Pirate FlagPirates and PrivateersPirate Flag
The History of Maritime Piracy

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


Home
Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Biography
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan
Black Bart Roberts
Blackbeard
Captain Kidd
Drake
Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
From Forecastle to Cabin
Landsman Hay
Pirate Hunter
Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast
A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
Samuel Smedley
Selkirk's Island
Sir Martin Frobisher
Slaver Captain
Treasure and Intrigue
 

StarStarStarStarStar
Coxinga
De Ruyter
Drake: For God, Queen, and Plunder
Frigate Commander
Granuaile

If a Pirate I Must Be...
King of the Pirates
Lafitte the Pirate
The Last Days of Black Beard
The Pirate Hunter
The Pirates Laffite
Real Canadian Pirates
History
Atrocities of the Pirates
The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
(includes some fiction)
Box Office Archaeology
The Buccaneer’s Realm
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Documentation...Florida Keys
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs
Flying the Black Flag
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
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
Pirate Nation
The Pirate Queen

The Pirate's Pocket-Book
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates? The Politics of Plunder
Pirates of Maryland

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
Quelch's Gold
The Sack of Panama
Scourge of the Seas
Seafarers, Merchants & Pirates...Middle Ages
The Spanish Main 1492-1800
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Treasure Wreck
Trimming Yankee Sails
Under the Bloody Flag
Victory in Tripoli
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720

 
StarStarStarStarStar
At the Point of a Cutlass
The Barbary Wars

Blackbeard
Blackbeard's Last Fight

British Piracy in the Golden Age
British Pirates and Society, 1680-1730
Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates
Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers
Empire of Blue Water
The Everything Pirates Book
 How History's Greatest Pirates Pillages, Plundered, and Got Away with It

Intrepid Sailors
Piracy: The Complete History
Pirate: The Golden Age

Pirate Killers
The Pirate Round
The Pirate Ship
The Pirate Soul
Pirates: A History
Pirates in the Age of Sail
Pirates in Their Own Words
 Pirates of Barbary

Pirates of the Americas
Pirates of the East Coast...Caribbean Sea (CD)
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates, Jack Tar, and Memory
The Pirates' Pact
The Republic of Pirates
The Sea Rover's Practice
Villains of All Nations
The World Atlas of Piracy
Maritime

Blunders & Disasters at Sea
Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Eighteenth Century
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Captain's Wife
The Challenge
Command at Sea
Commanders of the Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century

Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
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
The Guide to America's Maritime History
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
How Britian Won the War of 1812
Hunting the Essex
Knights of the Sea
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
Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Naval Miscellany
The Naval Mutinies of 1797
The Real Jim Hawkins
The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England

Seized
Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipwrecks...Delmarva Coast
Shipwrecks...Treasures Outer Banks
Sink or Be Sunk!
Smuggling
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649

Splintering the Wooden Wall
Tales of the Seven Seas
The Terror of the Seas?
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Treasure Hunt
True Yankees

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
 

StarStarStarStarStar
1812: The Navy's War
British Naval Captains of the Seven Years' War
Flotilla
The Glorious First of June
Jack Tar’s Story
Man-of-War Life

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

Nelson's Band of BrothersNew
Perilous Fight
Royal Tars
The Shining Sea
Ships of Oak Guns of Iron
Voyage to Jamestown
The War of 1812
The Way of the Ship
 
Miscellaneous
1812: A Nation Emerges
Ahoy Mates! Leadership Lessons ...
The Battle of New Orleans: "But for a Piece of Wood"
Bizarro Buccaneers

Caribbean Pirates
Government Manual for New Pirates
Hunting Pirate Heaven
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Outlaws!
Pirate Arrrt!
Pirate Fever!
Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills



StarStarStarStarStar
The Battle of New Orleans: A Bicentennial Tribute
British Pirates in Print and Performance
Gentlemen’s Blood

Guide to Pirate Parenting
A Night at Devil's Tavern
The Pirate Primer
Raising Black Flags

Ships

The Billy Ruffian
Create Your Own Pirate Ship
Fireship

Iron Coffin
Spanish Galleon
Victory
Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC

Warships of the Napoleonic Era

StarStarStarStarStar

America's Privateer
American Privateers in the War of 1812

The Black Ship
Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis
Cutty Sark
First Rate

The Global Schooner

HMS Victory 1765-1812
Nelson's VictoryNew
The Pirate Ship 1660-1730
Pirate Hunters
Vasa: A Swedish Warship

World & Modern Piracy

The Barbary Corsairs

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
Seawolves
Violence at Sea
 

StarStarStarStarStar

Contemporary...Piracy in Southeast Asia
Coping with Capture
Dangerous Waters
Hostage

Hostile Seas
Lords of the Sea

Modern Piracy
A Modern Plague of 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 New Pirates
X Marks the Spot

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.

Listen to interview podcast with author

Visit True Yankees' blog
 
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Irwin Bryan

 Return to top of page

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

 Return to top of page
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.

Chapters
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

Return to top
                          of page

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

 Return to top of
                              page

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

 Return to top of page

Victory
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

 Return to top of screen

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.

Learn more about the author

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

 Click skull and crossbones to
                    return to top of page

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.

Read an excerpt
Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

Click to return to top of page

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.


Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

Skull and Crossbones -- click to
                return to top of page

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

PART 1: PRO-MARITIME WAR ARGUMENTS DURING THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION
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
PART II: IMPACT ON REALITY
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
PART III: PRO-MARITIME WAR ARGUMENTS AFTER 1714
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

Skull and crossbones -- click
                    to return to top of page

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.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

 Skull and Cross bones -- Top


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
 
 Return to Top

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.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top

The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Cover Art: The Transformation of British Naval
          Strategy
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.

  Read an excerpt
 
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top

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
 
Return to Top

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

Return to Top

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

“Fireship!”

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

Return to Top

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.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

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

Return to Top 

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.

Learn more about the Bicentennial of the War of 1812


Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top

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.1 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

1. 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
 
Return to Top

The Challenge
Cover Art: The
            Challenge
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

Return to Top

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.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Kristine Crimmins
 
Return to Top

Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Cover Art: Naval
            Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950: Essays in Honour of Michael Duffy
Edited by Helen Doe and Richard Harding
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-695-7, US$99 / £60

After forty years of teaching, Michael Duffy retired in 2009. His research in maritime history began at Oxford, and in 1987 he published an influential and authoritative study entitled Soldiers, Sugar and Seapower: The British Expeditions to the West Indies. He founded the Maritime Historical Studies Centre at Exeter, and went on to mentor and guide many doctoral candidates. He also edited the Mariner’s Mirror. He served on the Councils of the Society for Nautical Research and the Navy Records Society. His colleagues and students have participated in this publication to pay tribute to Duffy, who encouraged “the highest standards of historical scholarship” in “people of all ages and levels of experience to contribute to the field of naval history”. (25) The essays focus on leadership and management in the British Royal Navy over a three hundred-year period. They step beyond the heroic to examine the reality.

Leadership: The Place of Hero
1. Admiral Rainier’s Management Challenges, 1794-1805 by Peter Ward
2. Neglect or Treason: Leadership Failure in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Royal Navy by Richard Harding

Leadership and Organisational Frictions: Contested Territories
3. Who has Command? The Royal Artilleryman aboard Royal Navy Warships in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Gareth Cole
4. ‘The Marine Officer is a Raw Lad and therefore Troublesome’: Royal Navy Officers and the Officers of the Marines, 1755-1797 by Britt Zerbe

Management Capability and the Exercise of Naval Power
5. High Exertions and Difficult Cases: The Work of the Transport Agent at Portsmouth and Southampton, 1795-1797 by Roger Morriss
6. Forgotten or Ignored, the Officers at Invergordon: ‘We are doing this for you as well you know’ by Mike Farquharson-Roberts
7. ‘To Excite the Whole Company to Courage and Bravery’: The Incentivisation of British Privateering Crews, 1702-1815 by David J. Starkey

The Evolution of Management Training in the Royal Navy, 1800-1950
8. New Kinds of Discipline: The Royal Navy in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century by Oliver Walton
9. Towards a Hierarchy of Management: The Victorian and Edwardian Navy, 1860-1918 by Mary Jones
10. Leadership Training for Midshipmen, c. 1919-1939 by Elinor Romans

Of particular interest to readers of this column is Starkey’s essay on privateering. He discusses various “theoretical perspectives with empirical evidence to explain the organisational structure deployed by those who promoted privateering ventures”. (124) He first examines privateering as a business, including the objectives and managerial challenges those involved in these ventures faced. Next he focuses on incentives for those who funded the privateers and how they were organized, before progressing to ways in which tensions within those structures were managed or dealt with.

Each editor and contributor is eminently qualified to participate in this volume. In addition to the essays, the book includes tables, a list of editors and contributors, a select bibliography, and an index. Footnotes appear within each essay, which allows readers to see the references and notes as they reach them, rather than having to refer to the back of the book.

Richard Knight’s “Michael Duffy: An Appreciation,” which opens the book, succinctly explains why Duffy played an important role in maritime research and includes a bibliography of his work. Although just the tip of the iceberg, these essays are readable and provide a wealth of information for anyone interested in leadership and management studies, whether the reader’s focus be the Royal Navy or a different path entirely.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Dictionary of British Naval Battles
Cover Art: Dictionary of British Naval Battles
Dictionary of British Naval Battles
John D. Grainger
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-704-6, US$165 / £95

This is an alphabetical listing of naval battles involving the British. What encompasses “British”, however, is more problematic because some entries refer to nations that are now independent countries. Some of the documented battles pertain to events in which the Royal Navy was involved, but may not involve sip-to-ship encounters. One example of this is D-Day. Grainger explains how he decided what to include and what to omit in his introduction to the book. He also discusses the historical records that were available, or not, and how contradictory evidence sometimes limited what he included. Additionally, the introduction explains the format he uses to denote different types of entries. Lists of references, abbreviations, and a glossary follow.

The entries themselves range in length from a single paragraph of two sentences to several pages. Places may be subdivided by wars or years. For example, the entry for the Adriatic Sea is subdivided into the Napoleonic War and The Great War, and both of these are further delineated by years, such as 1807, 1809, and 1943-1945. The most recent entries involve the Iraq Wars. Also included are encounters pertaining to ships of the East India Company. One of the most extensive listings concerns the English Channel, which goes on for fourteen pages beginning with King Athelstan in 939 and ending with the final U-boat attacks in 1944 and 1945.

Some entries include battles between a specific vessel and privateers or pirates. Many of these cite confrontations that would be difficult for the researcher to locate without careful study of individual ship’s logs. Quite a few entries involve Chinese or other Asian pirates. The battle between Blackbeard and Maynard is included, but is listed under the ships involved: “Pearl and Lyme v. Adventure”. One entry names the wrong pirate. Listed under “Scarborough v. Queen Anne’s Revenge, 1717”, it identifies the pirate as Kidd, who was never associated with the QAR and was hanged sixteen years before this battle. The QAR was Edward Teach’s (Blackbeard) pirate ship.

A set of maps follows the entries, but aren’t always helpful if the reader doesn’t know where a place cited in an entry is located. This problem might have been averted had a map reference been appended to the entry. There is an extensive index at the end of the book, but generic search terms won’t be found. For example, “pirate” doesn’t appear under P, but if a specific pirate’s name is known, such as Bartholomew Roberts, the reader will find the entry concerning his ships. Some may be found by looking up the place, such as Sallee, Morocco, if the reader knows from where the Barbary pirates hailed.

The steep price of this volume puts it out of reach for many readers. Libraries with a strong naval history collection may find their owned titles already contain more-detailed accounts of the battles, but this book may provide information on lesser-known or hard-to-find confrontations.  Collections containing few volumes on the history of the Royal Navy may find this a good introductory resource.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Maritime Private Security
Cover Art: Maritime Private Security
Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century
Edited by Claude Berube and Patrick Cullen
Routledge, 2012, ISBN 978-0-415-68862-8, US & CAN $135.00 / £80.00
eBook ISBN 978-0-203-12660-8


As Rear Admiral Terence McKnight points out in his foreword to this volume, piracy has confronted the United States since our first days as a new nation. Our first war following independence involved repeated attacks on our merchant shipping by Barbary pirates. Then, much of our defensive policies at sea relied on the private sector. The contributors here demonstrate how we have come full circle to once again incorporate private security in defense of our borders and merchant shipping. They also show how private security companies have evolved and changed to meet the growing maritime risks that our seamen face, as well as “the inability or unwillingness for sovereign states to adequately respond to them.” The result is to suggest ways in which these private entities might be used “as a tool to mitigate them.” (3)

Each essay is authored by someone eminently qualified to speak on the subject. The contributors include academicians, maritime security analysts, and security professionals.  This collection is divided into five parts and sixteen chapters:

Part I. The historical and contemporary market in maritime private security services

1. Editors’ introduction: the emergence of maritime private security by Claude G. Berube and Patrick Cullen

2. The United States’ use of maritime private security from the War of Independence to the 21st century by James Jay Carafano

3. Surveying the market in maritime private security services by Patrick Cullen

4. Private gunboats on the horizon? Private security and contemporary naval presence by Christopher Spearin

Part II. The emergence of private anti-piracy escorts in the commercial sector

5. Commercial anti-piracy escorts in the Malacca Strait by Carolin Liss

6. Private security at sea: a customer’s perspective by Gordon Evans Van Hook

7. Anti-piracy escorts in the Gulf of Aden: problems and prospects by Claude G. Berube

8. Legal considerations for private naval company armed anti-piracy escorts by Mark Tempest

Part III. The privatization of Coast Guard services

9. Privatized maritime security governance in war-torn Sierra Leone by Patrick Cullen

10. Private security, maritime protection and surveillance in Somaliland by Stig Hansen

11. Private security fighting pirates and illegal fishing in Puntland by Christopher Kinsey

12. Securing the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Guinea by Roger Hawkes

Part IV. Private security responses to maritime terrorism

13. Maritime terrorism: scope, dimensions and potential threat contingencies by Peter Chalk

14. Commercial risk consulting and management in the maritime sector by Elke Krahmann

15. Integrating private security into port security in a post-9/11 environment by Bill DeWitt

16. Maritime eco-extremism reconsidered: understanding fourth generation eco-warriors in the modern media age by Brendon J. Mills and Howard R. Ernst

Part V. Conclusions and future directions
 
The hope is that “our readers will emerge with a new appreciation and a broad understanding of the shape and significance of this emergent maritime subsector of the private security industry, and its relationship to the waterborne risks of the twenty-first century.” (11)

The essays are easy to comprehend, but include succinct summaries of the salient points readers need to quickly grasp the content. The print and online resources contained in the chapter notes, which appear at the end of each chapter, provide readers with additional avenues to explore. Several figures and tables are included in two of the essays. The editors conclude this volume with a lengthy bibliography and an index.

The majority of content has specific relevance to students of maritime piracy today. Carafano’s historical recap of the use of private security (privateers) in defense of our nation is particularly compelling. Chalk’s comparison between terrorism and piracy is equally gripping. The title of this forty-eighth volume in the case series “Naval Policy and History” might make Maritime Private Security seem dry and pedantic. It is actually quite engrossing. It is a must read for anyone interested in how today’s world economy and society influence combating piracy and maritime terrorism now and in the future.
 
Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top

Knights of the Sea
Cover Art: Knights of the Sea
Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812
David Hanna
NAL Caliber, 2012, ISBN 978-0-451-23562-6, $25.95
Also available as an e-book

On 5 September 1813, two enemy brigs – HM Boxer and the USS Enterprise – engaged off the Maine coast near Pemaquid Point. The ensuing battle lasted forty minutes and claimed the lives of both captains. Samuel Blyth of Portsmouth was cut in half, while William Burrows of Philadelphia was shot in the groin. Afterward, the residents of Portland, Maine honored both men in a joint funeral.

What makes this particular engagement unique is that it is the only one between naval vessels during the War of 1812 that was viewed from land. Knights of the Sea examines this battle and why those involved risked “drowning, burns, dismemberment, and death in exchanges of broadsides or hand-to-hand combat.” (2) Hanna attempts to “place all of the events, rich in pathos, in a larger transatlantic sociopolitical context.” (4) In doing so, he tells the story of the commanders and where they hailed from, the British and American navies, and what caused the War of 1812.

The book opens with that fateful day, and then steps back in time to explore Blyth’s hometown and family. He was born the year the American colonies won their independence into a seafaring family. He followed in the steps of his grandfather, father, and uncle and joined the Royal Navy. The chapter on Philadelphia contrasts the differences between the two port cities, as well as the Burrows family. Whereas Samuel Blyth was the first of his family to enter the ranks of gentlemen officers, William Burrows was born into privilege and an influential family with its feet firmly planted on the land. In doing so, Hanna vividly brings to life these two places as they were at the time these men were growing up.

Subsequent chapters discuss: a) the Royal Navy, the Boxer, and Blyth’s rise through the ranks to eventually command her; b) the Enterprise, Burrows’ education as a midshipman and the obstacles he had to overcome to gain a command; c) the war, how it came to pass from both the British and the American perspectives, the role American privateers played in the conflict, and its legacy; d) the war at sea and some of the engagements between the two navies; e) the home front, including Americans supplying the enemy; f) a closer examination of the actual battle between the two ships; g) the officers who fought and died, and the code by which they lived, which the author likens to that of medieval knights; and h) a visit in 2007 to the cemetery where Blyth and Burrows were buried and what happened to various people with ties to these two men.

