Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
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"The narrator's tone of voice, the pacing of the action, and the full cargo of delicious detail captivated me from the first page. Setting sail with the country's upstart navy, I was shocked to encounter the squalls of several founding fathers' opposition to its very existence. Ian Toll tells a story of crosscurrents in American history, in which the familiar names of the first presidents mingle with those of foreign princes, first officers, fighting ships, and a fair assortment of characters salty enough to have been plucked from sea shanties." -- Dava Sobel, author of Longitude"

Customer Reviews:

  • Lives and Times of the Early U.S. Navy
    Many excellent books on early U.S. history have been published in recent years and Six Frigates deserves to be included in the group both as a supplement and a unique work in its own right. From the presidency of George Washington to the War of 1812, it presents the history of the U.S. Navy and its first steps on the way to naval ascendancy. Six Frigates tells the stories of the ships, battles, and lives and times of the era. Author Ian Toll's writing is well researched, organized, and most important of all, never dull. Starting with the Quasi-War at sea with France in the 1790's and then the actions against the Barbary Pirates, it leads the reader toward the period's climax (for the American navy) in the War of 1812. The American victories are all described in full along with the effect on the spirit on the Americans, the growing naval traditions of the young country, and the hubris and consternation of Britain. The triumphs of the frigates Constitution and United States and several smaller ships are all here and many readers will get a great deal of new information. (One area I wish the book had concentrated more upon, though, were the naval battles in Great Lakes). However, the War of 1812 was no victory for the United States and could have been disastrous. Toll gives equal treatment to the defeats suffered by the United States such as the loss of the frigates Chesapeake and President, the stifling and frustrating effect of the British blockade as the war progressed, and the humiliating capture and burning of Washington D.C.

    Six Frigates is more than a story of the battles at sea. The political environment of the early United States is the described in the context of the conflict of the Federalists versus the Jeffersonian Republicans as it related to development of a navy. Such issues as the cost of a navy, entanglement in foreign affairs, support of Britain or France, protection of trade, when to risk lives and treasure, and priorities for the country's growth all played into the arguments within a young nation trying to find a secure, but dynamic place, in a dangerous world. Although the major focus is on the United States, Toll provides a great deal of information on the British navy and gives it a human face (to lesser extent, he does the same for the French and Barbary Pirates). The strategic environment of the era is detailed and provides additional meaning to the individual battles. Descriptions of the causes of the various conflicts the United States found itself in and efforts to make an honorable peace add additional context.

    Ian Toll has succeeded brilliantly in producing excellent "popular history" for readers and history buffs such as me. Six Frigates, along with being an excellent account the early years of our navy, is also invaluable as a resource of the lives and times of the era that will appeal to anybody with an interest in the history of the United States and the Age of Fighting Sail. To paraphrase a noted saying about real estate, the secret of Six Frigate's success is "Context, Context, Context."
    ...more info
  • The US Navy's beginnings
    'Six Frigates' is a great story of the beginning of the US Navy and the struggles that it had to endure. The book starts with the state of the country during the Revolutionary War and what was being used in terms of a naval force. As the country became independant, a fleet was needed to protect the growing commercial activites. Importing and exporting were a big part of the US economy.

    We see a young nation's leaders struggle with what the naval would be used for as well as consist of. Finally it was decided that six frigates would be built. This was a bold move, the frigates propsed were of a size that fell between the British frigates and their man of wars.

