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Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea
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Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  170 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Five ships against hundreds—the fledgling American Navy versus the greatest naval force the world had ever seen…
America in 1775 was on the verge of revolution—or, more likely, disastrous defeat. After the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, England’s King George sent hundreds of ships westward to bottle up American harbors and prey on American shipping. Colonists had no f
Hardcover, 543 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by NAL
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Alex Miller
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Boy, this is a topic and an era that I have high interest in, and I was really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, although McGrath's research seems sound and exhaustive, his storytelling powers are lackluster, making this read very much like the proverbial history book. I couldn't finish it.
Big H
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Great historical facts, but SUPER dry.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A thorough and lively history of the Continental Navy. McGrath gives us a great portrait of a band of heroic sailors fighting against all odds against both the British navy and the ignorance of inept American political leaders. McGrath’s book is smoothly written, with a dry humor and an eye for detail that will make it appeal to a wide audience. We learn of the exploits of all the expected heroes, like John Paul Jones, John Barry, Richard Dale, Edward Preble, and a good number of lesser-known na ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
Boo! Sorry but if nothing lies like statistics, then the second caveat is no historian only tells one side of the story. I don't object to McGrath's research but his language which is so silly and hyperbolic that every English captain a condescending twit and every Loyalist a fool or a brigand. Sorry. Untrue. Yuck! As a better scholar once wrote, this was a "Cousin's War" and this sort of tomfoolery belongs in middle school story telling, not serious writing.
Mike Stewart
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Most histories of the American Revolution tend to begin and end with the Bonhomme Richard and neglect the exploits (and failures) of the Continental Navy. This book is a needed corrective. While interesting, the narrative lacks flow and is a little bit incoherent. The reader (at least this reader) has to keep looking back to keep the various captains straight and to remind himself what year events were taking place.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult work to judge, in that while possessing the bones of a history it often reads more as a collection of stories (which I suppose history always is). In telling the story of the Continental Navy during eight years of revolution, McGrath writes in a way that is very uneven in tempo. He will introduce a naval action, catch you up to speed on another ship or captain, and then return you to the initial action, though sometimes described after the fact. One can sympathize with McGrath’s requ ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This work follows the American colonies in their movement toward revolution against England and the creation of an American navy. It emphasis some of the early naval commanders and their ships. This is a good historical account of the early American navy.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Long and thorough; interesting but not hugely engaging. Well researched and clearly sourced but certainly narrative vice scholarly in tone and structure. Good but not great.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good history of the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. It's certainly dense, and at certain points I felt that I needed a map to keep track of everyone. I did enjoy it, though, and anyone who enjoys tales from the Age of Sail will enjoy it.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some historians (e.g., Ian Toll on page 15 of "Six Frigates") concluded that "The Continental Navy, with few exceptions, was a wasteful and humiliating fiasco." Tim McGrath in this book tells a more balanced and detailed history of the Continental Navy. To be sure, there were fiascoes like the British destroying a Continental squadron in the Penobscot River in what is now Maine. And many Continental ships were captured by the British. But there are many other sides of the story.

John Paul Jones'
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of naval warfare nonfiction and fiction. I have a special affinity for the American Revolution war against England and with France. I have just finished GIVE ME A FAST SHIP by TIM McGRATH (ISBN 978-0451416100, $26.95, hardcover). It was published the summer of 2014. This is non-fiction.

The author gives a blow by blow description of most of the major engagements between American and British warships. He describes the politics and economics of what was going on in England, France,
Chris Kostenko
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
We hear very little about the continental navy. We hear a lot about the British Navy, the best in the world, some say. The image of hundreds of ships at anchor in Sandy Hook is one I often think of relaxing at that beach.

The interesting thing is that the ships fought across the golbe: in the Caribbean, at the sugar plantations, in the North Atlantic, around Scotland, around Ireland, in Spanish ports, and in French ports (long before there was a specific alliance.

I knew about John Paul Jones, but
Anne Beardsley
If I hadn't read Six Frigates and known what a book about war at sea could be, I would have given this book four stars instead of three.

It was...good. But it takes more than 'good' to justify more than 600 pages. Mr. McGrath's knowledge is encyclopedic, and he does a really rather good job of writing in an interesting, engaging way.

But by 200 pages in I still hadn't met any characters I felt I would recognize if I met them at the supermarket. By the end of the book, only John Barry and John Paul
Mark Luongo
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Naval history readers
A very well researched book on the doings of the naval service during the American Revolution. Though the Navy as we know it was not "born" until 1794, the Continental Congress managed to put together a force that give the Royal Navy fits. Names like Barry, Barney, Hopkins, Dale, Parke, Conyngham, and of course Jones are all liberally sprinkled throughout the text. Sea fights involving vessels like Alliance, Ranger, Ariel, Bon Homme Richard, Lexington against the best of His Majesty's captains b ...more
Pierre Lauzon
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book that filled a great void in my knowledge of the American Revolution and the war at sea during the revolution. I had no idea how tenuous the revolution was and how close we came to losing. I also didn’t know about privateers, privately-owned ships that preyed on enemy merchant vessels and provided needed ammunition, gunpowder, and goods for the revolution.