Occasionally, Hanna draws comparisons between happenings then and more recent events. He incorporates contemporary quotations to provide readers with a better feel for the time, place, and events. The book also includes black-and-white portraits, maps, and diagrams, as well as appendices of the courts-martial of the Boxer’s surviving officers and William Harper, who was on board the Enterprise, a selected bibliography, end notes, and an index.

Knights of the Sea is a well-written account of a battle that is often overlooked in accounts of the naval War of 1812. Hanna grounds the reader with sufficient background to explain who, what, when, where, and why. At times, he seems to diverge from the main story, but he usually has a good reason for doing so.

Read "The Sea Fight that Inspired a Longfellow Poem"

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Iron Coffin
Cover Art: Iron Coffin
Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor
David A. Mindell
Johns Hopkins University, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4214-0520-9, $23.00
 
Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide, by blowing up the world. – Henry Adams*

On 9 March 1862, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia engaged in a battle at Hampton Roads that lasted almost four hours. It was the first time that two ironclad ships fought each other, and afterward “[t]he press, the public, and the Union leadership hailed the Monitor’s performance not only as a military victory but also as a victory for new machinery, spelling the end of the ‘wooden walls’ of the traditional navies of the world and the rise of superior steam-powered, armored fleets.” (1) Although Mindell does recount the battle in one chapter, this book goes far beyond that because the Monitor was more than simply a new type of ship. To completely tell her story, he delves into “the histories of expertise, experience, and representation that created it.” (3) In doing so, he reexamines technical developments in the navy during the 1800s, and then links those changes to how people view technology and war.

Introduction: A Strange Sort of Warfare
Chapter 1: Revising the Revolution, 1815-1861
Chapter 2: Building a Ship, Speaking Success
Chapter 3: William Keeler’s Epistolary Monitor
Chapter 4: Life in the Artificial World
Chapter 5: The Battle of Hampton Roads
Chapter 6: Iron Ship in a Glass Case, April-September 1862
Chapter 7: Utilitarians View the Monitor’s Fight, 1862-1865
Chapter 8: Melville and the Mechanic’s War
Conclusion: Mechanical Faces of Battle
Epilogue

First written in 2000, this re-issuance provides updated information, including the discovery and archaeological excavations of the Monitor. Mindell, who has visited the wreck site, enhances the reader’s experience with a variety of illustrations that include photographs of the men who crewed the ironclad. Chapter notes, a bibliographical essay, and an index are found at the end of the book.

I don’t usually review books covering the American Civil War or later unless they don’t concern wooden sailing ships. When this volume arrived, however, I was intrigued since I have been to the USS Monitor Center at The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Iron Coffin is a fascinating examination of technology and its impact on society, the navy, and the people directly involved with the creation and manning of this ironclad. Mindell engages the reader and forces him/her to examine not only the introduction of technology then, but even today. He keenly points out how fighting in an ironclad differed from a battle between two wooden ships, and how those who participated in the fight had to realign their understanding of what constituted a hero, because the only man who actually saw the enemy was the captain. The author also stresses that this vessel wasn’t just a warship built to fulfill a naval contract. She “had to convey the strength of American industry and ingenuity . . . [and] represent the industrial power of the Union, against which innovations and barricades would be futile.” (31)
 
What make Iron Coffin particularly compelling are the contemporary accounts found throughout the book. These include writings from John Ericsson (the engineer who designed the Monitor), William Keeler (paymaster aboard the ironclad), and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville (authors who wrote about technology and war). In doing so, Mindell takes us back in time so we become “witnesses” to the events surrounding the Union Navy’s most famous ironclad.
 
*Adams was the private secretary to the American ambassador to Britain during the Civil War and he wrote these words while in London. The full quote appears on page two of this book.

View pictures from the USS Monitor Center
Visit the author

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
Cover Art: The Social History of English Seamen,
          1485-1649
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
Edited by Cheryl A. Fury
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-8438-3689-6, $115.00 / £65.00

This collection of essays, written by eminently qualified historians and an osteoarchaeologist, focuses on English mariners during the Tudor-Stuart era. Specifically, each of the ten contributions examines what is known about seamen, rather than officers, who sailed with the navy, the merchant marine, privateers, and pirates. The authors also share their conclusions on what can be inferred from this knowledge, and provide insight into where further research needs to be done. Fury, in her introduction to the book, explains the difficulties researchers encounter when delving into the mysteries surrounding those who sailed before the mast and what primary documents are available for study.

“The English Maritime Community, 1500-1650”, by David Loades, provides an overview of seamen and the state of seafaring during this time to ground the reader for what follows. Among the topics he addresses are merchant guilds, shipbuilding, dockyards and storage facilities, training, where ships sailed, discipline, piracy, war, recruitment practices, smuggling, and public policy.

In chapter two, Fury summarizes “The Work of G. V. Scammell”, who died during the planning stage of this book. She liberally incorporates quotations from his many works while refraining from instilling her own research and conclusions into this composite of his work. Her hope is to whet readers’ appetites to delve more fully into Scammell’s research on the merchant service, an area often ignored in favor of the navy. Other topics touched upon are war, shipowning and seamanship, the crew as pertains to “the emergence of an officer class”, provisioning, and mutiny.

One particularly interesting chapter is Ann Stirland’s “The Men of the Mary Rose.” She explains what information has been gleaned from studying the bones of seamen who died when this warship sank in 1545.

J. D. Alsop’s “Tudor Merchant Seafarers in the Early Guinea Trade” provides insights into the socio-economics of England’s commerce with West Africa. Subdivided into eight parts, he looks at the voyages between 1553 and 1565, the available source materials, will-making at sea, ships’ companies, seamen and traders, shipboard economy, shipboard society, and relations between the crew and the investors who financed the voyages.

“The Elizabethan Maritime Community” is Fury’s second contribution to this book. She concentrates on the sailors first at sea, and then on land before analyzing what the two worlds tells us about seamen during this period. Afterward she examines how war affected the maritime community.

Vincent V. Patarino, Jr.’s contribution focuses on “The Religious Shipboard Culture of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century English Sailors.” This essay brings together superstition, folklore, and the shift from Catholicism to Protestant practices and beliefs.

Fury returns again with “Health and Health Care at Sea,” an important topic since thousands of men died from illnesses, rather than from injuries suffered in the course of their work or during times of war. She discusses their diet, solutions to complaints about the provisions, victuals served on naval ships, techniques the Crown tried to remedy problems with navy food, sickness and death at sea, prevalent diseases and attempts to prevent and contain them, other hazards encountered during voyages, health care provisions, and nursing.

In “The Relief of English Disabled Ex-Sailors, c. 1590-1680,” Geoffrey L. Hudson discusses national (the Chatham Chest) and county (Devon) systems that were founded to care for ex-seaman, including the disabled.

The editor’s final contribution is “Seamen’s Wives and Widows” and the challenges they faced during the long periods in which their husbands were at sea or failed to return from a voyage. The subsection on problems includes women who were estranged at the time of their husbands’ departures. Fury also examines how women coped with these challenges.

Pirates and privateers appear in many of the essays, although they are the primary focus only in John C. Appleby’s “Jacobean Piracy: English Maritime Depredation in Transition, 1603-1625.” He opens by summarizing the background that led to the flourishing of piracy during this time period and where the pirates sailed. From there, he examines such villainy in the British Isles and the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean before a discussion on pirate culture. Readers familiar with later periods of piracy will be intrigued by some of the practices mentioned here, which are similar or forerunners to those used during the era of the Buccaneers and the Golden Age of Piracy. He concludes with a summary of the decline of piracy in this time period. Among the pirates whom Appleby uses to illustrate his points are John Ward, Peter Easton, and Henry Mainwaring.

For all the chapters, citations appear on the same page as the footnote. This makes it easy to see additional information the author has included or simply the source from which the material comes. There are illustrations, tables, a detailed bibliography, and an index.

This volume is an important contribution to maritime studies, not just because it focuses on a less studied period in maritime history, but also because it features the average seamen and highlights what we’ve learned in spite of the limited resources. It also provides readers with areas where further research is necessary if we are to complete this picture of those men who chose to work at sea, rather than on land.

Read an excerpt
 
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Cover Art: Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Edited by Richard Gorski
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-701-5, $90.00 / £50.00

This volume focuses on the historiography of England during the fourteenth century, while exploring the connections between maritime trade and war. The essays’ primary perspectives are from the land and the authors demonstrate how people of this time period used the sea. The entities involved include “the crown, the government, the merchant guild, the counting house and the port community” and the essayists use the medieval documentary evidence from these. (8)

“Roles of the Sea: Views from the Shore,” by Richard Gorski, serves as an overview to the times, the resources, and what each contributor discusses.

Significant changes in shipbuilding occurred between 500 and 1500, and this is what Richard W. Unger examines in “Changes in Ship Design and Construction: England in the European Mould.” He discusses the influence of economics in designing and building, inventions and innovations in technological developments, and other facets that led to better ships.

The Cinque Ports were coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. Susan Rose examines “The Value of the Cinque Ports to the Crown 1200-1500” in her essay. She discusses terms of service, resources and how these were deployed, feuds and violence within and between the ports, and the decline of the Cinque Ports.

Craig Lambert analyzes how the Cinque Ports contributed naval resources to the wars with Scotland and France from 1322 to 1360 in “The Contribution of the Cinque Ports to the Wars of Edward II and Edward III: New Methodologies and Estimates.” He looks at how fleets were raised and the frequency of their service, as well as “the numbers of unique ships” that the Ports supplied.
 
“Keeping the Seas: England’s Admirals, 1369-1389,” written by David Simpkin, investigates the men who held the highest naval rank, “their powers, duties and activities” to assess how significant they were during a period of intensive military campaigning that involved naval ships. (80)

Tony K. Moore considers “The Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Fourteenth-Century Naval Campaign: Margate/Cadzand, 1387” – one of the few English victories during the 1300s. After a brief overview of the battle, he compares “known expenses . . . against the estimated values of the prizes taken.” (104)

Of particular interest to readers is “Piracy and Anglo-Hanseatic Relations, 1385-1420” by Marcus Pitcaithly. He explores Anglo-Hanseatic relations, the upsurge in piracy, the Vitalienbrüder, pretexts for trading with the enemy under Henry IV, and politics related to piracy and trade.

Tim Bowley’s “‘Herring of Sligo and Salmon of Bann’: Bristol’s Maritime Trade with Ireland in the Fifteenth Century” delves into the trade between these two places and how unique it was when compared to Bristol’s trade with other European countries; Bristol’s merchant community; and what this exchange tells us about the ships’ home ports. The principal commodities discussed include pottery, building stones, cloth, clothing, furs, and fish.

The time frame of the final essay, “How Much did the Sea Matter in Medieval England (c.1200-c.1500)?” by Ian Friel, extends from when King John lost Normandy in 1204 to the beginning of regular voyages transoceanic voyages. He attempts to answer two questions: “In the centuries between, was the sea quite so important to the country?” and “What happened with England and the sea during the period in between?” (168) To achieve those aims he looks at towns, ports, trade, daily life for upper and lower classes as it pertains to the sea, the impact of war and defense, government, peoples’ awareness of the sea.

The contributors to this volume are historians, professors, and a museum consultant, all of whom specialize in studies of the maritime world during the Middle Ages. A couple of maps, several tables, and an index accompany the text. Footnotes appear within each essay, providing sources and additional information.

For those interested in England during the Middle Ages and how its citizens used and viewed the sea, this is an important resource. Readers having some knowledge of the time period and maritime-related history will find Roles of the Sea in Medieval England more useful than those lacking such knowledge, as the writers don’t always explain basic information, such as what the Cinque Ports were.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
 Return to Top

The Naval Mutinies of 1797
Cover Art: The Naval Mutinies of 1797
The Naval Mutinies of 1797: Unity and Perseverance
Edited by Ann Veronica Coats and Philip MacDougall
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-669-8, $99.00 / £65.00

Nearly a century ago, Conrad Gill wrote a definitive study, entitled The Naval Mutinies of 1797, about the mutinies in the British Royal Navy that occurred principally at Spithead and Nore*. This current volume, which has the same title, is meant “to complement his scholarship and re-examine some of his conclusions.” (xi) In the process of examining these mutinies, some authors also look at how they inspired later ones. One thing inspiration for this volume is the “need for new research into the empirical detail and interpretation of these mutinies”. (xiii) That information is assembled and compared here. Each chapter includes period documents such as “court martial papers, muster books, petitions, logbooks, subsequent remarks of naval officers, writings from the lower deck and witnesses.” (xiii)

When the crews of the Channel Fleet mutinied in February 1797 at Spithead, they stunned England because naval personnel had never protested on such a large scale. The mutinies eventually involved more than one hundred vessels in five different anchorages, but their actions were later repeated by sailors in the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. Their grievances included poor pay**, a more equitable sharing of prize money, better provisions, assistance to injured and retired seamen, and the removal of bad officers. The seamen did attempt more traditional methods of having these problems addressed, but when those failed, they refused to heed the command to put to sea. Although those involved in the Spithead mutiny gained concessions from the Admiralty and Parliament, the outcome of the Nore mutiny was far different than that of Spithead.

The sixteen essays in the book and their authors are listed below:
  • Spithead Mutiny: Introduction, The Delegates: A Radical Tradition, The 1797 Mutinies in the Channel Fleet: A Foreign-Inspired Revolutionary Movement?, and ‘Launched into Eternity’: Admiralty Retribution or the Restoration of Discipline? by Ann Veronica Coats
  • What Really Happened on Board HMS London? and The Spirit of Kempenfeldt by Daniel W. London
  • Voices from the Lower Deck: Petitions on the Conduct of Naval Officers during the 1797 Mutinies by Kathrin Orth
  • Crew Management and Mutiny: The Case of Minerve, 1796-1802 by Roger Moriss
  • The Nore Mutiny: Introduction, The East Coast Mutinies: May-June 1797, and ‘We went out with Admiral Duncan, we came back without him’: Mutiny and the North Sea Squadron by Philip MacDougall
  • A Floating Republic? Conspiracy Theory and the Nore Mutiny of 1797 by Christopher Doorne
  • Lower Deck Life in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Brian Lavery
  • Discipline, Desertion and Death: HMS Trent 1796-1803 by Nick Slope
  • The Influence of 1797 upon the Nereide Mutiny of 1809 by Jonathan Neale
The Naval Mutinies of 1797 also includes brief paragraphs about the contributors’ qualifications, illustrations and tables, a select bibliography, and an index. Footnotes appear on the pages where the citation occurs, rather than at the end of the book, making it far easier to refer from one to the other.

Whereas many naval histories examine events from officers’ perspectives, this volume stresses perceptions from those who served on the lower decks. The authors also re-examine and clarify exactly what mutiny meant and how it could work legally within the framework of the Royal Navy. They clearly demonstrate that the participants followed the Rules and Orders and never intended to either cause a total overthrow or endanger national safety. They mutinied because they had no alternatives left. Anyone who reads about the history of the British navy encounters references to the Spithead and Nore mutinies, but the information provided is normally general in nature and of short duration. This volume delves into all aspects of the mutinies, from a variety of perspectives, and answers a host of questions while proposing new avenues for research or where further study is needed. The Naval Mutinies of 1797 is recommended for any student of the Royal Navy and for libraries with a particular interest in naval history.

*Spithead and Nore are sites where naval ships anchored. The former lies between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Nore is located near Kent.

**At the time of the mutinies, seamen’s pay had not been raised since King Charles II’s reign in the previous century.

 Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Samuel Smedley
Cover Art: Samuel Smedley
Samuel Smedley: Connecticut Privateer
Jackson Kuhl
History Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-60949-228-1, $19.99

In 1778 Britain and her American colonies were at war when Captain Dike of the Cyrus, a British merchant vessel, spotted two ships sailing toward him and another vessel he sailed with named Admiral Keppel. They were bound for St. Kitts and Jamaica, laden with cargo and passengers. Both British vessels carried letters of marque, which permitted them to attack enemy ships even though their primary task was trade. Dike hoisted a French flag to trick the Americans into assuming he was a friend, but the ploy failed. The night before the two American ships had wined and dined a French captain, who warned them of the British vessels.

Dike’s initial volley missed the Defence, while the Oliver Cromwell pursued the Admiral Keppel. Instead of firing, the Defence sailed ahead of the Cyrus, whose second round of shot also missed. This time, Defence returned fire and one gunner’s aim splintered the enemy’s rudder wheel so that her helmsman could no longer control her. A second broadside did further damage and with thirty-five crewmen dead, Dike surrendered to Defence’s captain, Samuel Smedley. This privateer was a bold and daring captain who first boarded his vessel three years earlier as a lieutenant of the marines. “Over his career, he would capture or aid in capturing more than a dozen prizes, survive shipwreck, battle Loyalists off the shores of his hometown, twice captain privateers and twice be captured by the British, escape the infamous Mill Prison in England and sail victoriously, at war’s end, back to the newly independent country he so strenuously loved.” (16)

The book includes an abundance of maps, illustrations, and photographs. At the conclusion of the main text are chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index.