    The book gives a good view of the navy as it grew, was challenged, and how it succeeded. We were able to win victories over the all powerful British navy at a time whne Britain ruled the sea. The book takes the navy up to the War of 1812. I enjoyed the description of the battles that were fought, whether ship to ship or ship to shore....more info
  • A superb read!
    This book describes the beginnings of what is now the world's best and finest maritime force. Not just that, but there are brief descriptions of the political and social happenings that took place after the Revolution and the issues faced with a new country's leaders and allies. The narrative makes the book easy to understand and is very well-paced. Highly recommended....more info
  • Six Frigates
    A well written review of the politics[domestic and foreign], economics,and ship building concerns in the late 1700's and early 1800's. You can see that things have'nt changed much. Should appeal to both history and Naval enthusiasts. Only fault is the lack of maps/diagrams and a glossary....more info
  • 6 Frigates
    Excellent historical perspective of the US in its early history. Easy to read and kept my attention all the way through....more info
  • A feast for detail hounds
    This is an outstanding review of the colonial period through the War of 1812. Toll captures the characters, equipment and combat tactics used. However, what sets this book apart is both the detail deployed and the context provided. I found it helpful to have a page laying out basic sailing warship geography - for example, which sails were which - while reading, but this is a neglible concern for what is an engaging, lively account of a fascinating period. Recommended for those people who feast on detail, history, warships and strategy. I am looking forward to Mr Toll's next effort. ...more info
  • Interesting Popular History
    I've been studying the early American Navy off and on throughout my life and deeply for the last decade, so I might be a little jaundiced, but Six Frigates, though interesting and well-written, really doesn't break any new ground. I have nothing against the book, per se; it's the overly effusive reviews of others that lead me to offer a caution. All the information in this book has been available to those who would look for some time. Though fiction writers have made frigate actions the epitome of naval combat, there really was much more to the early American navy than these six ships. The capture of Derne that precipitated the end of the Tripoli campaign was successful due to the efforts of much smaller warships, brigs and schooners for the most part. Oliver Perry had only brigs, schooners and a sloop in his squadron when he defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Erie and helped secure the Old Northwest Territory for the American republic. The same holds true for Thomas Macdonough on Lake Champlain; and, as Henry Adams points out in his History of the Madison Administration, sloops of war probably caused the British more actual damage than the frigate actions, no matter how glorious they were. If you add the many actions by privateers you get a much better perspective on the extent of American success.
    I would urge readers of Six Frigates to delve deeper into the early history of the American Navy. I believe the book has a good bibliography; if so, it's a good place to start....more info
  • Six Frigates a real keeper
    "Six Frigates" is a real keeper. It will grace my bookcase for a long time. Being an engineer, I like the technical details of how something was built and of course, how it was used. "Six Frigates" contained just enough of the technical details to keep your interest. One of the interesting themes of the book is the way it relates to the present day situation in Iraq, and how history repeats itself. When will today's politicians learn? We can't keep paying tribute to the terrorists of the world. ...more info
  • Six Frigates
    A superbly written account of America's Federal Period, the years following the adoption of the Constitution in 1789, and the founding of the United States' Navy. Author Ian Toll's comprehensive and clear presentation of the political and economic issues of the time frames the story in a background makes it much more than a naval history. Meticulously researched and delivered with an atmospheric and captivating writing style that really brings the period to life. ...more info
  • Good but not definitive
    There is much about this book that I like. Its well written, holds the reader's interest, and moves right along. Toll does a good job with the back story - the personalities and various special interest groups that make up the American political scene during the days of the early republic. The background and story of the Quasi War with France is well presented. The naval part of the war with the Barbary States is likewise well presented (although the land campaign of William Eaton is hardly mentioned except in passing). When we get to the War of 1812 however, Toll begins to lose the thread. He does a good job presenting the famous single ship duels between the big American frigates and their Royal Navy counterparts but he fails to cover the actions of the smaller warships like USS Wasp, which was the victor in two single ship actions. He barely mentions the exciting career of USS Essex in the Pacific and finally fails to give the war on the lakes, which was argueably more inportant in a strategic sense than the actions of the frigates, more than a mention. I wanted very much to give this book four stars, its very engaging, but Toll fails to deliver the whole story. ...more info
  • Excellent!
    This is truly a must read. While I am not in the field of naval history, it is an area of keen interest for me. This book was very well written with the perfect balance of detail and prose; it provides all the benefits of a top shelf history text and all the entertainment of a good war novel. I couldn't put it down! ...more info
  • Wonderful story well told
    This was a wonderful story of an oft forgotten period in American history. It translated well to audio, and the audio quality was excellent. If you are a fan of American history, or naval history, or want to understand current world affairs in context this is a must have....more info
  • All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
    I have read other books about the specific frigates, namely the USS Constitution, but this was the first book that was a comprehensive history of all 6 ships and their various histories. As has been mentioned in other reviews the sea battles are described in detail. While the battles are interesting, it was also interesting to learn about all the politics that went on behind the scenes to get the ships designed, built and put to sea. The book also goes into the officers, and sailors, and politicians that would go on to define the US Navy.

