Privateer

A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. They were of great benefit to a smaller naval power or one facing an enemy dependent on trade: they disrupted commerce and pressured the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade against commerce raiders. The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money earned from captured cargo and vessels. The proceeds would be distributed among the privateer's investors, officers, and crew. It has been argued that privateering was a less destructive and wasteful form of warfare, because the goal was to capture ships rather than to sink them.

Privateers were part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Some privateers have been particularly influential in the annals of history. Sometimes the vessels would be commissioned into regular service as warships. The crew of a privateer might be treated as prisoners of war by the enemy country if captured.

Historically, the distinction between a privateer and a pirate has been, practically speaking, vague, often depending on the source as to which label was correct in a particular circumstance. The actual work of a pirate and a privateer is generally the same (raiding and plundering ships); it is, therefore the authorization and perceived legality of the actions that form the distinction. At various times governments indiscriminately granted authorization for privateering to a variety of ships, so much so that would-be pirates could easily operate under a veil of legitimacy.

Read more about Privateer:  Legal Framework, Ships, Overall History

Other articles related to "privateer":

Confederate Privateer - Union Suppression of Privateers: Three Charleston Vessels - Privateer Savannah
... First to leave Charleston Harbor, on 2 June 1861, was the privateer Savannah ... and thereby became the first Charleston privateer to take a prize in the war ...
Privateer, South Carolina - Demographics
... There were 746 households out of which 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.5% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.0% were non-families. 16.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older ...
French Frigate Psyché (1804) - Privateer
... Light winds meant that the engagement did not begin until 11 April, when both ships opened fire, exchanging broadsides and attempting to tack around to rake their opponent ... After several hours fighting, Psyché broke off and fled ...
Capture Of The Jeune Richard
... Wars, between the British packet ship Windsor Castle, and the French privateer Jeune Richard ... Rogers, not only defended repeated attacks from the privateer, but finally engaged her, boarded her and after overpowering the much larger crew, forced them below ...
HMS Oberon (1805) - Service
1807 she gave chase to the French privateer lugger Ratifia, capturing her after four hours, some 30 miles east of Lowestoft ... The next day, Clio and Oberon captured the Danish privateer Wegvusende ... The same vessels were also involved in the capture of the privateer Stafeten on 24 December ...