This is the exciting story about how the young American Republic established the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Revenue Cutter Service (the predecessor to the Coast Guard), designed and built the most powerful class of frigate in the world, trained its seamen in gunnery and naval warfare and gained battle experience in the Quasi-War with France in 1798-1800 and the Barbary War ("Shores of Tripoli") in 1801-1805. The United States was a neutral nation in a world where European powers were locked in a death struggle. When it could no longer tolerate interference with its maritime commerce and the impressment of its sailors into the Royal Navy, it declared war against Great Britain in the "Second War of Independence" in 1812. Lessons learned then are still relevant in today's very uncertain world. In this era of fighting sail when ships were made of wood and men of iron, the narrator takes us into the action of the three principal theaters of the conflict: The war on blue water of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans; the war on the lakes along the northern border with British North America (Canada); and the war on brown water of American bays, sounds, estuaries and rivers from Maine to New Orleans. Each chapter bristles with action. On blue water the youngest Navy, with less than two-dozen ships, took on the mightiest, the Royal Navy, with a fleet of over 600. To the world's amazement, in the first eight months of the war five single-ship actions occurred and in every one the Americans bested the British. The names ring through history: The American "heavy frigate" Constitution ("Old Ironsides" - the oldest commissioned ship in the world still afloat) and the smaller frigates Chesapeake, Constellation and Essex (which first made the United States a two-ocean Navy as it preyed on the British in the Pacific) and smaller warships, Enterprise, Wasp, Hornet, and Argus.
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