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Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution

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The heroic story of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the Revolution has been told before, yet missing from most maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels, from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, that truly revealed the new nation’s character—above all, its ambition and entrepreneurial ethos. In Rebels at Sea, best-selling The heroic story of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the Revolution has been told before, yet missing from most maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels, from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, 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, though often seen as profiteers at best and pirates at worst, were in fact critical to the Revolution’s outcome. Armed with cannons, swivel guns, muskets, and pikes—as well as government documents granting them the right to seize enemy ships—thousands of privateers tormented the British on the broad Atlantic and in bays and harbors on both sides of the ocean. Abounding with tales of daring maneuvers and deadly encounters, Rebels at Sea presents the American Revolution as we have rarely seen it before.


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The heroic story of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the Revolution has been told before, yet missing from most maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels, from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, that truly revealed the new nation’s character—above all, its ambition and entrepreneurial ethos. In Rebels at Sea, best-selling The heroic story of the founding of the U.S. Navy during the Revolution has been told before, yet missing from most maritime histories of America’s first war is the ragtag fleet of private vessels, from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, 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, though often seen as profiteers at best and pirates at worst, were in fact critical to the Revolution’s outcome. Armed with cannons, swivel guns, muskets, and pikes—as well as government documents granting them the right to seize enemy ships—thousands of privateers tormented the British on the broad Atlantic and in bays and harbors on both sides of the ocean. Abounding with tales of daring maneuvers and deadly encounters, Rebels at Sea presents the American Revolution as we have rarely seen it before.

30 review for Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    3.5 to 4 stars. Well written and appears to be researched in some detail. Author Eric Dolin presents a chapter of the revolutionary war that's very seldom covered in standard history in "Rebels at Sea". From this account, it sure seems like American Privateers played a significant role in the success of the Revolutionary War. My one qualm with the book is that I think Dolin may be more enamored with the exploits and noble motives of privateers than common sense suggests. I have a very hard time 3.5 to 4 stars. Well written and appears to be researched in some detail. Author Eric Dolin presents a chapter of the revolutionary war that's very seldom covered in standard history in "Rebels at Sea". From this account, it sure seems like American Privateers played a significant role in the success of the Revolutionary War. My one qualm with the book is that I think Dolin may be more enamored with the exploits and noble motives of privateers than common sense suggests. I have a very hard time in placing patriotism near the top of the motives of these folks. Greed and excitement yes, noble pursuit no.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James Piss

    fake. didn;t happen

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glen

    I received this book from the Goodreads giveaway contest. If you like non-fiction History, you must read this book. What we learned in our school History classes about the American Revolution and the sea battles that were fought, didn’t even touch what the author, Eric Dolin, researched and wrote in his book. What we all learned about Privateers, or what we were told were pirates, actually was another chapter in the American Revolution, who helped win our Nation’s freedom against the British. Be I received this book from the Goodreads giveaway contest. If you like non-fiction History, you must read this book. What we learned in our school History classes about the American Revolution and the sea battles that were fought, didn’t even touch what the author, Eric Dolin, researched and wrote in his book. What we all learned about Privateers, or what we were told were pirates, actually was another chapter in the American Revolution, who helped win our Nation’s freedom against the British. Better than sitting in a classroom, listening what your teacher is supposed to teach, this book talks about the Bravery our seafaring people that helped secure our freedom and started the first Navy in our Nation. A must read book for those who wants to learn about how our U.S. Navy began.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Dorau

    I spend a lot of time trying to explain privateering to visitors and students in a succinct, easily understandable way, while making it clear that the experienced varied by region, race, year, etc. This book does a wonderful job of offering both big-picture information and the personal, and often intimate details of individual experiences. This book address the two most common questions about privateering perfectly – I have never had anyone come on a tour of the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm [in wh I spend a lot of time trying to explain privateering to visitors and students in a succinct, easily understandable way, while making it clear that the experienced varied by region, race, year, etc. This book does a wonderful job of offering both big-picture information and the personal, and often intimate details of individual experiences. This book address the two most common questions about privateering perfectly – I have never had anyone come on a tour of the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm [in which a famous privateer lived] who did not, at some point equate privateers with piracy, and there is always a question about whether financial gain or patriotism was the primary motivation. The answer in both cases is complex and can easily become bogged down in scholarly debate, but this book avoids this pitfall. I think there is enough rigor here to satisfy the most demanding historian, but it is all beautifully accessible as well. Readers will never forget the smell of a prison ship or the blood pooling around the feet of a mortally wounded captain. They will hang their water buckets high in the rigging and hope this teaches new hands to climb! I loved it, an excellent balance between macro and micro history

