Two centuries before the daring exploits of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders captured the public imagination, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were already engaged in similarly perilous missions: raiding pirate camps, attacking enemy ships in the dark of night, and striking enemy facilities and resources on shore. Even John Paul Jones, father of the American navy, saw such irregular operations as critical to naval warfare. With Jones’s own experience as a starting point, Benjamin Armstrong sets out to take irregular naval warfare out of the shadow of the blue-water battles that dominate naval history. This book, the first historical study of its kind, makes a compelling case for raiding and irregular naval warfare as key elements in the story of American sea power.
Beginning with the Continental Navy, Small Boats and Daring Men traces maritime missions through the wars of the early republic, from the coast of modern-day Libya to the rivers and inlets of the Chesapeake Bay. At the same time, Armstrong examines the era’s conflicts with nonstate enemies and threats to American peacetime interests along Pacific and Caribbean shores. Armstrong brings a uniquely informed perspective to his subject; and his work—with reference to original naval operational reports, sailors’ memoirs and diaries, and officers’ correspondence—is at once an exciting narrative of danger and combat at sea and a thoroughgoing analysis of how these events fit into concepts of American sea power.
Offering a critical new look at the naval history of the Early American era, this book also raises fundamental questions for naval strategy in the twenty-first century.
“Armstrong provides readers with an innovative history of a form of naval strategy often neglected by historians and strategists who focus on big fleets and guerre de course. His pioneering scholarship here is not just interesting naval history but enters into the realm of naval theory and strategy.”—John T. Kuehn, author of America’s First General Staff
“Armstrong takes the reader on an action-packed journey from the War for Independence to the decades immediately following the War of 1812. In retelling little-known stories of raids, ambushes, and explosive devices, he recasts the U.S. Navy’s early history. Small Boats and Daring Men brings irregular operations to the forefront of naval history.”—Kevin D. McCranie, author of Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies at Sea in the War of 1812
“In this provocative study, Benjamin Armstrong employs the concept of guerre de razzia in order to highlight the prevalence of American raiding operations during the Age of Sail. Through carefully chosen studies, he shows how U.S. Navy forces frequently employed what he calls “naval irregular warfare” to pursue national goals.” —Craig L. Symonds, Ernest J. King Professor, U.S. Naval War College and author of A Concise History of the U.S. Navy
“Those with a military mindset should enjoy the analysis of the strategic theory of guerre de razza. Historians of the navy, technology and early American diplomacy should also find something in the book to pique their interest. Maritime historians, in general, should find the topic enlightening. Academically, the book might be appealing as a text for an upper level or graduate course. Readers who like true adventure, and many of the raiding expeditions are, to say the least, adventurous, will be fascinated by the audaciousness of the mariners of yore in small boats. It would be nice if a book of this quality of scholarship obtained an audience beyond a naval/maritime readership.”—The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord
“Drawing on excellent research compiled from primary sources across the globe, including British, Canadian, and American archives, Armstrong has crafted a work which traces the daring raids of American sailors, marines, and citizens between 1775 and 1840…Armstrong expertly uses case studies to illustrate that technological advancement, civilian-military coordination, and diplomacy were all key elements of early American raiding. His background as a special forces officer gives added insight to his understanding of irregular warfare.”— Nautical Research Journal
“Armstrong’s book provides us an important analysis of naval irregular warfare from the Revolution to the period following the War of 1812. As the author maintains, there is still much work to place irregular operations into the mainstream to understand naval operational history. Even so, these eight case studies open the door for that future work and for understanding how those operations helped to create the modern U.S. Navy.”— U.S. Military History Review