A Reading Diary. American History, Military History
A. American History
a. Early 19th Century
1. Jortner, Adam. The Gods of Prophetstown, The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier. Oxford University Press: New York, 2012 (310pp.) Read 3-8 to 5-17-14. This book goes into great detail of the lives of William H. Harrison (Maj. Gen. and President) and Tenskwatawa (The Prophet of the Shawnee), brother of Tecumseh and the religious/political revival led by Tenskwatawa and the trans-Indian movement and the political early life of Harrison. The first half of the book is a hard, tough, read but the last 1/3 is worth the work. A total of just a few pages on the actual battle of Tippecanoe but the study of Indian/US relations, the religion comparisons are fascinating. This book is a wonderful study of early American politics that lets you know they were thoroughly crooked and corrupt back then as well as today.
2. Clark, Thomas D. and John D.W. Guice. The Old Southwest 1795-1830, Frontiers in Conflict. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, OK 1989 (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque) 335pp. Read 06-23-15 to 08-25-15. This was a very good general history of the Old Southwest that covered inter-related topics. I found the book a bit tedious at times, other times quite a lively read, but all in all, a very profitable read about an area of our nation and our past that I knew next to nothing about. I read this book as a result of reading Remini’s book on the Battle of New Orleans a few months back (see below) needing some more background to Andrew Jackson and the region. I am very glad to have read this book but could only recommend it to someone who had a special interest in that region or time period; not for the general reader. Like the book immediately above, The Gods of Prophetstown, this book covers a LOT of information about our relations to the Indian nations, including the Trail of Tears.
b. Founding 18th Century
1. Olasky, Marvin. Fighting for Liberty and Virtue: Political and Cultural Wars in Eighteenth-Century America. Regnery: Washington D.C. 1995 (316pp.) This eye-opening, fantastic book was read 09-08-14 to 09-30-14. Wow! I had no idea how corrupt and immoral the British were at that time and how that played into the Revolution.
1. Morison, Samuel Eliot. The European Discovery of America: The Southern Voyages A.D. 1492-1616. Oxford University Press: New York, 1974, (758p.) I purchased this book in 2000 and began reading it but never completed it. I restarted the book again in Nov.2013 and finished in 03-06-15. This book was somewhat of a difficult read as it is not just long but quite detailed. But Professor Morison (he was a US Navy Admiral and with a Ph.D. he was a professor at Harvard) writes with excitement that comes with having sailed many of the same routes that he writes about. So when he writes about Columbus he writes not just as a scholar but as a sailor who has made the same journey in a small ship. When he writes about Magellan, he writes as one who has sailed a ship through the Straits named for Magellan. When he writes of Drake on the California coast he writes as one who personally sailed the coast looking for the bay Drake put in to. Where I struggled in the book was with the lesser known explorers. At any rate, I am glad I have read it and plan on reading volume one of this set, The Northern Voyages in the future. The two things I was amazed at as I read this book were the frequency with which the Explorers were punished and imprisoned by the kings when they returned home. Morison makes much of this. The other thing I found amazing was the casualty rate of roughly 25% of all the mariners who set out on these voyages never made it home. These are stories of tremendous courage. It is the story of Western Civilization at its finest. While I cannot recommend this book for the general reader, it is an excellent book for those with an interest in sailing and in the Age of Discovery.
2. Delaney, Carol. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem. Free Press: New York, 2011 (319pp.) Read 03-28-15 to 05-08-15. This was an amazing book that rocked my understanding of Columbus! I had previously read Samuel Eliot Morison’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and IT was fantastic. That book and Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther are my two top biographies of all time (and I just don’t read many biographies). But now, I must add Delaney’s work as being of equal in merit to Admiral Morison’s. Morison’s book surprised me about 8-9 years ago as I saw clearly that Columbus was a man of great faith, not just a nominal Catholic. And then I read Fuson’s edition of the Log of Christopher Columbus and again, the faith of Columbus shone brightly. What Delaney does, however, is to tie it all together and show that Columbus’ faith gave him a grand vision of sailing West to get to the East, in order to gain great wealth for Spain so that Ferdinand and Isabella could afford to raise an army and go on a Crusade to take Jerusalem back from the muslims and usher in the 2nd Coming of Christ. Delaney proves her point time and again using Columbus’ own writings to show his motivations. From my previous studies of Columbus I thought that his sailing west to get to the east was simply due to the blockade of trade by the muslims, but that is only part of the motivation. None of this was taught me in high school or college history, or even in seminary/graduate school. I highly recommend this book, even to the point of saying if you could read either Morison or Delaney, I would recommend Delaney.
