Born in Philadelphia during the American Revolution, Stewart met President Washington and went to sea as a cabin boy on a merchantman before age thirteen. In March 1798, at age nineteen, he received a naval commission one month before the Department of the Navy was established. Stewart went on to an illustrious naval career: Thomas Jefferson recognized his Mediterranean exploits during the Barbary Wars, Stewart advised James Madison at the outset of the War of 1812, and Stewart trained many future senior naval officers—including David Porter, David Dixon Porter, and David G. Farragut—in three wars. He served as a pallbearer at President Lincoln’s funeral.
Stewart cemented his reputation as commander of the Navy’s most powerful frigate, the USS Constitution. No other captain commanded this ship for a longer wartime period or through more naval engagements. Undefeated in battle, including defeating the British warships Cyane and Levant simultaneously, both ship and captain came to be known as “Old Ironsides.”
"A fluent, intelligent history...give[s] the reader a feel for the human quirks and harsh demands of life at sea."—New York Times Book ReviewBefore 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.
Decatur's dazzling exploits in the Barbary Wars propelled him to national prominence at the age of twenty-five. His dramatic capture of HMS Macedonian in the War of 1812, and his subsequent naval and diplomatic triumphs in the Mediterranean, secured his permanent place in the hearts of his countrymen. Handsome, dashing, and fearless, his crews worshipped him, presidents lionized him, and an adoring public heaped fresh honors on him with each new achievement.
James Tertius de Kay is one of our foremost naval historians. In A Rage for Glory, the first new biography of Decatur in almost seventy years, he recounts Decatur's life in vivid colors. Drawing on material unavailable to previous biographers, he traces the origins of Decatur's fierce patriotism ("My country...right or wrong!"), chronicles Decatur's passionate love affair with Susan Wheeler, and provides new details of Decatur's tragic death in a senseless duel of honor, secretly instigated by the backroom machinations of jealous fellow officers determined to ruin him. His death left official Washington in such shock that his funeral became a state occasion, attended by friends who included former President James Madison, current President James Monroe, Chief Justice John Marshall, and ten thousand more.
Decatur's short but crowded life was an astonishing epic of hubris, romance, and high achievement. Only a handful of Americans since his time have ever come close to matching his extraordinary glamour and brilliance.
Among the ships in Preble’s flotilla was a non-descript little ketch. Once a French supply boat, the ketch served Tripoli until the U.S. squadron captured her in 1803. Upon her capture, Preble incorporated the little boat into his force, re-naming her the Intrepid. She was the first ship in the United States Navy to bear the name of Intrepid and would play a central role in some of the primary feats of “Preble’s Boys.”
The exploits of the officers and sailors in this campaign are the stuff of legend. In culling myth from fact, Reid went back to original sources, using the words of the men in the campaign to tell their story. Whether it is Decatur leading the daring raid to burn the captured frigate Philadelphia or the escape attempts of American prisoners in Tripoli, Intrepid Sailors brings to life a story many Americans once widely knew but that today has become little more than footnote.
Unlike other books on the topic, however, Intrepid Sailors delves into the development of officers and sailors under Preble. Most were half the age of their commander and few had major combat experience. Under Preble, these men forged a legacy of professionalism to which the Navy still adheres. The book also examines one of the most famous friendships in American and Navy history – that of Decatur and Somers. Their thirst for glory and utter devotion to making the U.S. Navy a permanent, respected force inspired all around them but that quest for immortality never caused a breach in their friendship. Instead, that friendship grew stronger, providing even more inspiration. Intrepid Sailors offers a rare insight into the lives of men who today loom larger-than-life and who continue to inspire each new class of naval officer. Stephen Decatur, Richard Somers, Charles Stewart, James Lawrence, Edward Preble and a pantheon of early U.S. Navy heroes all come to life.