A privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war. The commission, also known as a letter of marque, empowers the person to carry on all forms of hostility permissible at sea by the usages of war, including attacking foreign vessels during wartime and taking them as prizes. Historically, captured ships were subject to condemnation and sale under prize law, with the proceeds divided between the privateer sponsors, shipowners, captains and crew. A percentage share usually went to the issuer of the commission. Since robbery under arms was once common to seaborne trade, all merchant ships were already armed. During war, naval resources were auxiliary to operations on land so privateering was a way of subsidizing state power by mobilizing armed ships and sailors.
In practice the legality and status of privateers historically has often been vague. Depending on the specific government and the time period, letters of marque might be issued hastily and/or the privateers might take actions beyond what was authorized by the letters. The privateers themselves were often simply pirates who would take advantage of wars between nations to gain semi-legal status for their enterprises. By the end of the 19th century the practice of issuing letters of marque had fallen out of favor because of the chaos it caused and its role in inadvertently encouraging piracy.
A privateer is similar to a mercenary except that, whereas a mercenary group receives a set fee for services and generally has a formal reporting structure within the entity that hires them, a privateer acts independently with generally no compensation unless the enemy's property is captured.
The letter of marque of a privateer would typically limit activity to one particular ship, and specified officers. Typically, the owners or captain would be required to post a performance bond. In the United Kingdom, letters of marque were revoked for various offences.
Some crews were treated as harshly as naval crews of the time, while others followed the comparatively relaxed rules of merchant ships. Some crews were made up of professional merchant seamen, others of pirates, debtors, and convicts. Some privateers ended up becoming pirates, not just in the eyes of their enemies but also of their own nations. William Kidd, for instance, began as a legitimate British privateer but was later hanged for piracy.
While privateers such as Kidd were commissioned to hunt pirates, privateering itself was often blamed for piracy. Privateering commissions were easy to obtain during wartime but when the war ended and privateers were recalled, many refused to give up the lucrative business and turned to piracy. Colonial officials exacerbated the problem by issuing commissions to known pirates, giving them legitimacy in exchange for a share of the profits or even open bribes. The French Governor of Petit-Goave gave buccaneer Francois Grogniet blank privateering commissions, which Grogniet traded to Edward Davis for a spare ship so the two could continue raiding Spanish cities under a guise of legitimacy. New York Governors Jacob Leisler and Benjamin Fletcher were removed from office in part for their dealings with pirates such as Thomas Tew, to whom Fletcher had granted commissions to sail against the French, but who ignored his commission to raid Mughal shipping in the Red Sea instead. Kidd himself committed piracy during his privateering voyage (though he maintained his innocence and blamed his unruly crew) and was tried and executed upon his return. Boston minister Cotton Mather lamented after the execution of pirate John Quelch: "Yea, Since the Privateering Stroke, so easily degenerates into the Piratical; and the Privateering Trade, is usually carried on with so Unchristian a Temper, and proves an inlet unto so much Debauchery, and Iniquity, and Confusion, I believe, I shall have Good men Concur with me, in wishing, That Privateering may no more be practised, except there may appear more hopeful Circumstances to Encourage it."
Privateers who were considered legitimate by their governments include:
Entrepreneurs converted many different types of vessels into privateers, including obsolete warships and refitted merchant ships. The investors would arm the vessels and recruit large crews, much larger than a merchantman or a naval vessel would carry, in order to crew the prizes they captured. Privateers generally cruised independently, but it was not unknown for them to form squadrons, or to co-operate with the regular navy. A number of privateers were part of the English fleet that opposed the Spanish Armada in 1588. Privateers generally avoided encounters with warships, as such encounters would be at best unprofitable. Still, such encounters did occur. For instance, in 1815 Chasseur encountered HMS St Lawrence, herself a former American privateer, mistaking her for a merchantman until too late; in this instance, however, the privateer prevailed.
The United States used mixed squadrons of frigates and privateers in the American Revolutionary War. Following the French Revolution, French privateers became a menace to British and American shipping in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, resulting in the Quasi-War, a brief conflict between France and the United States, fought largely at sea, and to the Royal Navy's procuring Bermuda sloops to combat the French privateers.
The practice dated to at least the 13th century but the word itself was coined sometime in the mid-17th century. England, and later the United Kingdom, used privateers to great effect and suffered much from other nations' privateering. During the 15th century, "piracy became an increasing problem and merchant communities such as Bristol began to resort to self-help, arming and equipping ships at their own expense to protect commerce." These privately owned merchant ships, licensed by the crown, could legitimately take vessels that were deemed pirates. This constituted a "revolution in naval strategy" and helped fill the need for protection that the current administration was unable to provide as it "lacked an institutional structure and coordinated finance".
The increase in competition for crews on armed merchant vessels and privateers was due, in a large part, because of the chance for a considerable payoff. "Whereas a seaman who shipped on a naval vessel was paid a wage and provided with victuals, the mariner on a merchantman or privateer was paid with an agreed share of the takings." This proved to be a far more attractive prospect and privateering flourished as a result.
During Queen Elizabeth's reign, she "encouraged the development of this supplementary navy". Over the course of her rule, she had "allowed Anglo-Spanish relations to deteriorate" to the point where one could argue that a war with the Spanish was inevitable. By using privateers, if the Spanish were to take offense at the plundering of their ships, Queen Elizabeth could always deny she had anything to do with the actions of such independents. Some of the most famous privateers that later fought in the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) included the Sea Dogs.
In the late 16th century, English ships cruised in the Caribbean and off the coast of Spain, trying to intercept treasure fleets from the Spanish Main. At this early stage the idea of a regular navy (the Royal Navy, as distinct from the Merchant Navy) was not present, so there is little to distinguish the activity of English privateers from regular naval warfare. Attacking Spanish ships, even during peacetime, was part of a policy of military and economic competition with Spain – which had been monopolizing the maritime trade routes along with the Portuguese helping to provoke the first Anglo-Spanish War. Capturing a Spanish treasure ship would enrich the Crown as well as strike a practical blow against Spanish domination of America. Piet Pieterszoon Hein was a brilliantly successful Dutch privateer who captured a Spanish treasure fleet. Magnus Heinason was another privateer who served the Dutch against the Spanish. While their and others' attacks brought home a great deal of money, they hardly dented the flow of gold and silver from Mexico to Spain.