The author begins his narrative with an absorbing account of the battle between the Cyrus and the Defence. Then just before the latter cripples the former, he steps out of the past to compare the firing of the guns to the cruising speed of a 747, which destroys the impact of the scene. Kuhl sufficiently grounds the reader in the time and place: Fairfield, Connecticut during the American Revolution. While this is an interesting account of one privateer, the known information on Samuel Smedley fills at most two of the chapters. The remaining text focuses on Connecticut and its role in the struggle for freedom. Readers meet a variety of people, some more famous than others, but each played a part in the defense of this state and crossed paths with Smedley.

Kuhl does, at times, cite unique trivia about the way the colonies were organized and worked. He also clearly explains the differences between the Continental navy and Connecticut’s navy, particularly as regards the division of prizes, which often greatly impacted the latter’s ability to crew vessels. Another intriguing action of Smedley’s is his decision to inoculate his crew against smallpox.

Read an excerpt
Visit the author

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Utmost Gallantry
Cover Art: Utmost Gallantry
Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies at Sea in the War of 1812
Kevin D. McCranie
Naval Institute Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59114-504-2, $24.95

When discussing war, there are always at least two perspectives from which to view the conflict. For the United States, the War of 1812 was an affair of honor “against the most powerful navy in the world”. (xi) The British had a totally different perspective, because they waged a war against a greater threat – Napoleon Bonaparte – and the American navy was “a threat to the sea-lines of communication that were essential for the well-being of its economy and its empire.” (xi)
 
According to McCranie, other volumes written on the naval War of 1812 overemphasize the first six months of encounters, neglect to connect “the ship-on-ship battles to a broader understanding of the war; fail to fully use archival and primary material from British resources; and rely too much on secondary resources that include errors or twist the perspectives of both countries.” (xi) His intent with this volume is to provide a more balanced examination of the naval war using a variety of primary documents from archives in both countries. He also narrows the book’s focus to omit naval confrontations and activities on the Great Lakes, as well as the privateers’ contributions to the war effort. Utmost Gallantry confines itself to those confrontations that occurred on the high seas between the American and British navies.
 
The book is divided into the following fourteen chapters:

Chapter 1: “Every Appearance of Hastening the Crisis”: The Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and the Background to the War

Chapter 2: “’A Little Bit of Dust’ With an English Frigate”: The Opening Naval Campaign, June to September 1812

Chapter 3: “It Is a Thing I Could Not Have Expected”:  The Second Round, September 1812-March 1813

Chapter 4: “If We Could Take One or Two of These D—d Frigates”: Reassessment of Britain’s Naval Objectives, 1812-13

Chapter 5: “Cast Away .  . . or Taken”: American Naval Failure and Reassessment, June 1812-Early 1813

Chapter 6: “Creating a Powerful Diversion”: Secretary Jones and the Naval Campaign of 1813

Chapter 7: “A Glorious Retrieval of Our Naval Reputation”: The Turning Point, 1 June 1813

Chapter 8: “More Than Ordinary Risk”: United States Frigates, Winter 1813-14

Chapter 9: “Pursuing My Own Course”: The Essex in the Pacific, 1813-14

Chapter 10: “Some Hard Knocks”: Reassessment – The United States, September 1813-March 1814

Chapter 11: “Into Abler Hands”: Britain Turns to New Leadership, 1814

Chapter 12: “Repulsed in Every Attempt”: The Culmination of the Jones’ Small Cruiser Strategy, mid-1814

Chapter 13: “The Current Demands of the Service”: An Appraisal of British Naval Operations, 1813-14

Epilogue: “A Wreath of Laurels . . . a Crown of Thorns”: The Last Naval Campaign, 1815

The material presented is augmented with numerous images, maps, tables, and diagrams. At the conclusion of the narrative are an extensive section of chapter notes, a glossary of nautical terms, a bibliography, and an index.

McCranie provides a comprehensive appraisal of events, tactics, and strategies that the two navies utilized during the War of 1812. As promised in the preface, he stays true to the narrow focus of the conflict while providing sufficient information and details for the reader to fully understand what happened and why. The presentation is thorough, well balanced, and well organized, but it lacks what today might be called the “wow factor”. Unlike other recent works on the naval war, this one is geared toward serious students of this conflict and is a valuable asset to historians because of its impartial and well-researched analysis.

NWC Professor Writes Book on the War of 1812

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Cover Art: Murder
          & Mayhem in Essex County
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
By Robert Wilhelm
The History Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-60949-400-1, $19.99

The stories in this book all take place in Essex County, Massachusetts. They are a mix of truth and legend, but the author allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusion about each one. Wilhelm presents this collection in a chronological sequence, from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to 1900. The introduction sets the scene and provides historical background the general reader might not know. Each chapter includes black-and-white photographs of people, artifacts, and places pertaining to the subject matter.

The murders discussed within these pages include Mary Sholy (1636), John Hoddy (1637), Ruth Ames (1769), Captain Charles Furbush (1795), Captain Joseph White (1830), Charles Gilman (1877), Albert Swan (1885), Carrie Andrews (1894), John Gallo (1897), and George Bailey (1900). The culprits are both male and female, from a variety of backgrounds, and the victims range in age from children to adults. The mayhem includes accounts of witches, Indian captives, arson, and pirates (Thomas Veal, John Philips, and Rachel Wall).

If more than one version of the crime exists, Wilhelm provides all of them. If a primary document exists, the author incorporates it into the telling. All the chapters are fascinating, but the one most pertinent to us concerns the pirates of Essex County. I was familiar with John Philips and Rachel Wall, but Thomas Veal was new to me, and I particularly liked this chapter because these aren’t rogues that appear often in other volumes.

The only drawback concerns a handful of illustrations that don’t fit the mood instilled by this collection of slaughter and villainy. They are too comic-like and detract from the gritty, historical feel that the crimes engender. In spite of this objection, readers interested in murder, mayhem, and true crime will enjoy this journey to the dark side.

Visit the book's website


Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top 

Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
Cover Art:
          Historical Dictionary of the US Maritime Industry
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
By Kenneth J. Blume
Scarecrow Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8105-5634-9, US$99.00 / £59.95
eBook ISBN 978-0-8108-7963-8, US$94.99 / £59.95

This latest addition to the Historical Dictionaries of Professions and Industries series concerns maritime industry in the United States from 1776 through 2010.  Contained in a single volume and arranged alphabetically, the entries cover a wide variety of topics:  
  • Coastal and International Shipping
  • Evolving Ship Technologies
  • Famous Ships
  • Governmental Policies
  • Inland Waterways
  • Labor
  • Leading Entrepreneurs
  • Partnerships and Corporations
  • Shipbuilding
  • Trade
The book opens with an explanation as to what a historical dictionary is and why it’s an essential reference tool, or as the text says, “the perfect starting point for anyone looking to research in these fields.” Jon Woronoff, the series editor, provides the rationale behind a work that strictly focuses on the merchant maritime industry.
 
Aside from 512 pages of entries, the book includes a list of acronyms and abbreviations, a chronology of events from 1620 through 2010, four appendices, and a bibliography with a narrative introduction followed by resource listings by subject. Before the individual topics, Blume provides an introduction that contains an overview of U.S. maritime history, a discussion on the industry’s cyclical and volatile nature, and a concise summary of technological developments.
 
Even if a reader merely skims the entries, he/she quickly comes to understand that the maritime industry is far greater than just ships and shipbuilding, and that it frequently involves governmental interaction. Entry length varies from a single paragraph to two pages. Occasionally, black-and-white illustrations accompany the text. Some entries include bold-face words to alert the reader to topics on these items. See and see also references are also included where appropriate.
 
Perhaps most surprising is discovering what subjects are covered and which ones are not. This stems from the author’s intention to narrow down a vast topic so that entries pertain only to merchant maritime industries, rather than including entries concerning private entities during times of war. There are some entries concerning the industry prior to 1815. Readers more interested in the Age of Sail period may be disappointed to find that the preponderance of material addresses subjects from 1815 onward.
 
Those seeking explanations about different kinds of ships or for brief overviews of specific ships will be better off consulting other volumes. The former is rarely included, while the later focuses only on very famous ships.
 
Piracy, Privateering, and Smuggling have separate entries, but anyone needing/wanting in-depth information must look elsewhere. Few of the titles in the bibliography, however, will help in this regard. Jean Laffite is included, but there’s no consistency to the spelling of his surname. Noticeably missing from his entry is any mention of his participation in the Battle of New Orleans, but he is mentioned in the Galveston, Texas entry. The only named pirates in Piracy are William Kidd and Blackbeard, although this entry does touch on Barbary pirates, river pirates, privateering, and modern-day pirates. Privateering, on the other hand, is just a single paragraph with two See also references: one to Joseph Ropes, a privateer in the War of 1812; the other to Piracy.
 
Overall, this is an important addition to any reference collection on maritime trade and the historical and technological developments of this industry in the United States.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top
 
How Britain Won the War of 1812
Cover Art: How
            Britain Won the War of 1812
How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy’s Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815
By Brian Arthur
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-665-0, US$99.00 / CAN $102.93 / £60

For most Americans, this title might seem odd since we’re taught to believe we won the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, actually signaled a return to the status quo before President Madison declared war. Historians on both sides of the Atlantic have tended to ignore this conflict, but with the beginning of its bicentennial, they turn from the greater conflicts of the period to examine this one. Arthur puts forth the hypothesis that Britain actually won because of the success of its naval blockade.
 
The War of 1812 threatened Canada, the economy of British colonies in the West Indies, and the health and welfare of the fledgling United States. Although Arthur includes key military campaigns and the progress of the war from the perspective of those who fought it, his main purpose is to show the devastating effect the Royal Navy’s blockade system – perfected against Napoleonic France – had on the American economy and government. He also highlights how the differences in the two countries’ fiscal systems greatly impacted the war’s outcome, as well as the strengths and weaknesses in implementing blockades and convoys.
 
Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, pens the foreword. Seven chapters cover Convoys and Blockades, War at a Distance, From Business Partners to Enemies, The United States Blockaded, Blockades and Blunders, Trade and War, Capital and Credit. The final chapter presents the author’s conclusions. Supplemental materials include illustrations, tables, two appendices, chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index.
 
Although occasional reference is made to privateers and the author clearly recognizes and discusses the role of the United States Navy, this is a study of the effectiveness of the Royal Navy. In the introduction, Arthur elucidates the purpose for writing this book:
 
. . . to investigate the link between the British maritime blockades of the United States, their fiscal, financial, economic and political consequences, and the subsequent preparedness of the American administration to end the war of 1812 on terms significantly favourable to Britain in the long run: a task not before undertaken at such depth.
 
He skillfully and competently argues this premise, demonstrating that while the grinding down of one side’s economy is a long and drawn-out method of waging war, it can also be quite successful. By incorporating an overview of how economic warfare evolved, the various facets impacting the potential for war and the actual conflict, and the practical problems and solutions for implementing a blockade, he provides a well-rounded examination from a fresh perspective. Readers will find themselves rethinking what they know of this period in American history. The price of this volume is a bit daunting, but this scholarly and objective work provides vital research material to those who study this Anglo-American war.

Read an Excerpt 
 
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top
 
Warships of the Napoleonic Era
Cover Art:
            Warships of the Napoleonic Era
Warships of the Napoleonic Era: Design, Development and Deployment
By Robert Gardiner
Seaforth, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84832-108-3, US$74.95 / £45.00

Warships of the Napoleonic Era is a compilation of draughts (drafts), ship models, paintings, and contemporary prints that showcase the design and development of various warships. The author examines these vessels from a general perspective so readers can readily compare the basic characteristics of each type of vessel found in various navies during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The introduction summarizes how warships of this time period were classified and described. As the title implies, Gardiner looks primarily at Great Britain’s Royal Navy, but also discusses the navies of France, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Portugal, Sweden, and the United States.
 
He opens with a look at the First Rate warships, those that were the largest, most expensive, and the pride of the navy. Subsequent chapters examine Second Rates, 80-gun ships, 74-gun ships, 64-gun ships, 50-gun ships, frigates, sloops of war, gunboats and gunbrigs, cutters and schooners, bomb vessels and fireships, and service craft. He discusses not only their design and construction, but also how they were utilized in battle and/or their roles during the war, and their drawbacks and advantages. Some mention is also made of vessels particularly suited to privateering.
 
Aside from the many draughts and models throughout the book, the reader will also find tables that compare various aspects of ships in a particular class or how many were in service during different years from 1793 to 1815. Special multiple-page spreads focus on specific aspects in more depth: Speed and Length, Quality versus Quantity, Experiments and Innovation, The Invasion Threat, Great Lakes Warships, and The Boulogne Flotilla. The book also includes a section of Sources and Notes and an index (although users may require a magnifying glass because of the small print). The final page contains a divided model that shows the difference in the stern of a three-decker before and after Robert Sepping introduced the “trussed frame” to provide existing warships with greater structural strength.
 
This beautifully illustrated volume was originally published in 1999. Although the narrative remains basically the same, with some revision based on a decade of further study, it is these illustrations that make Warships of the Napoleonic Era a worthwhile purchase for any naval historian during the Age of Sail or maritime libraries. In this edition the page size has been expanded and many images are reproduced in color, rather than the original edition’s black-and-white renderings. This is a wonderful examination of the fighting ships that navigated the seas between 1793 and 1815, and the narrative and captions provide an ocean-full of interesting facts and details to complement the outstanding illustrations selected for the book.


View Sample Pages
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Treasure Island
Cover Art:
            Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
By John Amrhein, Jr.
New Maritime Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9830843-0-3, US$32.95

Rather than a search for buried gold, this is a search for a different treasure – the history that provided the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. In 1750, on the coast of North America, a hurricane damaged or wrecked the ships in a Spanish convoy bound for Spain laden with treasure. The captain of one vessel, Juan Manuel Bonilla, enlisted the aid of two Englishmen, Owen Lloyd and his brother, John, to transport these riches from the damaged galleon to a vessel headed for the West Indies. Owen, a charismatic man, persuaded the American crew to appropriate the transferred money after leaving Ocracoke, where the galleon sought shelter after the storm. In doing so, they became pirates and eventually buried their treasure on an uninhabited Caribbean island.
 
Divided into two parts, the first section of the book relates the story of the Lloyds, Bonilla, and how their paths eventually cross in North Carolinian waters. The account begins in 1746 and details Owen and John’s lives and families. Owen’s tendency to embellish tales and his ability to sway men to his side will eventually lead to his downfall, but at this time he’s a successful sea captain with a wife who is the sister of a prominent citizen on St. Kitts. John, on the other hand, envies his younger’s brother’s successes and has trouble because of the loss of one leg during a naval battle with Spain.
 
Four years later, Bonilla hopes to return to Spain aboard the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe with a cargo that will increase his wealth and return a good profit for his mother-in-law and her influential friends who invested in the voyage. Then the hurricane strikes, and while the Guadalupe survives the storm, she’s badly damaged.
 
The Lloyds, however, aren’t the only ones interested in the treasure. The Bankers, who live in the remote marshes of Ocracoke, often plunder shipwrecks. Other English seamen, such as William Blackstock, also seek their fair share of the treasure. So does Bonilla’s own crew. Then there are the various government officials and lawyers who find ways to also profit from Bonilla’s circumstances.
 
After presenting all the various participants, Amrhein then relates the events that lead to the actual theft, the burial of treasure worth nearly 250,000 pieces of eight, and the subsequent events that lead to the capture of these pirates. While it’s interesting to follow the hunt for the stolen cargo and the pursuit of Lloyd and the others, the recounting becomes confusing at times because of the numerous names that enter into the story. Painstakingly researched, the author clearly demonstrates how greed and old grudges against enemies-turned-friends play a significant role in the outcome of the recovery effort and the pursuit of justice.
 
The second half of the book delves into the author’s search for Owen Lloyd and the stolen treasure. The beginning of this, which reads like a travelogue to some extent, slows the book’s pace, but that quickly picks up again once Armhein delves into Robert Louis Stevenson and the writing of his novel, Treasure Island. This riveting account showcases where he got his ideas, how his family’s history is connected to the stolen treasure, and how the fictional pirate tale becomes the story we know today, which is based (in part) on Lloyd’s burial of treasure in the Caribbean. Equally compelling is the historical path that permits the author to track the real pirates through documentary evidence. This trail takes him from American repositories to those in the Netherlands and the Caribbean, and incorporates the assistance of researchers familiar with the various languages in these foreign archives, as well as a psychic.
 
Black-and-white pictures and maps accompany the text throughout the book. There are also two sections of color photographs, although the first comprises many pictures more suitable to a family album than a history book. The author also includes a detailed bibliography, which lists many primary documents and a variety of libraries. The endnotes follow, but the reader is unaware of their existence until reaching the end of the book, because there are no numbers within the text to indicate an endnote contains additional information. These would have been more beneficial and helpful had the author indicated their existence on the pages in question so readers could consult the endnotes as they read. A lengthy index completes the book.
 
Learn more about the book and view the trailer
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Whale Hunter
Cover Art: Whale
            Hunter
Whale Hunter
By Nelson Cole Haley
Seaforth, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84832-096-3, £12.99 / US $27.95 / CAN $26.37

 
In 1864 Nelson Cole Haley wrote about his life as a whaler aboard the Charles W. Morgan. In 1951 the Travel Book Club published an abridged version of his manuscript, which Seaforth now publishes as part of its Seafarers’ Voices series. The importance of Haley’s account is the door it opens into the heyday of American whaling ships, when seamen sailed as far as the South Pacific to hunt these mammals to bring back their baleen (whale bone) and sperm and whale oil, which were in great demand during the Industrial Age. The voyage recounted here began in 1849 and lasted four years.
 
