A Most Warlike Appearance

A Most Warlike Appearance - Rene Chartrand. 196 pages, 190 illustrations, hardcover

A complete re-work of his long out of print "Uniforms and Equipment of the United States Forces in the War of 1812", originally published in 1992 by the Old Fort Niagara Association, this new work offers considerable more detail on the uniforms of the State Militias and much more. Includes 4 full colour pages. Chapters include;

    Uniforms of the United States Regular Army 1808-1815
    Uniforms of the State Militias
    Weapons of the United States Forces
    Accoutrements of the United States Forces 
    Flags and Colors
    United States Naval Uniforms
    The United States Marine Corps
    Chronological List of Battles

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War of 1812 Magazine, May, 2011


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The following book review was published on "The Dispatch" an on-line service of the Company of Military Historians.

René Chartrand, A Most Warlike Appearance - Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812:. Service Publications, PO Box 33071, Ottawa, Ontario K2C 3Y9,  Canada. 2011. Hardbound; 195 pp., illus. $59.95. ISBN 978-1-894581-58-5.

One of the outstanding benefits of our Company of Military Historians are the fruits of those of our dedicated members who also conduct their working careers within the greater body of knowledge that is the raison d'être of the society. It is an honor and a privilege to offer this review, based on appreciations gained from my fifty-year membership and avid reading of the Military Collector and Historian, and not upon my poor record for offering neither art nor the substance of our published Company record. René Chartrand has chosen to document the fruits of scholarly research of a major portion of his career as a public-servant military historian, in tackling and surmounting an extreme challenge. That challenge has been to bring together the most definitive record to date, of how our American Army, Navy and Marine Corps were outfitted and equipped for the emergent nation’s second war &ldots; one of renewed independence from the Mother Country.

SCOPE of the BOOK

It is at once remarkable that the actual look, feel and substance of the equipment that made the soldier a uniformed member of our Army has so thoroughly escaped the record that René has forged over his 50-year professional career as a public historian. The beauty of this book is that René was the correct person to be the author, and he has apparently not left a known historic reference unturned. Likewise he has been both attentive in his access-use of his forebear historians and in praise for their works. And so, the nation has waited just short of 200 years for this account of the American forces, as equipped, and this has now been supplied by our Canadian brother. Likely the book will stand for yet another century, and all the while serving to identify where additional sleuthing may turn up some more fascinating “incidental” light.

The subject is how the fighting man of America was equipped &ldots; broadly to include all services, all uniforms, weapons, accouterments, flags, and a chronologic list of battles; three appendices fill in the details as they relate to regulations, rank designation and the manner of regimental clothing issue policies.

ORGANIZATION of the TEXT

Author Chartrand logically builds the book around the most visually survivable elements of this history, the uniforms, weapons, accouterments, and flags, and then expands this base into the variants representing the  Militias, the Navy and the Marine Corps. It includes chapters on Uniforms of the Regular Army, Uniforms of the State Militias, Weapons, Accouterments, Flags and Colors, Navy Uniforms, Marine Corps and Chronology of Battles along with Three Appendices.

DETAIL of the BOOK

In order to build his masterful account, René follows the historic interpretations of the artists that have portrayed the forces, then checking the written records of what was required and ordered, or recorded as having been issued, along with written memoirs and other accounts. Throughout the developed account we learn of uniform materials, colors and design that would indeed frustrate the combat soldier of modern times, especially considering the nominally bright contrast of color, the lack of durability of cloth and thread of the time and the primitive means issued to withstand the rigors of terrain and weather, and lo those cold nights. All of this fascinating story is more that of exceptions to the broad rule of uniform style, with uniformity being more the rule of what was authorized and supplied to individual regiments. Author René is fastidious in his annotated reference citations, and herein provides numerous starting points for future researchers. In this connection, the most difficult of the many challenges faced in compiling the book must have been the detail amassed concerning the militias (Chapter 2). Each of the States is treated independently and the variety and breadth of uniforms expands considerably from those already present with the regular forces. It is here that future research likely will complement René monumental achievement to date.

RESEARCH BASIS of the BOOK

The reader is shown a fine variety of period images, surviving artifacts, and the tangible work of many CMH member-artists, researchers and writers, rounded out the general impressions that René hands to us. We are made aware, on many occasions of the grand underpinnings of archival military history provided us by the late Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown (1906-1985), one of our scholarly 1949 CMH founders, and her bequeathed-catalogued-and-curated research collection (“best in the Western Hemisphere” at more than 50,000 items), held at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, René commentary yields a constant reminder of the huge influence of the Company in establishing American military history.

FUTURE PROMISE of the BOOK

There is little doubt that Chartrand will become the cited authority and the pathway for all manner of research reporting within the framework of this book. The greater relationships between the Federal  government, the States, and the constant chaos of funding and supply shortcomings, as well as the fortunes of the war, will invite much future reporting and resolution, all for the common good of history.

SUMMARY

Chartrand’s work will become the most-relied upon reference framework for all future substantial articles and books relating to the conduct of the American-declared War of 1812 (aka Anglo-American War of 1812). Much refined military history of the war will be forthcoming in the future, now that the basic framework has been established and the major sources of reference are identified within the same context. A job well done!

Allen W. Hatheway