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Today's Best Military Writing: The Finest Articles on the Past, Present, and Future of the U. S. Military

Today's Best Military Writing: The Finest Articles on the Past, Present, and Future of the U. S. Military

by Walter J. Boyne (Editor)

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From various wars spanning two centuries to examinations of how our country's modern armed forces are coping with new threats that are more dangerous than anything they've faced before, these articles represent the best of the best; incisive, thoughtful, and probing opinions and information, written by the people who have lived and breathed the various topics and


From various wars spanning two centuries to examinations of how our country's modern armed forces are coping with new threats that are more dangerous than anything they've faced before, these articles represent the best of the best; incisive, thoughtful, and probing opinions and information, written by the people who have lived and breathed the various topics and civilians who have made it a lifelong endeavor to study our nation's military. Contributors include New York Times bestselling author Thomas Fleming, former Army War College professor and author Martin Blumenson, Gulf War veteran and chief of military history at the Center of Military History Brigadier General John S. Brown, and Commander Stephen Flynn of the US Coast Guard, the nation's leading expert on port and container security. Article subjects in this volume include:
*Smart weapons and hi-tech wars to come
*The role of United States Army Chaplains tending to German War Criminals during the Nuremberg Trials.
*A chillingly logical hypothesis that could be the next step in terrorism--mating cruise missiles with biological warfare.
*And much more

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Colonel Boyne's impressive compilation of the best military writing of the past five years reflects the wide range (and excellent quality) of writing on military topics. Boyne has clearly chosen his selections not only for the pleasure of their prose but also with an eye to educating readers about the most pressing military issues of our time. . . . The result is an absolute treasure trove.” —Publishers Weekly on Today's Best Military Writing
Library Journal
Retired air force officer and best-selling author Boyne (Dawn over Kitty Hawk) has assembled a varied collection of military writings published in the last five years. Particularly absorbing are historical pieces covering the naval interdiction of the African slave trade, the employment of artillery in the Indian Frontier Wars, the USS Hornet's Pacific campaigns, and a young infantry lieutenant's fight to the Yalu River during the Korean conflict. Readers interested in contemporary defense affairs will find highly appealing pieces covering homeland security, the bioweapons threat, and an analysis of recent operations in Afghanistan. Three articles relate only tangentially or not at all to the U.S. military, and several articles, such as the one on the origins and development of the F-15 Eagle, are so heavily peppered with military jargon that they won't have much appeal outside a limited audience. Nevertheless, the editor does succeed in showcasing worthy examples of the vibrant literature on military affairs currently flourishing in the United States. Recommended for military collections and larger public libraries. Edward J. Metz, USACGSC Combined Arms Research Lib., Ft. Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Today's Best Military Writing

The Finest Articles on the Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Military

By Walter J. Boyne

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2004 Walter J. Boyne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-0887-0



Lieutenant Andrew H. Foote and the African Slave Trade

On September 28, 1849, U.S. Secretary of the Navy William Ballard Preston ordered Lieutenant Andrew H. Foote to report to the Gosport Navy Yard and take command of the brig Perry, then fitting out for African service. Foote had twenty-seven years of naval service, the last nineteen as a lieutenant. Few had his experience at sea or his reputation for excellent seamanship.

The Perry was part of an international effort to suppress the slave trade. Britain had borne the brunt of this burden. In 1807 Britain abolished the slave trade, and at the end of the Napoleonic Wars London had employed part of its navy in the task of halting traffic in slaves. British warships stationed off the west coast of Africa stopped and inspected vessels suspected of being slavers. On capturing such vessels, the Royal Navy returned the slaves to Africa and brought the crews to trial.

Ownership of slaves was legal in the United States, and the country was one of the world's principal slave-owning nations, but on March 2, 1807, Congress banned the importation of slaves as of January 1, 1808. The law provided for forfeiture of vessels and their cargoes, with disposal of seized slaves left to the state in which the ships were condemned.

