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At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton
     

At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton

3.0 2
by Gregory N. Flemming
 

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A handful of sea stories define the American maritime narrative. Stories of whaling, fishing, exploration, naval adventure, and piracy have always captured our imaginations, and the most colorful of these are the tales of piracy. Called America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe, the true story of Philip Ashton—a nineteen-year-old fisherman captured by pirates

Overview

A handful of sea stories define the American maritime narrative. Stories of whaling, fishing, exploration, naval adventure, and piracy have always captured our imaginations, and the most colorful of these are the tales of piracy. Called America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe, the true story of Philip Ashton—a nineteen-year-old fisherman captured by pirates, impressed as a crewman, subjected to torture and hardship, who eventually escaped and lived as a castaway and scavenger on a deserted island in the Caribbean—was at one time as well known as the tales of Cooper, Hawthorne, and Defoe. Based on a rare copy of Ashton’s 1725 account, Gregory N. Flemming’s vivid portrait recounts this maritime world during the golden age of piracy. Fishing vessels and merchantmen plied the coastal waters and crisscrossed the Atlantic and Caribbean. It was a hard, dangerous life, made more so by both the depredations and temptations of piracy. Chased by the British Royal Navy, blown out of the water or summarily hung when caught, pirate captains such as Edward Low kidnapped, cajoled, beat, and bribed men like Ashton into the rich—but also vile, brutal, and often short—life of the pirate. In the tradition of Nathaniel Philbrick, At the Point of a Cutlass expands on a lost classic narrative of America and the sea, and brings to life a forgotten world of ships and men on both sides of maritime law.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Flemming relates the story of the capture by pirates of Philip Ashton in 1722, and in the process he reveals a fascinating history of pirates during the first decades of the 18th century, “the golden age of piracy.” . . . From battles with warships to the way the pirates split their plunder, Flemming’s focus on individual actors adds a welcome depth to the history of piracy with this engaging and harrowing account of ‘America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe.’”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Ashton’s account of his travails, published in 1725, became a hit in Colonial New England. Now forgotten, his story is brought back to life by Gregory N. Flemming in his fine new book, At the Point of a Cutlass. Beautifully printed and bound—though it could use more maps—the book delivers blood-thirsty pirates and plenty of action and excitement on the high seas. Forgoing an ‘avast ye swabbies!’ approach, Flemming’s sober style and scholarly approach ballast his account and keep his story on a steady course.”—Boston Globe

“Paints an indelible picture of pirate life, day by day... compelling, dramatic reading.”—Dallas Morning News

“[A] real-life historical thriller.” —The Week, The Best of U.S. and International Media

“At the Point of a Cutlass is trim and shipshape, and it left me talking like Long John Silver for a day or two.”—Wilmington, NC Star

“[Flemming] expertly weaves together the various story threads to create an absorbing account of the harrowing life of a seaman living amid brutal pirates in the waning years of the period that has become known as the Golden Age of Piracy.”—Pirates and Privateers

“For an academic reader, Flemming’s synthesis of information is well done. Gleaning the necessary details from records three centuries old is never an easy task and those who study the period will appreciate Flemming’s attention to detail and thorough endnotes. For any reader, At the Point of a Cutlass is an amazing tale of adventure, danger, and survival.”—The Northern Mariner

“A lively read made all the more compelling from its real-world roots.”—The Midwest Book Review

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/17/2014
Flemming relates the story of the capture by pirates of Philip Ashton in 1722, and in the process he reveals a fascinating history of pirates during the first decades of the 18th century, “the golden age of piracy.” Ashton, a fisherman, was taken captive during a raid off the coast of Nova Scotia by the pirate crew of the notorious Edward Low, a captain more vicious than Blackbeard. Ashton survived his capture for nine months before escaping on a deserted island in the Caribbean where the ship had stopped for water. He spent 16 months there, alone, before he was rescued. By the time he made it home to Marblehead, Mass., he’d been away three years. Ashton’s account was written down and published by his minister, John Barnard—a less severe protégé of fire-and-brimstone Puritan preacher Cotton Mather—and Flemming’s detailed contextualizing of pirate life was taken from court records, survivor narratives, newspaper accounts, and logbooks. From battles with warships to the way the pirates split their plunder, Flemming’s focus on individual actors adds a welcome depth to the history of piracy with this engaging and harrowing account of “America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe.” Illus. (June)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611685152
Publisher:
University Press of New England
Publication date:
06/03/2014
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are Saying About This

Paul Schneider
“More than just a meticulously researched account of an epic survival story, and more than a surprisingly intimate look inside the lives of the victims of 18th century pirates and the politics of piracy, At the Point of a Cutlass is a thrilling voyage with plenty of ‘Arghh Matey!!’ and grog to go around.”
Stephan Talty
“A dark and fascinating tale. At the Point of a Cutlass takes us into corners of the pirate life we haven’t been before. …one of the most harrowing survival stories of the colonial era.”
George C. Daughan
“Gregory Flemming’s account of Philip Ashton’s fascinating odyssey is superb. A deeply religious cod fisherman, Ashton survived capture by depraved pirates and months alone on an uninhabited Caribbean island. Eventually rescued, he returned to Marblehead, Massachusetts, to tell his incomparable tale, which gained the attention and admiration of Cotton Mather, his disciple John Barnard, and Daniel Defoe.”
Marcus Rediker
“Pirates have begun to attract serious and talented scholars and writers in recent years; Gregory N. Flemmingexemplifies the trend inAt the Point of a Cutlass. Here is the powerful story of Philip Ashton's life-and-death encounter with the notorious sea-robber Ned Low and his swaggering band of pirates. Flemming's dramatic history of real pirates is vastly better than the Hollywood version!”

Meet the Author

GREGORY N. FLEMMING is a former journalist who holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives with his family in New England. His website is www.gregflemming.com.

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At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast-paced true story of a New England pirate captive, the pirate crew that captured him, and how he survived by escaping.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A few (very few) interesting moments. This book was so dull that I may keep it as a sleep aid. I am sorry that I shelled out my hard earned money for the hardcover.