Captain Luke Ryan: Privateer or Pirate, Hero or Rogue?

by Mark McMillin on January 25, 2012

This site is devoted to Captain Luke Ryan. You probably never heard of Captain Ryan and yet this young Irishman, a smuggler by trade, had a major impact on America’s War of Independence. You also probably didn’t know that during the war the great Benjamin Franklin, America’s ambassador to France, formed his own private navy for reasons that we will learn about later.

Well, I had never heard of Ryan or Franklin’s private navy either until I built a model of Ryan’s ship, the Black Prince, back in 1999 (the Prince was a cutter similar in size and rigging to the Lynx depicted on this website’s banner). The Prince was reportedly the fastest ship on the water and Franklin reluctantly issued a commission (or letter of marque) to Ryan to fight for the Americans as a privateer. Armed with Franklin’s commission, Ryan and his mostly Irish crew went after the British with a vengeance, eventually inflicting more damage on British shipping than Ryan’s more famous counterpart, John Paul Jones. I was so intrigued by that tidbit of information I tried to learn more about Ryan but found very little.

Eventually I learned enough to write a book about the amazing adventures of Ryan and his men (well, three books to be precise) – though I had to weave in a fair amount of fiction to ‘fill-in-the-gaps.’ For the historical purists among you, I have included a “Separating Fact from Fiction” chapter at the end of each book. The project, researching, writing, editing, polishing and editing again took nearly 12 years to complete.

Here then is a bold story about bold men. It is an epic, little known story of adventure, war, heroism, love, intrigue and betrayal. If this intrigues you, I hope you will read on…

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