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Maritime Maryland                    Inside the US Navy of 1812-1815

Cover Art: Inside the US Navy of
Inside the US Navy of 1812-1815
By William S. Dudley
Johns Hopkins University, 2021, ISBN 978-1-4214-4051-4, US $54.95

Near the end of this book, Dudley writes: “The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the importance of logistics for the US Navy in the War of 1812. Logistics were important in all the far-flung campaign areas, and it was as true for the British forces as it was for the American. Those in charge had to have a proper grasp of logistics in order for the navy’s operations to succeed. Logistics included all the elements of naval war except the fighting – administration, communications, finance, shipbuilding, acquisition of timber, hemp, and sailcloth, recruitment, training, supply (requisitions, provisions, and material), transportation, ordnance (guns, powder, related equipment), medical necessities, and competent leadership.” (290)

When President Madison declares war in June of 1812, the United States is ill prepared. Six months earlier, the US Navy numbered just over 7,000 men. Comparing the number of their ships with those of the enemy is akin to a goldfish confronting a whale. Dudley, by viewing the war through a different lens, masterfully succeeds in demonstrating how and why administration and logistics were so key. He draws on period documents, some of which are quoted within the text, to showcase how Paul Hamilton and William Jones, the two civilians who hold the post of Secretary of the Navy during this period, do their jobs without sufficient staff and with limited funds. The task before them isn’t easy and each has his own challenges to deal with, but in spite of some losses and failures, the US Navy holds its own against a battle-hardened, veteran maritime force. By the time war ends, more than 15,000 men serve and the navy is on a far better footing than when hostilities began.

Paul Hamilton is Madison’s first Secretary of the Navy, serving as such from March 1809 until the end of 1812. His background – serving in the Revolutionary War and South Carolina’s legislature, as well as being governor of that state, and his knowledge of finances and having congressional friends – provides administrative experience, but he lacks actual expertise in ships and sailing. William Jones, on the other hand, is a former privateer during America’s first war with Britain, has sailed to a number of foreign ports as captain of merchant ships, and personally knows officers who serve in the navy.

The book is divided into fifteen chapters that interweave the logistics and administration of the navy with what occurs in the war. What follows is a summary of what each chapter encompasses.

“The Resources for Naval War” discusses the infancy of the US Navy and the establishment of the Navy Department, its participation in the Quasi-War with France and war with Tripoli, initial aspects of logistics – navy yards, ships, personnel, pay, rations, and weaponry – and contentious encounters that are harbingers of the War of 1812 (the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair and the Little Best Incident).

Paul Hamilton’s tenure as Secretary of the Navy is the focus of chapter two. Aside from medical needs of the navy and Jefferson’s gunboats, Hamilton’s interactions with his staff and Congress, Isaac Chauncey’s command of the navy yard at Sackets Harbor, and naval patrols between June 1812 and April 1813, are explored.

“William Jones’s Challenge” shows how he is chosen to serve as the chief administrator of the Us Navy and how he reforms his department. One quandary he has to face is that of a second front. Not only do his ships and men sail the seas, they also have to fight on the Great Lakes, including participation in two joint amphibious operations (York and Niagara).

Oliver Hazard Perry, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the Lake Huron Expedition are the primary foci of chapter four. The logistics of manning the navy’s ships, competition with privateers, and where munitions are obtained in order to arm naval vessels are discussed in the fifth chapter.

“The British Blockade of 1813-1814” analyzes the enemy’s experience with and effect of blockading American seaports along the Atlantic coast. Additional topics include smuggling and the cruise and loss of the USS Essex.

Supplies, provisions, agents, pursers, and medical needs on ships at sea are spotlighted in chapter seven, while the subsequent chapter focuses on innovation and inventions, especially Robert Fulton and his experiments in undersea warfare.

“Chauncey’s War on Lake Ontario” returns to the Naval Base at Sackets Harbor and campaigns on the Great Lakes during 1814, as well as plans for continued fighting in the new year. Afterward, Thomas Macdonough’s activities on Lake Champlain, smuggling, and the two opposing naval forces are discussed in chapter ten.

The spotlight on the war moves from the Canadian theater to that of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington in chapter eleven. Primary emphasis is placed on Joshua Barney and the US Navy’s Chesapeake Flotilla, but the British invasion of Washington, the ransom of Alexandria, the successful defense of Baltimore, and the Royal Navy’s withdrawal are reviewed.

After the attacks on the nation’s capital and Baltimore, attention shifts to the southern seaports in chapter twelve. Particular attention is placed on Britain’s new objective – capturing New Orleans and controlling the Mississippi River – and the role the US Navy plays in protecting the area both before and during the Battle of New Orleans.

To better understand what it is like to serve on navy ships during this time period, “Sailors’ Life and Work” examines everyday life at sea, discipline and punishment, and casualties. Also covered are Blacks in the US Navy and what happens when sailors become prisoners of war.

The last two chapters – “War Finance and the Blockade” and “Renewal of the US Navy” – pertain to Albert Gallatin and the country’s war debts, the impact of the Royal Navy’s blockade, peace negotiations, Washington in the aftermath of the British invasion, William Jones’s legacy, demobilization, and the final naval engagements at sea.

Dudley includes illustrations, maps, and tables that help to put a human face on the US Navy in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Notes, which include full source citations, and an index complete the study. The only drawback in this addition to Johns Hopkins Books on the War of 1812 series, is the font; if it was larger or darker, it would cause readers less eye strain.

Inside the US Navy of 1812-1815 serves a vital function, illuminating an aspect of the war that is often glossed over in other studies. Dudley makes a compelling and engaging argument for the importance of administration and logistics, which, in turn, makes this book an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the second war between the United States and Great Britain.

Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Maritime Maryland
Maritime Maryland: A History
By William S. Dudley

Johns Hopkins University, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8018-9475-6, $50.00
Long associated with Maryland, Dudley provides readers with an encapsulated view of this state’s waterways and the events that have impacted her history and development. He opens with Captain John Smith’s discovery of Chesapeake Bay, then expounds on the colony’s founding after King Charles I provides a land grant to Cecil Calvert, the second Lord of Baltimore. He also discusses the founding of Fells Point and its importance to shipbuilding, as well as the various marine trades that became vital to the state’s maritime industry. In subsequent chapters he covers the first naval ships built here, as well as other important aspects of the American navy to Maryland’s development and protection, the privateers for which Baltimore became famous, the introduction of steam-powered vessels and the subsequent steam industry, and economic ups and downs of maritime commerce. Other chapters examine the marine life that provides income to the watermen who fish in Maryland waters, the steel industry, the decline of working sail, pleasure boating and racing, maritime archeology, cultural resources (museums, the USS Constellation, Pride of Baltimore, lighthouses), and the environmental impact on the Chesapeake and her tributaries.
The book concludes with chapter notes, a nautical glossary, an essay on sources, and an index. Although the first three chapters lack illustrations, they do accompany the rest of the narrative and color collection of them exists at the book’s center. The only drawback is the print size; it’s small and strains the eyes.
Maritime Maryland is a readable overview that serves as a good introduction to a vital part of this state’s history and commerce. It provides those who want to learn more with great starting places for further research. It is an important resource for any maritime collection, especially for those with special interests in Maryland and her contributions to history and the economy.

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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