Today I started my 'early US naval history' reading with 'The USS Essex: And the Birth of the American Navy', an examination of the career of an early frigate, one launched by the citizens of a certain Salem, Massachusetts by public subscription during the Quasi-War. The Essex was involved in many of the key actions fought by the US Navy at the start of the 19th century, but this is hardly surprising given the small size of the navy in those years; it constantly danced on the verge of being abolished entirely due to Gallatin's cost-cutting measures, and at one point fell as low as six ships.
The book is an interesting look at events such as the Quasi-War, the Tripolitarian War and the War of 1812; the frigate's greatest days took place during this period, when it took the first British prize in the war before heading to the Pacific, in a bid to support Chilean rebels and to most importantly, take on the British Pacific whaling fleet; wiping out this key economic asset would be a significant boost in damaging the British economy. The US was never going to defeat the Royal Navy at sea, the disparity in ship strength was too great, but it could fight a successful raiding war.
Captain David Porter, the commander of Essex, did a job that was both extremely successful yet incomplete; successful in that he captured numerous prizes, incomplete in that he captured them rather than destroying them. Instead, he hoped to sell them as prizes, but found no buyers – which meant that they were mostly recaptured by the British. What could have been a critical success was still a triumph...but given that the British got their ships back, it could have been greater. Further, Essex would be captured at the Battle of Valparaiso by British vessels, and would end its days as a prison barge owned by the British. A sad end for a proud ship.
The book was excellent, and for a quick introduction to the formation of the US Navy and a look at some of the early conflicts, I can recommend it, and personally I found especially the attacks on the British whaling fleet to be a great source of potential inspiration for the Triplanetary setting – lots of possible story material here. A well written book, and at present fairly inexpensive, and a good look at one of the 'second tranche' of frigates constructed; Essex was not one of the original 'Six Frigates' but was constructed at the height of national outcry over the Quasi-War.
As today's nugget of the Triplanetary Setting...
Operational History: Battlecruiser Alamo (As of 'Price of Admiralty')
2144: Appropriations authorised by United Nations Office of Space Exploration.
2146: Construction commenced, Carter Station, Callisto.
2148: Construction halted, ship placed in mothballs.
2149: Seized by Provisional Government of Callisto.
2149: Provisional Naval Committee elects to complete ship as battlecruiser.
2150: Ship launched, proving flight. (Flight Commander Zaikin)
2151: Jovian Trojan Patrol, mining convoy duty. (Flight Commander Yorkina)
2153: Proxima Station, mining convoy duty. (Squadron Commander Zaikin)
2154: Sirius Station, convoy raiding. (Flight Commander Senkevich)
2155: Carter Station, repair and reconditioning. (Senior Flight Officer Pelcak)
2155: Jovian Trojan Patrol, mining convoy duty. (Squadron Commander Malerba)
2156: Proxima Station, convoy raiding. (Flight Commander Fisher)
2158: Carter Station, repair and reconditioning. (Flight Commander Pelcak)
2160: Proxima Station, mining convoy duty. (Flight Commander Kaleri)
2162: Barnard Station, mining convoy duty. (Flight Commander Zubinsky)
2164: Neptune Trojans, mineralogical survey. (Flight Commander Zubinsky)
2165: Deep Space Fleet, rapid response duty. (Lieutenant-Captain Marshall)