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John Eltings Amateur to Arms! A military history of the war of 1812 is an action packed blow-by-blow account of our 2nd war of independence against Great Britain. All the campaigns, battles, and skirmishes are here, covering the war years from Jun 1812- Jan 1815. Elting covers all the exciting land and water battles from the Canadian invasion of upper and lower Canada to the Great Lakes battles to the high seas struggles and down to the Indian fighting north and south. Heros like Winfield Scott and Andrew Jackson prove where their legends started. Eltings description of battles and results flow effortlessly together and one can see the American army improving throughout the war after beginning the war with so many old and worn revolutionary soldiers who were just too old for campaigning in the northern wilderness. War secretaries like Eustis and Armstrong didn't help matters much and putting people like James Wilkinson was just asking for trouble. Allowing the White House to be burned was unforgivable. But the land and sea defense of Baltimore was totally heroic. Andrew Jackson's defense and defeat of Wellington's Invincibles at New Orleans with his band of ragtag ragamuffins defies logic and shows the fabric of what America was made of. Elting gives credit to where it is due. Great soldiers and sailors like Scott, Brown, Macomb, Jackson, Coffee, Isaac Hull, Perry, Rogers and Macdonough and many others show what made this country great in it's formative years. After this war came the 'Era of Good Feeling' during the Monroe administration and as America matured our national identity was full realized. Great book.
Colonel John Elting was a wonderful writer, but an opinionated one who brilliantly skewered historical figures he did not like. His writing rippled with passion and a wry, sardonic sense of humor. His analysis was always perceptive and his prose always muscular and decisive. I love it, but he certainly spawned a few well placed detractors. The War of 1812 represents the nadir of American military prowess and Elting does not hesitate to point this out frequently. The USA was never less prepared for a war that almost did not happen. This concise history is the best book I have read about the war that actually explains WHY, rather than merely recounting events. If you want a bland, plodding, thoroughly comfortable recitation of events, this is not the book for you. But if you seek a smart, amusing, incisive analysis delivered by the hand of a master, then this book is a must read.
This is an excellent history of the War of 1812, strictly from the military point of view. It does not go into the political aspects or the causes of the war, except in passing. Elting emphasizes the numerous blunders of inexperienced militia commanders. Some of the "regular army" officers were just about as bad. THE TWO TAKEAWAYS ARE: One, don't declare a war unless you are actually prepared to wage it (a bit late to tell James Madison), and, two, it is vital for a nation of any size to have well trained, professional soldiers. WHO'S THIS BOOK FOR? Military history buffs, professional officers, and those who want accounts of the battles and campaigns as a good compliment to books which concentrate on the war declaration debate, partisan politics, or international diplomacy. WHO'S THIS BOOK NOT FOR? Those who don't care for military history, preferring politics and personality (biography).
The author is a retired military soldier, and he did a brilliant job of covering the entire war in a single concise work. The writing is superb, and he leaves nothing out. His analysis of the war is from a military historian's view. There are many books on the war of 1812, but this is one of the best ever done. It will be an enduring classic in its field for years to come. A magnificent work of American history anyone can enjoy.
Excellent! John Etling writes with a clear, emminently readable style and occasionally allows a very sophisicated dry wit to surface as well. He gives detail without bogging the reader down in minutiae. This is basically a military history, but he never neglects the personalities of the protagoninsts or the political background for events. Indeed some of the most interesting passages shed light on events and/or people you only thought you knew all about. After reading Henry Adams account of the war, reading "Amateurs to Arms" was almost like a vacation. If you read one book on the military history of the War of 1812, this should be it.
The late Colonel Elting's Amateurs, To Arms! is a great book. I read this book during a period study in the early 90's but never thought I'd done the book justice (too big a hurry). This past weekend I took some time to savor good military writing. COL Elting spares no one in praise or frank condemnation. As a nation, we're very lucky that common sense ruled the day and military men were allowed to practice their profession---with a lot of trial and error. As an old sailor I particularly enjoyed COL Elting's descriptions of the "Handful of Fir-Built Frigates". COL Elting manages to convey the true ethos of military life and the eternal truism of "hurry up and wait" (some things never change). A great read as the good Colonel left a readable and frank accounting of an often overlooked war. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
This book arrived early and is just as described. I am looking for background on an ancestor who is said to have served in the War of 1812 and this book appears to be perfect. It has great detail about people and events.