The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence
By A. J. Langguth
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9780743226189, 496pp.)
Publication Date: November 2006
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James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, must decide whether to go to war again only thirty years after the American Revolution.
Washington, Adams, and Jefferson had all made major concessions to avoid entangling their young and divided nation in new battles with Europe. But the War Hawks, aggressive congressmen from the South and West, are demanding that Madison take action to uphold America's honor against Great Britain.
In this gripping narrative of the second and final war of independence, Madison leads an unprepared nation into a struggle that will establish the United States as a major world power and stake its claim to the entire continent.
As the war begins, the U.S. Navy consists of seventeen oceangoing ships; the British fleet numbers seven hundred. Nor is the country united in its will to win. Governors in New England are refusing to call out their militia, while mobs attack antiwar newspaper editors in Baltimore in a violent repetition of the Boston Massacre.
Dramatic scenes range across the world, from vicious fighting on the frontier -- one British officer compares the hand-to-hand combat with the savagery of bulldogs -- to Dolley Madison's elegant receptions at the executive mansion and the wrangling among America's peace delegates in Belgium at Ghent.
Before the outcome is decided, the war will have engulfedland and sea, with a disastrous U.S. defeat at Detroit and epic naval campaigns on the Great Lakes. After the Americans sack Toronto, the British retaliate by burning the White House and the Capitol and laying siege with their rockets to Fort McHenry.
Finally, two and a half years of bloodshed and botched strategies culminate in the spectacular battle of New Orleans.
The heroes of "Patriots" are joined here by dozens of the most colorful and enduring characters from America's past: not only the diminutive and brilliant Madison and the statuesque Dolley, but also Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, Oliver Perry and Stephen Decatur, the great Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh, and four legendary men who will follow Madison into the White House -- James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Quincy Adams, and the triumphant hero Andrew Jackson.
For too long, the War of 1812 has been ignored or misunderstood. "Union 1812" thrillingly illustrates why it must take its place as one of the defining moments in American history.