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In August 1814, the United States Army is defeated in battle by an invading force just outside Washington DC. The US president and his wife have just enough time to pack their belongings and escape from the White House before the enemy enters. The invaders tuck into the dinner they find still sitting on the dining-room table and then set fire to the place. September 11th, In August 1814, the United States Army is defeated in battle by an invading force just outside Washington DC. The US president and his wife have just enough time to pack their belongings and escape from the White House before the enemy enters. The invaders tuck into the dinner they find still sitting on the dining-room table and then set fire to the place. September 11th, 2001 was not the first time the heartland of the United States was struck a devastating blow by outsiders. Two centuries earlier, Great Britain - now America's close friend, then its bitterest enemy - set Washington ablaze before turning its sights to Baltimore. In his compelling narrative style, Peter Snow recounts the fast-changing fortunes of both sides of this extraordinary confrontation, the outcome of which inspired the writing of the 'Star-Spangled Banner', America's national anthem. Using a wealth of material including eyewitness accounts, he also describes the colourful personalities on both sides of these spectacular events: Britain's fiery Admiral Cockburn, the cautious but immensely popular army commander Robert Ross, and sharp-eyed diarists James Scott and George Gleig. On the American side: beleaguered President James Madison, whose young nation is fighting the world's foremost military power, his wife Dolley, a model of courage and determination, military heroes such as Joshua Barney and Sam Smith, and flawed incompetents like Army Chief William Winder and War Secretary John Armstrong. When Britain Burned the White House highlights this unparalleled moment in American history, its far-reaching consequences for both sides and Britain's and America's decision never again to fight each other.


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In August 1814, the United States Army is defeated in battle by an invading force just outside Washington DC. The US president and his wife have just enough time to pack their belongings and escape from the White House before the enemy enters. The invaders tuck into the dinner they find still sitting on the dining-room table and then set fire to the place. September 11th, In August 1814, the United States Army is defeated in battle by an invading force just outside Washington DC. The US president and his wife have just enough time to pack their belongings and escape from the White House before the enemy enters. The invaders tuck into the dinner they find still sitting on the dining-room table and then set fire to the place. September 11th, 2001 was not the first time the heartland of the United States was struck a devastating blow by outsiders. Two centuries earlier, Great Britain - now America's close friend, then its bitterest enemy - set Washington ablaze before turning its sights to Baltimore. In his compelling narrative style, Peter Snow recounts the fast-changing fortunes of both sides of this extraordinary confrontation, the outcome of which inspired the writing of the 'Star-Spangled Banner', America's national anthem. Using a wealth of material including eyewitness accounts, he also describes the colourful personalities on both sides of these spectacular events: Britain's fiery Admiral Cockburn, the cautious but immensely popular army commander Robert Ross, and sharp-eyed diarists James Scott and George Gleig. On the American side: beleaguered President James Madison, whose young nation is fighting the world's foremost military power, his wife Dolley, a model of courage and determination, military heroes such as Joshua Barney and Sam Smith, and flawed incompetents like Army Chief William Winder and War Secretary John Armstrong. When Britain Burned the White House highlights this unparalleled moment in American history, its far-reaching consequences for both sides and Britain's and America's decision never again to fight each other.

30 review for When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

  1. 5 out of 5

    Washington Post

    Snow’s about the climactic event of the War of 1812 is a fine example of serious and literate popular history, a genre that has gained respectability and credibility in recent years as some of the best non-professional historians on both sides of the Atlantic have taken to writing it. It ranks with Anthony S. Pitch’s fine “The Burning of Washington” (2000) as among the best accounts of a war that hardly deserves to be forgotten. Jonathan Yardley reviewed it for us: http://www.washingtonpost.com/o Snow’s about the climactic event of the War of 1812 is a fine example of serious and literate popular history, a genre that has gained respectability and credibility in recent years as some of the best non-professional historians on both sides of the Atlantic have taken to writing it. It ranks with Anthony S. Pitch’s fine “The Burning of Washington” (2000) as among the best accounts of a war that hardly deserves to be forgotten. Jonathan Yardley reviewed it for us: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinion...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Review: http://bettie.booklikes.com/ Review: http://bettie.booklikes.com/

