Mark Lardas,
Constitution vs Guerriere: Frigates during the War of 1812
(Osprey, 2009)

This book goes far beyond the scope of its title.

Mark Lardas, in Constitution vs Guerriere: Frigates during the War of 1812, looks past just the one sea battle. This slim book (just 80 pages, including the index) goes into a great deal of detail about the evolution of frigates and the state of the warships during the War of 1812, as well as the differences between American and British frigates. Lardas looks at the construction of the ships, their armaments, their crews and commanders. He provides biographical details on the men who led the ships.

But, when he gets to the meat of the actual conflict, he isn't satisfied simply with describing the strategies and outcomes in the battle between the American warhorse, USS Constitution, and HMS Guerriere. He also examines three additional ship-to-ship conflicts during that brief war: USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian, USS Constitution vs. HMS Java and USS Chesapeake vs. HMS Shannon. For each, he provides a wealth of information of the setup, tactics and resolution, with an analysis of the aftermath and even a "what if" scenario to determine if the Chesapeake had a chance of winning.

I have read numerous books -- fiction and nonfiction alike -- on the Age of Sail, but nothing has provided such a concise yet thorough explanation of the nuts and bolts of a naval battle in that era. For a brief dedication of time, I have gained a great deal of understanding.

This book is an excellent choice for anyone who loves wooden ships, tall sails and the roar of big guns at sea.

book review by
Tom Knapp

7 October 2017

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