At the outbreak of the War of 1812, America's prospects looked dismal. It was clear that the primary battlefield would be the open ocean, but America's war fleet, only 20 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, prize-winning 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.
©2011 George C. Daughan (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"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." (Richard Brookhiser)
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
"Vietor’s timing and pacing are perfectly aligned with the narrative style of the text." (Audiofile)
I would definitely, but it is a complicated book with many names and dates with some intense nautical terms, so I would be careful who I recommended it to. It, I think, would be enjoyable to the regular history lover, but would be loved by someone who loves naval history like I do.
His tone and ability to do accurate (well, to me at least) accents for each person in the book was enjoyable and added to the listening experience.
I found myself very excited when it described the harrowing naval battles and the heroism, and loss they contained.
I'm actually thinking about listening to this one again. That's how much I enjoyed it.
Without a doubt this is a very comprehensive overview of the War of 1812. Despite the subtitle, much of this piece is about the land war around the great lakes. The performance left me feeling like I was being lectured to. The story, while detailed, seemed to jump around needlessly; no doubt due to the decision to keep each chapter focused on one specific topic. If you are a fan of the Master and Commander series, you will enjoy this a lot. The author assumes a deep understanding of sailing fighting ships and their tactics. The personality sub-plots, of which there are several, are not particularly illuminating. Madison is an imbecile. Decatur a caricature. Tecumseh, a paper doll. It was worth the time reading and will also appeal to political and economic interests. In the end, there was no regret it was over, and the message remained somewhat obscure.
I've always been interested in stories of naval warfare in all ages. I had once read a history of the War of 1812, but it put more emphasis on attacking President James Madison (our fourth president, 1809-1817) than on recounting the major battles. This new volume, with its emphasis on the Navy, seemed like a natural for me to hear.
In truth, President Madison does not come out from this war looking very good. Illustrious historian George C. Daughan may focus on the naval battles, but he covers diplomacy and the land war in good depth. The President had, in the years preceding the war, turned back most of the attempts of the opposition Federalist party to spend a significant amount of money on defense and particularly on a great expansion of the country's small navy.
In spite of the United State's great inferiority to Great Britain in every area of warfare, in 1812 the latter nation was tied up in Europe fighting the long war with Napoleon. This, thought many of our leaders, gave the United States a chance. Ostensibly, this war was initiated over the British practice of impressment. You may remember impressment from high school as British warships stopping American merchantmen on the high seas and forcing sailors on the American ships to join the crews of the warships.
As much as this practice was truly resented by the United States, according to Daughan the true enticement of this war for Madison was that he thought that after declaring war on Great Britain the United States would have little trouble attacking, invading, and annexing large areas of lightly defended Canada.
As it turned out, the soldiers, officers, and Navy of the United States were so weak that the British not only had little difficulty keeping out the invaders but soon were readying their own invasion of parts of the Northeast. The United States "Army" fighting there was a combination of a few hundred "regular" soldiers, two or three times as many ill-trained state militia, and a certain amount of Indians who liked to stay behind to scalp the dead.
Since control of the Great Lakes was a necessity to any invader, intense rival naval building programs began in 1814 on the shores of the Great Lakes. The Americans by then had identified its worst officers and replaced them with much more competent young men who included Stephen Decatur and Winfield Scott. Ultimately the United States won the naval battles on the lakes and kept control of them. This left the territorial map of the Northeast looking very much the same as it had looked in 1812.
Daughan's book is divided rather equally between the action in the Northeast and the naval engagements on the high seas. He alternates between telling the story of each. The famous ship against ship battles were of no strategic significance to the war, but at the time they caused sensations on both sides of the Atlantic and today they are still what the war is best remembered for.
The crux of the blue-water navy action is the blockade that Great Britain put on American ports at the outbreak of the war. The blockade had the twin intent of cutting off the commerce of its former colonies and keeping the U.S. navy ships trapped in ports where they were of no use as raiders of British commerce.
At first the blockade was not very successful because Great Britain was still heavily involved in the Napoleonic wars and could not spare nearly enough ships to guard the entire Atlantic coast. But as more warships freed up and joined the blockade, it began to bite. The biggest loser was New England, that depended the most on merchant shipping for its livelihood. New England was already almost wholly of the Federalist Party, which furnished the opposition to Madison's Republicans. As their economic plight worsened, their fury at "Mr. Madison's War" increased and talk of separating from the union and negotiating a separate peace with Great Britain began.
United States warships, especially early in the war, had little difficulty evading the blockade and getting out to sea. The author gives a thorough account of all US naval operations involving a major United States Navy ship, almost always a frigate, or a task force which included a frigate. He follows each course change, each ship encountered, and each action, if any. And often there isn't any significant action.