    If you want to check out another book on the subject, A Most Fortunate Ship: A Narrative History of Old Ironsides, Revised Edition (Paperback)
    by Tyrone G. Martin (Author). ...more info
  • Absolutely An Epic
    Ian Toll's maiden publishing voyage is, quite simply, a masterpiece. He makes battle sequences come to life. You can smell the smoke and feel the rumble of the cannons firing from the tall ships. This deeply-researched work stands tall. We can't wait until Mr. Toll publishes his second book....more info
  • A valuable and facinating work
    I spent quite a bit of time with this book. It even rated the highlighter treatment, as I needed to remember ship and people names, dates and places in order to appreciate it fully. The maritime aspects of American history are particularly interesting to me, especially as I have grown to have a much better appreciation of such naval matters from reading the Patrick O'Brian series. Period books have given me a better feeling for early American politics and events of that era more generally (e.g., Joseph Ellis, Samuel Johnson ). This was perfect, coming at just the right moment.

    The story of those Frigates and those men is simply fascinating and totally inspiring. I can't recommend this enough to anyone interested in the founding of our country and in the culture of another time.

    ...more info
  • Outstanding Analysis/Best Since TR!
    Ian Toll's remarkably objective analysis of the Early Republic Navy gives him a position, to me, alongside Theodore Roosevelt. Anyone worth his naval salt will certainly understand that that is something not to be taken lightly. Those with more than a passing interest in the early U.S. Navy will know that Roosevelt's "The Naval War of 1812" is the outstanding, and standard, work of analysis of the sea actions on the subject, superseding anything published before, or since (and Roosevelt's compendium was released in 1882)--until now. The passage of time will demonstrate, I believe, that Ian Toll's book will assume a place alongside Roosevelt's classic and exceed it in some instances, not the least of which is the overall scope and dimension of "Six Frigates." While Roosevelt enthralls us with the details, maneuvers and minutiae of the 1812-1815 naval actions, both on the oceans and on the lakes, Toll goes several steps further and places the frigates' sea war in a national and even international context. He effectively does this by consolidating the kind of background information that both enhances and defines our understanding of such salient aspects of the times as the political implications of the 1812 war (and others), the often haphazard "catch-as-catch-can" administration of the Navy Department and something of the personalities, egos and the consequent squabbles that evolved from the inevitable conflicts of those egos among the firebrand captains of the early Navy. What makes Toll even more instructive is the "lead-up" to the 1812 war in which he demonstrates how the early Navy, featuring its original six frigates--Constitution, United States, President, Congress, Constellation, and the luckless Chesapeake--cut its teeth, politically through the Congressional debates over the actual need for a Navy, to an actual baptism of fire in the naval operations against the French in the 1798-1801 Quasi War (mostly in the Caribbean), and even more significantly, in the Mediterranean Barbary Wars of 1801-1805 and 1815. All of this is necessary context leading up to what, for me, is the "main event" of the period covered, that being the performance of the young Navy against the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Royal Navy. Mahan's work on the 1812-15 conflict over a century ago is valuable principally from the perceptions and analysis of the diplomatic context provided, while, as noted, Roosevelt concentrates mostly on the tactical details of individual battles. Toll effectively blends the best elements of each of these approaches, thus producing a volume that is highly satisfying to both the serious historian and researcher like myself, or the reader perhaps venturing into these waters for the first time. Finally, and of equal criticality, Toll both emulates and amplifies the hallmark of Roosevelt with the sheer weight of his objectivity, both in his analysis of, and his tactical descriptions of, the various battles. This objectivity, with the necessary accompanying detail, is found throughout the book, most particularly in Toll's analysis of Constitution's famous action with HMS Java, and the defeat of Chesapeake by HMS Shannon, my two favorite frigate actions of the war and, not coincidentally the two sea battles described in such impeccable style by Patrick O'Brian in "Fortune of War", the sixth book in the Aubrey-Maturin series. I am pleased to see that Mr. Toll takes equal delight in the writings of the late P.O'B, for O'Brian's fictional discussions of these two naval actions follows the strict letter of the manuscript records, logbooks, official reports of both the victors and the vanquished and the court martial testimony in both instances--all roads down which Toll has clearly, and extensively, traveled. I have studied virtually every printed account known to man of the famous actions of the Six Frigates and thought there was little else to learn. Toll, however, has managed to enlighten us yet further and has done so engagingly, compellingly, and with readable, intelligent prose that will ultimately place his work among the pantheon of learned works of the early American Navy. This is naval history at its best, supported with telling authority through immaculate documentation and annotation. This kind of careful research thus affords Six Frigates with the whiff of credibility comparable perhaps to the pungent whiff of gunpowder from the long 24s on the gundeck of Constitution in her epic duels with Guerriere, Java, Cyane and Levant....more info
  • Readible, incredibly well-researched.
    From his biography, Mr. Toll is neither a professional writer or a journalist. That has not kept him from writing a detailed and engaging book about the earliest days of the United States Navy, and the ships that served so well in the service of a nation. As a retired naval officer who has read my share of naval histories, it will be a long time before anyone tops Mr. Toll's research and presentation of this material.

