Henry Adams stated flatly that “the privateers contributed more than the regular navy to bring about a disposition for peace in the British classes most responsible for the war.”
For those of you that have been following along with the blog’s focus on privateering, letter of marque and reprisal, and offense industry, then you will know why this book would interest me. I have not had a chance to check it out yet, but from the sounds of it, it was written by a privateering ‘maven‘.
The author has actually built a schooner called the Fame, based on the first privateering vessel to capture a prize during the War of 1812. He has written several books on the subject and even has a business that teaches the public the history and the workings of a privateer vessel. I would say that would be defined as pretty passionate about the subject. lol
Probably the most interesting aspect of this book from the description below, is the author’s focus on how important privateers really were during the war. This was the ultimate in old school privatized warfare and offense industry in overdrive.
An entire industry focused on attacking the weakness of an enemy, and Britain’s weakness was their commerce/trade. There is no way our navy and privateers could have taken on the Royal Navy directly, so instead we did like most small disadvantaged forces would do in that situation, and attacked their poorly defended commerce/trade. Check this quote out.
Deprived of customs duties, the United States government was in dire straits by the end of 1814. Had the conflict continued, the nation would have been incapable of defending itself without a central bank, new taxes, and conscription. Meanwhile, America’s privateers were waging a highly effective war against British trade. They captured an estimated 2,000 prizes worth $40 million, sent insurance rates to unprecedented levels, and drove up prices at a time when Britain’s economy was groaning under the strain of two decades of warfare. The British public was outraged; merchants bombarded the government with protests and appeals. With the United States incapable of maintaining the initiative in Canada, privateering became the nation’s last, best, and only offensive weapon.
Pretty neat and this book would be another good one to check out. Especially if you are a student of ‘offense industry’ or are interested in the letter of marque concept. This would also be a good read for those of you interested in naval history and guerrilla warfare. –Matt
By Capt. Michael Rustein
Publication Date: March 25, 2012
High school and even college textbooks oversimplify the War of 1812 — when they don’t ignore it completely. Popular histories emphasize the military as opposed to the economic and political aspects of the war. The U.S. Navy’s role has been written about ad nauseum. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a definitive work on the equally important contributions of American privateers. While the Navy’s outstanding performance in single-ship engagements remains a source of national pride, those victories did not change the course of the war one iota. Had Constitution defeated a dozen British frigates, the thousand-ship Royal Navy would still have blockaded our coasts, strangled our commerce, bottled up our warships, and hunted down those that escaped. Even her former commander, Tyrone Martin, conceded that Constitution’s victories were “no more than pin pricks” that “had no direct effect on the course of the war.”