This is an excellent study on the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812. For many years little was known about the series of battles fought along the Niagara Frontier in 1814. This book helps to correct that gap. A companion volume to the author's earlier title on the Battle of Chippewa, here again many myths are corrected.
Winfield Scott recklessly lead his well trained brigade against General Drummonds British posted on the bluff above Lundy's Lane. Unlike many accounts of this battle told in most histories, here Mr. Graves shows us that Scott marched his brigade up to the British position, deployed it, and allowed it to be shot to pieces! The British artillery tore Scott's brigade apart while it stood dutifully at attention awaiting Scott's word to advance. But Scott held back, fearful of being outnumbered, and affraid to retreat before a superior enemy. Most histories tell us that Scott recklessy attacked, but the in-depth study of the battle provided here shows us this was not the case. Scott advanced his brigade to contact, but did not commit it completely to attack. Only when Ripley's and Porter's brigades reinforced subsequently did the American's finally attack and carry the British guns. But Scott's brigade will play no part in this process until later.
One of the interesting things about this battle is how poorly both sides fought it. Scott was reckless to the point of mania, while Drummond was weary after the recent defeat at Chippewa. The British general had only to advance his line at any point during the battle and the American position would have been untenible. Why Drummond did not make use of his six light companies to screen his force and harrass the American advance remains one of the mysteries of the battle. The series of British counter-attacks which took place to regain their guns has also been wrongly described by many historians of the action. As the battle continued from late afternoon into night the fighting became more and more confused. If Drummond had properly deployed his skirmishers Brown never could have captured the British artillery. Instead, the Americans were allowed to gain a lodgement in the center of the British line and a bloody series of close range fire-fights took place, all to no avail in driving
back the determined Americans. Both sides would lose in excess of 800 men and the battle would become one of the greatest debacles of the War. Both sides would claim victory, even though neither really could justify it.
For sure the 1814 Niagara Campaign and its battles deserves more attention. It was this campaign and its battles at Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, and later the siege at Fort Erie which made the ameteur American army into a respected fighting force. If not for these two battles the New Republic would have been disgraced.
We can certainly learn a lot from studying this campaign. Andrew Jackson and New Orleans has been done over and over again. There is little to learn from this one-sided battle which saw Americans safely defeating British regulars from behind entrenchments. What makes Lundy's Lane important is that Brown's brigades went toe-to-toe against British professionals. They gave as good as they got, and could have done a lot worse. Winfield Scott emerges as a somewhat vainglory maniac, who nonetheless drilled his brigade to the point where it could fight like a European army. His colume attack later in the battle, while another dismal failure, illustrates that the American army, when well trained and officered, could perform European tactics. Scott, for all his faults and recklessness, deserves a lot of credit for this.
In sum, Graves has done a great job rescueing an important battle from the dust-bins of history. The narrative is vivid, smooth, and un-biased. Many prints and pictures enhance the text. This is the deffinitive work on this battle for many years to come. All War of 1812 buffs should have it in their collection.