    Just a good read....more info
  • Definitive
    Mr Toll's book closes a lot of gaps in the early history of the United States. In addition to his coverage of the US Navy in its infancy, Six Frigates goes a long way in explaining the underlying roots of the US economy and its foreign policy. I would not say revisonist is quite the treatment of the Adams' presidency, rather, Toll has taken an objective look at Adams, as well as Jefferson and Madison, without the subjective and trite explanations of the presidency's of each.
    The economic look is interesting as well. Prior naval histories may speak about the projection of power; Toll is as much concerned with what the US can do with that power. For example, what was the cost of having the Mediterranean closed by the Barbary States, what was the impact of privateers to English shipping?
    Well done. ...more info
  • Excellent history of the early history of the American Navy
    This is one of those books which is deceptive in its scope. The history of the early American Navy is fascinating in and of itself, and this book provides a wealth of historical anecdotes involving the Navy, political parties, and the various issues surrounding them.

    The United States didn't have a navy or an army after the American Revolution. Many of the Founding Fathers thought that a "standing" army or navy would be a drain on the Nation's tax revenue, a tool for a totalitarian takeover of the country's government, and a useless appendage that wouldn't be able to do anything the state militias couldn't. However, having taken this pacifist stand, the country almost immediately discovered that it was impracticable. Indians rampaged on the frontier, tax protesters rose in various parts of the country, and the Barbary Pirates and the French decided to capture American ships on the high seas, because there was no American Navy to stop them. The army quickly formed a regiment of troops and sent them to fight the Indians. Since there was no Navy, however, and founding one would take a bit more effort, some time was taken in the founding of it.

    The ensuing events make up the majority of this book. Everything involved in the incident, from Joshua Humphreys designing and building the large frigates, which were too large for any of the British Frigates to fight and fast enough for them to outrun the larger battleships in the British Navy, all the way around to the officering and manning of the ships and their subsequent use in the first three wars America fought after the Revolutionary War: the "Quasi-War" with France, the Barbary Pirates conflict, and the War of 1812. The three conflicts are covered, with those six frigates covered as they fight the enemies of the United States.

    This is one of those books that's so good it's a shame it ends. The author does a wonderful job of recounting every aspect of the fighting that's germane to his central theme, and he spends a lot of time dealing with the personalities and character of the various participants. As a result, the book reads very very well. I would recommend this book to almost everyone....more info
  • The early history of the United States from the Navy
    This book tries to seeks to cover three areas of American naval history in its earliest period. It covers the very beginning which includes the debates on whether or not to build vessels and what type they should be. This book seeks to tell an overview of the three parts of the story without going into exhausting detail on anyone part. The debates between the federalists and the republicans are legendary and while not captured fully here enough of the story is told. The second section is dedicated to the fighting on the shores of Tripoli. This tales covers the time from the destruction of the Philadelphia through the heroic efforts to keep the marauders at bay. The final section of the book is dedicated to the War of 1812 and truly shows how Jefferson's party had no idea what to do with a navy. Their ignorance was truly shocking and the war was misconduct from the start. The book reminds us of the victories that were occurring on the sea and make the War of 1812 a little less bleak. That being said we were hopelessly outmatched by British sea power and this book captures it well. Highly enjoyable read for those who want to see the early history of the United States from the perspective of the navy. This is a great addition to the literature. ...more info
  • good, but not great
    I was really looking forward to this book after all the great reviews, but to be honest, I was disappointed. The book had a hard time keeping on topic, and would wander off for 5-6 pages on topics that were barely related to the history of the U.S. Navy. It was if the author was really trying to tell a history of the United States, with naval history as his framework.

