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Great Lakes Warships 1812–1815

Great Lakes Warships 1812–1815 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2012 Title Great Lakes Warships 1812–1815
Author Mark Lardas Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2011 ISBN 978-1849085663
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $17.95


Timed to coincide with the War of 1812’s Bicentennial Celebrations, Osprey Publishing’s Great Lakes Warships 1812–1815, offers an absorbing précis of that nearly forgotten naval campaign.

Until war erupted, the United States Navy and the Royal Navy maintained only token forces on the Great Lakes.  But fighting sparked a ship-building arms race that continued throughout the conflict.

Author Lardas, himself a naval architect, ably traces the total tale – background, planning, engineering, equipment and operations – in one handy, helpful tome.  Text begins with introductory notes on geographic and historical considerations – then moves to separate segments on American and British wartime shipbuilding efforts.

The latter includes a remarkable section on England’s fascinating – but poorly coordinated – prefabricated warship production scheme.  Britain then enjoyed excess shipbuilding facilities, talent and materials.  And after the 1813 defeat of its forces on Lake Erie, it sought to leverage those surpluses by constructing two frigates and two brigs in sections – then shipping the sections to Canada for final assembly by semi-skilled local labor.  In the end, only the frigate Psyche saw completion – the last major Great Lakes warship of the conflict.

Narrative covers conflict on Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron.  Clashes often resulted in ships being captured, re-crewed and turned against their previous owners.  Included, too, are naval operations on Lake Champlain – a vital sector in America’s War of 1812 land campaigns and an early instance of joint operations.

Admirably indexed and illustrated, Great Lakes Warships 1812–1815 also includes details of individual American and British vessels.  Helpful maps, sidebars and glossary supplement text.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!