Six Frigates is a well researched and insightful account of the origin of the United States Navy after the American Revolution through the War of 1812, focusing on the authorization, construction and battles of the six frigates that became the vanguard of the standing navy. The author explores how the political philosophies of early American leaders shaped the future development of the country and its navy. The book examines how domestic and foreign events forced many leaders to rethink their views on both the direction of the country and shape of its armed forces. Toll provides a refreshingly honest history of the erratic course of the nation and brings to light the cross-purposes, incompetence and self-serving actions that are not discussed in the less gritty accounts. The book is not merely a story of a young nation’s policy debates. The author follows the naval actions of the original six frigates through engagements with the day’s superpowers (France and Britain) and the Barbary Pirates. Toll covers these ships’ successes and failures with detail and realism that is often compared to novelist Patrick O’Brian’s account of the British Navy during roughly the same era. With the U.S. Navy reevaluating its future direction this uncompromising history shows how a nation’s view of a rapidly changing world and the best and worst of human nature can shape the size, role and mission of a navy.
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