Reviews: Military Books

Green Coats and Glory: The United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808 - 1821

 

Fredriksen, John C. Green Coats and Glory: The United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808-1821  Youngstown, NY: Old Fort Niagara Assn., 2000. ISBN# 0941967220. $12.95. 80 pages.  Paperback.

This little gem of a book is a regimental history of a little known American outfit of the War of 1812, which performed more than its assigned duty.  Done in pamphlet form, more of a booklet actually, it is still a careful, well-researched, and well-illustrated study that is much more than it appears.  The recipient of the William L. Peterson Award for best essay on military history, Green Coats and Glory, published by the Old Fort Niagara Association, tells the story of the green-coated infantry that established a combat reputation second to none on the Niagara Frontier. The book is profusely illustrated, with four illustrations in full color—two of these being the expert work of the late military artist H. Charles McBarron. 

The book starts with the shaky beginnings of the US Army before the War of 1812, steadily and methodical chronicling the spurts and starts that characterized the times, putting together a military force to guard the new republic, in face of the anti-military administrations of both Jefferson and Madison.  The meat of the book, though, is the fighting during the War of 1812.  All of the commanders are named and pictured, except one—probably the most famous of them all—the intrepid Benjamin Forsyth.  From the rough early days of the War of 1812, when both commanders and troops are attempting to sort themselves out and fight a war at the same time, to the later years, after shakedowns and much combat experience, the rifle regiment is molded into a veteran, well-trained, though at times, a wild outfit to handle. This was something they definitely got from Forsyth, an aggressive, imaginative officer from North Carolina, who met his untimely end before the end of the war in a forgotten forest firefight, 'dying with his boots on.'

The illustrations in the book will greatly aid the reader in his exploration of this little known and appreciated unit.  Portraits of regimental personalities pepper the pages, though, unfortunately, there isn’t one of that border-ranging paladin, Benjamin Forsyth.  However, two excellent uniform prints by the eminent American military artist, H. Charles McBarron, famous both for his plates for The Company of Military Historians and for the U.S. Army are featured on the cover and in the book and they are in color, which is most helpful.

Packed with information and illustrated profusely, this is a definite must for any enthusiast of the War of 1812.  Hopefully, the author will continue with more regimental histories of this most forgotten of America's wars.  In this volume, the author has established himself as an authority of the period.  This volume is highly recommended and it belongs in every collection of the War of 1812.

The address of the Association is:

Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc.
Fort Niagara State Park
Youngstown, New York 14174.

 

Reviewed by Kevin Kiley
Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2001

 

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