Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton by Gregory N. Flemming

Synopsis: Based on a rare manuscript from 1725, At the Point of a Cutlassuncovers the amazing voyage of Philip Ashton -- a nineteen-year old fisherman who was captured by pirates, escaped on an uninhabited Caribbean island, and then miraculously arrived back home three years later to tell his incredible story. Taken in a surprise attack near Nova Scotia in June 1722, Ashton was forced to sail across the Atlantic and back with a crew under the command of Edward Low, a man so vicious he tortured victims by slicing off an ear or nose and roasting them over a fire. "A greater monster," one colonial official wrote, "never infested the seas." Ashton barely survived the nine months he sailed with Low's crew -- he was nearly shot in the head at gunpoint, came close to drowning when a ship sank near the coast of Brazil, and was almost hanged for secretly plotting a revolt against the pirates. Like many forced men, Ashton thought constantly about escaping. In March of 1723, he saw his chance when Low's crew anchored at the secluded island of Roatan, at the western edge of the Caribbean. Ashton fled into the thick, overgrown woods and, for more than a year, had to claw out a living on the remote strip of land, completely alone and with practically nothing to sustain him. The opportunity to escape came so unexpectedly that Ashton ran off without a gun, a knife, or even a pair of shoes on his feet. Yet the resilient young castaway -- who has been called America's real-life Robinson Crusoe -- was able to find food, build a crude shelter, and even survive a debilitating fever brought on by the cool winter rains before he was rescued by a band of men sailing near the island. Based on Ashton's own first-hand account, as well trial records, logbooks, and a wealth of other archival evidence, At the Point of a Cutlass pieces together the unforgettable story of a man thrust into the violent world of a pirate ship and his daring survival and escape. (from the online description)

Review: I signed up to receive this book because it's a book about pirates, real pirates. The book was about pirates - but so much more. The author doesn't just relay Ashton's story, but includes the story of those Ashton interacted with - famous pirates, English Naval captains, preachers and other - each bound by the central thread of Ashton's life. Flemming also takes time to explain simple sailing words and techniques from the time period, cultural and political history, geography of islands and the types of ships. In all, this work is about not just pirates, but the world during the early 1700s, the world pirates live during. I highly recommend. This is a must have for anyone who enjoys the history of sailing, piracy and the sea.

I received this book free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program in exchange for my far and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-61168-515-2
Finished: 8-30-2014
Pages: 241

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