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An award-winning study of the Franco-American undeclared naval war at the turn of the nineteenth century, this history of the nearly forgotten struggle is filled with the dramatic actions of such frigates as the Constellation and her capture of l'Insurgente, as well as the sundry operations that protected American commerce from the depredations of the French corsairs in the Caribbean. First published in 1987, the book avoids the parochialism of earlier studies by placing the American war within a European context. It takes a critical look at the command and operations of the first secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert, and how under his direction the Navy proved itself ship for ship as—if not more—effective against French privateers than the Royal Navy.
The book also examines how the Navy served the nation's commercial and diplomatic interests, a pattern of activity that would become known as gunboat diplomacy, and how the Navy's successes assured it a permanency that had eluded the Continental Navy. Awarded prizes from the American Revolution Round Table of New York and other organizations, the respected work answers penetrating questions about what happened and why, and the author's judicious evaluations of participants and their policies make an important contribution to the literature. This new Classics edition is introduced by the author, chair of the maritime history department at East Carolina University and author of three other books, including Origins of Maritime Strategy.