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Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes: Madison's Commanders in the War of 1812 Hardcover – September 16, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing (September 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589797000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589797000
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

At least in public perception, war produces heroes and knaves, geniuses and fools. The War of 1812 produced a hefty supply of each. Fitz-Enz is an army veteran with 30 years of service, and he is a regular contributor to television documentaries on military topics. Here he views the war through a biographical prism, which leads to a confusing narrative structure as events described are not chronological. Still, his portrayals of these commanders on the American side are insightful and often brutally frank. He pays tribute to well-known icons, especially Andrew Jackson and his conduct at the famed Battle of New Orleans. He also praises lesser-known officers, including Naval Commander Thomas Macdonough, who repelled the British invasion on Lake Champlain. Fitz-Enz reserves most of his vitriol for those who owed their military appointments to their political connections. One well-deserved target, General James Wilkinson, was both incompetent and unscrupulous, and was probably a traitor in the pay of the Spanish government. Fitz-Enz has provided an informative look at the war with a provocative and interesting perspective. --Jay Freeman

Review

Fitz-Enz has provided an informative look at the war with a provocative and interesting perspective.
(Booklist)

Very readable and informative even for those familiar with the war, Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, & Heroes would also be a useful introduction to the subject for the novice. (Strategy Page)

Col. Fitz-Enz, who has written extensively on the War of 1812, uses mini-biographies of twenty-five American (and some British) commanders, both land and sea, to tell the story of the conflict. He groups these accounts by the part of the war in which these men, some of them truly hacks, sycophants, and adventurers, some heroes, and some a little of each, so several officers are often treated in overlapping fashion. Surprisingly, this rather innovative approach works well, as he uses the lives of these officers to illustrate various aspects of life, international relations, domestic politics, and contemporary military and naval practice from the American Revolution to the “Era of Good Feeling” that followed the war. Very readable even for those familiar with the war, this work would also be a useful introduction to the subject for the novice. (NYMAS)

...Colonel David Fitz-Enz writes with an urgency of detail that emphasizes storied past of our region. (Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

Colonel David Fitz-Enz's narrative lives up to its title and more, looking at the War of 1812 through a prism of biographic sketches of some of this nation's better known, but mostly lessor and unknown characters of the era. A fine synthesis of previous scholarship and documentary records, Fitz-Enz allows his subjects to speak, and speak they do with an eloquence and passion that helped to define our national character. A gifted writer, Fitz-Enz's colorful descriptions of intense land and sea battles practically leave you smelling the gunpowder; his personal sketches make you feel like you knew these hacks, sycophants, adventurers, and heroes firsthand. This book is strongly recommended as required reading for U.S. history courses covering the War of 1812! (David F. Winkler, Ph.D., Naval Historical Foundation)

Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes offers a fascinating insight into the remarkable characters of the War of 1812 who, arguably, changed the course of history. Often cruel, but always colorful, the men in this book bring an extraordinary period of history alive for both the academic as well as the casual reader—no easy task for a writer but something that David Fitz-Enz has accomplished with commensurate ease. (Col. Timothy Weeks, Order of the British Empire, British field commander, fellow of the U.S. Army War College, and military attaché from the Court of Saint James)

War is a human endeavor that brings out the best and the worst in man. This is an important theme in Colonel David Fitz-Enz's insightful warts-and-all study of the key American army, navy, and political leaders who served President Madison in the War of 1812. Those commanders with less than sterling attributes, whether classified as hacks, sycophants, or adventurers, explain some of the course of that conflict. But as this compelling book makes clear, it is the heroes, particularly those who rose above their own initial deficiencies, who were responsible for the ultimate outcome of the war. (Col. David Jablonsky, USA ret., Ph.D., distinguished fellow, U.S. Army War College)

It has been of personal interest for me to put 'meat' on some of those leading the American military and naval operations in the War of 1812. Alexander Macomb is of particular interest, as he directly opposed my ancestor at Plattsburgh, and both families were later connected by marriage in New York in 1872. A lot of research has obviously gone into this book, and I wish Colonel Fitz-Enz every success with it. (Sir Christopher Prevost, Baronet, Rochester, Kent (UK))

More About the Author

A regular army officer for thirty years, paratrooper & aviator in Vietnam as a combat photography platoon leader173rd Airborne Infantry and later Communications Officer 1/10 Calvary, 4th infantry Div. Among decorations is the Soldiers' Medal for life saving, the Bronze Star for Valor, 4 oak leaf clusters and Air Medal for sustained aerial combat. Brigade commander 1101st Signal which operated the Moscow Hotline for three presidents, Inspector General, Communications officer General Haig's airborne command post, Army War College graduate, Chief of Staff Defense Communications Agency, & special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Author of 'Why A Soldier", memoir of a combat photographer, 'The Final Invasion' winner of the Distinguished Writing Prize, Army Historical Foundation, & the Military Order of Saint Louis, Knights Templar, Priory of St. Patrick, Manhattan, 'Old Ironsides, Eagle of the Sea', the novel 'Redcoats Revenge, and "Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers & Heroes, Madison's commanders in the War of 1812'.
I am a guest lecturer at the National Army Museum, London England, the Library of Congress and the National Archives, heard on "Here & Now" WGBH Boston, and appeared four times on C-Span Book TV.
Presently writing a spy thriller on WW I & II.