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week: Peter Snow tells the story of the 1814 confrontation between Britain and the United States From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week: Peter Snow tells the story of the 1814 confrontation between Britain and the United States

  4. 4 out of 5

    harpsicle

    It is mostly history...but a very ineteresting find!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    An interesting piece of history! I knew next to nothing about the War of 1812 and the later invasion of Washington D.C., but I have been enlightened by this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Kresal

    The War of 1812 is one of those forgotten wars of American history, overshadowed by the American Revolution that proceeded it and the Civil War that followed decades later. And yet, it's one of utmost importance in our nation's history for being the first time an enemy invaded American territory to attack our capital and for inspiring our national anthem. Peter Snow's 2014 goes some way to rectify that, exploring the 1814 attack on Washington by British forces who eventually burned many of its p The War of 1812 is one of those forgotten wars of American history, overshadowed by the American Revolution that proceeded it and the Civil War that followed decades later. And yet, it's one of utmost importance in our nation's history for being the first time an enemy invaded American territory to attack our capital and for inspiring our national anthem. Peter Snow's 2014 goes some way to rectify that, exploring the 1814 attack on Washington by British forces who eventually burned many of its prominent buildings to the ground. It also takes in the bombardment of Fort McHenry outside Baltimore which soon followed, the last major enemy attack on mainland America until 9/11. Snow writes an engaging piece of informative history, exploring the people behind the events as much as what happened, illuminating both in the process. The result is a fine read indeed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John

    Peter Snow's When Britain Burned the White House, is one of those books that you anticipate because you've always wanted to know more about the topic, but yet when you read it, you find you know more about some things, and even less about others. Difficult to understand? Well, it's difficult to explain. The reader will be aided immensely if you understand two things going in: 1. the subtitle is accurate, that is to say that it is focused mostly on the invasion Burning of Washington in 1814 and n Peter Snow's When Britain Burned the White House, is one of those books that you anticipate because you've always wanted to know more about the topic, but yet when you read it, you find you know more about some things, and even less about others. Difficult to understand? Well, it's difficult to explain. The reader will be aided immensely if you understand two things going in: 1. the subtitle is accurate, that is to say that it is focused mostly on the invasion Burning of Washington in 1814 and not really the rest of the War of 1812 and 2. be prepared for a narrative that dips in and out of straight-forward military history. Not to say that either of those are negative points, but they help in understanding in the beginning what you are about to read. Snow is excellent in his research and presentation of events- and in some ways the narrative is somewhat refreshing in that it leads with a more British point of view. Not surprising as Snow is a British journalist. The author emphasizes that the British, fresh out of the Napoleonic Wars, have a bit of a score to settle; but that is not the only reason for one of the most misunderstood of American wars. The reader would be forgiven, if being wholly unfamiliar with the War of 1812, that they may still be confused after reading this; but remember, this book focuses on a chapter in that war. That's not to say that Snow is not evenhanded in his treatment. His narration is more that evenhanded and fair. Meeting the different and lesser known figures of this story (on both sides) was intriguing, as was the brief, but informative background material given on some of the major and minor individuals. Sometimes a historian gives too much of a biography that takes away from the narrative. Snow is good about keeping the narrative and sequence of events flowing. His take on Dolly and James Madison is not ground breaking, but Madison doesn't exactly shine here, either. Snow is good guide and gets us through the event, but on occasion the writing bogs down a bit and seems more of a journeyman style in sections, that it fails to keep the rapt attention of the reader. On such occasions, I was readier to move a bit faster in pace and get to the next chapter. I enjoyed being able to keep pace by consulting the maps that were included, but I would have like some more plates of the paintings of key figures, some of the famous paintings of the event, etc, but they aren't included. As this was an advance galley copy for review, I suspect that they may be present in the final volume, but cannot say for sure. Overall, a welcome volume to the shelf on the War of 1812, especially considering it is the bicentennial of the Burning of Washington this year. However, since this is mainly focused on 1814, if the reader wishes a more comprehensive look at the entire war, it definitely should be included with other books for the larger picture. 3.5 stars Note: I received this as an Advanced Reader's Copy courtesy of the publisher through Goodreads.com.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I think I would have been tempted to emphasize even more the pointlessness and futility of this war with its attendant death and destruction. But within its emphasis on explaining the characters involved, this is a very engaging and illuminating account. It also efficiently puts the campaign in the context of American politics and the Napoleonic Wars--and explains nicely the drain it was on economic resources for both countries. And it's interesting not just how the events were experienced (and I think I would have been tempted to emphasize even more the pointlessness and futility of this war with its attendant death and destruction. But within its emphasis on explaining the characters involved, this is a very engaging and illuminating account. It also efficiently puts the campaign in the context of American politics and the Napoleonic Wars--and explains nicely the drain it was on economic resources for both countries. And it's interesting not just how the events were experienced (and Snow is quite savvy in foregrounding the limitations of eyewitness accounts offered after the fact), but also received. Baltimore wasn't really a battle at all--the British withdrew out of prudence--but that didn't stop it being heralded as a great victory. Whereas even the British were ambivalent about the burning of public buildings in Washington (the British sportingly avoided damaging most private property). Many regarded it as uncivilized. It's hard not to agree with Wellington, who saw the whole war--which started over impressment by the Royal Navy of Americans that stopped anyway with their victory over Napoleon, and resulted in a peace treaty that left things precisely as they had stood before--as a waste of money and lives.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I was really looking forward to this book, having long been outraged at a vague tale I heard somewhere while living in Washington DC a few years ago, of the barbaric British burning the Library of Congress during the War of 1812. (The White House, I understand, but what reason could they have had to burn a library?Shame.) This was certainly a well-researched and very detailed account of the British march on Washington and the hapless American defense. But, in the end -- before the end, actually I was really looking forward to this book, having long been outraged at a vague tale I heard somewhere while living in Washington DC a few years ago, of the barbaric British burning the Library of Congress during the War of 1812. (The White House, I understand, but what reason could they have had to burn a library?Shame.) This was certainly a well-researched and very detailed account of the British march on Washington and the hapless American defense. But, in the end -- before the end, actually -- I lost interest. I'll keep my eye out for another book on the subject and hope it's more to my taste.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen Ross

