Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

Ian W. Toll

Language: English

Pages: 592

ISBN: 039333032X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"A fluent, intelligent history...give[s] the reader a feel for the human quirks and harsh demands of life at sea."―New York Times Book Review

Before the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military became the most divisive issue facing the new government. The founders―particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams―debated fiercely. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect from pirates or drain the treasury and provoke hostility? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.

From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.

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were lured by better pay, better working conditions, and the certainty they would be released from service at the end of a voyage. Once employed on an American vessel, they could pass themselves off as native-born Americans, often with the active collaboration of their officers and shipmates. Treasury Secretary Gallatin, with typical candor, told Jefferson that the number of British seamen employed in American ships exceeded the number of American seamen impressed into British warships. Total

wrote directly to the American president, offering an immediate cessation of hostilities, with reparations or indemnities to be determined by a bilateral commission. Though Warren’s instructions also granted authority to “attack, sink, burn or otherwise destroy” enemy warships, privateers, and merchantmen, the full weight of British naval power would not fall on the American seaboard until the last hope of a peaceful reconciliation had been extinguished. JUST AS THE VICTORIOUS CONSTITUTION

boarders, armed with pikes, pistols, and cutlasses, had collected on the Shannon’s gangway. Broke shouted, “Follow me, who can!” and climbed over the hammock nettings; he reached his foot across to the roof of the Chesapeake’s quarter gallery, shifted his weight across; stepped on the muzzle of the American ship’s aftermost carronade, pulled himself over her bulwark, drew his service sword, and dropped to her deserted quarterdeck. He was the first of the Shannon’s crew to board, followed close

The Battle of Stonington: Torpedoes, Submarines, and Rockets in the War of 1812, p. 29. “A desperate engagement”: Quoted in ibid., p. 31. “to assure the ladies”: Quoted in ibid., p. 26. “any person or persons”: NW1812 II:160. “every Physical operation”: Fulton’s Ordnance Experiments (editorial note), NW1812 II:111. “[I]s war confined”: Robert Fulton to Secretary of the Navy Hamilton, June 22, 1812, NW1812 I:146–47. would “incur no expense”: Robert Fulton to Secretary of the Navy Jones,

hole in the enemy’s hull at the waterline, for example; this might cause seawater to pour in, slowing the ship down, impairing her ability to maneuver, drawing her men away from the fight to man the pumps, and eventually even sinking her. If aimed high, it might cause a mast to fall, or knock away a few yards, bringing down the enemy’s sails and preventing the vessel from running away. But the British were generally content to simply fire on the level, directly at the opposing ship’s gun deck,

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