Book Review: Sword of the Border: Major General Jacob Jennings Brown, 1775-1828


by John D. Morris

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2000. Pp. xviii, 348. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN:0-87338-659-0.

A New York militia general who passed into the Regular Army, during the War of 1812 Jacob Brown won four of the nine American land victories, more than any other US general in the war, after which he became one of only two major generals on active duty (the other was Andrew Jackson), and spent a decade as the general-in-chief. Amazingly, this enormously effective officer was soon virtually forgotten; For example, he is not listed in The Oxford Companion to American Military History. In fact, Prof. Morris’ book is the first proper biography of Brown.

And an excellent book it is too. Sword of the Border is a genuine biography, weaving personal, political, military, business, and medical problems into a readable account of Brown’s life and works. There are a number of good word-portraits of various interesting people, from the pusillanimous Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson to the gallant Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott and, many more, including, surprisingly, even Napoleon’s hapless Emmanuel Grouchy.

The battle pieces, of which there are many, are well and critically done, and demonstrate an adequate understanding of the conduct of war in the period.

A worthwhile read for anyone interested in American military history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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