If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy -From the Revolution to the War of 1812

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9780465016075: If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy -From the Revolution to the War of 1812
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The American Revolution-and thus the history of the United States-began not on land but on the sea. Paul Revere began his famous midnight ride not by jumping on a horse, but by scrambling into a skiff with two other brave patriots to cross Boston Harbor to Charlestown. Revere and his companions rowed with muffled oars to avoid capture by the British warships closely guarding the harbor. As they paddled silently, Revere's neighbor was flashing two lanterns from the belfry of Old North Church, signaling patriots in Charlestown that the redcoats were crossing the Charles River in longboats. In every major Revolutionary battle thereafter the sea would play a vital, if historically neglected, role. When the American colonies took up arms against Great Britain, they were confronting the greatest sea-power of the age. And it was during the War of Independence that the American Navy was born. But following the British naval model proved crushingly expensive, and the Founding Fathers fought viciously for decades over whether or not the fledgling republic truly needed a deep-water fleet. The debate ended only when the Federal Navy proved indispensable during the War of 1812. Drawing on decades of prodigious research, historian George C. Daughan chronicles the embattled origins of the U.S. Navy. From the bloody and gunpowder-drenched battles fought by American sailors on lakes and high seas to the fierce rhetorical combat waged by the Founders in Congress, If By Sea charts the course by which the Navy became a vital and celebrated American institution.

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About the Author:

George C. Daughan holds a Ph.D. in American History and Government from Harvard University. He spent three years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. He taught at the Air Force Academy and was also director of the MA program of international affairs there. Subsequently, he held a professorship at Connecticut College, and also taught at the University of Colorado, the University of New Hampshire, and Wesleyan University. He now resides in Portland, Maine.

From Publishers Weekly:

Daughan brings a long academic career and solid command of his sources to this provocative history of the origins of the U.S. Navy. Conventional wisdom has the navy beginning in the 1790s. Daughan instead traces its roots to the Revolution. The fleet established by the Continental Congress had a relatively undistinguished career, but Daughan demonstrates that the Americans gained technical experience, produced talented officers, trained seamen and developed a basic understanding of how a navy should be employed. The question then was whether a navy would concentrate too much authority in the central government and risk embroiling the new country in foreign quarrels. By contrast, a coastal defense force of small ships threatened nobody, foreign or domestic. Daughan traces the debate through four administrations, smoothly integrating political with external influences like the Quasi-War with France (1798–1800) and the campaign against the Barbary pirates. Not until the War of 1812, when the navy proved critical, did a national consensus emerge that preparing for war was the best way of avoiding one—a lesson that remains worth remembering. (June)
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