Book Review – Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron

March 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

war of 1812

In Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron, Dr. Ronald D. Utt has produced a magnificent 500 page tome that provides readers with a well-researched and highly readable account of the War of 1812 at sea. As Utt masterfully argues, the United States Navy truly came into its own during the War of 1812, a conflict that is undergoing a renaissance in the pop history circle as the bicentennial of the war began in 2012.

Although the US Navy fought several notable battles during the American Revolution, including John Paul Jones’ famous duel with HMS Serapis, these were primarily performed with foreign crews and former merchant vessels adapted for naval service. The War of 1812 was the first time that the fledgling US Navy faced a first world power in a declared war and its spectacular results allowed the Navy to create epic lore and traditions in only three years.

Utt skillfully guides the reader from the opening salvos of the war through the US Navy’s early single-ship victories over the vaunted Royal Navy to the two squadron level clashes on the Great Lakes, privateer derring-do against the British merchant marine, and the later and lesser known naval actions of the war. Readers will be unable to put down the book at certain points, especially when reading the chapters concerning privateering and some of the lesser known single-ship voyages against British merchant and warships. The heroic and honorable actions of officers and sailors from both sides will keep readers captivated with tales of a breed of gentlemen warriors whose time has long since passed.

Among the many strengths of Utt’s work is his organization of the book into chapters that take the reader from events at sea to land and then back to sea. In most cases, Utt keeps his narration of the land war to only a few pages in order to give readers an idea of how the sea war affected the land war and vice versa. At times the land war descriptions can grow a bit tedious as Utt jumps between the numerous Indian tribes, Americans, Brits, and Canadians who intermingled in the land conflict. For readers concerned more with the war at sea, the land warfare chapters are sometimes roadbumps in the greater storyline. This minor weakness, though, does not overshadow the overall excellence of Utt’s book.

Another strength is Utt’s strong documentation and endnotes – he has clearly worked to craft a book that is both historically accurate and accessible to the everyday reader. Overall, in Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron, Utt has created a fantastic piece that opens the naval battles of the War of 1812 to a wider audience.

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2 responses to Book Review – Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron

  1. 
    carl schumacherr March 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    So where do you think we are today with oddessy. Seems to me that they have a couple hundred million in assets not on the books. Relatively liquid assets in there ownership with chatham and and the under water venture they just sold part of for 15 million and none of this including the 15 mil is on the books at time of last earnings report that took for ever to release. A positive forward statement from the president could have launched this company again. Oh yes this does not include the potenial of this years recovery. Other question is how weark our the shorts. It appears that friday there was a rather large short covering after the close, whats wi

  2. 

    Thanks for your comment Carl. Subsequent to my Odyssey related blog posts and articles on Seeking Alpha, I was hired as Associate General Counsel at Odyssey and am not at liberty to discuss ongoing operations.

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