A seaman as heroic as Nelson, a master of gunnery and genius at deception, a tactician so formidably skillful Napoleon called him the sea wolf. Thomas Cochrane made of his life at sea a legend more extraordinary than any of the works of fiction it inspired -- like the famous sea tales of C. S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian's bestselling series of naval novels featuring the redoubtable Jack Aubrey.
Barely twenty-five when he assumed command of the Speedy, Cochrane created mayhem in the Mediterranean as he took the tiny brig with its fourteen guns to naval glory and himself to national fame and a fortune in prize money. A maverick, Cochrane often stood at odds with the Admiralty and on occasion operated against its orders. As innovative as he was fearless, he flew under false colors to deceive the enemy, instituted in-shore guerrilla raiding, promoted the use of explosion ships, and experimented with poison gas, propeller-drive ships, and compressed-air engines. Outnumbered and outgunned, he nonetheless triumphed over Spanish and Portuguese naval forces in battles off the coasts of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, where he served as a mercenary in the cause of independence.
Born into a penurious but noble Scottish family, Cochrane rose fabulously and fearlessly from midshipman to admiral, from penniless heir to a radical member of parliament to Tenth Earl of Dundonald. He married a penniless orphan and had a long-standing liaison with one of the most famous literary figures of his day. He survived the Stock Exchange scandal that sent him to prison and escaped to South America, where he helped shape the destiny of a continent. Rebellious, dashing, mad, heroic; Cochrane both embodies andepitomizes the spirit of the Romantic Age.
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