Privateering: Patriots & Profits in the War of 1812
Faye M. Kert. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. 147 pp. Append. Notes. Index. Illus. $55.
Reviewed by Frederick C. Leiner
Privateering was a form of commercial warfare undertaken by private citizens in the Age of Sail. Merchants armed their fast ships with a few cannon, and with a license from their national government, sent them to attack the maritime trade of the enemy. They received the revenue from the sale of the ships and cargoes (the prizes) they captured. Privateering reached its apogee in the War of 1812, when, according to Faye Kert, American privateers captured about 1,900 British merchant ships. Some of the ships they captured had to be burned, others were ransomed back to their owners, and the British navy recaptured many. But hundreds made it home. If the prize was held to be valid legally, the ship and her cargo were sold at auction, potentially providing huge profits.