From Publishers Weekly
Toll, a former financial analyst and political speechwriter, makes an auspicious debut with this rousing, exhaustively researched history of the founding of the U.S. Navy. The author chronicles the late 18th- and early 19th-century process of building a fleet that could project American power beyond her shores. The ragtag Continental Navy created during the Revolution was promptly dismantled after the war, and it wasn't until 1794—in the face of threats to U.S. shipping from England, France and the Barbary states of North Africa—that Congress authorized the construction of six frigates and laid the foundation for a permanent navy. A cabinet-level Department of the Navy followed in 1798. The fledgling navy quickly proved its worth in the Quasi War against France in the Caribbean, the Tripolitan War with Tripoli and the War of 1812 against the English. In holding its own against the British, the U.S. fleet broke the British navy's "sacred spell of invincibility," sparked a "new enthusiasm for naval power" in the U.S. and marked the maturation of the American navy. Toll provides perspective by seamlessly incorporating the era's political and diplomatic history into his superlative single-volume narrative—a must-read for fans of naval history and the early American Republic. (Oct.)
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Not confined to sea battles, Toll's history of the U.S. Navy's formative decades, from the mid-1790s to the War of 1812, rounds out affairs by anchoring the nascent navy to its financial supports. Navies are not inexpensive, and the costs of building and maintaining ships appear lightly but persistently in Toll's narrative. It centers on the first vessels purpose-built for the navy, the half-dozen frigates of which the USSConstitution
moored in Boston today is the last survivor. Besides money, their construction involved politics; the Federalists favored the naval program (creating the Department of the Navy in 1798), while Jefferson's parsimonious Republicans were more diffident. Toll is as insightful about the essential domestic and diplomatic background as he is with his dramatizations of the naval engagements of the new navy, which produced a crop of national heroes such as Stephen Decatur. The maritime strategy and the highly developed sense of officers' honor, which influenced where particular battles occurred, emerge clearly in this fluent account. Vibrant and comprehensive, Toll makes an impressive debut. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved