- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (Oct. 1 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0252060598
- ISBN-13: 978-0252060595
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 635 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,576,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The War of 1812: A FORGOTTEN CONFLICT Paperback – Oct 1 1990
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The War of 1812 gave the United States some of its finest military moments: Admiral Perry's victory on Lake Erie, Andrew Jackson's lopsided triumph at the Battle of New Orleans, the immortal words "Don't give up the ship!," and Fort McHenry's defense of Baltimore (which inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner"). At the same time, the fighting didn't go especially well for the Americans. Their invasion of Canada failed and the British burned the White House to the ground. The conflict ended in a draw. With The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict Donald R. Hickey offers what may be the most comprehensive treatment of the war, and includes many colorful anecdotes. For example, shortly after the mortally wounded James Lawrence uttered "Don't give up the ship!," his men did just that. Their vessel was hauled off to England, broken up, and its timbers used in the construction of a flour mill. The subtitle calls the War of 1812 a "forgotten conflict"; Hickey's excellent book shows why it's worth remembering.
Mentioned in Word, Dec 2008; One of Tom Jones' top rated books. "A penetrating analysis of prewar society... Highly recommended as an inclusive political, military, and social treatment of a customarily neglected war." -- ALA Booklist
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Prof. Hickey covers all aspects of this conflict, at least from the American side. He begins with the disputes which led to the conflict. The divisions within the United States, both geographical and political, are well explained. The war created a division between commercial, Federalist New England and the agricultural, Democratic-Republican south and west. The hardships of the war provided a boost for the declining Federalist Party, but with the return of peace, its decline toward oblivion resumed at a rapid pace. The economic interests of the various sections are well treated.
The war was occasioned by a coalition of interests which combined to overcome the significant opposition. This was, in fact, probably America's most unpopular War, Vietnam notwithstanding. The British impressment of seamen, American lust for Canada and resentment resulting from British incitement of Indians, combined to put together a political majority for war. Some of the maritime issues had led to a series of economic responses over several years prior to the commencement of hostilities.
The initial efforts to resolve the issues were a series of shifting and conflicting economic measures, including boycotts and trade restrictions which began before and continued during the war.
At the beginning of the war there was a difference of opinion as to whether the war should be fought only at sea or whether a land campaign was also to be prosecuted. In the end an American naval and privateer offensive at sea was combined with land and lake campaigns. The American naval victory on Lake Erie provided a major advantage. The land campaigns against Canada preceded on several fronts. Fighting occurred in the Michiagn-Western Ontario area, with the Americans making relatively minor gains. Along the Niagara front, little progress was made by either side. The American assaults on Lower Canada (Quebec) were unsuccessful. With the conclusion of the Neapolianic Wars, Britain took the offensive as troops and ships were transferred from Europe. The British did make significant territorial gains in northern and eastern Maine. The gains in Maine could have been important in establishing a land route between Montreal and Halifax. The British had some transient success with its Chesapeake campaign, highlighted by the burning of Washington, although the assault on Baltimore was unsuccessful. The last British offensive of the war, along the Gulf of Mexico, ended in disaster at the celebrated Battle of New Orleans.
The portrait of President Madison as a relatively weak, unsuccessful wartime leader is skillfully painted. As is the case with other some American leaders, Madison appears to be one whose greatest days occurred before he achieved the office for which he is best remembered. Madison's role in the drafting and adoption of the Constitution provided major contributions to his country, while his service as Chief Executive was one of the more lackluster performances in that office.
America's greatest success in the war occurred, not in the field, but at the peace conference. This is the exception to Will Rogers' statement that America has never lost a war or won a conference. Despite representing a government with a smoldering capitol and much of Maine in enemy hands, the negotiators emerged with a return to the prewar borders and a settlement of the maritime issues which had led to the war.
After reading this book, one is left with the conclusion that the War of 1812 was probably an unprofitable war for the U.S. At its end the borders were unchanged and the maritime issues which were resolved would probably have been resolved with the advent of peace in Europe without the necessity of American involvement in the war. The reader is left with the feeling that the war left America with no lasting collateral benefits to compensate for the loss of life and treasure occasioned by the struggle.
While this war may have been an unwise and unprofitable venture, the reading of this book is a profitable venture for anyone interested in this era in American history.
Hickey does a good job of portraying the early U.S. as a small country whose common sense was overcome to some extent by its own nationalism. The early Americans saw themselves as world players, and they weren't. The war started for a variety of reasons, but the two main ones were trade restrictions by Britain imposed during the Napoleonic Wars, and Britain's policy of impressement, or boarding American ships looking for British nationals for the Navy. The joke is that the British conceded the offensive trade policies just prior to the war, but news reached the U.S. too late. As a result, the war proceeded with poorly defined objectives, a weak military and without firm economic support. The net results were military defeats and economic distress.
Hickey does a good job of mixing political and social history with military history. Indeed, the military aspects of the book get the least amount of coverage. There are no battle maps, or detailed maps to track the battles. Most of these would be mere skirmishes by today's standards, but I wish Hickey went into more depth in battle history. The political policies and differences are covered in great depth, and reading some of the quotes one can't help but get the impression that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This book is a good single volume history of the war of 1812. This war has more of interest in it than the national anthem and the last attack (prior to 9-11) on the mainland U.S. by a foreign power. Hickey did an excellent job of giving a political/social history of the war with just enough coverage of military events to give the book a complete, balanced approach.
The war of 1812 is interesting as an early example of American imperialism (It's greedy eyes cast on acquiring Canada) and of the fledgling nation's first defeat. And defeat it is: Despite the loss of the Battle of New Orleans for the British (Fought after the treaty of Ghent was signed, effectively nullifying its political value) the USA pretty much walked away with no concessions whatsoever; Its "Success" at the negotiating table was the same as that. Ie: It was lucky to walk away with the status quo re-established and nothing of value taken away from her.
There are probably better single volumes treatments available, but if there are I have yet to read them. Recommended.
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