Episode 006: Gregory N. Flemming, At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton


Arrr, so ye like pirates do ye?

Did ye know that as much as 33% of pirate crews were made up of captured seamen, not pirates?

We’ll be talkin' about the “Golden Age” of pirates in this here episode of Ben Franklin’s World with historian and pirate expert Gregory N. Flemming, author of the new book At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Greg-FlemmingIn this episode we explore pirates with Gregory N. Flemming, author of At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton.

Greg uses details from the lives of real-life pirates and pirate captives Philip Ashton, Edward Low, and Joseph Libbey to reveal the realties of pirate life during the early eighteenth century.

Greg shares insight into how pirate crews lived and worked, the dangers pirates and their captives faced, and what type of ships and cargoes pirates sought to capture.

He also answers the age-old question of whether pirates really buried their treasure.


What You’ll Discover

  • How Greg discovered the narrative of a relatively obscure Marblehead fisherman named Philip Ashton
  •  Who Philip Ashton was and what his experiences tell us about pirate life
  • What life was like aboard a pirate ship
  • The differences in experiences between the crew members and captive seamen who served aboard pirate ships
  • Who pirate captain Edward Low was, why he was notorious, and why so few remember him today
  •  Why piracy flourished on the Atlantic Ocean between 1715 and approximately 1730
  • Whether pirates lived and worked under a “pirate code”
  • How pirates determined which ships to capture
  • The types of “booty” pirates wanted
  • Whether pirates really buried treasure
  •  The fate of captured pirates

Links to People, Places, and Publications

Time Warp Question

  • What might have happened if Philip Ashton had turned pirate?


Questions, Comments, Suggestions

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Get in Touch! Send me an e-mail, tweet, or leave a comment.



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  • I have to say that I enjoyed this book a lot–it presents a different perspective about the world of pirates from the fictionalized version that we have all learned from Disney and other pop culture sources. I think it would make a great movie! A cinemagraphic glimpse into Ashton’s experience as a castaway for all that time would make for some great drama, on top of the already-compelling pirate angle. Johnny Depp and his eyeliner meet Tom Hanks and his basketball. . .

    • I am glad you enjoyed Greg’s book. I did as well. I read it while on a cruise of coastal Canada; the book added to my experience of sailing around Nova Scotia. I kept trying to picture Ashton in his small fishing schooner and what it was like for him to be captured by Edward Low. It was a lot of fun and a great time to read it.

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