Perilous Fight by Stephen Budiansky
America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

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Synopsis

In Perilous Fight, Stephen Budiansky tells the rousing story of the underdog coterie of American seamen and their visionary secretary of the navy, who combined bravery and strategic innovation to hold off the legendary Royal Navy.

Budiansky vividly demonstrates that far from an indecisive and unnecessary conflict—as historians have long dismissed the War of 1812—this “forgotten war” had profound consequences that would change the course of naval warfare, America’s place in the world, and the rules of international conflict forever. Never again would the great powers challenge the young republic’s sovereignty in the aftermath of the stunning performance of America’s navy and privateersmen in sea battles that ranged across half the globe. Their brilliant hit-and-run tactics against a far mightier foe would pioneer concepts of “asymmetric warfare” that would characterize the insurgency warfare of later centuries.

Above all, the War of 1812 would be the making of the United States Navy. Even as the war began, the nation was bitterly divided over whether it should have a navy at all: Jeffersonian Republicans denounced the idea as a dangerous expansion of government power, while Federalists insisted that America could never protect its burgeoning seagoing commerce or command respect without a strong naval force. After the war, Americans would never again doubt that their might, respect, and very survival depended upon a permanent and professional navy.

Drawing extensively on diaries, letters, and personal accounts from both sides, Budiansky re-creates the riveting encounters at sea in bloody clashes of cannonfire and swordplay; the intimate hopes and fears of vainglorious captains and young seamen in search of adventure; and the behind-the-scenes political intrigue and maneuvering in Washington and London. Throughout, Perilous Fight proves itself a gripping and essential work of American naval history.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Stephen Budiansky

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Stephen Budiansky is a journalist and military historian. His previous books include Air Power, Battle of Wits, The Bloody Shirt, Her Majesty's Spymaster, and Perilous Fight.
 
Published January 18, 2011 by Vintage. 448 pages
Genres: History, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Perilous Fight

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The author also looks at the fate of American prisoners of war and at the larger political issues behind the war.

Jan 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Perilous Fight: America's Int...

Dallas News

Behind Britain’s conduct of the war was British contempt for a foe “inferior in both martial prowess and personal honor.” As in Adam Nicholson’s very readable 2006 Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and Nelson’s Battle at Trafalgar, Budiansky looks forthrightly at the butchery of sea battle in the e...

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Perilous Fight: America's Int...

NJ.com

News that Britain’s current financial woes had forced the Royal Navy to mothball its lone carrier, bearing the fabled name Ark Royal, was broadcast just as Stephen Budiansky’s salty, scrappy “Perilous Fight” was about to focus on the epic confrontation in 1812 between the frigates Constitution an...

Jan 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Perilous Fight: America's Int...

Bookmarks Magazine

Even as the war began, the nation was bitterly divided over whether it should have a navy at all: Jeffersonian Republicans denounced the idea as a dangerous expansion of government power, while Federalists insisted that America could never protect its burgeoning seagoing commerce or command respe...

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Perilous Fight: America's Int...

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