Benerson Little

“The trident of Neptune is the scepter of the world.”*

Signed copies of Pirate Hunting are available from the author, $25 including shipping within the US.

Below are the current and an early proposed cover, the TOC and Introduction, some early quotes on the need for mariners to defend themselves, and notes & errata.

Jacket cover design is based on An English Ship in Action with Barbary Vessels by Willem van de Veld, the Younger, 1678. Details on the painting and the battle it may represent can be found here at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

One of the proposed covers.

On the Need for Merchant Crews to Defend Themselves

“And when a Merchant Ship cannot otherwise well discharge herself, the Necessity of Fighting is evident; for no Man is so devoid of Reason as not to know, that it is his peculiar Interest to defend his Property, unless he will toil and labour for others, and like the Sheep patiently endure the Shearing of his Fleece. And it is certainly far more tolerable as well as reputable to perish like the Bee in the Hive, than by a cowardly Submission part with the Honey to every Drone, and consequently left to starve for want of that he has been working for.”

—William Mountaine, The Seaman's Vade-Mecum, 1756

"I heartily wish every English Master would thus bring things to the Extremity, and, like these two Gallant Men, let slip no Opportunity, and not bring too [surrender] at the buzzing of a Shot, or the like; and then, I am sure, there would not be so many Vessels carried into S. Mallo's, Dunkirk, &c."

—Robert Park, Defensive War By Sea, 1704

Of the Fight at Sea

One fight at Sea, with Ships couragious mand,
Is more than three great battels on the Land.
There men must stand to't, theres no way to fly,
There must they Conqu'rers live or Conquerd die.
And if they dye not by some launching wound
They are in hazard to be sunke and drownd.
The murdring bullets, and the brinish waves,
Are many a valliant Sea-mans death and graves.

—John Taylor, from his An Apologie for Sea-men, 1615

Notes & Errata

More Info on the Antiquity of Seafaring (See chapter 2)

Researchers uncovering artifacts on California's Channel Islands suggest that early populations immigrating to the Americas may have used coastal routes. Artifacts and remains on the islands date to 12,000 years ago. Recent discoveries in Texas place early immigration to the Americas at least 15,500 years ago, some 2,500 years earlier than previous estimates and theory.

A Further Note on Captain
Misson's Name (See chapter 9)

Doubtless influenced by the names of the pirate Masson and the fictional traveler Jaques Massé, Johnson was probably also influenced by the name of travel writer François Maximilien Misson.

A Note on Banister and Lagarde
(See chapter 10, page 181)

Based on subsequent research, Pierre Lagarde did not command the French ship on the South Sea voyage, and might not have been in command of the French ship at Samana Bay. In March 1686 Lagarde was consorting with Banister at Île à Vache, Hispaniola. In June, English frigates attacked Banister, possibly consorting with a nearby small French frigate, while careening in Samana Bay. A French document dated 13 August 1686 in Port de Paix, Hispaniola, notes that a French vessel, originating from La Rochelle, France, that arrived the day before had witnessed the attack, and it is tempting to assume that this was the pirate that later sailed into the South Sea. However, the journal of the pirate voyage places the French pirate ship at anchor off Long Island, New York, on August 10, 1686. It may be that the ship from La Rochelle was a polite fiction to satisfy the ministers in France, for Governor de Cussy of Saint-Domingue, who noted the report in official correspondence, surely did not want to report turning a blind eye to pirates like Lagarde and Banister, the latter of whom had reportedly outfitted in Petit Goave, Saint-Domingue. In any case, Lagarde could not have commanded the South Sea voyage, given that a deposition records his presence in Martinique in January 1687.

Further, based on subsequent research, only Banister's ship was destroyed, and the French crew did not help build the batteries. The French crew went on to sail eventually into the South Sea. The voyage is detailed in the "Journal de bord" by F. Massertie, available digitally online via the French national library, and also in two transcribed editions, one edited and translated by Peter T. Bradley (2009), the other by in French Edward Ducéré in “Journal de Bord d’un Flibustier (1686-1693)” in the Bulletin of the Société des Sciences et Arts de Bayonne, Bayonne: Lamaignère, 1894, and the “Journal de Bord d’un Flibustier (1686-1693)” by François Massertie, edited by Edward Ducéré, in the Bulletin of the Société des Sciences et Arts de Bayonne, Premier Trimestre, Bayonne: Lamaignère, 1895. The same reference applies to the filibusters who flew the skull and bones at Acaponeta, Mexico, in 1688. Both published references mistake Samana for Panama, although it is clear in the original document that Samana is meant. (See chapter 9.)