This New Englander provides a complete record of what his life was like, from the time he signs aboard at the age of seventeen to the time he receives his pay when the ship finally returns home. His unique perspective as a “boat-steerer,” permits him to interact with and have the confidence of both officers and seamen, a rare happenstance on board ships. Among the experiences he shares are the “Crossing the Line” festivities, the chase and kill of the crew’s first whale, visits to exotic shores, encounters with native peoples, and having a whale stove in his boat. While Haley doesn’t provide an account of his later years, Vincent McInerney, the series’ editor, discusses the rest of the whaler’s life in the introduction. He also writes about the Charles W. Morgan, which first set sail in 1841. This National Historic Landmark, berthed at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, is currently undergoing renovations that will make the only surviving wooden whaler seaworthy once again.
 
I’ve had the pleasure of walking the decks of the Charles W. Morgan before the present restoration project. Haley’s account brings to life a whaler’s life and the dangers and hardships such men faced. Of particular interest for me is the story his encounter with someone whose shipmate includes a woman disguised as a seaman and how her secret is discovered. Haley also writes of an encounter with a pirate, natives who attempt to attack the ship with the intention of “beating out our brains,” and the discovery of stowaways.
 
This wonderful and engrossing narration opens the door to a past way of life, one in which the reader can literally step through afterwards with a visit aboard Haley’s ship and a tour through a 19th-century whaling community in Connecticut.

 
Learn more about the Charles W. Morgan

Read news of the restoration’s progress
 
View a video celebrating her 170th birthday

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Cover Art:
            Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea
By James Kraska

Praeger, 2011, ISBN 978-0-313-38724-1, $49.95

In seven chapters, Kraska examines maritime piracy today, focusing on existing laws and evolving strategies the United States Navy employs in dealing with this problem. Chapter 1 covers the history of piracy from ancient times through the early eighteenth century.  Modern piracy in Asian and East African waters is the focus of the second chapter. Chapter 3 looks at the International Maritime Bureau, the International Maritime Organization, and shipboard security. Naval strategy and policy is found in the next chapter, while international law is discussed in the fifth chapter. Subsequent sections concern diplomatic partnerships to curb the problem and the complexities of prosecuting pirates today. Notes follow at the end of each chapter and the appendix includes primary documents relevant to the discussions within the text. There is also an index.
 
Commander Kraska is eminently qualified to write this analysis, having assisted in the development of America’s policy on piracy, particularly as it pertains to the legal and diplomatic sides of the issue. He writes succinctly, covering the essential facts, elaborating where necessary, yet never straying from providing a gripping assessment for readers seeking a well-written perspective on addressing maritime threats or the casual reader who’s looking for a quality overview on the topic. This is an important reference for those seeking information on legal tools and naval strategies to use in the fight against piracy.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
Cover Art:
            Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth
            Century
Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
By Jaap R. Bruijn
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-622-3, $130.00

Written by a leading maritime historian in the Netherlands, Bruijn focuses on one segment of the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) – the commanders who captained the company’s vessels during the 1700s. Divided into two parts, the first segment of the book focuses on these men at home. Each of the six Chambers of the VOC – located in Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Middelburg, Delft, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam – are covered. He also discusses those commanders who came from other places and the naval officers who sometimes sought employment with the Company. The second half of the book concentrates on the commanders at sea. Individual chapters cover their appointments as commander, their training and education, their income, the ships and their lives aboard them, the different personalities present among the commanders, and navigation and other advancements. The final chapter compares the VOC with the English East India Company, France’s Compagnie des Indes, Denmark’s Dansk-Asiatisk Compagnie, and the Swedish Svenska Ostindiska Kompani. The book includes a number of black-and-white illustrations, an extensive bibliography, and two indices (one of Names, one of Ship Names).
 
Although there is a bit of repetition from one chapter to another, the reiteration helps to keep the reader aware of the subject matter so he/she doesn’t forget a vital piece of information. For the most part the English translation of this Dutch book (Schippers van de VOC in de achttiende eeuw aan de wal en op zee, De Bataafsche Leeuw, 2008) is well done, although there are a few spots where the reader may have to read a brief passage more than once to fully understand what’s said. The text is easily read by layman and historian alike, and Bruijn skillfully shows the importance and evolution of the VOC on its commanders and the cities from which they sailed during this time period.
 
The book includes a few references to pirates, particularly those of the Indian Ocean. The author, as if knowing the gems historical novelists search for when researching a topic, provides a wealth of information that will add realism to their stories. The price may be steep for some, but this is an important work that is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of the VOC at its zenith. Those who venture to do so will find a fascinating account of what it was like to be a commander in the Dutch East India Company.


Read an excerpt

 Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

  Return to Top 

Captives and Corsairs
Cover Art: Captives and Corsairs
Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean
By Gillian Weiss
Stanford University, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8047-7000-2, US $65.00
 

For three hundred years, Barbary corsairs preyed on French ships and raided France’s Mediterranean coast. Tens of thousands of people ended up as slaves in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Salé. The only way to escape this servitude was to convert to Islam, die, or buy freedom. Redemption and ransom payments came from several sources in France –victims’ families, local cities, Catholic orders, and the State – beginning in the mid-sixteenth century. Liberating the slaves was seen as an act of Christian charity, but after 1830 it became “a method of state building and, eventually, a rationale for imperial expansion.” (2)
 
France suffered the loss of valuable seamen, merchants, and others, but reclaiming these victims proved problematic because of perceived and real North African “contagions,” such as “plague, sodomy, and Islam.” Repatriation provided the monarchy with a means of acquiring additional territory and citizens, not only from the victims themselves, but from those regions often in conflict with France.
 
This book looks at this problem and the resulting solutions in eight chapters.
  • Mediterranean Slavery
  • Salvation with the State
  • Manumission and Absolute Monarchy
  • Bombarding Barbary
  • Emancipation in an Age of Enlightenment
  • Liberation and Empire from the Revolution to Napoleon
  • North African Servitude in Black and White
  • The Conquest of Algiers
Weiss examines a wide variety of source material: administrative correspondence, religious printings, newspapers, philosophical treatises, novels, plays, paintings, unpublished letters, and slave narratives. In doing so, she challenges accepted standards about the emergence of France as both a nation and a colonial power. The author also examines the evolving definition of what constituted slavery, from forced servitude with no regard to a person’s skin color to one in which color played a key role.
 
The text is well documented with extensive chapter notes and a bibliography in excess of fifty pages. In addition to an index and illustrations throughout the text, appendices detail “Slave Numbers” and “Religious Redemptions and Processions.”
 
Much of our exposure to the Barbary corsairs and their victims comes from accounts written by English and American captives or historians concerned primarily with them. This book is a fresh and stimulating examination of the topic from the perspective of France and its captives. This provides readers with illuminating pieces of information not often mentioned in other works on the subject, such as the processions of returned slaves. Weiss skillfully demonstrates how the nation of France evolved and how the perspectives of French people changed over time.


Read the Introduction
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

 Return to Top

The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History
Cover Art: The Fyddeye
                    Guide to America's Maritime History
The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History
Edited by Joe Follansbee
Fyddeye Media, 2010, ISBN 9780615381534, $24.95
 

In 2009 Follansbee launched a website where visitors could locate basic information about local and national maritime history, as well as news items related to our maritime heritage. The online guide now indexes in excess of 2,000 places. Since some people prefer holding a book in their hands, he decided to publish the guide as a book and this is the result. He warns, though, in the preface that one drawback to doing this is the book lacks the immediacy of the web, so readers should visit the website for updated information about the places and organizations listed.
 
The chapters are divided into ships; shipwrecks; museums; research libraries; lighthouses and lightships; life-saving stations; education; districts (living history sites & maritime festivals); structures and sites; markers and monuments; and organizations. A black-and-white photograph of an artifact opens each chapter, but there are other photographs throughout the book. Divisions within a chapter vary according to what topic is being discussed. Those places open to the public include the hours of operation and whether or not there is an admission fee. Latitude and longitude are also provided for readers with GPS in their vehicles. Several chapters also include brief articles pertaining to the subject.
 
Each listing consists of a one-sentence description, the location and phone number, the website URL, the organization that operates the attraction, and whether it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places or it’s a National Historic Landmark. Also given is the year of establishment or construction. Some entries include a four-pointed star that signifies the attraction is recommended for visiting. 
 
This isn’t the first maritime guide I’ve reviewed for Pirates and Privateers, but The Fyddeye Guide is definitely the most comprehensive one I’ve seen. The introduction explains how to read the listings, but for the most part these are easily figured out. The guide doesn’t relegate itself just to those places on saltwater coasts. Fresh water coastal sites are also included.
 
There is a city index, but no subject index, so you have to either know of a pirate exhibit’s location, such as Providence, Rhode Island for the Whydah museum, or the type of vessel, such as a tall ship, for the Pride of Baltimore to find the actual listing. This is one drawback to the book, but you can search for “pirates” or “Whydah” on the website and find exactly what you need or discover that there’s more information on the subject that’s not in the book.
 
Whenever I read nonfiction, I always peruse the introductory materials because these often contain essential information about the book’s content and why the author, or editor in this case, creates the book. Follansbee concludes his preface with a comment about the fragility of maritime history. He writes:
 
We’d rather spend time and money on the next new thing than on remembering the last new thing. . . . I want Fyddeye to be my small attempt to raise awareness of a heritage that is by-and-large slow[ly] decaying. Perhaps if people understand the breadth and scope of our heritage by presenting it in one place, they might recognize that keeping our history is part of what keeps our country whole.
 
The Fyddeye Guide is a great reference for when you’re planning a vacation or you find yourself in a city and want to know what maritime attractions are located in the area.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
Cover Art: The Best
                    Pirate Stories Ever Told
The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
Edited by Stephen Brennan
Skyhorse, 2011, ISBN 978-1-61608-218-5, US $12.95 / CAN $15.95

 
This new collection includes pirate stories written during the past 400 years. It is divided into four parts: The Histories, The Captains, Pirate Song and Verse, and The Tales. Below is a list of the contents by author, or title if unknown.


The Articles of Pirate Law
Lord Byron The Corsair
Arthur Hunt Chute Passing of the Mogul Mackenzie
Joseph Conrad Captain Brown
James Fenimore Cooper The Malay Proas
Henri de Monfreid & Ida Treat Pirates and Coast-Guards
Daniel Defoe The Daughter of the Great Moghul
Charles Ellms The Danish and Norman Pirates
Authentic History of the Malay Pirates of the Indian Ocean
The Barbarous Conduct and Romantic Death of the Joassamee Chief Rahmah-ben-Jabir
The Adventures and Execution of Captain John Rackham
The Life of Captain Lewis
Anne Bonney and Mary Read
George MacDonald Fraser The Pyrates Attack
Richard Glasspoole The Terrible Landrones
Oscar Herrmann Pirates and Piracy
Archibald Hurd Captain Charles Vane
Captain Gow of the Orkneys

An Indictment for Piracy, 1812
Captain Charles Johnson Mutiny!—Captain Howel Davis and His Crew
The Pirate’s Parody

King’s Evidence against a Pirate

Last Words and Other Pirate Quotations
W. B. Lord The Last of the Sea Rovers
Captain Marryat The Attack
John Masefield The Ways of the Buccaneers
The Buccaneer
The Tarry Buccaneer
Henry Ormerod Piracy in the Ancient World
Lucretia Parker The Female Captive

The Pirate’s Song (two different poems)
Plutarch Caesar and the Pirates
Howard Pyle A True Account of Three Notorious Pirates
With the Buccaneers
Rafael Sabatini Captain Blood
Captain H. C. St. John, RN Cruising after Pirates
Captain Samuel Samuels A Crew of the “Bloody Forties”
John S. Sewall Capture, Sufferings, and Escape of Captain Barnabas Lincoln
William Shakespeare Shakespeare on Pirates

The Song of Captain Kidd
Edward John Trelawny Autobiography
Mark Twain Tom Sawyer, Pirate King
E. H. Visiak The Rivals
The Fleet of Captain Morgan

This is a great collection that introduces readers to pirates around the world, not just the Caribbean. Some tales are often found in similar compilations, but many are rarely included, which makes this a treasure for fans of pirate stories. Although the editor protected each writer’s individual style as his/her story appeared when originally published, the stories remain easy to read.
 
The one drawback is the lack of anecdotal information for each story to set the stage, identify who the writer is, and classify the tale as a true account, fiction, or a combination of the two. This may be obvious to some readers, but to many others perhaps not since a number of the tales fall into the last category. The other missing detail is that some of these are excerpts from larger works. For example, the book includes one episode from Captain Blood, rather than the entire novel. Inclusion of all this information would enrich the book tenfold and satisfy the reader’s curiosity.
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

 
Shipping the Medieval Military
Cover Art:
            Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipping the Medieval Military: English Maritime Logistics in the Fourteenth Century
By Craig L. Lambert
Boydell Press, 2010, ISBN 9780615381534, US$90.00 / £50.00

 
Lambert’s goal in writing this book is to provide a more thorough understanding of the maritime resources available to Kings Edward II and III when they went to war at a time when the Royal Navy as we know it did not exist. He achieves this through a close examination of documents related to the merchant fleet, which supplied the majority of vessels during these conflicts. Lambert also assesses the needs and effectiveness of maritime contributions to the logistical support of the troops that fought on land.
 
Chapter one, Raising the Fleet, covers sources of shipping, requisition orders, the process of requisition, and return passage. The second chapter concerns the years 1320 through 1360 and discusses the supply of armies and garrisons by sea. This includes the logistics and preparations for war, supplying the armies and the naval war in Scotland, the maritime logistics relating to that war, and the supply of English armies in France. The following chapter discusses the transport of the armies to France from 1324 through 1360. Its subtopics include the preparation of the fleet, two transport fleets during Edward II’s reign, the Earl of Surrey’s fleet, five fleets for Edward III’s armies, and the Black Prince’s 1355 fleet. Chapter four, Maritime Resources and the King’s War, examines organizational developments of the fleets, port resources, shipmaster service and mariners, and crew size and manning.
 
Various tables and pictures appear throughout the book. After the conclusion are two appendices: Ports that Supplied Ships to the Fleets and the Methodology of Reconstructing the Merchant Fleet. An extensive bibliography and index are also included.
 
What makes this book of such notable importance is the focus is on mariners and port masters, instead of “knights, esquires, and their mounts”, and logistics from a nautical perspective, rather than naval warfare itself. Lambert commendably demonstrates the complexity of supplying an army that fights in another land. His research shows the royal advisors understood this and carefully managed their resources to meet the king’s needs. While the preponderance of material concerns the merchant fleet and wartimes, there are a few references to pirates. Shipping the Medieval Military opens an intriguing window into the medieval merchant navy in a well-thought-out and organized fashion that is easy for the layman to read.

View the Table of Contents or Index and read a sample

Return to Top 

U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills

Cover Art: U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
By Department of the Navy

Lyons Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7627-7037-3, US $14.95 / CAN $16.95

To the uninitiated this book may seem like a manual on how to take down pirates, but it soon becomes apparent that it is more tongue-in-cheek than reality. The guest foreword, written by “(Retired) Admiral I. I. Scuttle, Commander of the Fighting 44th Anti-Pirate Assault, the Most Decorated Anti-Piracy Unit in U.S. Navy History,” is a rousing rah-rah introduction to the manual. There is nothing subtle or toned down in his narrative, and he concludes his remarks with an invitation to join him in singing ‘Pirate Slayers We,’ the “age-old pirate-hunter’s anthem.”
 
Arranged into two parts – Offensive Strategies and Defensive Strategies – the information is divided into sixteen chapters.  
  • Pirate Ship Boarding Assaults
  • On-Deck Hand-to-Hand and Hand-to-Hook Combat
  • Handheld Weapons
  • Riverine Assault Operations
  • Waterway Interdiction, Surveillance, Barrier, and Security Operations
  • Special Operations
  • Diving in Support of Anti-Pirate Operations
  • Parachute Operations
  • Miscellaneous Anti-Pirate Operations
  • Weapons
  • Demolitions
  • Contingency Planning
  • Defensive Command and Control
  • Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACS)
  • Survival at Sea
  • Escape from Captivity
The book also includes three appendices: Nautical Abbreviations, Seabag Checklist, and Loadout Lists. A host of drawings illustrate key points in the text, and these often include subtle humor (though if the advice isn’t heeded, the seaman or soldier might well find himself in dire straits).
 
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills is an odd mixture of eighteenth-century scurvy dogs and present-day hunters. This field manual has a ring of truth that makes the reader think “if only” we’d known that then or had that technology existed and why can’t pirates today be so easily defeated?
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Landsman Hay

Cover Art: Landsman Hay
Landsman Hay
By Robert Hay
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-068-0, US$27.95, £13.99
 
Between 1820 and 1821 Robert Hay wrote a memoir for his children. Some of this material eventually appeared in Paisley Magazine under the pseudonym Sam Spritsail around 1828. Hay’s account of his life was later edited by his great-granddaughter and published in 1953. Vincent McInerney, the editor of this volume in the Seafarers’ Voices series, has taken the original material and the additions later made to it to join them together in this narrative for today’s readers.
 
