1812: The Navy’s War
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by George C. Daughan
Basic Books, New York, 2011
521 pp., illus., $37.20 hardcover
Much of the Canadian attention on the War of 1812 has been focused on the land battles for control of Southwestern Ontario and the Niagara peninsula. But there remains a great deal of fascinating naval history that extends from the Great Lakes to the vast ocean trading network of the British Empire.
Historian George Daughan has presented a new broad history of these battles in 1812: The Navy’s War. He covers the war through both minor skirmishes, including the frequent clashes between British and American ships sailing throughout the Atlantic Ocean, and major turning points such as the critical American victory on Lake Erie in 1813.
While the naval battles of the War of 1812 were small in comparison to Britain’s simultaneous conflict with Napoleon in Europe, they were vital to the outcome of the campaign in North America. They were also no less dramatic, frightening, and bloody for the sailors who participated in them.
Daughan does a good job of capturing such moments, particularly when he focuses on the desperate battle for control of the rivers, lakes, and ocean transportation routes that were the lifelines of the war. Extended sections that attempt to provide the context of the land war offer more detail than is needed. Additional editing might have trimmed back these sections and could have helped to avoid minor errors.
— Joel Ralph (Read bio)
Joel Ralph is the Education and Outreach Manager for Canada's History Society.