The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study

The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study

The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study

The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study

Synopsis

This two-volume work by historian Robert Quimby presents a comprehensive and detailed analysis of military strategy, operations, and management during one of America's most neglected and least understood military campaigns, the War of 1812. With causes that can be traced to the epic contest against Napoleon in Europe beginning in 1803, the war itself was the first conducted by the young Constitutional government of the United States. Quimby demonstrates that failed American initiatives at the beginning of hostilities shattered the unrealistic optimism of the war's staunchest advocates; and while initial failures were followed by military success in 1813, whatever advantage might have been gained was soon lost to incompetent leadership. Major exceptions occurred in the Old Northwest, and in what was then the Southwest, where U. S. forces finally broke the strength of the long-successful Indian-British alliance.
In retrospect, what occurred during the War of 1812 demonstrated the necessity for gaining citizen support before committing the nation to armed conflict; it also provided a series of object lessons on how not to conduct a military campaign. Finally Quimby argues that, notwithstanding several victories at war's end, including the fabled Battle of New Orleans, American perceptions that the United States "won" the war are erroneous; at best the struggle ended in a draw. The United States Army in the War of 1812 is an up-to-date and long overdue reassessment of military actions conducted during a pivotal conflict in American history, one that shaped U. S. military doctrine for a half century.

Excerpt

This work is the product of research and writing carried on over many years when my academic and other duties permitted. It is, as the title states, a history of the U.S. Army in the War of 1812. It deals with the operations of the army, the problems relating to the high command, and the direction of the war, as well as the search for effective field commanders. Therefore, I have not treated extensively the causes of the war, which have been the subject of several excellent works. The naval operations have been dealt with only where they were directly related to the land campaigns, most notably the operations on the inland lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

I have covered every operation of the war in detail. This is necessary for an understanding of the whole. A generalized survey is useless for an understanding of the conduct and course of the war. I have tried to present a narrative that does not lose sight of the forest while describing the trees. Many of these individual actions were minor when numbers of combatants and duration are considered. Though they were labeled "battles," many would have been called combats in Europe, and some were little more than skirmishes. Numbers are relative, however, and in a war in which the largest force brought into the field by the United States was smaller than many of Napoleon's divisions, small actions were often of real importance.

The story of the War of 1812 is in effect a study in how not to conduct a war. It reveals a leadership not clear as to its proper functions, as in the case where the secretary of war and even the secretary of state and the president took the field. This study, begun during the Vietnam War, reveals a number of parallels to that conflict. It reveals the consequences of engaging in a war that divides a nation. The conduct of the War of 1812 was seriously hampered by opposition to it in many areas, particularly in New England, which seriously crippled financial support for the conflict. The study of this war thus has many lessons for our times. It . . .

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