women, crime, and deviance,” (xii) and that stories of female convicts are used wherever possible. An added caution reminds readers that any implied compassion expressed for these convicts does not mean the victims of their crimes should be forgotten.

The opening chapter takes a close look at the criminal justice system. This includes information about trials, sentencing, and waiting for years before being shipped out of the country. Male criminals, including juveniles, were mostly kept in hulks, old wooden warships that had the masts and cannons removed and were modified to house prisoners in one room below the upper deck. The longer a prisoner was kept on a hulk the more their health deteriorated before the long voyage to Australia. Women were mostly kept in the same gaol they were in before trial and transported with other women on ships just for women convicts.

Next, the dangers faced on the voyage are explored. These include rampant disease and death from the conditions onboard and a diet that didn’t include fresh food or vegetables for a prolonged time. Convicts were lost in several shipwrecks and even a mutiny.

The stories of three convict women are told. One involves a lucky escape with several male convicts in an open boat. The second woman became a wealthy businesswoman. The third had twenty-one children and thousands of descendants who helped to populate the country.

There were three different colonies where convicts were shipped: Botany Bay (relocated to Sydney), Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), and Western Australia (Freemantle). A chapter is devoted to each colony.

Conclusions are then presented by the author. These include the costs and benefits Australia experienced during the eighty years of transportation and for at least another seventy years when the last convict passed away.

One appendix features the texts of quoted letters showing the original spelling and lack of punctuation. Another appendix lists many resources that can be used to trace transported convicts and their stories.

There is a section for suggested reading and an index as well. The inset has twenty-four, mostly color, images of the places convicts were housed and some of the convicts mentioned in this book.

Anyone with an interest in the development of Australia or the transportation of convicts can learn from this text and enjoy the up-close look at the individuals whose own words are used to describe what they saw and experienced.

Review Copyrighted ©2019 Irwin Bryan

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The War of the Spanish Succession
Cover Art: The War of the
                                      Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714
By James Falkner
Pen & Sword, 2018, ISBN 978-1-78159-031-7, UK £25.00 / US $49.95
Also available in ebook formats

One of the most compelling questions on every monarch’s mind in the last decade of the seventeenth century was: Who will succeed King Carlos II of Spain? His empire stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to the Americas and included lands in the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg today), North Africa, and the Philippines. To rule these required a firm hand, yet he had neither offspring nor siblings to ascend the throne.

Although lesser claimants existed, two men from two different countries could make strong cases as to why they should be the next king of Spain. One was Philippe, Duc d’Anjou and grandson of King Louis XIV of France. The other was Archduke Charles of Austria. At the time, no one wanted to go to war and eventually, many ruling monarchs agreed that Philippe would become the next king of Spain. But succession questions where no direct heirs exist were never an easy thing to resolve, especially when the contenders and neighboring countries had their own goals and desires.

Then Louis, who rarely made unwise choices, sent soldiers into the Spanish Netherlands in February 1701. The move was supposedly to protect his grandson, who was now Philip V of Spain, but the Dutch were highly incensed over this move. In early September, England, Holland, and Austria joined together to form the Grand Alliance; soon after Denmark and the German states agreed to assist them. Two additional moves on Louis’s part tipped the scale on the side of war. He refused to allow English manufactured goods to be imported to France, and he recognized the Catholic son of the deposed James II as the rightful ruler of England and Scotland. The Grand Alliance declared war in May 1702.

What became known as the War of the Spanish Succession was a conflict that encompassed much of Europe, the West Indies, and even Canada. While most of the war occurred on land, the navies engaged in sea battles and privateering played a significant role. Although peace negotiations began early, nothing was resolved until 1713, 1714, and 1715, years in which the various parties eventually signed treaties. During more than ten years of fighting, numerous elements impacted its outcome: issues of who would command the armies, harmony amongst allies and commanders, conditions of the troops, court rivalries, and distractions at home (such as insurrection in southern France and the bitterly cold winter of 1709). In the end, all parties got what they initially wished and the Spanish people, who never had a voice in the matter, gained a king worthy of their respect and trust.

James Falkner, who specializes in this time period and this conflict, covers all this and more in a volume that presents an unbiased overview of the diplomacy, politics, and military initiatives that took place during the War of the Spanish Succession. He includes numerous maps, illustrations, and a chronological time line to assist readers. There are three appendices. The first two provide the main terms of the 1702 Treaty of Grand Alliance and the Treaties of Utrecht, Baden and Rastadt, and Madrid (1713-1715). The third appendix provides brief biographies of Key Military Figures, their careers, and what became of them. Among those included are James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick; Prince Eugene de Savoy-Carignan; Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt; John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough; Camille d’Houston, Duc de Tallard, Marshal of France; Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Duc de Vendôme; Claude-Louise-Hector de Villars, Marshal of France; and François de Neufville, Duc de Villeroi, Marshal of France. The book concludes with end notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Falkner provides a good grounding for readers about how the question of succession becomes an issue, who the principal claimants are, and why their claims are the strongest. Those seeking detailed analysis of the various battles and sieges, however, need to look elsewhere, for The War of the Spanish Succession merely summarizes these actions. Also missing are events that take place outside of Europe and the Mediterranean. Privateers garner only a scant mention, yet the plethora of these men will have a major impact on history once the war ends. Although the text is highly readable, it doesn’t always hold the reader’s interest and lay readers may become easily confused as to who’s who and for which side they fight. Readers with a particular interest in this war and military history during the eighteenth century, however, will delight in this one-volume overview.

Review Copyrighted ©2019 Cindy Vallar

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Apocalypse 1692
                    Art: Apocalypse 1692
Apocalypse 1692
By Ben Hughes

Westholme, Sept 4 2018, ISBN 978-1-59416-287-9, $28.00 / £25.00

Anyone with even the briefest knowledge of pirate history knows about Port Royal – the “wickedest city” in the world during the 17th century. Yet this is just a small part of its tempestuous history. Originally a Spanish possession, Jamaica fell to the English in 1655. In the early years, Port Royal became a haven for pirates and privateers, the only ones who could protect the island and its residents from the likes of Spain and France. As time passed, the sugar planters gained prominence and power sufficient to turn away the scoundrels and make Port Royal a place where respectable men and women settled, worked, and socialized. This prosperity, however, came at a price – the enslavement of thousands – and it is into this world that readers step when they enter Port Royal with the newly appointed governor, William O’Brien, the Earl of Inchiquin, in 1689.

When this short-tempered Irishman entered Port Royal, the pirates were long gone. Nor would he have suffered their presence for long; he had lost an eye while a captive of Algerine pirates, who finally exchanged him for a £70,000 ransom. The city was comprised of more than 2,000 structures, stone forts, and a number of streets, while on the outskirts of town were the sugar plantations. Port Royal’s population numbered 6,500, nearly 4,000 of which were white; the rest were mostly African slaves.

Although the opening chapters include a brief summary of Port Royal’s pirate history and her most famous buccaneer turned lieutenant-governor, Sir Henry Morgan, Apocalypse 1692 is predominantly a story of slavery, rebellion, and the cataclysmic events of earthquake, flood, and disease that began the slow demise of the wealthiest mercantile center in the New World. Hughes also includes information on the French invasion of the island in 1694 and the city’s decline to the small fishing village that it is today.

Using quotations from period documents and contemporary accounts, Hughes vividly and accurately recreates Port Royal and Jamaican life in the 17th century. He further enhances the experience with a chronology of events in early Jamaican history, illustrations, maps, and chapter notes, and includes a bibliography and index to assist readers in locating additional information or finding specific references within the text. Apocalypse 1692 is a worthy addition to any collection focusing on Jamaican history, slavery, and colonial life in the second half of the 1600s.

Review Copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar

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Anne Bonny
Cover Art: Anne
Anne Bonny: The Infamous Female Pirate
By Phillip Thomas Tucker
Feral House, 2017, ISBN 978-1627310451, $22.00
E-book $8.95 

Ask for the name of a female pirate and Anne Bonny will inevitably be given. History has left us two main sources of information about this woman – Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates and the account of her trial in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1720. The former isn’t an entirely accurate history of famous pirates and the latter covers only a short period in Anne’s life that is primarily seen from the victims’ perspectives. Anne herself left no journal or diary detailing her life. Over the centuries, a number of books, mostly collections about women pirates, have included Anne, but author bias and cultural interpretations have sometimes intruded into these biographies. Dr. Tucker’s goal is to separate the mythology from Anne’s story to resurrect the real Anne Bonny and place her within the world in which she lived.

Anne Bonny begins in 1698 and lays the framework for who her parents were, how she came to be born, and how circumstances in Ireland eventually led to Anne and her parents emigrating to South Carolina. Subsequent chapters cover her life in that colony, her marriage to James Bonny, her move to the Bahamas, her love affair with Calico Jack Rackham, her life as a pirate, and her capture and trial. The account of her life concludes with what happened to her after she vanished from her gaol cell until her death in 1782. The narrative ends with a conclusion and endnotes. Maps and other blank-and-white illustrations are included throughout the book.

This book has a number of weaknesses. The absence of an actual bibliography and index make it difficult to locate information within the narrative. The format of the endnotes causes confusion as to which part of the narrative provided either the subject discussed or the quotation. Also, a few of the source materials cited here fall under the category of primary documentation. The majority are either secondary or tertiary resources; a few, such as Wikipedia and Answers.com, are questionable resources. Dr. Tucker incorporates source citations within the endnotes, but only the first usage includes the author, full title, and publication date. If the resource is a website, a URL is never provided and trying to locate it using a search engine is nearly impossible from the limited information that is provided.

Equally frustrating is the frequent use of language conveying hypothetical conclusions, such as likely, might, possibly, perhaps, maybe. In a non-fiction book that purports to set the record straight and to fill in the gaps, how can this be achieved without providing definitive historical evidence to back-up these claims? A subsection of chapter two is “Dynamic Irish Women”, yet the first woman role model discussed is Joan of Arc, who was French. If Anne knew of Grace O’Malley, who was Irish, her story may have inspired Anne as Dr. Tucker claims.

Several of his points also raise red flags. On page 49, Anne was “unaware that piracy was a most dangerous profession.” Captain William Kidd’s imprisonment, trial, and execution in 1701 were big news back then and Anne was not illiterate. Newspapers and broadsheets often carried tales of pirate attacks. The zenith of bringing pirates to justice and executing them may not have been reached at the time Anne became a pirate, but she was associating with them in the taverns of New Providence when Woodes Rogers was tasked with the job of ridding the pirates from the Caribbean. How could she not have known piracy was dangerous?

Two other examples pertain to Edward Teach or Blackbeard. On page 56, Dr. Tucker writes, “Some scant evidence exists that even Edward Teach . . . was of mixed black and white ancestry.” Ten pages later this becomes a rumor and that he was “a light-skinned mulatto,” yet no evidence is provided to support or discount this – why include a rumor in the first place? As to Dr. Tucker’s claim that Anne “might well have seen Blackbeard on the sandy streets” of Nassau, this is highly improbable. Anne didn’t arrive there until November 1718 and in November Blackbeard was in the environs of the Carolinas and was slain on 22 November.

On the other hand, this book provides an interesting perspective of Anne and how cultural influences and societal attitudes may have influenced her life and her decisions. It also shows her as a typical teenager, experiencing the angst of growing up and living in patriarchal societies where religion and on which side of the tracks you were born played a role in who and what you could be, especially if you were female. Dr. Trucker also does a commendable job expressing why society feared Anne and what she represented.

Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar

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Fiddlers and Whores
Cover Art:
                  Fiddlers and Whores
Fiddlers and Whores: The Candid Memoirs of a Surgeon in Nelson’s Fleet
By James Lowry
Seaforth, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5267-0147-3, £9.99 / US $17.95

In 1798 Admiral Nelson described Naples, Italy as “[a] country of fiddlers and poets, whores and scoundrels.” This quote, which appears on the title page, explains the book title’s origin and is also a good summation of its subject matter.

Lowry’s first ship, HMS Vanguard, is part of a fleet that lands troops in Egypt to attack the French. He is sent ashore to treat the wounded for this entire campaign. After a forced landing and initial assault, his “ears were saluted with the lamentations of the wounded and dying . . . and [he] was incessantly employed.” (73) When the commander-in-chief, General Sir Ralph Abercrombie, fell, Lowry says there were so many wounded it was “impossible for the medical gentlemen to render them all assistance in good time.” (81) So ends the description of his medical service on behalf of the King’s soldiers and sailors.

Instead, he writes this delightful memoir of his travels and adventures to share with his brother. As you read, it seems as if his brother is sitting beside you listening to Lowry’s tale.

There is plenty of detail in this memoir. While the British pursue the French to Alexandria, he devotes half a page to describe date trees. Pages of text paint word pictures of the places he visits. His telling of treks to holy sites and antiquities includes the Roman and Greek mythology associated with them, the history of each site, and his experiences getting there and back.

He was fortunate to have been to these places during the war and especially during the Peace of Amiens when he could travel more freely and take lodgings ashore. Among the many places he saw were Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Rome, Palermo, Malta, and Naples. He attended a grand ball and supper given by the Queen of Naples, saw the pyramids of Egypt, and climbed the active volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily.

On his appointment to each of his four ships – first as Surgeon’s Assistant and later as Ship’s Surgeon – he provides scant, if any, details about these vessels other than their names: Vanguard, Swiftsure, Pigmy, and Weazel. (Naval enthusiasts, such as myself, would prefer to know more about these vessels and life aboard them.) The only time Lowry mentions any firing of his ship’s guns is in one paragraph on page ninety when HMS Swiftsure is chased, engaged and captured.

The only time he writes more about a ship concerns one to which he is assigned but never serves on – the ill-fated Queen Charlotte. While at Leghorn she catches fire and explodes, killing all but forty of her large crew. Although anxious to join this ship, he is grateful for the delay which saves his life.

After being a prisoner of war in Toulon, France, Lowry was hoping to head home, but decided to continue active service and accept a promotion to Ship’s Surgeon aboard HMS Pigmy. He was appointed to Weazle when Pigmy returned to England during the peace. Weazle was sent to survey various navigational hazards, which gave him chances to travel inland to see many sites. These places and his experiences took up a fourth of the book.

His service ends with drama, danger, and hardship, which he covers in detail. Afterwards he has difficulty getting a ship home and travels overland through Spain and Portugal to board a vessel in Lisbon. He arrives in England, passes the Surgeon’s examination, and heads to his home in Ireland. Still the happy traveler, he provides further anecdotes until his arrival in Dunaghmore.

The subtitle of this book, first published in 2006, may lead readers to believe this is both a narrative of Lowry’s experiences as a naval doctor and his adventures during his years of service. Anyone looking for information about life on a navy vessel from 1798 to1804, and the challenges a young doctor faces in treating the wounded are advised to look elsewhere. Instead, readers in search of a first-person, contemporary travelogue of the Mediterranean will be overjoyed to read Lowry’s memoirs of his adventures to these exotic places.

Review Copyrighted ©2017 by Irwin Bryan

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The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
                  Art: The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution
By Steven Park
Westholme, 2016, ISBN 978-1-59416-267-1, US $26.00 / £19.99

In June of 1772, HM Schooner Gaspee ran aground while chasing a suspected smuggler. In a display of the increasing anger towards the British government, American colonists removed the crew and set afire the revenue vessel.

As indicated in the title, Park focuses on two topics in this publication. One is the destruction of a vessel used to enforce the King’s Customs. The other is a detailed look at the various laws, courts, and governments that created and adjudicated these trade regulations and the manner in which the colonists obeyed or objected to efforts of enforcement.

