- ISBN/SKU: 9781612514475
- Binding: Hardcover
- Number of Pages: 240
- Subject: Naval History
- Date Available: April 2014
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—Advance Praise for Home Squadron —
“Sailor-scholar James Rentfrow has done us all a great service by chronicling and analyzing the historical roots of the current U.S. Navy’s intensely operational nature. Multiship warship exercises, operations, and tactics at sea may be the hallmarks of our modern naval force, but their origins in the late nineteenth century have, strangely never been comprehensively examined until now. Anyone involved in contemporary strike group operations—of any navy—will gain from learning how it all began, and why.”
—Capt. Peter M. Swartz, USN (Ret.), principal research scientist, CNA
“Cdr. James Rentfrow's Home Squadron fills a critical gap in our understanding of the evolution of the modern Navy. A superb analytical effort, it conveys within a flowing literary style the story of the critical years of the Navy's other “inter-war period,” when it finally transitioned from wood and sail to steel and steam, developing all new tactics and maneuvers along the way. Rentfrow also examines the critical personalities who weighed in to pull the Navy out of the doldrums to set the stage for the United States' emergence as a great power in the twentieth century. This is a strong effort that I am sure will become a trusted reference for scholars of the period.”
—Capt. Henry J. Hendrix, USN, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command
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This study examines the transformation of the United States Navy as a fighting organization that took place on the North Atlantic Station between 1874 and 1897. At the beginning of this period, the warships assigned to this station were collectively administered by a rear-admiral, but were operationally deployed as individual units, each of whose actions were directed by their captains. By 1897 the North Atlantic, or “Home” Squadron as it was known, was a group of warships constituting a protean battle fleet – that is, an organized body moving and fighting in close-order, which meant that the actions of the captains were directed by a commanding admiral.
The process of the development of an American battle fleet resulted in the construction of a new organizational identity for the North Atlantic Squadron. This process was as critical as the eventual outcome. It was not linear, but one in which progress in critical areas was modulated by conflicting demands that caused distraction. From 1874-1888, exercises in fleet tactics under steam were carried out sporadically utilizing existing wooden cruising vessels. From 1889-1894, the last wooden cruisers were decommissioned and the Squadron consisted entirely of new steel warships. Ad-hoc concentrations of vessels for purposes besides exercise and training retarded the continued development of doctrine and tactics necessary for a multi-ship fighting capability during this time. However, much work was done to develop a concept of multi-ship operations. From 1895-1897, the identity of the North Atlantic Squadron as a combat unit solidified. Tactical exercises were held that had specific offensive and defensive wartime applications. These exercises were necessary to develop a combat capability.
The results of this study demonstrate that the United States government had an interest in developing an offensive naval combat capability as early as the 1870’s. Based on the record of the North Atlantic Squadron, it is argued that imperial aspirations, in the sense of possessing a capability to restrict the actions of other great powers in the Caribbean region, existed prior to the War of 1898. However, the process of change often resulted in the appearance of capability without the rigorous exercise necessary to possess it.
Upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989, Commander James C. “Chris” Rentfrow completed flight school and was designated a naval flight officer. After a career flying the EA-6B Prowler, Commander Rentfrow was selected to participate in the Permanent Military Professor program. He did his doctoral work at the University of Maryland, College Park and currently teaches U.S. and naval history at the Naval Academy.