In the last few weeks I’ve started seeing TV ads from the Royal Canadian Mint for its new Sir Isaac Brock quarter, which means there are now two TV campaigns showing that the Government of Canada had no idea what the War of 1812 might mean to Canadians or how to get them interested in it.
Under the circumstances it was a pleasure to read Forts of the War of 1812, Osprey Publishing’s latest 1812 title. I’ve been a fan of their Fortress series since it started, and especially once they showed a willingness to get away from hoary Western European topics: who else puts out volumes on Incan forts or the Intra-German Frontier, let alone Tibetan fortified monasteries? (Did I mention I wrote a book on fortifications a few years ago? Yes, I am a total fort nerd.)
Forts of the War of 1812 isn’t quite so esoteric, but it does a good job getting beyond Fort McHenry and the Niagara frontier. René Chartrand helps the reader get behind the changes in coastal fortifications that preceded the war, as bastions went out and polgonal forts and multi-tier batteries came in; pushes the story west, not just to Fort Michilimackinac but all the way to Fort Astoria on the Pacific coast; and generally helps tie together the disparate theaters of the war (I always forget just how distant Detroit and Michigan Territory were from most of the population of Upper Canada in 1812: practically another world, in fact.). It’s sad that Osprey seems to be slowing the series en route to cancellation as it has had some of their most interesting content in the last decade.