War of 1812 Naval accounts

   Posted by: rring   in Students

[Posted by Taylor Wikins (’14), a student in Zak Sitter’s English course, “1816: A Romantic Microcosm”]

The Naval Monument, containing official and other accounts of all the battles fought between the Navies of the United States and Great Britain was written by Abel Bowen and published by George Clark in 1836 in Boston, Massachusetts.  This work is a direct account for all reports between the United States and Great Britain navy during the War of 1812.  Its written by a publisher, engraver and author named Abel Bowen who lacks the military experience one would need to write a military work.  As I read these accounts, a question continued to arise in my mind, how could an author publish and write a work of which he had no previous experience in the field?  It made little sense to me but being that the work had little to no narrative made me understand the circumstances more.

In the beginning of the work, we are given a preface that in my opinion was an unrealistic view into the lives of the soldiers in the Navy.  Bowen portrays the Navy in a very idealistic way, which differed greatly from the rest of the text. Following the preface the naval monument begins with direct accounts between officers in both the United States and Great Britain navies. These accounts include conversations about different tactics that the naval army would participate in, live accounts of battles with the British and conversations between captains.  These reports gave the audience a chance to truly connect with the soldiers who were in battle.  In addition to the United States accounts, the book contains some reports from the British naval force. These British reports differ greatly from the US reports in that they were increasingly emotional and formal.  The US accounts were more realistic and genuine, giving its audience a first person perspective.

The book itself was very fragile and brittle when I first looked at it in the Watkinson.  The cover of the book was a simple brown face with no text on it, the spine of the book looked like the spine of an encyclopedia.  Covered with fine gold designs and text that stated the title and publication date of the work.  The pages of the book were damaged and stained to a point where some were falling out of the book, causing me to read it with great care.  Inside the book contained many pictures of the various boats used in naval battles during 1812-1815.  It was interesting to see a visual of some of the boats and scenes of battles in this work.

This book became of particular interest to me because I was drawn to the detailed description of the battles.  I found it interesting that these accounts were recorded almost down to the minute.  There were many instances where this work would take the reader from a scene on a boat involving gunfire to then figuring out how to resolve the situation.  This text was enticing to read while also being able to get an inner look at naval life in war during 1812.

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