A history of how the American revolt of 1775 evolved into a worldwide conflict.
“Everyone knows that the first shot of this war was fired between soldiers on Lexington Common in 1775,” writes highly acclaimed British naval historian Willis (In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson, 2014, etc.), “but…the last was fired between warships at the battle of Cuddalore in the Bay of Bengal on 20 June 1783.” The author takes nearly 500 pages to describe all this, but that includes many little-known distant campaigns, and readers can expect a thoroughly satisfying experience. Willis emphasizes that the Continental Congress’ October 1775 resolution to create a navy marked the point of no return. Raising a militia was an ancient colonial right, so George Washington’s army was technically legal. Raising a navy, however, was unprecedented. The resulting ragtag fleet never challenged the British Royal Navy, but showing the flag in foreign ports proclaimed that the rebellion was a going concern—and needed help. These ships—and those of 12 naval colonies—moved troops and equipment and harassed the enemy, but privateers inflicted the greatest pain, capturing thousands of merchant vessels during the years of the conflict. It was France and its allies that turned the tide, and Willis delivers an expert account of how they made independence a reality, but at considerable sacrifice. Spectacularly incompetent in America, Britain performed well almost everywhere else. Peace left Britain minus the American Colonies but with impressive gains in India, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. France, on the other hand, was bankrupt.
A page-turner that delivers an eye-opening history of the American Revolution from a different perspective, as well as surprising details of what Willis maintains was the greatest war of the age of sail.