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War in the Chesapeake: The British Campaigns to Control the Bay, 1813-14

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War in the Chesapeake: The British Campaigns to Control the Bay, 1813-14


By Charles Patrick Neimeyer

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, x + 244 pages
Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $44.95
ISBN: 9781612518657
Charles P. Neimeyer, Director of Marines Corps History and Gray Research
Center at Marines Corps University, has researched and written one of the finest
studies available of British campaigns in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.
His synthesis of numerous primary and secondary sources provides the vehicle for an
excellent narrative that addresses the prelude to war, the stalemate on the northern
frontier, and unsettled conditions around the Bay (popular unrest, a scramble for the
spoils of privateering, and weakly prepared military defenses) before plunging into the
nitty-gritty details of the British campaigns of 1813 and 1814. Within these campaigns
hide marvelous stories of vessels large and small, heroic individuals, valiant resistance,
lives sliced short, and a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that faded in the light of a
dawn breaking on the waters and fields of Baltimore.
Neimeyer focuses his efforts on several key areas: the defense of Craney Island
and Norfolk, British raids ashore in 1813, American naval resistance around the Bay,
and the assaults on Washington, Alexandria, and Baltimore in 1814. His treatment of
the British handling of American slaves is interesting; and the author does not neglect
actions outside the Bay (for example, Cockburn’s raid on the Outer Banks of North
Carolina). In several instances, he illustrates the interconnectivity of the Chesapeake
campaigns with other events of the war. Notably, Neimeyer ties the cruelties (by both
sides) along the Canadian Frontier to the burning of civilian homes and government
buildings in the Chesapeake region. War invariably grows crueler over time–the War of
1812 was no exception.
As with all works, there is room for improvement. More maps would be welcome.
Some additional analysis of the place of prize money and the drive for promotion among
the Royal Navy’s officer corps (especially with the war in Europe winding to an end)
would not be amiss. Similarly, the effects on the war as a whole of these massive
concentrations of available British resources could have used a few more words.
That noted, this is an extraordinary study that combines readability,
entertainment, and the scholarly touch. It is a history for the general reader as well as
the professional historian. As the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 cruises to its
inevitable close, Neimeyer’s study of the Chesapeake Campaigns is highly
recommended and deserves a spot on your bookshelf.
Wade G. Dudley
East Carolina University


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