Book Review: Defender of Canada: Sir George Prevost and the War of 1812


by John R. Grodzinski

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. Pp. xxii, 376. Illus., maps., tables, appends, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806143878

Canada’s Forgotten Hero of 1812

George Prevost (1767-1816) , who had an impressive career in the British Army and as a colonial administrator, has been treated poorly historians for his years as commander-in-chief in British North America (1811-1812).  In this comprehensive biography, Prof. Grodzinski (Royal Military College of Canada) does a very good job of rescuing the man’s reputation, which rests largely on the failure of his invasion of New York in 1814. 

Grodzinski opens with two chapters that review Prevost’s early career up to his appointment as command er-in-chief in Canada.  He then delves deeply into Prevost’s actions in Canada.  P reparations for war are covered in a single chapter, in which he review s the strategic picture, the resources available, and Prevost’s operational planning.  The events of 1812 and 1813 are covered in three chapters, covering the initial operations in 1812, the heavy fighting on the Lake Ontario front in early 1813, and culminating in the repulse of a broad front American invasion later that year .  Two chapters cover the strategic situation at the onset of 1814 and Prevost’s preparations for an invasion of  New York.  The campaign itself, which culminated in the twin battles of Plattsburg and Lake Champlain (Sept. 6-11, 1814), is covered in detail in one chapter. 

Grodzinski follows with an account of the court martial proceedings against Prevost for losing the campaign , which almost destroyed his reputation, and some reflections on the man’s leadership during the War of 1812.  With its very useful appendices, that include important letters and other documents, Defender of Canada , a volume in the excellent University of Oklahoma Press series “Campaigns and Commanders,” is not only an excellent biography of an underrated commander, but also an essential read for anyone interested in the War of 1812.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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