Hay served as a seaman in the Royal Navy from 1803 to 1811 during the wars with France. He provides an account of life on the lower deck on warships in Nelson’s Navy. While such memoirs aren’t unusual, the majority are written long after the fact, at a time when social mores differed from those in which the story is set. Hays, however, penned his shortly after he went to sea at fourteen, and he did so as a volunteer, rather than being pressed into service. Rather than entering the service as a seaman, he became a “shoe boy,” a personal servant to an officer. Although he deserted in hopes of finding a berth on a merchant ship, he ended up back in the Royal Navy, where he eventually became a carpenter’s mate, which taught him a skill he could later use on land when he retired.
 
Hay provides a matter-of-fact recitation of it was like to be a sailor in the early nineteenth century. Having worked aboard both naval and merchant vessels, he compares and contrasts the differences between the two. The first chapter sets the stage, giving an account of his family and youth before he ran away to sea. The remaining chapters discuss the ships he served on and the events and people he encountered on board and in his travels. Landsman Hay is a fascinating story with rare glimpses of navy life and personnel from a servant’s perspective.
 
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Atrocities of the Pirates

Cover Art: The Atrocities of the
              Pirates
The Atrocities of the Pirates
By Aaron Smith

Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-1-61608-194-2, $12.95


In 1824 a seaman named Aaron Smith published an account of his captivity under Cuban pirates. They forced him aboard their vessel because of his skill as a navigator. At the time of his capture two years earlier, he had been on his way home to England to wed Miss Sophia Knight, who would later testify at his trial before a British Admiralty Court. This reprinting of his memoir shares with modern readers the torture and atrocities he witnessed and endured, as well as showing what lengths he went to in order to stay alive.
 
One thing, however, threw a gloom over my mind: The captain had declared that when my services were no longer wanted, he would kill me . . . .
 
Added to this volume is an account of his trial as it appeared in the Morning Chronicle on 20 December 1823.
 
This is an absorbing, yet harrowing, tale of what it was like to be taken by pirates then forced to watch as other innocent seamen fell prey to them. Smith pulls no punches as he recounts the tortures he endured, and the reader soon accepts the truth – being a pirate isn’t a romantic adventure at all. His insights into the perfidy of his fellow countrymen and Cuban officials provide a more rounded examination of sea life and why it was difficult to curb piracy.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Slaver Captain

Cover Art: Slaver Captain
Slaver Captain
By John Newton

Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-079-6, US$27.95, £13.99

One of the volumes in the Seafarers’ Voices series, Slaver Captain is Newton’s memoirs of his life (1725-1807) combined with his reflections on his participation in the slave trade. He writes about loving a distant relation, deserting the Royal Navy and his flogging upon capture, how he entered the slave trade, his eventual retirement because of ill health, and his ordination as a minister for the Church of England. The editor, Vincent McInerney, has brought together two of Newton’s works in this book. Thoughts on the African Slave Trade (1788) is a public confession of Newton’s involvement in slavery and his plea for abolishing it. The fourteen letters he wrote in hopes of entering the Anglican ministry appeared under the title An Authentic Narrative of Some Remarkable Particulars in the Life of John Newton (1765).
 
The editing of this volume provides a seamless and readable narrative, even though McInerney reduced the overall length of the two volumes to remove “repetition, theological argument, and observations of perhaps limited interest to those interested primarily in maritime aspects of the work.” Slaver Captain is an enlightening, eloquent, and forthright account of eighteenth-century sea life that provides a first-hand account of the slave trade from the perspective of a participant who later became a strong advocate for abolition of the vile practice. While most readers may not recognize Newton’s name, they will recognize his hymn, “Amazing Grace,” and this book provides readers with a new perspective of the song.
 
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires

Cover Art: Mercenaries,
                    Pirates, Bandits and Empires
Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Context
Edited by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee

Columbia University, 2010, ISBN 978-0-231-70208-9, $55.00

This scholarly tome on the field of study known as International Relations (IR) focuses on those groups on the periphery of public, state authority: bandits, mercenaries, pirates, privateers, smugglers, and warlords. The goal is to show the historical context of the development of private violence in hopes of better understanding this form of aggression and its evolution and effect on global concepts impacting IR today.
 
The book begins with an introduction entitled “Private Violence in Historical Context” and is written by the editors. The subsequent nine chapters are:  
  1. Distinctions, Distinctions: ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Force? by Patricia Owens
  2. State and Armed Force in International Context by Tarak Barkawi
  3. Privateers of the North Sea: At Worlds End – French Privateers in Norwegian Waters by Halvard Leira and Benjamin de Carvalho
  4. The Flow and Ebb of Private Seaborne Violence in Global Politics: Lessons from the Atlantic World, 1689-1815 by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee
  5. Violent Undertows: Smuggling as Dissent in Nineteenth-Century Southeast Asia by Eric Tagliacozzo
  6. ‘Tribes’ and Warlords in Southern Afghanistan, 1980-2005 by Antonio Giustozzi and Noor Ullah
  7. The Criminal-State Symbiosis and the Yugoslav Wars of Succession by Kenneth Morrison
  8. Private Security Companies in the Malacca Straits: Mapping New Patterns of Security Governance by Patrick Cullen
  9. Securing the City: Private Security Companies and Non-State Authority in Global Governance by Rita Abrahamsen and Michael C. Williams
Three themes run through these chapters: a) global markets, b) how law assists in understanding private violence, and c) the character and dynamics of this type of aggression. The absence of a bibliography is mitigated by the presence of footnotes for each essay that identify resources and other pertinent details for those wishing to conduct further research on the topic. The book also contains a list of contributors and their qualifications, as well as an index.
 
The chapters of particular interest to readers interested in pirates are one, three, four, and eight. Owens examines the differences between public and private violence, explaining how pirates and privateers assisted in the defense of colonies then were eventually eliminated from the state’s military defense. Leira and de Carvalho show how French state-building influenced privateering. Colás and Mabee argue that sea piracy is a marginal form of private violence today by studying implications of the Golden Age piracy to help us better understand our current and future IR. Their focus is on “sociological and political-economic [approaches], rather than the normative-legal causes . . ..” (84) Finally, Cullen explores the use of private security companies, transnational security, and the inherent problems encountered when doing so through in his examination of countering piracy in the Malacca Straits.
 
Normally, I recommend reading the introduction so readers have a better understanding of the essays to come and the book’s focus, but this one is a bit pedantic and difficult to follow if the reader isn’t well versed in IR and what constitutes private versus public violence. The essays are far more interesting and easier to comprehend from a layman’s perspective and they challenge us to re-examine conclusions we may have drawn regarding global aggression and relationships today. Doing so fromS a historical perspective brings these issues and dilemmas into sharper focus.
   
(Note: For readers unfamiliar with these concepts, it might be helpful to first read Janice Thomson’s Mercenaries, Pirates and Sovereigns published
 by Princeton University in 1994. This work is critiqued and frequently referred to throughout this book.)

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Smuggling

Cover Art: Smuggling
Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History
By Alan L. Karras
Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7425-5315-6, US $34.95 / £21.95 / € 24.95
Also available as an e-book
 
Most books on smuggling concentrate on a particular region or country during a specific time period. Karras approaches it from a worldwide view that includes case studies not only from the past, but also today. Although his initial objective was to focus on Caribbean smuggling during the 1700s, he discovered what happened there, also happened elsewhere, so he expanded his research and the scope of this volume. He aptly shows how smugglers and purchasers of smuggled goods influenced the evolution of laws and policies regulating smuggling while at the same time circumventing them.
 
The content is arranged into five chapters, plus a conclusion. The book also includes chapter notes, illustrations, a selected bibliography, and an index. The chapters are:  
1.     Smuggling in Regional and Global Perspective: “Truck, Barter, and  Exchange”
2.     “It’s Not Pirates!”
3.     The Political Economy of Smuggling
4.     Smuggling: Patterns and Practices
5.     Smuggling, “Custom,” and Legal Violations
 
Chapter two is of particular interest to readers of this publication, and Karras deftly demonstrates that pirates and smugglers are not the same, contrary to popular opinion. Pirates identify themselves when they attack and often threaten or use violence to gain their objective. Their victims are easy to identify. Smugglers, on the other hand, operate clandestinely and rarely use violence because they don’t want to suffer the consequences of getting caught. Everyone is an enemy of the pirate, whereas the law is the smuggler’s enemy. The case studies used to prove these arguments date from 1750 to present-day Somalia.
 
Karras selects specific cases that illustrate “a larger pattern that is observable across both time and space” (viii) and reinforce his arguments. They demonstrate the amount of culling through primary resources he’s done to assemble this evidence. Also of noteworthy mention is how he shows the lack of correlation between implementing laws against smuggling and how these are interpreted. Readers looking for a general history of smuggling may not find this a compelling narrative, but the book provides an important examination of the global similarities of smuggling and the parallels between modern-day smugglers and those of the past.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Real Jim Hawkins

Cover Art: The Real
          Jim Hawkins
The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy
By Roland Pietsch
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-036-9, £25.00


Using Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jim Hawkins as a typical boy of the eighteenth century, Pietsch discusses the actual lads who went to sea with the Royal Navy. These boys were the servants and powder monkeys who later became seasoned sailors, and the author incorporates archival resources, such as records from the Marine Society, to illustrate his points. This book isn’t merely an examination of their lives at sea, but also their lives before – social backgrounds, previous jobs and apprenticeships, and the youth culture of the period. He also focuses on the social and emotional challenges Jim Hawkins faced once he retired from the sea. Rather than a history of the privileged boys who eventually became midshipmen and officers, this is the story of those who lived on the lower decks.
 
The book is divided into eight chapters:
  1. Seafaring Boys in the Eighteenth Century: Fiction and Reality
  2. Jim’s Troublesome Youth on Land: ‘The Idle Apprentice Sent to Sea’
  3. Poor Jim: Charity and the Marine Society
  4. The Typical Jim Hawkins
  5. Jim’s Motives: Sailors and Youth Culture
  6. Jim’s Life on Board
  7. Jim’s Coming of Age at Sea: Masculinity and the Horrors of War
  8. Jim’s Return from the Sea
An epilogue follows, as do source and literature notes, text notes, a bibliography, and an index. Black-and-white illustrations can be viewed throughout the narrative.
 
While many books have been written about the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail, this is the first to focus on the young lads who went to sea, especially during times of war. The inclusion of quotes from actual ships’ boys – Edward Coxe, Mary Lacy, Olaudah Equiano, and Sam Leech are but a few – enrich the narrative and bring an element of realism to what life was like for them. The Marine Society’s records provide a solid sampling of information since they supplied more than 26,000 boys to the navy between 1756 and 1815, and the incorporation of this data shows the depth of the research Pietsch went to in writing this book. (He narrowed that number down to 262 boys found in the naval archives.) The Real Jim Hawkins is a readable and intriguing account about one segment of the Royal Navy overlooked in history.

Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Sir Martin Frobisher

Cover Art: Sir
            Martin Frobisher
Sir Martin Frobisher: Seaman, Soldier, Explorer
By Taliesin Trow
Pen & Sword, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84884-232-8, £19.99 / US $39.95

Most people have heard of Queen Elizabeth I’s pirates, but few can readily name any unless his name is Sir Francis Drake. Trow remedies this oversight with his latest book, Sir Martin Frobisher, an English Sea Dog who searched for a Northwest Passage and gold to fill English coffers. He was impulsive, hot-headed, self-centered, and egotistical, but he was also an able seaman and an adventurer. At different times in his life he was a prisoner, an interpreter, a trader, a thief, a privateer, a pirate hunter, and a defender of the realm. He led three voyages to the New World, introduced the English to a new race of people, and was one of the few to venture into the icy waters of the North Atlantic to reach such places as Greenland and Baffin Bay as he searched for gold and Meta Incognita.
 
There is little documentary evidence to give us a good picture of Frobisher the man, but there are many historical references to him as a mariner and explorer, and it is from these that Trow crafts a succinct look into this man and the issues of importance during his lifetime. Doing so grounds the reader and provides a compelling overview of the period. By unveiling various facets of the man, the author allows the reader to discover that Frobisher is human, rather than just a stick figure who made his mark on history.
 
The journey through Frobisher’s life is enriched with black-and-white illustrations and maps, as well as a timeline of the man’s life and New World exploration. An appendix covers the ships he used.  There are also chapter notes, a selected bibliography, and index.
 
Chapter 11 “Our Land, Our Strength” is a bit tenuous in its inclusion, for the material is presented after Frobisher’s death and concerns the Thule (the native tribe mentioned earlier) and later explorations of the region. In spite of this, Sir Martin Frobisher provides readers with an intriguing glimpse into an explorer often overlooked and the times in which he lived.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast

Cover Art:
          Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas
          Coast
Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
By Jean L. Epperson
Liberty County Historical Commission, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9822899-4-5, $20


In the years before Texas became a state, its southern shores along the Gulf of Mexico provided a base from which pirates and privateers could operate. Perhaps the most famous of these was Jean Laffite, who operated out of Galveston Island after he left Barataria near New Orleans.  The pages of this book contain a collection of short articles on him and other filibusters written by Jean Epperson, who has researched the Laffites and their associates for many years. Many of these articles first appeared in The Laffite Society Chronicles, and they primarily focus on the Texas coast between 1815 and 1823.
 
The contents of the book are divided into seven chapters. 
  1. Col. Henry Perry on Bolivar & 1816 Maps
  2. Corsairs on Galveston Bay – Aury & the Laffites
  3. The Final Years of Jean & Pierre Laffite
  4. Some Associates of Perry, Aury & the Laffites
  5. Gen. James Long
  6. Ramon Lafon the Founder of Port Isabel in 1823 & the Three Pirates Lafon
  7. Related Topics to the Major Characters
The last of these chapters includes discussions on a wide range of subjects, including Stanley Faye, John Andrechyne Laffite and the Laffite Journal, Maison Rouge, the flags Laffite flew, and paintings of the Laffites.
 
Accompanying the text are a variety of period maps and illustrations of some participants. Each article contains endnotes detailing the documentary sources consulted in the author’s research. The book is also indexed.
 
This is an easily read book that provides access to material often not found in other volumes, which makes it useful to readers who want to know more about the Laffite brothers and Texas pirates. The book has a few drawbacks that readers should be aware of. First, a good copyeditor would have greatly enhanced the spelling and punctuation of the text. Second, there are times when readers unfamiliar with the subject matter may feel a bit lost, as if important details that would have grounded the reader were left out. Third, a few articles are more a solicitation for information because the historical records haven’t yet revealed the answers to some questions. On the other hand, this book’s particular strength lies in the diversity of topics covered in a succinct style that permits readers to grasp the essence of what is known and serves as a stepping stone for further research.


Please Note: Anyone interested in purchasing this book should send a check or money order, payable to LCHC, in the amount of $23.00 (includes shipping) to LCHC, 550 CR 401, Dayton, TX 77535.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Last of the Great Swashbucklers

Cover Art: The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers: A Bio-Bibliography of Rafael Sabatini
By Jesse F. Knight and Stephen Darley

Oak Knoll Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-58456-279-5, US $65.00


Although Captain Blood and Errol Flynn first introduced me to Rafael Sabatini’s work while in high school, I discovered many of his other titles while perusing the shelves of a bookstore during my college days. I bought all of them, and while I read each one, only a few remain favorites. Sabatini, however, became one of my preferred writers of historical fiction, for he had a gift of sweeping me off to the past where I experienced many swashbuckling adventures.
 
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers is both a biography and a bibliography of Sabatini’s novels. Jesse F. Knight, an ardent admirer of this author’s writing and founder of the Rafael Sabatini Society, wrote the thirty-page biography that examines the Sabatini’s life from birth through death, as well as the various experiences that influenced his writing. The biography is entertaining, captivating, and informative from beginning to end.
 
Stephen Darley has compiled a comprehensive list of Sabatini’s published books, both in the UK and USA. It is primarily aimed at bibliophiles, book dealers, and readers interested in the first editions of these forty-seven books. The bibliography is chronological, beginning with The Lovers of Yvonne in 1902 and ending with The Sword of Islam and Other Tales of Adventure in 2008. Each entry provides information on the title page, contents, binding, dust jacket, printing, and notes for each edition. Some include pictures of the cover art.
 
At the end of the main bibliography, “Books by Sabatini,” Darley includes:  
  • Checklist of Selected US and UK Reprints
  • Checklist of Significant Books in Paperback
  • Checklist of Fiction and Non-Fiction Contributions to Books
  • Checklist of Periodicals or Books Concerning Rafael Sabatini
  • Checklist of Uncollected Short Stories in Magazines
  • Movies Made from Sabatini’s Books
  • Plays Written by Sabatini or Adapted from His Books
  • Identifying UK and US First Editions Published before 1921
The book also includes an index.
 
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers isn’t for everyone, but those who have enjoyed many of Sabatini’s swashbuckling adventures – some piratical, some not – and those who are serious collectors and students of his work, will find a treasure trove of information about both his life and his writings.


