THE COMMODORES by Len & Jay D. Smith Guttridge


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This plodding work logs the history of the U.S. Navy in its first decade, during which that infant force, handicapped by erratic officers, inadequate reserves of ships, and the indifference of an agrarian-dominated Congress, saw but limited action in the half-wars against the Barbary pirates and the British. While recording the occasional episodes of maritime grandeur and ineptitude, the authors sensibly focus on the contests with Congress and on the personalities of the senior captains, whose courtesy titles of ""Commodore"" were designed to pique jealousy and satisfy vanity. These hypersensitive rivals for glory spent much of their time promoting duels by slurring each others' patriotism and manhood. Injuries followed hard upon insults, with at least one tragic result: the death of Decatur, the redoubtable victor of Tripoli. Unfortunately, the authors do not convey either the facts or their excitements very well. Their descriptions are haunted by the stilted prose of 19th century naval records, to which they add their own ungrammatical contortions. (""The acidulous consul at Tunis ought to have directed some of his shafts at Daniel McNeil, about whose eccentricities the general silence suggests that they beggared comment."") Given the narrow range of the topic itself, the result is a leaden chronicle which drops anchor with a clunk. No sources listed.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 1969
Publisher: Harper & Row