GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SECRET NAVY: How the American Revolution Went to Sea

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GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SECRET NAVY: How the American Revolution Went to Sea By James L. Nelson 364 Pages, Illustrated, 7-in x 9-in, Hardback. ISBN: 0-07-149389-1-978 $26.95. McGraw Hill, (212) 904-5567; www.mcgraw-hill.com.

First gaining literary prominence with Benedict Arnold's Navy, writerhistorian Nelson (he's penned eleven novels) has now directed his investigative skills onto the most fascinating of all Revolutionary War leaders - America's first President, George Washington. Also the first commander-in-chief of the first American Army, George Washington was commited to the idea of civilian control of the armed forces. But when, in the Fall of 1775, he recognized the need for a Navy - a Navy he knew Congress would never approve - Washington ignored that commitment and created a Navy anyway. He just didn't bother mentioning it to Congress.

Detailing an important but littleknown event in American history, George Washington's secret Navy covers the dramatic early months of the American Revolution, when the British army was held hostage in Boston by an American force that was little more than a disorganized mob, with each side certain the other would attack, each certain that the other was far more powerful. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the delegates to the Continental Congress were trying to bring order to the chaos, and trying to decide if the country actually wanted the war that had spontaneously begun.

Into this confused situation rode Gen. George Washington, even then the most-famous soldier in America. But Washington had no experience in command of so large an Army. His fighting had been on the frontiers, fighting the French and Indians in the kind of forest combat which the Native Americans had perfected. He had little experience with the more traditional open-field, European-style combat. And he had no experience with the sea.

Washington began immediately to prepare his men and defenses for an attack by the well-trained British regulars in Boston. Slowly, as his army and fortifications came together, he realized that the British would not attack - and that if he wanted to drive them from Boston, he would have to lay siege to the city and starve them out. But every day he could see ships filled with provisions arriving in Boston's inner harbor. With the sea lanes open, there was no way the Americans could starve the British out of the city.

And then Washington, who had no interest, love or knowledge of Naval affairs, got an idea - a Naval force, patrolling the waters off Boston, could snatch up the heavy-laden merchant ships before they reached the city. …