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“This is one of the best books on the War of 1812 currently available.”—Military Heritage
Posted February 20, 2009
Before I go negative on the book, let me say that it is useful for the reader knowledgeable on the war or the novice historian that just wants to know something about it. The former because of the reproduced orders and reports.
The Colonel's (since military titles are pushed as a selling point) major project is a film documentary for which this is the written research. Because of that, the book spends a great many pages educating the reader not familiar with the war. The Colonel's greatest achievement is in finding a copy of the order to General Prevost to start an offensive. This is priceless, without it the book would be just another rehash of a battle covered in dozens of other books. The order stated to make limited gains on the northern front in order to end the war with some positive gains for the crown. Unfortunately, the book hints in more than one place that the offensive was the D-Day into the US - good discussion for old colonels and playing up the book, but not the true purpose for the battle. The conquest of half of the US (at that time) and New England choosing to go back to the crown is just fluff to sell the film and book. In fact, Lord Wellington turned down commanding the offensive because he knew it would fail.
The errors I refer to tend to taint the Colonel's other research as to what is true. A historian knowledgeable on the war can sift the facts from fantasy and opinions. The Colonel writes the US used the "model 1775" musket. There was no such weapon and I believe he means they used weapons dating from 1775. In fact, the premier musket was the Charleville model 1783. He also writes the British were well trained by Von Steuben's "Blue Book." I thought Steuben was with us in the Revolution and wrote that book for us - huh? A lot is written about the Congreve Rocket in the text, yet it plays no major part in the battle. Then he adds another page of rocket details in a separate appendix. Why not put all the rocket stuff in the appendix or vice-versa - save the paper or tie it into the tactics and battle. The softcover has no maps, yet an appendix gives a full compositon of the forces. Composition without a disposition of forces on the battlefield (i.e. map showing where they were) is a "cardinal sin" in writing about a battle. Perhaps, I am supposed to watch the film for these details. If the hardcover has map, I take it back, but shame on someone because my copy has no maps. Unfortunately, no DVD comes with the book to watch the film for visuals. The list of minor research errors goes on.
I would expect a book edited by Colonel Elting, introduced by Colonel Jablonski of the US Army War College and with some excellent research by Colonel Fitz-Enz would not make such silly minor errors. See what I mean about stacking the deck with Colonels, which does not compensate for basic errors. Could some of the errors be bigger?