Jack Tar's Story examines the autobiographies and memoirs of antebellum American sailors to explore contested meanings of manhood and nationalism in the early republic. It is the first study to use various kinds of institutional sources, including crew lists, ships' logs, impressment records, to document the stories sailors told. It focuses on how mariner authors remembered/interpreted various events and experiences, including the War of 1812, the Haitian Revolution, South America's wars of independence, British impressment, flogging on the high seas, roistering, and religious conversion. This book straddles different fields of scholarship and suggests how their concerns intersect or resonate with each other: the history of print culture, the study of autobiographical writing, and the historiography of seafaring life and of masculinity in antebellum America.
Myra C. Glenn is Professor of American History at Elmira College. She is the author of Campaigns against Corporal Punishment: Prisoners, Sailors, Women, and Children in Antebellum America and Thomas K. Beecher: Minister to a Changing America, 1824-1900. Her work has appeared in numerous professional journals, and she is the recipient of two Fulbright lecture awards.
Introduction: why study antebellum sailor narratives?; 1. Stories of escape, freedom, and captivity: seaman authors recall their early years; 2. Manhood, nationalism, and sailor narratives of British captivity and the War of 1812; 3. Exploring the meaning of revolution in the Americas: sailor narratives of the Haitian and South American Wars of Independence; 4. Defending one's rights as a man and an American citizen: sailor narratives as exposes of flogging; 5. Straddling conflicting notions of manhood: sailor narratives as stories of roistering and religious conversion; Afterword.