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Book Review, NRJ 60.3

August 15, 2015 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea

Tim McGrath

The war at sea during the American Revolution more often than not appears as a series of major actions between British and French fleets, American privateering escapades, and the fight between Serapis and Bon Homme Richard under the command of John Paul Jones. Although there is a superb ongoing series from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Documents of the American Revolution, substantial primary source documentation, and a quite extensive academic literature (as this book’s bibliography reveals), the work of the Continental Navy seems largely to have escaped popular attention.

Tim McGrath’s new book should go a very long way toward correcting this situation. It is superbly grounded in very extensive research that exploits both primary sources and scholarly writing on the subject. This academic rigor, however, never prevents McGrath from telling an exciting story; instead, it consistently underpins his presentation of the Continental Navy’s operations.

The major theme that emerges from Give Me a Fast Ship is the sheer audacity of the men who assembled the Continental Navy and took it into combat against the most powerful fleet of the time. Ultimately, its successes were insufficient to prevail against the Royal Navy at sea, but its efforts laid the foundations for the present United states Navy.

McGrath shines as both researcher and narrator. Give Me a Fast Ship is compelling history, and deserves to succeed in making the Continental Navy’s accomplishments part of our popular culture.

  • New York: NAL Caliber, 2014
  • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, 543 pages
  • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $26.95
  • ISBN: 9780451416100

Reviewed by William Cowell, Charleston, South Carolina

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