The United States Army in the War of 1812: Concise Biographies of Commanders and Operational Histories of Regiments, with Bibliographies of Published and Primary Resources
While the Revolutionary and Civil wars have been the object of much research and documentation, the war that bridged them has been comparatively neglected. This comprehensive research guide summarizes the careers of President and Commander-in-Chief James Madison, his three secretaries of war, nine major generals, and 27 brigadier generals, and traces the operations of various departments, five artillery regiments, three cavalry regiments, the Corps of Engineers, 48 infantry regiments, and four rifle regiments of the United States during the War of 1812. For each it provides a bibliography of primary and secondary sources and a listing of manuscripts and archival resources. A directory of more than 100 manuscript repositories and their addresses is included.
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John C. Fredricksen’s 2009 book is a valuable resource for scholars, researchers, and history enthusiasts alike. Many of the regular US Army regiments that fought in the War of 1812 were reshuffled into oblivion when the army was reduced at war’s end. While genealogical and historical materials are relatively plentiful for the citizen-soldiers of various state militias, the regulars remain the forgotten soldiers, so to speak, of a forgotten war. As Fredriksen notes in his preface, “Compared to that vast body of literature on America’s military establishment during the Civil War or World War II,” the lack of historical studies of the U.S. Army is “as puzzling as it is glaring.” Well, perhaps not so puzzling to me: most people, when informed that I am a War of 1812 enthusiast and reenactor, inquire where my American Civil War encampments are held. The war, excepting bright and isolated legends such as the bombardment of Fort McHenry and the Battle of New Orleans, is all but forgotten in modern culture. This book is a nuts-and-bolts attempt to rescue this period in history from oblivion, because it provides scholars with links to historical sources..
Fredricksen’s book is essentially an annotated bibliography. The first section includes short biographical sketches of important figures in the Army, from the Commander-in-Chief James Madison, each of the Secretaries of War, down to each brigadier general (those officers, that is, who held regular commissions). After each entry there is a bibliographical entry, comprising archival, manuscript, printed primary and selected secondary sources.
The second section deals in turn with the various departments and arms of the Army, beginning with the Adjutant General and including the Bureau of Ordinance and the Military Academy. No explanatory essays are included under the headings of the “various departments,” but a summary of the services of each artillery, infantry, cavalry and regiment of rifles fills out the book. For the serious researcher, information on prominent leaders and officers is often far easier to find that details about the line regiments. The last section includes specific information about each regiment in the regular army organization.This is perhaps the best selling point of The United States Army.
Although we learn more about such obscure and short-lived outfits as the 42nd Regiment of Infantry (formed 29 January 1813, served in the garrison of New York City, amalgamated in the Corps of Artillery May 1815), Fredricksen’s regimental-based approach to the research works better for discussions of the northern and Niagara theaters of the war than for areas like the Mississippi Valley. Company-sized units, such as the Company of Bombardiers, Sappers and Miners, and the Rangers, have no entries. Many of the regiments, especially the artillery, light dragoon, and rifle units served mostly in company-sized detachments, which were raised and equipped separately from each other.
Certain details have been muddled: Fredricksen states that Captain Daniel Cushing led a company of the 2nd Regiment of Artillery in 1813 and then died of illness: actually, he served as Captain until his death by drowning in 1815, shortly after the war ended. Likewise, there are small mistakes regarding the services of other artillery units in the west: to my knowledge Major Amos Stoddard was the only 1st Regiment of Artillery officer or man serving in the Northwest Army during 1813. The artillerymen who were captured on May 5th 1813 were not 1st Regiment men, but Price’s Company of the Light Artillery Regiment. These are mostly details of limited significance, but they reflect the problem of conducting research on the Regular Army troops, who were often spread throughout the theaters of war and maintained more by the regional Military Districts than by any centralized staff and supply system.
In summary, The United States Army is well worth acquiring and reading for any serious student of the War of 1812
Foreword by Richard V Barbuto
Secretaries of War
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