Focusing on the oceanic war rather than on the war in the Great Lakes, this study charts the War of 1812 from the perspectives of the two opposing navies at sea, one the largest navies in the world, the other a small, upstart navy just three decades old. While American naval leadership searched for a means of contesting Britain’s naval dominance, the English sought to destroy the U.S. Navy and protect its oceanic highways. Instead of describing battles between opposing warships, Kevin McCranie evaluates entire cruises by American and British men-of-war, noting both successes and failures and how they translated into broader strategies. In the process, his study becomes a history of how the two navies fought the oceanic war, linking high-level governmental decisions about strategy to the operational use of fleets in the Atlantic and Caribbean and from the south Pacific to the Indian Ocean.
This comprehensive work offers a balanced appraisal of the sea war, taking into account the strategic considerations of both sides and how the leadership from each side assessed, planned, and implemented operational concepts. It draws on a wealth of British and American archival sources to help the reader understand strategic imperatives and the correlation between these imperatives and why the oceanic war was conducted in the manner it was. All American warships cruises, not just those that resulted in battles, are covered, but the author’s action-packed accounts of battles hold special appeal.