This is a classic naval history of the American Revolution, including accounts of the various state navies as well as the Congressional navy. Volume I includes activities through 1778. Well researched, footnoted, and with an extensive bibliography of contemporary sources, this is, as a later historian said, "the place for all naval historians of this war to begin".
Allen delves into the various committees and their often conflicting orders, the issues with prizes and privateers, as well as the ships, their captains, and the many, many naval engagements of the war. He also discusses strategic issues faced by both the British and the Americans and shows both successes and failures. Finally, he also includes discussions of the politics, especially between France and Britain in regard to the support or lack of it to the American cause.
Volume 2 covers the second half of the war, spending a considerable amount of space on John Paul Jones and his actions around the British Isles, especially the battle off Flamborough Head. There is a full chapter on the disastrous Penobscot Expedition. Finally, time is also spent on the difficulties in outfitting in France, the fate of prisoners captured in merchant prizes, in privateers, and in the navies.
All in all, this set is well recommended for anyone interested in the naval aspects of the war. The one missing aspect is that of the French, Spanish, and British, with only short mention being given to large fleet actions like the Virginia Capes and the battles in the Caribbean. However, for the war as the Americans fought it, this is an invaluable work.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)