Books on Napoleonic Naval Warfare

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Napoleonic Wars

The Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 4. Twenty one articles on Nelson’s Navy, with a focus on individuals who had some connection to Nelson (ranging from serving with him, to having seen him at a distance!), as well as articles on topics ranging from early North American ports to hot air balloons or the role of Women in London’s sailortown. Covers a wide range of people, from American privateers to the longest serving officer in the history of the Royal Navy (Read Full Review)
The Glorious First of June 1794, Mark Lardas. Looks at the first major naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars, the only major battle of the age of sail to be fought in the open ocean, and a battle that both sides believed they had won, each having different objectives for the campaigns. Combines a good account of the background and the wider campaign with a clear account of the three main days of fighting. Celebrated in Britain for the capture of several French warships and in France for the safe arrival of a massive convoy carrying essential supplies (Read Full Review)
The Two Battles of Copenhagen 1801 and 1807 - Britain and Denmark in the Napoleonic Wars, Gareth Glover. Looks at the entire relationship between Britain and Denmark during the Napoleonic Wars, a period which saw Denmark directly threatened by the French dominance of Germany, but also twice attacked by Britain over fears that she might have blocked British access to the Baltic, a source of important naval supplies. Covers those two attacks in the most detail, but also provides a good account of the rest of the period, the reasons for the two attacks, and their aftermath (Read Full Review)
The Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 2, ed. Peter Hore. Mainly built around a series of articles looking at the early history of the US Marine Corps and the Royal Marines in the period around the Napoleonic Wars. An interesting mix of articles, ranging from the American campaigns against the Barbary Pirates to the life of an officer stranded ashore in Dorset, taking in many of the major campaigns of the period, and in particular Trafalgar. Includes a splendid selection of illustrations, most memorably those produced by one naval officer to illustrate his career (Read Full Review)
The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age – Senior Service, 1800-1815, Mark Jessop. An unusual approach to naval history, with each chapter built around fictional individuals who experiences shine a light on a particular aspect of the war. Covers the period from 1801 to the end of the war, so including the piece of Amiens, the victory at Trafalgar and the long years of blockade that followed, with a focus on the impact of the war on Plymouth and what became Devonport (Read Full Review)
The Royal Navy 1793-1800 – Birth of a Superpower, Mark Jessop. An unusual approach to the history of the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary Wars, with each chapter starting with an account of the life of a semi-fictional character, tracing their experiences in key aspects of the war, before moving on to a more historical narrative.  Covers the main events of the war, including the early battles, the mutinies, and the various theatres of war, as well as the life of the normal sailor(Read Full Review)
Man of War - The Fighting Life of Admiral James Saumarez, Anthony Sullivan. An interesting biography of a less familiar senior British naval officer of the Napoleonic Wars, who served off the French coast and as a floating diplomatic in the Baltic, where he helped prevent an escalation of the war, as well as fighting at many of the major naval battles of the period and commanding at the two battles of Algerciras (Read Full Review)
A Social History of British Naval Officers 1775-1815, Evan Wilson. A different take on a familiar topic, uses a database of randomly selected commissioned and warrant officers to examine the overall experiences of the British naval officer during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and their place in Georgian society - who were they, where did they come from, what was the typical career for the different types of naval officers. Also examines how (and if) they qualified as 'gentlemen', a key element of social status in Georgian Britain [read full review]
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Hornblower's Historical Shipmates: The Young Gentlemen of Pellew's Indefatigable, Heather Noel-Smith and Lorna M. Campbell. Looks at the varied careers of the midshipmen who took part in Captain Sir Edward Pellow's victory over the French ship of the line Les Droits de L'Homme in 1797, providing us with an interesting cross section of naval biographies covering a group few of whom became famous during the Napoleonic Wars. Demonstrates the wide range of experiences available to Royal Naval officers in this period, as well as providing an interesting view of the character of Pellow [read full review]
French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861, Rif Winfield & Stephen S. Roberts . An impressive reference work covering the last major wars of the age of sail, the early years of steam power and the introduction of the Ironclad. Focuses on the design, construction and statistics of the warships, with a brief service history and a look at their fates (often to be captured by the Royal Navy in the earlier part of the book). [read full review]
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Feeding Nelson's Navy - The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era, Janet MacDonald. A splendid examination of the food eaten onboard British warships during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, looking at the food itself, the systems put in place to supply it, its quality, how it was cooked and how it was eaten. A very readable account of this important topic, while still including a look at the administrative background. [read full review]
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HMS Bellerophon, Colin Pengelly. . One of the earliest single-ship histories, originally published in 1966 and following the story of a ship of the line that fought at the Glorious First of June, the Battle of the Nile and at Trafalgar. Good on the battles, and provides a good cross section of naval warfare of the period, although in keeping with its original date shows less interest in the more routine elements of her service career. [read full review]
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The Sea Warriors, Richard Woodman. Looks at the exploits of frigates during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, mainly when they were operating away from the main battle fleets, a mix of long patient patrols and blockades and daring battles against similar forces and French bases around the world. An exciting account of this important aspect of naval warfare. [read full review]
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The Real Hornblower: The Life and Times of Admiral Sir James Gordon GCB, Bryan Perrett. Looks at the life and career of a possible inspiration for the career of Horatio Hornblower. Gordon is an interesting figure in his own right, fighting at Cape St. Vincent, under Nelson at the Nile, in the Adriatic, and taking part in the attacks on Washington and Baltimore in 1814 (helping to inspire the American National Anthem). This is a fascinating biography of a less well known British naval leader, and will also be of value to fans of Hornblower. [read full review]
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The Transformation of British Naval Strategy, James Davey. A serious academic study of the major British fleet that operated in the Baltic from 1808-1812 protecting a vital British trade route, the complex supply system that allowed it to stay on station for so long and the impact such a sizable effort had on the organisation of the British state. A valuable contribution to our understanding of the roots of Britain's naval dominance during the Napoleonic period. [read full review]
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Frigates, Sloops and Brigs, James Henderson. Originally published as two separate books, this single volume edition looks at the frigates and smaller ships that served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars. Tales of daring successes mix with stories of bold actions that ended in defeat to produce an picture of life and death in the small ships. [read full review]
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Young Nelsons - Boy Sailors during the Napoleonic Wars, D.A.B. Ronald. A fascinating book that looks at the boy sailors of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, casting an interesting light on a group of sailors who only otherwise seem to appear in early volumes of long running series of naval novels.

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The Line upon a Wind, Noel Mostert. This is an excellent account of the greatest naval war of the age of sail. Mostert covers a wider range of topics than most books on this subject, while always remaining readable. There is a good section on the rise of American naval power and the War of 1812 [see more]
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