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Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451235626
ISBN-10: 0451235622
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Editorial Reviews


New York Magazine
"High Brow, Brilliant" - Approval Matrix

Ken Burns
"A wonderful read, brings the War of 1812 to life."

George C. Daughan, author of 1812: The Navy’s War
"Beautifully written, Knights of the Sea delves deeply into the lives and motivations of the two young, but experienced captains who dueled to the death in the famous sea fight between the HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise, shedding new light on the British and American navies during a critical period in their histories.”

Captain Philip Kasky USN (Ret), former commander, USS Suribachi
"David Hanna establishes his credibility both as a writer and with the quality and depth of his historical research in Knights of the Sea. His capturing of a little-known maritime battle during the War of 1812 is surprisingly relevant in modern-day exploration of military strategy."

Portland Press Herald
"In a compact, well-organized and carefully illustrated book, Hanna propels the reader both general and scholarly with sure, swift and colorful prose.”

Bangor Daily News
"In Hanna’s skilled storytelling, heroic seamen and stout ships come alive in this rousing tale and converge on the Maine coast for a short, bloody sea battle... The well-illustrated Knights of the Sea is a great read for folks interested in Maine or maritime history. Hanna does his heroes and their forgotten war justice."

Down East Magazine
"When wars two hundred years in the past sound eerily like today’s contemporary events, it’s time to sit up and take notice. And even when that history is about a relatively obscure naval engagement off the coast of Maine, the lessons it offers about individual sacrifice can be far-reaching, compelling—and also a bit unsettling. In his newly-published book, David Hanna has taken a potentially dry subject and given it new life with a modern perspective and sympathy for the men directly involved in the forgotten Maine conflict."

Library Journal
"Highly readable, this book will appeal to those interested in naval warfare and the War of 1812 as well as those with any interest in early U.S. history. Strongly recommended."

A Latter-Day Bluestocking
"Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812 stands out amongst history books in that it was a page-turner.  David Hanna has the gift for making history come alive, there is not a dull moment throughout the narrative."

About the Author

David Hanna teaches history at Stuyvesant High School in New York, and is an adjunct instructor at NYU. He lives with his family in Morris County, New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1 edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451235622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451235626
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,238,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm not much of a naval historian/expert, but I do like tales of the sea and I really enjoy books that shed light on little known or overlooked part of history. I read "Knights of the Sea" not to become an expert on naval maneuvers or for a full retelling of the War of 1812, but instead, to learn about the two young captains behind an important battle of that war. Hanna does a superb job setting the stage for what would be one of the last clashes of ships powered by the wind. The book reads like fiction as you learn about the events of the day, the reasons why the two nations were at war, and the importance of the sea at this time in history. The research that went into finding out about the lives to the captains is very impressive. These young men are straight out of central casting. I don't understand the harsh comments some reviewers have left. It is a very well written book that's easy to read. If you want to find out about a moment in history often left out of the history books, I encourage you to give "Knights of the Sea" a read.
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Format: Hardcover
As a retired Naval officer, a sailor, a wannabe historian, and a veteran, I dove into Hanna's book with great anticipation. I was not disappointed! The culture of the sea-going Navies of the upstart United States and the juggernaut British Empire is vividly portrayed (I loved the sardine-in-the-mouth hazing of the young sailors by the old salts - which I'm sure reflects life aboard ship in the early days of our Navy!). The mind/body-consuming onslaught of the unpredictable sea on a sailing vessel, large or small, inflicting utter boredom or sheer terror is the way it is even today, and Hanna made me feel those emotions again, even as I sat next to the wood stove in my cozy study! The personal, even intimate stories of the lives of Blyth and Burrows, melded into the politics and social constructs of the day gave the book texture and depth. Talk about "history coming alive...," those two "knights of the sea" are real people. And, Hanna's treatment of the actual battle; brief, intense, complicated, and final is what combat is really like.

Knights of the Sea was a winner for me because it resonated with my life experience, but it is also a winner for anyone interested in how humans drive themselves to extraordinary deeds; for anyone interested in understanding that those years in our nation's development were ever so more complicated than we were led to believe in history class; and for anyone interested in a good story. Hanna has a gift for writing a story that combines the pathos of human courage and selflessness with the facts and figures of the world they lived in. I can't wait until his next work.
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Format: Hardcover
The author deserves credit for an enjoyable survey, placing a brief sea battle in the context of the War of 1812, early nineteenth-century naval warfare, and life in the seaport cities of the age. This is the strength of the book, but also its weakness. We learn a great deal about things that are tangentially related to the two captains: activities they "must have" taken part in, sights they "would have" seen. I enjoyed the digressions, but (as other reviews illustrate) some will find the book too discursive.
I came away from the book wishing that a strong editor had reviewed it, tightening up the text, cutting down the Vietnam and Iraq analogies, and trimming the musings about war and medieval chivalry. Oh, and doing some more fact checking. My example is Hanna's assertion that the inscription "vivere sat vincere" means "to live is sufficient victory." A contemporary would have understood the motto to mean "to conquer is to live enough." See Boston Gazette, July 21, 1814, p. 4; David E. Macdonnel, A Dictionary of Select and Popular Quotations which Are in Daily Use (Philadelphia: A. Finley, 1824), p. 321.
But the book is a good read, and it is a useful introduction to a period that deserves more attention. It's certainly not the final word on any of the subjects it touches, but it's a nice start.
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Format: Paperback
An excellent book and an extraordinary accomplishment for a first-time author. Hanna's ability to research and recount a story ranks with Hornfischer and other masters. An event most likely unknown outside the New England region where it occurred, and in a war that most of us know little enough about anyway, this tale of intrepid commanders on both sides is personal and intimate. The breadth of description of the larger events and underlying motivations of the war and the actions described is brilliant, as is the detailed recounting of the final engagement. The organization of the book is outstanding, telling the stories of the participants and events to set the stage for the main event, and is reminiscent of another "amateur" author's remarkable first work, James Bradley's "Flags of Our Fathers".
His personal interest in the story shows. The result is a tale recounted as one might hear from a venerated grandparent of valiant ancestors, passed down through generations, with a touch of awe. His parallel to Longfellow is interesting, as is his repetition in a few paragraphs of "Britain needed heroes". Don't we all, and they are in short supply these days. It's hard not to love such men as these, whose lives were dedicated to that central element of dignity and duty, character.
from Bruce Enyeart
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