[December 15, 2016] A recent warming spell here in New York City got me outside more and pulled me from my reading time. The other day, I saw some news about the decommissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Intrepid. Now a Sea, Air, and Space museum complex, its bookstore is small but contains a copy of a book about the beginnings of the U.S. Navy. A copy from there was given to me by a Naval officer and friend who thought, perhaps correctly, that I was too “land warfare-centric” and therefore needed to improve my education in sea, air, and space. He was right and the book Six Frigates is one of my favorites.
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, Ian W. Toll, 2006.
Author Ian Toll does a great job of drawing upon historical documents to give a full accounting of the founding of the American Navy, starting with the years shortly after the Revolutionary War. The impetus for the United States government’s interest in obtaining the funds for a fledgling navy and for selecting the right ship architect stems from attacks on U.S. merchant ships. What sets this book apart from others is that Toll writes about those governmental political activities that helped shape the arguments for and against a navy. Things that we take for granted today in a powerful navy was not so easy won in the days following an expensive war against the British Empire. The chapters detailing naval engagements were enlightening and entertaining but it was the thinking of important political figures that Toll helps illuminate and that makes the book so well written. Excellent research by Toll, the book is highly recommended. Oh, it will make a great present for the holidays.
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