Book Review: American Naval History, 1607-1865: Overcoming the Colonial Legacy


by Jonathan R. Dull

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 194. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 080324052X

The origins of the American naval tradition by a notable naval historian. 

Dull, author of, among others, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, gives us a tight, insightful overview of American naval history.  He explores the political, economic, and even social roots of the American naval experience, and how it grew and changed to reflect the growth of a series of tiny colonies into a republic that had to meet varied challenges during its first century of existence.  Unusual for such works, Dull begins in colonial times, an oft-neglected period in American military history, during which there was some interesting naval activity sponsored by various colonies, most notably the attack on Louisbourg in 1745.  There follows the effort to cope with the might of the Royal Navy during the Revolution.  He then gives us accounts of the problems of commerce protection in the early Republic, notably against Revolutionary France and the Barbary pirates, while showing the flag, service in wars with Britain (1812-1814) and Mexico (1846-1848), through the Navy’s maturation during the trying times of the Civil War.  The process by which American naval tradition grew, Dull argues, was to a great extent due to the vision and will of a number of notable men, both political and naval, such as Washington, Preble, Decatur, Lincoln, Farragut, and so forth, and their contributions are noted. 

A volume in the Nebraska series " Studies in War, Society, and the Military,"  American Naval History, 1607-1865 is an excellent introduction to the rise of American sea power, and can be read with profit even by the seasoned student of the subject.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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