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Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815by Stephen Budiansky
Synopses & Reviews
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, Americas place in the world, and the rules of international conflict forever. Never again would the great powers challenge the young republics sovereignty in the aftermath of the stunning performance of Americas 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.
"The deservedly overshadowed War of 1812 was redeemed by heroics at sea, according to this rousing military history. Journalist and military historian Budiansky (The Bloody Shirt) follows the tiny United States Navy, led by a handful of superfrigates, including the U.S.S. Constitution, in its oceanic struggle against the vastly larger, stronger, and haughtier British fleet, whose bullying practice of seizing American merchant ships and sailors provoked the war. Budiansky makes it a classic David and Goliath story, as the plucky Yanks, with better ships, sailing, and gunnery, win a string of resounding victories that wipe the smirks from their adversaries' faces. The author's colorful narrative is full of gory sea battles, chivalrous flourishes, mutinous tars, and charismatic performances by Stephen Decatur, David Porter, and other American naval legends; it becomes grayer and grimmer as the British blockade tightens and the Americans turn from pitched battles to prosaic commerce raiding. Budiansky's well-researched and skillfully written account extracts a gripping true-life naval saga from an otherwise inglorious conflict. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos; 11 photos in text; 8 maps. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Budiansky relates the rousing story of a scrappy band of seamen and a visionary secretary of the navy who defeated the legendary British Royal Navy that had dominated the seas for more than two centuries.
The rousing story of a scrappy band of seamen and a visionary secretary of the navy who defeated the legendary British Royal Navy that had dominated the seas for more than two centuries.
Stephen Budiansky examines the astounding performance of America’s fledgling navy throughout the War of 1812 and explains how it established America as an international force to be reckoned with. He describes the debate that raged between Federalists and Republicans over whether the country should even have a navy—a debate all but silenced by the sterling performance of the young sailors. Their story is one of riveting and dramatic encounters at sea—bloody affairs of cannon fire and swordplay; of vainglorious captains and young shipmen in search of adventure; of an infant nation seeking a foothold among the great military powers.
Perilous Fight is a gripping work of naval history, and an essential account of America’s birth as a genuine world power.
About the Author
Stephen Budiansky is a military historian and journalist. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Men’s Journal, MHQ, Civil War Times, and many other publications. His previous books include The Bloody Shirt, Her Majesty’s Spymaster, Air Power, and Battle of Wits. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia.
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History and Social Science » Military » General History