Elizabeth was succeeded by the first Stuart monarchs, James I and Charles I, who did not permit privateering. There were a number of unilateral and bilateral declarations limiting privateering between 1785 and 1823. However, the breakthrough came in 1856 when the Declaration of Paris, signed by all major European powers, stated that "Privateering is and remains abolished". The US did not sign because a stronger amendment, protecting all private property from capture at sea, was not accepted. In the 19th century many nations passed laws forbidding their nationals from accepting commissions as privateers for other nations. The last major power to flirt with privateering was Prussia in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, when Prussia announced the creation of a 'volunteer navy' of ships privately owned and manned and eligible for prize money. The only difference between this and privateering was that these volunteer ships were under the discipline of the regular navy.
Privateers were a large part of the total military force at sea during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the first Anglo-Dutch War, English privateers attacked the trade on which the United Provinces entirely depended, capturing over 1,000 Dutch merchant ships. During the subsequent war with Spain, Spanish and Flemish privateers in the service of the Spanish Crown, including the Dunkirkers, captured 1,500 English merchant ships, helping to restore Dutch international trade. British trade, whether coastal, Atlantic, or Mediterranean, was also attacked by Dutch privateers and others in the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars.
During King George's War, approximately 36,000 Americans served aboard privateers at one time or another. During the Nine Years War, the French adopted a policy of strongly encouraging privateers, including the famous Jean Bart, to attack English and Dutch shipping. England lost roughly 4,000 merchant ships during the war. In the following War of Spanish Succession, privateer attacks continued, Britain losing 3,250 merchant ships. Parliament passed an updated Cruisers and Convoys Act in 1708 allocating regular warships to the defence of trade.
In the subsequent conflict, the War of Austrian Succession, the Royal Navy was able to concentrate more on defending British ships. Britain lost 3,238 merchantmen, a smaller fraction of her merchant marine than the enemy losses of 3,434. While French losses were proportionally severe, the smaller but better protected Spanish trade suffered the least and it was Spanish privateers who enjoyed much of the best allied plunder of British trade, particularly in the West Indies.
During the American Civil War privateering took on several forms, including blockade running while privateering in general occurred in the interests of both the North and the South. Letters of marque would often be issued to private shipping companies and other private owners of ships, authorizing them to engage vessels deemed to be unfriendly to the issuing government. Crews of ships were awarded the cargo and other prizes aboard any captured vessel as an incentive to search far and wide for ships attempting to supply the Confederacy, or aid the Union, as the case may be.
England and Scotland practised privateering both separately and together after they united to create the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. It was a way to gain for themselves some of the wealth the Spanish and Portuguese were taking from the New World before beginning their own trans-Atlantic settlement, and a way to assert naval power before a strong Royal Navy emerged.
Sir Andrew Barton, Lord High Admiral of Scotland, followed the example of his father, who had been issued with letters of marque by James III of Scotland to prey upon English and Portuguese shipping in 1485; the letters in due course were reissued to the son. Barton was killed following an encounter with the English in 1511.
Sir Francis Drake, who had close contact with the sovereign, was responsible for some damage to Spanish shipping, as well as attacks on Spanish settlements in the Americas in the 16th century. He participated in the successful English defence against the Spanish Armada in 1588, though he was also partly responsible for the failure of the English Armada against Spain in 1589.
Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, was a successful privateer against Spanish shipping in the Caribbean. He is also famous for his short-lived 1598 capture of Fort San Felipe del Morro, the citadel protecting San Juan, Puerto Rico. He arrived in Puerto Rico on June 15, 1598, but by November of that year Clifford and his men had fled the island due to fierce civilian resistance. He gained sufficient prestige from his naval exploits to be named the official Champion of Queen Elizabeth I. Clifford became extremely wealthy through his buccaneering, but lost most of his money gambling on horse races.
Captain Christopher Newport led more attacks on Spanish shipping and settlements than any other English privateer. As a young man, Newport sailed with Sir Francis Drake in the attack on the Spanish fleet at Cadiz and participated in England's defeat of the Spanish Armada. During the war with Spain, Newport seized fortunes of Spanish and Portuguese treasure in fierce sea battles in the West Indies as a privateer for Queen Elizabeth I. He lost an arm whilst capturing a Spanish ship during an expedition in 1590, but despite this he continued on privateering, successfully blockading Western Cuba the following year. In 1592, Newport captured the Portuguese carrack Madre de Deus (Mother of God), valued at £500,000.
Sir Henry Morgan was a successful privateer. Operating out of Jamaica, he carried on a war against Spanish interests in the region, often using cunning tactics. His operation was prone to cruelty against those he captured, including torture to gain information about booty, and in one case using priests as human shields. Despite reproaches for some of his excesses, he was generally protected by Sir Thomas Modyford, the governor of Jamaica. He took an enormous amount of booty, as well as landing his privateers ashore and attacking land fortifications, including the sack of the city of Panama with only 1,400 crew.
Other British privateers of note include Fortunatus Wright, Edward Collier, Sir John Hawkins, his son Sir Richard Hawkins, Michael Geare, and Sir Christopher Myngs. Notable British colonial privateers in Nova Scotia include Alexander Godfrey of the brig Rover and Joseph Barss of the schooner Liverpool Packet. The latter schooner captured over 50 American vessels during the War of 1812.
