Book review Book Review: "FLEET BATTLE AND BLOCKADE: The French Revolutionary War 1793-1797" by Robert Gardiner


Staff member
Dec 25, 2017

Vienna, Austria
Book Review:
"FLEET BATTLE AND BLOCKADE: The French Revolutionary War 1793-1797"
by Robert Gardiner

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  • Series: Caxton pictorial histories
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Caxton Editions (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.8 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds


Forgetting the setbacks of the American Revolutionary War, in 1973, the Royal Navy embarked on an almost unprecedented era of victories at sea, producing a considerable appetite for pictures of every incident, great or small. A thriving trade in prints and engravings grew up, supplemented by watercolours and oils by celebrated artists. Besides these 'public' works, many officers - and indeed members of the lower deck - kept personal journals and sketchbooks, illustrated with surprisingly accomplished drawings and watercolours, often depicting the everyday aspects of wartime life at sea that were ignored in the more celebratory artistic media. These sources form a rich vein that have been barely touched in previous publications, but which this book uses to full effect. Despite numerous defeats, the French navy continued to dispute command of the sea in the period 1793-1797, and the early years of the war abound with fleet engagements, including dramatic victories against the Spanish at St Vincent and the Dutch at Camperdown, between which the navy endured the shocking events of the Great Mutiny, potentially the most dangerous moment of the whole war.

This volume illustrating the great maritime events of the pre-photographics era from contemporary paintings, prints, drawings, charts and plans. Based on the incomparable collections of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, one of the world's greatest - and most under-used - visual resources in maritime history, the project has involved selecting from over 66,000 prints and drawings and over 100,000 plans and charts. The variety of the material - from political prints to the sketchbooks of the seamen themselves - is incredible, and the result is a sequence of volumes illustrating warships and naval warfare in rich and varied detail, with almost eyewitness drama and impact. Features include: a stunning collection of 300 contemporary images; many illustrations previously unpublished; chronologically structured by campaign and battle; introductory essays and thematic text boxes by well-known authorities; and an open-ended series designed to build into a visual library of naval history.

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The Contributors

The historical introductions are written by Nicholas Tracy, a recognized authority on naval strategy and tactics. A historian teaching at the University of New Brunswick, he is the author of a number of books.
Some of thematic text inserts were the work of Dr. Roger Morriss, who has just (at this time of publishing) from the National Maritime Museum to take up a full time career as a writer. He is best known for his study “The Royal Dockyards in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars”, but has recently completed a survey of british naval documents in North American archives.
David Lyon is another major contributor. He is well known author of the most comprehensive listing of british sailing warships, “The Sailing Navy List”.
Other text and captions were provided by the editorial team of Chatham Publishing under the editorship of Robert Gardiner, the author of number of works on sailing warships, and guiding hand behind the recently completed twelve-volume “History of the Ship”-series.

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The Nova Scotia Sound crisis 1789-1790

PART I: HOME WATERS 1793-1795 (page 14 to 57)
First Shots of the Naval War
The Low Countries 1793
Ships of the Royal Navy: the First Rate
The Glorious First of June: preliminary skirmishes
The Glorious First of June: the battle
A ship of the line in action
The Glorious First of June: aftermath
The Glorious First of June: the prizes
Dangers of the Sea: Fire
The Channel Fleet 1794-1795
Bridport´s action, 23 June 1795
The Channel Frigate Squadrons
Ships of the Royal Navy: the 18pdr frigate

PART II: WAR ON TRADE (page 58 to 85)
The West Indies 1793-1794
Commerce warfare in the West Indies
Capture of the Cape 1795
East Indies 1793-1796
London – commercial capital of the world
The West Indies 1795-1797
The cruise of a frigate

PART III: MEDITERRANEAN THEATRE 1793-1797 (page 86 to 137)
The naval officer duties and privileges
Occupation of Toulon
Political tangles
The original Martello tower
Evacuation of Toulon
Ships of the Royal Navy: fireships
The Corsican campaign 1794
Ships of the Royal Navy: flash-decked ship sloops
The Mediterranean Fleet under Hotham
Britain withdraws from the Mediterranean
Battle of Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797
Nelson´s Patent Bridge
The naval officer: recruitment and advancement
Blockade of Cadiz
Santa Cruz de Tenerife

PART IV: IRELAND AND THE CHANNEL 1795-1797 (page 138 to 184)
Close blockade
French Naval Bases: Brest
The Irish Guard
The naval officer: life at sea
Inshore warfare in the Channel
French Naval Bases: Cherbourg
Droits de l´Homme, 13-14 January 1797
The Black Legion invades Wales
Portsmouth – key to the Channel
The Great Mutinies of 1797
Dangers of the Sea: grounding
The North Sea Squadron
The Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797
Camperdown: end of the Battle
A global War

Postscript, Sources, Notes on Artists, Index

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Review / Comment:

A stunning collection of 300 contemporary images
Many illustrations previously unpublished
Chronologically structured by campaign and battle
Introductory essays and thematic text boxes by well-known authorities

Besides the campaigns, battles and sieges, the book also illustrates many significant background aspects of this time, in the form of thematic inserts on such subjects as the ship types, the weapons and the organisation involved. Well documented, very informative, not going too much in detail, but gives a very good overview.
A valuable contribution to the understanding of how the years at the end of the 18th century was seen at the time.
Most of the information you can find somewhere else, but here is is shown in a good compendium - Highly recommended!

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More Look Inside photos you can find in the following post