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Historians Remember the War

The pictorial field-book of the War of 1812, or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American Independence /
The pictorial field-book of the War of 1812, or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American Independence / (1869, c1868.)

Accounts of the war began to be published nearly before the war was over. Indeed, at least one book was originally intended as a defence of the ongoing war, but was published after the peace and  titled to reflect that fact. Many of the earliest books were written by government officials, journalists, or former soldiers. One of the first historians to write about the War of 1812 was British naval historian William James. He was detained in the United States when war was declared, but eventually escaped detention and found his way to Nova Scotia in late 1813. Hearing American boasts about the war prompted him to write a history of his own, defending the British navy in particular. He wrote a short naval history and then a fuller account of both land and sea battles, both published very soon after the war ended.

Historical writing on the war has often focused on naval matters. James Fenimore Cooper’s wrote a history of the U.S. navy motivated partly by his own experiences at sea. Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval War of 1812 was published to help support a political agenda that favored the expansion of American naval power.  

Other books about the war were made for a more popular purpose. Benson J. Lossing was a prolific author of illustrated books on American history. He published accounts of the Revolutionary war and the American Civil War, in addition to his Pictorial Fieldbook of the War of 1812. His works were profusely illustrated and full of facts and anecdotes, rather than historical analysis.