The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

Overview


To read of sea roving's various incarnations - piracy, privateering, buccaneering, la flibuste, la course - is to bring forth romantic, and often violent, imagery. Indeed, much of this imagery has become a literary and cinematic clich?. And what an image it is! But its truth is by halves, and paradoxically it is the picaresque imagery of Pyle, Wyeth, Sabatini, and Hollywood that is often closer to the reality, while the historical details of arms, tactics, and language are often inaccurate or entirely ...
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The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

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Overview


To read of sea roving's various incarnations - piracy, privateering, buccaneering, la flibuste, la course - is to bring forth romantic, and often violent, imagery. Indeed, much of this imagery has become a literary and cinematic clich?. And what an image it is! But its truth is by halves, and paradoxically it is the picaresque imagery of Pyle, Wyeth, Sabatini, and Hollywood that is often closer to the reality, while the historical details of arms, tactics, and language are often inaccurate or entirely anachronistic. Successful sea rovers were careful practitioners of a complex profession that sought wealth by stratagem and force of arms. Drawn from the European tradition, yet of various races and nationalities, they raided both ship and town throughout much of the world from roughly 1630 until 1730. Using a variety of innovative tactics and often armed with little more than musket and grenade, many of these self-described "soldiers and privateers" successfully assaulted fortifications, attacked shipping from small craft, crossed the mountains and jungles of Panama, and even circumnavigated the globe. Successful sea rovers were often supreme seamen, soldiers, and above all, tacticians. It can be argued that their influence on certain naval tactics is felt even today. The Sea Rover's Practice is the only book that describes in exceptional detail the tactics of sea rovers of the period - how they actually sought out and attacked vessels and towns. Accessible to both the general and the more scholarly reader, it will appeal not only to those with an interest in piracy and in maritime, naval, and military history, but also to mariners in general, tall-ship and ship-modeling enthusiasts, tacticians and military analysts, readers of historical fiction, writers, and the adventurer in all of us.
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Editorial Reviews

Naval Review

"Rich in colourful detail, and displays impressive knowledge of sailing and fighting skills."—Naval Review
The Historian

“This book on Golden Age piracy is as lively as its subject matter…With considerable gusto and an impressive understanding of the strategies of violence at sea, the author explores the material practices of piracy from the beginning to the end of a voyage. Little’s book is particularly strong in its description of the armaments and tactics of warfare at sea…The scholarship is also strong...Little’s achievement in The Sea Rover’s Practice is a considerable one; this well-priced and absorbing book allows the reader to appreciate the terms of engagement, and the stakes, in the much romanticized but little understood phenomena of early modern piracy.”—The Historian
Michael J. Crawford

"As colorful as a Howard Pyle illustration and as compelling as an Errol Flynn film, The Sea Rover's Practice belongs on anyone’s short list of useful scholarship on the great age of piracy. Based largely on first-person accounts, the book provides a trustworthy description of how pirates, filibusters, buccaneers, and privateers went about their business, from planning and recruiting, through chasing, engaging, and boarding, to dividing the spoils. One of the many intriguing facts to be gleaned, for instance, is the origins of the practice of ‘small plunder by custom’ that continued to be included in the privateering articles of agreement of later eras. The reader, entertained as well as informed, is likely to have nearly as much fun reading this book as the author appears to have had in writing it."—Michael J. Crawford, naval historian and editor of The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution
Norman J. W. Thrower

"A remarkably complete analysis of methods used in piracy, especially in Europe and America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is based on solid research and is especially valuable for understanding the language and literature of the subject. It includes useful notes and bibliographies and is a highly recommended reference work for both general and specialized libraries."—Norman J. W. Thrower, professor emeritus of geography at UCLA, and author of Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society
Frank Sherry

"Benerson Little brings a unique and powerful perspective--that of a scholarly former U.S. Navy SEAL--to a fascinating subject. The result is a remarkable book that casts much new light on the sea rovers of the Age of Sail."—Frank Sherry, author of Raiders and Rebels: The Golden Age of Piracy
Naval War College Review

"[The Sea Rover's Practice] will be of high interest to the maritime spectrum, from armchair sailors to admirals. . . . Within the book's well documented twenty-three chapters, Little provides fascinationg material on pirate personalities and their lives both ashore and at sea. . . This is a really good book. Be prepared--after reading only a few pages--to feel the wind in your face and taste the salt air."—Naval War College Review
From the Publisher
"…It is this reviewer’s opinion that The Sea Rover’s Practice provides a very useful introduction to the subject. It will probably have a wide appeal to general readers, and it may well prove helpful in connection with a range of university courses."

