Book Reviews – Osprey Duel #79, USS Lawrence vs. HMS Detroit: The War of 1812 on the Great Lakes and New Vanguard #188: Great Lakes Warships 1812-1815
Attentive readers will note that we’ve started trying to have a monthly theme on the Friday Watercoolers, this month being book reviews. Since I tend to try to keep my own WC’s “more history, less politics” I thought something I’m perusing professionally might be worth a look in keeping with those themes.
What We’re Dealing With: Osprey is a British publisher with a broad catalog catering to every kind of history nut imaginable; their hallmark is short (200-page-or-less, usually around 100), well-illustrated, accessibly written volumes that give a primer-level understanding of their subject matter. Duels usually focus on two contemporary weapons systems that met in battle and the conditions of their engagement in specific encounters, while New Vanguard drills deeper into one specific platform (say, Abrams tanks or Napoleonic naval artillery). The two books we’re looking at today are both products of the team of noted naval historian (and former rocket-scientist) author Mark Lardas and illustrator Paul Wright.
Why: They’ve largely been lost in memory, but the battles on the Great Lakes played a key role deciding the fate of a continent and two nations in the War of 1812–waterways were the highways of the day, and with each side using them to try to invade the other that made North America’s great inland seas an inevitable battlefield. Oliver Hazard Perry earned his place in the history books here.
Duel #79: Lardas begins, in typical series format, with a brief timeline of events, then gives a look at how the hardware was developed. A summary of the strategic situation sets the stage, then Lardas moves into more detail about the machines, the men, the Battle of Lake Erie and the aftermath.
New Vanguard #188: While its companion focuses mainly on the two ships named in its title, this volume looks at the full spectrum of Laker warships from tiny gunboats all the way to the monster HMS St. Lawrence, a three-decker the equal of her oceangoing counterparts and the only completed freshwater Ship of the Line. This volume offers at once a broader and deeper look at Great Lakes shipbuilding, including how ocean-service designs were adapted for shallow-water service, then looks at operations across the entire theater, and closes with a brief technical and historical summary of each man-o’-war built or purchased on the Lakes.
Overall Thoughts: While not at the level of detail I personally prefer, these two books helped bring a daunting research project infested with nuisance one-off designs down into more manageable pieces. Very good at presenting key technical points without being condescending. Worth picking up if naval history or the War of 1812 is your thing, especially with Osprey Direct having a 30%-off sale this month.
Quote of the Day
Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.–John Wayne
As always, the Watercooler is an Open Thread. Hope you enjoyed this little moment in the book nook, and now the floor is yours.