The English colony of Bermuda (or the Somers Isles), settled accidentally in 1609, was used as a base for English privateers from the time it officially became part of the territory of the Virginia Company in 1612, especially by ships belonging to the Earl of Warwick, for whom Bermuda's Warwick Parish is named (the Warwick name had long been associated with commerce raiding, as exampled by the Newport Ship, thought to have been taken from the Spanish by Warwick the Kingmaker in the 15th Century). Many Bermudians were employed as crew aboard privateers throughout the century, although the colony was primarily devoted to farming cash crops until turning from its failed agricultural economy to the sea after the 1684 dissolution of the Somers Isles Company (a spin-off of the Virginia Company which had overseen the colony since 1615). With a total area of 54 square kilometres (21 sq mi) and lacking any natural resources other than the Bermuda cedar, the colonists applied themselves fully to the maritime trades, developing the speedy Bermuda sloop, which was well suited both to commerce and to commerce raiding. Bermudian merchant vessels turned to privateering at every opportunity in the 18th century, preying on the shipping of Spain, France, and other nations during a series of wars, including: the 1688 to 1697 Nine Years' War (King William's War); the 1702 to 1713 Queen Anne's War; the 1739 to 1748 War of Jenkins' Ear; the 1740 to 1748 War of the Austrian Succession (King George's War); the 1754 to 1763 Seven Years' War (known in the United States as the French and Indian War, this conflict was devastating for the colony's merchant fleet. Fifteen privateers operated from Bermuda during the war, but losses exceeded captures); the 1775 to 1783 American War of Independence; and the 1796 to 1808 Anglo-Spanish War. By the middle of the 18th century, Bermuda was sending twice as many privateers to sea as any of the continental colonies. They typically left Bermuda with very large crews. This advantage in manpower was vital in overpowering the crews of larger vessels, which themselves often lacked sufficient crewmembers to put up a strong defence. The extra crewmen were also useful as prize crews for returning captured vessels.
The Bahamas, which had been depopulated of its indigenous inhabitants by the Spanish, had been settled by England, beginning with the Eleutheran Adventurers, dissident Puritans driven out of Bermuda during the English Civil War. Spanish and French attacks destroyed New Providence in 1703, creating a stronghold for pirates, and it became a thorn in the side of British merchant trade through the area. In 1718, Britain appointed Woodes Rogers as Governor of the Bahamas, and sent him at the head of a force to reclaim the settlement. Before his arrival, however, the pirates had been forced to surrender by a force of Bermudian privateers who had been issued letters of marque by the Governor of Bermuda.
Bermuda was in de facto control of the Turks Islands, with their lucrative salt industry, from the late 17th century to the early 19th. The Bahamas made perpetual attempts to claim the Turks for itself. On several occasions, this involved seizing the vessels of Bermudian salt traders. A virtual state of war was said to exist between Bermudian and Bahamian vessels for much of the 18th century. When the Bermudian sloop Seaflower was seized by the Bahamians in 1701, the response of the Governor of Bermuda, Captain Benjamin Bennett, was to issue letters of marque to Bermudian vessels. In 1706, Spanish and French forces ousted the Bermudians, but were driven out themselves three years later by the Bermudian privateer Captain Lewis Middleton. His ship, the Rose, attacked a Spanish and a French privateer holding a captive English vessel. Defeating the two enemy vessels, the Rose then cleared out the thirty-man garrison left by the Spanish and French.
Despite strong sentiments in support of the rebels, especially in the early stages, Bermudian privateers turned as aggressively on American shipping during the American War of Independence. The importance of privateering to the Bermudian economy had been increased not only by the loss of most of Bermuda's continental trade, but also by the Palliser Act, which forbade Bermudian vessels from fishing the Grand Banks. Bermudian trade with the rebellious American colonies actually carried on throughout the war. Some historians credit the large number of Bermuda sloops (reckoned at over a thousand) built in Bermuda as privateers and sold illegally to the Americans as enabling the rebellious colonies to win their independence. Also, the Americans were dependent on Turks salt, and one hundred barrels of gunpowder were stolen from a Bermudian magazine and supplied to the rebels as orchestrated by Colonel Henry Tucker and Benjamin Franklin, and as requested by George Washington, in exchange for which the Continental Congress authorised the sale of supplies to Bermuda, which was dependent on American produce. The realities of this interdependence did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with which Bermudian privateers turned on their erstwhile countrymen.
An American naval captain, ordered to take his ship out of Boston Harbor to eliminate a pair of Bermudian privateering vessels that had been picking off vessels missed by the Royal Navy, returned frustrated, saying, "the Bermudians sailed their ships two feet for every one of ours". Around 10,000 Bermudians emigrated in the years prior to American independence, mostly to the American colonies. Many Bermudians occupied prominent positions in American seaports, from where they continued their maritime trades (Bermudian merchants controlled much of the trade through ports like Charleston, South Carolina, and Bermudian shipbuilders influenced the development of American vessels, like the Chesapeake Bay schooner), and in the Revolution they used their knowledge of Bermudians and of Bermuda, as well as their vessels, for the rebels' cause. In the 1777 Battle of Wreck Hill, brothers Charles and Francis Morgan, members of a large Bermudian enclave that had dominated Charleston, South Carolina and its environs since settlement, captaining two sloops (the Fair American and the Experiment, respectively), carried out the only attack on Bermuda during the war. The target was a fort that guarded a little used passage through the encompassing reefline. After the soldiers manning the fort were forced to abandon it, they spiked its guns and fled themselves before reinforcements could arrive.
When the Americans captured the Bermudian privateer Regulator, they discovered that virtually all of her crew were black slaves. Authorities in Boston offered these men their freedom, but all 70 elected to be treated as prisoners of war. Sent as such to New York on the sloop Duxbury, they seized the vessel and sailed it back to Bermuda.
The War of 1812 saw an encore of Bermudian privateering, which had died out after the 1790s. The decline of Bermudian privateering was due partly to the buildup of the naval base in Bermuda, which reduced the Admiralty's reliance on privateers in the western Atlantic, and partly to successful American legal suits and claims for damages pressed against British privateers, a large portion of which were aimed squarely at the Bermudians. During the course of the War of 1812, Bermudian privateers captured 298 ships, some 19% of the 1,593 vessels captured by British naval and privateering vessels between the Great Lakes and the West Indies.
Bermudians were also involved in privateering from the short-lived English colony on Isla de Providencia, off the coast of Nicaragua. This colony was initially settled largely via Bermuda, with about eighty Bermudians moved to Providence in 1631. Although it was intended that the colony be used to grow cash crops, its location in the heart of the Spanish controlled territory ensured that it quickly became a base for privateering.