The book discusses at length the captains and supporters of the Continental Navy. The book discusses Charles Biddle, Joshua Barney, J
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-school
If you are searching for a non-academic book about the biographical generalizations of the American navy, this is a great book. If you are looking for an academic book that has a thesis, supportive arguments, and doesn't stop short of answering a big question, this is not the book for you.

The research for this book is very in-depth and the whimsical storytelling is, well, just that, storytelling. McGrath is a fascinating narrator that fills in the black and white facts with colorful, yet questio
Martin Whatwouldthefoundersthink
Prodigious is the best word to describe Tim McGrath’s latest naval history. Give Me A Fast Ship tells the story of America’s Navy as it sprang into existence during the Revolutionary War. In an awesome undertaking, McGrath covers the careers of every captain in America’s nascent navy. One has only to peruse the bibliography to get a sense of McGrath’s accomplishment.

My complete review is on What Would The Founders Think?
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book, Granted this is a subject that interests me greatly. McGrath gives us a detailed account of who and what it took to start up and maintain the continental navy along with the Battles and exploits of her captains, the machinations of her opponents, villains and congress. I guess somethings never change.

Gustavus Conyngham the most successful captain of the war. Who has been all but forgotten by this nations history. A story of daring and exploits to match even hollywood wr
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
What John Paul Jones actually got was a slow tub. With it, though, he persevered to win the defining naval battle of the American Revolutionary War. McGrath describes the ups and downs of the U.S. continental navy beginning with fitting five merchant ships with guns. Later, keels were laid for larger ships but most never saw action. Two were burned soon after completion to prevent capture, others sunk or forfeited. Toward the end of the war only five vessels were serviceable. Fits and starts, de ...more
Charles Ames
Jul 26, 2014 rated it liked it
I had to look up a lot of the age-of-sail naval jargon ("wear ship!", "mizzen", ...) but once I did, a vivid and fascinating picture of what it was like to be in the Continental Navy began to emerge. McGrath describes key encounters, both military and political, in exhaustive detail, relating sea battles order-by-order and turn-by-turn, and quoting at length letters among congressmen, captains, and diplomats. Perpetually short of money, supplies, and men, US Navy sea captains operated like pirat ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
Tim McGrath's book Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea is a definitive history of the development of the American Navy during the Revolutionary War. I found it to be quite detailed, laborious, and dry, and my interest in the subject, while high, just wasn't enough to keep me interested. After getting just over 1/3 through this lengthy book, I got bored and put it aside, and just was reluctant to pick it back up. So after one year of looking at the book sitt ...more
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Exciting times during the American Revolution, regarding the new Navy and its inception. John Paul Jones was minimized as a American Hero as he stated "I have not begun to fight" as he outmaneuver his opponent. He then began to blast away relentlessly while receiving the same, only by the accurate firing of muskets of spar based Marines was he able to decimate the officers and men on the deck. This was the highlight of his career! But a vivid description of the Captains and their ships, travels, ...more
Scott Moreland
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. At times it can seem a little scattered jumping from one captain to another and seemingly mentioning every naval action in the war. That being said it gives such colorful and living descriptions of the men involved. And of course the naval battles and stratagems are where the book shines. Often it sounds more like a Hollywood movie than a history. Not without its flaws, but a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating read.
Adam Christian Smith
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wish this book were twice as long. Has one of the best descriptions of John Paul Jones exploits in the Bonhomme Richard! Romantic and grizzly at times, you'll laugh and pause at how poor & weak America was at our beginning. But not weak in desire or enough people who wanted freedom and liberty from King and religion.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
McGrath brings an insight into the berth of the Continental Navy and the colorful characters that sailed the ships, the families they left behind, and the intrigue of politics. Famous captains like John Paul Jones and John Barry are compared alongside lesser known men who helped the rebellious colonies succeed. Very good historical reading.
Michael Barker
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: navy, summer-of-2015
An excellent book about the trials and tribulations and occasional triumphs of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. McGrath wrote a first rate biography of Captain John Barry previously so I knew this would be an entertaining and fun read. I wasn't disappointed. If you have an interest in the American Revolution or the early navy this book is fld you.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I went into this hoping (against my better judgement) for tales of adventure and derring-do on the high seas. What I got instead was tales of ego, failure, and a government's total disregard for its fighting men, which was, in a grim way, much more compelling.
Eugene Procknow
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Excellent research and coverage of a previously neglected topic. Narrative is a little choppy. Could use more thesis development. Little summary conclusions. Also mor information on impact of the U.S. Navy versus Britain and privateers.
Feb 24, 2015 added it
Shelves: abandoned
I didn't like this book. It was boring; nothing insetting happened and the author gave too much information.
Melanie Downes
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting learning for the Navy Ships in the Revolutionary war.
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