Military Subjects:  War of 1812

 

The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 14: October 2010

 

Reviews: Books, Film, Collectables and Ephemera

Two American Regimental Histories of the War of 1812

 

Richard V. Barbuto
Long Range Guns, Close Quarter Combat: The Third United States Artillery Regiment in the War of 1812
Old Fort Niagara Association, Youngstown, NY, 2010
US$12.95, 144 pages, appendices, illustrations, maps, bibliography
ISBN 0-941967-28-X

John C. Fredriksen
Green Coats and Glory. The United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808-1821
Old Fort Niagara Association, Youngstown, NY, 2000
US$17.95, 80 pages, appendices, illustrations, bibliography
ISBN: 0-941967-22-0

In terms of the unit histories, the United States regular army of the War of 1812 has always suffered in contrast to American units that fought in other conflicts or even its opponents. There have been more books published about units of the Continental army or the U.S. regular army of the Mexican War and nearly every British regiment (and many Canadian) that fought in North America in 1812 to 1815 has at least one history and some have many more. For this reason the appearance of histories of the Regiment of Rifles and the Third Artillery written by experienced historians of the conflict is a source of much satisfaction.

Richard Barbuto has selected the Third Artillery as his subject and has produced a succinct but full narrative of the wartime history of that regiment from its authorization in the spring of 1812 to its amalgamation into the Corps of Artillery in 1814 and beyond. We follow this unit, which fought mainly on the northern theatre from Lake Champlain to Lake Erie and quite often as infantry rather than artillery, through its actions at Fort Niagara, Queenston Heights, Sacket's Harbor, the St. Lawrence campaign of the autumn of 1813, the attack on Fort Ontario, Sandy Creek, the Niagara and Plattsburgh. Barbuto places the Third Artillery's narrative against a proper historical context and properly devotes much space to the senior officers -- George Armistead, Ichabod Crane, George Izard, Alexander Macomb and George Mitchell -- who raised, trained and commanded it in action. Numerous sidebar sections throughout the text contain information on personnel, battles, gun drill, military installations and the interesting story of William Apess, a native American who served in the regiment. Finally, two appendices provide a time line of the war and short biographies of military officers from both sides while a third contains the complete text of Surgeon William Horner's useful and descriptive memories of medical service at Buffalo and vicinity during the long and bloody Niagara campaign of 1814. The result is an interesting and informative work of regimental history that might serve as a model of its kind.

John Fredriksen's Green Coats and Glory, published in 2000, is an older title that recounts the history not only of the Regiment of Riflemen (the First Regiment of Riflemen from 1814 to 1815) but also that of the Second, Third and Fourth Regiments authorized in early 1814. In contrast to Barbuto, Fredriksen's approach to his subject is more anecdotal and he emphasizes the influence of specific personalities. His work is well illustrated, with many rare portraits of individuals and depictions of uniforms and weapons but lacks maps and tactical diagrams. Although it is no fault of the author, much new information has surfaced in the last ten years which might have been incorporated into the book. For example, Fredriksen states (p. 33) that British troops plundered Ogdensburg in February 1813 when we know from the eyewitness account of that action, "War on the Ice," which appeared in Issue 7 (January 2007) of this online publication that most of the looting was actually done by Canadian civilians who crossed the St. Lawrence to plunder.

This, however, is a minor complaint and both Barbuto and Fredriksen should be complimented for bringing out the first titles what one hopes will eventually be a series of long overdue histories of U.S. units of the War of the 1812, either by them or other authors. This is important as the American regulars – particularly those who fought in the northern theatre of war – remain largely forgotten soldiers to this day.

Reviewed by Donald E. Graves



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