Book Review: Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes: Madison's Commanders in the War of 1812


by David Fitz-Enz

Lanham, Md.: Taylor/Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. Pp., xviii, 332. Illus., maps, diagr., chron., notes, biblio, index. $32.95. ISBN: 1589797000

Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, & Heroes uses mini-biographies of twenty-five American (and some British) commanders, both land and sea, to tell the story of the conflict. 

Applying his extensive expertise in the subject of the War of 1812, Col. Fitz-Enz groups these personal profiles by thepart each of these men played in the war.  Since some of them were truly hacks, sycophants, and adventurers (e.g., the notorious James Wilkinson, William Hull, Henry Dearborn), some heroes (e.g., Andrew Jackson, Isaac Hull, Jacob Brown, Oliver Hazard Perry), and some a little of each or merely unlucky (e.g., William H. Winder, several officers are often treated in overlapping fashion, as the Fitz-Enz carries the story back and forth between the various theatres of operation and campaigns on the high seas.  Surprisingly, this rather innovative approach works well, as Fitz-Enz uses the lives of these officers to illustrate various aspects of life, international relations, domestic politics, and contemporary military and naval practice from the American Revolution thtough the “Era of Good Feeling” that followed the war.

Very readable and informative even for those familiar with the war, Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, & Heroes would also be a useful introduction to the subject for the novice.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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