Extraordinary maritime heroes of the late 18th and early 19th centuries stride across these pages - some, like Warren, Pellew, Cochrane and Collingwood, are still renowned; others are almost unknown today, yet their brilliant exploits deserve to be pulled from under the long shadow of the greatest naval figure of all, Horatio Nelson. The Royal Navy's struggle is set against the political backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and the sea war with America.
From the first British involvement in the French Revolution in 1793 to the end of the War of 1812, England's wooden walls fought off French, Danish, Dutch, Spanish, Turkish and American ships to maintain control of the seas and Britain's essential maritime trade. Rather than concentrate on all the big battles of the period, veteran British writer Richard Woodman, with both history and fictional sea tales to his credit, resuscitates now-forgotten ship captains and their quotidian gun duels with enemy ships in The Sea Warriors: The Fighting Captains and Their Ships in the Age of Nelson. Men like Edward Pellew, Thomas Cochrane and Josiah Willoughby contended with defective ships, bad crews, lack of good hygiene and food, and lack of support from their Royal Navy superiors. Press gangs and oftentimes harsh corporal punishment upped the stakes, and mutinies were fairly common. From Woodman's vivid account, it's not hard to see why.