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The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Alan Taylor
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 12 2010
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.

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The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies + Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812
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“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.”
“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.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Born and raised in Maine, Alan Taylor teaches American and Canadian history at the University of California, Davis. His books include The Divided Ground, Writing Early American History, American Colonies, and William Cooper’s Town, which won the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes for American history. He also serves as a contributing editor to The New Republic.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Magisterial Account Jan. 27 2011
I am much impressed by this book. Most accounts of this war are, wow, we won (speaking as a Canadian) against superior numbers. Critical of the American efforts and leadership, Taylor nonetheless points out the difficulties their forces had with respect to logistics. The Canadian and British forces as long as they controlled the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes had no problems with supply. The British navy did lose the Battle of Lake Erie (perhaps on account of their captains's infatuation with a pretty widow - a story not told here but to be found in Egerton Ryerson's account) and consequently could not hang on to Detroit and the Territory of Michigan.The British also had the advantage of better trained troops,skilled with the bayonet.

Americans tend to remember Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans, which in fact took place after the Peace had been signed. The Americans won the peace, that Taylor carefully explains. The losers were the Indians. Tecumseh, the charismatic Swannee chief had managed to build an alliance of the Indian nations. This fell apart when he was killed in this war (as a consequence of the loss of the Battle of Lake Erie) and the British were unable to give the the Indians the support they needed if the British grand strategy of a balance of power between the British, the American, and Indian nations was to be maintained. The United States was able to pick off the Indian peoples one by one after this war.

Still the fact remains that the United States attempted to invade and conquer Canada and were repulsed at every effort. Not a square foot of Canada was taken.

Taylor's thesis is that it was really a civil war like the American Revolution.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new look at the war of 1812 Dec 25 2010
By Davedge
A refreshingly new, impartial, in depth review of the war, the characters both military and civil, high and low who participtated with a most interesting and logical interpretation of it as an extention of the American Revolution. Well written and easy to read this is a must read for anyone interested in the origins of both Canada and the United States and why they developed the way they did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous Insights Into The War Of 1812 April 23 2011
By Patrick Sullivan TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Taylor starts off by explaining his civil war title. He points out that Irish Americans fought against British regiments, that were populated with Irish recruits. American soldiers battled American Loyalists. Various Indian tribes also went to war against one another. One might also add, that some French Canadians probably went up against some American Huguenots.

Taylor does an outstanding job, describing the Canadian and US political scene. Most of Upper Canada was populated by American Loyalists. The Loyalists tended to their farms, and were ruled by a British elite government. The US was split between the Federalist Party and Jefferson`s Republicans. The Federalist did not support an invasion of Canada. The political divisions, end up throwing the Americans into a bungled war plan. In fact a George Costanza type as Secretary of War, probably would have meant a quick victory for the US. The US war planners seem to do the exact opposite, of everything that is needed to crush Upper Canada.

The weak area of the book, is Taylor`s battle descriptions. Taylor does not seem to be much of a military historian. The reader gets a rather brief over view of most battles. The great Indian warrior leader Tecumseh, does not receive any attention. The larger military picture, also seems to be glossed over as well. The war in Europe and the North American battles outside of the Upper Canada area, are not discussed in any great detail.

Taylor then concludes how the war shaped the political landscape of North America. The Americans got a secure border, and were able to continue their westward expansion. He feels the war helped solidify a sense of America, and a budding Republic. In Upper Canada, the seeds of rebellion were planted.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining light on little known facts April 26 2011
By sebring
There's a great deal to be learned about a relatively obscure part of Canadian history, namely how Canada was settled and why, and how this played into the conflict. For Americans who know relatively little about the rivalry between the Republicans and Federalists, there is equally compelling content about how the US didn't simply emerge from the Revolution with a common sense of nationhood and identity, but struggled for decades to find them. For today's US libertarians, there are lessons to be learned that even with the anti-tax sentiment of the Republicans, they were hardly libertarian in the treatment of non-whites, but rank interventionists. But for readers of almost any persuasion or inclination, there are some incredible insights gained, like how David Parish of Ogdensburg, NY helped finance the US war effort while undermining any prospects for victory through the concessions he obtained from the Madison Administration to keep the upper St. Lawrence from becoming a major invasion front despite its enormous strategic importance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book on 1812 and the War Nov. 14 2011
I bought this book after reading a recommendation by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe & Mail. It is a very interesting book, events are described in detail and allow the reader to understand what happened. Taylor also reveals much that is not well known about the War of 1812 and the different political and military actors who took part in this troubled period of history between Canada and the USA. What I found fascinating was how little the Republican party has changed in 200 years. How the Americans were a lot less noble than people imagine them to be. The aboriginals Nations the great losers in all of this. It is also interesting to note that political figures like Jefferson and Madison and others in today's perspective can be viewed as committing crimes against humanity and war criminals. Conducting a war of aggression against Canadians. A very good read all around.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book.
As a Canadian, I was convinced that the British/Canadians won the War of 1812, based on the fact that the US was the aggressor nation and they did not gain anything after the war... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Phillip Blancher
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on the war
Most Americans and Canadians know little or nothing about
the War of 1812. Taylor presents it as the second phase of
the American Revolution - or as he really states -... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ken Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars War is ugly
In exquisite painful detail Taylor charts exactly what happened. Very readable style about this war which really the culmination of the American Revolution. Fascinating.
Published 10 months ago by northern dragon queen
5.0 out of 5 stars About my Irish and French Canadian ancestery
Little is known about the War of 1812 by Canadians such as I
and I found the book very to be a wealth of information and gave me knownledge about Canadian history
Published 21 months ago by Eugene William Jocque
5.0 out of 5 stars The bigger picture
A fascinating overview of the social and economic conditions that lead up to the war. After reading this book its easy to understand the famous american quote that it was a "mere... Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2012 by Len
4.0 out of 5 stars The Civil war of 1812
A well written and researched book that should be read by all Americans. It was the beginning of expansionist American policy which continues to this day! Read more
Published on Dec 17 2011 by Robert Day
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