Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea
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Five ships against hundreds—the fledgling American Navy versus the greatest naval force the world had ever seen.
America in 1775 was on the verge of revolution—or, more likely, disastrous defeat. After the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, England’s King George sent hundreds of ships westward to bottle up American harbors and prey on American shipping. Colonists had no force to defend their coastline and waterways until John Adams of Massachusetts proposed a bold solution: The Continental Congress should raise a navy.
The idea was mad. The Royal Navy was the mightiest floating arsenal in history, with a seemingly endless supply of vessels. More than a hundred of these were massive “ships of the line,” bristling with up to a hundred high-powered cannon that could level a city. The British were confident that His Majesty’s warships would quickly bring the rebellious colonials to their knees.
They were wrong. Beginning with five converted merchantmen, America’s sailors became formidable warriors, matching their wits, skills, and courage against the best of the British fleet. Victories off American shores gave the patriots hope—victories led by captains such as John Barry, the fiery Irish-born giant; fearless Nicholas Biddle, who stared down an armed mutineer; and James Nicholson, the underachiever who finally redeemed himself with an inspiring display of coolness and bravery. Meanwhile, along the British coastline, daring raids by handsome, cocksure John Paul Jones and the “Dunkirk Pirate,” Gustavus Conyngham—who was captured and sentenced to hang but tunneled under his cell and escaped to fight again—sent fear throughout England. The adventures of these men and others on both sides of the struggle rival anything from Horatio Hornblower or Lucky Jack Aubrey. In the end, these rebel sailors, from the quarterdeck to the forecastle, contributed greatly to American independence.
Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Give Me a Fast Ship is a rousing, epic tale of war on the high seas—and the definitive history of the American Navy during the Revolutionary War.
INCLUDES NINE MAPS AND SIXTEEN PAGES OF FULL COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS
Innocent” in the village; all the committee need do was “surrender their cannon and musketry and give hostages for their future good behaviour,” as Bailey put it, and Mowat would delay bombardment until he heard from Admiral Graves. That evening a rowboat approached the Canceaux. The Americans aboard delivered a substantially smaller arsenal to Mowat than he expected: a handful of muskets and pistols. Mowat would wait until morning to reply to this insult. By this time word of the fleet’s
lawyer for the affections of Dorothea Dandridge, Martha Washington’s cousin. After sizing up her suitors, she opted for the lawyer and became Mrs. Patrick Henry. But Congressman Hewes, a fellow Mason, saw merit in the young mariner. Hearing of the new navy, he headed to Philadelphia, where Hewes pulled some strings on his behalf. The captaincy of the sloop Providence was offered him, but lacking experience commanding a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, he declined, accepting a lieutenant’s commission
Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. Neeser, Robert Wilden, ed. Letters and Papers Related to the Cruises of Gustavus Conyngham: A Captain of the Continental Navy. New York: Printed for the Naval Historical Society by the DeVinne Press, 1915. Nelson, James L. Benedict Arnold’s Navy: The Ragtag Fleet That Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain but Won the American Revolution. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. ––––––. George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went
Glover, John Junior, 13 Gould, James, 206 Governor’s Island, 94 Governour Tonyn, 204 Graaf, Johannes de, 91, 389 Gracieux, 198, 199, 201 Graeme, Alexander, 80–82 Graf, Johannes de, 105 Grand Bahama Island, 52 Grand Banks, 195 Grande Terre, 402 Grande Ville, 287, 289 Grand Union flag, 28 Grannis, John, 119 Grantham, Lord, 198 Grappling hooks, 45 Grasse, François Joseph Paul de, 376, 383, 389, 404 Grasshopper, 177 Graves, Samuel, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 23, 36–37, 389, 404 Great
(number 18—one behind Jones). True, he was the only one on the list not given a command (due to his imprisonment), but the fact that Congress ranked him while he was a captive says much about James Josiah.19 After his visitor left, Biddle placed a double guard of marines aboard the Randolph. The long wait for the ice to thaw took its toll on the frigate’s already small muster rolls. Boredom and ice bred restlessness in the confines of a ship, even the grandest yet built in Philadelphia. If