Books Read

Discussion in 'The War of 1812' started by Yanky, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Yanky

    Yanky New Member

    Knowing nothing about WO1812 except for a vague memory of learning about impressment in 7th grade history, recently I took the plunge and read two general books: Borneman's "1812" and Elting's "Amateurs to Arms!" I read Borneman first, as it's a recent, widely-available-in-public-libraries popular history aimed at a general audience. Elting's book, a "military history," was more thorough, but seemed to skimp on the naval parts (is "military" a euphemism for "land/army" in some circles?). Elting warns in his Introduction that he's non-PC when it comes to Native Americans, and very critical of Jeffersonians.

    Others I've read recently:

    Fitz-Enz. "Final Invasion" [Plattsburgh]. Decent account, planned as a tie-in for a cable TV documentary. Pros: excellent maps (on the inside covers, so unless you don't mind mangling your library copy's jacket to see them, you should buy it), doesn't seem to skimp on the battle on land, many useful extracts from primary sources, lots of decent to good illustrations (though an Amazon reviewer says one naval battle painting is of an Atlantic encounter, not the lake battle). Con: needed much better copyediting/proofreading.

    Barbuto. "Niagara, 1814." Has to be definitive. Crammed with valuable footnotes, bibliography, decent maps. Claims the militias got a bad rap from previous historians.

    Dillon. "We Have Met the Enemy." 1978 bio of Captain Perry. Well-written. Good description of building the Erie fleet. Cons: no bibliography or footnotes. I don't remember any maps either.

    Malcomson and Malcomson. "HMS Detroit." The British side of the Battle of Lake Erie. Oversized book with plenty of excellent illustrations. Serviceable maps. Did you know the ship Detroit lived on until the Tyler administration, when it was sent over Niagara Falls as an early example of a political advertisement/stunt?

    Skaggs. "Signal Victory." I'm almost done reading it. Excellent, excellent account. Top-notch proofreading/editing, footnoting, bibliography, maps, etc.

    Dudley. "Splintering the Wooden Wall" [the British Atlantic Coast blockade 1812-1815]. Halfway through this one. Apparently, Dudley claims the blockade was weaker than Mahan and his followers wrote.

    I'm about to read "War on the Great Lakes," a collection of essays on Erie 1813; Malcomson's "Lord of the Lakes," supposedly the definitive account of the Lake Ontario theater; and Muller's "Darkest Day" [Baltimore/Washington].

  2. tonyt

    tonyt New Member

    As an adult I can remember reading anything on the War of 1812 except in biographies of Winfield Scott and a chapter in Craig Symonds "Decision at Sea" on the Battle of Lake Erie entitled Wooden Warships and the Western Frontier . It is fertile ground .
  3. Yanky

    Yanky New Member

    Finally finished Lords of the Lake, about the Lake Ontario theater and the American and British fleets there, commanded by Isaac Chauncey and Sir James Yeo, respectively. The publisher really went all out to make a classy product: a lot of well-reproduced paintings (both modern and contemporary), sketches, and photos; both contemporary and new maps; a helpful glossary of nautical terms; good, extensive notes and bibliography; etc. If there's a "problem," it's what was noted at the time, in 1813-1815: no great decisive battle took place. Both fleets were involved with land forces in various operations (American: York [modern Toronto], Fort George, Gen. Wilkinson's expedition down the St. Lawrence; British: Oswego, Sackets Harbor), but they only really met for battle on the lake twice (the "Burlington Races" and a slow-motion "chase" of the British fleet off the Genesee River through becalmed waters, both in 1813). So, does that make for a boring read? Some might say so. I don't.

    The most memorable point Malcomson makes is that, despite the heavy criticism of Chauncey and Yeo by their respective countrymen, they weren't losers: each commander's superiors recognized his service with postwar promotions.
  4. markpeters

    markpeters New Member

    Getting home from work this evening, I found my most recent book purchase awaiting my perusal. It might be of interest to Yanky who seems to have enjoyed 'Lords of the Lake'. It a re-print of the classic study 'Naval Occurences of the War of 1812', by William James. It was first published in 1817.

    For those unaware of William James; he was a lawyer turned author detained as an "enemy alien", in Philadelphia, at the outbreak of hostilites in 1812. The book was recieved to critical acclaim, in the UK at least, being adopted as a textbook by the Royal Navy and lauded by British naval officers who had served in the war.

