Book Review: Man of War: The Fighting Life of Admiral James Saumarez: From The American Revolution to the Defeat of Napoleon


by Anthony Sullivan

Barnsley, Eng.: Frontline / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2017. Pp. xii, 260. Illus., maps, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $50.00. ISBN: 9781526706515

A Forgotten Admiral of the Age of Fighting Sail

British historian Sullivan, author of several books on the age of fighting sail, gives us a look at the life and career of Guernesyite James Saumarez (1757-1836). Although not as well known as many other naval officers of his times, Saumarez was a superb seaman and hard fighter.

Saumarez took part in some of the most important naval actions of the era, distinguishing himself in such actions as the British attack on Sullivan’s Island and battle with the Dutch fleet off Dogger Bank during the American Revolution (1775-1783), as well as in the Battles of the Saintes, Cape St. Vincent, the Nile, and Algeciras during the War of the French Revolution (1792-1802).

Following the collapse of the Peace of Amiens (1802-1803) and the onset of Napoleonic War (1803-1815), Saumarez commanded the Channel Fleet for five years, preparing to repel Napoleon’s expected invasion while keeping a close blockade of the Continent. From 1808 through 1814 Saumarez commanded the Baltic Fleet, a force generally overlooked by most histories. He displayed considerable diplomatic skill in dealing with Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Prussia, while rendering significant support to the final campaigns against Napoleon.

Sullivan tells this story well. We get a look at Saumarez’s private life, his experiences with the political culture of the Royal Navy and, of course, some lessons in seamanship and naval tactics in the age of fighting sail.

Man of War is an excellent book for anyone interested in the Age of Fighting Sail.


Note: Man of War is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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