Read an excerpt and view a slideshow

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Terror of the Seas?
Cover Art: Terror
            of the Seas?
The Terror of the Seas? Scottish Maritime Warfare, 1513-1713
By Steve Murdoch

Brill, 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-18568-5, US $199.00 / €140.00

The Terror of the Seas? examines a two-hundred-year period in Scotland’s maritime history. Although nearly surrounded by water, this country’s maritime history is often overlooked or given short shrift in history books.  Steve Murdoch, a Professor in History at the University of Saint Andrews, remedies this in the fifty-eighth volume in the “History of Warfare” series. His research corrects erroneous conclusions other historians have drawn about Scottish naval warfare, and he consults a variety of primary documentation to present a more accurate and pioneering portrayal that provides readers and scholars with new perspectives on the importance of Scotland and her maritime history.
 
In the introduction he disagrees with other historians as to the number of Scots who took part in the Golden Age of Piracy. He also discusses the importance of and the purposes privateers served in protecting Scottish maritime interests, especially since the lack of resources made it nearly impossible for the monarchy to maintain a large navy. Unlike other countries’ Lord High Admirals, Scotland’s was a hereditary office, and Murdoch shows how this affected the nation. Other points of discussion concern International Jurisdictions and Enforcing Jurisdictions: The Admiral, Maritime Warfare and the Privateer.
 
Since many Admiralty records from Scotland’s past are no longer available, Murdoch searched elsewhere for primary documentation, particularly the Scottish Admiralty Court records discovered in Scandinavia. This permits him to examine how the country’s maritime forces progressed through a series of armed conflicts. Below is a list of the chapters and the subtopics discussed in each. All chapters begin with a brief introduction and end with a summary.
 
Chapter One: Scottish Maritime Warfare, 1513-1560
Maritime warfare in the Post-Flodden Period
The Guerre de Course in the Majority of James V
The Rough Wooings: The 1544 Hertford Campaign
The Rough Wooings: Episodic Conflict, 1545-1547
The Rough Wooings: Protector Somerset’s 1547 Campaign
Maritime Operations, 1549-1552
The Anglo-French War and the Scottish Reformation
Scottish Admiralty Decisions in the Sixteenth Century
 
Chapter Two: Letters of Reprisal
The Barton-Portuguese Reprisal War
Scottish Imperial Reprisals and the ‘Six Years War’, 1544-1550
Reprisal Wars in Scandinavia and the Baltic
Individual Reprisals
 
Chapter Three: ‘Peacetime’ and Piracy, 1560-1618
Anglo-Scottish Piracy, 1560-1590
Piracy and the Anglo-Spanish War
Combined British Naval Operations after 1603
The Politics of Piracy: Domestic
The Politics of Piracy: International
 
Chapter Four: The ‘Marque Fleets’ of Scotland, 1618-1638
The Spanish Threat
The 1623 ‘Dunkirker’ Episodes
The Marque Fleets of Scotland
The Spoils of War: Analysis of Scottish Prizes and l
Losses, 1626-1630
The Hamburg Reprisal War, 1628-1643
 
Chapter Five: Scottish Maritime Warfare in the British Civil Wars, 1638-1660
The Covenanters and Maritime Warfare
The Solemn League and Covenant at Sea, 1643-1648
Denmark and the British Civil Wars. Part One: The Blockade, 1642-1645
Denmark and the British Civil Wars. Part Two: The Proxy War, 1644-1645
From the Scottish Engagement to the Patriotic Accommodation, 1647-1651
Charles II, Covenanted King of Great Britain
The Cromwellian Usurpation, 1651-1660
 
Chapter Six: The ‘Scottish-Dutch’ Wars, 1665-1667 and 1672-1674
Scottish Maritime Operations, 1665-1667
‘Per Mare Per Terras’
Engagements in the Forth, April-May 1667
Scottish Operations, 1672-1674
Difficult Decisions
Sweden, Holstein and the Problem of Neutrality
 
Chapter Seven: The Franco-Scottish Wars: 1689-1697 and 1702-1713
French Operations, 1689-1697
Queen Anne’s War, 1702-1713
The Franco-Jacobite ‘Attempt’ of 1708
Commercial Considerations
 
After the author’s conclusion, readers will find an extensive bibliography, seven appendices, a section of illustrations, and three indices: names, places, and subjects.
 
Of particular interest to those who study pirates and privateers are the conclusions and evidence Murdoch presents concerning pirates and privateers. It’s refreshing to learn about those outside of the English and their treatment under the law and the various monarchies. Most readers probably won’t be able to afford this book, but serious students of Scotland’s maritime history and collectors of maritime history will find a wealth of new and intriguing information. The book is authoritative and puts forth conclusions that dispel previous accounts of the country’s naval and maritime history, and Murdoch hope this will encourage further studies in these topics.

Read Excerpts
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Captain Kidd

Cover Art: Captain
            Kidd
Captain Kidd: The Hunt for the Truth
By Craig Cabell, Graham A. Thomas, and Allan Richards
Pen & Sword Maritime, 2010, ISBN 9781844159611, £19.99



Through thirteen chapters and six appendices, the authors attempt to separate myth from reality to uncover the truth about William Kidd – who started out a pirate hunter, but ended up executed for piracy. The authors’ goal is not to tell the reader which he was, but rather to present all the facts to allow the reader to make up his or her own mind. The story unfolds at the beginning, recapping what little is known about Kidd prior to his appearance in the Caribbean in 1689.
 
The book includes a map of Kidd’s voyages that depict his outward journey and his return, as well as the failed interception by the Royal Navy. There are several pages of black-and-white pictures, although the inclusion of two photographs of modern crafts is a questionable choice. There’s a list of books for further reading, chapter notes, and an index.
 
One point the authors stress in the preface is that “there is no single person who is able to confirm Kidd’s account from beginning to end.” This statement (as well as other points) makes it difficult to know whether the truths put forth are actually that, for there remains no irrefutable evidence one way or the way to answer the question beyond a shadow of doubt. The introduction contains one misstatement:
 
The first person to brand Kidd as a pirate was Captain Charles Johnson who wrote a biography of Kidd in his book, A General History Of The Most Notorious Pirates, which was first published in 1724.
 
In actuality the English East India Company, as well as the Admiralty Courts that tried him, branded Kidd as such long before Johnson’s book was published.
 
The authors’ unbiased account incorporates primary documents and secondary resources. The overwhelming question of why remains elusive. Why did a respected, wealthy family man leave his loved ones and become entangled in the adventure that eventually cost him his life? Possibilities are presented, but as with the primary focus of the book – was he or wasn’t he a pirate – no definitive answer is available.
 
For me, the more interesting portion of the book is the “Annexes” (appendices): Crew members who served with Kidd, Legend, Timeline of Kidd’s maritime career, Articles of agreement, Letters concerning Kidd, Pirates and privateers: Kidd compared.
 
Captain Kidd is logically presented and easy to follow. Readers will find the narrative interesting, and the authors point out some of the problems with recent and not-so-recent published books. If you are in need of a good, straight-forward account of Kidd’s life, career, and demise, Captain Kidd is a worthwhile resource to consult. Those looking to find some new enlightenment on the subject may have to look elsewhere.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar


Return to Top

Maritime Maryland

Cover Art: Maritime
          Maryland
Maritime Maryland: A History
By William S. Dudley

Johns Hopkins University, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8018-9475-6, $50.00

Long associated with Maryland, Dudley provides readers with an encapsulated view of this state’s waterways and the events that have impacted her history and development. He opens with Captain John Smith’s discovery of Chesapeake Bay, then expounds on the colony’s founding after King Charles I provides a land grant to Cecil Calvert, the second Lord of Baltimore. He also discusses the founding of Fells Point and its importance to shipbuilding, as well as the various marine trades that became vital to the state’s maritime industry. In subsequent chapters he covers the first naval ships built here, as well as other important aspects of the American navy to Maryland’s development and protection, the privateers for which Baltimore became famous, the introduction of steam-powered vessels and the subsequent steam industry, and economic ups and downs of maritime commerce. Other chapters examine the marine life that provides income to the watermen who fish in Maryland waters, the steel industry, the decline of working sail, pleasure boating and racing, maritime archeology, cultural resources (museums, the USS Constellation, Pride of Baltimore, lighthouses), and the environmental impact on the Chesapeake and her tributaries.
 
The book concludes with chapter notes, a nautical glossary, an essay on sources, and an index. Although the first three chapters lack illustrations, they do accompany the rest of the narrative and color collection of them exists at the book’s center. The only drawback is the print size; it’s small and strains the eyes.
 
Maritime Maryland is a readable overview that serves as a good introduction to a vital part of this state’s history and commerce. It provides those who want to learn more with great starting places for further research. It is an important resource for any maritime collection, especially for those with special interests in Maryland and her contributions to history and the economy.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Pirate State

Cover Art: Pirate
          State
Pirate State: Inside Somalia’s Terrorism at Sea
By Peter Eichstaedt

Lawrence Hill Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-56976-311-7, US $24.95 / CAN $27.95

While in Khartoum, Sudan for a workshop in 2008, Peter Eichstaedt reads a magazine article about Somali pirates, who attack a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks. They also attack and ransom other vessels, including tankers and cargo ships, cruise liners, and yachts. The article stirs several questions in his mind – Were these pirates truly a legion of desperate fishermen bloodying the noses of global shipping companies on a daily basis? Was this the work of organized crime syndicates? Was piracy connected to the madness that gripped Somalia? – so the following year, he travels around East Africa in search of answers. He reveals what  found and experienced in this book, which he divides into twelve chapters.
 
Prologue: The Pirates’ Call
1.  Attack on the Alabama
2.  Pirates and Prisons
3.  Cauldron of Chaos
4.  Method to the Madness
5.  Inside a Hijacking
6.  Nightmare on the Delta
7.  Ten Months in Hell
8.  Malaise in Mombassa
9.  Desperation at Dadaab
10.  Haven for Terror
11. Fighting Back
12. Sailors Take Warning
Epilogue: A Modest Proposal
 
The book includes chapter notes, maps, photographs, and an index. The interviews and quotes from those involved in piracy, as well as those who have dealt with the pirates, are the strengths of this volume. The weaknesses are the author’s digression into Nigerian piracy and the interviews at Dadaab, a Somali refugee camp in Kenya.
 
There have been a number of books published on this topic since the Maersk Alabama, the first American ship attacked by Somali pirates, but what sets Pirate State apart from those is that Eichstaedt presents the subject from a variety of perspectives that give a well-rounded and more comprehensive look at the problem through the eyes of those who have been there – the pirates, their victims, and those who attempt to combat the problem through legal means or the use of force. Perhaps one of the most telling sentences in the book is found in the epilogue: “Shipping interests act as if piracy can be ignored and that it will go away. It won’t.”
 
Anyone interested in knowing more about Somali piracy – those involved, the causes, and the attacks – will find Pirate State an interesting and absorbing book that explores beneath the surface through interviews with those directly involved. Readers leave with a better understanding of the problem and that it won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Visit the author
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Cover Art:
            Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Edited by John Kleinen and Manon Osseweijer
International Institute for Asian Studies (The Netherlands) & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore)
2010, ISBN 978-981-4279-07-9, Singapore $59.90 / US $49.90
Individual chapters are also available in PDF for electronic download at S$8.00 / US$6.00 each

Divided into three parts, this book collects presentations given at a conference in Shanghai in 2005, and is the fourth installment in the series “Maritime Issues and Piracy in Asia.” The contributors – historians, researchers, anthropologists, and professors – are eminently qualified to enlighten readers on the various topics on which they expound.
 
Part 1: Introduction
1.    Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia by John Kleinen and Manon Osseweijer
2.    Piracy in Asian Waters: Problems of Definition by Michael Pearson
 
Part 2: East Asia
3.    Giang Binh: Pirate Haven and Black Market on the Sino-Vietnamese Frontier, 1780-1802 by Robert J. Antony
4.    Tonkin Read for China Front: The Dutch East India Company’s Strategy for the North-Eastern Vietnamese Ports in the 1660s by Hoang Anh Tuan
5.    South Fujian the Disputed Coast, Power and Counter-power by Paola Calanca
6.    Maritime Piracy through a Barbarian Lens: Punishment and Representation (the SS Namoa Hijack Case, [1890-91])
 
Part 3: Southeast Asia
7.    Violence and Armed Robbery in Indonesian Seas by Adrian B. Lapian
8.    Robbers and Traders: Papuan Piracy in the Seventeenth Century by Gerrit Knaap
9.    The Port of Jolo: International Trade and Slave Raiding by James Warren
10.   Pirates in the Periphery: Eastern Sulawesi 1720-1905
11.   Suppressing Piracy in Asia: Decolonization and International Relations in a Maritime Border Region (the Sulu Sea), 1959-63 by Stefan Eklöf Amirell
12.   Contemporary Maritime Piracy in the Waters off Semporna by Carolin Liss
13. Piracy in Contemporary Sulu: An Ethnographical Case Study by Ikuya Tokoro
 
The three facets which these contributors examine are intricately intertwined – various groups of people lived in the ports and on the coasts, while pirates interacted with and victimized them all. Of particular import to any reader of Asian piracy is to understand that it differs from the western concept of piracy, and this is pointed out not only at the beginning of the book, but also in several of the essays. (One term that was new to me was “froth of the sea,” a term that denoted pirates on the South China coast in the past.) These essays focus on the relationship between pirates, ports, and coasts from various historical perspectives, as well as the links between piracy and organized crime, such as smuggling, trafficking in drugs and people, and taking hostages.
 
Each chapter provides a list of references that are predominantly in English, although other languages are also represented. The essays hold the reader’s interest without being overly pedantic. Source notes, tables, and photographs are also provided in some cases. While each provides important information, the essay I found most intriguing involved the attack on the SS Namoa, and the photograph of the subsequent execution of the pirates. Also of special note is Ikuya Tokoro’s essay, for he interviewed (ex-)pirates to obtain firsthand information for his studies. An index is also included.
 
When combined with the previous titles in this series, readers and researchers of this region are provided with a comprehensive “overview of the current knowledge and key themes in piracy studies”. This volume is a worthy addition to any collection that deals with Asian piracy, and the information it contains adds significantly to English-language studies on the topic from a variety of perspectives.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860

Cover Art: Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860
Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth
By Cathryn Pearce
Boydell, 2010, ISBN 9781843835554, US $90.00 / £45.00


Cornish Wrecking is the first comprehensive scholarly work that attempts to separate the myth from the reality of wrecking in Cornwall, England. Using legal, social, and cultural resources, Pearce, a maritime historian, examines wreck law and how the various groups involved responded to the changes over time. Her research deftly shows the image of evil wreckers isn’t an accurate depiction of these men and women, and she provides readers with glimpses into who these people were and why they scavenged ships that wrecked on their shores. As she writes:
 
By assiduous investigation and “beachcombing”, we find that the historical record contains fragments of diverse materials that we can use to piece together wrecking history, including official government correspondence and records, Board of Trade wreck registers, legal cases involving right of wreck, personal correspondence, religious tracts, contemporary newspapers and literary sources.
 
The book opens with an introduction to wrecking, which is followed by these nine chapters:
 
1.     Cornwall and the Sea
2.     “Dead Wrecks” and the Foundation of Wreck Law
3.     Wrecking and Criminality
4.     The Cornish Wrecker
5.     Wrecking and Popular Morality
6.     Wrecking and Enforcement of the Law
7.     Lords of the Manor and their Right of Wreck
8.     Wrecking and Centralised Authority
9.     The Wrecker, the Press, and the Pulpit.
 
Her conclusions sum up what her research reveals, after which are included several appendices, an in-depth bibliography, and a detailed index. Figures, maps, and tables accompany the narrative as well.
 
Cornish Wrecking is a highly readable and intriguing examination of an often misunderstood subject. Pearce deftly sets the stage for those unfamiliar with wrecking, then takes readers step by step through wreck law and how changes to it affected those directly and indirectly involved. For those looking for the truth about false lights, she does touch on this subject, but not enough. She promises, though, that a future book will address this topic in detail. The price of the book may put off potential readers, but those truly interested in this topic will not be disappointed.

Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
 
Return to Top

A Privateer's Voyage Round the World

Cover Art: A Privateer's Voyage Round the World
A Privateer’s Voyage Round the World
By George Shelvocke
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-066-6, US $27.95 / £12.99
 
Originally published in 1726, George Shelvocke’s account of his three-year privateering venture, which took him around the world, is rife with danger and adventure. He also strives to put himself in the best light possible when faced with situations that border on – if they weren’t outright – piracy and unending bouts of attempted mutinies from his crew.
 
This book is the second in the Seafarers’ Voices series, and the introduction recounts Shelvocke’s experience as a mariner before becoming a privateer. He began his career in the Royal Navy in 1690, and within thirteen years he received his first command. When further promotions weren’t forthcoming, he was appointed purser in 1707 – a position which he held until Britain and France signed a peace treaty in 1713 and he was dismissed from service. Five years later he became a “Gentleman-Adventurer,” becoming captain of the Success and commander-in-chief of an expedition to capture Spanish treasure ships. Several problems arose and before year’s end Shelvocke was demoted to master of the Speedwell, and that ship’s captain – John Clipperton, who had sailed William Dampier on an earlier privateering venture – assumed both the captaincy of Success and head of the expedition, which departed England the following year.
 