Taken separately, the telling of the Gaspee incident begins with a decision after the Seven Years’ War, to use Royal Navy ships and men on the North American station as Customs enforcers. The Gaspee is one of six sloops assigned this task. With shallower drafts these small vessels are better for patrolling coastal waterways than square-rigged warships.

Molasses brought from the Caribbean is especially vital for the rum produced in Rhode Island. During the war, Boston and Rhode Island merchants traded with enemy French and made huge profits as smugglers. When Admiral Montagu takes command of the North American station in August 1771, he assigns these sloops to patrol New England waters.

Even before Gaspee arrives, colonists attack the other sloops, firing on the St. John and destroying Liberty. When Gaspee reaches Rhode Island, she is commanded by Lieutenant William Dudingston of the Royal Navy and now rigged as a schooner. All the vessels Gaspee stops in the ensuing months anger the colonists and delight the Admiral. One such incident occurs on 17 February, 1772, when Dudingston confiscates a cargo of rum, Jamaica spirits and brown sugar belonging to Jacob and Nathaniel Greene. Park states this seizure by Dudingston “would embroil him, his crew, and his schooner in one of the most significant events of the American colonial era.”(10) The author’s reason for making this assertion is unclear; nor does he ever clarify how this seizure leads to the attack on Gaspee.

The second chapter is called “The Gaspee Incident” and the reader looks forward to reading how the vessel becomes grounded and about subsequent events. Park states that on 9 June 1772, Captain Benjamin Lindsey of the Hannah sees the Gaspee is alone and, despite having hardly any cargo on board, leaves the Newport docks headed to Providence. Gaspee gives chase. With an even shallower draft than Gaspee, Hannah passes over Namquid Point, but Gaspee runs “aground at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”(15) All of this information occurs in one paragraph at the opening of the chapter.

It seems the author wants us to believe that Lindsey intended to trap Gaspee and this was his only reason for sailing. But both Hannah and Gaspee had over thirty miles to travel before reaching Namquid Point. These vessels would have to sail almost the entire length of Narrangansett Bay, passing several islands along the way, and then enter the narrow entrance to the Providence River before coming to the narrows between Bullocks Point and Namquid Point. How could anyone, including Lindsey, have known they would both sail so close to each other and Namquid Point?

It seems more likely that Dudingston made an error of judgment or sail-handling to have been that close to the Point. The middle of the river was the safest place to be, especially if he didn’t have a local pilot. Even then that wouldn’t excuse him from fault unless he hit an underwater sandbar in the middle of the river!

Also left unexplored is just what happened during Gaspee’s three-hour chase of Hannah. Did Dudingston order his gunners to fire on her? Was she damaged as a result? Were any members of her crew killed or injured? Was there anything about this particular chase that especially angered John Brown, the ship’s owner, and caused him to seek revenge before the Gaspee was floated on the next incoming tide? Or was this just a crime of opportunity too easy to pass up?

By only writing in detail about what happens from the moment the Rhode Islanders approach the Gaspee until she is set on fire, Park never answers these questions about the chase and her grounding. Instead, the majority of this book is about the ways colonists obeyed and objected to English rules and laws, and the investigation of the Gaspee incident.

Illegal trade with the enemy throughout the eighteenth century is the first topic explored. Rhode Island merchants even abused the use of Flags of Truce and prisoner exchanges during the Seven Years’ War by pretending to carry prisoners in order to trade with the French.

When George Grenville becomes head of the Treasury Department after the war, he considers how to address England’s wartime debt. He wants to increase revenue and curtail colonial smuggling. By getting the Royal Navy involved, he thinks these goals will be addressed. The next important activity is to revise the customs laws.

The “Navigation Acts” governed trade within the British Empire. In 1673 an act was passed that appointed customs collectors to America. In 1696 new acts gave them enforcement powers and created ten Vice-Admiralty Courts, where colonial cases could be tried without juries. Rhode Island wouldn’t have its own vice-admiralty court until 1758. This functioned until 1767. After that Boston had jurisdiction and the judge was not generally sympathetic to Rhode Island’s merchants.

The three chapters that follow the burning of Gaspee discuss jurisdictional disputes between the civil authorities in Rhode Island and Boston, the Customs Service, and the Royal Navy, as well as rumors that anyone accused faced shipment to England for trial. Park presents a detailed background on each arm of the judicial system and precedents of laws to support statements. He also carefully dissects interviews and hearings.

Finding out who attacked the Gaspee then and why was not easy. Any and every attempt to question witnesses, apprehend suspects, or investigate what actually occurred was frustrated by the local sheriff and Rhode Island Governor Wanton. Lieutenant Dudingston and the Royal Navy did the same by keeping Gaspee’s crew silent. In England, the colonists’ attack on a Royal Navy vessel was considered an act of treason. The lack of significant information from the colony and no apprehension of suspects led King George to order a Royal Commission.

Park provides the history of these Royal Commissions and the precedents for holding trials back in England. Then he presents every detail of this particular commission’s hearings along with commentary. Since Governor Wanton is appointed to the commission little is accomplished. Many people ignore the summons to appear. Gaspee’s crew is never interviewed. Most witnesses questioned are not reliable. As a result, the identity of the perpetrators is never learned. Lieutenant Dudingston’s less-than-truthful version of the story doesn’t falter and he is cleared for the loss of his vessel.

With attitudes towards England becoming unfavorable, citizens, newspapers, and preachers talk about efforts of the English to make Americans more subservient and ruin the growing economy with laws and tariffs. Many reference the Gaspee incident and Royal Commission to prove their statements. Park devotes the last chapter before his conclusions to one example of this – Reverend John Allen’s Thanksgiving sermon delivered to the congregation at the Second Baptist Church of Boston in which “the Gaspee and Royal Commission of Inquiry were mentioned seven times.”(85)

In his conclusion Park points out other how events of the times overshadowed the Gaspee incident. Most Americans have never heard of this attack, but all have heard of the Boston Tea Party. Ironically, it is thought that the failure to punish anyone for burning the Gaspee may have emboldened those who participated in the Boston Tea Party in December 1773.

By now you may realize I wasn’t thrilled with this book. There’s no question it is well-researched and well-presented. But this is not a sea history. At the end of his introduction Park mentions that his book is just a study of “events in a single colony, surrounding the fate of a single schooner.” (ix) He believes this study to be a worthy contribution “in the larger context of the scholarship of Atlantic history.” (ix) I’m not sure he meets his mark. This book contributes more to the history of jurisprudence in early America than it does by providing an account of the Gaspee Affair.

Review Copyrighted ©2017 by Irwin Bryan

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The History of Newgate Prison
                  Art: The History of Newgate Prison
The History of Newgate Prison
By Caroline Jowett
Pen & Sword, 2017, ISBN 978-1-47387-640-0, £12.99; US $24.95
Also available in e-book formats

Although this book involves piracy on a peripheral basis, two infamous pirates – William Kidd and John Gow – spent time within the walls of this notorious prison. Divided into seven chapters, The History of Newgate Prison explores its history from its medieval beginning until its demolition in the first decade of the twentieth century. Even though the Central Criminal Court of the Old Bailey now sits where Newgate Prison once stood and the prison has been gone for more than a century, people still remember this “hanging prison.”

Each chapter focuses on a specific period in the prison’s history: its earliest years, crimes and punishments, its existence under the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, effects of the Great Fire, the “republics” that sprang up in the first half of the eighteenth century, its rebirth in the second half, and prison reforms. In addition to being a history of Newgate, this book also traces the development of the English penal system from the days when the Normans occupied the country to its reformation during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Three appendices discuss Newgate’s more famous inmates, such as Robin Hood and Captain Kidd; depictions of the prison in art and literature; and the inmates’ secret language. Jowett also includes an index, a center section of illustrations, and a bibliography.

Even though there are only a few mentions of pirates, readers will find this book to be a fascinating account of what it was like to be a prisoner across the centuries. Entering the fortress prison’s gates didn’t necessarily mean an inmate had committed a crime; for many centuries it played host to debtors like Daniel Defoe and their innocent families. Chapter five dramatically explores a condemned person’s day of execution or what it meant to receive a sentence of transportation. 

We think of prisons mostly as public institutions of incarceration, but Newgate was privately run and those imprisoned there had to pay for the “privilege” of entering, leaving, and residing within its walls. Jowett provides vivid descriptions, sometimes in her own words and sometimes in those of people who experienced it. By book’s end it’s easy to understand why this long-gone prison remains an indelible memory of times past. One may also comprehend why some chose to follow the short, but merry, life of a pirate instead of living within. When the back cover closes, readers will be thankful they were never “treated” to the experience of being a Newgate inmate.

Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar

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Enemies of All Humankind
                  Art: Enemies of All Mankind
Enemies of all Humankind: Fictions of Legitimate Violence
by Sonja Schillings
Dartmouth College Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5126-0016-2, paperback US $40
Also available in other formats

The concept of hostis humani generis dates back to Cicero, when he used this phrase to describe pirates as the enemies of all humankind. What Schilling does in this latest volume in Darmouth’s Re-mapping the Transnational series is to show the evolution of this concept and the application and use of legitimate violence to defeat these enemies from when it was first applied to pirates up to today’s terrorists, particularly as it pertains to the growth and maturation of America.

The author divides the book into four parts and uses both fiction and non-fiction to showcase her argument.

Part I. The Emperor and the Pirate: Legitimate Violence as a Modern Dilemma
1. Augustine of Hippo: The City of God
2. Charles Johnson: A General History of the Pyrates
3. Charles Ellms: The Pirates’ Own Book
Part II. Race, Space, and the Formation of the Hostis Humani Generis Constellation
4. Piratae and Praedones: The Racialization of Hostis Humani Generis
5. John Locke, William Blackstone, and the Invader in the State of Nature
6. Hostis Humani Generis and the American Historical Novel: James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer
Part III. The American Civilization Thesis: Internalizing the Other
7. The Frontier Thesis as a Third Model of Civilization
8. The Democratic Frontiersman and the Totalitarian Leviathan
9. Free Agency and the Pure Woman Paradox
10. The Foundational Pirata in Richard Wright’s Native Son
Part IV. “It Is Underneath Us”: The Planetary Zone in between as an American Dilemma
11. The Institutional Frontier: A New Type of Criminal
12. Who Is Innocent? The Later Cold War Years
13. Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the War on Terror
The book also includes a list of abbreviations, end notes, an extensive list of the works cited, and an index.

Victims of violence rarely control what happens to them, but over time, especially in Western tradition, the idea of legitimate violence – the use of force to subdue aggression – has been employed to defend innocent targets. What Schilling does in this book is show how the theory of legitimate violence has developed and evolved over time; how discussions on hostis humani generis are and have been maintained throughout the history of the United States; and how the parameters of both have changed over the centuries to warrant the protection of new victims.

Who are the perpetrators who fall under the umbrella of hostis humani generis and against whom legitimate violence is permitted? The initial enemies were pirates, but the passage of time has also permitted slavers, torturers, and terrorists, as well as any group that commits crimes against humanity, to be so labeled. While the concept of hostis humani generis is actually a legal fiction, its close association to piracy often leads scholars to believe they must first understand the pirate in order to comprehend why such people warrant the labeling of enemies of all humankind. But Schilling disagrees with this belief for two reasons. First, the definition of “pirate” changed over time, and that flexibility introduces inconsistency into such an analysis. Secondly, other perpetrators of violence replaced pirates as such enemies. This is why she refers to hostis humani generis as a constellation, a group of people related by their violent acts against innocent people.

The first two parts of this study are of particular interest to those who study and read about pirates, although Barbary corsairs, Somali pirates, and comparisons to the sample texts in chapters two and three are mentioned elsewhere. In the first section, Schilling discusses the origin of hostis humani generis and Saint Augustine’s broadening of the concept. This constellation finally comes into its own in the 16th century as European countries extended their borders to include territories in the New World. The second section focuses more on the law and invaders such as the renegadoes from the Barbary States.

While many readers will clearly understand that some of the texts that are used here to support her argument fall definitively into either non-fiction or fiction, Schilling doesn’t clarify that Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates and Ellms’ A Pirates’ Own Book are actually a mix of both. These two authors interwove facts with imagination to better capture their readers’ interest. Overall, Enemies of All Humankind is a thought-provoking, scholarly examination that will stimulate interesting discussion on a topic that has particular relevance not only to the study of the past, but also to global events unfolding every day in our own world.

Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar

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In Pursuit of the Essex
Cover Art: In Pursuit of the
In Pursuit of the Essex: Heroism & Hubris on the High Seas in the War of 1812
By Ben Hughes
Pen & Sword, 2016, ISBN 978-1-47382-364-1, $46.95 / £25.00

This account of the famous battle between the USS Essex and HMS Phoebe opens with ‘A Prodigious Slaughter’, a prologue describing the final minutes aboard the American warship in Chile’s Valparaiso Bay on 28 March 1814. But this encounter begins in the waning years of the previous century with the building of these two ships. Designed by Sir John Henslow and launched in 1795, the Phoebe was 926 tons, just shy of 143 feet long and just over 38 feet wide. A sleek and elegant Royal Navy frigate, she carried longs guns (twenty-six 18-pounders and four 9-pounders) and carronades (fourteen 32-pounders, one 18-pounder, and one 12-pounder). Her crew numbered 274; most were in their mid-twenties, while the youngest were in their early teens and the oldest was fifty-two. Although she didn’t carry her full complement, those aboard were one of the most experienced crews to man a frigate.

Enos Briggs began building Essex in 1797. Her measurements were 138 feet long, 37 feet wide, and 850 tons. She cost $150,000, half of which was paid for by the people of Essex County, Massachusetts. Her armament included six 12-pounders and forty 32-pound carronades. The youngest member of her crew was twelve years old, while the oldest was around sixty-four. Although a few had served in the Quasi-War with France and one fought during the Revolutionary War, most of the 319 men had been aboard less than a year when she set sail in September 1812. Two weeks before that departure, she had captured the first Royal Navy vessel, a sloop-of-war, during the War of 1812.

Thirty-two-year-old David Porter, Captain of the Essex, first joined the US Navy in 1798 as a midshipman aboard the Constellation. Before that he served as a merchant marine and twice escaped being pressed into the Royal Navy. While posted to the USS Philadelphia, he found himself a captive of Tripoli corsairs. His Royal Navy counterpart was forty-four-year-old Captain James Hillyar, who first saw service at the age of ten during the American Revolution. Faith played an important role in his life, and he and his men strictly observed the Sabbath when at sea. He also believed the lash helped to maintain discipline at sea.

When Porter left the United States, he was ordered to rendezvous with Commodore Bainbridge. After twice failing to find him, Porter decided to take advantage of being on his own to attempt a dream – to be the first American naval ship to venture into the Pacific. Once there, he would attack British whalers in hopes of decimating that trade. But there were risks, especially since Spain’s colonies wanted their own independence; Spain was Britain’s ally in the struggle against Napoleon; and he had no idea where or when he would next be able to resupply his ship. Once news reached England of his success, he would be fair game for enemy ships.

Hillyar, on the other hand, was given a set of secret orders. The first was to serve as escort for a storeship, but he was destined to head around Cape Horn and sail north to the Columbia River with orders to destroy an American fur trading post. Along the way, he learned of the Essex and received orders to hunt her down.

The author recounts what happened as each vessel navigated toward their ultimate showdown. Interweaving chapters that chronologically detail events aboard the Essex and the Phoebe, Hughes details daily life at sea, methods used to maintain order, attitudes and problems with the crews, prizes captured, descriptions of exotic ports of call, and dangers encountered in distant lands and at sea. He also covers Porter’s attempted acquisition of the United States’ first colony on Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, and his interference in a conflict between two tribes.

