“A gripping narrative of an unpopular and badly fought war—a century and a half before Vietnam—that will shock the uninformed reader.” —Military History
Begun in ignorance of the military reality, the War of 1812 was fought catch-as-catch-can with raw troops, incompetent officers, and appallingly inadequate logistics. From a feckless Congress to the treason of many citizens who fed and praised the enemy, America faced overwhelming odds. The young country was invaded along three frontiers, the national capital was occupied and burned, and the secession of the New England states loomed as a definite possibility.
In Amateurs, to Arms!, military historian John R. Elting examines the war from both the British and American points of view. With expert analysis and lively prose, he recounts the campaign of “Mr. Madison’s War”: the US invasion of Canada; the key naval battles on Lakes Erie and Champlain; the British invasion via the Chesapeake Bay and its repulse at Baltimore; and the campaign leading to the American victory at New Orleans, which was ironically fought and won after the war was over.
Specially prepared maps and numerous illustrations complement Elting’s vivid, penetrating account of how the young republic fought and nearly lost its “Second War for Independence.”
“This is a lively, well-written account of one of America’s long-forgotten, but decidedly major wars.” —Publishers Weekly
No other conflict in our history found us so unready or ill-prepared as the War of 1812, argues Elting, who here presents the military side of the war and emphasizes the amateurishness of the Americans who managed to win their ``Second War of Independence'' despite themselves. Tactical victories, few and far between, made the difference in the end: Oliver Perry's destruction of a British squadron on Lake Erie in 1813, William Henry Harrison's defeat of a British column the following year at the Battle of the Thames. Ironically, the most celebrated clash of the war, Andrew Jackson's 1815 victory at New Orleans, took place two weeks after the signing of the peace treaty at Ghent in Belgium. Elting ( The Superstrategists ) tells the story from the British side as well as the American. He includes a memorable account of the expedition under Robert Ross that won an easy victory over the Americans at Bladensburg, Va., then captured Washington, burning the Capitol and the White House, only to suffer a surprising defeat before Baltimore. This is a lively, well-written account of one of America's long-forgotten, but decidedly major wars. Illustrations.