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History Happy Hour

Episode 109: Privateering in the American Revolution

Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea, Tim McGrath If they made a movie about it, you’d laugh at how improbable it was. Five lightly armed and equipped merchant ships hastily converted into warships and thrown into action against the most powerful-and successful-navy in the world; yet that is the story McGrath masterfully tells in his history of the American Revolution at sea and the birth of the United States Navy. A masterful account of an aspect of the Revolution that is all too often overlooked.

The Untold War at Sea: America’s Revolutionary Privateers, Kylie A. Hulbert Hulbert takes a deep dive into the use of privateers during the American Revolution, discussing some of the legalities of what was being done in the name of the new republic as well as some of the moral issues. Also interesting is her look at the make-up and motivations of the crews of these ships. Rather than being simply “legal pirates,” as Hulbert explains, these American seamen were just as much patriots as the minutemen on Lexington Green and should be remembered as such.

Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy, Mark Lardas and Tony Bryan This is an Osprey history book. Ospreys are short reference works favored by modelers, wargamers and students pulling an all-nighter to get a paper done. Very general with lots of illustrations and maps. In this case, however, I think Ships of the American Revolution is a useful reference as you dive into some of the meatier topics discussed in McGrath, Hulbert, and Dolin.

John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy, Evan Thomas No study of the birth of the U.S. Navy would be complete without a look at John Paul Jones. An incredible sailor who, through boldness, bravery and, some would argue, obstinacy, threatened the Royal Navy’s dominance of the Atlantic. There is a great deal written about Jones, but I think Thomas’ account is amongst the best.

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