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Book Review, NRJ 69.1

May 06, 2024 6:03 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

A Maritime History of the American Revolutionary War: An Atlantic-Wide Conflict over Independence and Empire 

By Theodore Corbett

Comparatively little has been published about the American Revolutionary War from the maritime standpoint, with most existing histories concentrating almost entirely on the conflicts that took place on the American and Canadian mainland. This is in spite of the fact that it was a fleet naval battle, albeit one in which no American forces participated on either side, that in effect set the scene for the victory of the combined French and American forces at Yorktown and in consequence the final result of the war itself.

That lack has now largely been remedied with the publication of this volume. It covers in some detail the organization of the existing, powerful British Royal Navy as well as the establishment of the new American Continental Navy and its eventual demise, together with a wide ranging account of maritime action on both sides of the Atlantic, on the important thoroughfare of Lake Champlain, and in coastal waters. Theodore Corbett’s focus is as much on the smaller conflicts of such vessels as barges and privateers as on the more famous fleet actions. Not all operations in the war involved Americans at all, of course – the long Spanish siege of Gibraltar commencing in 1779 is an example; the French success at the Battle of the Chesapeake/the Virginia Capes is another, though one with far-reaching consequences. The great British victories over the fleet of Admiral de Grasse in the waters of the West Indies late in the war are briefly included, so in fact giving the subject Atlantic-wide coverage, as the title itself states. What is not dealt with here is the series of battles that was so hard-fought in Indian waters, far from the main focus of the revolution in the American colonies, to be sure, but still part of the same war that resulted from that conflict.

Any reader interested in the American Revolutionary War will nevertheless find this interesting work to offer a refreshingly different spotlight on the subject, and one that illuminates the maritime operations and issues of all sides involved.

  • Barnsley: Seaforth Books, 2023
  • 9-3/4” x 11-1/2”, hardcover, 267 pages
  • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95
  • ISBN: 97815300040419

Reviewed by: Roger Marsh, Killaloe, Republic of Ireland

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