During the first two years of the War of 1812 bicentennial, our Naval History content has focused on the U.S. Navy’s blue-water and northern lakes operations during the conflict. But the sea service’s ships weren’t the only craft waging war on Britain. This issue features privateers—privately owned American vessels that preyed on British merchant ships and occasionally fought it out with the Royal Navy.
Frederick Leiner’s article, “Yes, Privateers Mattered,” presents an overview of the key role the speedy ships and the profit-driven privateering business played during the war. Leiner also explores a recent trend in War of 1812 naval historiography that ranges from discounting the importance of privateers to disregarding them.
The Prince de Neufchatel, one of the most celebrated American privateers, is the subject of “Obstinate and Audacious,” by Kevin McCranie. A “hermaphrodite,” with brig and schooner rigs, the ship made her investors and captain, Jean Ordronaux, rich before three powerful British frigates overhauled her in late 1814.