Scrapping With the British Navy

The usual round of books and look-backs on the War of 1812 commenceth. Austin Bay seizes upon a book on the naval war between the US and Britain:

In 1812, Great Britain presented U.S. war planners with a very challenging strategic problem, one with contemporary irony given America’s 21st century military might: How do you wage successful war against a global superpower?

Two numbers illustrate America’s quandary. The RN began the war with around 500 warships. The U.S. Navy had 14, though when the war began not all were crewed and seaworthy. Shipping and trade were critical issues to both belligerents, and RN lions ruled the high seas. In comparison, the USN was a poorly funded mouse.

However, as Kevin McCranie demonstrates in his new book, “Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies in the War of 1812” (Naval Institute Press), the tiny USN was a talented, courageous, well-led and therefore dangerous mouse.

It’s not the size of the navy in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the navy.

Of course, having your opponent distracted by Napoleon never hurts.


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