After reading Toll's Pacific Crucible, I figured the least I could do was read his earlier (and well-received) book on the origins of the U.S. Navy, via its first six frigates, of which one, the Constitution, still exists.
It turned out to be a fascinating story involving the nation's first foreign policy decisions, and went into a lot of very interesting details about the personalities involved, including Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Washington, as well as the first leaders of the Navy Department and the Navy's first warship and squadron commanders.
One thing in particular I learned was that for all the fine reputation we have of the Royal Navy during the period of Nelson (thanks to C.S. Forester's novels, if nothing else), it was a fleet populated essentially by slaves - men with no sea experience recruited by pressgangs to fill a navy that was at war with France for decades. By contrast, the U.S. Navy was manned by volunteers with extensive maritime experience which, when combined with the innovative design of the first frigates - they were bigger and more heavily armed than their English counterparts - meant that they should (and did) win single ship duels. They reminded me a lot of Fisher's battlecruisers - ships built to encounter and defeat a very specific enemy - German cruisers engaged in commerce raiding. Or Germany's pocket battleships - which could engage and defeat any cruiser afloat - and outrun anything heavier.
On the whole a very entertaining and informative book. I really enjoyed it.