review: "Lords of the Lake" by Robert Malcomson
- From the May 1999 41st Newsletter:
5 Book Review: "Lords of the Lake - The Naval War on Lake Ontario 1812-1814" by Robert Malcomson - 411 pages, extensively illustrated
If you are the average reasonably well-read affectionado of the War of 1812, your knowledge of naval operations on Lake Ontario probably runs somewhat along the following lines:
1) a builder's war: little actual fighting
2) as a general rule, each side's fleet was rarely present where it would do the most good for land operations. Exceptions include the U.S. attacks on York and Fort George and the British attack on Oswego, but by and large, the fleets seemed preoccupied with - hey, no one knows!!! No one knows where they spent most of their time - aimlessly cruising around? in harbour, drinking and "shagging" the local whores?
This book, which came out in late 1998, actually analyses where those ships were, all their operations, and what was going on in the minds of the respective commanders.
Turns out there was more fighting than you might expect: on a few occasions, it looked like a fleet action was shaping up. But each "admiral" was fully aware that he could lose the war for his side in an afternoon (shades of Jellicoe, WW1) and maneuvered prudently and cautiously. So if one side had an advantage in the confrontations that did occur, the other side managed to get away.
You could call it "running", but this book makes it clear that there was little that Chaucey or Yeo did that you can honestly find fault with. My respect for both of them increased dramatically. Their efforts were untiring and actually astonishing, and as for army-navy cooperation, they never did less than was prudently possible, and sometimes, more.
Rating: High. Essential reading, in fact. The book is very nicely put together, with a combination of contemporary illustrations, and paintings by our good friend, Peter Rindlisbacher as a nice bonus to the text. It is also well-written.