Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Never mind manoeuvres, always go at them" -- Admiral Nelson

Living on an island, as we do, you can pretty much be assured that books about nautical topics will be a hit on the bookshelves. For those of you interested in the glory days of naval warfare, when ships of the line tore apart each other's sails with cannonballs and desparate manoeuvres depended on the vagaries of the wind, we've got a couple of fascinating books.
The War For All the Oceans: from Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo, by Roy and Leslie Adkins, looks at that thrilling period of early 19th-century naval warfare. The Battles of the Nile and of Copenhagen, the siege of Acre, privateers, blockades and invasion fleets are all the fodder for discussion in this book. Plenty of diagrams, maps, images and suggested reading make this a nice resource for anyone who would like to know more about the subject. This book would be especially appealing to fans of Patrick O'Brian, Alexander Kent or C.S. Forester - since all of those series are played out against the backdrop of historic naval engagements.
If By Sea: the forging of the American Nave from the Revolution to the War of 1812 is by George C. Daughan. While the Adkins' book looked at the early 19th-century from the British point of view, Daughan takes an American approach, looking at how the young bankrupt country managed to put together the beginnings of a navy. While not as large or powerful as the mammoth British fleet, the American ships were new, fast, well-built and daringly commanded. Victories against British blockading ships during the War of 1812, and the Americans' campaign against the Barbary pirates at Tripoli not only gave the American Navy a feared reputation, it also encouraged the fledgling government to commit to a deep-water fleet for the protection of America' s shores and interests. Daughan does a nice job of looking at battles - both on the sea and in Congress - that led to the development of the U.S. Navy.

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