Osprey's USS Lawrence vs HMS Detroit


Mark Lardas


Osprey Publishing


$20.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1582-8

The War of 1812 is something not all that well known outside the US and perhaps Canada. It is a war where, if the British had not been involved in dealing Napoleon, may well have turned out a bit differently. But then, it was that very involvement that started the conflict. You see, at the time, the British were very short on manpower for the Royal Navy. This led to press gangs nabbing people from seaports to serve on ships and even extended to stopping ships at sea and 'recruiting' any sailors they thought might be British subjects. This included many American ships an often as not, the men pulled from these vessels were American citizens.

This gave the US the opportunity to try to snag some additional territory as they thought the Canada should be part of the US. Using the impressments of sailors as an excuse, and knowing that the British were involved in the Napoleonic war, the US declared war. The downside of this is that the Royal Navy ended up blockading American ports, making it difficult for US ships to do any trade and the relative weakness of the US Navy was such that they were not really able to stand up to the blockading ships.

Since most of the ground war took place in the areas around what is now the Canadian border, it would make sense that the Great Lakes would be a battle ground as well. However, there was darn little in the way of warships on the Lakes. The lack of facilities, difficulty in getting gear into this area and a real dearth of trained sailors on both sides, started things off on a pretty even keel.

Both started building warships. Basically sloops-of-war were all that were needed. These were generally 20 gun ships, modified for lake operations (which mostly meant shallower draft). The US had a real advantage in this area as from the beginning, the ship builder for US ships was able to design and build a ship in much lesser time than it took the British. This was mainly in the simplicity of design of American ships which did not use knees to hold up the decks (you'll have to read up on that).

The British also relied on Ohio farmers for provisions and if they did not control the lakes, they would starve. What ended up occurring was a battle between the fleets on Lake Erie to determine control of the lakes. The US fleet had a heavier weight of fire, but a lot of inexperienced men. Pretty much the same lack of experience with the British. However, the US side had Perry. This proved to be crucial as even though the battle looked very much like it would be a British victory, it was the initiative of Perry that turned it into the most crushing defeat the Royal Navy has ever had.

Sound interesting?

Well it is and I'm going to leave it to you to read this book to find out how all of this happened. The author does a superb job of explaining the situation as well as how the battle evolved and finished. It is his use of mostly primary research and an open mind that weeds out a lot of conjecture and wrong information to provide an eminently readable book. Full of great period illustrations and some equally good art work, it is a book that will hold your attention until the very end. Get this one. It is that good.

May 2017

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