There is one mix-up in the introduction, which tells the story of the two navies. He identifies the man who led the daring raid to destroy the USS Philadelphia after her capture in Tripoli’s harbor as being Stephen Decatur McKnight. Actually it was McKnight’s uncle, Stephen Decatur, Jr., who had that honor. McKnight served as Fifth Lieutenant during Essex’s Pacific raid. What is surprising about this is that the two men are correctly identified everywhere but this introduction.

In Pursuit of the Essex is an attempt to sift through the myths and legends about this well-known battle. Hughes succeeds in this endeavor and shows why Porter was deemed a hero by the Americans even though he lost his ship and many of his men, and why the English barely noticed Hillyar’s success. The inclusion of maps, the sailplan and deck plan of a period frigate, illustrations, end notes, a bibliography, and an index enhance the reading and make it easy for readers to locate specific information. While many others have written accounts of what happened, Hughes consulted a variety of firsthand accounts and other primary documents to provide a fresh look that brings the combatants to life by showing them as they truly were. His summary of what happened to the individuals he highlights, and the ships themselves, provides readers with a complete picture of what occurred.

Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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A Confederate Biography
Cover art: A Confederate Biography
A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah
By Dwight Sturtevant Hughes
Naval Institute Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-61251-841-1, $41.95, £34.50
Also available in e-book formats
On 19 October 1864, the Sea King left England. Designed by William Rennie and built by A. Stephen & Sons, she was a square-rigged clipper with a steam engine. She could cruise comfortably at nine knots. But she wasn’t destined to trade in tea; James Dunwoody Bulloch had other plans for her. He was the chief purchasing agent for the Confederate States of America’s navy, and he felt Sea King would make an ideal commerce raider. Union spies and government representatives, however, made it unwise for Bulloch to openly purchase her. She left England disguised as a merchant ship. When she rendezvoused with another British ship near the Portuguese islands of Madeira a month later, James Waddell came aboard as her captain and she began what would become a successful, ten-month-long voyage around the world.

She was renamed CSS Shenandoah, and her officer corps came from eight different southern states. Some were related to Robert E. Lee, George Mason, Teddy Roosevelt, and Raphael Semmes. Only two men, her captain and her surgeon, were older than twenty-five. Although her initial crew numbered barely enough to work her, she would enlist additional men from captured prizes and foreign ports. They came from Yankee and Rebel states, as well as numerous European countries, the East Indies, and Africa. Some had sailed on her predecessor, CSS Alabama.

Personal journals, memoirs, archival documents, naval records from the American Civil War, and contemporary newspapers provide primary evidence of what transpired on this cruise. The majority of this biography is seen through the eyes of those who sailed aboard her as she took the fight to the enemy, pursuing them almost to the Arctic Circle. In a single week she captured twenty-four whalers.

This account provides glimpses into life at sea, especially in a world where the country of these men wasn’t yet recognized by other nations. Those who sailed from the South shared their hopes, their fears, and their experiences, including what they thought and felt as news from home reached them. Before they fired the last Confederate guns of Civil War, they had to transform their ship into a fighting machine while at sea. They endured storms; almost became trapped in ice; held prize courts to determine whether their captures were legal or not; dealt with captives; and played host to visitors from Melbourne, Australia, while heeding legal dictates of the government and circumventing the American counsel’s attempts to have their vessel seized as a pirate ship.

Events during the last months of the Civil War and the Union government’s attempts to hunt down Shenandoah are interspersed throughout the narrative. To enhance the reading experience, Hughes includes a map of where she cruised, her sail plan and builder’s plans, and a center section of black-and-white photographs of the ship and those who sailed on her. The book also includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Two items that are missing, but would have been helpful, are a complete list of officers and crew and a list of the prizes they captured. As with any biography, Hughes does provide information of what happened to Shenandoah after Waddell surrendered her to the British and to the men who served aboard her. Anyone with an interest in commerce raiding, the Confederate navy, and the American Civil War will find A Confederate Biography a revealing account of the ship and her crew.

Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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French Warships in the Age of Sail
Cover Art: French Warships in the Age
                  of Sail
French Warships in the Age of Sail, 1786-1861: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates
By Rif Winfield and Stephen S. Roberts
Seaforth, 2015, ISBN 978-1-84832-204-2, £50.00 / $76.95

This guide provides readers with information about “every known named vessel which served in or was ordered for the French Navy.” It opens in 1786, the year in which France’s Secretary of State for the Navy reorganized naval construction, and closes with 1861, the year in which the French ceased to build sailing warships. The dimensions, tonnage, crew complement, and armament are provided for each class of ships. Information on individual vessels includes her designer and builder, date of construction, highlights of her career, and what became of her.

Prior to the opening chapter, the authors provide a detailed explanation of the book’s structure and organization to orient the reader. Their overview of French history covers the status of the Marine Royale following the American Revolution when Louis XVI ruled; the French Revolution during the final decade of the eighteenth century; the navy during the Napoleonic Wars; the rebuilding of the fleet after Napoleon’s defeat; the navy during King Louis-Philippe’s reign; the Levant crisis; and the fleet during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III and the Crimean War. A chronology of key historical events and a list of French Naval Operations follow. The latter begins with the occupation of Toulon in August 1793 and ends with the Expeditionary Corps in Northern China in 1860. The next two sections of the book deal with “Dockyards and Infrastructure” and “French Navies and Naval Construction outside France, 1797-1814.”

Unlike most books, the sources and bibliography are toward the front of this volume. The “Glossary and Abbreviations” provides translations of French naval terms. These include personnel and naval ranks, the decks of a warship, parts of the ship, design and construction, guns and ordnance, and types of vessels. Just before the first chapter, they list the French fleet at the start of 1786.

The majority of the book is divided into the following chapters:
1. The Three-deckers
2. Two-decker Ships of the Line, 80 to 100 guns
3. Two-decker Ships of the Line, 74 guns and below
4. The Largest Frigates (24-, 30-, and 36-pounder Frigates)
5. The Smaller Frigates (8-, 12-, and 18-pounder Frigates)
6. Corvettes
7. Brigs
8. Small Sailing Patrol Vessels
9. Sailing Gunboats and Coastal Vessels
10. Miscellaneous Sailing Vessels
11. Paddle Vessels
12. Screw Avisos and Screw Gunboats
13. The Larger Transports
14. The Smaller Transports
Within each of these chapters is a short summary of the vessel type and then information about each ship is provided chronologically. These listings also delineate vessels according to whether they were built in France or acquired by other means.

At the conclusion of these chapters a postscript discusses Broadside Ironclads. This is followed by ten appendices:
A. Standard Armaments of French Ships, 1786-1848
B. French Naval Artillery, 1786-1860
C. Resources Provided to the French Navy, 1786-1861
D. Strength of the French Navy, 1789-1859
E. French Naval Programs, 1820-1857
F. French Ministers of Marine, 1780-1870
G. French Navy Shipbuilding Officials
H. Selected French Naval Constructors, 1786-1861
I. French Naval Ship and Engine Builders, 1793-1861
J. Composition of the Crew for a French Ship of the Line, 1795
The inclusion of pictures, tables, plans, models, and architectural drafts of vessels enhance the text, while the eighteen-page “Index to Named Vessels” allows users to easily access needed information.

While this volume is not meant to be read from cover to cover, it is a weighty and oversized reference book on the French Navy during turbulent times and periods of evolution and change. It provides researchers with invaluable information drawn from many sources and collected into a single volume by two authors eminently qualified to write this book.

Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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Tudor Warship Mary Rose
Cover Art: Tudor Warship Mary Rose
Tudor Warship Mary Rose
By Douglas McElvogue
Naval Institute Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-59114-181-5, $17.50
Bloomsbury, 2015, 9781844862757, £18.99
Also available in e-book formats

Henry VIII of England wanted the latest and the best, and this included a new style of warship, the carvel. He ordered a Great Ship, which was completed in 1511. The Mary Rose possessed a continuous deck where the latest and largest guns were housed and with gun ports closer to the waterline than ever before. Unlike her predecessors, she was built specifically for war rather than being one that had to transport merchant cargoes to pay her way. This necessitated the establishment of a permanent naval administration tasked with building, arming, and maintaining these vessels used only for fighting. Mary Rose first served during the French War of 1512, and she had a long and colorful career that spanned more than three decades. When she sank in 1545 off Portsmouth, nearly everyone aboard drowned. Over four centuries would pass before her resting place was discovered and, during the subsequent eleven years before being raised in 1982, she presented archaeologists with more than 19,000 artifacts, which provided them with glimpses into daily life in the Tudor period.

McElvogue, who specializes in maritime archaeological reconstructions, was the Senior Research Fellow and Archaeologist at the Mary Rose Trust. This book stems from his work there as well as subsequent research. Its purpose is to provide readers with his conclusions, rather than being a detailed study of the Mary Rose. To this end he divides the book, which is part of the Anatomy of the Ship series, into three sections. Part one summarizes the life of the Mary Rose, from when she was first commissioned until her loss. It also examines life aboard this warship and seamanship and ship handling during the first half of the sixteenth century. Each chapter ends with a list of references where readers can obtain additional information on the topic discussed.

Part two consists of drawings of the Mary Rose. These include general arrangements, hull construction, masts and yards, sails and sail trimming, ship’s boats, anchoring, and habiliments of war. The last part discusses the Mary Rose project and the warship’s significance. Archaeological drawings are also found in this section.

While a glossary of terms for readers unfamiliar with medieval ships would have been nice, the text is quite readable and the book is more affordable than studies that go into greater depth and detail. Of particular interest are the plethora of illustrations accompanying the text, from the illustrations inside the book to the foldout covers that are in full color on one side and black-and-white drawings of her external and internal elevations on the other. The latter are rendered on a 1/144-scale, while the former depict the Mary Rose under sail and as she sinks. The front cover shows her as she appears in the Anthony Roll, the only period document in which her representation is named, while the inside flap shows a modern painting of her. This book is a worthy addition to any collection needing an overview of this Tudor warship.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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The Myth of the Press Gang
Cover Art: The Myth of the Press Gang
The Myth of the Press Gang: Volunteers, Impressments and the Naval Manpower Problem in the Late Eighteenth Century
By J. Ross Dancy
ISBN 9781783270033, Boydell Press, 2015, $120.00

This is an incredibly detailed look at the methods and effectiveness of gathering men to serve in the growing Royal Navy from 1793-1815, the years of England’s conflicts with France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Readers become aware of the various methods used, the ages and homes of these men, and their levels of skill when they were assigned to their first ship.

The front cover shows a painting on display at the National Maritime Museum entitled “Seaman Leaning on a Gun on the ‘Pallas’.” I found it odd that a book about recruiting thousands of men would show only one man on a ship. At the same time, I expected more color pictures throughout the text.  Unfortunately all illustrations are pie charts, bar charts, tables, line graphs, or segmentation graphs. These accompany a very detailed narrative with many footnoted quotations to demonstrate the author’s point. A bibliography and index are also provided.

Dancy explains that the level of detail and accuracy of his study could never have been done without the aid of modern-day computers. As a result, he postulates, that over the years even respected historians have created the “Myth of the Press Gang,” which wrongfully asserts that impressment was the main source of recruitment and that Press-Gang operations were by-and-large much worse than actually occurred.

The various statistics presented are based on the muster books from ships put into commission each year between 1793 and 1801. Three are selected from each of the naval ports of Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth. Annually at each port, the ships used were a ship-of-the-line with a complement of 491 to over 850 men, a frigate with 145 to 350 men, and a sloop carrying 76 to 125 men. Altogether information was gathered for 81 ships and 27,174 men, a statistically significant base.

After the introduction, the reader learns the history of how the Royal Navy was formed and manned and how the Naval Administration grew to keep pace with this growth and increase in responsibilities.

Next is a chapter on manning statistics, which describes the different recruitment methods used and various portrayals of the petty officers and lower-deck crews: their ages, skill levels, places of recruitment, and nationalities.  (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales were treated as separate nations.)

Each recruitment method has its own chapter. First covered is Volunteering, which means signing-up at a station set up for that purpose and receiving a monetary bonus as a result. It was necessary to pay skilled sailors this bonus as the Royal Navy was competing with the Merchant Marine for men already trained at working a ship.  The highest bonus was paid to Able Seaman and Ordinary Seaman received more than untrained Landsmen. A detailed analysis of Volunteering includes the same types of information found in the overall manning statistics.

Part of the Press-Gang myth was the portrayal of warships as “floating-hells” that were so bad no one would ever volunteer to serve! This reality was far from the truth, especially as compared to a commoner’s lot ashore. The statistics on the number of volunteers shows this was not the general perception at the time.

The chapter on Impressment begins by mentioning the various misconceptions about the Impress Service and how the author’s research and data enable him to refute each one in turn. The historiography and fiction on the Age of Sail typically describe “oversized brutal men wielding clubs and walking the streets under the direction of a sadistic lieutenant looking for any man unfortunate enough to stumble across their path.” (120)  Most people think the majority of men were pressed into service, but Dancy’s study seems to prove otherwise.

One popular myth, or truth, not covered was the taking of the King’s Shilling. Boys and big, strong men are often tricked into accepting a coin for an errand only to find themselves enlisted in the Navy as a result.

The history and growth of the Impress Service, along with its methods of operation are presented. In addition to statistics on the numbers of men each manning method provided, the information on pressed men is broken down by age, geography, skill level, and more.

Last to be discussed, the Quota Acts are explained as a method of naval manning put forth by William Pitt and Parliament in 1795, which assigned each county in England a specific number of men they must recruit for naval service. Again the history and literature describe this as a way for each magistrate to send the local “bad-eggs” and convicts out of their districts as most of the recruited quotamen. Historians and naval officers have claimed they were men of dubious character and virtually useless aboard ship. These same quotamen were even blamed as the main sources of The Naval Mutinies of 1797. As with Impressment, the author shows this not to be the actual case once the data is presented. An additional statistic I found interesting is the prior occupations of those who were recruited under the Port of London’s quota (175).  It helped answer the stormy weather question asked aboard, “Who’d be a sailor.”

The final chapter called “Conclusion” restates the author’s position on the quantity, quality, and methods of the Royal Navy’s recruitment efforts. Central to this is how untrue perceptions of the Impress Service have colored fiction and non-fiction since that time and how these untruths may finally be set aside.

Had this book been entitled “A Study of Royal Naval Manning from 1793-1815” and Dancy not devoted so much attention to disproving “The Myth of the Press Gang,” it would be considered by all to be an excellent collection of information never before presented to naval historians and an important contribution to naval literature.

Unfortunately this is not the case. This book will probably only attract devoted readers of the Royal Navy and the Age of Sail. Like me, they may find fault with the limited “perfect-world” nature of this study, which only looks at empty ships receiving their original complement of men at the main naval ports in England. This ignores replacing men lost to illness, injury, or death throughout the wars.  Also ignored are ships operating on foreign stations or seeking replacements or additions to their allotted complement every time they met a merchant ship or arrived at any port, including these same naval ports.

Another problem is the author’s statements about the navy only needing young and agile men who could be trained to climb into the rigging and set the sails, and how landsmen were unskilled “sailors” who needed to be on-deck to do the heavy work like raising the yards. Completely ignored is the fact that vessels in the navy were warships and many men were needed just to work each of the cannons -- the ships’ main reason for existence. None of the men manning the guns needed any prior experience on sailing ships.

In the end, I was not convinced by Dancy’s reasoning or his conclusions.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Irwin Bryan

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Blood Ransom
Cover Art: Blood Ransom
Blood Ransom: Stories from the Front Line in the War Against Somali Piracy
By John Boyle
Bloomsbury, 2015, ISBN 978-1-472-91267-1, $27.00 / £16.99
Also available in e-book formats

No government.