Notes on the Annual Cost of Piracy
(See chapter 15)

In the text I note a $16 billion annual cost, according to an estimate cited in the endnotes. In January, 2010, according the Associated Press, Colorado-based think tank One Earth Future estimated the annual cost at $7 billion to $12 billion. In May, 2010, according to the BBC, the economic intelligence firm Geopolicity estimated an $8.3 billion annual cost due to Somali piracy alone, and projected a possible $13 to $15 billion annual cost by 2015. In April, 2013, according to The Economist, the World Bank estimated an annual cost of $18 billion from 2005 to 2011. In early 2014, Oceans Beyond Piracy noted that the annual cost of Somali piracy had halved, to $3-3.2 billion.

Correction to Note 53, page 310, to Chapter 9

The last line should read: "Rogozinski does not mention Misson or Libertalia except to note the former as fictional and to discuss the latter in reference to the organization of the pirate community on Madagascar." (Missing text italicized.) Author's error during proofreading.

* By Antoine Marin Lemierre, from his poem "Commerce." (Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.)

Book Links:
Descriptions & Reviews

Historical Fiction
The sequel to Fortune's Whelp: stay tuned!
Maritime adventure and historical intrigue set amidst the attempted assassination of King William III.
Narrative Maritime History
The truth behind the great pirate myths and legends. In print!
Maritime History

A colorful and detailed description of how pirates and privateers practiced their trade.

To really understand what the pirate's world was like: how buccaneers lived, fought, and died.


Pirate Hunting:
The Fight Against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders From Antiquity to the Present

A serious history of pirate hunting, and by definition, of piracy, privateering, and sea raiding as well--but told from the point of view of sea roving's victims, of those who put to sea to put an end to piracy and other forms of sea roving, and of those of who were at times both pirate and pirate hunter. A book for the general reader, the fan of maritime action, and the modern pirate hunter who seeks to suppress Somali piracy.

In short, a thorough history of piracy and pirate hunting from antiquity to the present.

In print, Potomac Books, hardcover, Nook, Kindle, and EPUB. The book's table of contents, preface, and press kit are posted on the publisher's website.


"This is Benerson Little’s latest of three books about pirates. In this one he has done a superb job of recounting the violent history that surrounds pirates and raiders and the measures that have been taken to hunt and suppress them."
—Jack Gottschalk in the Naval War College Review, October 2012

"Little, a former Navy SEAL and maritime practitioner...combines the insight that comes from his real world experience with a rigorous academic research agenda to produce a unique work: an attempt to provide a universal history not simply of piracy, but of the response to piracy..."
—Nikolas K. Gvosdev in History: Reviews of New Books, Vol. 40, Issue 2, 2012

"In the end, Little does a great service by cementing the truism that history provides meaningful context and potentially useful perspectives from which to analyze contemporary problems. Many, if not all, of Little’s observations ring true to the current plague of Somali piracy. Naval leaders and policy makers alike would do well to consider them as contemporary ways, means, and ends are evaluated."
—John Patch, Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Professional Journal, 2011

"In summary, Benerson Little has produced a good book that readers with an interest in maritime history and affairs will enjoy."
—Jack Gottschalk, Naval War College Review, October 2011

"An extremely informative, delightful read for anyone interested in the foundations of piracy and the measures taken to guard against the human casualties and loss of property it caused."
The Northern Mariner, January 2011

"[A] top pick for a range of collections, from those with a general interest in pirates to others covering military and nautical history. The survey analyzes tactics, strategies, and historic battles between pirates and others, covering naval warfare and maritime commerce alike."
Midwest Book Review & The Bookwatch, January 2011

"[Little] wants the book to be of use not just to general readers, but also to those finding ways to handle the problem of maritime piracy. He succeeds in both endeavors, and does so in a manner that makes the text interesting and compelling to read."
—Cindy Vallar, of Pirates and Privateers, The History of Maritime Piracy


"Benerson Little’s fascinating history of piracy and pirate hunting from antiquity to the present is a delightful and informative book that fills an important gap in the field of naval military history. The book is well written, well organized, comprehensive, and supported by excellent maps that ease the reader’s journey. Little deserves high praise for bringing this important subject to the attention of historians and general readers, who will both benefit greatly from this excellent work."
—Richard A. Gabriel, author of Philip II of Macedonia: Greater than Alexander

"A vast canvas brimming with historical detail and insight. Little manages to steer a steady course through some 2,000 years of piracy on the high seas, providing not just anecdotes but a compelling human narrative of the seesaw struggle between pirates and those who fought against them. It’s a tale that shares many common threads across the ages, straight into the news of today."
—Clifford Beal, author of Quelch’s Gold: Piracy, Greed, and Betrayal in Colonial New England

“The author has compiled a wealth of detail based on far-reaching research. The book is well written and comprehensive.”
—Alfred S. Bradford, author of Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy

From the Publisher

To catch a predator—on the high seas.