While the information revealed in the introduction is important and necessary for the reader to gain a well-rounded picture of the events, it is somewhat dry in its rendering and it colors one’s reading of Shelvocke’s actual account. This could easily have been negated by confining the introduction to Shelvocke’s early life, the historical background for the venture, and what makes a privateer. After his account of the voyage ends, an epilogue or editor’s note to explain the discrepancies of the various accounts, the animosities between the parties involved, and the subsequent events that unfolded because of these would have allowed the reader to draw his or her own conclusions without being biased beforehand.
 
What makes this book important is it is a primary resource (firsthand account) that describes not only Shelvocke’s journey, but also the people, places, and flora and fauna he encounters just as previous privateers did. He also shares the many inherent dangers of a life at sea, although the reader soon wonders why he bothers to continue with so many mutinous crewmen. (More than once readers will see similarities to an earlier voyage where the men also tended to dictate to the captain and became pirates – William Kidd.)
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Pirates of the 21st Century
Cover Art: Pirates of the 21st Century
Pirates of the 21st Century: How Modern-day Buccaneers Are Terrorising the World’s Oceans
By Nigel Cawthorne

John Blake, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84454-807-1, US $16.95 / £11.99

In November 2008, Sirius Star, sailed 500 miles off the coast of East Africa – beyond the danger zone the International Maritime Bureau warned merchantmen of when sailing these pirate-infested waters. In spite of following the IMB’s recommended protocols, her captain and crew found themselves facing well-armed Somalis who seized the supertanker. Never before had these pirates ventured this far into international waters to capture a vessel.
 
One evening of the following March, Malcolm Robertson and his wife were moored off southern Thailand. After midnight, Burmese pirates snuck aboard. In the ensuing scuffle, Malcolm was killed and his body thrown overboard. The intruders plundered the vessel, then left in the boat’s dinghy. Linda managed to free herself and get to safety.
 
These are but two of the tales recounted in Cawthorne’s book. As he writes in the introduction:
 
. . . most piracy takes place in areas where people are poor. Their livelihood has been taken from them by globalisation, civil unrest or war. There, men turn to piracy simply to survive and often go to great lengths to ensure that the crews of the vessels they seize are not hurt. Even The Economist and The Times have compared the modern-day buccaneers to Robin Hood. But that’s not the whole story . . . (ix-x)
 
Half of this account concentrates on Somali piracy, with a heavy emphasis on firsthand accounts from the perspective of the victims, the rescuers, and the pirates themselves. In this way Cawthorne slowly reveals the strategies and techniques used, as well as why the Somalis claim they have been forced to become pirates.
 
The book suffers from a number of weaknesses in its presentation. In separating the events involving the Sirius Star into two separate chapters, there is a lot of redundancy. While making readers aware of the problem, Cawthorne incorporates an overabundance of incidents, rather than also examining modern piracy in any depth. A sufficient number of missing words and incomplete sentences demonstrates that copy editing was slack before the book went to press. While other region of the world are included, more than half of the episodes reported occurred prior to the twenty-first century. No index or list of consulted resources is provided.
Pirates of the 21st Century clearly demonstrates that modern-day pirates are not akin to Robin Hood, yet choosing to end the book on a “lighter moment,” seems to trivialize the dangerous threat these criminals impose on merchant seamen and pleasure boaters.
 
In spite of these flaws, the author presents an engrossing introduction to modern-day piracy. The inclusion of quotes from those involved is a particular strength because they provide well-rounded perspectives from those directly involved in pirate attacks. Another is the fact that this book focuses on occurrences involving Europeans, rather than just Americans, which gives readers a better understanding on how global this problem is. It also shows how the problem of piracy isn’t reserved just for ships involved in moving the world’s commodities from one port to another. Cawthorne incorporates the dangers that yachtsmen also face – an aspect of piracy often overlooked in other volumes on this subject.

Meet Nigel Cawthorne
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
 
Second  Review of Pirates of the 21st Century
"It is fun," said one pirate, "an adventure like James Bond."
 
Pirates of the 21st Century by Nigel Cawthorne is a book that metaphorically is as wide as an ocean, but as shallow as a stream. Cawthorne does go into some detail when writing about some well-known incidents, such as the capture of the Sirius Star and the escape of the cruise ship Seaborn Spirit. Mostly, he gives the reader dozens of incidents involving not only huge cargo vessels, but private yachts as well. His point, I believe, is to show the reader how pervasive modern piracy has become and the reasons for its growth. However, there are just too many brief accounts.
 
Explored in this book are the frequent attacks on the Indian Ocean which have been in the news most often. I am glad that other trouble spots such as the Malacca Straits, the Caribbean, and the South China Sea are also addressed.
 
Mr. Cawthorne often repeats certain points in different chapters. Telling us how piracy off the coast of Somalia began because of European countries dumping their toxic materials into the Indian Ocean and spoiling the rich fishing grounds upon which many natives depend is repeated often.
 
The chapter entitled “Portrait of the Pirates” was most informative, however, I would suggest that it be the first chapter. It would be important to know the personality of these characters before citing various attacks.
 
One of the most frightening incidents was the explosion of the French oil tanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility and Osama bin Laden made a very similar statement against the west right after the U.S.S. Cole blew up in the port of Aden in October of 2000.
 
Cawthorne's strengths are in his description of the pancungs or small boats that the pirates employ and their methods of boarding the much larger ships that are their prey.
 
His writing about phantom ships, which pirates use, was very interesting. These are vessels that after capture are repainted, reflagged, and recertified to continue to operate illegally. Our hearts are moved by the harrowing tales of families on private yachts who are often attacked. These defenseless people are sometimes murdered or, if lucky, are simply robbed of all their possessions and left alone.
 
These modern pirates are unafraid of capture, Cawthorne writes. Jurisdictional problems have resulted due to the multinational makeup of the crew, the ship registered in a different country, and insurance companies too willing to pay the ransom. More often than not these pirates are not tried at all. Only Kenya and lately the Seychelles Islands have been willing to adjudicate such crimes.
 
According to Mr. Cawthorne, piracy will continue to grow unless countries work in unison to eradicate these heinous crimes. China and Indonesia have recently joined the coalition in the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits. In the case of Somalia, Cawthorne believes only a stable government will halt the growing menace. Somalia has been without such a government since 1991.
 
Nigel Cawthorne's Pirate of the 21st Century is a wonderful book for the casual reader. If one seeks depth and detailed reasoning about the nature of piracy and more on the root causes, this volume falls short. The book lacks a bibliography and annotations to urge the reader to continue to explore this phenomenon that is creating a toll in human and property loss, as well as a possible threat to our environment.

View Jeff Pearlman's Modern Piracy Videos

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Jeff Pearlman


Return to Top

Tales of the Seven Seas

Cover Art: Tales of the
                    Seven Seas
Tales of the Seven Seas: The Escapades of Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien
By Dennis M. Powers
Taylor Trade, 2010, ISBN 978-1-58979-447-4, US $22.95 / CAN $17.95 / £9.99

Born in Ireland in 1851, Johnny O’Brien went to sea as the sun began to set on the Age of Sail. Although he trained to become an architect and engineer, his destiny changed when he met a sea captain while returning from a visit home.
 
The wonderful stories he told of the sea and the prospect of some day being in command . . . impressed me so that I at once decided that a sailor’s life was the life for me. This was late in the year 1866. On our arrival in London, I went to the shipping office and the shipping mate was very kind. He told me to do my best as a “boy” – and that someday – I may sail up the Thames River in command of a ship. The day after arriving in London, I signed on the ship Marlborough. Twelve years later, I came to London from British Columbia with the first full cargo of salmon just that way – on the Alice Dickerman.
 
During his sixty-four years as a seaman and captain, his adventures took him around the world and made him legendary. Although his escapades unfold as if one reads a novel, they actually occurred and served to inspire at least one fictional character, Jack London’s Sea Wolf (based on one man who sailed with O’Brien).
 
In spite of his lack of formal education, O’Brien strove to better himself and to learn all he could about his chosen trade. He had the foresight to understand that steamships would become the principal means of transporting cargo and people, and studied these new aspects of sailing to easily transition from wooden sailing ships to those powered by steam.
 
While the events recounted here explore many facets and dangers of maritime life, one chapter involves pirates. After discharging cargo in Hong Kong in 1886 and setting sail with hardwood, teak, mahogany, raw silk, and medicinal opium aboard, O’Brien receives a crude warning that pirates intend to attack his ship. As the episode unfolds, readers “see” firsthand how the captain uses his wits and materials at hand to thwart this threat.
 
Powers writes in the preface:
 
I wrote this book to illustrate the world that O’Brien’s adventures reflect: sometimes violent, always risky, at times lawless, when shipping out was a feat of rugged individualism – before the judgmental filter that today’s world applies. O’Brien’s time was one that was raw and real in its underbelly – and he lived his way in an age when one could.
 
The eighteen chapters comprising this account certainly achieve that goal. Whether recounting O’Brien’s experiences sailing the South Pacific and the Atlantic, navigating the frigid waters of Alaska ferrying men to and from the gold fields, or encountering exotic princesses, shanghaiers, railroad magnates, and Hollywood stars, Powers enriches the tale with vivid imagery and astonishing factual accounts that bring this time period to life.
 
From first page to last, the book draws the reader into this foreign world and permits the reader to experience life as O’Brien did. Powers deftly shows that while steam eclipsed sails, the mariner’s life didn’t become less dangerous. From poignant moments, like the death of O’Brien’s son, to quotes from those who lived during this period, Powers infuses the text with sadness, fear, love, and humor – as when an old sailor answered the question as to why tattoos decorate his entire body. “I was a damned fool for having it done, but being drunk at the time, I was in such a condition that anything suggested was just fine with me.” (14)
 
Tales of the Seven Seas leaves the reader feeling dumbfounded and rewarded at having survived alongside Dynamite Johnny as he “sailed dangerous waters, skirted treacherous reefs, crept through dense fogs, sailed through terrific storms with the hell of rock bound shores sounding in his ears.” (from an editorial in the 8 August 1931 edition of Marine Digest) This book is a true treasure that gives those who dare to navigate its perilous waters a satisfying, but secure, peek into the enthralling world of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth-century mariner.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Seized

Cover Art: Seized
Seized
By Max Hardberger
Broadway Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7679-3138-0, US $25 / Can $29.95
Nicholas Brealey, 2010, ISBN
9781857885569, £9.99

The subtitle for this book is “A Sea Captain’s Adventure Battling Scoundrels and Pirates while Recovering Stolen Ships in the World’s Most Trouble Waters.”  Hardberger is a ship captain, as well as a pilot, maritime lawyer, and teacher (among other jobs). While Seized includes glimpses into the man and his personal life, it primarily recounts his adventures extracting freighters illegally seized from their owners, beginning with the first bulk carrier he retrieved in 1987.
 
His travels take him from Louisiana to Haiti, Belize, East Germany, Russia, Greece, and other locales. Each has its own murky waters and life-threatening dangers through which Hardberger navigates – revolution, Russian mafia, and possible imprisonment to name but a few. The foreword does disclose that names and places have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
 
While pirates are mentioned in the subtitle, only one incident comes close to meeting the definition of maritime piracy. Seized is a riveting account of the seamier side of maritime shipping and the men willing to risk their lives to help others. Amid the daring rescues, the author reveals the life of seamen, the world in which they live, and the dangers they face.
 
Visit Max Hardberger
Read an Excerpt
Read an Interview

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar



Return to Top

Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
Cover Art:
            Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy: Privateer, Patriot, Pioneer
By Sheldon S. Cohen
University Press of Florida, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8130-3433-1, US $69.95


Often overlooked in studies of the American Revolution are the war’s naval aspects. Merchantmen were converted to warships, while eleven of the thirteen states established “navies” of their own. One of the first men to enter the fray was Abraham Whipple of Rhode Island. His experience as both master of merchant vessels and captain aboard privateers earned him a spot first in Rhode Island’s maritime force and later in that of the Continental Congress. Two years prior to the opening salvos at Lexington and Concord, Whipple participated in the capture and destruction of HMS Gaspee, a British ship that pursued smugglers along the New England coast. When his naval and maritime careers ended, he became a pioneer farmer in Ohio.
 
Most people have probably never heard of Whipple, but Cohen aims to rectify the omission with this full-length biography. He explores the man and those he interacted with, as well as the times in which Whipple lived. Presented chronologically, this account also corrects previously published inaccuracies and exaggerations about him.
 
The book is divided into six chapters:
  1. Rhode Island Beginnings
  2. The Passage from Peacetime to Rebellion, 1763-1775
  3. Whipple’s War, at Home and Abroad, 1775-1778
  4. War’s Fortunes and Misfortunes, 1779-1783
  5. Postwar Discontentments, 1783-1789
  6. Final Years in Ohio, 1789-1819
and includes an extensive section of chapter notes and an in-depth bibliography of primary and secondary sources, as well as the repositories where information about Whipple can be found. The detailed index permits readers to easily gain access to pertinent information. Interspersed throughout the book are maps and illustrations pertaining to the time period.
 
While the biography is easy to read, the retelling of each voyage becomes tedious at times, even though many contain kernels of worthwhile seafaring knowledge. One strength of the book is Cohen’s adeptness at situating the man within his time period and explaining how the events of the day affected Whipple and others, especially mariners. The author’s reliance on primary documents further enhances this life story.
 
Commodore Abraham Whipple is an informative, complete accounting of a man who can be considered one of our nation’s founding fathers. The price, however, puts the book out of the hands of casual readers. Library and history collections pertaining to Rhode Island, the American Revolution, and maritime history will find this an invaluable resource.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Outlaws!
Cover Art:
            Outlaws!

Outlaws! Adventures of Pirates, Scoundrels, and Other Rebels
By Laurent Maréchaux

Flammarion, 2009, ISBN 978-2-0803-0107-9, US $45 / Can $54 / UK £27.50 / 40

No one is born an outlaw. They are made. These are the individuals whom the author showcases in this coffee table book. No matter what classification they fall into, each lived outside the law. Each suffered an untimely death of a mother or father at a young age or experienced a tragic event that altered forever his or her outlook on life and the world around them. Although we know these men and women broke the law, they fascinate us. According to the author, “We should not…rush to judge the errant ways of these idealistic vagabonds. They deserve our recognition. Without them, the maps of this world would be less colorful, our taxes and rights would be less human, democracy…would be lacking in imagination, and our eternal quest for a better world would be nothing but an outmoded fancy.” (page 10)
 
Divided into six groupings, the book introduces readers to the familiar and the stranger, the distant and the near past, the western and the eastern. Each section begins with a short introduction that makes the reader ponder the rightness or wrongness of these individuals’ actions and those of society. Either a color or black-and-white, full-page portrait of the individual outlaw introduces us to him or her. Other illustrations accompany the text, which talks about this person’s life and death over four to six pages.
 
Of particular interest to readers of Pirates and Privateers is the section titled “The Black Sail and the Call of the High Seas.” The author begins with a quote from Alexandre Exquemelin, the buccaneer surgeon who wrote The Buccaneers of America:
 
Alive today, dead tomorrow, what does it matter whether we hoard or save. We live for the day and not for the day we may never live.
 
This perfect quote neatly sums up the pirates’ philosophy. Few readers may be familiar with the first outlaw showcased, Jehan Ango, but one of the corsairs who sailed for this shipowner and privateer was Jean Fleury, the first to capture a Spanish treasure galleon. The other pirates profiled are: the Barbarossas; Sir Francis Drake; François l’Olonnais; Bartholomew Roberts; Edward Teach; Anne Bonny, Calico Jack Rackham, and Mary Read; Olivier Mission, the Monk Caraccioli, and Thomas Tew; and Ching Shih. A page from Drake’s 1598 log is reproduced, as are several period maps. While an earlier profile discusses Robin Hood as both fictional and real, the same does not occur in the summary about Olivier Mission, whom many historians believe to be fictitious.
 
Another person of interest to pirate enthusiasts appears in the section “Desert Devils,” for one of Renaud de Châtillon’s occupations was that of pirate. His name, like others, may not be familiar to readers, but others will be: Henry David Thoreau, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Richard Francis Burton, Lawrence of Arabia, Bobby Sands, and Bonnie and Clyde. The book concludes with notes and a bibliography.
 
Outlaws! is an intriguing book and even the cover art taunts the reader to look inside. This is a well-rounded, international collection of those who lived on the fringes of society. Each account is compelling and fascinating. The quotes that begin each chapter are well chosen and thought provoking. The author himself is something of a rebel so he knows whereof he writes.
 
Perhaps the quote that begins the “City Hoodlums and Urban Gangs” section best clarifies the outlaw and sums up this book:
 
Some will turn me into a hero, but there are no heroes in crime. There are just men who…are marginal, and who don’t respect laws because laws are made for the rich and powerful. recorded testament of Jacque Mesrine

Read an interview with the author

Review Copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Under the Bloody Flag
Cover Art: Under the
          Bloody Flag
Under the Bloody Flag: Pirates of the Tudor Age
By John C. Appleby

History Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7524-4851-0, US $34.95, CAN $38.95, £20.00

In theory, pirates were criminals, the enemies of all mankind who faced execution if caught; in practice, they were often maintained by seafaring communities and protected by local officials or rulers. This sentence from the introduction of Under the Bloody Flag encapsulates what this book is about. While the House of Tudor ruled England, theory became muddied by the issuance of letters of reprisal and letters of marque and the fine line the bearers sometimes walked between that which was legal piracy and that which was not. Professional navies as we think of them hadn’t yet formed, so to gain the power and prestige desired, monarchs walked an equally wavy line between theory and reality.

