The Forgotten Conflict - From the Other Side of the Hill
Hitsman, J. Mackay. The Incredible War of 1812 (Updated by Donald E. Graves.) Toronto, ON: Robin Brass Studio, 2000. 432 pages. ISBN# 1896941133. $18.95. Paperback.
This interesting, thorough, and accurate volume is touted on the cover as "The finest one-volume history of the War of 1812 ever published." If it isn't, it is definitely in the top two. It is a well-researched and well-written book that belongs not only on the shelf of every student and historian of that forgotten, deadly, and dangerous little war, but also on the shelves of every student of the period.
The author, a Canadian soldier and historian, has presented us with a book that covers the topic from muzzle to butt plate. It does cover the war from the British and Canadian point of view, which is novel in itself, as there are only two books that have done that interesting task, this being one of them. In that alone this volume is valuable, but it goes much further than that.
The author examines in detail the command relationship between and among the top British commanders in Canada and gives overdue credit to Sir George Prevost, who had not only to deal with commanders who were less able than he deserved, with notable exceptions such as Brock, but he had to conduct a war with a hostile United States with limited resources over a vast territory that was primitive in the extreme, to say the least. To say that Prevost had to make bricks without straw is an understatement. Additionally, he had to contend with a British government that was in a death struggle with Napoleon, and it was only in the second half of 1814 that more resources could be given to the British war effort in North America.
This updated edition has been given more illustrations, thanks to the efforts of the Canadian historian Don Graves, the authority for the War of 1812 on the Niagara frontier, and the maps, of which there are twenty, are excellent and are a definite quality aid to the reader. Neatly packaged and presented, it gives overdue credit to a scholarly and accurate study of two nations at war.
All aspects of the war are covered thoroughly and in detail: the war at sea and on the lakes; the American invasions of Canada, and the war further south, in the Chesapeake and Louisiana. The narrative is fair and balanced, as well as scholarly, and easy to read. The war on the Canadian frontier is especially interesting and, in my opinion, could be in a volume on its own. The war itself was "a near run thing" for the Americans, and for the Canadians it was a successful defense of their homes and country, and the units raised by them to support the British, especially the regular units, distinguished themselves in combat and campaign, as did their commanders.
This volume is highly recommended for all and sundry, whether you are a student of the War of 1812 or not. It is definitely a unique volume, and its author, hopefully, will get the credit he so richly deserves for the dedication, accuracy, and scholarship displayed in this excellent volume of military history.
Reviewed by Kevin Kiley