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.
"Fantastic, if complicated, account of the war"
No part of the country was more contested during the American Revolution than the Hudson River. In 1776 King George III sent the largest amphibious force ever assembled to seize Manhattan and use it as a base from which to push up the Hudson River Valley for a rendezvous at Albany with an impressive army driving down from Canada. George Washington and other patriot leaders shared the king's fixation with the Hudson.
A few months after the outbreak of the War of 1812, Captain David Porter set out in the USS Essex on an epic, seventeen-month cruise to the South Seas. Porter was pursuing fame and riches, and by most accounts his odyssey was a stunning success: it brought glory to the fledgling American navy, cemented Porter's reputation as a daring and talented commander, and has long been celebrated as one of the greatest maritime adventures in U.S. history. Less well known, however, is the terrible price that the crew of the Essex paid for their captain's outsized ambitions.