Plattsburg, the War of 1812's Most Decisive Battle
By Col. David E. Fitz-Enz, USA (Ret.)

Published by Cooper Square Press, ISBN 0-8154-1139-1

Reviewed for Keeping APAce by CDR Byron D. Varner, USN (Ret)

The United States was a young country, still struggling to overcome many problems of its brief existence when it became embroiled in a second war with Great Britain – the War of 1812.

This time, the Brits were an even more formidable opponent, having just beaten the great French Army and Navy under Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Additionally, they were still smarting from their own unlikely defeat by the rag-tag American forces of the Revolutionary War some 36-years prior.

With its battle-tested Army deploying from Canada, Britain's world-class Navy attack ports along the largely undefended U.S. coastline, burning, pillaging, and harassing American shipping as a diversion for the action of its Army along the Great Lakes. It was the enemy's plan to capture New York and the Northeastern states, whose people they thought were ripe for revolt. The victors would then form these states into a new Colony they would name Columbia.

Of major consequence was a widespread anti-war stance by many citizens and businesses with a desire to continue lucrative trade with Canada, and with loyalties more to their own states than to the federal government. A small, poorly trained and outfitted Army and Navy that, once again, would rely heavily upon an unpredictable and sometimes- undependable state militia, compounded this situation. Some states would not even allow their militia to participate.

This was the war, you may recall, in which the British occupied New York and, among other historical events, attack Washington D.C., burned most of the government buildings including the White House, and fired rockets onto Ft. McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.

It was a David and Goliath scenario in most every theater of the war. If there was ever proof that divine intervention was on our side, the War of 1812 was the greatest example of that phenomenon. And the Battle of Plattsburg and Lake Champlain was its defining character. It ended the war

Author Fitz-enz's long and intricate research uncovered many previously unknown facts that, together with his excellent presentation, make this book well worth your time to read and appreciate.

In doing so, you will have the feeling of an eyewitness to the battle, the human failures, heroic deeds, and the true meaning of “blood and guts” in those days of wooden sailing ships and iron men. You will find out why the Navy reveres Thomas Macdonough as one of its greatest heroes.

Best of all, you will gain a better understanding of the people of that time and a greater admiration for what our nation has gone through in this fateful step of its gradual transition to what it has become today.