The Navy's War
By George C. Daughan
(Basic Books, Hardcover, 9780465020461, 528pp.)
Publication Date: November 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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At the outbreak of the War of 1812, America’s prospects looked dismal. It was clear that the primary battlefield would be the open oceanbut America’s war fleet, only twenty ships strong, faced a practiced British navy of more than a thousand men-of-war. Still, through a combination of nautical deftness and sheer bravado, the American navy managed to take the fight to the British and turn the tide of the war: on the Great Lakes, in the Atlantic, and even in the eastern Pacific.
In 1812: The Navy’s War, prizewinning historian George C. Daughan tells the thrilling story of how a handful of heroic captains and their stalwart crews overcame spectacular odds to lead the country to victory against the world’s greatest imperial power. A stunning contribution to military and national history, 1812: The Navy’s War is the first complete account in more than a century of how the U.S. Navy rescued the fledgling nation and secured America’s future.
George C. Daughan holds a Ph.D. in American history and government from Harvard University and won the 2008 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for his previous book, If By Sea. He resides in Portland, Maine.
Edward L. Widmer, author of Ark of the Liberties: America and the World
“The War of 1812 was a difficult test for the United States, still wobbly on the world stage nearly two decades after formal independence. That Americans received a passing grade was due in no small part to the exceptional performance of the U.S. Navy, which humiliated the legendary British Navy time and time again. With verve and deep research, George Daughan has brought those gripping naval battles back to life. For military historians and general historians alike, 1812: The Navy's War restores an important missing chapter to our national narrative.”
“The War of 1812 was America's first great naval war, and George Daughan tells the story, from the coast of Brazil to the Great Lakes, from election campaigns to grand strategy to ship-to-ship combat. Sweeping, exciting and detailed.” Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Assistant Secretary of Defense“In this vitally important and extraordinarily well researched work, award-winning historian George Daughan demonstrates the often overlooked impact of the 20 ship U.S. Navy’s performance against the 1,000 ship British Navy in the War of 1812. Daughan makes a compelling case that the Navy’s performance in the war forced Europe to take the U.S. more seriously, initiated a fundamental change in the British-American relationship, and enabled us to maintain a robust Navy even in peacetime.” Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty!: The American Revolution
“At last, a history of the War of 1812 that Americans can read without wincing. By focusing on our small but incredibly courageous Navy, George Daughan has told a story of victories against awful odds that makes for a memorable book.” Robert Middlekauff, author of The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
“1812: The Navy’s War is a sparkling effort. It tells more than the naval history of the war, for there is much in it about the politics and diplomacy of the war years. The stories of ship-to-ship battles and of the officers and men who sailed and fought form the wonderful heart of the book. These accounts are told in a handsome prose that conveys the strategy, high feeling, and courage of both British and Americans. In every way this is a marvelous book.”
Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University
“Every American should read George C. Daughan’s riveting 1812: The Navy's War. Daughan masterfully breaks down complicated naval battles to tell how the U.S. thwarted the British armada on the Great Lakes and the high seas. Highly recommended!”
Publishers Weekly“A solidly researched, well-crafted account of U.S. sea power in the War of 1812…. Daughan’s achievement is contextualizing the effect of [the U.S. Navy’s] victories…. What kept the peace, Daughan argues provocatively, was America’s post-war commitment to ‘a strong navy, an adequate professional army, and the financial reforms necessary to support them’ – in other words, an effective deterrent.” Kirkus Reviews
“A naval expert’s readable take on the U.S. Navy’s surprising performance in the war that finally reconciled the British to America’s independence…. A smart salute to a defining moment in the history of the U.S. Navy.” Military History“[A] finely researched volume.…Readers are unlikely to find a more engaging or stirring recounting of the conflict and its place in the rebirth of the U.S. Navy.” San Francisco Book Review
“With a sailor’s heart, Daughan follows the action of blue water battles on the Great Lakes, deep water fusillades, besieged ports, the razing of our nation’s capitol, and the victory at New Orleans that forever earned international respect for American resolve. Expertly researched and illustrated, Daughan recounts the courage and skill of the men who gave birth to the United States Navy.”
Charleston Post and Courier
“George C. Daughan again has penned a contributory history that is at once enjoyable to read and informative in its disclosures…. With considerable skill, the author has interwoven the political strife with the naval actions to form a coherent and well-written story of that important transitional time in American history.”
“[A] compelling sequel to his award-winning If By Sea....Daughan offers a rousing retelling of the war, strongly recommended for general readers, high school students, and lower classmen.”
“[A] richly detailed, well-documented, and compelling account....Daughan’s is a history that expands our understanding, debunking several popular myths…. In the end, this history of an oft-forgotten war holds value for all….Readers who have been eagerly awaiting the bicentennial will find in Daughan’s 1812 an account that confirms why the conflict merits remembrance—and celebration.” The Washington Independent Review of Books“1812: The Navy’s War is an important, well-researched and timely book – next year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 – which scholars and lay persons alike will enjoy for its descriptions of the battles and Daughan’s analysis of the domestic and international dimensions of the war.” Tucson Citizen
“[Daughan] has written a concise, invaluable history of the War of 1812, placing it in context and making it accessible for modern readers. The War of 1812 was America’s first great naval war and Daughan’s crisp writing and extraordinary research helps breath life into this defining moment of our national history.”
The Weekly Standard
“Frequently [the War of 1812] is seen as a sequence of freestanding, intensely dramatic events rather than as the tightly intertwined series of battles, military campaigns, diplomacy, and domestic politics that it was. But if a compulsion to concentrate excessively on the more spectacular bits and pieces of the conflict has been an endemic problem among academics and writers, this volume is an antidote. Daughan not only thoroughly illuminates the emotion-triggering events of the conflict; he also adds the background that connects the highlights. That background includes, for example, the American and British domestic politics and diplomacy, which were continuously both cause and effect in the process.”
“[A] deep and detailed page-turner of a book. With crystal clear maps and unadorned prose, [Daughan] gives new life to the personalities, strategies and desperate struggles of the consequential, yet ultimately unproductive War of 1812…. Daughan narrates the story of the all-important naval war with a palpable sense of expectancy on nearly every page – with the clock ticking and the battle at hand.”
Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, Washington Times“Other authors in the recent past have covered various aspects of the War of 1812, but George C. Daughan has put it all together in one well-written and interesting volume. It’s a book hard to put down and is most highly recommended as a good read. Its coverage of an important time in the history of the United States will make it a worthy reference for years to come.” American Spirit
“The fledgling U.S. Navy had advantages that would surprise, infuriate and ultimately impress the British, as renowned naval military historian George C. Daughan wonderfully illustrates in his new work, 1812: The Navy’s War…. Daughan’s love of the sea and naval history is infectious…. Those who are familiar with C.S. Forester’s Hornblower tales or Patrick O’ Brian’s stories of Captain Jack Aubrey will enjoy this narrative of the American side of the Napoleonic wars and thrill to the progress of an underdog along the route to world power.” Roanoke Times
“ should become a standard text for the serious history student…. This book will do well to remind us, in times of danger and uncertainty, of how welcome a bulwark is a powerful navy.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Daughan shows how the war at sea fitted into the American war effort and how the Navy – and the country – came out of the war better for the experience…. Mr. Daughan suggests that the War of 1812 was indeed a second war of independence, completing what had been started in 1775, strengthening the nation’s democratic principles, and establishing a new and positive relationship in which Britain recognized America’s place in the world.”
Times-Picayune “This gripping history details how a 20-ship American Navy upset the goals of Imperial Britain, which commanded the seas with a fleet of more than a thousand men-of-war.”