Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815 Paperback – January 17, 2012
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
From Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
If you’re the author, publisher, or rights holder of this book, let ACX help you produce the audiobook.Learn more.
Top Customer Reviews
He begins with some background - America's adventures - and misadventures - in the Mediterranean against the Islamic powers of the Barbary Coast. This sad episode has been blown all out of proportion by later chroniclers, as well as the Marine Corps Hymn with its "Shores of Tripoli" but as Budiansky remarks, not much happened on the shores of Tripoli. There was certainly no Marine Corps victory there.
Few Americans probably realize how pathetic America's military power was in the wake of America's independence. To say it was nonexistent is to put it lightly. It is not just that we had no military power - most people didn't want one. Military power - including naval power - was seen as an impediment to liberty.
Budiansky closely examines life aboard British and American naval vessels and we realize that no matter how much better American sailors had it, theirs was not easy life. Combat was brutal. When I first saw Master and Commander I had not realized how sanitized a treatment it was. Brutal as the sea battle seemed on the big screen, it paled in comparison to the reality of it.
The sailors were not the hearty, mostly earnest young men of Hollywood.Read more ›
For example the author shows us many explicit examples of American sailors being taken and impressed and their horrible mistreatment and even death by torture imposed upon them. "Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815" also covers tales of British naval arrogance and the fact they simply ignored International Law and treaties is capturing American merchant vessels. This- combined with the fact that America's merchant trade was the major source of income in that period- puts a better perspective on the reason for the war.
Excellent use of period sources and quotes, extensively footnoted and researched, this book is a solid scholarly work.
My one quibble is that it does take a bit long to get to the action- there's more than a hundred pages between "The Shores of Tripoli" and the Constitution vs the Guerriere.
And- there's even almost enough maps!
Even if you (like I) have read other books on the naval portion of the War of 1812, this book belongs in your collection.
However, I was delighted to find that this is also a well-documented, thorough, and academically-sound bit of "real history." I'm not an academic and am certainly no expert on this era, but I often find that books which are "popular history" sacrifice complexity in order to achieve narrative flow. They're just too light-weight for me. In Perilous Fight, this author is to be commended for the rigor with which he sets up the dynamics between America's government, America's business interests, and the haughty British Empire. He tells tales, to be sure, but also provides the prescient overview that usually is the domain of the best history books.
(And...needless to say this is a fascinating topic. A young nation fighting a bully for the chance to sail the waters without interference. The Revolutionary War was about land; The War of 1812 was about sea!)
America had a small navy, thanks to John Adams (see Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy)at the start of the war. And no thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who believed that a navy was not necessary and preferred to do this thing "on the cheap" with gunboats, which were far less expensive and ineffective against British frigates and ships of the line.
We are introduced to all the significant American commanders. It is a minor miracle that they did not all kill themselves in duels because the slightest insult or perceived slight could bring out weapons and seconds.
For many, the most important action of this time was the defeat of the English ship Gueriere by the U.S. Constitution. American frigates were bigger and had more guns than British frigates, and the British were no match for them. Considering that this was only a few years after Nelson and Trafalgar in 1805, this action shocked the world. (There is an excellent sketch summary of the men-of-war from both sides on page 82, which provides you an excellent visual, which I think is worth the price of the book.)
American Secretary of the Navy William Jones was wise enough to concentrate naval forces against British commerce and distributed it all over the globe. He knew that an assemblage of American ships against the might of the British would be futile and he went the other way.
There are also good accounts of the individuals and the common sailors on the ships of both sides.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great piece on a period of U.S. history that often gets little notice. The book itself reads almost like a novel in it's telling of the stories of the personalities and battles.Published 9 months ago by Brian K.
GIVES details that help explain not just the naval part but the whole war. Abang up jobPublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
lots of good details, well researched, fills in some blanks for me on the war of 1812. As usual, what you learn in school (prior to serious level college courses ) is not... Read morePublished 11 months ago by D Peacock
Well written and paced account of the early days of the U.S. Navy and the world it helped shape.Published 12 months ago by JimmyLong
This was a good history, well written and informative. While much of the naval history was known to me the author did manage to supply even more interesting detail to well known... Read morePublished 20 months ago by David E. Eppenstein, Jr.
Much of the cause of the War of 1812 arose out of maritime disputes: Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights. Read morePublished 22 months ago by James Gallen
I loved this book, it was a quick and exciting read. I found the sea battle descriptions to be compelling and the historical perspective to be enlightening. Read morePublished on January 19, 2014 by fishinfiddler