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Book Review
American Revolutionary Navy
Osprey New Vanguard 161 Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy
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by: Scott Espin [ SPIFF ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

The Book

“Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy” written by Mark Lardas and Illustrated by Tony Bryan is book #161 of Osprey’s New Vanguard Series. It consists of 48 pages and is in their typical format - softbound, many color pages and a glossy cover with beautiful artwork.

The topics covered are listed in the table of contents:

• Introduction
• Design and Development
- Shipbuilding in America
- Foreign Trends
- Purchased Ships
- The 13 Frigates
- Ships Authorized in 1776 and 1777
• Operational History
- Building a Navy
- Early Years
- The French Alliance
- Aftermath
• The Ships
- Sloops-of-War
- Frigates
- Ships-of-the-Line
• Glossary

All throughout the book are color and black and white copies of paintings and drawings, many from the original time period. There are color profiles for the Hancock and the Confederacy, a page devoted to color drawings of the flags and various weapons used by the sailors on these ships. There are pictures of wooden models which are a nice addition to the book especially considering that these ships existed long before photography was around and that is about as close as we’re going to come to seeing what they really looked like. Typical configurations for various ship classes are discussed along with the types and quantities of guns used in these ships.

The book is well written with only a couple of minor typos/errors. Being a relatively new student to the study of the sailing era I really appreciated having the glossary in the back of the book to help with terminology. I was equally happy to see the cutaway profile of the Bonhomme Richard to help with understanding the design and layout of a typical ship from that era. I was disappointed, however, to find that there are some mix-ups in the labeling of several key components and areas of the ship. For example, item 6 “Gangway” is pointing to the mainmast, item 11 “8-pound gun” is pointing to the Mizzenmast, item 12 “Mizzenmast” is pointing to the 8-pound gun, and there are several other similar mistakes. Those errors are pretty obvious and you should be able to figure out what is what, however somebody clearly dropped the ball on this one - those kinds of mistakes should not have been allowed to make it to the final published work.

The book begins with the discussion of shipbuilding capabilities in America, and their preference for fast ships. After the Revolution each of the colonies purchased ships, including merchant ships, which were then armed and put into naval service. The book goes into detail on the construction of the initial 13 frigates as well as the additional ships later authorized by the Continental Congress.

The book goes into the operational history of the American Revolutionary Navy and covers all the major engagements and activities. Once France entered the war, they provided such extensive naval assistance that it negated the need for America to maintain its own navy. Important Naval engagements are covered and the stories of important individuals like John Paul Jones are told and woven into the history of the engagements.

The individual ships are covered in some detail. Important statistics are provided for each ship including key dates, dimensions, crew complement and armament. Each ship’s story is told along with the personalities involved on each and the final disposition of each ship at the end of its service.


This is a great introduction to the history of the American Revolutionary Navy and lays down a great foundation for the subject. There is extensive information on the various ship types of the era, the challenges facing the Revolutionary navy, the personalities involved and the stories of the ships, people and the engagements.
Highs: Nice artwork, drawings, images and info on the ships and personalities.
Lows: Could use a few more profiles, labeling errors on the cutaway profile for Bonhomme Richard.
Verdict: Good solid book for those wishing to begin learning about the ships and the era.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84603-445-9
  Suggested Retail: MSRP $17.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Oct 02, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Scott Espin (Spiff)

I have been an avid student of military history for over 35 years, especially World War II with my focus mostly on German military equipment (tanks and aircraft). I'm especially interested in anything relating to the Eastern Front and North Africa. My Dad ignited my passion for modeling when I...

Copyright ©2021 text by Scott Espin [ SPIFF ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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