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Guide to Sources for Research into the History of the War of 1812



The Naval History of Great Britain During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars : William M. James (London : Conway Maritime Press, 2002)

Despite the title of this six volume work, volumes IV an V detail many of the aspects leading up to the War of 1812, and volume VI is nearly entirely devoted to its naval aspects. The author, a British admiralty lawyer, was detained in the U.S. at the oubreak of the war, escaped to Halifax in 1813, and by 1824 had published the first edition in five (later six) volumes. His approach was to refute what he often saw as American misinformation, and in fact the Roosevelt "Naval War of 1812" was often equally critical.



The Naval War of 1812 : Theodore Roosevelt (New York : P.F. Collier and Son, 1900?)

From the preface: "The [naval history of the War of 1812] merits a closer scrutinany than it has received.  At present people are beginning to realize that it is folly for the great English-speaking Republic to rely for defence upon a navy composed partly of antiquated hulks, and partly of new vessels rather more worthless than the old.  It is worth while to study with some care that period of our history during which our navy stood at the highest pitch of its fame; and to learn anything from the past it is necessary to know, as near as may be, the exact truth.  Accordingly, the work should be written impartially, if only from the narrowest motives.  Without abating a joy from one's devotion to his country and flag, I think a history can be made just enough to warrant its being received as an authority equally among Americans and Englishmen.  I have endeavored to supply such a work."



The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Volume I : William S. Dudley (Washington : Naval Historical Center, 1985)

From the preface: "The substance of this book is the life of the navy.  It includes documents on such diverse subjects as the causes of the war from a maritime perspective, the navy's preparedness for operations, the recruitment of seamen and marines, the construction and fitting out of ships, the treatment of sick and wounded men, questions of insubordination, incompetence, and jealousy among officers and men, matters relating to the supply of food, drink, clothing, armaments, and spars for navy crews and ships, the operations of privateers, as well as navy warships, and the plight of men held as prisoners of war."



The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Volume II : William S. Dudley (Washington : Naval Historical Center, 1985)

From the preface: "This is the second volume of three in a documentary series on the history of the United States Navy in the War of 1812.  It contains documents that reflect the substance of maritime warfare between the United States and Great Britain from 1812 to 1815.  We have drawn heavily on naval records held by the National Archives and Records Administration.  To these we have added others reflecting a variety of viewpoints: the plans and reports of British naval and army officers who engaged our forces, newspaper columns of the day, statements of civilian officals who were charged with direction of the war, and the papers of private citizens who chose to go to war for personal profit though at great risk.  To guide the reader in the use of these documents and as a unifying medium, brief essays and headnotes are provided."



The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Volume III : Michael J. Crawford (Washington : Naval Historical Center, 1985)

From the preface: "The present volume treats the events of 1814 and 1815 on inland waters of North America and on the Pacific Ocean.  Volume 4 [yet to be published] will treat the same years on the Atlantic Ocean, in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Indian Ocean, and general themes that do not confine themselves to specific operational theaters. [...] An introductory essay to each theater provides the overarching context for the documents that follow.  Within each theater, we group documents by topic.  A head note for each topical section provides more particular context.  Under each topic, documents appear in chronological order.  The exhaustive, sub-topical index can guide readers to content of relevance to specific interests."



Lords of the Lake: The Naval War of Lake Ontario, 1812-1814 : Robert Malcomson (Toronto : Robin Brass Studio, 1998)

From the preface: "Getting at the truth of the story, finding out what happened and why, and how it influenced events elsewhere, were the main goals that motivated my interest in the naval war on Lake Ontario.  They arose in the wake of the book that my brother, Tom, and I wrote about the Battle of Put-in-Bay on 10 September 1813, which aimed to elucidate the British side of that battle, a viewpoint that has been virtually overlooked.  The contest on Lake Ontario presented a similar predicament.  Two and a half years of uninterrupted activity had gone on in every corner of the lake, but the historians concluded that 'little enough' was actually accomplished.  Thousands of men had crewed dozens of warships that participated in more than twenty raids, chases, battles and engagements, but one contemporary still saw fit to brand Yeo and Chauncey the 'Heroes of the feat.'  It is hopes that this book will set the record stright, or at least go far enough to provide a firm foundation upon which a better understanding may be gained about how the conflict on Lake Ontario evolved and affected the war in general."



From Sea to Shining Sea: From the War of 1812 to the Mexican War, the Saga of America's Expansion : Robert Leckie (Location : Castle Books, 1993)

From the dust jacket: "[Leckie] tells the dramatic story of the young nation's first fifty years following the victory over the British at Yorktown, a turbulent period that saw the establishment of a new, democratic government, and many challenges to its survival from within and without."



Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 : Alfred Thayer Mahan (Boston : Brown and Company, 1905)

From the preface: "In the War of 1812, [...] the effect [of sea power] is real and dread enough; but to [the author's] own country, to the United States, as a matter of national experience, the lesson is rather that of the influence of a negative quantity upon national history.  The phrase scarcely lends itself to use as a title; but it represents the truth which the author has endeavored to set forth, though recognizing clearly that the victories on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain do illustrate, in a distinguished manner, his principal thesis, the controlling influence upon events of naval power, even when transferred to an inland body of fresh water."



Don't Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812 : Donald R. Hickey (Toronto : Robin Brass Studio, 2006)

From the preface: "My focus here is on the mythology of the war.  Most of the myths that I deal with are just plain misconceptions, or, in the colorful words of Will Rogers, 'what we know that ain't so.'  Other myths are more complicated.  They are notions that are widely accepted by are based on legend, faith, or wishful thinking rather than on hard evidence.  Some of these myths may be true and provable; others may be true but unprovable because of insufficient evidence.  The vast majority, however, are untrue or highly unlikely."



Fighting Sail on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay: The War of 1812 and its Aftermath : Barry M. Gough (St. Catherines : Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2002)

From the preface: "This book is above all an inquiry into the nature of naval operations in that hitherto little-known backwater of the war: Lake Huron and its annex, Georgian Bay. [...] Of related importance in this book, and of fascination to many students of history and Canadian-American relations, is how, in consequence of the diplomacy that ended the War of 1812, an equilibrium was established between two powers along this international boundary that divided Lake Huron."



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