The most celebrated naval hero of the young American Republic returns to life in this slender but rousing biography. De Kay (Monitor: The Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad; The Chronicles of the HMS Macedonian; etc.) recounts Decatur's naval and diplomatic exploits fighting Barbary Pirates, French privateers and the mighty British Navy in the War of 1812, the public adulation that greeted his victories, and the outpouring of grief following his untimely death in a duel. Indeed, the counterpoint between military heroics and personal vendettas forms the book's organizing theme. The flip side of the courage and gallantry expected of Navy officers was an obsession with defending one's manliness, manifested in a tremulous sensitivity to insults and a plague of dueling, which seems to have been one of the Navy's chief peacetime occupations. Despite cracking down on them in his own command, Decatur fought or participated in his share of absurdly trumped-up and elaborately choreographed duels throughout his career, culminating in his death at the hands of a former friend and mentor whose soldierly qualities he had impugned. De Kay's fast-paced account, steeped in the lore of fighting ships and full of well-drawn battle scenes, keeps the focus on Decatur's adventure story, but when the smoke clears there's also a revealing look at the code of masculine honor that sustained and ultimately destroyed him.
Reviewed on: 12/01/2003 Release date: 12/01/2003 Genre: Children's