The role of the three "heavy" 44 gun frigates - USS Constitution, United States and President - is crucial in early American naval history. Indeed, lacking a large battle fleet, the heavy frigate was the backbone of the US Navy until the onset of the Civil War. Mark Lardas, with degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering, is well qualified to outline the design, development and history of America's heavy frigates. Overall, the volume is adequate and gives a good perspective on the role of these sailing warships.
Lardas has sections on the design and development, operational history and the ships themselves. The American frigates in this period are classified as the three original Humphreys' frigates (built 1794-1800), the three war expansion frigates (built 1813-1815), the nine "gradual increase" frigates (built 1819-1861) and the three final frigates (1813-1842). The color plates depict the sail plan of the USS United States; the USS Constitution evading the British fleet; the gun deck on a Humphreys' frigate; a cutaway diagram of the USS Constitution; the mast arrangement of the USS Brandywine; the capture of the USS President; and flags and weapons.
American Heavy Frigates 1794-1826 will give readers a basic overview of most of the ships in this period, although some readers will wonder why this book excludes 36-gun frigates like the USS Constellation. Why not just cover all US frigates in the period 1798-1815, rather than covering a number of warships, such as the USS Hudson, that were historical non-entities. I was also disappointed that the author failed to provide any comparative data on the naval guns mounted on these frigates, since superior firepower was one of their main advantages he notes. Nor is there any information on tactics, training, cost of construction, materials used, maintenance (how often did they need their copper plates replaced?), etc. Thus, the author provides a bare-bones summary of the ships, without much else to add value. Quite frankly, much of the material here is merely summarized from other secondary sources, with little sign of fresh research.