    The good news here that there are a number of books, particularly from Napoleonic conflicts, getting a new airing. Personal diaries, studies, etc. are all helping to add to the understanding of events at that time.

    Best wishes,

  5. CrescentCorps

    CrescentCorps New Member

    A few additional books to add to your War of 1812 reading list:

    A Very Brilliant Affair: The Battle of Queenston Heights by Robert Malcomson - Like his other works, very well done and excellent maps.

    Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler's Farm, 1813 by Donald E. Graves - Another excellent study rivaling Malcomson with excellent maps.

    Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy's Lane by Donald E. Graves - Same quality as Field of Glory.

    Red Coats & Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa by Donald E. Graves

    A Wampum Denied: Proctor's War of 1812 by Sandy Antal - A good overview of the campaigns for western Lake Erie which includes Brock's capture of Fort Detroit.

    While Washington Burned: The Battle for Fort Erie 1814 by Joseph Whitehorne.

    The Battle of Stonington: Torpedos, Submarines and Rocket in the War of 1812 by James Tertius De Kay. An excellent book on a little known 1814 battle in Connecticut.

    Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay by Christopher T. George. A short but good history of operations on Chesapeake Bay including Bladensburg, North Point and Fort McHenry.

    The Battle of Sackett's Harbour by Patrick A Wilder

    The Final Invasion and Flames Across the Border by Pierre Burton - A two volume narrative in present tense that covers entire war, with decent maps, as well as the preceeding Indian wars. As it is written in the present tense, it reads somewhat like an Allan Eckert novel.
  6. CrescentCorps

    CrescentCorps New Member

    Just picked up an excellent book entitled "Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812" by Donald R. Hickey. The book is organized by topic, with the first chapter entitled "Causes of the War," the second "Battles and Campaigns" and so on. Each chapter presents questions about disputed topics, analysis of available evidence, and conclusions where possible. For instance, a topic in Chapter 2 is "Who took the First Scalp?" Professor Hickey reviews the conflicting evidence and concludes that it was likely an Indian chief allied with the British who took the scalp of a mortally wounded British soldier and tried to pass it off as an American scalp. Overall, a very interesting read.
  7. CrescentCorps

    CrescentCorps New Member

    Just received James E. Elliott's "Strange Fatality: The Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813" Have skimmed through it and it looks pretty interesting, covering events from the capture of Fort George through Stoney Creek with an Appendix covering efforts to memorialize the battlefield and historiography, although I cannot yet tell if the narrative extends through the Battle of Beaver Dams. From the endnotes, it looks well-researched and documented. The large numbers of illustrations, pictures and maps are impressive. With the exception of the capture of Fort Niagara and advance on Buffalo, it looks all of the Niagara campaigns have received their own volumes in the last 10 years, just in time for the bicentennial.
  8. CrescentCorps

    CrescentCorps New Member

    I picked up "Niagara 1814: The Final Invasion," an Osprey title written by Jon Latimer. Having grown up with the American Heritage pictoral histories, I like a decent graphic history to supplement more in depth books on the subject. This is one of the higher end Osprey titles, with excellent maps and decent artwork (albeit, few contemporary illustrations), covering the Battles of Chippawa, Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie. It's a a good addition to the Donald Graves and Joseph Whitehorne titles covering these battles.

    On a sad note, I had sent Mr. Latimer an email shortly after the book was released to see if he intended covering the earlier Niagara campaigns, or possibly the western Lake Erie campaigns of Brock, Proctor and Harrison. However, I received an email from his sister indicating he had passed away.
  9. helpingcollier4

    helpingcollier4 New Member

    The best book on the War of 1812 that I have read to this point is 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, by Walter Borneman. It provides a well-written overview of the causes of the war, the major battles, and the negotiations of the Treaty of Ghent. Though it would work well as a supplementary textbook for an undergraduate American History course, it is written in such a way that high school students, history aficionados, and others would enjoy it.
  10. GearZ

    GearZ Member

    I've never had any real fascination with the War of 1812 for a variety of reasons. I did enjoy Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans, by. Winston Groom though.
  11. Looks like I have some reading to do thats for sure, lol. Thank you for the list everyone I am going to add a couple of these to my wish list for sure.

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