George Washington's Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea Paperback – Apr 6 2009
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From the Back Cover
George Washington's Secret Navy has been the happy recipient of two awards this year which speak both to the book's scholarship and the fact that it is a fun story to read. The first is the Rodney Houghton Award, given by the National Maritime Historical Society for the best article of the year in its popular Sea History Magazine. This particular article was an excerpt from George Washington's Secret Navy telling the story of naval battle that took place in Machias, Maine, in 1775, the "Lexington and Concord of the Sea."
The second award given to the book is the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, presented by the Naval Order of the United States to the author "who by his published writings has made a substantial contribution to the preservation of the history and traditions of the United States Navy." The Morison Award is one of the country's top honors given to maritime authors. Past recipients have included David McCullough and Patrick O'Brian.
About the Author
James L. Nelson's fifteen books include the critically acclaimed nonfiction Benedict Arnold's Navy and several novels set in the age of sail. Glory in the Name won the American Library Association's W. Y. Boyd Award for Best Military Fiction. For more, see www.jameslnelson.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story of the Siege of Boston has been told many times but never from the naval perspective. The author makes an interesting read and a compelling case out of Gen. Washington's slow embrace of sea power as a lever against the British. The existence of both Washington's small fleet of essentially privateers and Congress's eventual authorization of an actual navy was a surprise to me. Though I have read a few naval histories I had never come across this fact. He consistently refers back to his thesis of the fleet's impact on the siege by giving a fair assesment of the actual vs. psychological impact of the naval action. He pays mind to the benefits to the Continental Army and the detriment to the British of the seized material. The author blends the large scale operation of ousting the British from Boston with the small scale dramas of fitting out ships and several of there engagements. Good attention is paid to the characters other than the name brands guys (Washington, Knox, Greene, etc) whom you can read about else(every)where.
I think both enjoyable to the novice reader as well as someone with a good level of knowledge of the era or naval history. I would recommend that if you are not familiar with ships of the age you have a handy guide to naval terminology as it is used quite freely without a glossary. Probably will not distract from your enjoyment but you may not get as much from the reading.
I am looking forward to his prior book Benedict Arnold's Navy. Now if someone could just write a history of the occupation of Boston, and not just the highlights and the siege, I'd be really happy.
I'm in the midst of two other works, Patriot Pirates (Robert H. Patton) and If By Sea (George Daughan). Patton's book follows the privateers through the revolution. Daughan's recounts the US Navy from 1775 t0 1815. Together with Nelson's book, this is a full history of Early American sea power.
I'd add the following works for a library on this subject:
Frederick C. Leiner The End of Barbary Terror
Richard Zacks The Pirate Coast
Ian W. Toll Six Frigates
A. B. C. Whipple To the Shores of Tripoli
John R. Elting Amateurs, To Arms!
In the past year I've read several excellent books about pirates and privateers.
My interest was originally sparked in 1995 with David Cordingly's "Under the Black Flag" because this book pictured the privateers/pirates as sea-going guerrillas.
The 3 books mentioned above have one flaw. They don't provide any context for American attitudes toward privateers, smugglers, etc. The American coastal communities were very familiar with privateers and their business. Until the Seven Years War (French and Indian War) few Royal Navy ships came to North America. American's were used to doing for themselves, and making a profit therein.
When the Revolution came, Americans were ready to bring the "fight" to the enemy. If this activity mostly involved taking merchant ships as prizes, so much the better.
The following are worth reading:
Peter Earle Pirate Wars
The Sack of Panama
Stephan Talty Empire of Blue Water
Benerson Little The Sea Rover's Practice
The Buccaneer's Realm
Colin Woodard The Republic of Pirates
Together these works cover piracy from the late 16th to the early 19th Century.
One problem of this book is that it is not easy to organize in a chronological manner, with the actions of so many ships occurring at once. Nelson chooses to backtrack several times over the same months or days following a different line of action which is sometimes leads to frustration, but, I know of no other way to cover a story like this.
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