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Who Looks at Lee Must Think of Washington… Herman Melville

Patriot pirates : the privateer war for freedom and fortune in the American Revolution Robert H. Patton  United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Naval operations  New York : Pantheon Books, c 2008 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxii, 291 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references ( p. [275]-278) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In this lively narrative history, Robert H. Patton tells a sweeping tale of courage, capitalism, naval warfare, and international political intrigue set on the high seas during the American Revolution. Patriot Pirates highlights the obscure but pivotal role played by colonial privateers in defeating Britain in the American Revolution.

Silas Talbot had a dramatic, upwardly mobile trajectory from farm boy to colleague of the mighty, including Washington, Hamilton and Lafayette. A hero of the American Revolution on land and sea, Talbot was a Rhode Island Militia officer, a successful privateer, and a navy captain demonstrating that the transition from privateer to naval officer was not a difficult one. The fact that most Southern privateer masters during the War for Southern Independence had been union naval officers before the onset of hostilities merely underlines the point.

David Bushnell, built the world’s first submarine in an attempt to sink the flagship of the British fleet – the HMS Eagle! A story of how the world’s first submarine was built and how it was employed in the Continental Army‘s desperate attempt to hold on to New York in 1776. The nearly forgotten genius, David Bushnell whose submarine was an amazing a feat for the 18th century and was the innovation of this one individual, along with the encouragement of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin, epitomized the ingenuity and potential of the new nation. Not until Hunley’s submarine sank the USS Housatonic in Charleston harbor on the 17th of February 1864 was a submarine used in a naval engagement again.

Even Benedict Arnold cobbled together fleet of ships against the British in the Battle of Lake Champlain in October 1776. Despite losing the battle, Arnold succeeded in delaying the British long enough to force them into winter quarters, giving Washington time to train and strengthen the Continental Army an action not unlike the Battle of Galveston in 1863 followed by the Battle of Sabine Pass where Dick Dowling and a handful of gunners kept the yankee invasion fleet at bay and out of Texas for the remainder of the war.

And no history of the Revolution is complete without the story of the son of a Scottish gardener (or possibly the bastard son of the lord of the manor), John Paul Jones, who fought his way up from second mate on a slave ship to become a mythic figure, hailed as the father of the navy, buried in a crypt (modeled after Napoleon’s Tomb) beneath the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy. Along the way he was an accused murderer (forced to flee to America under an assumed name) a notorious rake in Parisian society and an admiral in the navy of Catherine the Great, fighting against the Turks in the Black Sea.

He was the most singularly successful naval officer during the American Revolution because he was both bold and visionary. John Adams called him the “most ambitious and intriguing officer in the American Navy.” He reminds us of the great men who made this country, but John Paul Jones teaches us that it took fighters as well as thinkers, men driven by dreams of personal glory as well as high-minded principle.

American privateering began with a ragtag squadron of New England schooners in 1775. It quickly erupted into a massive seaborne insurgency involving thousands of patriots plundering Britain’s maritime trade throughout Atlantic. Patton’s extensive research brings to life the extraordinary adventures of privateers as they hammered the British economy, infuriated the Royal Navy, and humiliated the crown.

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