    The parts that were about the navy were well done, but the tons of filler pages about general history offered nothing new or of note. The work did cover the personalities of the navy's earliest commander very well, but the author did not seem to really understand sailing or the terminology of the time. When ever he talked about the details of the art of 1800 sailing, he seemed uncomfortable. I was hoping to find a fresh and exciting way to re-look at the founding of the U.S. Navy, but just found more of the same.
    ...more info
  • In the Beginning. . .
    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy I've read many books on the beginnings of the US Navy over the years and this is without a doubt the most detailed and amoung the very best I've read. I highly recommend it to all history buffs and Naval History Enthusiasts as well. The author does a fine job of character development and it is apparent that he has done a very thorough and extensive job of research. While this is no Sunday Afternoon page turner the action reports make the reader feel like he is right there and can almost smell the gunpowder. Bravo Ian Toll!
    JIM FLYNN...more info
  • Must Read for Anyone Interested in the History of the U.S. Navy or Early American Political History
    Ian Toll`s "Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy" is an outstanding overview of the early years of the U.S. Navy, focusing not only on the military history but, just as importantly and emphatically, on the political history and in-fighting behind the founding of the Navy.

    Toll uses the first six frigates commissioned by the U.S. Navy (the United States, Constellation, Constitution, Chesapeake, Congress, and President) as the thematic focus of his history of the early Navy. Explaining how important maritime trade was to the early Americans, Toll explains the political struggles waged by John Adams and others as they tried to justify funding an expensive navy by a country that was broke and by a government unsure of its role domestically and internationally. As part of this background, he presents very concise portraits of many of the Founding Fathers and showed where their theoretical disagreements on the role of the federal government impacted our early government's policies.

    Toll's historical narrative is excellent as well, and his excellent battle scenes are real page-turners. He gives excellent accounts of Adams' Quasi-War with France, the war against the Barbary States, and finally the War of 1812. He also personalizes the early Navy, giving excellent short biographical sketches of many of the founders of the Navy, such as William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur. And finally, he takes the reader on important detours, such as explaining the rash of honor duels in the early Navy and the social underpinnings behind this odd practice.

    As good as this book is, I still have a few criticism: 1) No maps, which is too often the case in military history books; 2) Although the author promised to use layman's terminology as much as possible, the nautical sections of the book still read more like a C.S. Forrester novel and would be a bit confusing for someone not familiar with the terminology of the age of sail; 3) Toll consistently refers to "ships-of-the-line" as "battleships" (while not entirely inaccurate, that is certainly not in the spirit of the age) and uses the incorrect term "calvary" for "cavalry" at least twice.

    This is an excellent book. Although he focuses a little too much on the six frigates and ignores other early U.S. Navy ships and actions (presumably for thematic unity), anyone looking for an engaging and easily readable history of the early U.S. Navy or early American political history should read this book.
    ...more info
  • In my top 50
    About two years ago I was talking with a friend about favorite books and at the end of that discussion, we agreed to make a list of our 50 favorite books and exchange the list. This was quite a challenge because I am an avid reader--non-fiction mostly--and have read many good ones. Since then I have read two books that have forced me to kick another two off my top 50. The first was River of Doubt by Candice Millard--the story of Teddy Roosevelt's trip down a tributary of the Amazon--and the second was Six Frigates. Not only is the latter great history of a little understood period, but a gripping story told with great skill by an author who has done a tremendous amount of research. At this time in our own history I am saddened by the revelations coming from the Wall Street crowd. Ian Toll, who is described as a Wall Street analyst, is an author emerging as a bright light in that den of thieves. He tells many poignant stories of the men who fought our nation's first sea battles and I am still agonizing over the fate of Stephen Decatur, a true American hero. ...more info
  • Wonderful.
    Even preceding the Constitution, nothing provoked more rancor among the colonists than the thought of a permanent Military. No on wanted it. Not only did it cost money, didn't we just fight a war against an imperial power that quartered its troops within our homes? If you wanted an argument, this topic was the shortest, most direct route. Jefferson, Madison and Monroe were fervent anti militarists.

