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Book Review: Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes: Madison’s Commanders in the War of 1812 by David Fitz-Enz

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Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes: Madison’s Commanders in the War of 1812 by David Fitz-Enz is a nonfiction book that commemorates the bicentennial of the war. Mr. Fitz-Enz is a host of television historical programming, author of several books and a decorated Vietnam veteran who spent more than 30 years in the US Army.

This is one of many books published at this time to commemorate the War of 1812. One has to admire this outbreak of books, because I have found that that among many of my countrymen (and women) there is considerable ignorance about this important time in our history. Maybe because we got our butts kicked?

There is much information about the war and a lot to digest.

Mr. Fitz-Enz did the reader a favor by presenting his analysis in a series of short biographical chapters about key personnel in the war. Some of the key figures were competent, some simply looked for their own advancement, others took on responsibilities which they were not qualified for and caused disaster.

The author shows very good writing and analysis abilities throughout the book. While Madison is hardly mentioned (even though his name is in the title), the President’s ability to choose commanders (or lack thereof) is certainly implied.

The format proves an excellent choice to benefit new readers, but the format lacks an overall “story”. The chapters seem to be out of chronological order and there are many quotes throughout the book, some which go on for pages. While I agree with the author’s assertion that sometimes it’s better to let the people tell their own story, in a book which is supposed to be an introduction that could be a frustrating experience.

If you like an introduction to the War of 1812 and its leaders, this book is for you. The author can write an engaging analysis which I’m sure will be popular with readers who express an interest in the time period or American history.

Related Reads:
James Madison by Garry Wills

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands

Buy this book in paper format.

 

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