***2023 MORISON AWARD ANNOUNCED***
REBELS AT SEA
Privateering in the American Revolution
The bestselling author of Black Flags, Blue Waters reclaims the daring freelance sailors who proved essential to the winning of the Revolutionary War.
The heroic story of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the Revolution has been told many times, yet largely missing from maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels that truly revealed the new nation’s character—above all, its ambition and entrepreneurial ethos.
In Rebels at Sea, best-selling historian Eric Jay Dolin corrects that significant omission, and contends that privateers, as they were called, were in fact critical to the American victory. Privateers were privately owned vessels, mostly refitted merchant ships, that were granted permission by the new government to seize British merchantmen and men of war. As Dolin stirringly demonstrates, at a time when the young Continental Navy numbered no more than about sixty vessels all told, privateers rushed to fill the gaps. Nearly 2,000 set sail over the course of the war, with tens of thousands of Americans serving on them and capturing some 1,800 British ships. Privateers came in all shapes and sizes, from twenty-five foot long whaleboats to full-rigged ships more than 100 feet long. Bristling with cannons, swivel guns, muskets, and pikes, they tormented their foes on the broad Atlantic and in bays and harbors on both sides of the ocean.
The men who owned the ships, as well as their captains and crew, would divide the profits of a successful cruise—and suffer all the more if their ship was captured or sunk, with privateersmen facing hellish conditions on British prison hulks, where they were treated not as enemy combatants but as pirates. Some Americans viewed them similarly, as cynical opportunists whose only aim was loot. Yet Dolin shows that privateersmen were as patriotic as their fellow Americans, and moreover that they greatly contributed to the war’s success: diverting critical British resources to protecting their shipping, playing a key role in bringing France into the war on the side of the United States, providing much-needed supplies at home, and bolstering the new nation’s confidence that it might actually defeat the most powerful military force in the world.
Creating an entirely new pantheon of Revolutionary heroes, Dolin reclaims such forgotten privateersmen as Captain Jonathan Haraden and Offin Boardman, putting their exploits, and sacrifices, at the very center of the conflict. Abounding in tales of daring maneuvers and deadly encounters, Rebels at Sea presents this nation’s first war as we have rarely seen it before.
Eric Jay Dolin is the author of fifteen books, including Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, won the 2007 John Lyman Award for U.S. Maritime History, and was an Editor’s Choice for the New York Times Book Review. His most recent book before Rebels at Sea is A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes, which was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Booklist, Library Journal, and the editors at Amazon. It was also selected as a "Must-Read" book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book for 2021, and an Editor’s Choice for the New York Times Book Review. Rebels at Sea was awarded the Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award and was a finalist for both the New England Society Book Award and the Julia Ward Howe Award given by the Boston Authors Club. Rebels was also selected as a “Must-Read” book for 2023. Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse was chosen
by gCaptain and Classic Boat as one of the best nautical books of 2016 and was selected as a “Must-Read” book for 2017. One of Dolin’s most popular maritime books is Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates, published in 2018. His next book, due out in May 2024, is Left for Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World, about men intentionally marooned on the Falkland Islands during the War of 1812. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his PhD in environmental policy, Dolin lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his family. For more information, please see www.ericjaydolin.com
"And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
I served in the United States Navy.” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, US Navy Lieutenant & 35th President of the United States
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