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Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War…

Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas,…

by Stephen Budiansky

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“Perilous Fight” is a thoroughly readable historical account of our fledgling nation’s intrepid war with Great Britain over the issue of free trade and “impressment” of American seaman into the service of the Royal Navy. It is a well-written, deeply detailed account of the birth of our Navy against huge odds and little popular support.
This account alters previous perceptions of commanders like Decatur, Bainbridge, Porter and Hull beyond the cartoonist notions given in our somewhat deficient history classes. They were just men with frailties, faults and failings who managed to rise to the occasion when necessary, seemingly with the intervention of “divine providence” in both Joshua Humphries ship design and numerous fortuitous turns of fortune.
Budiansky mentions an American seventy-four gun “ship of the line,” The Independence” on which John Adams in his eighth decade, declared, “These ships are the bulwarks of OUR religion!” Never really knowing that the U. S. Navy actually had “ships of the line” I found a photograph of the “Independence” taken in 1912 at Mare Island shortly before being scrapped. The ship was being used as a receiving barracks and was burned shortly thereafter to recover her metal fittings. The “Independence” was 98 years old. Only the U. S. S. Constitution survives from that period.
Four stars from this old codger for a fine sojourn to our founding struggles. ( )
  Renzomalo | Nov 12, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307270696, Hardcover)

In Perilous Fight, Stephen Budiansky tells the rousing story of the underdog coterie of American seamen and their visionary secretary of the navy, who combined bravery and strategic innovation to hold off the legendary Royal Navy.

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:20 -0400)

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Analyzes the role of America's navy during the War of 1812, from its humble beginnings to its evolution as a force that helped to establish the nation's global position, and describes the government debate about America's need for a navy.

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