Bermuda-based privateer Daniel Elfrith, while on a privateering expedition with Captain Sussex Camock of the bark Somer Ilands (a rendering of "Somers Isles", the alternate name of the Islands of Bermuda) in 1625, discovered two islands off the coast of Nicaragua, 80 kilometres (50 mi) apart from each other. Camock stayed with 30 of his men to explore one of the islands, San Andrés, while Elfrith took the Warwicke back to Bermuda bringing news of Providence Island. Bermuda Governor Bell wrote on behalf of Elfrith to Sir Nathaniel Rich, a businessman and cousin of the Earl of Warwick (the namesake of Warwick Parish), who presented a proposal for colonizing the island noting its strategic location "lying in the heart of the Indies & the mouth of the Spaniards". Elfrith was appointed admiral of the colony's military forces in 1631, remaining the overall military commander for over seven years. During this time, Elfrith served as a guide to other privateers and sea captains arriving in the Caribbean. Elfrith invited the well-known privateer Diego el Mulato to the island. Samuel Axe, one of the military leaders, also accepted letters of marque from the Dutch authorizing privateering.
The Spanish did not hear of the Providence Island colony until 1635, when they captured some Englishmen in Portobelo, on the Isthmus of Panama. Francisco de Murga, Governor and Captain General of Cartagena, dispatched Captain Gregorio de Castellar y Mantilla and engineer Juan de Somovilla Texada to destroy the colony.  The Spanish were repelled and forced to retreat "in haste and disorder". After the attack, King Charles I of England issued letters of marque to the Providence Island Company on 21 December 1635 authorizing raids on the Spanish in retaliation for a raid that had destroyed the English colony on Tortuga earlier in 1635 (Tortuga had come under the protection of the Providence Island Company. In 1635 a Spanish fleet raided Tortuga. 195 colonists were hung and 39 prisoners and 30 slaves were captured). The company could in turn issue letters of marque to subcontracting privateers who used the island as a base, for a fee. This soon became an important source of profit. Thus the Company made an agreement with the merchant Maurice Thompson under which Thompson could use the island as a base in return for 20% of the booty.
In March 1636 the Company dispatched Captain Robert Hunt on the Blessing to assume the governorship of what was now viewed as a base for privateering. Depredations continued, leading to growing tension between England and Spain, which were still technically at peace.
On 11 July 1640 the Spanish Ambassador in London complained again, saying he
understands that there is lately brought in at the Isle of Wight by one, Captain James Reskinner [James Reiskimmer], a ship very richly laden with silver, gold, diamonds, pearls, jewels, and many other precious commodities taken by him in virtue of a commission of the said Earl [of Warwick] from the subjects of his Catholic Majesty ... to the infinite wrong and dishonour of his Catholic Majesty, to find himself thus injured and violated, and his subjects thus spoiled, robbed, impoverished and murdered in the highest time of peace, league and amity with your Majesty.
Nathaniel Butler, formerly Governor of Bermuda, was the last full governor of Providence Island, replacing Robert Hunt in 1638. Butler returned to England in 1640, satisfied that the fortifications were adequate, deputizing the governorship to Captain Andrew Carter.
In 1640, don Melchor de Aguilera, Governor and Captain-General of Cartagena, resolved to remove the intolerable infestation of pirates on the island. Taking advantage of having infantry from Castile and Portugal wintering in his port, he dispatched six hundred armed Spaniards from the fleet and the presidio, and two hundred black and mulatto militiamen under the leadership of don Antonio Maldonado y Tejada, his Sergeant Major, in six small frigates and a galleon. The troops were landed on the island, and a fierce fight ensued. The Spanish were forced to withdraw when a gale blew up and threatened their ships. Carter had the Spanish prisoners executed. When the Puritan leaders protested against this brutality, Carter sent four of them home in chains.
The Spanish acted decisively to avenge their defeat. General Francisco Díaz Pimienta was given orders by King Philip IV of Spain, and sailed from Cartagena to Providence with seven large ships, four pinnaces, 1,400 soldiers and 600 seamen, arriving on 19 May 1641. At first Pimienta planned to attack the poorly defended east side, and the English rushed there to improvise defenses. With the winds against him, Pimienta changed plans and made for the main New Westminster harbor and launched his attack on 24 May. He held back his large ships to avoid damage, and used the pinnaces to attack the forts. The Spanish troops quickly gained control, and once the forts saw the Spanish flag flying over the governor's house, they began negotiations for surrender.
On 25 May 1641, Pimienta formally took possession and celebrated mass in the church. The Spanish took sixty guns, and captured the 350 settlers who remained on the island – others had escaped to the Mosquito coast. They took the prisoners to Cartagena. The women and children were given a passage back to England. The Spanish found gold, indigo, cochineal and six hundred black slaves on the island, worth a total of 500,000 ducats, some of the accumulated booty from the English raids. Rather than destroy the defenses, as instructed, Pimienta left a small garrison of 150 men to hold the island and prevent occupation by the Dutch. Later that year, Captain John Humphrey, who had been chosen to succeed Captain Butler as governor, arrived with a large group of dissatisfied settlers from New England. He found the Spanish in occupation. Pimienta's decision to occupy the island was approved in 1643 and he was made a knight of the Order of Santiago.
When Spain issued a decree blocking foreign countries from trading, selling or buying merchandise in its Caribbean colonies, the entire region became engulfed in a power struggle among the naval superpowers. The newly independent United States later became involved in this scenario, complicating the conflict. As a consequence, Spain increased the issuing of privateering contracts. These contracts allowed an income option to the inhabitants of these colonies that were not related to the Spanish conquistadores. The most well-known privateer corsairs of the eighteenth century in the Spanish colonies were Miguel Enríquez of Puerto Rico and José Campuzano-Polanco of Santo Domingo. Miguel Enríquez was a Puerto Rican mulatto who abandoned his work as a shoemaker to work as a privateer. Such was the success of Enríquez, that he became one of the wealthiest men in the New World. His fleet was composed of approx. 300 different ships during a career that expanded 35 years, becoming a military asset and reportedly outperforming the efficiency of the Armada de Barlovento. Enríquez was knighted and received the title of Don from Philip V, something unheard of due to his ethnic and social background. One of the most famous privateers from mainland Spain was Amaro Pargo.