Congress strengthened this in an act in March 1819 that offered a $50 bounty to informers for every illegally imported slave seized on land or at sea. In May 1820 Congress empowered President James Monroe to return illegal slaves to Africa. At the same time it declared the foreign slave trade a form of piracy. In addition to the forfeiture of vessels previously authorized, it provided the death penalty for Americans caught in the slave trade, but few U.S. warships visited the African coast to enforce the ban.

In order to halt the slave trade, Secretary of the Navy Seth Thompson (1819–1823) directed that ships of the Mediterranean squadron returning to the United States travel via the African coast and the West Indies. This accomplished little, and in 1821 he ordered Lieutenant Commander Robert F. Stockton to cruise against the African slave trade in the schooner Alligator. Thompson also ordered Lieutenant Commander Matthew C. Perry in the schooner Shark to the Madeira and Cape Verde islands. These efforts were largely ineffectual.

Meanwhile, Royal Navy enforcement of anti-slaving measures was hindered not only by the failure of the U.S. Navy to provide significant naval strength off Africa but because, although most other nations had granted permission to the British to search vessels flying their flags, the United States steadfastly refused. This was the consequence of the long and painful history of British searches of U.S. ships and impressment of seamen, one of the major causes of the War of 1812. Indeed, while eschewing it in practice, the Royal Navy had never abandoned the principle of impressment.

Even as strong an anti-slavery advocate as Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (1817–1825) opposed granting the Royal Navy the right to search American ships. When British Foreign Secretary George Canning asked if there was anything more evil than the slave trade, Adams said, "Yes, admitting the right of search by foreign officers of our vessels upon the seas in time of peace, for that would be making slaves of ourselves." Strong Southern political pressure also worked against enforcement.

Such sentiment manifested itself in declining Congressional appropriations for suppression of the slave trade. In 1819 Congress authorized $100,000 for this work, but this shrank to $50,000 in 1823 and to only $7,433.37 in 1839.

As a consequence, most of the African slave trade was carried on in American-built vessels flying the Stars and Stripes. Swift American slave clippers immune from British search crowded the slave ports of Rio de Janeiro and Havana. Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian ships would often sail from Cuba or Brazil with false papers and an American on board who could pose as her captain if the ship were stopped by a Royal Navy vessel. By the early 1840s the situation was so bad that the governor of Liberia, Thomas Buchanan, claimed that the American flag was the chief obstacle to ending the slave trade. In 1844 the American minister to Brazil reported:

I regret to say this, but it is a fact not to be disguised or denied that the slave-trade is almost entirely carried on under our flag in American-built vessels, sold to slavers here, chartered for the coast of Africa, and these sold, or sold here — delivered on the coast. And, indeed, the scandalous traffic could not be carried on to any great extent were it not for the use made of our flag, and the facilities given for the chartering of American vessels to carry to the coast of Africa the outfit for the trade and the material for purchasing slaves.

Such activity could be very lucrative. On her very first voyage the fast Baltimore-built Venus, which had cost $30,000, transported eight hundred slaves. They were then sold at a net profit of some $300 apiece, eight times the purchase price of the ship.

Mounting public pressure over the slave trade led President Martin Van Buren in 1838 to order that the U.S. Navy again patrol the West African coast. Although Secretary of the Navy James F. Paulding sent a number of small fast vessels there, little was accomplished in actually halting the traffic in slaves.

In 1841 tensions over the stopping of American ships by Royal Navy cruisers led President John Tyler to declare in a speech to Congress that he recognized no difference between the rights of visit and search, and that if the British detained ships that turned out to be bonafide American they would be liable for damages. London, however, continued to press the United States to give up its ban on Royal Navy searches or to send a sufficient number of vessels to the African coast to investigate suspected slavers flying the American flag. Finally, the August 9, 1842, Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which also settled the long-running boundary dispute between the United States and Canada, provided for the maintenance of joint British-American squadrons to suppress the slave trade along the African coast. Each power committed itself to maintaining an African squadron mounting at least eighty guns. While the two squadrons would operate independently, they were to coordinate their actions to secure maximum effectiveness.

