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.
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.
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.
Focusing on the oceanic war rather than the war in the Great Lakes, this study charts the War of 1812 from the perspectives of the two opposing navies at sea—one of the largest fleets in the world and a small, upstart navy just three decades old. While American naval leadership searched for a means of contesting Britain’s naval dominance, the English sought to destroy the U.S. Navy and protect its oceanic highways. Instead of describing battles between opposing warships, McCranie evaluates entire cruises by American and British men-of-war, noting both successes and failures and how they translated into broader strategies. In the process, his study becomes a history of how the two navies fought the oceanic war, linking high-level governmental decisions about strategy to the operational use of fleets in the Atlantic and Caribbean and from the South Pacific to the Indian Ocean.
Unlike other books on the subject, this work offers a balanced appraisal of the oceanic war on the high seas, taking into account the strategic considerations of both combatants and how the leadership from each side assessed, planned, and implemented operational concepts. Drawing on a wealth of British and American archival sources, McCranie guides the reader through the strategic decision making processes on both sides of the Atlantic. He demonstrates vividly the impact of those decisions on the course of the war at sea, where the contest was close and deadly. Indeed, the author’s action-packed accounts of battles hold special appeal.
This study offers a more balanced appraisal of the war than most studies of the topic. Particularly important is the stress on understanding British strategic imperatives and the correlation between these imperatives and why Britain conducted the oceanic naval war in the manner it did. This study focuses on all cruises of American warships, not just those that terminated in battles so as to provide a more complete history of the naval war.
Budiansky vividly demonstrates that far from an indecisive and unnecessary conflict—as historians have long dismissed the War of 1812—this “forgotten war” had profound consequences that would change the course of naval warfare, America’s place in the world, and the rules of international conflict forever. Never again would the great powers challenge the young republic’s sovereignty in the aftermath of the stunning performance of America’s navy and privateersmen in sea battles that ranged across half the globe. Their brilliant hit-and-run tactics against a far mightier foe would pioneer concepts of “asymmetric warfare” that would characterize the insurgency warfare of later centuries.
Above all, the War of 1812 would be the making of the United States Navy. Even as the war began, the nation was bitterly divided over whether it should have a navy at all: Jeffersonian Republicans denounced the idea as a dangerous expansion of government power, while Federalists insisted that America could never protect its burgeoning seagoing commerce or command respect without a strong naval force. After the war, Americans would never again doubt that their might, respect, and very survival depended upon a permanent and professional navy.
Drawing extensively on diaries, letters, and personal accounts from both sides, Budiansky re-creates the riveting encounters at sea in bloody clashes of cannonfire and swordplay; the intimate hopes and fears of vainglorious captains and young seamen in search of adventure; and the behind-the-scenes political intrigue and maneuvering in Washington and London. Throughout, Perilous Fight proves itself a gripping and essential work of American naval history.
From the Hardcover edition.