As its title indicates, this latest book by the author of Surrender at Yorktown, etc. tells the story of the American privateers: the origin of these sea-raiders, their exploits in their ""golden age"", the War of 1812, and their final disappearance as Civil War blockade runners. Beginning his tale with the encounter between the privateer General Armstrong and the British brig Carnation at Fayal in September, 1814, the author writes of ships and captains, of prizes won and lost, and of pitched battles on the high seas. Privateers were not pirates but the difference between them was at times, as in the case of Captain Kidd, almost indistinguishable. Pirates were outlaws; privateers carried ship's papers. Pirates plundered all shipping; privateers could legally attack only enemy ships. In the War of 1812 between 200 and 450 American privateers harried British shipping, but although their nuisance value was high and their exploits romantic and hair-raising, their effect on the outcome of the War was small; they were no match for well-armed naval vessels and they failed to keep the British from invading the eastern seaboard. They were also inefficient and expensive, for they were not subject to official orders and drained money, men and guns from the army and navy. Compact and easily readable, this account of a romantic period in American naval history will appeal to arm-chair navigators and non-privateering yachtsmen; historians will value it for its excellent bibliography.