“This book on Golden Age piracy is as lively as its subject matter…With considerable gusto and an impressive understanding of the strategies of violence at sea, the author explores the material practices of piracy from the beginning to the end of a voyage. Little’s book is particularly strong in its description of the armaments and tactics of warfare at sea…The scholarship is also strong...Little’s achievement in The Sea Rover’s Practice is a considerable one; this well-priced and absorbing book allows the reader to appreciate the terms of engagement, and the stakes, in the much romanticized but little understood phenomena of early modern piracy.”

". . . .rich in colourful detail, and displays impressive knowledge of sailing and fighting skills."

"As colorful as a Howard Pyle illustration and as compelling as an Errol Flynn film, The Sea Rover's Practice belongs on anyone’s short list of useful scholarship on the great age of piracy. Based largely on first-person accounts, the book provides a trustworthy description of how pirates, filibusters, buccaneers, and privateers went about their business, from planning and recruiting, through chasing, engaging, and boarding, to dividing the spoils. One of the many intriguing facts to be gleaned, for instance, is the origins of the practice of ‘small plunder by custom’ that continued to be included in the privateering articles of agreement of later eras. The reader, entertained as well as informed, is likely to have nearly as much fun reading this book as the author appears to have had in writing it."

"A remarkably complete analysis of methods used in piracy, especially in Europe and America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is based on solid research and is especially valuable for understanding the language and literature of the subject. It includes useful notes and bibliographies and is a highly recommended reference work for both general and specialized libraries."

"Benerson Little brings a unique and powerful perspective--that of a scholarly former U.S. Navy SEAL--to a fascinating subject. The result is a remarkable book that casts much new light on the sea rovers of the Age of Sail."

"[The Sea Rover's Practice] will be of high interest to the maritime spectrum, from armchair sailors to admirals. . . . Within the book's well documented twenty-three chapters, Little provides fascinationg material on pirate personalities and their lives both ashore and at sea. . . This is a really good book. Be prepared--after reading only a few pages--to feel the wind in your face and taste the salt air."

"The Sea Rover's Practice fills a longstanding void in the literature of piracy. With the trained eye and experienced hand of a sailor and maritime combatant, Benerson Little reconstructs a century of tactics and stratagems developed by pirates during the height of their operations in Spanish America and beyond. Through engaging prose and careful scholarship, Little uncovers the fascinating secrets of the ‘sweet trade.’"

"For the student of fan of early pirating days who will readily appreciate Navy SEAL officer Benerson Little's focus on the realities and--dare we say--business practices of early sea rovers. The Sea Rover's Practice is the only book to describe in detail their tactics, and the scholarly reader in particular will find the research solid."

"[Little's] unique insight gives us a truly practical guide on the strategies and techniques used by the successful pirate or privateer. . . . If I were headed out a-rovin' and were allowed only one book in my sea bag, this would be the one I'd bring."

“During the seventeenth century and the first third of the eighteenth, sea rovers—pirates, privateers, and buccaneers—preyed on ships. Fictional accounts of this time period tend to romanticize the era. Nonfiction books often examine the period as a whole and what it was like to be a pirate. Neither, however, spends much time on how sea rovers accomplished their seizure of ships and raiding of towns. The Sea Rover’s Practice corrects this oversight and does so in such a way that anyone—general reader or scholar—can learn the methods these marauders employed. . . . No self-respecting sea rover should be without this manual! Re-enactors and writers will find [it] invaluable, but anyone who wishes a more in-depth look into the tactics of pirates and privateers will not be disappointed.”

"A scholarly, informative, thought-provoking work, a book that would be a welcome addition to any maritime historian's library. Considering all the titles that have been published in the last decade on piracy, this book is an excellent resource on its true nature."

