Sunday, February 10, 2013
Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign by: Stephan Talty
What a great book. I was never into pirates per se, but after reading "The Jefferson Key" which dealt with a fictional family that still had a letter marque and were essentially privateers, a phrase I had never heard at the time, it piqued my interest. I found this book by accident and added it to me "to read" list, and there it sat. Until I finished an economic book and decided to change genres (I do this regularly).
The time, 17th Century; the place, Port Royal Jamaica; the man Captain Henry Morgan, AKA the Welchman. The story starts off with the tension between Britain and Spain and their empire building activities. Spain is dominating the New World and the British have their sites sets, figuratively and literally on the New World.
Although pirates and privateers are distinctly different they are not mutually exclusive. Henry the VIII came up with the idea of privateering. It was akin to the Mafia families of the 20's and 30's where the boss had his soldiers commit the crimes and then pay him his share. To Morgan, having his King's approval was enough for him. Henry Morgan became a hero and a legend for being a great privateer. The book covers the daring raids of Morgan's men in Granada, Portobello, Maracaibo and Panama, the latter being the biggest hit to the Spaniards.
His natural ability of being able to quickly identify the weakness of his foe and use those weaknesses against them was incredibly useful in his raids. The wit of the pirates and the way they executed their plans were ingenious. In Maracaibo, they outsmarted the Spaniard my hollowing out logs to make them look like cannons on a fire-ship.
Once Spain had had enough, they finally signed a peace treaty but one of the conditions was to stop the privateering. Morgan was one of the few who was able to transition to semi-private life. He ended up with a plantation which he ran and later becoming the deputy governor. These events had a big part in destroying the Spanish empire.
Captain Morgan died after spending the rest of his days drinking and sick. Some people see him as a marauder and some as a hero. The truth is maybe somewhere in the middle save the murder of innocent people. After his death a huge earthquake rocked Jamaica specifically Port Royal and it disrupted the trade with that area. Ironically and a blessing to the American Colonies.
One of the interesting things to me, that my lack of knowledge deprived me from knowing is the Panama was actually a country way before the supposed Teddy Roosevelt, Panama Canal incident. I guess I should read more :-)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Crown; BCE edition (April 24, 2007)
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