Reviews: Books


Every Man Will Do His Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts From the Age of Nelson, 1793-1815

King, Dean (author) and John B. Hattendorf (editor). Every Man Will Do His Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts From the Age of Nelson, 1793-1815. New York: Henry Holt, 1997. 448 pages. ISBN# 0805046089. $27.50. Hardcover.

Every Man Will Do His Duty cover

'Odds, Bobs, Hammer and Tongs'

This is an excellent volume full of interesting and varied primary source material on the wars at sea during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It is lively, accurate, entertaining, and one of the best books of this type this reviewer has ever read. It is a good companion volume to Robert Gardiner's books, and it covers material never before seen together or in one volume.

The book is organized in four parts: The War of the French Revolution, Peace, The Napoleonic War, and The Napoleonic War, continued, and the War of 1812. Titles of each chapter are somewhat imaginative, from the simple 'The Fortune of War,' describing an action in the Bay of Bengal, witnessed by a captured merchant captain, through solemn 'For the Good of My Own Soul, 1795' talking of the press, and 'The Woodwind is Mightier than the Sword,' which tells of the adventures of an American sailor, to 'Damn 'em Jackson, They've Spoilt My Dancing,' and the stories of a captured British officer.

Interestingly, the War of 1812 is not forgotten this time. The story of the fight between HMS Macedonian and the USS United States is very well done, told by one of the enlisted crew of the Macedonian. There are two chapters devoted to the adventures of the USS Essex in the Pacific, from her rampaging through the British whaling fleet to her defeat and capture by HMS Phoebe and her consort. The Glorious First of June and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent are both here, but not Trafalgar, although there is a chapter concerning Nelson. This is taken from 'Nelson at Bastia.'

This superb volume tells of great deeds and minor scuffles from actions and adventures around the world. It is a definite 'must' for all naval enthusiasts of the period and it is one of the best books that has been produced on this fascinating subject. Full of true high adventure, important information, fascinating anecdotes, and high deeds, it is a volume that can either stand on its own or be used solely as reference material.

Reviewed by Kevin Kiley
7/00

 

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