THE PROUDEST DAY by Charles G. Muller


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Written by a professional magazine writer, this well documented but overlong book is the story of an overlooked American naval hero, Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, and his defeat of the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Champlain in the not very glorious War of 1812. Like too many amateur historians, the author discards straight historical narrative for the manufactured talk and thoughts of long dead men and women, but stripped of its padding of trite comments the tale is an authentic and exciting one. Macdonough, born in Delaware in 1783, joined the Navy as a boy and after serving in Tripoli was ordered, in October, 1812, to Vermont, to take command of the American naval forces on Lake Champlain. It was scarcely an easy assignment, for his superiors were jealous, the Vermonters, happily smuggling goods into Canada, were at first far from cooperative, and his ""navy"" consisted of two scows and six battered sloops. With a handful of men Macdonough rebuilt and manned his fleet, only to have it lured into a trap and almost destroyed by the British, who hoped to invade the States by way of the lake. Building more ships in a naval race with the enemy, on Sept. 11, 1814, Macdonough defeated a larger British force in one of the fiercest naval engagements in history and ended all threat of invasion from Canada. Heavily fictionalized but lacking the impact of such straight historical novels as Now We Are Enemies, this book should appeal more to youthful readers than to sophisticated adults or carping historians; by reason of its subject and its excellent notes and bibliography it should, however, find a place in American historical collections.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1960
Publisher: John Day