Books: Coup de Grasse

DECISION AT THE CHESAPEAKE by Harold A. Larrabee. 317 pages. Clarkson N. Potter. $5.

At the time, no one grasped what had happened on that September day in 1781. George III called it "a drawn battle." To Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, who flubbed the encounter, it was "a lively skirmish"; to his second in command, Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Hood, "a feeble action"; to George Washington, its greatest beneficiary, "a partial engagement." There is not even agreement on its name. Says Author Larrabee: "You will find it called the Battle of the Chesapeake, of Chesapeake Bay, of Lynnhaven Bay, of Cape Henry,...

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