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BOOK - A Very Brilliant Affair, The Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812. . .
By Robert Malcomson.
"His Majesty's arms gained a complete victory over those of the United States yesterday in a very brilliant affair." As summer turned to fall in 1812, two armies watched each other warily across the turbulent Niagara River that formed the border between the United States and British Canada. On the American side regular soldiers and state militia trained under the inexperienced, politically-appointed General Stephen Van Rensselaer, while on the British side General Isaac Brock worried about defending his long frontier with a meagre force of regulars and militia and a group of native warriors about whom he held serious doubts.
This is, surprisingly, the first full-length study of the Battle of Queenston Heights. We see the American government stumble into war and send a weakly supplied force to invade across the Niagara River. We follow the battle through the eyes of participants: Jared Willson wonders if he is going to become "a cold Yankee," and the Canadian Archie McLean ignores orders by running to the fight with his friend John Beverley Robinson.
Winfield Scott strides across the field "in full dress Chapeau and plume," and John Norton exhorts his warriors with "Come forward whoever hold a manly heart!" Artillery Captain William Holcroft retakes Queenston and writes, "His Majesty's arms gained a complete victory over those of the United States yesterday in a very brilliant affair."
The battle was a sharp lesson for the young U.S. Army and its political masters in Washington and a critical morale booster in Upper Canada. The death of Brock led to an outpouring of grief among Canadians and an impressive monument was raised in his name.
This new look at the battle tackles many of the myths that have grown over the years. Was Brock the hero of the day? Was this a victory for the Canadian militia? Were the oft-maligned New York militia responsible for their army's defeat? What was the role of the native allies of the British? Could the American invading force have won?
Robert Malcomson's exciting and readable account will add a new level of appreciation for the drama and significance of the War of 1812.
The author :
Robert Malcomson is a leading expert on the War of 1812. Reviewers of his Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814 described it as "a first-class piece of work" (Canadian Historical Review) and wrote, "Nowhere else will readers find a more precise account of the struggle to gain mastery of these waters" (Northern Mariner). Warships of the Great Lakes: 1754-1834 was called "the standard work on the warships of the Great Lakes" (The Mariner's Mirror) and "a definitive work of scholarship and a triumph of nautical research" (Ships Telegraph). The North American Society for Oceanic History presented a John Lyman Award to each book.
With his brother, he co-authored HMS Detroit: The Battle for Lake Erie and he has written several monographs, including The Battle of Queenston Heights and Burying General Brock: A History of Brock's Monuments for the Friends of Fort George. He is a member of the Company of Military Historians and Collectors and is on the board of The Journal of the War of 1812. His articles have appeared in journals and popular magazines and newspapers in Canada, the United States and Britain. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.
The jacket illustration:
Peter Rindlisbacher's jacket painting, Attack At Hamilton Cove, depicts Lieutenant Colonel John Fenwick leading a wave of invaders against the British at Queenston. Peter Rindlisbacher is a marine and historical
"Malcomson presents fresh material in his detailed study of the battle of Queenston Heights one of the most crucial clashes of the War of 1812. Based on meticulous and wide-ranging research, his book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the causes, course and outcome of that battle." Wesley Turner, author
"The battle of Queenston Heights has acquired mythological status in Canada and has been just as studiously ignored in the United States. Robert Malcomson provides a long-needed study of this famous engagement which scrapes away the barnacles of mythology that have attached themselves to it in the nearly two centuries since it was fought. This is a balanced, in-depth and extremely readable account of one of the most important military actions of a forgotten war that will appeal to both specialist and general readers alike." Donald E. Graves, author
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