Here’s a bit of good summer reading for you. The book The War Maker tells the supposedly true story of George B. Boynton, whose unlikely adventures sound like a 19th century Forrest Gump.
You can download the book in a variety of ebook formats here at Google Books.
The article gives a historic context for the book. But here is the book’s own introduction:
The hero of this book was a real man, though he has carried to his grave the secret of his true name. It was not Boynton, although it is known that he was born in Fifth Avenue, near Fourteenth Street, New York, May 1, 1842, and that his father was a distinguished surgeon, with an estate on Lake Champlain. He rarely talked of his remarkable life, and recounted in detail to the author of this volume the facts of his career of adventure, only in the closing months of his life.
Captain Boynton was of the type of filibuster that is read of so often, but rarely met with in life. He was a tall, bronzed, athletic, broad-shouldered man, one of the most picturesque and daring of the many soldiers of fortune who have sought adventures over the world. From Hongkong to Valparaiso fighters of all races knew the name of Boynton. From Cape Horn to New York he did not permit himself to be forgotten. Whether exploring the sources of the Orinoco, or hunting elusive supporters for a deserted American President, or battling in the Haytian army, or spying out court secrets in Venezuela, or running a distillery in Brooklyn with Jim Fisk as partner, he was invariably master of himself and continually a personality to be reckoned with. Captain Boynton was the original of the ” Soldier of Fortune” in Richard Harding Davis’s story of that name, and gave to Guy Boothby the facts of his novel “The Beautiful White Devil,” with which dashing heroine Captain Boynton was on terms of intimacy. In the account of his life given in this volume fictitious names have in two or three instances been used for persons still living who figured in business deals with him. Otherwise the story is told almost identically as Captain Boynton narrated it to the author.
After escaping death in scores of forms, including a Chinese pirate’s cutlass, an assassin’s dagger, the fire of a file of soldiers at sunrise, and war’s guns, this utterly fearless, cheerfully arrogant retired blockade runner, revolutionist, and hunter of pirates died peacefully in his bed, at a ripe age, on January 19, 1911, in New York City, where he had led a quiet life since 1905, when he voluntarily left Venezuela, after withstanding repeated efforts by President Castro to drive him from the country.
GEORGE B. BOYNTON, “THE WAR MAKER,” TELLS HIS ADVENTURES: Memoirs of the Mysterious New Yorker Who Made Fighting His Profession Read Like a Dumas Romance. (PDF)
From June 11, 1911