    But in 1794 Washington signed legislation for the establishment of the US Army and Navy. If we were to be a nation among peers, a strong defense was necessary. For the Navy, the legislation authorized six frigates. Smaller than a battleship, larger than a sloop, this midsize craft represented a unique combination of power, speed and tactical versatility. In true democratic fashion the economic stimulus the federal employment would afford was spread around; the ships were built in six different seaports up and down the Atlantic Coast. As a result, while certainly similar, they were quite different and it is thanks to the competitive spirit between yards that one, the Constitution, survives today.

    These ships were the finest frigates afloat, significantly larger, faster and mounting more firepower than anything possessed by any other Navy in the world. This is the story of each of those ships, from their construction and launch, through the quasi war with France, to the Tripolitan wars, and the War of 1812. Congress spent its money well. These ships were the pride of the US Navy and delivered victory after victory, much to the embarrassment of the superior French and British Navies.

    As Ian Toll quotes in this amazingly good work, in the 1812 encounter between the USS Constitution and the HMS Guerriere, Henry Adams is to have said, "the engagement raised the United States in one half hour to the rank of a first class power in the world". The exact same comment could be made of the other five. Well researched and written, this work is a pleasure.
    ...more info
  • No maps or charts!
    This is a great book that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the beginnings of the Navy. There is only one major flaw with the book, and that is the total absence of any maps or charts, things that would greatly aid the reader in better understanding the battles and voyages of these ships. A glossary of ship terms would also have been nice to have....more info
  • A Brilliant History of Six American Frigates that Revolutionalized Naval Warfare!
    History - in the form of this tremendously well-written and interesting book - can provide us with unique insights into current American politics and the two-party struggle for the moral highground on the war in Iraq.

    Following the Treaty of Ghent, which brought an end to the Anglo-American War of 1812, Federalists attacked Republicans for having plunged the nation into an ill-conceived and costly war. One newspaper even printed the names of all the congressmen who had voted for the war in 1812, adding "they must stand condemned as weak, ignorant, and impolitic men."

    But it was not to be, for the American public was in no mood to be told that the war had been futile and unnecessary. "They much preferred the line offered by the Republicans - that Americans had prevailed in a great patriotic campaign," writes the author of "Six Frigates", Ian W. Toll.

    Opponents of the war were vilified for years afterward. Federalist candidates were routed in the elections of 1816 and the long Republic dynasty continued with the two-term election of President James Monroe.

    Toll has written a brilliant history of the founding of the United States Navy, focusing on the building of six frigates so unique in design that they almost revolutionalized naval warfare and played a major role in the American victory over the British in 1812. Two of those frigates, Constitution in Boston and Constellation in Baltimore are still in existence.

    But the real value of this book is Toll's analysis of how the two political parties in America struggled to shape their message at the conclusion of the war and sell that message to the American people....more info
  • Some things never change!
    An excellent account describing the birth of the U.S. Navy. This is a well told story that deserves the attention of those that never even set foot on a weather deck. The core of this historically accurate book explains a lot as to how, and why, the Navy exists at all...without the dreadful ramblings of typical history books.

    Especially interesting are the details regarding our founding fathers and the political forces at work during the country's infancy. Toll provides insight to the early Presidents and U.S. Political process, all in a context that may not have intended to be amusing, but when compared to today's political positioning one must chuckle at how the process has been preserved over the last some 200 years.