No law.

No education.

No health care.


Civil war.

No hope.

These simple facts describe one country – Somalia – and why many young men, from their teens into their thirties, turn to piracy. After filming the documentary Pirates in Paradise, Boyle wanted to know more about Somali piracy. Rather than focusing on the whys and wherefores, he returned to the region to interview those directly involved – lawyers for the prosecution and defense, naval personnel patrolling the waters where pirates prey, freed hostages, government officials, a security officer who protects ships, a negotiator, and the pirates themselves. While the opening chapters provide a bit of historical framework, they serve only to orient readers so they better understand the various points of view expressed in the individual stories presented. The author also discusses the economics of piracy and its global effect, other hotspots of piracy, how Somali attacks differ from those of West Africa or in the Malacca Strait, and the problems facing those who wish to prosecute and curb these hostage takers.

For me, one of the more intriguing stories concerned President James Michel of the Seychelles, who used old-fashioned ways to confront piracy and to get cooperation from other countries to deal with this plague. Some of the most poignant stories come from the innocent fishermen who faced the wrong end of an AK-47 and endured brutal captivity before their ransoms were paid. These are stories often missing from other books covreing this subject. Two of these victims were the first Seychellois taken hostage, Gilbert Victor who was forced to participate in the attack on the Maersk Alabama, and seventy-year-old Rolly Tambara, a grandfather who was beaten and terrorized during the twelve months he was a hostage.

Boyle’s interviews with pirates who await trial demonstrate not only his frustration in finding out their backstories, but also reinforce the frustrations those who are fighting piracy, either at sea or in the courtroom, encounter on a daily basis.

Many of the stories found here aren’t found elsewhere, which is why Blood Ransom is a welcome addition to collections on Somali piracy. Supplemental material includes tables, photographs, and three appendices (Seychelles police memorandum of an interview with an alleged pirate prior to his being formally charged, a 2014 press release from the Council of the European Union, and a 2015 statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Seychelles). By including incidents that received high media coverage, as well as those that received none at all, and discussing hostages who have been rescued and those who have not, Boyle’s book allows students of Somali piracy to gain a 360-degree examination on this aspect of modern piracy.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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True Yankees
Cover Art: True Yankees
True Yankees: The South Seas & the Discovery of American Identity
By Dane A. Morrison
Johns Hopkins University, 2014, ISBN 978-1-4214-1542-0, $34.95
True Yankees is an excellent book contributing valuable information on America’s early story. Published as part of a series of the university’s Studies in Historical and Political Sciences, True Yankees is certainly an admirable addition to the collection. Morrison provides first-hand accounts from diaries and letters written primarily by merchants including Samuel Shaw, Amaso Delano, and Robert Bennett Forbes. These men left our new nation in search of Eastern markets for American goods. Together, they tell the tale of their welcome by the members of other nations and their hosts. Before sharing the experiences, the author details how each traveler developed into an “American” and what that even meant at the time. Anyone interested in the birth of our nation and how we entered into the world of commerce will find this a detailed resource.

There are footnotes found at the end of the book documenting sources. Also included is a detailed index. Several black-and-white portraits and illustrations are found throughout the book. These are not listed separately.

Unfortunately, True Yankees: The South Seas & the Discovery of American Identity is not everything it seems to be. By referring to the Near and Far East as the “South Seas” in the title, it reasonably makes one think it may be a sea story, which it certainly is not. The first ship to Macao, aptly named Empress of China, traveled “some 18,000 miles over six months” without any mention of experiences during the voyage in 1784. (14)   Only when the ship arrived somewhere is there mention of having saluted the fort or raising the first American flag. To be fair, there is mention that traveling during the summer monsoons in the Indian Ocean was “tedious.” (13) Even though the second person featured, Amaso Delano, had been a privateer and wrote an interesting book about his voyages, it is only his contacts with members of other peoples that appear in True Yankees. His early seagoing history is solely used to explain Delano’s own brand of being an American.

In addition to the chapters which detail an individual’s experiences on the world stage, the author provides four “Interludes” on different themes. The first discusses how American merchants sent ships to every possible location during a time of war in Europe and consequent blockades and embargoes, and privateers. Others traveled to the many island nations and outposts of the British, Dutch, and Portuguese empires. With all of these ships returning with goods, the young government was quick to reestablish Customs and tariffs to help make a dent in the young nation’s debts.

The next “Interlude” discusses the spread of Americans across the Appalachian Mountains into the Ohio Valley. Some settled in the far off lands where trade was taking place. This provided a homegrown welcome to visiting American merchants and sea captains. Needless to say, this also facilitated meeting the people of other countries who were also at the port. Soon unheard of goods started filling up homes. Even some of the foreign words and expressions, including “chop,” found their way into American vocabulary.

Edmund Fanning’s Voyages Round the World is tapped to continue the author’s exploration of the book’s theme. Some attention is made to Fanning’s own life on the sea, including anecdotes of his experiences in the sealing trade. For those unaware, this was the killing of fur seals to obtain their valuable fur in a less-enlightened time period when whales were also hunted for their oil to light our cities.

Expanding wars in Europe turned American attention to greater profits for greater risks. After an earlier vessel is captured and brought into Falmouth, England, Fanning’s men are pressed aboard a Royal Navy frigate. In describing his ability to confront the officers and gain his men’s release, he claimed they knew he was “a True Yankee.” (102) Strong nationalist identity replaced feelings of timid pride men like Shaw had when traveling forth in the world.

Fanning wrote about all manner of things he and his men saw and experienced in places rarely visited. He described the sights of each place, the new plants and animals they saw, and even items of scientific knowledge.

More central to this book is the way Fanning viewed the voyage as one of increasing nationalism, where he and his twenty-seven mariners became “trustees of an American identity.” (114) The way they changed the rig of their vessel, Betsy, and the carpenter’s fashioning of fake cannons (called Quakers) to deter Malay pirates are examples of what Fanning termed “exceptionalism.” His view of Americans as superior to others shows how far the sense of our nation had changed since the end of the Revolution.

A third “Interlude” tells how numerous voyages were made across the Pacific in search of discoveries and commerce. The new nation found its way into “Europe’s academies of science” with contributions of natural history and geography. (140)  Two naval expeditions into the Pacific further shifted how Americans viewed their place in the world from one of a “dispassionate observer” to “the bravado of a more arrogant . . . American.” (146)

This takes the reader to Second Generation Americans, the first of which, Harriett Low, is also the only non-merchant whose writings are discussed in True Yankees. Harriet’s own feelings as an American were more of disdain to the native peoples she encountered. Yet this is a true example of the prejudices she and other travelers to the East had at the time. Further exposures of newer peoples and longer association did nothing to make these travelers any more tolerant. In her time at Macao she even developed a disapproving attitude to the Europeans she encountered.

This attitude, as the final “Interlude” mentions, is wholly in keeping with the racial and religious prejudices that developed in the years leading up to America’s antebellum period. Ambivalence to Indians and other peoples strengthened into ethnocentrism for Americans.

Last to be referenced, Robert Bennett Forbes had “acquired Jacksonian democracy’s obsession with individualism, materialism, and racial superiority.” (194) Rather than adapting to his surroundings, Forbes wanted the East to adapt to his own beliefs. His belief in his right to conduct business even at the expense of others led to his involvement in starting the First Opium War. This serves as a final example of the way feelings of Americanism altered during the time period presented by the author.
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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Irwin Bryan

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The Battle of New Orleans: "But for a Piece of Wood"
Cover art: The Battle of New Orleans: "But for
                a Piece of Wood"
The Battle of New Orleans: “But for a Piece of Wood”
By Ron Chapman
Pelican, 2014, ISBN 9781455620272, $19.95


January 8, 2015, marked the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. Most people think of this event as a single battle, but Chapman provides readers with a clear understanding that it was really a series of encounters between the British and Americans. While the majority of readers may think the first fight involved the gunboats in mid December 1814, Chapman contends it actually began much earlier, encompassing ten battles during a five-month period.

In his introduction, he makes a clear case for how pivotal the Battle of New Orleans was as regards the future of the young United States and the war’s outcome, for had the Americans lost the battle, the Treaty of Ghent might have been renegotiated before either side had the chance to ratify it. And it’s important to keep in mind that until that ratification, the war was not over even though an accord had been reached the previous Christmas Eve. He quotes not only the treaty itself, but also documents from Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, and British proclamations to reinforce this point. He also makes an excellent case for what-if scenarios – had one incident or a combination of these changed, the final outcome of the battle and our nation as we know it would have been greatly altered. In fact, the subtitle of this book pertains to the failure of doing one simple task and how that impacted the outcome.

Chapter one provides an overview of the war and events leading up to the point in time when the two sides converged outside of New Orleans. It also looks at the two commanders, Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham and Major General Andrew Jackson, some of which is revealed through their own words. The second chapter details “The Southern Campaign”, which concerns West Florida, the Creek Wars, and attacks on Fort Bowyer and Mobile, as well as the activities of the Royal Navy under the leadership of Admiral Cochrane. The next chapter focuses on the situation in Louisiana and the conflicting cultures of the Creoles, Americans, refugees from Santo Domingo, Free Blacks, and slaves before and after Louisiana gained statehood in April 1812 just before the war began. Also examined are the Baratarians and the Laffites, from whom the British would attempt to solicit assistance. There are a few errors here: “The Temple” was not located on Grande Terre, the principal base of Jean Laffite’s operation; it was actually situated on the shore of Lake Salvador above Barataria Bay. The British offer to Laffite was for a captaincy in the army, not the navy.

The “Weapons of War” is the topic of chapter four. Also discussed are the differences in fighting techniques between the two armies, as well as the importance of the steamboats that Jackson used several times during the invasion. Chapter five covers the battle between the Royal Navy and the American gunboats, while the next chapter concerns the groups that made up the American army and the arrival of the invaders outside the gates of the city. Chapman also looks at the plantations, terrain, and conditions that affected the armies and the battles.

Chapter seven concerns the first encounter after the enemy reached the Villeré plantation, the night attack, as well as the problems the British faced. The arrival of Pakenham, his orders that result in the destruction of the USS Carolina, which had been habitually harassing his troops from the river, the artillery duel on 28 December 1814, the British attack on New Year’s Day, and further steps Jackson took to improve his defenses are also covered here.

The eighth and ninth chapters discuss that “piece of wood” and its impact on battle on the west bank of the Mississippi. Chapman clearly delineates Pakenham’s strategy, what the American commanders did or did not do in defending this section, and the devastating outcome that could have resulted. While events on the east bank of the river are the primary focus of most accounts of the Battle of New Orleans, the west bank was one of the few successes of the British invasion. The final battle on the east bank, directly below New Orleans, is discussed in detail in chapter eight as well.

Chapter ten examines the assault on Fort St. Philip – one of the river defenses below the city – that took place after the engagement on what is known today as the Chalmette Battlefield. Events in New Orleans after 8 January are also covered. What is a bit confusing concerns the exchange of prisoners. Chapman has this taking place on board a Royal Navy ship, yet most other books mention that the discussions took place before the British withdrew from their camp south of New Orleans. More information about the exchanges would have eliminated this confusion. An epilogue follows with information about losses, courts martial, and the building of monuments. The book also includes a bibliography, fourteen appendices (some maps, but mostly documents), and end notes. There is no index, which would have been a welcome addition for researchers.

There are a number of illustrations and maps interspersed throughout the chapters, but some of the latter are too small to make out what they show. One example of this is the map on page 149, which shows the disposition of the British and American troops. For those not familiar with the battlegrounds it’s unclear which army is located where. Had the text or caption made this clear, the reader might have a better understanding of the layout. Another instance is a British map showing the deployment of troops on page 166. The only clear markings on this are the river and the cypress swamps. The location of the soldiers is indecipherable. A third example on page 201 pertains to the caption – “The green line, which is the course he actually took is not to scale” – which means nothing to the reader since the map is depicted only in black and white. One drawback of not identifying in the table of contents what appears in the appendices is that the reader is unaware of the larger versions of some maps at the end of the book, but even some of these are too dark to clearly see.

There’s a lack of good copyediting and consistent formatting throughout the book. For example, “the” should never be used before the abbreviation HMS, which stands for His Majesty’s Ship, and “Westbank” should be two words rather than one. Missing punctuation and other misspellings are also a problem; some captions are italicized while others are not. Large gaps of white space lead readers to think that the chapter has ended, yet when the page is turned, the chapter continues. This stems from the placement of pictures, which could have been inserted on the opposite page from the text, rather than incorporated directly into the text. Appendix #14 isn’t identified as to who the sender or receiver of the letter was and the writing is difficult to read.

In spite of these drawbacks, there are intriguing historical tidbits to entice the reader. One example: Chapman draws an interesting conclusion as to why Jackson may have changed his mind and accepted Laffite’s help. Another is the revelation that Jackson actually asked to be replaced because of his ill health. The ramifications had that occurred make the reader sit up and take note. Equally compelling are many instances of primary accounts that show what the combatants themselves thought and felt. The Battle of New Orleans is a more comprehensive examination of the environs, the combatants, and the battles than many other books, which makes this a good inclusion in any collection that focuses on the War of 1812 and/or the history of New Orleans.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate Nation
Cover art: Pirate Nation
Pirate Nation: Elizabeth I and Her Royal Sea Rovers
By David Childs
Seaforth, 2014, ISBN 978-1-84832-190-8, £25.00 / $48.95

During the final decades of the sixteenth century, piracy blossomed among the English. This was due, in part, because the queen and many of her advisors supported – sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly – and profited from these ventures. There were a few exceptions (most notably William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the royal treasurer), but these men couldn’t stop Elizabeth from her pursuit of enriching the royal coffers, which were in need of funds, and using the men who would become known as her Sea Dogs to England’s advantage. This book examines the situations, people, country, politics, and law during this time period and how they affected England both internally and externally.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, which clearly show how state sponsorship of the sea rovers expanded the reach of England and forged new maritime enterprises.
1. Protestants in Pursuit of Profit
2. Apprentice to a Pirate
3. Pirate Ships of War at Sea
4. Arms and Actions
5. Piracy in the Pacific
6. The American Dream
7. The Azores and the First Battle of the Atlantic
8. A Preference for Pirates – The Failure of the Spanish Armada
9. The Land Rats
10. The Duke’s Denial
11. Disturbing the World
12. Low Water
Within these chapters readers meet such “celebrities” as John Hawkins, the first to venture into the slave trade; Francis Drake, the first to circumnavigate the world; Martin Frobisher, who failed to find either the Northwest Passage or treasures similar to the riches of Spain; and Walter Raleigh, who backed several of the earliest colonial ventures to the New World. While these names most readers will recognize, Childs also includes some of the lesser-known sea rovers, such as George Clifford, the third earl of Cumberland. He also discusses families that controlled local regions and immersed themselves in piracy, such as the Killigrews, but which are rarely focused upon in English histories. He also demonstrates the inequities of the justice system of the time. The third chapter includes information on the Golden Hind, Desire, Dainty, Scourge of Malice, and the Royal Navy. The fourth chapter provides a fascinating exploration of the evolution of guns (cannon) and their use on ships. Childs includes a table comparing the weaponry on four ships, and such tables are sprinkled in other chapters as well. Throughout the book, he incorporates quotations from contemporary documents to enrich the narrative.

