Tag Archives: privateers of the Revolutionary War


Luke RyanThe 4th of July is fast approaching, so Balladeer’s Blog will be squeezing in a few more holiday-themed posts up til then. In the past I’ve examined Revolutionary War privateers like John Haraden and Silas Talbot. This time around I’ll take a look at the controversial Luke Ryan.

Ryan was born in 1750 in Rush, Ireland and by the late 1770s he was an established smuggler. Captaining his ship the Friendship, Luke got commissioned in February of 1778 as a privateer for the British but would later switch to the American side.

The Friendship, with its 14 cannon and 60-man crew, sailed as a privateer vessel for King George III until April of 1779. Captain Ryan couldn’t resist pulling a side hustle against his ostensible employer England by smuggling some goods from Dunkirk, France to Rush, Ireland.

ryan's shipSome of Ryan’s crew didn’t like the way the spoils were divided from this extracurricular activity and informed the authorities about Luke’s smuggling offense. The Friendship was seized and hauled to Poolbeg and all crew members on board were arrested, then thrown into Black Dog Gaol. This happened on the night of April 11th into 12th. 

Luke was not among those men on board at the time, so he organized a raid to bust his men free from Black Dog. The raid succeeded, following which the freed men and their liberators went to Poolbeg where they stole aboard the impounded Friendship and overpowered the guards.

The recovered vessel sailed to Rush before daybreak and with 18 additional men signing on, it was on to Dunkirk. Captain Ryan and his crew had committed a hanging offense by taking back the Friendship, so they decided to switch sides and become privateers for England’s enemies. Continue reading


Filed under Neglected History, Revolutionary War


Balladeer’s Blog’s 2017 post about Revolutionary War Privateer Captain Jonathan Haraden has proven to be a very popular item. Here’s another neglected American Privateer cut from the same cloth. And for the Haraden post click HERE

Silas TalbotCAPTAIN SILAS TALBOT – Even if he had never gone on to a career in Privateering, Talbot would still have been a fascinating figure from Revolutionary War history. On June 28th, 1775 Silas was commissioned as a Captain in a Rhode Island regiment and served in the military operations which ended with the British surrender of Boston in March of 1776.

During the New York campaign Talbot and a picked crew sailed a Fire Ship into the 64-gun British ship Asia. Under heavy fire from the Asia and with his own craft already burning, Silas was the last man overboard, suffering severe burns which left him temporarily blinded. Talbot was promoted to Major upon recovering and rejoining his unit. Continue reading

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Filed under Neglected History, Revolutionary War


crossed sabresWith the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaching here is another seasonal post. Previously, Balladeer’s Blog has looked at the swashbuckling actions of some American privateers from the Revolutionary War. This time here’s a look at one of the most successful months for our privateers – September of 1778.

crossed swords picSEPTEMBER 1st-5th – The American privateer ship the Active seized multiple prizes and took aboard several British Prisoners of War. Unfortunately, the Captain of the Active had stretched his crew too thin. The captive Brits gleaned the vulnerable position of their captors and rose up to seize control of the ship and were determined to link up with the first British vessel they could find to help take in the seized U.S. ship and consummate their freedom.

SEPTEMBER 6th – The 10-cannon brig the Gerard, an American privateer, under Pennsylvania’s J. Josiah, came upon the seized Active and, after a long chase, compelled the ship to surrender. Captain Josiah and his men learned they had just saved the American privateer crew and had recaptured the British POWs. The Gerard escorted the Active back to its Philadelphia port in case the POWs grew frisky again.

SEPTEMBER 17th – The 18-cannon privateer ship Vengeance, under one Captain Newman of Massachusetts, chased the British packet ship Harriet (16 cannon) for at least 6 hours before engaging it in battle. The Americans won and the Harriet surrendered.        Continue reading


Filed under Neglected History


HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! As another seasonal post Balladeer’s Blog examines the Revolutionary War career of Captain Jonathan Haraden.

Captain Jonathan Haraden“THE SALAMANDER” – Previously I covered  Haraden’s career in the Massachusetts Navy as First Lieutenant and later Captain of the legendary  commerce raider Tyrannicide.  After two years on board that vessel, by the summer of 1778 Captain Haraden left the Massachusetts Navy to command the privateer ship the General Pickering. Haraden’s fame would fly even higher as he earned the nickname “The Salamander,” a play on words regarding his ability to withstand fire.

Jonathan captained his new craft on voyages which saw him serving as a virtual blockade runner and smuggler on his outgoing trips, transporting American goods for his syndicate to be sold in Europe. On the return trips the General Pickering would capture a prize or two for the usual division of shares that made privateering very, very lucrative. 

crossed cutlassesAlways a consummate swashbuckler, Haraden would sometimes capture a British prize even while transporting a cargo across the Atlantic. Off Sandy Hook, NJ on October 13th, 1779 the good captain added to his legend by taking on THREE British privateer vessels at once. The Brits outgunned the 16-cannon General Pickering by 14, 10 and 8 cannons but the Salamander coolly emerged triumphant and towed in all three defeated craft. Continue reading


Filed under Neglected History, Revolutionary War