Corsairs (French: corsaire) were privateers, authorized to conduct raids on shipping of a nation at war with France, on behalf of the French Crown. Seized vessels and cargo were sold at auction, with the corsair captain entitled to a portion of the proceeds. Although not French Navy personnel, corsairs were considered legitimate combatants in France (and allied nations), provided the commanding officer of the vessel was in possession of a valid Letter of Marque (fr. Lettre de Marque or Lettre de Course), and the officers and crew conducted themselves according to contemporary admiralty law. By acting on behalf of the French Crown, if captured by the enemy, they could claim treatment as prisoners of war, instead of being considered pirates. Because corsairs gained a swashbuckling reputation, the word "corsair" is also used generically as a more romantic or flamboyant way of referring to privateers, or even to pirates. The Barbary pirates of North Africa as well as Ottomans were sometimes called "Turkish corsairs".
Corsairing (Italian: corso) was an important aspect of Malta's economy when the island was ruled by the Order of St. John, although the practice had begun earlier. Corsairs sailed on privately owned ships on behalf of the Grand Master of the Order, and were authorized to attack Muslim ships, usually merchant ships from the Ottoman Empire. The corsairs included knights of the Order, native Maltese people, as well as foreigners. When they captured a ship, the goods were sold and the crew and passengers were ransomed or enslaved, and the Order took a percentage of the value of the booty. Corsairing remained common until the end of the 18th century.
During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress, and some state governments (on their own initiative), issued privateering licenses, authorizing "legal piracy", to merchant captains in an effort to take prizes from the British Navy and Tory (Loyalist) privateers. This was done due to the relatively small number of commissioned American naval vessels and the pressing need for prisoner exchange.
About 55,000 American seamen served aboard the privateers. They quickly sold their prizes, dividing their profits with the financier (persons or company) and the state (colony). Long Island Sound became a hornets' nest of privateering activity during the American Revolution (1775–1783), as most transports to and from New York went through the Sound. New London, Connecticut was a chief privateering port for the American colonies, leading to the British Navy blockading it in 1778–1779. Chief financiers of privateering included Thomas & Nathaniel Shaw of New London and John McCurdy of Lyme. In the months before the British raid on New London and Groton, a New London privateer took Hannah in what is regarded as the largest prize taken by any American privateer during the war. Retribution was likely part of Gov. Clinton's (NY) motivation for Arnold's Raid, as the Hannah had carried many of his most cherished items.
American privateers are thought to have seized up to 300 British ships during the war. The British ship Jack was captured and turned into an American privateer, only to be captured again by the British in the naval battle off Halifax, Nova Scotia. American privateers not only fought naval battles but also raided numerous communities in British colonies, such as the Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (1782).
The United States Constitution authorized the U.S. Congress to grant letters of marque and reprisal. Between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1812, less than 30 years, Britain, France, Naples, the Barbary States, Spain, and the Netherlands seized approximately 2,500 American ships. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800 and would lead the United States to fight the Barbary states in the First Barbary War and Second Barbary Wars.
During the War of 1812, the British attacked Essex, Connecticut, and burned the ships in the harbor, due to the construction there of a number of privateers. This was the greatest financial loss of the entire War of 1812 suffered by the Americans. However, the private fleet of James De Wolf, which sailed under the flag of the American government in 1812, was most likely a key factor in the naval campaign of the war. De Wolf's ship, the Yankee, was possibly the most financially successful ship of the war. Privateers proved to be far more successful than their US Navy counterparts, claiming three-quarters of the 1600 British merchant ships taken during the war (although a third of these were recaptured prior to making landfall). One of the more successful of these ships was the Prince de Neufchatel, which once captured nine British prizes in swift succession in the English Channel. Whilst apparently successful, the privateer campaign was ultimately a failure. British convoy systems honed during the Napoleonic Wars limited losses to singleton ships, and the effective blockade of American and continental ports prevented captured ships being taken in for sale. This ultimately led to orders forbidding US privateers from attempting to bring their prizes in to port, with captured ships instead having to be burnt. Over 200 American privateer ships were captured by the Royal Navy, many of which were turned on their former owners and used by the British blockading forces.
Jean Lafitte and his privateers aided US General Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans in order to receive full pardons for their previous crimes. Jackson formally requested clemency for Lafitte and the men who had served under him, and the US government granted them all a full pardon on February 6, 1815.
The US was not one of the initial signatories of the 1856 Declaration of Paris which outlawed privateering, and the Confederate Constitution authorized use of privateers. However, the US did offer to adopt the terms of the Declaration during the American Civil War, when the Confederates sent several privateers to sea before putting their main effort in the more effective commissioned raiders.
During the Civil War Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued letters of marque to anyone who would employ their ship to either attack Union shipping or bring badly needed supplies through the Union blockade into southern ports. Many of the supplies brought into the Confederacy were carried aboard privately owned vessels. When word came about that the Confederacy was willing to pay almost any price for military supplies, various interested parties designed and built specially designed light weight seagoing steamers, blockade runners specifically designed and built to outrun Union ships on blockade patrol.
No letter of marque has been legitimately issued by the United States since the 19th century. The status of submarine hunting Goodyear airships in the early days of World War II has created significant confusion. According to one story, the United States Navy issued a Letter of Marque to the Airship Resolute on the West Coast of the United States at the beginning of World War II, making it the first time the US Navy commissioned a privateer since the War of 1812. However, this story, along with various other accounts referring to the airships Resolute and Volunteer as operating under a "privateer status", is highly dubious. Since neither the Congress nor the President appears to have authorized a privateer during the war, the Navy would not have had the authority to do so by itself.
Warships were recruited by the insurgent governments during Spanish American wars of independence to destroy Spanish trade, and capture Spanish Merchant vessels. The private armed vessels came largely from the United States. Seamen from Britain, United States and France often manned these ships.