The following is a list of the eleven documents included in the appendices:
Letters of Reprisal and Bonds for Good Behaviour, 1591-95

Commission issued by Queen Elizabeth to the Earl of Cumberland, 28 March 1595

John Donne, “The Storm” and “The Calm,” 1600

Inventory of Malice Scourge, 1600

Estimated Costs of Equipping a Pirate Vessel

Authorisation to Equip a Vessel of War under the Admiralty of Zealand, 1582

Tennyson, “The Little Revenge, A Ballad of the Fleet”

Cargo Unloaded at Seville, 1593

The Appraisement of Prizes

Notes from State Papers Concerning Piracy, 1578

Complaints of the Dutch Concerning English Piracy, 1589
References within the main text refer readers to these documents when the information in an appendix is pertinent to the material in the chapter. In addition, the author includes Exchange Rates not only for the period, but also for the present year. References, a bibliography, notes, and maps are found at the end of the book, which is indexed. There are also three sections of black-and-white photographs depicting portraits, ships, weaponry, places, charts, and equipment of the period.

While many non-fiction books include an introduction or preface to orient the reader, Childs chooses to immerse the reader directly into the thick of the story, which may leave some readers a bit disoriented at first. Those who venture further into the book, however, will find a well-rounded, provocative exploration of this period in English history. By including defects and failures alongside merits and successes, he shows the complexity of Elizabeth and her reign, providing readers with better insight as to why she pursued the path she did and how her decisions guided England toward becoming a powerful maritime nation. He makes clear that she was not the only person of power who became involved in piracy, that it was an occupation in which many of the aristocracy participated in varying degrees.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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East by Sea and West by Rail
Cover Art: East by Sea and
                        West by Rail
East by Sea and West by Rail: The Journal of David Augustus Neal of Salem, Mass. 1798-1861
Edited by Cynthia Neal Rantoul
iUniverse, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4620-3513-7, $24.55


Born to a former privateer who spent time on a prison hulk during the American Revolution, David Neal went to sea at the age of seventeen. The delay in his seafaring career stemmed from President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act, which essentially shut down the maritime shipping industry. He served as clerk aboard the 250-ton Union, which sailed to Calcutta. After the War of 1812 broke out, he joined a privateer and eventually ended up serving time in Dartmoor Prison as a prisoner of war. He later became master of a merchant ship called Alexander, which also sailed to India. Thereafter, his voyages would take him to the Cape Verde Islands, le Havre, New Orleans, Germany, and South America. Eventually he turned from the sea to the railroads, becoming the president of the Eastern Railroad and later other railroads that stretched to the western part of the United States. He lived during a time of political change, such as the rise and fall of Napoleon, and innovation, including electric lights, iron ships, photography, and the telegraph.

Rantoul has published this handwritten journal, incorporating with it genealogical information, family portraits and letters, pictures and illustrations of places and items discussed in the journal, newspaper articles, and maps showing Neal’s travels. Unfamiliar terminology and exotic costumes are defined as well. There is a detailed table of contents, as was the fashion of early books, but no index.

The drawbacks to this volume pertain more to formatting and editing. The typeface is reminiscent of being written on a typewriter, so it’s not as dark as what readers are normally accustomed to. Also, to read this oversized book, it’s necessary to turn it 90 degrees so that it must be held similar to how one holds a wall calendar. There is no explanation provided as to how the layout works, although I eventually determined that the left column of the odd-numbered pages was the journal and even pages and right columns of odd pages were the additional information that Rantoul inserted to enhance the journal. Nor is it clear, at first, what the underlining signified (defined words). Once or twice the additions interrupt the flow of the journal because the information spills onto more than a single page. An example of this is the inclusion of six pages from Harriet Neal’s Account Book, which is inserted one paragraph into her husband’s account of his arrival in Philadelphia and Salem.

There are occasional misspellings or missing words in the journal, which may require the reader to peruse the sentence more than once to decipher its meaning. Some minor editing would have helped make the narrative easier to read and the errors less distracting. Captions aren’t provided for some of the extra material, so readers are left to wonder what it is or why it is included. The same holds true for Appendix A, as there’s no explanation as to why another person’s diary excerpt belongs.

One factual error occurs in the editor’s note on English Turn. It was not an unloading dock, but a bend in the Mississippi river below New Orleans. This was where the French encountered the English in 1699, who had thought to establish a colony there until the French explained that the region belonged to France. There is also a misplaced heading, which supposedly covers the death of Neal’s sister, but that occurs in the paragraph before the heading.

When I read Neal’s opening sentence – “Autobiography is seldom interesting . . .” – I feared it would be prophetic, but the narrative becomes more thought-provoking once his seafaring life begins. He opens a window into a past time and takes readers to exotic locales where customs, such as a Hindu suttee, differed greatly from the world in which he lived. Equally important are the tidbits that Neal provides about ships and their cargoes, for example, how chess pieces are kept from tumbling off the board or what exports and imports brought significant profits. For readers of Pirates and Privateers, the section on Neal’s experiences as a privateer and prisoner of war are most compelling and include an escape attempt in which he was wounded. Those interested in firsthand accounts and early travel logs will also find this book of interest.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Cover Art: Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Edited by Tim Voelcker
Seaforth, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84832-179-3, $38.95 / £19.99

On 1 June 1813, two frigates – one British, one American – battled each other several miles off Boston’s shore. After fifteen minutes of fighting HMS Shannon, commanded by Captain Philip Broke, captured the USS Chesapeake. Her captain, James Lawrence, was mortally wounded, and Broke himself sustained serious wounds that ended his active naval career. Two hundred years later, a group of historians wrote the following articles to celebrate the bicentennial of this famous event. Their purpose was to create an anthology that provided historical information without being pedantic and priced beyond the reach of most readers. Nor did they wish to write just an historical account of this naval engagement and the two captains. Their goal was fourfold: a) to provide the necessary background for readers to understand the War of 1812 and its outcomes; b) to learn about Broke personally and professionally; c) to study the battle and its impact on the nations involved; and d) to share what happened to these two ships.
1. The War of 1812: A Perspective from the United States by John B. Hattendorf
He succinctly explains why American leaders went to war from their perspectives, rather than those of twenty-first century historians. He also provides an excellent recap of those who supported and those who opposed the war. Equally compelling is his explanation of how and why Lawrence became “a martyr for the cause.” (12)
2. Sideshow? British Grand Strategy and the War of 1812 by Andrew Lambert
Of note here are how Great Britain viewed the war, why it took her so long to take the Americans seriously, and what strategies they implemented. This chapter also talks about privateers.
3. Canada and the War of 1812 by Chris Madsen

4. Prize Laws in the War of 1812 by Gabriela A. Frei
This essay expertly explains prize law from the British perspective and what elements were bones of contention between the two countries.
5. Victories or Distractions, Honour or Glory? by Timothy Voelcker
What is particularly compelling in this chapter is Voelcker’s discussion on the difference between honor and glory and what the two captains actually sought from the battle between their two ships.
6. Broke – His Youth and Education by John Blatchly

7. In Arctic Waters by Michael Barritt

8. Letters to his Wife ‘Loo’ by Ellen Gill
A fascinating essay about Broke, his wife, and his family. Also compelling was the explanation as to why letters played such an important role in the lives of sailors, which is made even more poignant since handwritten letters are a rarity in our current technological age.
9. A Gunnery Zealot: Broke’s Scientific Contribution to Naval Warfare by Martin Bibbings
Although some of the information is a bit technical, Bibbings does a commendable job in making it easy to understand and showing us the importance of Broke’s innovations. Also interesting was his training regime for the gunners.
10. The Battle by Martin Bibbings

11. Broke’s ‘Miraculous’ Recovery by Peter Schurr
A persuasive explanation of the wounds that Broke sustained and how they impacted him. It’s written so that any lay person can comprehend what happened to him.
12. Representing Nations: Caricature and the Naval War of 1812 by James Davey

13. Halifax and its Naval Yard by Julian Gwyn

14. HMS Shannon’s Later Commissions by Martin Salmon
This chapter includes a little information about Shannon’s participation in the suppression of piracy and anti-slavery operations in the Caribbean.
15. Chesapeake Mill by John Wain

16. Ballads and Broadsides: The Poetic and Musical Legacy of the Shannon and the Chesapeake by Richard Wilson

17. The Peace and its Outcome by Colin Reid
Two sections of color and black-and-white plates accompany the book; there are also maps, a few diagrams, and several other illustrations. Additional references include a historical note and brief family tree, Broke’s rewards, a selected bibliography, and an index. Individual chapters contain relevant footnotes, and there are boxed passages taken from primary documents of the period that are ben interspersed between the chapters. Some of these excerpts are from Broke’s letters to his wife, which are fascinating to read. Each essay ends with a short list of suggested readings for those who want to explore the topic in greater depth. One of the features I particularly liked was the “Notes on Contributors” at the beginning of the book; these credentials provide readers with a sound understanding of why each author is eminently qualified to write on the topic.

Over the past several years I’ve read numerous accounts of the naval War of 1812 and this particular engagement, but this book is the first to explain how to pronounce “Broke” (said as if spelled “brook”). While most scholarly works include conclusions based on the research conducted, this book provides alternative viewpoints in hopes that readers will draw their own conclusions. Together the essays provide a well-rounded overview, rather than looking at the subject in a bubble, and in doing this, the editor has achieved his four-fold goal.

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Victory
Victory: From Fighting the Armada to Trafalgar and Beyond
By Iain Ballantyne and Jonathan Eastland
Pen & Sword, 2013, ISBN 978-1-7815963-9, $29.95 / £14.95
In 1778 the British Royal Navy commissioned a first-rate vessel, christened HMS Victory; today, she is the oldest warship in the fleet. While the principal portion of this book concerns the flagship Admiral Horatio Nelson, the authors also discuss those who commanded her before him, the battles in which she fought, and the men who served aboard her. They also examine what became of Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s tragic death.

Nelson’s Victory was the seventh warship to bear that name, and this book is also about her predecessors. The first Victory helped to defend England against the Spanish Armada in the sixteenth century and served as the flagship of Sir John Hawkins, but began life as a merchant ship named Great Christopher. When she became part of the royal fleet, Queen Elizabeth chose her new name. Among her duties was the protection of merchantmen from Spanish and Dunkirk pirates. The second Victory cruised against Barbary pirates and French privateers before becoming part of the Parliamentarian navy during the English Civil War. Number three participated in the second Anglo-Dutch War, taking part in the Four-Days’ Fight in which Vice Admiral Sir Christopher Myngs died in 1666. Nearly three decades later, the Royal James was altered and twice renamed HMS Victory (numbers four and five). She assisted in the defense of Britain in wars against France and Spain during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The sixth vessel disappeared during a storm in 1744; all aboard were presumed dead and her loss was deemed “the very worst Naval catastrophe on record.” (35)

Resource notes appear at the end of each chapter. Black-and-white illustrations, diagrams, and maps populate the text, providing additional information relevant to information in the various chapters. The book includes a glossary of nautical terms, several appendices (including information about what became of the sixth Victory), a bibliography, a list of archival and Internet sources, and an index.

One element that makes this book stand out is that the authors don’t just relate stories about the commanders who served aboard the seven warships; also told are tales from those who served under the officers. Nor are the warts glossed over or ignored here. To round out her history the authors include information about the “old men and other flag officers who put their personal fears (and ambitions) before the good of their country, or indeed the welfare of the men they commanded.” (xv) Rather than rehash material that has appeared in print before, Ballantyne and Eastland culled the archives to incorporate new or forgotten gems. Victory is a very readable and interesting introduction to the navy’s evolution, those who served aboard the various vessels, and the immortal ship that is now the Flagship of the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord.

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Hunting the Essex
Cover Art: Hunting the Essex
Hunting the Essex: A Journal of the Voyage of HMS Phoebe 1813-1814
By Midshipman Allen Gardiner
Edited by John S. Rieske
Seaforth, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84832-174-8, £16.99 / $29.95
During the War of 1812, Captain David Porter, his crew, and the USS Essex ventured around South America to raid the British whaling fleet. Their success eventually made them targets of a determined captain of the Royal Navy, who received orders to hunt down the raider and put an end to the whalers’ losses. Porter later wrote about this epic journey, which not only brought him into his nation’s limelight but also resulted in the capture of his vessel. Although an often-told tale, the details of the battle came only from Porter’s Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean, which was published in 1822. What had been lacking was an account of the events from the British perspective . . . until now.

On 28 March 1814, off the Chilean port of Valparaiso, HMS Phoebe, under the command of Captain James Hillyar, finally encounters the Essex after nearly a year of hunting her. Aboard is a twenty-year-old midshipman named Allen Francis Gardiner, who chronicles the voyage. His account is far more than a simple telling of the battle; it is primarily a commentary of the people with whom he interacts and the social practices – such as bullfighting – that he encounters. He also provides a wealth of information about the nineteenth-century ports he visits. What he doesn’t write about is daily naval life. The appendix includes a letter from a Marine lieutenant, who also serves aboard the British warship, and a poem to the Essex, which Gardiner may have written.

The journal begins in March 1813, is written in a manuscript format, rather than that of a daily diary, and is originally entitled A Journal of the Proceedings of HMS Phoebe during a Voyage to the South Seas. Written in the first person, Gardiner begins with one of his poems and then explains this voyage is made “to take possession of an American Settlement on the North West Coast of America, and to intercept the trade which is carried on between that place and China.” (33) It is a very readable account of a voyage to places that many people still deemed exotic. He devotes only six pages to Phoebe’s encounter with the Essex. At the conclusion of the journal, there is an addendum – a copy of another midshipman’s letter to his father that discusses the action between the two warships.

This small volume also includes eight black-and-white illustrations (including one of Gardiner himself), notes, and a bibliography. A map, at the beginning of the book, delineates the voyages of the Essex and Phoebe, and lists the dates and South American locations pertinent to each ship’s travels. Prior to the opening of the journal, Rieske explains how he came into possession of this extraordinary document. Dr. Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History at King’s College, provides background information for the reader in his introduction to the journal. He discusses Gardiner, the war, why Phoebe made this particular journey, Porter and his ship, Gardiner’s part in the hunt, the importance of the journal, and Gardiner’s life after the war.

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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810-1830
Cover Art: Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in
            Spanish America 1810-1830
Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810-1830
By Matthew McCarthy
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-861-6, US $115 / £65
From 1810 to 1830, Spanish America underwent a period of political turmoil as Spain’s colonies sought independence and revolted against Napoleon’s attempt to place his brother on the Spanish throne. Conditions were ripe for a proliferation of privateering and piracy, and it is against this backdrop that McCarthy enlightens readers on maritime depredation and the role Britain played in the region. In this study, he attempts to a) clarify the difference between insurgent privateers and pirates; b) identify the consequences of their actions and governmental countermeasures implemented against them; and c) assess the political responses in light of British policy, both commercial and foreign, in Spanish America.

Chapter one summarizes British interests in Spanish America as they pertain to commerce and politics. The second chapter examines the characteristics that differentiate revolutionary privateers from those sponsored by the Spanish government, and distinguishes them from pirates. Some of the names mentioned in this chapter are Luis Aury and Jean Laffite. In chapter three, McCarthy analyzes the impact such depredation had on the British merchants and seamen. Here he includes information from Lucretia Parker and Aaron Smith, both of whom wrote accounts of their captivity by pirates. The next two chapters investigate the effectiveness of British strategies in countering the privateers. Chapter six explores the Anglo-Spanish Claims Commission (1823) and how well it was able to offer redress against the losses merchants incurred. The last chapter focuses on Britain’s diplomatic and naval measures to thwart pirates based in Cuba.

Footnotes, rather than endnotes, make it easy for readers to check the consulted resources. (At least two of these provide readers with the URL where they can view the data sets and tables the author compiled during his research.) Graphs accompany some chapters, allowing readers to visualize comparative data. Following the conclusion, there is an extensive bibliography and detailed index.