3. Duggard, Martin. The Last Voyage of Columbus. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 2005 (294pp.) Read from 5-9-15 to 6-17-15. This is a very good, popular book on the 4th and final voyage to the New World by Columbus. Although it is written in a popular style, having read Morison and Delaney, I can definitely tell that Duggard knows his stuff. He included many details the others left out. By focusing on the 4th voyage Duggard is able to include those details and present what amounts to an amazing adventure story! The last chapter is outstanding as he tells what happened to all the key players later, and, most important, he tells the story of how Amerigo Vespucci got the credit for discovering the New World and Columbus was basically forgotten for about 300 years! I highly recommend!
e. Black History/Slavery
1. Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave. Dover Publications: Mineola, NY 1970 (336pp.). Originally published 1853. Read 02-16-15 to 02-24-15. This is an amazing personal account of the life of a free black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840’s to 1850’s. This is a real page turner, hard to put down. This book absolutely is must reading for every American! Wow! In the last year a movie was made off of this book, which I have not seen, but now must see.
B. Military History
a. The War of 1812
1. The Burning of Washington, The British Invasion of 1814, by Anthony S. Pitch. Bluejacket Books: Annapolis, MD 1998 (298pp.). Read from Aug.24 to Sept.11, 2014 for the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington DC. This is an outstanding, well-written book that is incredibly detailed and uses a ton of first hand, primary sources. The book is very fast paced and is an easy read despite the details covered. This was an eye-opening book for me! I highly recommend!
2. The Naval War of 1812 Modern Library-War by Theodore Roosevelt. The Modern Library: New York, 1999 (308pp. but I only made it to p.182). Originally published in 1882 when he was 23 yrs. old. I purchased this book 04-20-2000 and tried reading it 05-19-14 to 12-12-14 but simply could not finish it! I had read a couple of other of Roosevelt’s books and enjoyed them immensely, but this book is a very technical, extremely well researched doctoral thesis style book that analyzes all the minutia of the naval side of the War of 1812. The book is filled with technical, naval language and examines the primary sources in detail. One highlight of the book is Roosevelt’s detailed analysis of the primary and secondary sources. He critiques and praises various authors for their accuracy and fairness. I really wanted to read this book…but I just had to set it aside and move on.
3. Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago, by Ann Durkin Keating. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2012 (294pp.) Read 12-12-14 to 01-10-15. This wonderful book gives the personal stories of several families and individuals who settled Chicago in the earliest days, when it was a trading post in Indian country, and tells the story of the Battle, not the Massacre, of Ft. Dearborn. In this meticulously well researched book Durkin explains the intricacies of the mixing of the races in the early 19th century Old Northwest and the impact of the War of 1812 on all concerned. This was really a fantastic book! Her closing chapters were amazing as she followed up on what happened after the war to the Indians, the Traders, the soldiers and the families. The last chapter was outstanding as she showed the relevance of the past for the present in Chicago. Really a Very good book!
4. The War of 1812 In the Old Northwest by Alec R. Gilpin. Michigan State University Press: East Lansing, MI 1958 (Introduction for the Bicentennial Edition by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, 2012) 286pp. Read 01-14-15 to 02-25-15. The Introduction to this excellent book by Dunnigan was especially helpful in explaining what Gilpin’s intentions were. The author was not trying to analyze or explain the war, he was giving a straightforward account of the war in the Old Northwest. However, what I found in the reading of the book is that he subtly did explain a lot of the war. First of all, Gilpin definitely took the side of Governor/General William Hull, one of the major scapegoats of the war under the Madison administration. Gilpin convinced me that Hull was given an impossible task and was not given the much needed support or command structure that was needed to accomplish his assignment. Most books I have read on the War of 1812 do look down on Hull, but clearly he should Not have been convicted. This book demonstrates the nearly useless roles of the militia, how the Indians were used by both sides to their own detriment and how crucial a well-established logistics plan is for maintaining an army. This was a very good book but absolutely needed about 30 maps to make sense of all the troop movements. The book gets a little confusing with all the different units, commanders, and Forts, and maps would help clear it all up. I recommend this book for those with a serious interest in the Old Northwest, the War of 1812 or US relations with the Indians.