Events from the year 1718 in SwedenAdventure Galley
Adventure Galley, also known as Adventure, was an English sailing ship captained by William Kidd, the notorious privateer. She was a type of hybrid ship that combined square rigged sails with oars to give her manoeuvrability in both windy and calm conditions. The vessel was launched at the end of 1695 and was acquired by Kidd the following year to serve in his privateering venture. Between April 1696 and April 1698, she travelled thousands of miles across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in search of pirates but failed to find any until nearly the end of her travels. Instead, Kidd himself turned pirate in desperation at not having obtained any prizes. Adventure Galley succeeded in capturing two vessels off India and brought them back to Madagascar, but by the spring of 1698 the ship's hull had become so rotten and leaky that she was no longer seaworthy. She was stripped of anything movable and sunk off the north-eastern coast of Madagascar. Her remains have not yet been located.Confederate privateer
The Confederate privateers were privately owned ships that were authorized by the government of the Confederate States of America to attack the shipping of the United States. Although the appeal was to profit by capturing merchant vessels and seizing their cargoes, the government was most interested in diverting the efforts of the Union Navy away from the blockade of Southern ports, and perhaps to encourage European intervention in the conflict.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederate government sought to counter the United States Navy in part by appealing to private enterprise world-wide to engage in privateering against United States shipping. Privateering was the practice of fitting ordinary private merchant vessels with modest armament, then sending them to sea to capture other merchant vessels in return for monetary reward. The captured vessels and cargo fell under customary prize rules at sea. Prizes would be taken to the jurisdiction of a competent court, which could be in the sponsoring country or theoretically in any neutral port. If the court found that the capture was legal, the ship and cargo would be forfeited and sold at a prize auction. The proceeds would be distributed among owners and crew according to a contractual arrangement. Privateers were also authorized to attack an enemy's navy warships and then apply to the sponsoring government for direct monetary reward, usually gold or gold specie (coins).
In the early days of the war, enthusiasm for the Southern cause was high, and many ship owners responded to the appeal by applying for letters of marque. Not all of those who gained authorization actually went to sea, but the numbers of privateers were high enough to be a major concern for US Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Many ships of the Union Navy were diverted from blockade duty in efforts to capture privateers. Most of the privateers managed to remain free, but enough were caught that the owners and crew had to consider the risk seriously. The capture of the privateers Savannah and Jefferson Davis resulted in important court cases that did much to define the nature of the Civil War itself.
Initial enthusiasm could not be sustained. Privateers found it difficult to deliver their captures to Confederate courts, and as a result the expected profits were never realized. By the end of the first year of the war, the risks far exceeded the benefits in the minds of most owners and crews. The practice continued only sporadically through the rest of the war as the Confederate government turned its efforts against Northern commerce over to commissioned Confederate Navy commerce raiders such as the CSS Alabama and CSS Florida.
The Civil War was the last time a belligerent power seriously resorted to privateering. The practice had already been outlawed among European countries by the Declaration of Paris (1856). Following the Civil War, the United States agreed to abide by the Declaration of Paris. More important than any international agreements, however, is the fact that the increased cost and sophistication of naval weaponry effectively removed any reasonable prospects for profit for private enterprise naval warfare.Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer
The Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer is a World War II and Korean War era patrol bomber of the United States Navy derived from the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The Navy had been using B-24s with only minor modifications as the PB4Y-1 Liberator, and along with maritime patrol Liberators used by RAF Coastal Command this type of patrol plane was proven successful. A fully navalized design was desired, and Consolidated developed a dedicated long-range patrol bomber in 1943, designated PB4Y-2 Privateer. In 1951, the type was redesignated P4Y-2 Privateer. A further designation change occurred in September 1962, when the remaining Navy Privateers (all having previously been converted to drone configuration as P4Y-2K) were redesignated QP-4B.Henry Morgan
Sir Henry Morgan (Welsh: Harri Morgan, c. 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer, landowner, slaveholder and, later, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. From his base in Port Royal, Jamaica, he raided settlements and shipping on the Spanish Main, becoming wealthy as he did so. With the prize money from the raids he purchased three large sugar plantations on the island.
Much of Morgan's early life is unknown. He was born in south Wales, but it is not known how he made his way to the West Indies, or how he began his career as a privateer. He was probably a member of a group of raiders led by Sir Christopher Myngs in the early 1660s. Morgan became a close friend of Sir Thomas Modyford, the Governor of Jamaica. When diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of England and Spain worsened in 1667, Modyford gave Morgan a letter of marque, a licence to attack and seize Spanish vessels. Morgan subsequently conducted successful and highly lucrative raids on Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in modern Cuba) and Porto Bello (in modern Panama). In 1668 he sailed for Maracaibo and Gibraltar, both on Lake Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela. He raided both cities and stripped them of their wealth before destroying a large Spanish squadron as he escaped.
In 1671 Morgan attacked Panama City, landing on the Caribbean coast and traversing the isthmus before he attacked the city, which was on the Pacific coast. The battle was a rout, although the privateers profited less than in other raids. To appease the Spanish, with whom the English had signed a peace treaty, Morgan was arrested and summoned to London in 1672, but was treated as a hero by the general populace and the leading figures of government and royalty including Charles II.
Morgan was appointed a Knight Bachelor in November 1674 and returned to Jamaica shortly afterward to serve as the territory's Lieutenant Governor. He served on the Assembly of Jamaica until 1683 and on three occasions he acted as Governor of Jamaica in the absence of the post-holder. A memoir published by Alexandre Exquemelin, a former shipmate of Morgan's, accused the privateer of widespread torture and other offences; Morgan brought a libel suit against the book's English publishers and won, although the black picture Exquemelin portrayed of Morgan has affected history's view of the Welshman. He died in Jamaica on 25 August 1688. His life was romanticised after his death and he became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.J. M. Chapman
J. M. Chapman, a 90-ton schooner, was purchased in 1863, by Asbury Harpending and other California members of the Knights of the Golden Circle in San Francisco to outfit as a Confederate privateer.Harpending's plan to capture Pacific Mail Steamship Company ships along the Pacific coast carrying gold and silver shipments to Panama. He intended to then take what he seized to support the Confederacy. The plan attempt was detected and a boarding party made up of crew from the United States Navy sloop-of-war USS Cyane, revenue officers, and San Francisco Police Department officers seized the ship and its crew on the night of their intended departure.The ship was lost in December 1864 on a voyage between Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, Australia, and San Francisco.John Newland Maffitt (privateer)
John Newland Maffitt (February 22, 1819 – May 15, 1886) was an officer in the Confederate States Navy who was nicknamed the "Prince of Privateers" due to his remarkable success as a blockade runner and commerce raider in the U.S. Civil War.Joseph Barss
Joseph Barss (21 February 1776 – 3 August 1824) was a sea captain of the schooner Liverpool Packet and was one of the most successful privateers on the North American Atlantic coast during the War of 1812.Letter of marque
A letter of marque and reprisal (French: lettre de marque; lettre de course) was a government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a private person, known as a privateer or corsair, to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer. Once captured, the privateer could then bring the case of that prize before their own admiralty court for condemnation and transfer of ownership to the privateer. A letter of marque and reprisal would include permission to cross an international border to effect a reprisal (take some action against an attack or injury) and was authorized by an issuing jurisdiction to conduct reprisal operations outside its borders.