It is in this area that I am a little disappointed in Daughan. For each United States task force, and for each British force encountered, he invariably gives you each ship name, commanding officer, and number and type of guns down to the last small brig. He does this even if their cruise turns out to be uneventful. It's a bit tedious and certainly pointless to the average reader.
The ship battles are described in detail, but perhaps not as much detail as you would hope for when reading one of the climactic passages in the book. I also felt like I was watching the battle from a third ship instead of from one of the combatant ships, with very little description of the actions of the various members of the crew during the fight.
But I don't want to sound too critical. Overall Daughan delivers on his promise of describing the role of the Navy in the War of 1812.
As word reached London of the victory of the Constitution over the Guerriere, followed by the news of two more victories of American frigates over British frigates, it caused a sensation. Such was the reverence of the British for their navy that it was an article of faith that no British ship could lose a one-on-one battle to a ship of equal size. Even as word leaked into London that the Constitution was a "super" frigate, rated at forty-four guns instead of the thirty-six of the defeated British frigates, it did little to restore British pride. Captains of British frigates were, however, ordered to avoid one-on-one combat with the larger American frigates. (This probably disappointed them since it appears that every captain of every frigate on each side dreamed every night of the glory of pulling alongside another frigate and blasting away at the other ship while that ship blasted away at him. It did not seem to bother the captain that at the end of the battle, if he survived it, he would be missing a limb or two.)
I was intrigued by the author's summation of the outcome of the war. The main outcome produced by the Treaty of Ghent was to put all territorial borders back to where they had been before the war. The maritime issues, mainly impressment, that had supposedly been the reason that the United States had declared war, were not mentioned at all. On the surface there was just about nothing to show for the expense of dollars and lives. I would not blame anyone for reaching that conclusion.
Daughan, however, argues that the performance of the United States navy in the war led Great Britain to a new level of respect for the United States which allowed the two old enemies to begin a long friendship and provided peace for the United States to expand and develop.
As American victories continued (no, we did not win them all) on the ocean and on the lakes, the British gradually ceased to regard their former colonists as a rag-tag rabble that ran away at the first opportunity. Daughan does not cite any support for his summation of the effects of the war, but it makes for a satisfying end to a very good history.
This is a fabulously written book with both macro and micro details that present a great overall account of the war of 1812. However the minutia is also problematic for the audio account as I found it difficult to follow. Too many different people, too similar of names creates confusion and cause the listener to forget who is attacking who on the high seas. There is the USS President but also the US President and while the author probably presents a good WRITTEN account, a couple of sentences got me wondering was he talking about the ship or Madison/Jefferson/Adams/Washington (all are in the historical context of the book).
Additionally, referencing a map would be very useful. While I consider myself as having above average knowledge of geography, the author makes me feel like an idiot when citing locations of harbors, bays, rivers, etc. (Full disclosure, that might have more to do with me being from Utah and our utter lack of any seaworthy body of water (no the GSL is not a seaworthy body of water)).
My recommendation, and what I'm going to do; buy the physical written book with the aforementioned maps and battle diagrams (I'm assuming and hoping those are in the book). Additionally, with all the different ships and personalities, the ability to quickly re-read a passage or scan for other facts will be a nice benefit.
Please don't dismiss my review of this book as ignorant fool who isn't studious enough to listen to a work of quality non-fiction. I've listened to several history books e.g., Intelligence in War (Keegan), Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Weatherford), I, Claudius (Graves) (I know this is more historical fiction), Abraham (Feiler). All of these were easy audio listens while being full of complicated details without confusing the listener.
Currently a local truck driver who has hours to listen to my audio books. I am hooked, some of my fellow drivers enjoy them also
Growing Up Fast
I enjoyed all of them but Madison's wife is a real trooper Madison only made it by the grace of God
Mr Vietor is a great reader who puts his heart into his readings Most enjoyable
America Tested in Battle
After reading this I am very surpised America survived Our leaders weren't really qualified to lead on an international stage Man did they make some whopper mistakes that cost alot of lives But we got it together in the end
I would listen to it again because there is so much detail around the lesser known stories of this important conflict.
He has the perfect voice for historical narratives. His transition to British accents was seamless.
Yes. I would actually sit in my car until the end of a chapter.
Yes - great refresher on US history and international poitics.
Napolean - Catalyst for beginning and end of war.
This is the Rest of the Story for the Battle of New Orleans.
Needs to review pronounciations. Mackinac Island is prounounced "Mackinaw."
Good history of a little studied War.
The gritty detail of all the naval actions.
I came into the book only knowing of the war peripherally. By the end, I was glad with the decision to listen to this book -- it gives a very good sense of the time period, which was an extremely important one for the fledgling republic.
Provided an interesting portion of the war of 1812. I didn't know much about this war much less the naval aspects of it. Very informative.
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