    Highly recommended....more info
  • Thoroughly enjoyed
    Excellent read. Author has the right touch when it comes to how much detail he adds. Very interesting to learn about the politics and the economics of our young country that lead to the continual funding/defunding of the first naval ships. Really well done descriptions of some of the naval engagements. Hard to imagine a time when England ruled the seas with 800 warships and we had ...none....more info
  • History Done Right
    I'll admit I have a soft spot for history and for tales from the age of sail, but this is a good as it gets. Rarely have I encountered a history as well written. Toll's mix of fact, riveting prose, and historical trivia make "Six Frigates" a real page turner - a true rarity even for those who love history. Although the Quasi War, the Barbary Coast conflicts, and the War of 1812 are the central events of the period, they're really more of a backdrop against which the histories of these six ships are told. The Congress, the Constellation, the President, the United States, the Chesapeake, and of course, the Constitution, are the characters, and "Six Frigates" is their biography. - Joe...more info
  • In the Naaavy....
    Excellent read for anyone interested in the birth and early evolution of the US Navy. Held my interest cover to cover....more info
  • Very good story but not such a good audio recording.
    The review concerns the audio recording. A very good story told in a recording that could have been done better. Ian Toll has written a very enjoyable and instructive account of the first six frigates built by the U.S. Navy. Laymen like myself with an interest in the Age of Sail, the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Pirates, and the War of 1812 should enjoy it. A nice book to listen to on your way to visit USS Constitution. Mr. Toll covers bits of the political background of events, snapshots of key figures, and recounts of many of the famous actions of these frigates. He says enough about each of those topics to be interesting and to keep the story going by quickly. It can be appreciated without constant reference to a map which is very nice since most of us purchase audio books for times during which reading is impractical. The reader speaks at a good speed and is clearly understandable although some of the early chapters are read in a monotonous tone. The audio recording leaves much to be desired, however. Most of us purchase audio books for times during which reading is impractical. So any issues with the recording tend to be quite a nuisance. Most of the chapters start in the middle of a track, making it clumsy to find a stopping and restarting point. The last track on each CD starts and runs for several minutes of nothing before finally switching to the next CD - it distracts you into doing something and then resumes the reading on the next CD just before you could do anything. The audio level is not consistent between many tracts, requiring frequent readjustment of the volume. The first audio book I purchased had at least two bad tracks on the second CD but it was exchanged for me with one that worked. It is a great story but don't expect the quality of its recording to match....more info
  • Fascinating History
    I'm a naval war buff, I'll admit. I was willing to be pleased by this book, and I was. Great information on the creation of our navy, the political fueding behind it, and the end result. Not only is it a great book to read for the fascinating description of the ships, but getting a glimpse at the political scene during the early decades of our navy and how it almost exactly mirrors our current situation. Well worth the money....more info
  • Proud history of the early US
    I thought this book was an enjoyable read, for several reasons.

    _ Toll describes how powerful and intimidating the British Navy was around 1812, and why (crew highly trained in fast gunnery, aggressive leadership). It's amazing to read how well the fledgling US navy did against them in early battles, and why (technical skill, training, audacity/bravery of leadership, innovative ship design).

    _ Toll does a good job describing how the upstart US nation was suffering from British naval impressment and barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, both of which gave rise to an interest in forming the US Navy.

    _ I didn't realize how strong the opposition was against raising and supporting a navy -- the Jeffersonian republicans wanted no part of it. Later, however, they decided that the US Navy had acquitted itself well and was worthy of continued support.

    _ The US shipbuilders, especially Joshua Humphreys, were innovative in the design of these unusually large frigates made with southern live oak, which was very strong. These frigates were built in different shipyards, and some handled better than others, but the concept was so successful that the British later imitated it.

    _ I typically think of army battles as the more horrific type of warfare. The accounts of the battles in this book show how gruesome and terrible naval battles can be.

    _ Theodore Roosevelt became fascinated with the history of the founding of the US Navy during his student days at Harvard; he even wrote a book about it. Later, as president, he convinced congress to invest heavily in expanding the navy.

    I've only scratched the surface of this book. It's full of great stories that link this topic, which at first seems such an obscure corner of history, with so many larger events in American history that followed. Great stuff....more info
  • Excellent read
    This book provides the reader with a very compelling and chronilogical account of the U.S. Navy from its inception. The author draws a thorough portrait of the issues involved with the building of our initial six frigates and the political and international environment surrounding the need for a deep water Navy, both for and against. Throughout, the book provides biographical data on the personalities involved both ashore and as ship masters while giving a detailed account of early naval actions from the revolution through the War of 1812. A must read for any naval enthusiast. ...more info