Popular among Europeans from the late Middle Ages up to the 19th century, cruising for enemy prizes with a letter of marque was considered an honorable calling that combined patriotism and profit. Such privateering contrasted with attacks and captures of random ships, which was unlicensed and known as piracy; piracy was almost universally reviled. In reality, the differences between privateers and pirates were often at best subtle, and at worst more a matter of interpretation.In addition to the meaning of the license itself, the terms letter of marque and privateer were sometimes used to describe the vessels used to pursue and capture prizes. In this context, a letter of marque was a lumbering, square-rigged cargo carrier that might pick up a prize if the opportunity arose in its normal course of duties. In contrast, the term privateer generally referred to a fast and weatherly fore-and-aft rigged vessel, heavily armed and heavily crewed, intended exclusively for fighting.List of pirates
This is a list of known pirates, buccaneers, corsairs, privateers, river pirates, and others involved in piracy and piracy-related activities. This list includes both captains and prominent crew members. For a list of female pirates, see women in piracy. For pirates of fiction or myth, see list of fictional pirates.List of privateers
A privateer was a private person or private warship authorized by a country's government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping. Privateers were an accepted part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th centuries, authorised by all significant naval powers.
Notable privateers included:
Victual Brothers or Vitalians or Likedeelers 1360–1401
Gödeke Michels (leader of the Likedeelers) 1360–1401
Klaus Störtebeker, Wismar, (leader of the Likedeelers), 1360–1401
Didrik Pining, German, c. 1428–1491
Paul Beneke, German, born in Hanseatic City of Danzig, Pomerelia c. 1440s–1490s
Kemal Reis, Turkish, c. 1451–1511
Oruç Reis (Barbarossa), Turkish, c. 1474–1518
Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, Turkish, 1478–1546
Turgut Reis (Dragut), Turkish, c. 1485–1565
Timoji, Hindu, 1496–1513
Murat Reis the Older, Turkish, c. 1506–1609
Sir Francis Drake, English, c. 1540–1596
Sir George Somers, English 1554–1610
Captain Christopher Newport, English, c. 1561–1617
Magnus Heinason, Faroese, c. 1568–1578 privateer in Dutch service under the Dutch revolt and 1580s, and privateer and merchant in Danish service on the Faroe Islands c. 1578–1589
Piet Hein, Dutch, 1577–1629
Alonso de Contreras, Spanish, 1582–1641, privateer against the Turks under the banner of the Order of Malta and later commanded Spanish ships
James Erisey, English, 1585–1590s
Peter Easton, England/Newfoundland, c. 1611–1614
Sir Henry Morgan, Welsh, 1635–1688
Jean Bart, French, 1651–1702
William Dampier, English, 1652–1715
Nicolas Baeteman, Dunkirker 1659–1720
Alexander Dalzeel, Scotland, c. 1662–1715
René Duguay-Trouin, French, 1673–1736
Kanhoji Angre, Maratha, 1698–1729
Lars Gathenhielm, Swedish, 1710–1718
Ingela Gathenhielm, Swedish, 1710/18–1721
Fortunatus Wright, English of Liverpool, 1712–1757
David Hawley, colonial United States, 1741–1807
Jonathan Haraden, colonial United States, 1744–1803
William Death, English, 1756
Alexander Godfrey, colonial Nova Scotia, 1756–1803
Jose Campuzano-Polanco, colonial Santo Domingo, 1689-1760
Etienne Pellot, aka "the Basque Fox", French, 1765–1856
Noah Stoddard, United States, 1755-1850
Robert Surcouf, French, 1773–1827
David McCullough, colonial United States, 1777-1778
Jean Gaspard Vence, French, –1783
Joseph Barss, Colonial Nova Scotia, 1776–1824
Jean Lafitte 1776–1854, French Louisiana hero in the Gulf of Mexico
John Ordronaux (privateer), United States, 1778–1841
Ephraim Sturdivant, United States, 1782–1868
Hipólito Bouchard, Argentina, 1783–1843
Louisa, ship, of Philadelphia United States, 1800s during Quasi-War with the French
Otway Burns, North Carolina, United States 1775–1850List of ships of the Confederate States Navy
This is a list of ships of the Confederate States Navy (CSN), used by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Included are some types of civilian vessels, such as blockade runners, steamboats, and privateers which contributed to the war efforts by the CSN. Also included are special types of floating batteries and harbor defense craft.List of single-ship actions
A single-ship action is a naval engagement fought between two warships of opposing sides, excluding submarine engagements; called so because there is a single ship on each side. The following is a list of notable single-ship actions.Miguel Enríquez (privateer)
D. Miguel Enríquez (c. 1674–1743), was a privateer from San Juan, Puerto Rico who operated during the early 18th century. A mulatto born out of wedlock, Enríquez was a shoemaker by occupation. After working for the governor as a salesman he was recruited to defend Puerto Rico, then a colony of the Spanish Empire, and commanded a small fleet that intercepted foreign merchant ships and other vessels dedicated to contraband. These outlaws were thriving in the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, notably in the areas surrounding Saint Thomas, Curaçao and Jamaica. Operating during the height of the Golden Age of Piracy, his fleet was also credited with controlling the proliferation of buccaneers in the region. However, he was considered a pirate himself by the enemies of Spain, since it was common practice of the government to ignore when foreign ships were attacked. After some time operating independently, Enríquez received a letter of marque and reprisal from the Spanish Crown, this was a special permit granting him the privileges of a privateer. Corsairs from Puerto Rico were often called guardacostas, or "coast guards." They operated in the same fashion as any other pirate, the only difference was that they did it in the name of Spain, protecting imperial trade restrictions. Employing a systematic approach, Enríquez was able to become the most successful and influential Puerto Rican of his time. However, despite this, he was never able to gain the acceptance of the higher social classes, something that he strived to earn throughout his life.
