The Friends of the Charlestown Branch Library presents 1812: The Navy’s War, with George C. Daughan.
As the 200th anniversary approaches, an award-winning author tells the astounding story of the War of 1812, when a ragtag team of American commanders, seamen, and privateers took on – and bested – the most powerful navy in the world.
The United States and Great Britain fought each other in a conflict that changed the shape of the world. Award-winning author and historian George C. Daughan offers a comprehensive history of the War of 1812 in his new book, 1812: The Navy’s War. Arguing that it’s impossible to fully understand the war without an appreciation of the American Navy’s role, Daughan vividly reveals how the war was waged – and won – on the high seas. According to Daughan, “The U.S. Navy’s role in bringing about Britain’s newfound respect for the United States was critical.”
Encompassing political, diplomatic, economic, and military history, 1812: The Navy’s War examines the causes and outcomes of what has been called America’s Second War of Independence. At the beginning, America’s prospects looked dismal. Republicans and Federalists had spent years debating the size and role of the country’s military, and when hostilities commenced, the nation’s war fleet consisted of only twenty ships – six of which were under repairs when President Madison signed the Declaration of War in June of 1812. This handful of ships was up against a fearsome, practiced navy: the British fleet had over 1,000 men-of-war, 600 of which were continuously at sea.
Integrating what was happening in Europe with what was going on in North America at the time, Daughan places the Navy’s role in the context of the war as a whole. Through a combination of keen strategizing, nautical deftness, and sheer bravado, the American Navy held back the British and even took the fight to them. 1812: The Navy’s War brings the battles to life: critical clashes on the Great Lakes, including Oliver Hazard Perry’s gaining of control of Lake Erie; Thomas Macdonough’s decisive victory on Lake Champlain; the Navy’s key role in winning the crucial battle of New Orleans; and the battle of Baltimore, where the Navy’s great heroes – Perry, John Rodgers, and David Porter – delayed the British fleet’s assault with attacks on the Potomac after the battle of Washington. From the first American victory of the war – Porter’s defeat of HMS Alert – to USS Wasp’s triumph over HMS Frolic, which was even more significant, to HMS Shannon’s capture of USS Nautilus (the first of the war), Daughan offers vivid depictions and original interpretations of significant battles on both land and sea.
The war also proved to be a turning point in the Navy’s own history. Early victories such as USS Constitution’s defeat of HMS Guerriere and USS United States’ capture of HMS Macedonian earned the Navy much-needed popular support and convinced skeptics that a well-kept war fleet was essential to the nation’s defense. “America’s newfound unity and her commitment to a strong military forced Europe to take her more seriously,” Daughan concludes.
Showing how the oft-overlooked naval aspects of the War of 1812 hold the key to understanding the conflict, 1812: The Navy’s War offers an invaluable contribution to our nation’s history.
Copies of 1812: The Navy’s War will be available for purchase through the courtesy of the USS Constitution Museum.
Further background information:
George C. Daughan holds a Ph.D. in American History and Government from Harvard University and is a recipient of the 2008 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for his previous book, If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy – From the Revolution to the War of 1812. Daughan spent three years in the United States Air Forced during the Vietnam War, and was an instructor at the Air Force Academy and director of the MA program in international affairs there. Subsequently, he taught at the University of Colorado, the University of New Hampshire, Wesleyan University and Connecticut College. He resides in Portland, Maine. www.georgedaughan.blogspot.com
The Friends of the Charlestown Branch Library was formed in 1953, becoming the second Friends group to organize within the Boston Public Library system. The Friends schedule four-six evening programs a year, support the Reading is FUNdamental programs for children, and maintain the library’s landscaping. The mission of the Friends remains today what it was in 1953: to serve as an advocacy and support group for the needs of the Charlestown Branch Library, its staff and users. (Source: www.charlestownonline.net/libraries.htm)
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