These two decades are often glossed over in studies of maritime and piratical history; it’s far more interesting to focus on earlier periods in the region. Nor has much attention been paid to privateers and pirates during the Spanish American Wars of Independence. McCarthy relies on Lloyd’s List and other 19th-century newspapers, correspondence found in British government archives, and Foreign Office records to compile this analysis. This rich and invaluable study of maritime diplomacy from a British perspective is fascinating to read, but anyone seeking specific information about actual individual pirates and privateers of this period may find themselves disappointed.
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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Women and English Piracy 1540-1720
Cover Art: Women and English Piracy 1540-1720
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime
By John C. Appleby
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-869-2, $95.00 / £55.00
This book focuses on women and how they interacted with pirates in England and her colonies. By examining these relationships over a period of nearly two centuries, Appleby shows readers the evolution their interdependency, as well as how the state altered its view of piracy, from privateers at the start to enemies of all mankind by the eighteenth century. The information provided also demonstrates how women started as an integral part of the microcosmic world in which pirates operated, but were eventually relegated to the periphery.

Chapter one, “The Rise and Fall of English Piracy from the 1540s to the 1720s,” is a survey of the period, the changes piracy underwent, and why. The second chapter, “Pirates, Female Receivers and Partners,” delves into how women depended on pirates and vice versa, as well as the close relationships that grew out of this interdependency. This was a period in which women received stolen goods, sold the contraband, and provided aid to the rogues. As pirates prowled farther from home waters, the roles women played became more economical in nature. This change, how women adapted to it, and the rising sexual relationships between the pirates and women are discussed in Chapter three, “Wives, Partners and Prostitutes.” One interesting facet of this discussion is the letters pirates wrote to their wives. The fourth chapter, “Petitioners and Victims,” examines the ill-treatment women endured at the hands of pirates and how piratical attacks resulted in the loss of family members, which necessitated that the women still at home had to find ways to survive and to rescue their loved ones.

A series of maps and an introduction open the book. In addition there are seven black-and-white illustrations. The chapters have footnotes, rather than endnotes, which makes it far easier to check references. An extensive bibliography and an index follow the epilogue.

Those seeking information about women pirates will be disappointed. The last chapter, “Women Pirates: Fact or Fiction?”, concerns these, but aside from Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Grainne O’Malley, the others are merely mentioned rather than discussed in any detail. One wonders, though, why two of these ladies aren’t included in the list of women pirates in the index (pages 263-4) and why those who are aren’t in the chapter specifically devoted to female buccaneers. Overall, however, this is an interesting examination of an aspect of piracy that often is given only a cursory look. It provides readers with a comprehensive overview, interspersed with specific examples and primary evidence, to show how women and pirates interacted, both as victims and cohorts. Although the price puts this volume out of reach of most lay readers, academic libraries with strong collections on maritime piracy, maritime history, and women’s history will find this a welcome addition.
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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century
Cover Art: Britain and Colonial Maritime War in
                  the Early Eighteenth Century
Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century: Silver, Seapower and the Atlantic
By Shinsuke Satsuma
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-862-3, $115.00 / £65.00
During the first decades of the 18th century, proponents put forth the idea that war should take place at sea not just on land. Spanish America was the primary target for this defensive/offensive maneuvering. Although not a new idea – first suggested in the 1560s – there was far more support and carry through this time around. Not everyone agreed, though, and there was much debate on the pros and cons of naval warfare. Those who supported this “ideal” way of fighting believed England would gain much, especially wealth, without a substantial financial commitment.

In his introduction, Satsuma writes: “By the end of the eighteenth century, this ideology was turned into the ‘national myth’ of sea power . . . . However, some questions still remain.” These include why various political factions supported the pro-maritime war argument and how this idea and discussion managed to stay alive for more than 200 years even though the political and diplomatic climate changed. Although other historians have examined these issues, Satsuma focuses on this discussion by delving into the connection between war and profit – a connection he believes was at the center of the pro-maritime war argument – and showing why fighting the Spanish colonies was more advantageous than attacking Spain directly. How he lays the groundwork and the analysis to answer these questions can be seen in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 1: English Expansion into Spanish America and the Development of a Pro-maritime War Argument
  • Elizabethan Ventures into the ‘New World’: The Starting Point
  • Spanish War, Colonisation and the Emergence of the ‘New Merchants’
  • Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’
  • Buccaneers on the Rampage
  • The Nine Years War and Protection of English Interests in the Caribbean

Chapter 2: The Idea of Economic Advantages of Maritime War in Spanish America
  • Wealth of Spanish America and Maritime War
  • Attacking the Enemy’s Financial Resources
  • Struggle over Spanish-American Trade
  • Ground for Conquest
Chapter 3: Pro-maritime War Arguments and Party Politics
Chapter 4: Impact on Reality – Naval Policy
  • Operations in the Middle Stage of the War
  • Operations in the Later Stage of the War
  • Frustration and Expectation – Analysis of Plans for Colonial Expeditions

Chapter 5: Impact on Reality – Legislation
  • The Context of the American Act
  • The Process of Enactment
  • The Politics behind the Act

Chapter 6: The South Sea Company and its Plan for a Naval Expedition in 1712
  • The French Success in the South Sea Trade and the Establishment of the South Sea Company
  • Controversy over the South Sea Company: Free Trade and Settlements
  • Controversy over the South Sea Company: Peace Negotiations
Chapter 7: Pro-maritime War Arguments during the War of the Quadruple Alliance and Anglo-Spanish Conflict of 1726-29

Chapter 8: Changes in Naval Policy after 1714 – From Conquest to Security of Trade
  • Naval Operations – Blockade
  • Naval Operations – Colonial Expeditions
This study also investigates the diverse issues that pertain to maritime warfare, as well as its effectiveness and importance during the War of the Spanish Succession and how influential it was concerning later warfare and naval policy. It also analyzes the ties between politics, trade, and naval warfare, and those with a vested interest in either supporting or fighting against the argument. Finally, it explores the reality and the myth of this belief and whether legislation and naval policy actually realized the high returns with little initial outlay.

Each chapter opens with an overview, which sets the stage for what will be discussed. Footnotes appear within the chapters, which make it easy to see the source from which the information in the text comes or the additional information the author wishes the reader to know.  There are four pages of black-and-white illustrations at the center of the book. In the conclusion the author summarizes the key points of the analysis, and then evaluates what his research has shown in light of the questions he posed in the introduction. An extensive index of primary and secondary resources and an index are included.

Although the introduction comes across as pedantic, the chapters themselves are readable and contain interesting facts that students of Elizabethan, Cromwellian, and Stuart history are familiar with, but which present the English desire to gain a slice of New World riches in a new light. Pirates, buccaneers, and privateers played a part in this pro-maritime war argument so they are incorporated into the whole picture, but their importance is minor when compared to the rest of the material covered within these pages. One irritating aspect of the text is the overuse of the phrase “As we have seen so far.” I lost count of the number of times I encountered it, and its prevalence intrudes into the flow and seamlessness of the narrative.

The price of this book places it beyond the reach of the casual reader. Those academic libraries that support areas of study pertaining to English mercantile trade and naval warfare, Spanish America, and Latin American history will find this an important work to help round out the collection.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages
Cover Art: East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the
              Middle Ages

East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages

Edited by David Bates and Robert Liddiard

Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-846-3, $99.00 / £60.00

Medieval travel was often easier to accomplish aboard boats, rather than going overland, and so the people of East Anglia, a region on the coast of England, traded with other European countries bordering the North Sea. This particular study stems from a 2010 conference where scholars with varying specialties discussed what was known and where future studies could be focused.

Robert Liddiard opens the book with an introduction to the North Sea from both a historical and geographical perspective. He also looks at trade routes and the difficulties crossing these waters posed for mariners. He explains “that the essays presented here are not intended to argue definitively for or against the existence of a ‘North Sea World’ in the Middle Ages . . . rather, they represent an attempt to place East Anglia in the broader geographical and social context within which it has long been recognized to have played a part.” (7)
Table of Contents
Part I: East Anglia and the North Sea World: Overviews
1. The Origins of East Anglia in a North Sea Zone by John Hines
2. East Anglia’s Character and the ‘North Sea World’ by Tom Williamson
3. Cities, Cogs and Commerce: Archaeological Approaches to the Material Culture of the North Sea World by Brian Ayers
4. Medieval Art in Norfolk and the Continent: An Overview by David King

Part II: Trade and Economy
5. The Circulation, Minting, and Use of Coins in East Anglia, c. AD 580-675 by Gareth Williams
6. Coinage in Pre-Viking East Anglia by Rory Naismith
7. The Castle and the Warren: Medieval East Anglian Fur Culture in Context by Aleksander Pluskowski
8. Economic Relations between East Anglia and Flanders in the Anglo-Norman Period by Elijas Oksanen
9. East Anglia’s Trade in the North Sea World by Wendy R. Childs
10. Iceland’s ‘English Century’ and East Anglia’s North Sea World by Anna Agnarsdóttir

Part III: Case Studies: Influences and Links
11. Ipswich: Contexts of Funerary Evidence from an Urban Precursor of the Seventh Century AD by Christopher Scull
12. Imports or Immigrants? Reassessing Scandinavian Metalwork in Late Anglo-Saxon East Anglia by Tim Pestell
13. Stone Building in Romanesque East Anglia by Stephen Heywood
14. Romanesque East Anglia and the Empire by Richard Plant
15. All in the Same Boat? East Anglia, the North Sea World and the 1147 Expedition to Lisbon by Charles West
16. The Liber Celestis of St. Bridget of Sweden (1302/3-1373) and Its Influence on the Household Culture of Some Late Medieval Norfolk Women by Carole Hill
17. Flemish Influence on English Manuscript Painting in East Anglia in the Late Fourteenth Century by Lynda Dennison
The purpose of this work is “to promote the study of the North Sea in the same way as the Mediterranean and Atlantic and in so doing [shed] light on the development of one of its most important sub-regions.” (14) In this regard, the authors and editors have done a commendable job in meeting that goal.

While there is no direct information on piracy in this book, there is a link between maritime trade and pirates. Understanding one assists us in knowing the other, and the commodities that were traded provide insight into the “treasures” of the period. Ayers’ chapter (3) will be of particular interest to those interested in medieval cogs, the vessels that carried bulk cargo for trade, while Childs’ essay (9) examines early ports and customs. Other chapters touch upon the difficulties in venturing across the North Sea and the dangers those waters brought to East Anglia. In addition to the individual essays, illustrations, maps, charts, and diagrams are included, as are an index and chapter notes. This book isn’t for the diehard pirate fan or those with little interest in the medieval world, but those in search of information on maritime trade in the Middle Ages will find this book an intriguing examination of one region in England and its connections to the world at large.
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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs
Cover Art:
                Elizabeth's Sea Dogs
Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs: How the English Became the Scourge of the Seas
By Hugh Bicheno
Conway, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84486-174-3, £25 / US$30
When Bicheno opens his narrative, he makes it clear how different we are from the Elizabethans and how their outlook on life differs from ours. Chapter one then proceeds to delineate those differences so we more fully comprehend who the Sea Dogs were and why they did what they did for queen, God, and plunder. He also examines those who came before these privateers, such as Jean Fleury, whose capture of a Spanish ship unveiled for all to see just how rich the New World was for those willing to exploit her treasures.  From that French revelation, the author delves into its effect on English adventurers and how naval predation evolved into both a sanctioned and unsanctioned guerre de course, depending on how the political situation ebbed and flowed between England and Spain. Thereafter, the reader learns about specific Sea Dogs – such men as John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, John Oxenham, Martin Frobisher, and Sir Walter Ralegh – and those who financed and supported their exploits. Thereafter he discusses regular and guerilla warfare, as well as the legacy of Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs.

Maps, diagrams, charts, and color portraits and illustrations accompany the text. Bicheno also inserts a section entitled “The Armada Charts” between chapters eleven and twelve, although no reference to this appears in the table of contents. These pages contain the charts commissioned by Lord Admiral Howard and the narrative accompanying them in an attempt to show readers how all the varying aspects pertaining to Spain’s invasion of England came together. The appendices provide information on: 16th-century inflation, currency, and exchange rates; types of ships; naval artillery; the difference between tons burden, tons, and tonnage; and the ships of 1588. Aside from the index, the book also includes a bibliography of print and online resources, some of which the author marks as being particularly valuable to him during his research.

On the whole, this is an interesting and readable account about the Sea Dogs and their exploits. Occasionally, the author insinuates opinions without backing them up with facts to support those conclusions, such as when Drake hanged two men, “one for murder and the other . . . for sodomizing two cabin boys – which is odd, because that’s what cabin boys were for.” (188) Readers seeking a well-rounded examination of the Elizabethan period, particularly as it pertained to the maritime world and the role the Sea Dogs played in the political machinations, will find this volume worth reading.

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
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The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Cover Art: The British Navy, Economy and Society in
              the Seven Years War
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Christian Buchet
Translated by Anita Higgie and Michael Duffy
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-801-2, US$115 / £65
This book focuses on how the British Admiralty fed the seamen and officers who manned their warships. The Victualling Board’s effective administration and stimulation of commerce based within the country and across the sea helped the Royal Navy and Great Britain to dominate the oceans. Two aspects that played a role in this were the sailors’ health, particularly protecting them from scurvy, and the logistics required to get the food and beverages to where the men were stationed. Buchet concentrates this examination on the Seven Years War (1756-1763) because this is when naval administration and infrastructure developed.

The scholarly volume is divided into three parts:

I. The General Organisation of Victualling the British Navy
The three chapters in this section elucidate the historical controversy of whether it became more cost efficient and effective for the state to run the supply system, or whether the private sector worked best; analyze the Victualling Board’s operation during the conflict through the use of documentary evidence; and demonstrate the innovative evolution of food rations and their preservation. Also evaluated are the benefits from preventing scurvy.

II. The Bases
Contained within four chapters, Buchet discusses the naval bases and how the Victualling Board Commissioners oversaw their management during times of peace and during outbreaks of hostility. He also explores the consolidation and expansion that the victualling process underwent during this period. Particular emphasis is placed on the day-to-day operation in Plymouth as well as the yards and contractors overseas, with particular emphasis on those in the West Indies where most warships were found. Insight is also provided on the suppliers and merchant house networks that dominated transatlantic trade.

III. The Main Markets
Within the final three chapters of this book, the compiled data identifies the merchants involved with feeding the navy. The author then analyzes this information studies the primary commodities in which they dealt: a) meat, b) cereals and pulses (i.e., peas), and c) beverages, butter, cheese, salt, olive oil, and raisins.

Numerous tables supplement the information contained within the chapters, as are footnotes. Following the author’s conclusions are eight appendices:

Ordinary Charge of the Victualling Board in 1747
Commissioners of the Victualling Board, 1755-63
The Structure of British Naval Administration
Itemised Distribution of Victualling Board Expenses, 1756-9, 1762-3
List of Victuals on the Southsea Castle Leaving for the East Indies at the End of 1759 with a Crew of 130 Men
Process to be Used in Curing Beef and Pork
Wage Totals, According to Activity, Paid to Victualling Personnel in the London Yard in the First Quarter of 1761
Supervisory Staff of the Victualling Board, 1761

A list of sources and a bibliography, as well as an index, are also included.