"The Sea Rover's Practice is an excellent review of every aspect of pirating and privateering . . . a great resource. . . ."

"The Sea Rover's Practice by Benerson Little, a former Navy SEAL officer, examines the tactics and stratagems deployed by privateers and pirates to 'take wealth by force of arms at sea' in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. It is prcisesly the sort of book that some of my students crave."

"[An] author of truly heroic status. Benerson Little has written a book without precedent--a samll tome of combat knowledge as it applies to our pirate forebears. . . . It's one thing for a historian to write about old naval tactics. It's quite another when that historian is a former Navy SEAL. . . . A truly exceptional book."

"Excellent . . . This is a great backgrounder on what really was behind the privateers, buccaneers/boucaniers, filibusters/flibustiers, and pirates. . . . This is not a book that only looks at the past but has a surprisning applicability to modernity."

"The Sea Rover's Practice is delightful and frightful and scholarly all at the same time . . . . The reader is enthralled with the detail of it all . . . ."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574889116
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 2/27/2007
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 580,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Benerson Little was born in Key West, the son of a navy man. At age ten, he read Treasure Island, which led him to explore the world of the pirate. He later became a SEAL officer and an analyst for the Naval Special Warfare Center Strategy and Tactics Group. Little is the author of The Sea Rover’s Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630–1730 (Potomac Books, 2005), The Buccaneer’s Realm: Pirate Life on the Spanish Main, 1674–1688 (Potomac Books, 2007), and Pirate Hunting: The Fight Against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present (Potomac Books, 2010). He lives in Huntsville, Alabama, where he teaches fencing.
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Table of Contents

1 The perils of wealth by stratagem and force of arms, part I : of greed and desperation 1
2 Sea rovers : freebooters, filibusters, cruisers, corsairs, buccaneers, privateers, and pirates 10
3 Wealth by force of arms : of purchase as purpose 23
4 Roving spirits, charter parties, and stout commanders : the recruiting, organization, and leadership of adventurers 29
5 Piraguas, sloops, and ships : tools of the trade, part I 41
6 Of small arms and fireworks : tools of the trade, part II 57
7 Cruising for purchase : forewarned is forearmed 75
8 Baptisms, pissdales, and dog watches : the routine at sea 84
9 Riches and dangers at sea : pirate prey and pirate hunters 95
10 "A sail! a sail!" : descrying and espying the prey 105
11 Colors true and colors false : in none we trust 111
12 Stand to her forefoot : giving chase 120
13 Hailing and showing teeth : the prey in range 129
14 Plucking a crow : small arms and great guns 134
15 Volleys, grenades, and cutlasses : laying her aboard under fire 153
16 Surprizals at sea : "Jesus! these men are devils!" 162
17 Surprizals at anchor : quiet waters, quiet oars 167
18 More surprizals at anchor : of trade and other pretenses 175
19 Sending a smoker and catching a tartar : more stratagems at sea 180
20 Houses, towns, and cities sacked : the sea rover as a soldier 190
21 Plunder and prisoners : the sanguine spoils 196
22 Rum, women, dice, turtle, and honor : the routine ashore and soon another venture 206
23 The perils of wealth by stratagem and force of arms, part II : dying by the sword 214
App. 1 Comparative actions of sea rovers 219
App. 2 Privateer, buccaneer, and pirate : a sea rover's lexicon, part I 221
App. 3 Galley, sloop, and piragua : a sea rover's lexicon, part II 228
App. 4 Mariner's language, 1630 to 1730 : a sea rover's lexicon, part III 239
App. 5 Roving writers and some I wish had been 243
App. 6 Spirits and belly timber : some culinary history and recipes for the adventurous 246
App. 7 Ranges, distances, weights, and measures 251
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2005

    Well written and factual

    Ben Little has done an excellent job of writing this book. It is very difficult to maintain a good writing style, while keeping the factual nature of the material clear. The author has maintained this balance superbly. It is obvious that the author has obtained as much of the facts as possible from first hand accounts written during this time period. It is also nice to see military tactical thinking without the Hollywood overlay of glitz. I would recommend this book to anyone that would like a factual view of pirate tactics, life style, and weaponry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

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