The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

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by Alan Taylor
     
 

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In this deeply researched and clearly written book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. During the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. Soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought in a northern… See more details below

Overview

In this deeply researched and clearly written book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. During the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. Soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought in a northern borderland to determine the fate of a continent. Would revolutionary republicanism sweep the British from Canada? Or would the British empire contain, divide, and ruin the shaky American republic?

In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous boundaries, the leaders of the republic and of the empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. The border divided Americans—former Loyalists and Patriots—who fought on both sides in the new war, as did native peoples defending their homelands. Serving in both armies, Irish immigrants battled one another, reaping charges of rebellion and treason. And dissident Americans flirted with secession while aiding the British as smugglers and spies.

During the war, both sides struggled to sustain armies in a northern land of immense forests, vast lakes, and stark seasonal swings in the weather. In that environment, many soldiers panicked as they fought their own vivid imaginations, which cast Indians as bloodthirsty savages. After fighting each other to a standstill, the Americans and the British concluded that they could safely share the continent along a border that favored the United States at the expense of Canadians and Indians. Both sides then celebrated victory by forgetting their losses and by betraying the native peoples.

A vivid narrative of an often brutal (and sometimes comic) war that reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Taylor (William Cooper’s Town) presents the War of 1812 not as the conventionally understood “second war for independence,” but as a civil war waged in the context of a U.S.-Canadian boundary barely separating “kindred peoples, recently and incompletely divided by the revolution.” , Upper Canada (Ontario) was the scene of bitter conflict between two sets of immigrants: Loyalist refugees from the Revolutionary War and more recent American arrivals hoping to bring the region into the U.S. In New England, antiwar sentiment was strong enough to bring the region close to secession. Irish immigrants, many of them republican in sympathy, found Canada, with its developing monarchical ethos, less than welcoming. The Indians of the Northwest found themselves sandwiched between two alien and expansionist cultures unconcerned for Native Americans’ welfare. The result was a drawn-out, indecisive war, but in the long run the four-way conflict that Taylor so convincingly describes was decisive in transforming a permeable frontier into a boundary separating “the king’s subject and the republic’s citizen.” 80 illus.; 2 maps. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Remarkable and deeply researched. . . . Taylor masterfully captures the strangeness of this war.”
—Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books

“Easily the most sophisticated book ever written about a conflict that is often either neglected or seriously misunderstood. . . . Taylor’s discussions of diplomatic and political maneuvering are woven with military set-pieces into a powerful narrative. . . . [This] book affirms his gifts for prodigious research.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Credit Taylor with blowing most of the dust off America’s most forgotten war. This is history with a capital H.”
The Seattle Times
 
“A truly spellbinding narrative. Unlike other books on the War of 1812, [Taylor’s] is about the hearts and minds of the people who planned it, fought it and lived through it. Almost every page brings a revelation.”
The Toronto Star

“In this deeply researched and clearly written book, [Taylor] tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America.”
The Washington Times
 
“Comprehensive. . . . Taylor’s account of a land war that roughly divided people with a common culture and heritage provides a new dimension for an understanding of 1812.”
The Boston Globe
 
“An impressively accessible history. . . . A perceptively nuanced take on a war often forgotten or misunderstood. . . . Taylor offers persuasive arguments, a lively narrative.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
 
“Taylor gives a fascinating account of the war and shows its importance to the fragile new republic in a book filled with stories about the people who instigated, commanded and fought in the conflict.”
—The Associated Press
 
“Taylor serves up a corrective in [this] fact-laden account. . . . Nicely captures the confusion of a ‘minor’ war with major consequences.”
—­The Newark Star-Ledger
 
“Taylor’s beautifully written book offers a War of 1812 that’s no longer an insignificant afterthought to the American Revolution, but its final, decisive act.”
Maclean’s
 
“As is his talented wont, Taylor puts the war into perspective, positing that it redefined the North American continent.”
Asbury Park Press (New Jersey)
 
“Thoroughly researched. . . . Taylor illuminates an arena generally omitted from military histories of the war. Battles and campaigns do connect his account, however, which will stand history collections in good stead for a very long while.”
Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

A Bancroft and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian's unconventional and revealing take on one of America's least understood wars.

The majority of the fighting during the War of 1812 occurred along the indistinct boundary between Loyalist Canada and the breakaway colonies. Paying scant attention to other theaters of the war, New Republic contributing editor Taylor (History/Univ. of California, Davis;The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, 2006, etc.) chronicles all the signal battles—for the most part a tale of American fecklessness—in this "borderlands rather than national...history." The geographic frame better serves the author's overriding aim, elucidating the intense civil nature of the conflict, in which the allegiance of the continent's peoples remained uncertain. In addition to the maneuvering for control of Upper Canada, Taylor identifies three other dimensions to the civil war: the Irish republican immigrants to America continuing their insurrection within the empire and facing off against their native countrymen who composed the bulk of British troops; the Indian tribes pitted against each other; and the shrill partisanship between Federalists and Republicans, which threatened to dissolve the Union over the war's aims and conduct. These components of civil strife overlapped and extended to a range of issues including the composition and effectiveness of militias, the high incidence of defection and treason and the treatment of prisoners. The author writes especially well about the Patriot dream of conquering Canada and the Loyalists' desire to recover America, the transition of American war aims from acquiring territory to merely maintaining military honor, the foul life of the soldier and the controversies over scalping on the frontier and impressment on the high seas. Most Americans reduce the War of 1812 to three episodes: the bombardment of Fort McHenry, the British burning of the White House and Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans. Taylor's nuanced treatment explains how a war that ended in stalemate still resolved the unfinished business of the Revolution, decisively dividing the continent between republic and empire.

An assiduously researched, brilliantly composed explication of the war's true nature.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679776734
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/04/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
640
Sales rank:
404,341
Product dimensions:
5.17(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.25(d)

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