Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution

Robert H. Patton, Author . Pantheon $26 (291p) ISBN 978-0-375-42284-3

Patton (The Pattons: A Personal History of an American Family ) turns his attention to an often overlooked aspect of the Revolutionary War: maritime privateering, or legalized piracy. Patton is careful to distinguish the mixed motives of these “patriot pirates,” for often there was less patriotism than simple greed. Nevertheless, their work fulfilled George Washington's strategic aim to win the war by exhausting Britain into giving up the struggle. In what Patton terms “a massive seaborne insurgency” that dwarfed the efforts of the colonists' small navy, thousands of privateers nettled British shipping, sometimes gaining vast fortunes. Privateering also turned into a handy political issue when Benjamin Franklin, the American representative in France, succeeded in persuading his hosts to allow Yankee skippers to sell their booty in French ports—a breach of the country's neutrality that aggravated diplomatic tensions, as Franklin knew it would, and helped cement Paris's commitment to American independence. Patton gives an absorbing exhumation of an undersung subject that will be of particular interest to Revolution buffs. (May 20)

Reviewed on: 03/24/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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