  5. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    #GoodReadsGiveAway Thanks to Liveright and GoodReads for the advanced copy for review. This recent volume by Eric Jay Dolin argues that privateering played a more significant role in the outcome of the Revolutionary War than has been previously understood. He brings a trove of historical evidence to the table and properly situates these events in broader discussions about warfare practice and political machinations. Dolin certainly states a compelling case and historians looking at the primary fac #GoodReadsGiveAway Thanks to Liveright and GoodReads for the advanced copy for review. This recent volume by Eric Jay Dolin argues that privateering played a more significant role in the outcome of the Revolutionary War than has been previously understood. He brings a trove of historical evidence to the table and properly situates these events in broader discussions about warfare practice and political machinations. Dolin certainly states a compelling case and historians looking at the primary factors of the war for American independence will need to engage his study. The accounts are engaging and sometimes shocking or provocative. They provide a helpful balance to the more well known land and political battles that led to the foundation of the United States. Readers of history will enjoy this new research.

  6. 4 out of 5

    R.J. Murphy

    Thank you for the book Goodreads. "Rebels at Sea" is an interesting book that clearly explains what privateering was, who participated in it, who profited from it, and how it played an important part in creating the United States. I enjoyed this book. In words and with many fine illustrations, the author makes the story interesting and exciting. Privateers were not pirates. They were a fluid arm of our revolution as important as our army. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested Thank you for the book Goodreads. "Rebels at Sea" is an interesting book that clearly explains what privateering was, who participated in it, who profited from it, and how it played an important part in creating the United States. I enjoyed this book. In words and with many fine illustrations, the author makes the story interesting and exciting. Privateers were not pirates. They were a fluid arm of our revolution as important as our army. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American history and in learning more about this little known story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Callan

    An absolute MUST read, for History buffs out there! My husband was career Navy, so naturally, this book immediately caught my attention. I have been reading several books, set during the Revolution. This book did not disappoint. If you are drawn to Privateer and/or Pirate history, I am honored to suggest this book to you. I was so caught up in this story, that I honestly felt like I was present, and witnessing this fascinating sliver of history. Very well done!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    James M

    Another winner by Eric Jay Dolin. Although I enjoyed the 2 other books I read of his more ( Brilliant Beacons and A Furious Sky ) I also liked this one. The author does a great job of covering privateering in a condensed yet compressive manor. He covers the different slants and viewpoints on the subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Josh Lowder

    A great deal of information you will never read anywhere else. I have read several books on the American Revolution and have not read about most of what Dolin covers here. The level of research he covered to piece this one together is something else. Another home run by Dolin. Give Black Flags, Blue Waters a read if you haven't. Another great one by Dolin. A great deal of information you will never read anywhere else. I have read several books on the American Revolution and have not read about most of what Dolin covers here. The level of research he covered to piece this one together is something else. Another home run by Dolin. Give Black Flags, Blue Waters a read if you haven't. Another great one by Dolin.

  10. 5 out of 5

    SandersA

    Really interesting book! Opened a whole new world of the essential impact that privateers had on the birth of this nation. Well written (and read: audiobook) and I would definitely recommend to fans of history in general.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Fansler

    Informative. Beautifully written.

  12. 4 out of 5

    NonFiction 24/7

    Book dealt with the politics a little more than I liked. I wish it talked more about specific vessels and what they did.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Dowd

    American privateers are the subject of this book. It’s a can’t miss prospect. Eric Jay Dolin is once again doing what he does best. He takes a very big idea and distills it down for anyone to access the amazing aspects of the subject. You want to hear about funny boat names? He’s got you covered. You want to hear about how the British were sadistic scum in handling American prisoners? Oh, plenty of that. I don’t want to undersell how hard it is. The American Revolution and the people in it leave s American privateers are the subject of this book. It’s a can’t miss prospect. Eric Jay Dolin is once again doing what he does best. He takes a very big idea and distills it down for anyone to access the amazing aspects of the subject. You want to hear about funny boat names? He’s got you covered. You want to hear about how the British were sadistic scum in handling American prisoners? Oh, plenty of that. I don’t want to undersell how hard it is. The American Revolution and the people in it leave so much to go over. Very often, these types of books meander about and tell you stories only the author finds interesting. Dolin tells you the stories you need to hear, want to hear, and gets to the next point.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tim Symington

  15. 4 out of 5

    Logan Horsford

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Adams

  17. 5 out of 5

    allen mckay

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric Sterner

  20. 5 out of 5

    David

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  22. 4 out of 5

    Keily

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Stevens

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mgedert

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan Jane

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike Keenan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jaredith Mize

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

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