As a consequence of this agreement, in 1843 Congress provided funding for a much larger African squadron, initially commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry. His orders were to protect American commerce and suppress the slave trade carried out by Americans or under the U.S. flag. The same orders reminded Perry that Washington did not recognize the right of any other nation (i.e., Britain) to visit or detain vessels belonging to American citizens.

Foote's Perry was to join the African Squadron in 1849, commanded by Commodore Francis H. Gregory. It numbered five vessels mounting a total of seventy-eight guns, actually under the Webster-Ashburton Treaty minimum. The squadron had an immense area to patrol, from westernmost Africa at Cape Verde in Senegal to Cape Frio in southern Angola.

Given the paucity of its resources on station and the vast distances and problems involved, it is hardly surprising that the U.S. African Squadron took few slavers. By 1847 as many as 100,000 slaves a year were being shipped to the New World.

While he was pleased to have his first command afloat and to be reunited with Gregory, who had been his first commanding officer, Foote was not excited about the prospects of African service. He even wrote to influential friends in Washington to try to get his orders changed to the Mediterranean Squadron. This was unsuccessful, and, as it turned out, Africa was an ideal assignment for the highly principled and staunchly Christian Foote.

Foote knew the difficulties of African service. From any creek or estuary along five thousand miles of coastline slave ships might be loading their cargoes. Most slavers were fast sailing vessels, difficult to catch, and the West African coast was wild and inhospitable. Long known as the "white man's grave," it had fewer than one thousand whites, the vast majority of whom were traders restricted to the few coastal settlements. Searing heat alternated with torrential rains, ports of call were few, and crews ran the risk of contracting exotic diseases while in open boats on patrol. As one naval historian has put it, "Hard work, yellow fever, frustration and adverse criticism were the usual rewards for African service."

The Perry, rated at ten guns, had been built at the Norfolk Navy Yard and placed in service in October 1843. At 280 tons she was one of the faster vessels in the U.S. Navy. In and out of service throughout her life as a U.S. warship, she had already cruised off Africa. Armed with two 32-pounder long guns and six 32-pounder carronades, she had a crew of half a dozen officers and eighty seamen and Marines.

The Perry sailed from Hampton Roads on November 27. Foote, who was one of the foremost advocates of naval temperance, was pleased that he had been able to get all crew members to sign the temperance pledge before sailing. The Perry made a fast crossing of the Atlantic without incident, although rough weather caused most of the officers and men to be seasick. The Perry joined the rest of the squadron at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands on December 21. After reporting to Gregory in the Portsmouth, Foote oversaw preparing his ship for cruising off Africa.

In early January 1850 British authorities at Porto Praya informed Commodore Gregory that American slavers were active along the coast south of the equator. This was below the normal American cruising area, and no U.S. warship had been in the area for three years. Foote and Gregory agreed that the Perry would spend at least five months off the coast and cruise as far south as 13° latitude. Foote's instructions called on him to intercept American slavers while protecting lawful U.S. vessels from search by other nations, to examine principal slave trading points below the equator, to cooperate with the Royal Navy where possible, to exercise his own judgment in other matters, and to be certain to look to the health of his crew.

Foote was not optimistic, given his own rather precarious health and because he judged his ship poorly equipped for such a cruise. He had also discovered that his master and midshipmen were poor navigators and this forced him to take his own reckonings, which severely taxed his eyes, with which he had serious problems as a consequence of earlier service in the Mediterranean. Despite these difficulties Foote wrote that he hoped the cruise would be a chance for him to do humanity's work as well to "obtain a name" for himself.

The Perry departed the Cape Verde Islands on January 9, 1850. Ten days later she arrived at Monrovia, Liberia, to take on provisions for the long trip south. Foote was also able to secure additional supplies from the sloop Yorktown, which was at Monrovia when she arrived.

