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Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron: The War of 1812 and the Forging of the American Navy Hardcover – December 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery History; First American Edition edition (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1621570029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1621570028
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The Forgotten War—Forgotten No Longer

All of us have heard of the War of 1812, but how many of us actually know anything about it—about Andrew Jackson’s rousing defense of New Orleans, the burning of the White House, and most especially the swashbuckling war at sea in which the young United States Navy manhandled the greatest naval power on the planet?

If you've ever wanted to learn about the United States Navy’s first great war at sea, you’re in for a treat with Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron. From his years of research and passion for the “age of fighting sail,” author Ronald Utt provides a panoramic view of the naval War of 1812—rich in high-seas heroism, captivating in anecdote and detail—rescuing some of the Navy’s greatest historical triumphs from undeserved oblivion.

Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron is a stirring account of how an American fleet of only seventeen ships bested the five-hundred-ship-strong Royal Navy in a string of early victories that astonished both sides, highlighting how American courage, gunnery, and skill could prove itself against the most daunting odds. Ronald Utt paints vivid portraits of the heroes—including Stephen Decatur, James “Don’t Give Up the Ship!” Lawrence, Oliver Hazard Perry, and Francis Scott Key—to give readers an unforgettable experience of the War of 1812. If you are interested in American history, the history of the United States Navy, or just plain real-life adventure stories, you owe it to yourself to read Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron.

From the Back Cover

PRAISE FOR Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron

“At a time when America seems to flinch at threats from the world’s petty tyrants, our forefathers’ defiance two centuries ago of the mightiest empire on earth should stiffen our spines. Ron Utt’s inspiring narrative reminds us that this nation has never failed to produce heroes when they’re needed most.”
Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation

“Few episodes in American history are as rich in heroism and drama as the War of
1812, yet it has been crowded out of the popular imagination by the Revolution and the Civil War. Ron Utt’s riveting account of the infant republic’s epic struggle on land and sea against the greatest power of the age will make you wonder how this could have become America’s ‘forgotten war.’”
Stephen Moore, author and economist

“In Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron, Ron Utt draws on previously overlooked material on the War of 1812 to vividly bring America’s ‘second war of Independence’ back to life on this its 200th anniversary. The book is special for its account of the forgotten but heroic free blacks who played a crucial role in defending America from the British invaders.”
Fred Siegel, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, scholar in residence at St. Francis College

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is an extremely well written and historically balanced book.
G. Ware Cornell Jr.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in military or US history.
CK Rambler
Excellent read on the land, lakes and ocean battles during the War of 1812.
William Square Rigger Officer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Mount Airy Reader on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I knew I was going to have problems with this book when I found George Washington, who died in 1799, on a list of participants in the War of 1812. Moreover, the title and the jacket blurb are misleading. They indicate that the book is a naval history of the war. It isn't - it covers the land campaigns as well. However, while there are maps of some of the naval actions, there are none of the land battles, which need them more than the ship-to-ship actions. Unfortunately, those are the least of this book's problems.

One of the endorsements on the back of the jacket says that the author "draws on previously overlooked material" about the War of 1812. Not so. The book is based mostly on secondary sources, with only a scattering of published primary sources such as memoirs and diaries. There is absolutely no original research. Consequently, the author has nothing new to say about the war which has not previously been said by other historians whose works he has drawn on. Some of the secondary sources are general surveys, like Samuel Eliot Morison's "Oxford History of the American People" and Thomas A. Bailey's "A Diplomatic History of the American People," which is basically a text book. Other secondary sources on which Utt relies heavily date back to the 19th century, including books by James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Adams, and Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, there are so many direct quotes from Roosevelt that I was tempted to give up on Utt and read Roosevelt's book on the naval war of 1812. At least Roosevelt did some serious research. The same endorsement congratulates Utt on providing an account of African Americans who served in the war, as if nobody had ever noticed this before. Actually, Gene Allen Smith has written an entire book on black participation in the War of 1812.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Renee Fisher on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Dr Utt is a great student of history, and this book involved many years of meticulous research.

Make no mistake: This isn't your dry, textbook tome. This book brings to life an era that defined a lot of who we are today. Not only was the modern US Navy birthed at this time, but even more significantly, the United States was birthed as a world power.

The truth is often more fascinating than fiction, and this certainly applies to the events that led up to and occurred during the War of 1812. The characters are memorable. This was a world in which communication was neither instantaneous nor shallow, a world characterized by a flow of information that may have taken longer to arrive but was processed more deeply when it did.

It is, ultimately, the story of an upstart country, drawn into a conflict in which it didn't want to be, which made the rules as it went along and emerged, ultimately, as a major player on the world stage.

The War of 1812, largely forgotten in recent years, deserves another look. And this book deserves to be read.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Muncy on November 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an exciting, cogent, and beautifully written history of the War of 1812. While Utt emphasizes naval action, he moves between land and sea battles, always keeping the train of events clear and offering a comprehensive look at the war. His glossary of major figures in the war is a great help to the reader. Highly recommended for anyone interested in early U.S. or naval history.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Robert Gentile on December 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
A good read that is packed with information and interesting anecdotes. A handy preface details important people and a chronology of events. Dr Utt does a good job of making history more understandable by providing political and economic context of events. Insights into personalities and motivations of individuals adds flavor throughout. I learned that the politics of the early 19th century were as visceral as they are today.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Kinchen on December 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a history junkie who's reviewed dozens of books on the subject, I was wondering (I do this a lot!) "Where are the books on a war that has been called 'the second American Revolution' on the bicentennial of its commencement?"

I'm referring, of course, to The War of 1812 between the fledgling U.S. and the British Empire, by far the largest naval power on earth. It officially began with Congress declaring war on Britain on June 18, 1812, but it began long before with the impressment of American sailors by the British, writes Ronald D. Utt in his comprehensive and very readable "Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron: The War of 1812 and the Forging of the American Navy" .

Utt's telling of the war minces no words about who was responsible for the war: It was the Royal Navy and its policy of kidnapping, abducting -- whatever you want to call it -- of Americans to serve on their ships. In Chapter One he recounts the case of one of these victims: "in his memoirs of his time as a sailor aboard the American frigates Constitution and John Adams during the War of 1812, Moses Smith recounts a tragic story about an American seaman's attempt to escape British impressment--a form of abduction and involuntary naval service practiced by recruiters for the Royal Navy in the early nineteenth century:

'About this time the John Adams arrived at Annapolis from a foreign cruise, and from her men we learned of a striking case of heroism, which is worthy to be told. A coloured seaman belonging to New York had been pressed into English service, and when the Adams was lying off their coast, he got an opportunity to come on board of her as one of a boat's crew, sent with an officer upon some errand. Thinking now his time had come to escape from the Brit ish, he determined if possible not to return.
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