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Don't Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812 Hardcover – July 11, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

War making and mythmaking go hand in hand in Hickey's analysis of the misconceptions, embellishments and falsehoods that continue to shape Americans' views of the War of 1812. In describing the complicated origins, conduct and outcome of the conflict, Wayne State College history professor Hickey shows how myth has helped construct a history that we can understand and accept. Three 19th-century writers in particular—British naval historian William James, American popularizer Benson Lossing and man of letters Henry Adams—promoted already familiar stories of the war. While Hickey investigates, analyzes and critiques a spectrum of legends about the war's roots, its campaigns and armed forces, and its military and political leadership, he's no mere debunker. Stories like Col. Henry Johnson's killing of Tecumseh in hand-to-hand combat survive his scrutiny. And Capt. James Lawrence did say, "Don't give up the ship"—though those were not his last words. But Jean Lafitte's role in the Battle of New Orleans is diminished to the advantage of his brother Pierre. And blacks played a long-neglected role on both sides. These are only a few of the revelations awaiting readers of this richly textured model of historical revisionism, which confirms Hickey's status as a leading scholar of the early national period. 10 photos. (Aug.)
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Review

"War making and mythmaking go hand in hand in Hickey's analysis of the misconceptions, embellishments and falsehoods that continue to shape Americans' views of the War of 1812. In describing the complicated origins, conduct and outcome of the conflict, Wayne State College history professor Hickey shows how myth has helped construct a history that we can understand and accept. Three 19th-century writers in particular-British naval historian William James, American popularizer Benson Lossing and man of letters Henry Adams-promoted already familiar stories of the war. While Hickey investigates, analyzes and critiques a spectrum of legends about the war's roots, its campaigns and armed forces, and its military and political leadership, he's no mere debunker. Stories like Col. Henry Johnson's killing of Tecumseh in hand-to-hand combat survive his scrutiny. And Capt. James Lawrence did say, "Don't give up the ship"-though those were not his last words. But Jean Lafitte's role in the Battle of New Orleans is diminished to the advantage of his brother Pierre. And blacks played a long-neglected role on both sides. These are only a few of the revelations awaiting readers of this richly textured model of historical revisionism, which confirms Hickey's status as a leading scholar of the early national period. 10 photos.(Aug.)" - Publishers Weekly, June 12, 2006.


"Donald R. Hickey's unique study Don't Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812 addresses the myths, half truths, and realities of the forgotten last Anglo-American conflict. . . . The book provides a starting point for those seeking further information regarding the conflict and it should take its rightful place on the bookshelves of all War of 1812 buffs and scholars."--Journal of the Early Republic

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1 edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252031792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252031793
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,164,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first book by Donald Hickey that I have bought and read and it is an outstanding, if somewhat unusual book, on the War of 1812. Because of this, I have just ordered two more books by the author.

One of the reasons that I bought and read this volume is that the forward is by Don Graves, who is the authority of the war on the Niagara frontier during the War of 1812, and in my opinion, the master of the small battle narrative. If he endorses a volume, that is good enough for me.

This book is easy to read, dispels many popular errors that have come down to us today in myth and legend, and is one of the best books in print on the War of 1812. It is organized well, is easy to find material and is an excellent reference work. I have placed it in my library next to Don Graves excellent volumes and alongside the work of John Elting and Henry Adams.

In short, this volume is crammed with exciting material that a reader may or may not have come across before, and should be on the table next to anyone who is studying this most forgotten of America's wars. It is not only highly recommended, but it is essential for any study of the war.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book immensely. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the War of 1812. It certainly added to my understanding. While it is not a stand alone history of the War of 1812, it is an excellent source book for the details of the war. The book begins with a good over view of the causes of the war and the vision that each side had of the other. The second chapter gives a rough chronology of the war from 1812 to 1814 with a discription of the campaigns. This is where the book gets really interesting. Dr. Hickey brings forth a host of details about the war in short sections about a page in length; where was the first land battle, who took the first prize, who killed Tecumseh, could the Americans have taken Quebec? Then we deal with the naval war in the same detail. Then the Soldiers, Sailors and Civilians where we learn about the citizens, militias, indians, negro's and women. Finally we deal with the mechanics of waging a war across the ocean for the British or at the edge of the frontier for the Americans and Canadians. Here we learn more about tactics, arms and deserters. Finally we deal with the end of the war with all the myths and details of the Battle of New Orleans after the war had ended. This victory allowed the American Public to convince themselves that they had won the war in popular myth.
Dr Hickey has done a masterful job of weaving together a many seperate facts into a coherent whole.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think a better title would have been "1812 Shades of Gray." It's not a primer on the war and it's not a straight-up debunking of the myths of the wars and it's not historiography--although it is all of these, in part.

Rather, Professor Hickey takes many elements of the war (battles, generals, naval officers, tactics, politics and so on) and examines them all, teases out the truth (or at least the best evidence which points at truth) and allows himself to do what a lot of historians don't: indulge in the "what if" questions. What if news of the Orders in Council had reached the US earlier. What if this battle or that had gone anther way. I *like* this sort of speculation (much more than the guessing game of "[X famous figure] probably did this and probably thought that"). I also like that Hickey has his own biases and calls it like he sees it (go team Jefferson-was-a-big-fat-hypocrite!), and while I didn't agree with every conclusion he reached, I like a historian who takes a stand. Hickey knows his stuff inside and out, and even if you don't like his conclusions, you will find they are well-reasoned.

If you are very familiar with the War of 1812, you may encounter passages where your attention flags because you have the basics down cold already. Read it anyway, because you will learn nuances of the war you didn't know existed. Also, Hickey devotes a good deal of time to the impact of the war on Canadians and Native American populations.

If you are not very familiar with the War of 1812, what is wrong with you? Um, I mean, this is maybe not the perfect starting point for learning the war (I am partial to Jon Latimer's 1812), but it is a good second or third book, to put it all into perspective.

Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Don't Give Up the Ship is an interesting and well balanced analysis of the War of 1812 from a variety of perspectives. While the author has a clear point of view in explaining certain myths, he does an excellent job of explaining how each of the primary parties, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and First Nations people, view the same sets of facts differently and therefore have developed their own national mythology around the events and characters in the war. This is an excellent companion to a more traditional treatment of the topic and a timely read for the bicentennial of the war.
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Format: Paperback
This is a delightful book by the dean of historians of the War of 1812. Every great historical event leaves a legacy of lies, errors, legends, and myths, and it takes historical detective work to untangle them. These myths provide great snapshots of aspects of history we usually don't think about, and there are more secrets and surprises revealed than just the myths themselves. The kind of history you can enjoy while touring historical sites and just lying on the beach. It is wonderful that a first-rate scholar can write so well for the general reader. Enjoy!
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