Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Six Frigates -A Great Book about the Founding of the US Navy

I just finished reading a really excellent book entitled "Six Frigates -The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy" by Ian W. Toll. I do not often write book reviews, nor make glowing recommendations, but this was an unusually well written, well researched and well documented book. Those of you who may be like myself nd interested in history would find this a really excellent read.

The book begins several years after the American Revolution at a time when Americas merchant interests were still formulating. A small, unarmed country half way around the world was discovering that the world is a harsh and sometimes violent place. Barbary powers in North Africa discovered that the American merchant ships, lacking any Navy to protect them, were a particularly easy and profitable prey. The ongoing war between France and England was using American shipping as a tool  against each other, at American expense. England, the unquestioned dominate Sea Power on the globe, particularly liked seizing American sailors and "pressing" them into His Majesties service (Americans were excellent seamen and already spoke English, besides they were former subjects of the crown anyway).

All these problems finally prompted the fledgling American government to authorize the establishment of a small navy and the construction of six frigates. Mr. Tolls following of the debate in Congress, the essential support and influence of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison in getting this approved and funded is masterful, easy to follow. In many ways, it reads more like a novel than a history book.

Six Frigates goes into detail about the brilliant design selected for these ships -a design that would prove itself in wars with both France (the so called "Quasi" War) and England (the War of 1812).  -And for those of you familiar with sailing, particularly in the Atlantic and Caribbean, the detail Mr Toll goes into and his explanation of the handling of the ships and the influence of wind, sail and handling on the outcome of battles, gives a rare and welcome insight into the difficulties and hardships of the "wooden navy".

I found this short summery/recommendation  for the "Six Frigates" on line. It did not say who wrote it, but I think it summaries the book better than I can:
Before the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military became the most divisive issue facing the new government. The founders--particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams--debated fiercely. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect from pirates or drain the treasury and provoke hostility? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.

If you are a history enthusist, a weekend sailor, or are just looking for something good to read in your spare time, Six Frigates is an excellent choice.

Live Long and Prosper....

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