During his years as a privateer, Enríquez established close links with the Spanish Monarchy. His ships were also responsible for the distribution of urgent messages that arrived at San Juan or La Aguada to the rest of the West Indies. When there was a shortage of royal vessels, Enríquez's fleet was responsible for transporting items on behalf of Spain without charge. His fleet also provided transportation for the authorities that arrived at Puerto Rico en route to other locations and for missionaries. Throughout the War of the Spanish Succession, Enríquez's fleet was responsible for guarding the Antilles from incursions by the British and Dutch. Among the places where he established connections was the adjacent island of St. Thomas. Enríquez also dealt directly with the governor of Curaçao. At a time when letters of marque were being regularly issued in neighboring islands his actions converted San Juan into one of the most important ports in the Caribbean. Between 1702 and 1713 Enríquez owned a fleet of more than thirty vessels, losing at least a dozen and capturing more than twenty others. By the time that his career was over, he had reportedly commanded a fleet of over 300 privateer ships, of which approximately 150 were lost, employing close to 1,500 sailors.In 1717, Great Britain occupied the island of Vieques which was under the control of the Spanish Government of Puerto Rico. According to the British government, they did not recognize the Spanish claim to the island which they referred to as "Crab Island". Enríquez, with the consent of the government, organized an expeditionary force which consisted of two ships with seven members of the regular Spanish Army and 286 members of the Puerto Rican militia. The ships were escorted by a Spanish warship under the command of Naval Commander José Rocher. Enríquez's men fought and defeated the British in Vieques, taking most of their enemy to the mainland of Puerto Rico as their prisoners. He was received as a national hero when he returned the island of Vieques to the Spanish Empire and to the governorship of Puerto Rico. The British government became alarmed and sent a warship to San Juan. Further confrontation between both nations was avoided when the Spanish authorities returned the prisoners. His fleet also participated in other military expeditions in 1728 and 1729.
Enríquez received several recognitions and exemptions that facilitated his work and contributed towards his vast wealth. Under the order of King Philip V (1683–1746), he was awarded The Gold Medal of the Royal Effigy (Spanish: "Medalla de oro de la Real Efigie") in 1713 and was named Capitán de Mar y Guerra y Armador de Corsos (loosely translated as Captain of the Seas and War and Chief Provider to the Crown Corsairs). The Crown also granted him a Royal Auxiliary Identification Document (Spanish: Real Cédula Auxiliar), which allowed him to directly seek help from the Council of the Indies regardless of how insignificant a conflict was.
Enríquez also acquired the local rights of the Guinea Company and the Royal Asiento of Great Britain, organizations dedicated to slave trading which were authorized to do so by Spain. His actions placed him at odds with several influential members of San Juan's society. To counter this, Enríquez supported any new governor by offering his services and providing other help. However, all but José Antonio Mendizábal unsuccessfully tried to revoke his privateering contract, often finding themselves in trouble when he responded by using his resources. The most notable example was Juan de Ribera, who Enríquez managed to remove from the office of governor after an arduous conflict by employing his influence. He also pursued the favor of the bishops appointed to San Juan, earning the support of Pedro de la Concepción Urtiaga and Fernando de Valbidia, but failing to earn the trust of Lorenzo Pizarro. Enríquez's influence extended to several other systems, including the courts and military. He owned 300 slaves and his fortune, at the time, was among the largest in the Americas. Throughout his career, Enríquez was persecuted by the Spanish elite in the island and jailed on various occasions. At the peak of his success, he was able to employ his influence to have governor Danío Granados prosecuted and jailed. However, as international politics evolved, his influence dwindled. By the time that Matías de Abadía became governor, Enríquez was unable to accomplish his removal from office. He was charged with smuggling and stripped of all his power and wealth by the government. Enríquez fled and took refuge in the Catholic Church, which he regularly attended. By being generous with his donations to the bishopric, he had gained allies who would protect him throughout the years. The charges of smuggling made by the Spanish government were eventually dropped, but Enríquez chose to remain in the convent where he died a pauper.Nicholas van Hoorn
Nicholas van Hoorn (c. 1635 in Vlissingen – buried 24 June 1683, in Isla Mujeres) was a merchant sailor, privateer and pirate. He was born in the Netherlands and died near Veracruz after being wounded on the Isla de Sacrificios. Nikolaas or Klaas was engaged in the Dutch merchant service from about 1655 until 1659, and then bought a vessel with his savings. With a band of reckless men whom he had enlisted, he became a terror to the commerce of the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Empire. Later he had several ships in his employment and obtained such notoriety that some governments were willing to employ him against their enemies.Privateer (motorsport)
In motorsport, a privateer is usually an entrant into a racing event that is not directly supported by an automobile manufacturer. Privateers teams are often found competing in rally and circuit racing events, and often include competitors who build and maintain their own vehicles. In previous Formula One seasons, privately owned teams would race using the chassis of another team or constructor in preference to building their own car; the Concorde Agreement now prohibits this practice. Increasingly the term is being used in an F1 context to refer to teams who are not at least part-owned by large corporations, such as Williams F1.
Many privateer entrants compete for the enjoyment of the sport, and are not paid to be racing drivers.Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (1782)
The Raid on Lunenburg (also known as the Sack of Lunenburg) occurred during the American Revolution when the US privateer, Captain Noah Stoddard of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and four other privateer vessels attacked the British settlement at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on 1 July 1782. The raid was the last major privateer attack on a Nova Scotia community during the war.
Lunenburg was defended by militia leaders Colonel John Creighton and Major Dettlieb Christopher Jessen. In Nova Scotia, the assault on Lunenburg was the most spectacular raid of the war. On the morning of 1 July Stoddard led approximately 170 US privateers in four heavily armed vessels and overpowered Lunenburg’s defence, capturing the blockhouses and burning Creighton's home and filling Jessen's house with bullets holes. The privateers then looted the settlement and kept the militia at bay with the threat of destroying the entire town. The American privateers plundered the town and took three prisoners, including Creighton, who were later released from Boston without a ransom having been paid.Wing Commander (franchise)
Wing Commander is a media franchise consisting of space combat simulation video games from Origin Systems, Inc., an animated television series, a feature film, a collectible card game, a series of novels, and action figures. The franchise originated in 1990 with the release of Wing Commander.
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