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Admiral de Grasse and American Independence Paperback – June 15, 2014
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From the Back Cover
The defeat of the British fleet by Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, in the battle off Cape Henry in 1781 set the stage for the independence of the thirteen American colonies. This biography places the supremely important naval battle off the Virginia Capes in its proper historical perspective and gives the French admiral full credit for making Cornwallis' surrender possible at Yorktown. George Washington fully recognized this aid when he wrote to de Grasse and expressed his gratitude "in the name of America for the glorious event for which she is indebted to you." The battle off Cape Henry was only one of many engaged by the dashing Gallic sea captain, who fought in all the wars of his day: the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, and the War of the American Revolution.
About the Author
The late Charles Lee Lewis, born in 1886, was a prominent naval historian and for many years a professor of English and History at the United States Naval Academy. He has written biographies of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Admiral Franklin Buchanan, David Glasgow Farragut, and Commodore Stephen Decatur and two volumes of biographical sketches of famous sea fighters.
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The book tells the naval history of de Grasse, but comes short of presenting a biography: by the end the reader has been exposed to a full spectrum of naval engagements, but still seems to know little of the man behind the uniform. And in fairness to the author - he may well have, as a naval historian, accomplished his objective. The read will take some patience: Lewis begins with the assumption that he is teaching naval warfare at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Names like Gaxotte, Callander (Geoffery), and Mahan are presented without introduction or explanation (Naval Historians). Lewis has facility with the French language that he loves to flaunt - forgetting (or taunting) that the readership does not. Whole sentences are presented sans translation, in one-up-manship style. Then too, there are times when whole chapters pass with the barest presence of the subject, causing the cynical reader to wonder whether the research became too thin to support the story.
The book is, however, easily readable - the afore mentioned shortcomings may be either simply ignored or fact-found in parallel with the read. de Grasse is an incredibly important contributor to American independence and it is difficult to find biographic description outside of naval analysis, the purpose of which is different by design. If you are interested in the period, the War, or 18th century naval engagements, and certainly in de Grasse himself, this is a recommended (though specialized) read.