From the shipping yard of Salem, Massachusetts to the high seas France Robotti and James Vescovi follow one ship and one man as the pair makes a name for the United States Navy. David Porter had saltwater in his blood so it was no surprise when he took to the sea. The Essex on the other hand came about due to war. As the US emerged from a successful revolution and reforming of its government it became painfully obvious that a navy was needed. Caught between the British and French navies American merchant vessels were suffering the bullying tactics of both nations. In short, they were becoming quite the laughing stock. Off the coast of Africa, American ships were hijacked by pirates and soon the American government was dishing out tributary money to local leaders. It was quite the predicament. Despite the foreboding felt by those back at home who had little use for a standing army or navy after what had been endured during the Revolution it was something that needed to be done and soon public favor was turning. Salem rallied to build a frigate from the finest white oak that could be felled. In a matter of days the trees were gathered and the subscription for the building of the ship acquired. The USS Essex was on her way to fame and glory. This is the story of a young nation’s fight for recognition and honor. This is the story of David Porter and the USS Essex.
The USS Essex went beyond my expectations. I’m one of those dunderheads who tends to judge a book by its cover and this one wreaked of being a book of factoids. Fortunately the authors of this little volume have proven me to be very wrong. The title reflects exactly what the book is about. The USS Essex and the forming of the American Navy. While both Porter and the Essex (not to be confused with the whaler Essex), both play a large role in the book, the authors do not restrict their writings to those two alone. Rather the back information of other relevant figures and events are provided to give readers a fuller picture. It is also a fantastic resource for those seeking a peak into the life of the early 19th century naval sailor. This is a great addition to anyone’s personal library; in fact I consider it a must-have for the maritime enthusiast’s collection. Newcomers to world of sail won’t find the nautical and warfare terms difficult to understand as the authors take care to explain in landlubber’s parlance while not resorting to language that may draw the seafarer’s derision (although I must admit I was a little amused with the reference to a helm as a “steering wheel”). My final thoughts? A very well rounded book I won’t hesitate to recommend.
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