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On the Account

Piracy and the Americas, 1766–1835

Journalist and historian Joseph Gibbs is an associate professor of mass communication at the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). He is the author of Gorbachev’s Glasnost (1999), the Civil War regimental history Three Years in the Bloody Eleventh (2002), and Dead Men Tell No Tales (2007), about pirate James Jeffers, alias Charles Gibbs. He holds a doctorate from Boston University.

In addition to being commercialized and romanticized, piracy’s history has also been distorted, with many works straying far from the facts recorded in the Age of Sail. In this book, author Joseph Gibbs goes back to many of the original materials about those who “went on the account” (a classic euphemism for piracy) to deliver an engaging, closely interpreted anthology of seven decades of primary sources. The text comprises original monographs, broadsides, trial records, newspaper articles, and official reports that deal with piracy in and involving the Americas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Joseph Gibbs annotates and explains these records in order to clarify the era’s historical, legal, literary, and nautical references.

Along the way readers will experience violent mutinies, vicious sea battles, anti-piracy raids on Louisiana islands and Latin American coasts, and the United States’ first sustained encounter with the Barbary Corsairs. They will also catch glimpses of maritime brigands as remarkable as any that walked the decks of piracy’s earlier “golden age” and encounter the naval officers and sailors who strove to bring them to rough justice. Enhanced with period maps and illustrations, On the Account provides an enlightening introduction to piracy’s original canon as it emerged in the era of the quill pen and hand-operated press.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-476-5
Paperback Price: £29.95 / $49.95
Release Date: April 2012
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Extensively illustrated



1. “Veterans in blood and murder” – The mutiny aboard the Polly and the trial of Joseph Andrews (1766, 1769)

2. “All Tory by God” – Mutiny aboard the St. Louis (1778)

3. “A heart hard enough to kill a man” – The Eliza mutiny and the trial of “three foreigners” (1799-1800)

4. “The most abject slavery” – The United States and the Barbary Pirates (1793–1804)

5. “A horrible crime to think upon” – Mutiny on the George Washington (1812)

6. “The greatest villains that ever blackened the human character” – The privateers of the Gulf and Caribbean (1814–1821)

7. “They … took to their heels” – Kearny’s Enterprise at Cape Antonio (1821–1822)

8. “Her red flag [was] nailed to the mast” – The campaign against piracy in the Gulf and Caribbean (1822–1825)

9. “No evidence of a ‘contrite heart’” – The Vineyard mutiny and the piracy confessions of “Charles Gibbs” (1830–1831)

10. “Demons in the shape of men” – The taking of the Mexican and its aftermath (1832–1835)


In On the Account, Professor Joseph Gibbs has put together a fascinating collection of documents pertaining to piracy that allows the reader to cut through the many artificial and romantic images that have been associated with these crimes of the sea. His selection of materials from the late 18th and early 19th century, including pirate confessions, newspaper accounts, letters, contemporary published works, and other sources, together with his insightful commentary, explanatory footnotes, and 30 well-chosen illustrations, make this work a must-have for individuals and libraries interested in maritime history. The sources and analysis presented in this engaging work are part of a larger effort by modern historians to understand the culture of piracy, and its sources in mutiny and privateering.
Rodney Carlisle, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

Joseph Gibbs has selected, annotated, and introduced an excellent set of primary sources on piracy in a period (17661835) that has long deserved closer study. Exemplifying the recent trend to treat piracy as a serious scholarly subject, On the Account will be of interest to researchers and teachers, and, at the same time, to general readers and enthusiasts in our pirate-crazed world.
Marcus Rediker, author of Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

From Blackbeard to Long John Silver and from Jean Lafitte to Errol Flynn and the pirates of Somalia, popular interest in the men and a few women who went “on the account” (the classic euphemism for becoming pirates) has never seemed to slacken. Stories and supposedly factual accounts and histories – true, false, and literary – have appeared in every media format for hundreds of years. Of late, a new spate of scholarly works has examined waterborne piracy from social, economic, political, and biographical perspectives. To these may be added On the Account by Gibbs (American Univ. of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates), which is not a narrative per se, but instead a selection of ten carefully chosen, introduced, and annotated primary sources from the 18th and 19th centuries. The indexed text is taken from original monographs of the period, broadsides, newspaper articles, trial records, and official reports; it is supplemented with maps and 30 illustrations, plus a five-page bibliography. … This new volume is a helpful introduction for students and experts alike, and suitable for all collections. Recommended.
M. J. Smith Jr., Tusculum College, Choice

In sum, On the Account is a worthy addition to the proliferating literature on the maritime Americas in the Age of Revolution. No comparable volume of carefully authenticated and resourced documents on the topic exists, and each chapter serves as a rich cache of primary material ready to serve as the bedrock of a course’s exploration of that topic or incident … [The] very valuable act of bringing together these rich, varied resources for an important and understudied era of maritime violence is a valuable contribution to our expanding knowledge of piracy in and around the Americas after the end of the ‘golden age’.
M.T. Rafferty, International Journal of Maritime History, 2012 (24), 324–325

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