Niagara 1814

America Invades Canada

Richard V. Barbuto

Most books on the War of 1812 focus on the burning of Washington, D.C., the Battles of Baltimore and New Orleans, and the war in the Old Northwest. Scant attention, however, has been paid the Niagara Campaign of 1814-the American army's ambitious but failed attempt to wrest Canada from British control. While a few writers have dealt with aspects of this effort, Richard Barbuto is the first to offer a comprehensive study of the entire campaign.

Barbuto covers every aspect of a campaign that saw the American army come of age, even as its military leaders blundered away potential victory and the acquisition of a coveted expanse of North American territory. Vividly recreating the major battles on the Niagara peninsula—at Chippawa, Lundy's Lane, Fort Erie, and Cook's Mill—Barbuto also clarifies the role of these engagements within the overall framework of American strategy.

“An impressive and important addition to the historical works on the War of 1812. Comprehensive in scope and detailed in its analysis, Barbuto’s study is also a sheer pleasure to read and will most certainly become the standard work on the subject.”

—Timothy D. Johnson, author of Winfield Scott: The Quest for Military Glory

“Barbuto makes an original and valuable contribution to our understanding of the War of 1812. His study is unmatched for its comprehensiveness and balance and should be welcomed by scholars and general readers with a strong interest in good military history.”

—William Skelton, author of An American Profession of Arms: The Army Officer Corps, 1784–1861

Despite early success at Chippawa, four long months of fighting finally ended in something like a draw, with the British still in control of Canada. Barbuto argues convincingly that the American government was never really able to harness, coordinate, and focus its tremendous resources in ways that would have allowed the campaign to succeed. Much of the blame, he shows, can be attributed to the poor leadership and confused strategic thinking of President James Madison and his secretary of war, John Armstrong.

The American effort was further undermined by manpower shortages, a few ineffective field commanders, and the army and navy's inability to coordinate their objectives and operations. Even so, Barbuto contends that the American soldier, led by the likes of Jacob Brown and the legendary Winfield Scott, performed surprisingly well against one of the great armies of the nineteenth century.

Barbuto's analysis, unmarred by national bias, presents a balanced picture of these events from the perspective of all participants—American, British, Canadian, and Native American. He also fills an important gap by providing the first ever capsule histories of all regimental-sized units involved in the campaign. Breathing new life into these events, his far-ranging study should become the definitive work on this long-neglected campaign.

About the Author

Richard V. Barbuto, research manager for Logicon, Inc., a United States Army contractor, received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Kansas. He served twenty-three years in the army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series