Founded in 1821 by the American Colonization Society with the aim of resettling blacks in Africa, the Republic of Liberia in 1850 was led by capable Virginia octoroon President Joseph J. Roberts. Foote arranged an exchange of visits, and when Roberts came aboard the Perry he welcomed him with a 21-gun salute. Monrovia's population was then two thousand and Foote was much impressed by what he saw there. Later he urged U.S. diplomatic recognition of Liberia and became an energetic supporter of the American Colonization Society. Convinced of the higher value of western civilization, and that whites had a duty to guide and uplift blacks, Foote saw that opportunity in Liberia, which offered the "freedom and incentives to higher motives of action ... conducive to virtue." Christian missionaries could help by spreading the Gospel and introducing public education. Foote's visit to Monrovia was influential in shaping his attitude toward blacks, and he believed that, despite having begun their lives in bondage, blacks had "capacity beyond what we are inclined to admit."

After her brief stop at Monrovia the Perry sailed south. She reached St. Philip de Benguela, the southernmost point of her sailing station, forty-one days later, on March 7. During the passage the Americans stopped and boarded three vessels, all found to be legal traders.

Foote's health had now worsened. In addition to problems with his eyesight, he developed headaches and lumbago and often was unable to leave his bed.

He was also having problems with several of his officers, most notably First Lieutenant William B. Renshaw. Although Foote was not opposed to corporal punishment, he preferred to influence the crew through example and religious instruction, and Renshaw and others disagreed with this approach. Foote wrote in his journal on January 29, "I am determined however to carry out my own system wherever I do command."

Foote was handicapped in his operations because St. Philip de Benguela was hopelessly removed from Porto Praya. Counting the stop at Monrovia, it took the Perry two months to reach there. The distances involved left little time on station before the brig would run short of water and provisions and have to return to Porto Praya. In a report to the Navy Department he argued unsuccessfully for a more southernly base closer to the center of slave trading activities.

On arriving off the Portuguese settlement of St. Paul de Loanda, Foote learned that American merchants were conducting a growing trade in the region in dye-stuffs, gums and palm oil. This American financial stake was actually greater than that of the British, French, or Portuguese, all of whom had squadrons along the southern African coast and consuls to protect their interests.

Foote wrote to the Navy Department to recommend that the United States establish a permanent African coastal presence both in "one or two men of war" and diplomatic personnel. He also spelled out how slave running was being conducted in ships with two sets of papers, one American and the other Brazilian. The ship would originally have been American, sold in Latin America but retaining her original papers. She would sail to Africa with an American captain and crew and legitimate cargo. There the identity would change. Usually a Portuguese or Brazilian captain and crew would come on board along with the cargo of slaves. The ship would then sail with the American papers, which could be presented if stopped. If in the rare chance that a slaver was stopped by a U.S. warship, her captain would show the legitimate foreign registration.

Although Foote publicly expressed his approval of the U.S. stance on refusing British captains the right to search American flag ships, in private he was troubled by it, especially when he learned the way slavers were using the American flag, as in the case of the barque Navarre, boarded by H.M.S. Firefly on March 19 "when under American colors, and captured under Brazilian colors." He believed that his government's approach had put the country "on the side of the slave traders."

British captains were glad to have a U.S. warship in the area and they approached Foote about cruising with them. He agreed, and the Perry soon headed for the area around Ambriz, a notorious slave port, there to patrol with several British warships. Most of the time the Perry operated with the steam frigate H.M.S. Cyclops, commanded by Captain George F. Hastings. Foote stopped and checked all ships flying the U.S. flag and used his boats in shore to search for slavers and slave collection points. The boats were on occasion away for a week or more.


Excerpted from Today's Best Military Writing by Walter J. Boyne. Copyright © 2004 Walter J. Boyne. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

WALTER J. BOYNE is the former director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, he retired in 1986 to pursue a career as a novelist and consultant. He is one of a select few authors whose books have made both the fiction and the nonfiction bestseller lists of The New York Times. His recent books include Dawn Over Kitty Hawk and Operation Iraqi Freedom: What Went Right, What Went Wrong, and Why. Walter J. Boyne lives in Ashburn, Virginia.

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