Posts Tagged revolutionary war

Letter Of Marque: Ben Franklin’s ‘Privateer’ Fleet

This is a great documentary. What I thought was interesting is that Ben Franklin used privateers as a way to get British prisoners, in order to do a prisoner exchange with Britain for American prisoners. But because he did not provide incentive for the privateers to keep prisoners and deliver them or hold them, that the privateers just let them go. So I put the blame on Ben for not posting a bounty for prisoners captured, or at least some payment system that would motivate his privateers to capture and hold these prisoners.

Also, he poorly vetted the privateers he gave commissions too. I mean Ben really stumbled through this first effort of privateering. Although I am glad that the practice was improved upon and later turned into a key element of the Revolutionary War. It was private industry that targeted the logistics and commerce of the British, and basically made the American venture for Britain very costly.  Sun Tzu would refer to this as attacking weakness with strength, and British commerce and logistics was ravaged by American privateers.

What is also interesting is that with this bad experience, Ben made the conclusion that he did not like using privateers. Personally, I just think he didn’t have a clue on how to use them. Because if you look at the history of privateer usage in the War of 1812, congress used a bounty system to secure prisoners that privateers would have captured–all so they could do a prisoner exchange. In other words, America created a better offense industry using better rules and incentive. –Matt


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Podcasts: The Pirates of ’76’–NPR Interviews Robert Patton, Author of Patriot Pirates

     Check it out. It is a little old, but still a pretty cool little show about Robert Patton’s book. Probably the most interesting parts are the comparisons between today’s Somali pirates or security contractors in the war, and yesteryear’s privateers.  

   The one thing they did touch on that I thought was particularly interesting, and might be a future Building Snowmobiles topic, is the privateer versus privateer concept.  I guess the British got so fed up with the American pirates, that they started issuing letters of marque to their own privateers to go after these American privateers.  They even were able to get some Loyalist privateers out of New York to go after these guys, and according to Patton, these privateer vs. privateer battles were some of the most bloodiest and most desperate battles.  The fear of being captured by one side or the other, plus the fight over hard gained loot, all contributed to a fierce desire to win the fight. Interesting stuff.-Matt


Patriot Pirate

The Pirates of ‘76

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Originally broadcast: May 11, 2009

When Americans think of the Revolutionary War, the War for Independence, they think fife and drum, Minute Men, tri-cornered hats, George Washington on horseback.

When the British of 1776 — and ‘77 and ‘78 — thought of the American Revolution, many thought “pirates.” Cannon and cutlass and brigands on the high seas.

Washington and the Continental Congress unleashed thousands of American vessels — patriots and fortune seekers — to go after British shipping. And they did it with a vengeance.

This hour, On Point: Privateers, private booty, and the American Revolution.

Listen to Podcast here. 

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