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A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813, by David Curtis Skaggs and Gerard T. Altoff

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997. x, 244 pp. Illus, tables, maps, glossary, notes, bibliog, index. $34.95. ISBN:1557500304.

A solid history of one of the most important “maritime” campaigns in US history, the struggle for Late Erie during the War of 1812, which has not received detailed scholarly attention in nearly a century. The authors take pains to fit the campaing into the bigger picture, discussing prewar plans and stratgic thinking, as well as preliminary operations at some length. Land operatoins are given excellent treatment.

In providing a readable, clear narrative of the war on the lacustrine frontier, the authors delve into many significant and often ignored aspects of the campaign (and, indeed, of other campaigns in the American wilderness in earlier times), such as the rather considerable naval power of the Indians, with their large fleets of war canoes, the British/Canadian side of the war, the difficulties of building ships in a wilderness, and the many wonderfully unique characters who took part.

Altogether an excellent treatment of a negelected war. The only flaw that this reviewer could find was in the authors’ somewhat cavalier treatment of Maj. Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer, who was actually much better than they suggest. Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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