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The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle [Hardcover]

Colonel David G. Fitz-Enz
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2001
This is the only comprehensive account of the American victory at Plattsburgh, New York, on the shores of Lake Champlain in 1814, the first full history of one of the most decisive battles in American history.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Former army officer Fitz-Enz (Why a Soldier?) examines the battle at Plattsburgh, which occurred when the British were attempting to reconquer the young United States by moving south from Canada through Lake Champlain in an attempt to cut off Maine from the rest of the country. The U.S. Army was small and led by incompetent officers, and the militia was generally useless Vermont troops would not leave Vermont and New York State troops would not leave the Empire State. The American campaigns of 1812, 1813, and 1814 had been utterly chaotic, as the British troops were well-trained veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. The U.S. Navy, however, was led by a brilliant officer, Thomas Macdonough, who inspired his men to build a superior squadron of small ships. After desperate fighting, they finally defeated the British fleet at Plattsburgh in August 1814. Fitz-Enz claims that this battle was the key to the War of 1812 and in fact far more important than Oliver Hazard Perry's victory at Lake Erie, though Perry is remembered and Macdonough's triumph is unjustly forgotten. A highly readable work that serves as a companion book to the PBS documentary and should be in every U.S. history collection. Stanley L. Itkin, Hillside P.L., New Hyde Park, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

A highly readable work that... should be in every U. S. history collection. -- Library Journal

Fitz-Enz's portrayal of the land and naval actions is gripping, illustrating clearly how significant even small battles can be. -- The Retired Officer Magazine

This is one of the best books on the War of 1812 currently available. -- Military Heritage

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent History of a Little Known Campaign Aug. 14 2002
Format:Hardcover
The author clearly did his homework before writing this account
of the 1814 British/Canadian attack on Plattsburgh, NY. Had it
succeeded, things might look differently today in terms of U.S. territory and we would have another humiliating defeat to look back on.
The events leading up to the combined land/sea battle are well laid out and the battle itself is described in rousing detail, particularly the bloody Naval conflict on Lake Champlain. All the events in the book are also put into perspective with the invasion of Washington DC and Baltimore which was part of a recently discovered British grand strategy.
A few minor omissions and errors keep the book from being great history but don't hurt the overall narrative too badly. The newly discovered Prevost papers ( he was C.O. of the invasion and Governor of Canada ) lend new light on the subject but seem to have biased the author toward Prevost. Prevost was overly cautious in his approach and abandoned a partly successful attack with a huge numerical superiority at Plattsbugh. Worse still, he abandoned supplies and equipment in a hasty withdrawal which was not pursued. The author goes to some length to justify this even the Prevost was court martialed for it.
The Niagra Campaign on the other side of N.Y. state is not mentioned at all despite the mistaken withdrawal from Plattsburgh of most of the U.S. regulars to fight in it. The author also errs in reffering to the Royal Americans as the 62nd foot- they were known as the 60th for most of their career and also gives the imppresion that the Washington DC invasion force suffered much fewer battle casualties than in an accidental explosion. This is untrue, read "by Dawn's Early Light" by Lord to get a good picture of this battle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Solid Research July 25 2002
Format:Hardcover
This book is a companion to a documentary produced for PBS. Unlike television, books demand solid research, detail and well structure arguments. Like so many television companion books, this is popular history that suffers from incomplete research.
While a wide range of sources may have been consulted, the lack of a bibliography leaves the reader to consider the few titles and documents listed in the endnotes. For example, there is considerable discussion of the British Army, without any reference to any of the key secondary sources dealing with the period, let alone documents. One would have preferred more discussion on the quality of the officers corps, the fighting units and structural problems rather than the facing colours, rows of buttons and descriptions of Polish cuffs. Much would have been revealed had CO 42, the Secretary of State Correspondence for Canada been consulted. At times I was uncertain if the author was elaborating on his research to support the thesis or simply list the other authors he has dined or had drinks with.
As noted elsewhere, there are a host of errors. As with all popular histories, if you read this book, do so with care.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Solid Research July 25 2002
Format:Hardcover
This book is a companion to a documentary produced for PBS. Unlike television, books demand solid research, detail and well structure arguments. Like so many television companion books, this is popular history that suffers from incomplete research.
While a wide range of sources may have been consulted, the lack of a bibliography leaves the reader to consider the few titles and documents listed in the endnotes. For example, there is considerable discussion of the British Army, without any reference to any of the key secondary sources dealing with the period, let alone documents. One would have preferred more discussion on the quality of the officers corps, the fighting units and structural problems rather than the facing colours, rows of buttons and descriptions of Polish cuffs. Much would have been revealed had CO 42, the Secretary of State Correspondence for Canada been consulted. At times I was uncertain if the author was elaborating on his research to support the thesis or simply list the other authors he has dined or had drinks with.
As noted elsewhere, there are a host of errors. As with all popular histories, if you read this book, do so with care.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Once More into the Breach...' Nov. 8 2001
Format:Hardcover
While the author's thesis may be arguable, the evidence he presents is not. At this point in the War of 1812, nearly every action fought was decisive to the American cause. The War of 1812 undoubtedly the war in which the US was most unprepared to enter and fight. The military incompetence of both the Jefferson and Madison administrations, coupled with a foreign policy that was none too bright, nearly doomed the infant United States. The virulent hostility displayed towards a standing army and navy by both administrations, and the inability to prepare for a major war, condemned the United States to early defeat. Luckily for the US, competent commanders emerged from the crucible of combat to fight a well-earned draw with the British. This book is the story of such commanders and a decisive victory won against long odds by American land and naval forces in 1814 along the Canadian frontier.
The author presents the situation in a simple, straight forward manner, having done excellent research on the subject, to the extent of uncovering new material in a forgotten collection which clearly demonstrates both the long odds faced by the Americans and how much importance the British placed on this invasion of the United States from Canada. This alone makes this book valuable to all students of the period. This may not be the best book available on the one of the War of 1812's battles, but it is undoubtedly one which adds decisively to our collective knowledge of this particular campaign and what was at stake for the United States in the summer and fall of 1814.
There are some minor errors in the illustrations which are moderately distracting.
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