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Chapelle's Book


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For quit some while I have wanted to acquire The History of the American Sailing Navy written by Howard I. Chapelle. Every now and then I would go on-line to see about buying it used only to see a high price and then add in the exchange rate to finally say forget it!


However last week I was thinking why not see about an inter-library loan and... low and behold our local University had the book. :D


What I really wanted was complete information on the Gunboat Navy for my Lone Warriors article and Away Boarders naval board game. To my surprise Chapelle devotes 63 pages to the aforementioned topic with lots of illustrations and line drawings of vessels. The gun boat vessels in the US Navy are very unique and there was some cutting edge designs put forward to combat the British dominance of the sea ports along the eastern sea cost and in particular the War of 1812-1816.


The book I received is 558 pages in length which includes; Illustrations, Plans, Text Figures, and nice introduction with acknowledgements. Chapters include;

  • The Colonial Period
  • The Continental Navy, 1775-1785
  • The Federal Navy, 1785-1801
  • The Gun Boat Navy, 1801-1812
  • The War Navy, 1812-1816
  • The Post War Navy, 1816-1830
  • The Bureaucratic Navy, 1830-1840
  • The Last years of Sail, 1840-1855 which focuses on Barks and Brigs

My copy is a 1949 version and is dedicated in memory to the late Mr. George C. Wales Marine Artist.


At the beginning of the book there is a nice colored print by Mr. Wales showing the President and Endymion exchanging broadsides (January 15, 1815) courtesy of the Marine Historical Association, Mystic, Connecticut.


Mr. Chapelle went to great pain to ensure the reader is informed of how the American Navy came to be and what the issues where in its infancy to its consummation. Lots of drawings and prints for the ship bottler to ponder. For me it was a history lesson on the development of the gun boats and they are an interesting breed of vessels on to their own. The appendix alone is worth the purchase if you are an naval enthusiast or historian.








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I'd love to acquire that book! One you might find useful is 'The Confederate Navy, The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-1865' edited by Dr. William N. Still, Jr. with an introduction by Dr.William S. Dudley. My 10" x 12" hardback book od 262 pages is from 1997. It covers pretty much everything from the men with their hand arms through establishing a navy with facilities, tactics, bureaucracy, weapons, shipbuilding and etc. It's a book worth having!

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When looking for books do include   bookfinder.com   in your searching.  Copies of Chapelle's Sailing Navy...  are available for under $10 which includes the shipping for used copies, and there's even a 'new' copy of the 1949 edition offered for $16.98 (I'd check with the seller re the 'new' description).  I have a shelf full of Chapelle's works acquired via the  used-book  route, several of them in near new condition.  Hint: a book doesn't have to be crispy new to be useful, but it does need to be complete and 'clean' to the extent of being free from highlighting, underlining, marginal notes, etc..  When/If in doubt, contact the seller for more info via e-mail.

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Chappelle's HASN is an excellent work.  Acquired it 3 decades ago in a used bookstore.  Is  been a useful resource in modeling & research.  Other Chappelle's works in my collection that have been useful are:  The Search for Speed Under Sail,  American Sailing Craft, and American Small Sailing Craft.  Another that you may be interested in viewing is P.C. Coker, III's Charleston's Maritime Heritage, 1670-1865.  It is a large out-of-print coffee table book which has models, plans, and artwork of vessels associated with Charleston.  As Mike mentioned, try bookfinders.com. 


The Jefferson Gunboats are interesting and varied.  Most were based on  Mediterranian row galleys that were successfully used by Benedict Arnold on Lake Champlain and many were altered once they were launched.    Below is a photo of Gunboat #166, the Alligator, built in Wilmington. NC in 1806.  This model I built for a museum is based on Barron's plan on p. 195 in HASN & research from the museum curator. 




(Note:  click "Previous" for more detailed shots of this piece)

Edited by Jim Goodwin
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Jeff, I have The History of the American Sailing Navy & The History of the American Sailing Ships by Chapelle. I got them years ago when I was single out of a mail order Book catalog. Was getting books about ships to get ideas for scratch builds. I had no idea what gems I was getting!


ARUP, I would love to have that Confederate Navy book!



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Fellas, the book I spoke was published by the Naval Institute Press. The Library of Congress catalog number is 97-68136 and the ISBN is 1-55750-128-9. Any Chapelle book is worth its weight in gold! I have a couple or three. For the Civil War period The Ironclads are surely the most interesting of the lot, IMHO. The C.S.S. Hunley is really neat, too. Those were some brave men in the day!

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This is a wonderful resource.  For years it has been popular to criticize H. I. Chappelle because of limited or erroneous attention paid to a particular subject, and because of the wide range of history he covered, it is always a good idea to look a little deeper.  But none of his critics have contributed anything like the volume of material he made accessible through his work, and most of it is at a very high standard.  Sure there's a lot to be learned about the American sailing navy beyond this work, but a re-reading this book is always of value.

Earlier Norton editions of this book has fold out plans rather than plans jammed in between two pages.  This makes them much easier copy and reduce or enlarge as needed for our work.

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