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Book Review

A Most Warlike Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812
by René Chartrand

196 pages, 190 illustrations, hardcover, color plates
59.95 Plus Shipping
Canadian residents: GST/HST included!

(if you wish to purchase this book directly from the publisher just click the below button and follow the instructions - proceeds go to keeping up and running.  If you waiting for it to come out on, etc., the publisher does not distribute to them.  Get it before it is gone!)

Review by Robert Henderson

Back in 1992 when this book first was released, it was welcomed with almost a sense of relief by War of 1812 enthusiasts.   Finally a well researched book had been written on the military "material culture" of United States Forces in the War of 1812.   It was all there: Artillery, Infantry, Riflemen, Cavalry, Navy and Marines.  So I bought it.

A few years later, my copy went missing.  "No problem" I thought.  "I will just buy another."   To my horror it was sold out and out of print.  "Keep calm Robert."  I told myself.   I will just scan the used book websites and pick up a slightly worn copy.  After a lot of searching over a span of months, a copy came up for sale.   The price?  $200.00!   Since then the price for a used copy of the original soft cover edition has floated around $150.00 to $200.00.

Fast forward 19 years to today.  "It's back!"  "It's finally back!"  Better still, it is new and improved.

You see, when you write a book there is a viral response from its readers.  Out of the woodwork comes little known artefacts and documents that are passed on to the author by interested individuals.   This new information is then added to the work, making the process almost "open source".  In almost two decades, Mr Chartrand has certainly collected new information and has revisited some of his original conclusions.  The end result is a book with more illustrations and 20 more pages of new findings and happily in hardcover format.  In comparing the first edition and this one, it looks like the printing is clearer, which is a bonus since there are 190 illustrations. If you are like me, the book is a resource that is consulted often and a soft cover just does not hold up the constant flipping back and forth.  Mr Chartrand's thoroughness shines through in this work and the fact the publisher allowed so many endnotes is a relief.   

My only complaint is that a couple of artefact photos in the original version have been replaced with line drawings.  While it is only a handful of images, it irritates me because it is obvious that the institutions entrusted with these historic objects thought they could grab some cash from the author.   These MBA wannabes occupying museum positions really don't get it.  The reason they exist is to preserve and promote their collection.  That is why the items were donated to them in the first place!  What better way to get their collection known then by getting it published.   If CNN showed up and wanted to do a special report on their museum, would the curator or museum board say: "Yes but you have to pay us for every artefact shown on television."  Happily only a few museums act in this poor manner.   (End of Rant.)

To conclude, this book is a must for anyone interested in the United States Military in the War of 1812.  If you are an artist, novelist, historian, museum professional, reenactor, archaeologist, collector, war gamer, or miniaturist, I just can't see you working without this resource.


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