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Book Review, NRJ 61.1

February 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

Lion in the Bay: The British Invasion of the Chesapeake, 1813-1814

Stanley L. Quick with Chipp Reid

Lion in the Bay is the story of the British campaigns in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. In fact and fiction, dozens of authors, in numerous books and articles of varying depth and quality, have turned their pens to the raids of 1813 and 1814. Published posthumously, Stanley L. Quick’s Lion in the Bay, edited and completed for publication by Chipp Reid, deserves a spot at the top of the list of those publications. Built on a thorough examination of primary sources, the volume captures the desperation of the struggles at the level of the individuals involved. From leading civilian administrators, admirals, and captains to militiamen, sailors, and slaves, action frequently leaps from the pages.

Writing of a time when supposedly civilized men often settled their differences with pistol or blade on the dueling grounds, the author captures the internal bickering common to American and British alike. Quick also notes the dangers of command from afar (a relatively short distance before telegraph, telephone, and computer), especially in regards to the American defense of the Bay and the British decisions to focus efforts therein. Coupled with inexperience in the art of war, political decisions guaranteed that Commodore Joshua Barney’s zealous attempt to delay and defeat elements of the Royal Navy would founder. As to the British assaults, they gained little for their war effort other than provisions for the fleet, loot for the officers, and graves for too many loyal sons of the Crown.

One of the most interesting aspects of Lion in the Bay is its coverage of British dealings with escaped slaves in the region. As a source of information alone, succoring escaped slaves proved its worth time after time. Eventually, British commanders organized some 250 former slaves into the Colonial Marine Regiment. Distrusted at first, the men of the regiment soon proved their value as scouts and hard fighters. Unfortunately, the eventual fate of the regiment is not covered.

That missing bit of information is indicative of the one weakness of the volume: it was completed by hands other than those of the man who researched, planned, and organized the book. This should take nothing away from Chipp Reid, an excellent author in his own right (Intrepid Sailors: The Legacy of Preble's Boys and the Tripoli Campaign); however, the book ends rather abruptly with the final skirmish and sailing of the last British ships. The conclusions that Stanley Quick may have reached are lost to eternity. On the other hand, Quick’s research and original writing has been preserved, much in digital form, by the Maryland State Archives for those interested in the unedited version.

This book is highly recommended to those interested in the War of 1812. Its “side story,” captured in the prefatory pages, is as fascinating as the chapters within. Certainly, it is a most fitting memorial to Stanley L. Quick.

  • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
  • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 266 pages
  • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $32.95
  • ISBN: 9781612512365

Reviewed by Wade G. Dudley, East Carolina University

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