GUNS OFF CAPE ANN by Kenneth Poolman


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The story of the sea fight between the two frigates, HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake, has become one of the famous near-legends of American naval history. In reexamining it, this British author does us useful service by retelling the story in a dispassionate and scholarly way, yet in a fashion that holds our attention from first to last. The War of 1812 had gone badly for the British, with the Guerriere and several other British ships vanquished by the fast, heavily gunned new American ships. To give England a victory, one of the leading captains, of the Royal Navy, Philip Broke, aboard the old Shannon, sought a fight. He got it, and from no less an officer than the famed James Lawrence of the U.S. Navy. How the two officers challenged each other to combat, how Broke made a careful and pragmatic psychological evaluation of his opponent, and how that evaluation helped him win the savage 15 minute battle at sea, make this tale far above the ordinary sea story. The terrible fight itself with men dying, cannons roaring, boarding parties struggling hand to hand, and Lawrence's immortal words of death, ""Don't give up the ship"", are equally fascinating. The author's conclusions---that Broke outsmarted Lawrence and that Lawrence made bad tactical decisions just before opening fire---are intelligently supported. An interesting aftermath is provided in the story of an American aboard the Chesapeake, whose court-martial for leaving his post was not rescinded until a final recent hearing under the Truman administration.

Publisher: Rand, McNally