Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

by Ian W. Toll

Book cover for Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

How "a handful of bastards and outlaws fighting under a piece of striped bunting" humbled the omnipotent British Navy.

Before the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military had become the most divisive issue facing the new government. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect American commerce against the Mediterranean pirates, or drain the treasury and provoke hostilities with the great powers? The founders—particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams—debated these questions fiercely and switched sides more than once. How much of a navy would suffice? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.

From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliffhanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and a narrative flair worthy of Patrick O'Brian. According to Henry Adams, the 1812 encounter between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere "raised the United States in one half hour to the rank of a first class power in the world." 16 pages of illustrations; 8 pages of color.

This book is part of:

  • On Nov 21 2015 colleen (USA) read this book
  • On Oct 19 2012 docshea (USN) read this book and commented:

    Good to see where we started but how much did I take away from it.

  • On Jul 05 2010 kcholbert (USAF) read this book
  • On May 15 2010 Wes Bringham read this book
  • On Jul 11 2009 Tom Copeland (USCG) read this book and commented:

    This book is filled with interesting stories about the founding of the American Navy. The building of the first ships (including the difficulties in floating one of them), Stephen Decatur's burning of the captured Philadelphia, the naval engagements in the War of 1812 - it's all great stuff. Finally you'll know the full story of "to the shores of Tripoli"!