American privateers played a significant role during the American War of Independence and the Anglo-American war of 1812, as the American regular navy was very small. Reinforcement by privateers sailing under the government's jurisdiction carrying Letters of Marque was essential, and in fact both sides made use of privateers, capturing each other's merchant ships as prizes. Many successful sailors began their careers as privateers before taking up commissions in the regular navy. The stories of some of these men are individually explored in this 1899 book by Edgar Stanton Maclay, who two years later was at the centre of a controversy arising from remarks in his History of the United States Navy. Maclay here includes accounts from sailors of all ranks about their experiences during the conflicts and as prisoners of war. The actions of some notorious British privateers are also documented in this fascinating work of maritime history.