Some of us are still celebrating the anniversary of the War of 1812. (Some of us don't really care...)

But since so many history buffs emailed and were enthusiastic about the great review of SIX FRIGATES by GHS last week, he's posted another review of a book by Harvard Historian George C. Daughan called 1812:THE NAVY'S WAR.  

GHS writes:

1812: THE NAVY'S WAR is an extremely well researched account of the politics and causes leading up to the war as well as the people that fought it—specifically, the sailors. Many historians consider the war of 1812 our second war of independence.
To Order Click on the Amazon Search Box

 The book describes what the world was like before 1812 and how America, as a new republic was seeking to find its place on the world stage (or in most cases, avoid stepping on the toes of the major powers). It’s important to remember (and the book illustrates this very well) that the war of 1812 was an annoyance for England because they were fighting a war of survival against Napoleon. However, The United States had seriously miscalculated and overplayed its hand by thinking it would be over quickly and that we could easily capture parts of Canada.

Naturally, my favorite parts were the clashes at sea—like the most famous of all—when the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Guerriere. It was a defeat that shocked the British (and the world) and earned the Constitution the name ‘Old Ironsides’ (for deflecting cannon ball off her sides). I was truly amazed by the author’s ability to describe all the ship to ship battles with precise and life-like detail.

There were parts of the book that I think could have been condensed such as the extensive coverage of the campaigns in Canada and great lakes. While it’s important to understand the war in a world context, I also thought there was too much emphasis on the European conflict and the battles involving the alliance to defeat Napoleon.

As an admirer of U.S. history, I learned about the important role of ‘privateers’ (privately owned ships that were commissioned by the congress to attack British sea commerce). Most of the privateers were from New England states and they profited handsomely by their actions (even though they opposed the war).

The war of 1812 is usually remembered as a footnote in history and for inspiring the Star Spangled Banner. However, when it was over, the war settled a very important debate in U.S. politics about the military. From that day on, there was no doubt that a Navy was needed to protect its vital shores and commerce.

GHS's Rating:  !!! Great Read

Author George C. Daughan



  1. Hi Joyce and GHS. As I mentioned in a previous comment this is an interesting subject for me. This looks like a great book. Speaking of celebrating the War of 1812, I recently visited several tall ships at Greenport New York's Tall Ships Festival . Some of the ships were replicas of American ships that participated in the War including the Lynx and the Pride of Baltimore II. It was a great experience! Links to the ships' websites are:



  2. I find The War of 1812 (on the North American continent) to be fascinating. As you say, it is a footnote in American history but the War of 1812 is hardly a footnote in Canadian history. It is usually taught as a defining moment in Canada's move toward independence. It is also the reason the White House is the White House and not simply the Presidential Residence.

  3. Thank you Ryan for sharing your point of view..You are correct..It was an important part of Canadiian history and often that important piece of history gets overshadowed by the American viewpoint.