Originally published in French, Buchet’s definitive examination of the Victualling Board, its development, and its activities provides a thorough, well-researched, and interesting account that focuses on an aspect of Royal Navy history rarely discussed beyond a cursory look. The translation is seamless, easy to read, and, at times, fascinating. Not only does this work study the board and logistics, it also provides readers with information about the merchants who supplied the foodstuffs required to feed the navy. In addition, this study proves false numerous statements about victualling that have appeared in earlier studies of the Royal Navy.
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Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Cover Art: The Transformation of British Naval
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy: Seapower and Supply in Northern Europe, 1808-1812
By James Davey
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-748-0, US $99 / £60

With Britain’s triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), Napoleon turned to economic warfare to defeat his enemy. Rather than face financial ruin, the British government countered with its own policies to counter such warfare, and the Royal Navy played an instrumental part in that strategy. Davey explores one aspect of this through his study of the navy’s role in the Baltic Seas, a crucial trading center for the English, as Britain attempted to thwart Napoleon’s ingress into a region surrounded by Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia. While other studies have concerned themselves with how the Admiralty victualled their ships, this one examines how the navy disseminated those food supplies, as well as the challenges the region presented in doing so, and analyzes how that success or failure impacted operations and strategy.

Table of Contents
1. The Forgotten Theatre: Britain, Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea
2. ‘To keep a fleet above a fortnight’: The Evolution of Naval Logistics during the Eighteenth Century
3. The Challenges of the Baltic Sea
4. The Administration of Power Projection
5. The First Year in the Baltic, 1808
6. The Escalation of Seapower, 1809
7. The Navy, Reform and the British State
8. Logistics and Seapower, 1810-1812

A variety of figures, tables, and maps accompany the text, providing graphical clarification to points the author brings out in this scholarly narrative. The appendices that follow the narrative cover Time Taken to Secure Transport Tonnage to the Baltic (1808-12), Time Taken to Secure Tonnage to the Mediterranean (1800-2), Time Taken to Load Victualling Shipments (1808-10), Time Taken to Deliver Provisions to Various Areas of the Baltic (1808-9), and Efficiency of Victualling Deliveries: Bread and Spirits. A bibliography and index are also included.

While the title might make the reader think of this book as pedantic and uninteresting, the opposite is true. It’s a engaging examination of economics during war, in an area of study overlooked in volumes concerning the Napoleonic Wars, and in a region that takes second stage to others in this hostile period. Even though Davey’s primary focus focus British seapower and supply in the Baltic, his presentation encompasses far more than just this region and this navy. It presents a microcosmic study of British strategy and naval policy overall as the nation strove to defeat Napoleon. His inclusion of details about other nations and their navies provides readers with a better understanding of how the war progressed and why Napoleon eventually failed to achieve his goals. While emphasis is placed on the navy, there are references to privateering, since they posed a danger to merchant shipping in the Baltic.
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Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
Cover Art: Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
By Elaine Murphy
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-0-86193-318-1, US $90 / £50

[S]everall Pyratts whoe are newly come upon these Coastes, and for want of a sufficient guarde of shipps of force they doe us much mischief;
they have already taken many men tradeing hither; and indeed will wholly spoyle our trade if you doe not apply a speedie remedie
– Henry Cromwell, head of the English administration in Ireland, September 1656
During the 1600s, pirates and privateers plagued English shipping and the navy in waters surrounding the coast of Ireland. Murphy, in this first title in the Royal Historical Society’s new series Studies in History, examines the Irish rebellion and naval warfare during the middle of that century. Her introduction provides an overview of the situation and the effects of piracy and privateering on the English government, people, and economy. The first half of the book looks at the naval events in light of political and military changes within and without Ireland. The second half analyzes the “conduct of the war at sea,” which began in 1642 with the formation of the Confederate Catholic Association and its granting of letters of marque. While the leaders of the uprising expected a short war, it eventually spread throughout the country and impacted all of society, not just the elite that led the initial effort.

Table of Contents
Part I: The War at Sea, 1651-1653
1. The outbreak and spread of the rebellion, October 1641-September 1643
2. ‘Weathering the storm’, September 1643-July 1646
3. ‘Infested with pirates’, August 1646-August 1649
4. The support of the navy, September 1649-April 1653

Part II. Navies and the Conduct of the War at Sea
5. A job well done enough? The parliamentary naval effort in Ireland, 1641-1653
6. For the defence of the coasts of this realm: the confederate naval effort, 1641-1653
7. Fighting the war at sea in Ireland, 1641-1653

The author includes figures, maps, and tables to illustrate various points in the narrative. The six appendices cover Parliamentary Summer and Winter Guards for Ireland, Identified Confederate/Irish Privateers, Parliamentary Prizes in Ireland, Confederate and Irish Prizes, Parliamentary Warships Lost on the Irish Coast, and Prominent Parliamentary Shipowners on the Irish Coast. There are also a glossary, a bibliography, and two indices – general and ships.

This important study of privateering and the Irish rebellion provides readers with perspectives from both sides of the coin – the rebels and the Cromwellian navy. The narrow focus of the time period allows for a more thorough investigation into the privateers and their hunters against the context of the political upheavals within Ireland and Britain. By analyzing the parliamentary naval effort, as well as that of the confederates and royalists, the reader is presented with a better understanding of what transpired and how effective both sides were.
Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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Warships of the Ancient World
Cover Art: Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC
Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC
By Adrian K. Wood
Illustrated by Guiseppe Rava
Osprey, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84908-978-4, US $17.95 / UK £9.99 / CAN $18.95
eBook US $13.95 / UK£7.99
This volume in the New Vanguard series examines the warships of Egypt, Minoan Crete, Syria, Phoenicia, and Greece. Wood traces the innovations of these vessels, which led to the “standardized warships of Greek, Cathaginian and Roman fleets.” (4) The Egyptian section focuses on ships, seafaring challenges, Rameses III’s warships, and the tactics and organization used in the Battle of the Delta against the Sea Peoples and their ships. Minoan Crete looks at Minoan Thalassocracy, ships, and tactics, while the Syrian section examines the maritime importance of the region in the Bronze Age, the city-state of Ugarit and the Hittites, their ships, and the tactics and Battle of Alasiya.

While little is known about the Phoenicians, they are indelibly linked to the maritime world of the Mediterranean. This section discusses their sea power, the warships they built, and the naval practices and tactics they employed. The longest section of the book covers the Greeks. It looks at Homeric warlords, warriors, and ships before focusing on specific vessels, such as pentekonters, hekatonters, and eikosoroi. Other subdivisions include Homeric tactics, colonial wars, tactics used at the Battle of Alalia, the Tyrrhenians (Estruscans), and the most notorious tyrant of the period, Polycrates of Samos.

In addition to the colorful photographs and artwork that populate these pages, the book includes a brief chronology, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index. (A magnifying glass is helpful in accessing the index because of the very small print.) A glossary can be found on the back of the title page.

As is true of other titles from Osprey, Warships of the Ancient World provides readers with an encapsulated introduction on the subject. The text is easy to read and comprehend and the illustrations greatly enhance the readers’ understanding of what these vessels were like. Anyone interested in ancient maritime history will find this a valuable tool, especially if you’re looking for a place to start before delving into more scholarly works.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art:
Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail
Peter Kirsch
Seaforth, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84832-025-3, £40 / US$74.95

That single word struck fear in the hearts of sailors aboard sailing ships. After all, fire was one of the worst disasters that could befall these vessels, which were built of wood and filled with combustible materials. As the author demonstrates, a cool head, determination, and nerves of steel could help defeat this terrifying weapon of war.

In the introduction, Kirsch explains what a fireship was and that contrary to its name it might not be a ship at all. It was merely a vessel of varying sizes, crammed with inflammable material that could be ignited with the intent to destroy the enemy’s ships. He also discusses how the men who sailed the fireships viewed these weapons of war. Not all agreed they were viable weapons, and some felt their use was downright sneaky. Yet fireships remained part of a navy’s arsenal for hundreds of years. The table of contents (listed below) shows how the fireship was used throughout history, as well as how it evolved.

1. Firepots and Greek Fire
2. The Hellburners of Antwerp
3. John Hawkins and the Spanish Fireship
4. The Invincible Armada
5. The Fireship joins the Battlefleet
6. The Mother-and-Child Boat and other Chinese Specialties
7. The Battle of the Downs
8. Acquiring and Fitting out Fireships
9. The Captain and his Crew
10. The First Anglo-Dutch War
11. The Second Anglo-Dutch War: the pinnacle of fireship success
12. The Four Days’ Battle
13. Fireship against Fireship: the Second Anglo-Dutch War continues
14. Countermeasures: Changing tactics and fireship warfare
15. The Line of Battle dominates: the Third Anglo-Dutch War and the Scanian War
16. Purpose-built Fireships, Machine-vessels and Others
17. Fireships in the Eighteenth Century
18. The Last Fireships: the nineteenth century

While fireships may be mentioned in accounts of naval conflicts, this is one of the few books that deals specifically with this weapon over a broad time span. Numerous illustrations depict its use, providing readers with a better understanding of what these weapons were and how they changed as ships changed. But this book is more than just a history of fireships. It is also a history of naval engagements, for the author lays the groundwork behind the conflicts so the reader better understands the use of the fireships in them. Quotations from contemporary documents help to enhance the readers’ experience.

Fireship is an important addition to the study of maritime warfare, especially during the Age of Sail. It is an essential reference tool for libraries with collections that focus on this subject. The price may be a bit steep for the general reader, but the book makes interesting reading.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of Maryland
Cover Art:
              Pirates of Maryland
Pirates of Maryland: Plunder and High Adventure in the Chesapeake Bay
Mark P. Donnelly and Daniel Diehl
Stackpole Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8117-1041-1, US$10.95
Also available as an e-book
Pirates of Maryland is a collection of accounts on various pirates and privateers throughout the state’s history. From colonial times onward, Baltimore was an important maritime port. During the first fifty years of the eighteenth century, it was one of the top five ports in the American colonies. Pirates tended to hunt in Caribbean waters during the winter, then sail north to harass and/or trade with colonists after temperatures warmed.

The length of this volume prohibited an in-depth study of Maryland’s piratical and privateering history, but the authors selected ten stories to share with readers. Their introduction provides a brief overview on piracy as it related to the colonies. The men whose stories are discussed in more detail are as follows:

William Claiborne
Richard Ingle
Roger Makeele
William Kidd
Richard Worley
Joseph Wheland Jr. and the Tory Picaroons
Privateers of the Baltimore Hero
George Little: Yankee Privateer
Joshua Barney and the Battle of Bladensburg
Captain Thomas Boyle of Fells Point

Their activities span the time frame of the 1620s through 1815. The majority of the chapter on Little comes directly from the man’s own account as a privateer during the War of 1812. The book also includes a glossary and a bibliography.

This is an interesting volume, but it’s not always clear what the men did that constituted piracy, especially in the early years of the colony. They may have been charged with piracy, but from the information provided, they come across more as raiders, profiteers, and rebels during contentious historical events. Claiborne is an example of this, and while the record shows that he was charged with piracy and murder, some of these events took place during a border dispute with Virginia – a time more reminiscent of a war, rather than the true definition of piracy. The inclusion of Captain Kidd was also a surprise, but the evidence presented pertains to a man who may have worked with Kidd, rather than the captain himself.

The title is something of a misnomer since the book includes privateers, men licensed to prey on enemy shipping during times of war. While the inclusion of Barney is appropriate for a book on privateers, the episode related here is not of that time period. Rather it concerns his service during the War of 1812 when he was a member of the American navy.

In spite of these shortcomings, Pirates of Maryland provides a good overview of piracy and privateering. It’s a fast-paced read with dollops of facts not always included in other volumes. For the lay reader who just wants to learn about the pirates associated with the state and/or the privateers who helped defend the country during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, this is a good place to start.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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1812: A Nation Emerges
Cover Art: 1812: A Nation Emerges
1812: A Nation Emerges
Sidney Hart and Rachael L. Penman
Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-935623-09-0, US$50 / £31.95
In June 1812, the National Portrait Gallery opened a special exhibit entitled “1812: A Nation Emerges.” According to the foreword, this companion volume to the exhibition “offers persuasive evidence that the war merits attention in our own time because of the enduring changes it wrought in national life.” (ix) One reason that the War of 1812 is often overlooked is because it occurred during the Napoleonic Wars, which far eclipsed this one. The authors ably show the significance of the war, not because of the battles fought, but because of how it affected lives and the growth of our nation, as well as its impact on Canada and Native Americans.

What changes resulted from this conflict? Britain relinquished its hold on the Northwest Territory, which permitted Americans to expand their country westward. It helped to establish Canada’s national identity. While no one actually won – the peace treaty returned things to the status quo prior to the war – Native Americans were the losers, having been abandoned by their British allies and irrevocably losing their lands to settlers who craved more than they already owned. The United States gained a new repertoire of national heroes, while the war reinforced our viability as a nation and stirred a patriotic fervor. For the British, however, the war was a mere blip on the radar screen, because of the dire threat Napoleon posed.

Since the National Portrait Gallery is an art museum, the book showcases the art and artists of the period. Items on display and in the book come from collections around the world and demonstrate the caliber and diversity of life, people, and battles before, during, and after the conflict.

The book opens with three essays. J. C. A. Snagg writes about “James Madison’s America,” which discusses the fledgling nation on the eve of fighting and why the president felt his only choice was to declare war. He also answers the question of whether we were justified in “claiming that the War of 1812 had accomplished any important results that changed the nation or improved its standing in the international community.” (5)

Donald R. Hickey, a historian and expert on the War of 1812, pens the second essay, “The War of 1812: A Military History.” He establishes the reasons for America’s declaration of war against Britain, then explains why government officials focused on Canada, rather than directly attacking the British homeland.  This concise and comprehensive treatise provides readers with an overview of events so they better understand how the war progressed and its legacy on the American people.

The final essay is written by Sidney Hart, one of the book’s authors and senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery. He discusses “Art and War: Truth and Myth,” focusing on such artists as Charles Wilson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, John Wesley Jarvis, Thomas Birch, and William Charles, and showing how their depictions of the war helped inspire and reinforce the myths that grew out of the conflict. Hart and his co-author, Rachael L. Penman (assistant curator of the exhibition), wrote the introductions to each section and the anecdotal importance behind each painting or artifact showcased throughout the book. These pages identify the item, when it was made, and who owns it.

The catalogue begins with “Early America, 1800-1811,” which focuses on the city of Washington in its infancy. Each work of art has a double-page spread; on the left is the object, while on the right is the information about it. This section includes paintings of Thomas Jefferson and the confrontation between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Leopard.

The next section in the catalogue focuses on “Causes of the War.” It incorporates information on leading players of the day – such as James Madison, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Lord Castlereagh, and Napoleon – and such artifacts as a pitcher depicting sailors’ rights and Madison’s proclamation of war. The third section highlights “Northern Battles and Indian Wars,” those battles that took place on land. “The Republican Court” examines the women, including Dolley Madison, who played important roles within Washington politics. The ships, commanders, and battles at sea and on the Great Lakes are illustrated in “Naval Battles.” The next two sections focus on the final months of the War of 1812 in “The Burning of Washington and the Defense of Baltimore” and “The Battle of New Orleans.” Among the portraits in the latter grouping is one of Jean Laffite. “The Treaty of Ghent” and “A Nation Emerges” are the final sections in the catalogue.

The book includes a chronology that begins in 1806 and extends through 1828. There is also a map of the United States and Canada at the time of the war. Catalogue notes identify where quotations come from, while a bibliography provides readers with additional avenues of research. The catalogue is indexed.

The tidbits of historical information about the exhibit items are one of the strengths of this book. For example, Major James Wilkinson commanded the entire army, yet he “committed more acts of treason against the United States than his former mentor, Benedict Arnold.” (63) The watercolor Independence Day Celebration in Centre Square includes a quote from an English writer who “came across a book on the war” in 1854 and said, “I read it carefully, with amazement at my own ignorance. I had scarcely heard of any such war!” (245) Another strength is the collection itself, which provides readers with a clearer idea of who’s who and the role each played in the conflict. The book highlights the good and the inept, the forgotten and the heroic among all the combatants, and demonstrates the important roles women played.