5. The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory by Robert V. Remini. Viking: New York, 1999 (226pp.) Read 02-26-15 to 03-28-15. This was an outstanding book that was very enlightening to me. All my life I had heard of the great, but meaningless, victory won by Jackson at New Orleans after the peace treaty of Ghent had been signed. But never had I heard that the treaty was not in effect until after voted on by the US Senate over a month after Jackson’s victory. Jackson and the rag-tag thrown together army/navy defeated one of the most experienced British units that had fought in Europe against Napoleon. Remini’s point, that the battle became a major source of unification in America after so many dismal defeats in the War of 1812 and that the Battle was celebrated for decades, until supplanted by the Civil War, is a crucial and convincing point. Remini’s portrayal of Jackson again goes counter to most of what I have read in the past which painted Jackson in somewhat of a negative light. Jackson was a LEADER who commanded the respect of those he was around. This book definitely makes me want to read Remini’s massive 3 volume biography of Jackson.
6. A Very Brilliant Affair, The Battle of Queenston Heights, by Robert Malcomson. Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, MD. 2003 (328pp.) Read 04-23-15 to 05-13-15. This excellent study of the first land battle mounted from New York into Canada in the War of 1812 is military history at its finest. The first chapters give us the political and military situation leading up to the war and details about the major leaders. The details that the author gets into with supplies, equipment and training are amazing! I had to just shake my head as he describes the Americans going into battle in utter chaos and with no good plan or rehearsal for a night river crossing with raw recruits. This proves the old adage true, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. Excellent read! Why, oh why, does not Hollywood make movies of these excellent bits of history?
7. Strange Fatality, The Battle of Stoney Creek, 1813, by James E. Elliott. Robin Brass Studio: Canada, 2009 (311pp.) Read 05-19-15 to 06-22-15. This is an excellent book, this is history as it should be written! The emphasis in this book is that Leadership matters! Elliott gives us a well written, detailed look at everything that led up to the battle and backgrounds to all the key players as well as many smaller figures who were there, making the book very personable. Generals to sergeants to privates to civilians, the author covers all their stories well. He shows how weakness in key leaders led to an almost disaster for the British/Canadians but the weaknesses of the Americans rescued defeat from the jaws of victory. This was a huge disaster for the Americans due to political appointments to the army, lack of leadership and training. The author was exceedingly fair to both sides. Including in an appendix the story of the battle as it was remembered later and the effort to raise a memorial was excellent! That was a nice touch that really capped off a wonderful book. .
8. Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands, The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans 1812-1815, by Frank Lawrence Owsley Jr. The University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1981 (255pp.) Read 08-26-15 to 10-10-15. This is an outstanding book that told a story I had never heard before. Oh, I had heard of the Creek War, and I think in some John Wayne movie somewhere I had heard of Ft. Mims, but I just never realized this was all the Southern part of the War of 1812. This book is incredibly well researched and well written yet concise. I also learned more about the pirates Laffite than I had ever known. Highly recommend for the military history buff, or the true southerners who want to know their story. A great book for Indian-White relations history as well.
b. World War II
1. The Capture of Attu, compiled by Lt. Robert J. Mitchell with Sewell T. Tyng and Cpt. Nelson L. Drummond, Jr. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NB. 2000. Originally published in 1944 by the U.S. Army’s Infantry Journal and sold to US Servicemen for a quarter, it was also distributed by Military Intelligence to help soldiers prepare for battle with the Japanese. This book is a Classic in military history. I purchased this book in September 2001…just prior to 9/11. This book tells the story of the last time a foreign invader attacked American soil, until Sept. 11, 2001. In reading some of the stories from the war in Afghanistan, I would say that The Capture of Attu needs to be read again by our military. I am sending this book to my son, SSGT Luke Walker, 1/501 (Geronimo!) in the 4th Bde. of the 25th Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. They do very little training in the mountains of Alaska, and never in the Aleutians. Read in 2014.
c. World War I
1. Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, by Max Hastings. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2013 (628pp.) Read 08-27-14 to 10-07-14. This is THE Go To book for the beginning of WWI (with the possible exception of Barbara Tuchman’ book). Very readable, thorough and wide ranging Hastings covers the historical backgrounds and cultural issues of the main combatants, the political and economic realities as well as the military issues and combat. Uses a vast array of primary source material. Highly Recommend.
2. The Dawn Patrol (movie). Directed by Edmund Goulding, starring Errol Flynn, David Niven, Basil Rathbone. Warner Bros. 1938 (103min). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030044/ This was an outstanding movie! I have heard of this movie all my life but only purchased it recently, in honor of the 100th anniversary of WWI. Watched it with Luke and Dawn. This movie alludes to another war coming a few times, and since it was released in 1938 it makes sense. It shows the despair and hopelessness of WWI and the stresses of command as a series of commanders experience the same fruitless orders that lead to senseless death of romantic, courageous, young flyers. I highly recommend!