Book Reviews

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The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial Edition, by Donald R Hickey

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Pp. xx, 454. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0252078373.

 

A good general account of the “Second War for Independence.”

Prof. Hickey (Wayne State) integrates military policy, strategy, and operations into the political and economic life of the nation, rather than giving us a detailed treatment of campaigns and battles.  He usefully touches upon many of the more unique aspects of the conflict, often neglected in books on the subject.  So we learn about some unusual political and military leaders, from the pusillanimous Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson to the very efficient governor of New York Daniel Tomkins, the curious British practice of licensing American ships to carry goods in support their war against Napoleon, while otherwise trying to sweep the seas of American shipping, the efforts of several states to strengthen the war effort (e.g., the raising of standing “state line” to supplement the otherwise unreliable militia), Congressional action on national conscription, and so forth.  Nevertheless, despite the tag “Bicentennial Edition,” the book does not reflect much work done since the original 1989 edition.  Although his discussion of American strategy remains sound, Hickey retains the dated focus on the Battle of New Orleans, devoting more attention to that than to the British campaign in the Chesapeake region, and even less to the critical Champlain/Plattsburgh Campaign, which were far more important in prompting the British to agree to peace. 

A good overall treatment of the war, but a dated one.

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