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

ForeEdge from University Press of New England
2014 • 256 pp. 15 illus., 1 map 6 x 9"
History - 18th Century / Biography - Adventurers & Explorers / Caribbean & West Indies History / Maritime

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-515-2

$26.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-562-6

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Flemming relates the story of the capture by pirates of Philip Ashton in 1722, and in the process he reveals a fascinating history of pirates during the first decades of the 18th century, “the golden age of piracy.” . . . From battles with warships to the way the pirates split their plunder, Flemming’s focus on individual actors adds a welcome depth to the history of piracy with this engaging and harrowing account of ‘America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe.’”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The astonishing true story of a young sailor’s ordeal during the golden age of piracy

A handful of sea stories define the American maritime narrative. Stories of whaling, fishing, exploration, naval adventure, and piracy have always captured our imaginations, and the most colorful of these are the tales of piracy. Called America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe, the true story of Philip Ashton—a nineteen-year-old fisherman captured by pirates, impressed as a crewman, subjected to torture and hardship, who eventually escaped and lived as a castaway and scavenger on a deserted island in the Caribbean—was at one time as well known as the tales of Cooper, Hawthorne, and Defoe. Based on a rare copy of Ashton’s 1725 account, Gregory N. Flemming’s vivid portrait recounts this maritime world during the golden age of piracy. Fishing vessels and merchantmen plied the coastal waters and crisscrossed the Atlantic and Caribbean. It was a hard, dangerous life, made more so by both the depredations and temptations of piracy. Chased by the British Royal Navy, blown out of the water or summarily hung when caught, pirate captains such as Edward Low kidnapped, cajoled, beat, and bribed men like Ashton into the rich—but also vile, brutal, and often short—life of the pirate. In the tradition of Nathaniel Philbrick, At the Point of a Cutlass expands on a lost classic narrative of America and the sea, and brings to life a forgotten world of ships and men on both sides of maritime law.

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"Ashton's account of his travails, published in 1725, became a hit in Colonial New England. Now forgotten, his story is brought back to life by Gregory N. Flemming in his fine new book, "At the Point of a Cutlass." Beautifully printed and bound — though it could use more maps — the book delivers blood-thirsty pirates and plenty of action and excitement on the high seas. Forgoing an "avast ye swabbies!" approach, Flemming's sober style and scholarly approach ballast his account and keep his story on a steady course." —Boston Globe

"Paints an indelible picture of pirate life, day by day... compelling, dramatic reading."—Dallas Morning News

“[A] real-life historical thriller.” —The Week, The Best of U.S. and International Media


“Gregory Flemming’s account of Philip Ashton’s fascinating odyssey is superb. A deeply religious cod fisherman, Ashton survived capture by depraved pirates and months alone on an uninhabited Caribbean island. Eventually rescued, he returned to Marblehead, Massachusetts, to tell his incomparable tale, which gained the attention and admiration of Cotton Mather, his disciple John Barnard, and Daniel Defoe.”—George C. Daughan, author of 1812: The Navy’s War and The Shining Sea: David Porter and the Epic Voyage of the U.S.S. Essex During the War of 1812 

“A dark and fascinating tale. At the Point of a Cutlass takes us into corners of the pirate life we haven’t been before. …one of the most harrowing survival stories of the colonial era.”—Stephan Talty, author of Empire of Blue Water, The Illustrious Dead, and Escape from the Land of Snows

GREGORY N. FLEMMING is a former journalist who holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives with his family in New England. His website is

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Wed, 18 Mar 2015 10:11:06 -0500