rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 3: p. 269
Sources: The War of 1812: A Complete Chronology with Biographies of 63 General Officers
Mike Tosko

Information Literacy Coordinator, The University of Akron, Ohio

By the same author and publisher who produced chronologies of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Korean War, this timely reference work includes an additional biographical section on every significant high-ranking officer who served on the American side. Author Hannings has proved adept at such military profiles before in his American Revolutionary War Leaders (McFarland 2009), but this is the first War of 1812 volume to combine biographical sketches with a detailed chronology. Such a combination makes this resource unique among the plethora of works appearing this year, the 200th anniversary of the start of the war.

The somewhat complex long- and short-term reasons that the United States and Great Britain came to war so soon after American independence are covered in a well-written and concise eight-page introduction. Historically, this introduction begins as soon as the American Revolution ends and points out some of the unsettled issues between the two nations. The chronology portion of the volume begins in 1803 and extends to 1816, covering much of the build-up to the conflict, and some of the repercussions. Yet Hannings, a military historian by trade, does not emphasize the political aspects of the war, before, during, or after the hostilities. Rather, the strength of this book lies in such aspects as a comprehensive coverage of the crucial naval theater of this war. Ship battles, blockades, fleet sizes, and the back-and-forth capture of enemy watercraft and weapons are also a large part of the narrative presented here. Also, troop movements, skirmishes with Native American tribes, and the transitions from one military campaign to another are highlighted. Period tactical maps show army locations and shifting battlefronts.

Because of the de-emphasis of the political, as mentioned earlier, one should not look to this volume for detailed analyses of the causes and effects of this conflict. In fact, although there is an index which is helpful in assisting users to locate where a person, ship, or location, is mentioned, it will not help users find where in the chronology the impressment of American sailors by the British is mentioned, or where to find passages about the disruption of American trade, or about Indian-British military alliances, etc. In other words, there is no real subject indexing here. Additionally, although all battles are labeled according to their location—The Battle of New Orleans, for example—the index does not indicate on which page the actual battle is mentioned. For example, there are at least four separate locations in the chronology for New Orleans, Queenston, and Chippewa, but the index does not indicate to the user which page is devoted to the noted battle that each of these locations is known for. Also, the subtitle’s reference to general officers only includes Americans. So if a reader’s interest is piqued about the son of famous British officer of the American Revolution, “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, mentioned in the chronology, another source will have to be used to gather further information.

There are six appendixes, which include mostly proclamations by generals and politicians, such as “James Madison’s War Message to Congress.” Though certainly relevant here, these can also be found via simple Internet searches. Other appendixes are comprised of minutiae like a detailed catalog of militia generals or itemized lists of the ships and weaponry captured in naval battles.

Nonetheless, this is overall an excellent, detailed resource on the military particulars of the War of 1812. Because of the level of martial specificity here, this resource seems most appropriate for military libraries, or any academic or public library with a strong military history component to its collection.

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