Give Me a Fast Ship by Tim McGrath - 2016 RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature


Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea

by Tim McGrath

Tim McGrath was honored by the Naval Order of the United States as the recipient of 2016's prestigious RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature. The award was presented to Mr. McGrath by David Simson, Commander, New York Commandery in a ceremony at The Racquet & Tennis Club on Park Avenue, New York City on 7 November 2016.


• A blow by blow description of most of the major engagements between American and British warships.

• Descriptions of the politics and economics of what was going on in England, France, Spain and America regarding America's fledgling Navy.

•Numerous maps of important engagements and paintings showing the men and ships involved. Additional information about the men and ships into the early 19th Century. 




Tim McGrath (BA History, Temple University '74) is a business executive who lives outside of Philadelphia. He is the first author to win this honor twice. McGrath has served on the board of directors of Independence Seaport Museum, Fort Mifflin on the Delaware, New Courtland Elder Services, the Kearsley Retirement Community (founded by Benjamin Franklin's physician), Philadelphia Senior Centers, and Christ Church Hospital. His many interests, including tennis, horseback riding, and sailing, are limited only by creaking knees and a fickle rotator cuff.

Over the years he has written articles on management, US history, and healthcare issues for various newspapers and magazines. With his son, Ted (an award-winning freelance illustrator), he wrote Travels with the Commodore, a children's book published for the Philadelphia Port Authority's community reading program. Despite his terrible typing, he's at work on a new biography on James Monroe for NAL/Penguin Books.



America in 1775 was on the verge of revolution—or, more likely, disastrous defeat. After the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, England’s King George sent hundreds of ships westward to bottle up American harbors and prey on American shipping. Colonists had no force to defend their coastline and waterways until John Adams of Massachusetts proposed a bold solution: The Continental Congress should raise a navy.
The idea was mad. The Royal Navy was the mightiest floating arsenal in history, with a seemingly endless supply of vessels. More than a hundred of these were massive “ships of the line,” bristling with up to a hundred high-powered cannon that could level a city. The British were confident that His Majesty’s warships would quickly bring the rebellious colonials to their knees.
They were wrong. Beginning with five converted merchantmen, America’s sailors became formidable warriors, matching their wits, skills, and courage against the best of the British fleet. Victories off American shores gave the patriots hope—victories led by captains such as John Barry, the fiery Irish-born giant; fearless Nicholas Biddle, who stared down an armed mutineer; and James Nicholson, the underachiever who finally redeemed himself with an inspiring display of coolness and bravery. Meanwhile, along the British coastline, daring raids by handsome, cocksure John Paul Jones and the “Dunkirk Pirate,” Gustavus Conyngham—who was captured and sentenced to hang but tunneled under his cell and escaped to fight again—sent fear throughout England. The adventures of these men and others on both sides of the struggle rival anything from Horatio Hornblower or Lucky Jack Aubrey. In the end, these rebel sailors, from the quarterdeck to the forecastle, contributed greatly to American independence.
Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Give Me a Fast Ship is a rousing, epic tale of war on the high seas—and the definitive history of the American Navy during the Revolutionary War.


Reviews and Praise for Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea

“In Tim McGrath's Give Me a Fast Ship, early American naval literature has found a proud new flagship…. It is rare for a one-volume work to fill the sails of personalities and battles separated from the modern reader by nearly two centuries, but Give Me a Fast Ship pulls it off beautifully. His descriptions are vivid, his commanders three-dimensional, and he evinces a genuine love of the world of white sails and black powder. When Give Me a Fast Ship drops anchor, the reader returns from an adventure cruise with respect for the men who fought the Revolution at sea.” --The Wall Street Journal
Give Me a Fast Ship is less a history of the birth of the U.S. Navy at the outbreak of the Revolution than it is a rousing collection of tales describing battles against the British, the Continental Congress and among rival captains…. Tim McGrath is a storyteller writ large… McGrath explains the details of 18th century navies with a deft pen and a decidedly nautical viewpoint. This is a delight to read.” --The Kansas City Star
“[McGrath’s] gripping descriptions of pursuit and combat at sea are the equal of any fiction, with the added virtue of being entirely true…. Solidly researched history presented with verve and gusto.” --Kirkus, starred review
“McGrath enhances his position among American Revolution naval war historians with this comprehensive, fast-paced account of the collection of armed merchantmen (non-naval vessel) manned by amateurs that took on the world’s greatest naval power.” --Publishers Weekly
“In telling this fascinating and sprawling tale, Tim McGrath never loses sight of the human dimension of his subject. He has mined archival sources largely neglected in previous histories, and the result is an exhaustively researched and fluently rendered account of the first incarnation of the American navy. Give Me a Fast Ship is a thoroughly readable history of an integral aspect of the campaign for American independence.” --Ian W. Toll, author of Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
“In Give Me a Fast Ship, naval historian Tim McGrath has given us a meticulous, adrenalin-filled account of the earliest days of the Continental Navy, and a John Paul Jones for our times and for the ages.” --Laurence Bergreen, New York Times bestselling author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe and Columbus: The Four Voyages
“I’ve seldom enjoyed a work of historical nonfiction as much as Give Me A Fast Ship. Here, Tim McGrath helps readers learn about a vital, if little-known aspect of the American Revolution and feel royally entertained at the same time. That’s a rare combination, and Give Me a Fast Ship is a special book. After reading it, McGrath will be one of your favorite historians, as he now is of mine.” --Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Ordering info: Amazon