Revenge in the Name of Honour

The Royal Navy’s Quest for Vengeance in the Single Ship Actions of the War of 1812

Nicholas James Kaizer

The British Royal Navy entered the War of 1812 expecting victory. Naval victories of the previous two decades and the mythos of Lord Nelson had built a naval culture accustomed to aggressive action and victory against all odds. No one expected the tiny United States Navy to triumph, and yet by the year's end three British frigates and two sloops ha
Date Published :
February 2020
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
8 color plates, 4 b/w maps, 5 b/w illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912866724
Pages : 224
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6.15 inches
Stock Status : Available


On 19 August 1812, lookouts of the British frigate HMS Guerriere spotted the American frigate, USS Constitution. Captain James Dacres, Guerriere’s commander, was eager for a fight and confident of victory. He had the weight of Britain’s naval reputation and confidence behind him. Yet when the guns fell silent Guerriere was a shattered hulk and Dacres had struck to Constitution. By the year’s end, three British frigates and two sloops had been defeated in single ship actions against American opponents, throwing the British naval sphere into a crisis.

These losses could not have been more shocking to the Royal Navy and the British world. In a strange reversal, the outnumbered British Army along the Canadian border had triumphed but the tiny United States Navy had humiliated the world’s largest and most prestigious navy. Further dramatic sea battles between the two powers followed into early 1815, and the British tried to reconcile the perceived stain to the Royal Navy’s honour. Many within and outside of the Royal Navy called for vindication.

The single ship actions of the War of 1812 have frequently been dismissed by historians of the war, or of naval history in general. The fights of late 1813 and 1814 are often omitted from works of history altogether, as many (correctly) argue that they had no strategic impact on the wider course of the war. Yet to contemporaries, naval and civilian alike, these single ship actions could not have been more important.

This volume explores the single ship naval actions during the War of 1812: how they were fought, their strategic context, and their impact on the officers and men who fought them, and the wider British psyche. Trafalgar happened only seven years earlier, and the fighting ethos of the Royal Navy was still hardened by Nelsonic naval culture. Whereas contemporary civilians and modern historians understood the losses as the inevitable result of fighting the vastly superior American ‘super’ frigates, the officers of the navy struggled to accept that they could not cope with the new American warships. The losses precipitated changes to Admiralty policy and drove an urge for vengeance by the officers of the Royal Navy. This volume explores the drama and impact of the British single ship losses and victories to examine Britain’s naval experience in the moments that captivated the British and American world in the last Anglo-American War.

About The Author

Nicholas Kaizer is a Halifax-based aspiring educator, academic, and writer. He was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, and completed a degree at Acadia University, making the intellectually interesting but logistically ill-advised decision of majoring in history and minoring in biology. After completing an Honours thesis at Acadia, Nicholas completed a Master of Arts degree at Halifax’s Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr Jerry Bannister. In both degrees he focused on the culture of the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic era; concentrating on the victories and then on the losses of the War of 1812. He presented his Master’s research at the annual Canadian Nautical Research Society Conference, and was a co-recipient of the Society’s Panting Award for young academics. In addition to writing, Nicholas is pursuing a career in education, aspiring to teach history and science in a world that sorely needs an understanding of both. Nicholas is an avid sailor and enjoys hiking the trails of his native Nova Scotia and travelling to see the sights of historical and natural significance around the world.


"I recommend this book to those interested in the naval side of the War of 1812, those studying command and naval culture, and people examining the influence of war on local press and the role of the press in shaping the understanding of future historians of the events of the war. Nicholas Kaizer has written a volume that is enjoyable to read and will give one much on which to think."

- The Northern Mariner

‘’This is a great book which any naval wargamer who wants to restage single ship actions from the war of 1812 should consider. Wargamers aside, this is a book for any naval enthusiast or general reader.  Well researched and employing footnotes at the bottom of each page of the sources used, it takes each action and gives the background and a detailed description of the result with any other relevant anecdotes. Altogether a very high-quality book with an exciting narrative and great for wargaming scenarios.  Strongly recommended for all.’’

- Miniature Wargames

"...a well-researched and detailed account of the naval actions of the War of 1812. It is also a balanced look at the subject, examining the story from both sides of the Atlantic and placing these events within the strategic framework of the Napoleonic conflict."

- The Napoleon Series

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