1812: A Nation Emerges is a magnificent collection of art that introduces readers to the war, how it came to be, the conflict’s aftermath, and the individuals involved. It is not just an American history, but also incorporates the viewpoints of the other combatants who fought in this too-long-neglected war. For those unable to view the exhibit and those who want to remember the exhibition long after it closes, this catalogue is a worthy addition to any collection.
View the exhibit

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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The U.S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
Cover Art: The
                US Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
The U.S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
By Don Philpott
Rowman & Littlefield, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4422-1907-6, $49.95 / £31.95
eBook ISBN 978-1-4422-1908-3, $48.99 / £29.95
The introduction to this volume clearly states how the various combatants viewed the war. For the British, it provided the means for “a new era of trade and prosperity with the United States.” (2) It solidified the national identity of Canada, while the United States emerged as a political force to be reckoned with, established the importance of the navy as a fighting force, and formed the nucleus for what this nation has become. But what propelled the combatants to wage war, and how did the war achieve these “victories”? Philpott provides answers to these questions, while focusing on the rise of the U. S. Navy both through actions and in graphic representations.

“Storm Clouds Building” examines the causes that led to war beginning in 1803 and culminating with the declaration of war in 1812. It provides not only the national picture, but also the world view because the conflict between Britain and France trickled down to affect the United States and her relationships with both nations. The decade is also examined from the perspective of the key combatants: the British, the Canadians, the Americans, and the Native Americans. Chapter one concludes with an annotated “Time Line of Major Events Leading to the War of 1812.”

The second chapter focuses on “The Birth of the Navy.” It discusses the building of six frigates – Constitution, Constellation, United States, Congress, Chesapeake, and President – that formed the heart of the American navy, the conflicts with the Barbary corsairs, the Washington Navy Yard, and the exploits of the Constitution with particular emphasis on her escape from HMS Guerriere and four other British vessels soon after the War of 1812 begins.

“Declaration of War” provides an overview of the first year of war, both at sea and on land. For example, the Constitution’s victory over Guerriere in October is shown through the correspondence of Captain Isaac Hull (USN) and Captain James R. Dacres (RN) to their superiors, and the artwork of John Trumbull, W. Strickland, Thomas Gimbrede, and M. F. Corne. Chapter four covers 1813, including several naval battles between British ships and American privateers. Primary emphasis is placed on the Battle of Lake Erie and events during the fall of that year. The fifth chapter focuses on 1814, including events such as the British burning Washington, the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and the battle between General Armstrong, an American privateer, and several British warships in the Azores. Events of 1815, such as the Battle of New Orleans and the final naval confrontations between vessels unaware that a peace treaty had been signed, are examined in chapter six. The final chapter summarizes the effects wrought by the “Peace” on the combatants.

The volume is beautifully and generously illustrated with color portraits of key people and stunning depictions of naval confrontations, as well as engravings, prints, and lithographs. Excerpts of primary documents and observations pepper the narrative, while footnotes and tables are included where appropriate. A list of references and an index conclude the book.

This book covers much of the same material as other works on the War of 1812, but the inclusion of overlooked historical nuggets distinguishes it from those other volumes. For example, any narrative on the war discusses the Royal Navy’s impressments of American sailors, but few mention the French navy’s habit of boarding American ships “and confiscating vessel, crew, and cargo.” (8) Another illustration concerns the Bloody Assize in May 1814, trials that ended with fifteen Canadians being convicted of high treason. This is a good summary examination for any reader who wants an overview of the war, particularly from a naval perspective, that also incorporates key land battles and global events that impacted the conflict.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy
Cover Art: Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the
              British Navy
Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
By S. A. Cavell
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-719-0, $99 / £60

Cavell opens her study on young gentlemen in the Royal Navy with a letter from a five-year-old lad enamored with the romance of naval life. What he doesn’t comprehend are the hardships, perils, and demands of such a life. This volume focuses on the “servants, volunteers, midshipmen, masters’ mates, and acting lieutenants” – boys who entered the navy with the intent of one day becoming an officer.* Cavell’s purpose in examining this generation of young gentlemen is to determine what naval and civil factors influenced these recruits and their careers within the navy. The time period was chosen because of “important changes taking place within the navy during the French Wars.” (4)

The book is divided into eight chapters and the content covered is summarized in the final paragraph of each chapter.

Young Gentlemen Defined provides an overview of who’s being studied and the parameters used to provide the sampling for the database. Subheadings in this chapter cover selection and appointment, life aboard ship, the birth of the ‘young gentleman’, education and training, the appearance of a gentleman, and authority and the officer trainee.

A Social Survey: The Social Backgrounds of Young Gentlemen concerns methodology and definitions and terminology used in this study.

Eighteenth-Century Selection, 1771-1800, begins with an overview of the data before examining different historical periods – before and after the American War (the American Revolution). Other subtopics covered include Prince William Henry at sea, naval perspectives versus public perceptions, agents of change, rates of promotion to commissioned rank 1771-91, the geography of recruitment 1771-91, and The Order of Council of 1794.

Eighteenth-Century Crime and Punishment, 1760-1800: By examining the crimes these junior officers committed, Cavell provides an insightful look “into how young gentlemen interpreted their place in naval society, conceived of their authority, and then used or abused that authority.” (93) From data culled from courts martial records, she focuses on the nature of crime, aggression toward superiors, naval and civil issues, and the Midshipmen’s Mutiny in 1791.

Nineteenth-Century Selection, 1801-1815: This chapter covers the Napoleonic Wars, social change and its effect on young gentlemen, changing boundaries of authority, the disparity between social authority and naval rank, manners and deportment, education, presentation, professionalism and patronage, and the increase in the Admiralty’s power in matters concerning young gentlemen.

Nineteenth-Century Selection, 1815-1831: While the previous chapter focuses on a war-torn period, the primary focus of this chapter is during a time of peace and the problems that arose as a result of it. Subheadings include the Admiralty’s regulations of 1815, other Admiralty measures, the plight of volunteers, volunteers and the Order of 1830, rates of promotion to commissioned rank 1801-31, public perception in the post-war years, and the geography of recruitment 1801-31.

Nineteenth-Century Crime and Punishment, 1801-1831, explores the crimes of young gentlemen, how they differed from the previous years, and social order and the naval hierarchy.

Beyond Reform: the Future of Naval Command: The final chapter in this study explores the abolition of the Royal Naval College in 1837, as well as the qualifying examinations for young gentlemen.

Dr. Cavell completes her volume on midshipmen and quarterdeck boys with a conclusion on her findings. The key points upon which she elucidates concern the theories of social development, centralization and the Admiralty, effects on professionalism and subordination, and patterns of change.

Aside from the figures, plates, and tables that appear within various chapters, she also includes five appendices:

a. Sampling results: quarterdeck boys and junior officers with traceable social backgrounds
b. Ages and passing times
c. Wages and allocations for 1771, 1797, and 1807
d. Estimates of available positions for captains’ servants/1st-class volunteers, and midshipmen and masters’ mates
e. Sample numbers for final databases

An extensive bibliography and a detailed index follow. Citations and explanatory notes appear in footnotes on the pages where the material is discussed.

Cavell deftly demonstrates how the social status of a person’s birth, whom he knew, and how much wealth he had played vital roles in determining who became a young gentleman and whether he eventually realized his goal of becoming a commissioned officer. She also shows that just because a boy knew influential and powerful people did not mean that the boy merited either his appointment or his elevation within the service. Excerpts from naval documents and journals or correspondence provide primary evidence to back up her claims and to showcase how individual officers interpreted the changes occurring within the navy during this time period. Perhaps most fascinating is how the author shows the conflicts that arose when a young gentleman’s social status was higher than his rank or that of his commanding officer, as well as how external changes led to it becoming more difficult to achieve an officer appointment without sufficient wealth and/or the patronage of someone with influence and power. The steep price may keep this book out of the hands of most readers, but Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy is an essential addition to any library that focuses on naval history in general or the history of the British Royal Navy in particular.

Read an excerpt

* The officer candidates surveyed for this study ranged in age from seven to fifty-eight, although the majority were between thirteen and twenty-two years old.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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The Challenge
Cover Art: The
The Challenge: Britain against America in the Naval War of 1812
Andrew Lambert
Faber and Faber, 2012, ISBN 978-0-571-27319-5, £20 / US $44
Also available in e-book format
When a war is fought between two nations, there are always two views of that war, and how those who come after interpret the conflict can be equally disparate. This is what Lambert shows in The Challenge. In June 1812, the United States declares war on Britain. At the time, the British have more pressing concerns than this upstart and fledgling nation’s attempt to make a stand in a world where the Royal Navy rules the seas. Their military forces fight for survival in a world where Napoleon wishes to reign supreme. Little wonder that “the British simply did not believe that the Americans meant to fight about issues of principle, issues which they had no hope of upholding.” (1)

In his introduction, Lambert writes, “This book examines the origins, conduct and consequences of the war from a British perspective, focusing on the development of policy and strategy in London and the conduct of war at sea.” (3) The principal theater examined is that of the Atlantic Ocean, both coastal and at sea, and the activities of the Royal Navy’s North American Squadron. Although the primary emphasis is on the naval aspects of the war, the book also delves into aspects that foresaw the future of United States activities – westward expansion and the divisive aspects between the Northern and Southern states that ultimately lead to civil war.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters, each of with is organized with subheadings. For example, Chapter 1: Flashpoints opens with the confrontation between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Leopard in 1807. From there, the chapter discusses “The Continental System,” “Money, Land and Honor,” “Economic War,” “Thomas Jefferson,” “Between the Millstones of War,” “Republican Visions,” “A Fleet of Gunboats,” and “The Many Wars of President James Madison.” Maps and illustrations, including sixteen color plates, highlight people and events, while quotations from primary documents of the period provide glimpses of participant viewpoints.

Another interesting aspect of this volume concerns where Lambert focuses his attention. An underlying theme throughout the narrative is the USS President, which is labeled “an American icon” in one illustration. Many Americans have probably never heard of this frigate, but as he points out, tracing the history and fate of this ship with the USS Constitution, which Americans today would label “an American icon,” summarizes the complex “judgements of the war.” (402) On the other hand – perhaps because of the focus of the book and the British perspective – the burning of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry are merely summarized in ten pages. In American history, these are key turning points in the war and are given weightier examination. While privateers are discussed throughout the book, only a few specific vessels and captains are mentioned. Chasseur, one of the successful privateers that eluded capture and impacted British merchant shipping, is mentioned because of her design rather than the audacity of her captain, who dared to blockade the British coast. These examples showcase why students of conflicts should examine them from both sides, for in doing so, they will gain a richer, more comprehensive understanding of the war.

With the start of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a number of histories have been published, some of which focus on the naval war. Few, however, are written by British historians, and this makes Lambert’s volume compelling and eye-opening, yet also perplexing and irritating to American readers, who have a totally different concept of this conflict. Of course, this assumes that Americans have even a cursory knowledge of the war, which has long been given short shrift in history classes.

The truth is that the War of 1812 was an ill-conceived idea which the United States was ill-prepared to carry through. The country was sharply divided on whether to go to war or not; previous administrations had decimated the navy; and the federal government lacked the funds to wage war. When peace finally came in 1815, the issues that propelled America into war remained unanswered, for the treaty returned everything to the status quo before the war began. So, as Lambert asks in his introduction, “how could a defeated nation, one that suffered such devastating losses, declare a victory and remain in occupation of the literal battlefield for two centuries?” (2)

This is the question that Lambert answers as he delves into the history of the war and how it came to be. He examines these events from the perspective of a nation already waging war – one that lasted for almost a quarter of a century and often without allies – against Napoleon. In doing so, he puts Americans and their history under a microscope that shows the discordant elements that threatened to tear apart the United States. He also exposes how those who fought and those who came after glossed over, altered, or conveniently forgot the numerous losses, the devastating effects of an economic blockade, and the questionable measures that propelled America into war. These machinations permitted the nation to see the War of 1812 as a victory. Perhaps more deftly, Lambert reveals how the conflict served to sever the apron strings with England and allowed the United States to create its own, distinct cultural identity.

Read an excerpt
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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From Forecastle to Cabin
Cover Art: From
              Forecastle to Cabin
From Forecastle to Cabin
Captain Samuel Samuels
Seaforth, 2012, ISBN 978-0-571-27319-5, US $27.95 / £13.99
Influenced by the seafaring tales of Captain Frederick Marryat and James Fenimore Cooper, eleven-year-old Samuel Samuels runs away from home to become a sailor. His autobiography recounts his life as a seaman, from his days as a lowly cabin boy on a coastal schooner to his tenure as captain of the famous Liverpool packet, Dreadnought. During his fifty-year career, he survives “storm and shipwreck, famine and disease, press-gangs and desertion, piracy, violence, and mutiny.” (1) He even rescues a woman from a harem.
This book, the eighth volume in the Seafarer’s Voice series, uses the text from the 1877 edition, published by Harper, and includes some details about the mutiny of the Dreadnought from Basil Lubbock’s The Western Ocean Packets (1925). The text has been shortened, but the omissions pertain to “repetitious sailing passages and . . . elaborate technical details relating to the handling of sails and rigging . . .”. (xi) This volume includes a map that highlights the various ports to which Samuels sails.
As Vincent McInerney points out in his introduction, the importance of Samuels’ book is that it demonstrates how a man, who begins his career as a lowly seaman, could advance to captain a ship, and how his views of seafaring life change as he matures and advances. His recounting of the mutiny aboard Dreadnought is spine-tingling, yet matter of fact. At other times, his tale is harrowing – such as when he encounters a ghost or discovers a mate who commits suicide – or astounding as when he talks about the armament on one ship. To defend themselves against pirates who prey on ships in Chinese waters, his vessel carries “four carronades and six ‘Quakers’ (mock cannon bolted to the bulwarks which, with painted-on gun ports, give the appearance of a sloop-of-war.” (79) Rather than romanticizing his seafaring life, Sameuls wishes to show the reality of it.
I would not commit my experiences to paper if I felt that they would in the slightest tend to induce a boy to become a sailor. The rough experience I have gone through, few could live to endure. I have seen many a man who started with me in this race of a daring and reckless life fall early on the journey, leaving his mother, wife, or sweetheart to watch and wait for one who will never return to her loving embrace, or meet her again until the sea shall be called to give up its dead. (4)
How he ends his narrative is just as compelling as how he begins, and his words will haunt readers long after they close the cover.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Also Reviewed by Kristine Crimmins
This handy-sized version of a much longer accounting of American Captain Samuel Samuels' growth and learning experiences on and off several vessels, the most famous being the Dreadnought, made a quick and easy read for this reviewer. Being interested in journals and logs of voyages, I found it enlightening to read how Capt. Samuels grew up and learned to handle just about any situation presented a seafaring young man in the nineteenth century.  

Samuel Samuels learned to live on pennies a day, survive prison, and set his own broken leg bone are only some of the intolerable pains to which most anyone else would succumb. Aging fast, dealing with every imaginable situation and human tragedy, and having othe pportunity to see and do what most could not, seems to be the best and worse of a world Samuel endured. It was a lifestyle in need of every prayer known to man.  

The story reads quickly as I stated, but it also includes much detail. Each tale is presented in a way to be savored and enjoyed. Having sailed various sized vessels myself, it intrigued me to read every written word and absorb each colorful entry. I found myself circling phrases and returning later to reread and savor the facts ofhow Samuel dealt with the situation. I know I will reread this version and I recommend it to anyone eager to have a quick education on what it means to be a seafarer willing and eager to gain a worldly education by starting at the bottom of the ship and working his way to the top.