Accompanied by illustrations, maps, and an index, this book’s time period – 1480s to 1603 – is divided into six chapters:

1.     War and Maritime Plunder from the 1480s to the 1540s

2.     Pirates and Rebellious Rovers during the 1540s and 1550s

3.     Pirates, Privateers and Slave Traders from the later 1550s to the later 1560s

4.     Piracy, Plunder and Undeclared War during the 1570s

5.     The Profession of Piracy from the mid-1570s to 1585

6.     War, Reprisals and Piracy from 1585 to 1603

Among the many resources the author consulted in compiling this account of maritime piracy and privateering are archival records of the High Court of Admiralty, State Papers, and a variety of primary and secondary works.

Appleby’s objective is to “provide a narrative of English piracy and sea roving from c. 1485 to 1603”, which he admirably achieves and, in the process, skillfully shows the complexity of the period and both its effect on the pirates and their effect on nations, particularly England. Within these pages readers will encounter well-known pirates/privateers (Martin Frobisher and Francis Drake) and those not so famous (Henry Strangeways and John Callice). The final chapter also touches upon Grace O’Malley and John Ward, whose piracies were directed against England.

Although the narrative of this scholarly work sometimes plods along, Under the Black Flag examines a period of English piracy rarely touched upon in any detail. For those fascinated with the Tudor period, this is a worthy tome to add to one’s collection.

Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Maritime Taiwan
Cover Art: Maritime
          Taiwan
Maritime Taiwan: Historical Encounters with the East and the West
By Shih-Shan Henry Tsai
M. E. Sharpe, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7656-2329-4, $27.95


At different times in history the Dutch, Chinese, English, French, and Japanese have all interacted with Taiwan because its strategic location and rich resources make it an important part of maritime trade in Asia. These contacts have been both to the benefit and detriment of those who call this island home. Through the incorporation of primary and secondary resources encompassing all these peoples, the author recounts the history of Taiwan and how the interactions with these interlopers affected those who lived here.

Condensed into nine chapters, the book discusses the rulers of Taiwan during the seventeenth century – Dutch, Spaniards, and Koxinga; trading networks with Southeast Asia and China; the consulates, trading firms, and Presbyterian churches the British introduced; the arrivals of the French, Americans, and Japanese on Taiwan’s shores; and the effects of World War II and postwar incursions on the island. Of particular interest to fans of the Age of Sail are the interactions between the Taiwanese and the East India companies of Europe, and to pirate aficionados, Koxinga and others.

The author’s intent is to convey “the island’s deep and far-reaching relationships with such historically seaborne nations as Holland, Britain, France, Japan, and the United States.” (page 17) He admirably achieves that goal. The addition of maps, tables, and illustrations enhance this journey into Taiwan’s maritime history, while a detailed index allows readers to easily locate needed information. A wealth of additional resources is also included in the bibliography and chapter notes. For anyone interested in maritime history in Asian waters or the establishment of East India companies’ trading posts, Maritime Taiwan is an excellent starting place.

Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top


The Pirate Code

Cover Art: The Pirate Code
The Pirate Code: From Honorable Thieves to Modern-Day Villains
By Brenda Ralph Lewis
Lyons Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59921-455-9, US $19.95 / CAN $21.95


This book presents the history of piracy from ancient times through today. In between those two periods, the author examines Vikings, Barbary Corsairs, and Caribbean pirates. Black-and-white illustrations accompany much of the text, and quotations from primary source materials are interspersed throughout the narrative. Boxes highlight particular items tied to subjects presented in the text.

Source information for quotations is provided, but isn’t always complete. There are no footnotes and the bibliography lists only ten resources. While the book contains many facts not included in other piracy books, there are also a few questionable facts. For example, the author writes, “They were Ishaq, Aruj, Ilyas, and the most famous of them and apparently the youngest, Khair ad Din (c. 1480-1546), who was known to Europeans as Barbarossa or Red Beard.” Aruj was known by this moniker long before Khair ad Din, who dyed his beard red to honor his dead brother and thus acquired the name Barbarossa, just as his brother had. Lewis also claims young boys on pirate ships were given the task of setting “fire to their own ship” once pirates acquired another vessel. Although there were a few boys amongst pirate crews, they were a rarity, and she fails to provide documentation to support this claim of them firing a ship – a fact I’ve never come across in a decade of researching pirates.

Another questionable aspect of the book is the misplacement of the chapter on pirate democracy. It precedes the chapters on the Buccaneers of the 17th century and the Golden Age of Piracy, yet it discusses Bartholomew Roberts, John Phillips, George Lowther, and a few others from the 18th century.

Readers also need to be aware that there are a few gaps in what is incorporated into this book. When discussing Asian piracy, Lewis makes no mention of the pirate confederation under Cheng and Cheng I Sao’s leadership in the early 19th century – a force so powerful it nearly destroyed the Chinese imperial navy. Yet the chapter on ancient piracy is one of the most readable and well presented overviews readers will encounter.

If you’re looking for a useful starting point to learn about piratical history, The Pirate Code is worth reading.

 

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Pirate’s Pocket-Book

Cover Art: Pirates
            Pocket-Book
The Pirate’s Pocket-Book
Edited by Stuart Robertson
Conway, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84486-077-70, £9.99

Divided into five chapters, each explores some aspect of Caribbean piracy from the mid-seventeenth through the early eighteenth century. The first concentrates on the buccaneers, from their origins through William Dampier. Among the particular rogues featured are François L’Ollonais, Bartolomeo el Portugue, Rock the Brazilian, and Henry Morgan. Chapter two explores the golden age, introducing readers to the likes of Henry Avery, William Kidd, Alexander Dolzell, Samuel Bellamy, Woodes Rogers, Alexander Selkirk, and Charles Vane. Edward Teach, Stede Bonnet, Richard Worley, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read appear in the third chapter, “Heroes and Heroines: The Heyday of Piracy in American Waters.” Chapter four is devoted to Bartholomew Roberts, while the fifth chapter focuses on George Lowther, Ned Low, and the suppression of piracy. It ends with a look at Jean Laffite and pirate victims. A bibliography, glossary, and index round out the tome.

This book isn’t your typical history book. It is primarily contemporary accounts – some written by these sea raiders, others from newspapers and broadsides – combined with a narrative that sets up each passage and provides continuity from start to finish. Illustrations, both color and black-and-white, complement the book. Some excerpts, though, come from secondary sources written by Captain Johnson and Charles Ellms. The problem with including the latter is Ellms’ book, The Pirates’ Own Book, is primarily a work of fiction, so some information provided on Jean Laffite is inaccurate. The typeface is small, which makes it difficult to read.

The first sentence of the introduction – “Where the majority of men will go about their business lawfully, there will always be members of society who take a different path” – encapsulates the history of maritime piracy yet succinctly defines a pirate in terms that equally define any person who breaks the law. Although the romantic imagery of pirates is mentioned, this book adheres more to examining pirates without rose-colored glasses.

Alluring as the pirate’s profession is, we must not forget that it had a seamy side, and was by no means all rum and pieces-of-eight. And there is something repulsive to a generous nature in roasting men because they will not show you where to steal hogs. (page 9)
For those whose budgets don’t permit them to purchase British Piracy in the Golden Age: History and Interpretation, 1660-1730 edited by Joel H. Baer, this is a wonderful addition to any pirate library.

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Pirate Arrrt!

Cover Art: Pirate Arrrt!
Pirate Arrrt!
By Rob Mcleay
Ulysses Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-56975-663-8, US $14.95

Subtitled “Learn to Draw Fantastic Pirates, Treasure Chests, Ships, Sea Monsters and More,” this book provides insight into drawing pirates, their enemies, extras, and the pirate world. Mcleay opens with directions on perspective, generating ideas, and basics a potential artist needs in order to follow Pirate Arrrt! instructions. In chapter two he covers facial expressions, heads, and character angles, while the next chapter focuses on the various crewmembers that populate a pirate ship. Among the enemies you’ll find cannibals, members of the royal navy, magpies, sea monsters, zombie monkeys, and skeletons. The chapter on extras includes treasure chests, jewelry, weapons, faces and hair, hooks, eye patches, peg legs, and tattoos. The final chapter explores features of pirate havens, such as forts, dungeons, islands, and ports. While many drawings appear in black and white, two spreads of color depict finished pirate artwork.

This book is geared toward people with a serious interest in an art career, rather than children or doodlers. It’s advertised as being for children, but the audience is more for young adult or adult because of the language and complexity of the designs. The reader needs to have some familiarity with drawing before opening this book, but those artists who do will find a chest full of treasure that will help them draw delightful rogues and their world.

Visit the artist

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys & Miami 1513-1765

Cover Art:
            Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys and Miami
Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys & Miami 1513-1765
By Gail Swanson
Infinity Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0-7414-1638-7, US $12.95

This book combines a chronology with historical articles on the early history of the Florida Keys and Miami over a period of 252 years. Part one summarizes historical documents, which are divided according to whether they were written in the sixteenth, seventeenth, or eighteenth century. Eleven of these summaries concern pirates, and the entries vary from a single sentence to more than a page in length. The first one appears in 1565 and concerns John Hawkins when four of his ships anchored at the Dry Tortugas. At the end of part one are maps, illustrations, photographs, and facsimiles of original documents pertaining to the information in the entries. Included in this collection is documentary evidence of a large gathering of pirates at Key West in 1681.

The second half of the book is devoted to miscellaneous articles. Each begins with a short introduction that identifies the translator and/or explains sources for the information contained in the article. Of particular interest to pirate readers are “Looking for Sir Francis Drake” and “The Maravillas: Sunken Treasure, Salvors, Pirates and the Florida Keys Indians.” There is also an extensive section of endnotes after the articles.

Many documents pertaining to the early history of Florida are written in Spanish, some of which are located in foreign archives not readily available to most readers. This compilation and explanation provides people interested in Floridian, Native American, or piratical history with a single source that is easily read and accessible.

Read an excerpt and view documentation

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake

Cover Art: Enduring
            Juourney of the USS Chesapeake
The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake
Navigating the Common History of Three Nations
By Chris Dickon
History Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59629-298-7, US $21.99

The USS Chesapeake was one of the six original frigates built for the United States Navy. Launched on 1 December 1799, she set sail on 22 May 1800. She patrolled the Caribbean during the Quasi-War with France and participated in the blockade on Tripoli. Neither of these postings were remarkable, but in June 1807, the frigate made her first mark on history.

When Britain was at war, she needed men to man her naval vessels. Unable to entice men to willingly join, the navy used press gangs to force men to serve aboard the ships. Once the United States gained its independence from Britain, it wasn’t easy to tell who was an English sailor and who was American. Sometimes British seamen jumped ship and signed aboard American vessels where the pay and conditions were better. Documents to prove American citizenship were easily faked, so the British began stopping American ships and checking for British sailors. This was what happened in June 1807 soon after the Chesapeake put to sea. HMS Leopard fired on her, then sent an officer and men to board the Chesapeake and seize four men they claimed were British seamen.

Commodore James Barron, captain of the Chesapeake, faced a court martial. He was cleared of all charges except that of “neglecting on the probability of an engagement, to clear the ship for action.” He was suspended without pay for five years. One of those who sat in judgment of him was Stephen Decatur. The animosity between these two men would eventually result in a duel.

Relationships between America and Britain continued to simmer until war broke out in 1812. The following year, the Chesapeake encountered HMS Shannon. In the ensuing brief but bloody battle, 252 men were killed or wounded and the American frigate was captured.

But what happened to the USS Chesapeake? This is the astounding journey that Dickon reveals in a readable format accompanied by an abundance of photographs and illustrations. Firsthand accounts are interspersed with the narrative to form a more complete story of this frigate from her birth to her demise. A fascinating examination of what became of this early American naval vessel and some of the men who fought on her decks to protect our independence.

Visit the Enduring Journey
Visit the USS Chesapeake

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Patriot Pirates

Cover Art: Patriot
            Pirates
Patriot Pirates
The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution
By Robert H. Patton
Pantheon Books, 2008, 978-0-375-42284-3, US $26.00, CAN $30.00

Every school child in America studies the Revolution, but Patriot Pirates reveals a side that is often overlooked or omitted from that instruction. Patton admits from the start he was never impressed with this particular conflict until he began delving into privateering. The thirteen colonies didn’t really have a navy and George Washington was thwarted time and time again.

The emergence from that hodgepodge of some of the most intrepid mariners in American history highlights the strategic element of Revolutionary privateering, for they would spearhead what became a massive seaborne insurgency involving thousands of privately owned warships whose ravages on the enemy dwarfed those of the fledgling United States Navy.
Within the pages of this book, Patton explores the War of Independence from this perspective. He doesn’t concentrate on a particular port city, but presents the events in chronological sequence from various places of import at different times. The story unfolds in Machias, Maine in 1775 with the incident involving the Gaspee. From there readers visit Boston, Providence (Rhode Island), Brooklyn, Barbados, Penobscot, New London, Newfoundland, Portsmouth (England), and Guadeloupe. Not only does he show how these daring privateers helped win the war, he also examines the economics and how what these patriot pirates did impacted society and the conflict at large.

Patriot Pirates is a fascinating assessment of the role privateers played in the American Revolution. Readers meet the mariners, statesmen, and merchants whose daring, ingenuity, and patience were invaluable to gaining independence. A few of are well-known men like Benjamin Franklin and John Paul Jones, but the majority are people rarely mentioned in history books. Once you read this book, you’ll never think of our forefathers’ struggle against tyranny in quite the same light.
 
 

Book review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Treasure Wreck

Cover Art:
            Treasure Wreck
Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah
By Arthur T. Vanderbilt II
Schiffer, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7643-2739-1, US $19.95

Told tales of the pirate ship Whydah and her captain, Samuel Bellamy, as a child, Vanderbilt decided to explore the primary documents of the 1700s and discover the truth behind the legend of this pirate and the wreck of his ship off the coast of Cape Cod. The book opens with the tale of the 1643 Spanish fleet that encountered a hurricane and William Phips’ determination to locate the missing treasure that disappeared beneath the waves. Stories of his successful find spurred many, perhaps including Bellamy, to follow in Phips’ footsteps.

As is true with many pirates, Bellamy’s origins remain elusive until he steps onto the historical stage in 1716. Just the year before another treasure fleet had sunk off the coast of Florida, and Bellamy decided to attempt to reclaim some of the silver that was lost. Legend says he left to gain his fortune before he returned to reunite with the love of his life, Maria Hallett, but she has remained as mysterious as Bellamy’s life prior to his sailing. (That Halletts lived on Cape Cod is documented, but no record of Maria has yet come to light.)

Bellamy hooked up with Paulsgrave Williams of Newport, Rhode Island, and while they initially searched for the sunken bounty, the sea was reticent to divulge her secrets. They eventually teamed up with Benjamin Hornigold and began plundering ships. One of these was the Whydah, and once their fortunes were made, they sailed north for home. But a fierce storm blew up off Cape Cod, and the ship sank, taking all but a handful of men with her to their graves. Although many contemporaries attempted to recover the sunken treasure, little was found.

No book on Bellamy and the Whydah would be complete without the story of Barry Clifford and his crew discovering the shipwreck. The original edition of this book ended with proof positive that they had found her – the ship’s bell with the inscription “The Whydah Gally 1716.” This revision includes a tenth chapter that discusses what other “treasures” Clifford has uncovered, the court cases he fought, the conflicts between archaeologists and treasure hunters, and the establishment of a museum in Provincetown on Cape Cod to display the finds. My only complaint about the book is that this chapter’s different and noticeable format changes appear smaller in font size and lighter in print, which makes it more difficult to read and is jarring to the eye. While there are no footnotes, a section at the end of the book provides information on the author’s sources. A nice addition to this edition is an index, which makes it easier to locate information within the book.

Vanderbilt also incorporates a lot of pirate history unrelated to Bellamy into his tale, which provides the reader with a better understanding of both the time period and what it was like to be a sea rover. Treasure Wreck is a rousing adventure of pirate success and demise, and the wonder of locating treasure long after the Whydah took the lives of many men so long ago.

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

Return to Top

Treasure Hunt

Cover Art: Treasure
            Hunt
Treasure Hunt
Shipwreck, Diving, and the Quest for Treasure in the Age of Heroes
By Peter Earle
Thomas Dunne, 2007, ISBN 978-0-312-38039-7
US $26.95 / CAN $31.25

The treasure galleons of Spain enticed pirates and adventurers who sought easy riches, but far more of these ships sank during storms than were successfully seized by scoundrels of the sea. Others, too, sought the lost cargoes of gold, silver, and jewels, but their searches and finds required the skills of divers, who oftentimes dove without any equipment. This book explores the shipwrecks, the divers, and the history of diving from the sixteenth into the early nineteenth centuries. Through the use of primary documents, readers meet the people who financed diving operations and risked their lives to salvage the lost treasures. The primary focus concerns England and her colonies. There are extensive footnotes and bibliography, and the book has a com