Customer Reviews

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Everyone interested in American history from the Revolutionary War through 1820 must read this.
L Sanchez
For one thing, he demonstrates that special knack of weaving the faces and events of history into a story that brings back to life real people and real times past.
Michael McGaulley
Very well researched history of both naval and land battles and key individuals, their personalities, actions, correspondence, etc.
R. Reiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Ryan on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Col. Fitz-Enz has again brought the War of 1812 to life with its varied cast of characters.The human side of the forgotten war is experienced in a smooth narrative,which will delight novice and professional historians alike.As Pres. of the Living History Education Foundation and Fellow of the Company of Military Historians I strongly recommend this book!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By dave tobias on August 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Note: this is a review of the hardcover edition (not the Kindle edition).

I had high hopes for this book, since we are now observing the 200th anniversary of many of its events. It consists of brief biographical sketches of many of the leading characters of the War of 1812, with, in most cases, 2 or 3 to a chapter where their events and participation are linked.

The good: In addition to the many well-known characters portrayed, a number of lesser-known figures are described such as James Wilkinson and Jacob Brown, who played important roles is either hindering (Wilkinson) or helping (Brown) the cause of the fledgling United States in the conflict. His research brings to light both characters and viewpoints from original source documents.

The bad: All books need to be edited, and with something beyond a spell-checker. The text refers to the "USS Constriction" (Constitution?) and "USS Interpol" (Intrepid?), and makes several grammatical goofs ("under sale" (sail) and "dual at sea" (duel)) that are glaringly obvious. From page 213, "The fire on the frigate grew quickly and eliminated (illuminated!) Interpol's (Intrepid's) attempt to escape".

The neither good-nor-bad: . The format of the book is such that there is a great deal of repetition of events since the chapters overlap considerably in the time period and the events they represent. This can lead to an awkward juxtaposition of events, such as the meaning of the "Don't Give Up The Ship" flag carried by Perry's ship at the Battle of Lake Erie in chapter 3 (p. 80), when the description of the action that gave cause to the slogan appears in chapter 11 (p. 279).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. A. Nofi on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A summary of the review on StrategyPage.Com:

'Col. Fitz-Enz, author of Old Ironsides: Eagle of the Sea: The Story of the USS Constitution, The Final Invasion: Plattsburgh, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle, and several other works on the War of 1812, uses mini-biographies of twenty-five American (and some British) commanders, both land and sea, to tell the story of the conflict. He groups these accounts by the part in the war in which these men played, some of them truly hacks, sycophants, and adventurers, some heroes, and some a little of each. So several officers are often treated in overlapping fashion, depending upon events in a particular theatre of operations. Surprisingly, this rather innovative approach works well, as he uses the lives of these officers to illustrate various aspects of life, international relations, domestic politics, and contemporary military and naval practice from the American Revolution to the "Era of Good Feeling" that followed the war. Very readable even for those familiar with the war, this work would also be a useful introduction to the subject for the novice.'

For the full review, see StrategyPage.Com
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Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book, for this time period and that war are of particular interest to me. However, a few minutes of initial perusal--focused upon naval issues--convinced me that the author's enormous disregard for detail did not justify any more of my time. For example: HMS Macedonian is misidentified as HMS Macedonia several times. The iconic USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") is identified at least once as USS Constriction. HMS Java is said to be English-built on the pattern of the French Renommee--not so, Java was French-built because she actually WAS the Renommee before being captured and renamed. Commodore William Bainbridge and British Captain Henry Lambert are said to have similar "spotted" records; not so, Bainbridge indeed had a troubled career, but Lambert's had been stellar. (Lambert is constantly referred to as "H" as if the author couldn't discover his first name.) Java's first lieutenant, Henry Chads, was NOT promoted to captain in 1813 right after the court-martial; that did not happen until 1825. I completely stopped reading, and returned the book to the bookstore, when I noted the author's claim that the US Navy in 1812 had no structure, nor navy yards, nor depots, nor personnel--a ridiculously false statement. It MIGHT be possible that the book's over-arching thesis is sound and supported. I don't know, for as stated I'm going to read no further. But so much readily evident sloppy research and amazing indifference to detail and facts persuades me that it's not likely.
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