From Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Taylor (William Cooper' s Town) presents the War of 1812 not as the conventionally understood second war for independence, but as a civil war waged in the context of a U.S.-Canadian boundary barely separating kindred peoples, recently and incompletely divided by the revolution. , Upper Canada (Ontario) was the scene of bitter conflict between two sets of immigrants: Loyalist refugees from the Revolutionary War and more recent American arrivals hoping to bring the region into the U.S. In New England, antiwar sentiment was strong enough to bring the region close to secession. Irish immigrants, many of them republican in sympathy, found Canada, with its developing monarchical ethos, less than welcoming. The Indians of the Northwest found themselves sandwiched between two alien and expansionist cultures unconcerned for Native Americans' welfare. The result was a drawn-out, indecisive war, but in the long run the four-way conflict that Taylor so convincingly describes was decisive in transforming a permeable frontier into a boundary separating the king' s subject and the republic' s citizen. 80 illus.; 2 maps.
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Geographically situated along Lakes Erie and Ontario, Taylor’s thoroughly researched history of the War of 1812 examines the political predicaments of the region’s settlers and Indians. The ambiguity of allegiance that prevailed before the war evaporated; British officials insisted that if born a subject, one was forever a subject owing loyalty. Illustrating such wartime pressure on individuals, Taylor perceptively portrays how people coped with or capitalized on the unsettled times. The question of allegiance to empire or republic animates many of Taylor’s mininarratives, such as the treatment meted outto each side’s prisoners of war and spies. American-born Canadians, Irish immigrants, and Indian tribes: each group, Taylor explains, experienced a sort of civil war, not in organized battles, but in being polarized by the overt military war waged along the Great Lakes and the Niagara River. In discussing dissenters, recruitment for armies, and despoliation of farms and villages, Taylor illuminates an arena generally omitted from military histories of the war. Battles and campaigns do connect his account, however, which will stand history collections in good stead for a very long while. --Gilbert Taylor