Describes how merchant vessels, international organizations, and governments have retaliated against pirate attacks over the course of more than four millennia.

Explains the strategies and tactics used by pirate hunters, from the ancient Minoans to modern maritime professionals.

Examines modern piracy and its relationship to terrorism.

For thousands of years pirates, privateers, and sea raiding peoples have terrorized the ocean voyager and coastal inhabitant, plundering ship and shore with impunity. From the victim’s point of view, these attackers were not the rebellious, romantic rulers of Neptune’s Realm, but savage beasts to be excoriated, and those who went to sea to stop them were heroes.

Engaging and meticulously detailed, Pirate Hunting chronicles the fight against these plunderers from antiquity to the present and illustrates the array of tactics and strategies people and governments have employed to secure the seas. Benerson Little lends further dimension to this unending battle by including the history of piracy and privateering, ranging from the Mycenaean rovers to the modern pirates of Somalia. Associated naval warfare, maritime commerce and transportation, the development of speed under oar, sail, and steam, and the evolution of weaponry are also described.

More than just a vivid account of the war seafarers and pirates have waged, Pirate Hunting is invaluable reading in a world where acts of piracy are once more a significant threat to maritime commerce and voyagers. It will appeal to readers interested in the history of piracy, anti-piracy operations, and in maritime, naval, and military history worldwide.

From the Author's Preface

In writing this book, I have tried not to forget Alfred Korzybski’s dictum: the map is not the territory. Although Korzybski was never mentioned, this concept was drilled into me decades ago as a Navy SEAL. We understood that acting on facts, on reality, and not on wishful thinking or tenuous hypothesis, would help keep us alive in a very hazardous profession. The captain of a ship vitally relies on his or her charts yet he or she is constantly verifying them, and ultimately they are not the most vital navigation tool. The depth finder is. The theory of depth beneath the keel is subordinate to the fact of depth beneath the keel, at least if the captain hopes to keep his or her vessel from running aground. And so it was with us, for the ignorance or distortion of facts often had fatal consequences.

In this book, I have tried to avoid the trap of forcing or cherry-picking facts to fit a hypothesis or theory, and I have especially tried to avoid theory as ideology or faith, a common trap that too many scholars step into, and which invariably leads to the belief that all opposing ideas are more or less blasphemy and thus must be rooted out with the very tools of misdirection scholars are supposed to decry: obfuscation, distraction, distortion, blind eyes, and deliberate misinterpretation. My goal has been, as far as a hypothesis is even necessary, to let one build itself from the facts and not the other way around.

The rest is very much a descriptive and democratic history and analysis applied in the end to the present circumstances of piracy. I understand that descriptive history is not in vogue with some scholars, notwithstanding its practical value. In the case of pirate hunting, description is vital, for the history of pirate hunting is a grand “post op” which we today can look to in order to deal with current piracy and that which is likely to crop up again. This condition is especially important to me, as I intend this book not only for the general reader interested in the subjects of piracy and pirate hunting, but also for those who are working at this moment to solve the problems of modern piracy--violence, robbery, and hostage-taking at sea in the real world.

Table of Contents

1. Of Black Flags and Bloody Banners: The Pursuit of Pirates and Privateers
2. Heroes of the Fantastic: Pirate Hunting in the Age of the Iliad
3. In the Age of Ancient Empires: Pirate Hunting in the Mediterranean, 1450–700 BC
4. Of Laurel Leaves and Pirate Princes: Pirate Hunting in the Mediterranean, 700 BC–AD 476
5. The Scourge from the North: Standing Against the Norsemen, 780–1066
6. A Sea Roving Free-for-All: Pirate Hunting in the Northern Seas, 1066–1492
7. Of Faith, Galleys, and Greed: Defeating the Mediterranean Corsairs, 476–1492
8. Spanish Galleons and Portuguese Carracks: Plunderers Fighting Plunderers, 1492–1654
9. Of Blind Eyes and Opportunity: An Introduction to the “Golden Age,” 1655–1725
10. The Real Pirates of the Caribbean: Pirate Hunting in the “Golden Age,” 1655–1725
11. From the Mediterranean to the North Sea: The War Against Pirates and Corsairs, 1493–1830
12. Of Frigates and Cruisers: In Pursuit of the Commerce Raiders, 1688–1865
13. Pirates, Rebels, and Warriors: Pirate Hunting in the East, 694 BC–AD 1896
14. Death from Beneath the Waves: Combating the Submarine Menace, 1914–1945
15. Ships, SEALs, and Satellites: The Return of the Pirate Hunters