    I was very excited to find this book. It's very well written and extremely detailed. For those interested in the American/English war of 1812 this is a must read. What I particularly enjoyed was the in-depth character development of the major protagonists. Snow used family letters to detail the characteristics and natures of Major General Robert Ross and other Generals. It was particularly helpful to have the maps of the area and the explanation of the battle plans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Informative and interesting especially since it made me realize just how little I know about the War of 1812! A very easy read, my only personal problem was keeping everyone straight but Snow does a good job at helping you with it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Interesting history well-written, and all the more interesting as it seems to be forgotten history--happening during the War of 1812--a forgotten conflict. Interesting also that the book is written by a British author. However, I feel Peter Snow was remarkably even-handed in this book. The invasion of Washington, DC, was a remarkable victory by an able British general. The Anglo-Irishman General Robert Ross was one of the British generals with Wellington's army fighting in the Peninsula campaig Interesting history well-written, and all the more interesting as it seems to be forgotten history--happening during the War of 1812--a forgotten conflict. Interesting also that the book is written by a British author. However, I feel Peter Snow was remarkably even-handed in this book. The invasion of Washington, DC, was a remarkable victory by an able British general. The Anglo-Irishman General Robert Ross was one of the British generals with Wellington's army fighting in the Peninsula campaign (in Portugal and Spain) against Napoleon's French troops. This was a general who had proven himself in hard fighting, who, with his battle-hardened "redcoats," was shipped to America to fight the "Yankees." Snow points out that the war was no "Second War of Independence" as Britain had no plans to reconquer America. However, the British felt that the Americans had back-stabbed them by declaring war on them while they were engaged in their fight for survival against Napoleon. They had a point--you could say England was fighting our fight too, as I think that, if Napoleon had somehow defeated Britain, America could have been next, as Napoleon would have liked to restore France's New World empire (even though he had sold Louisiana to the United States). Anyway, Britain wanted to give the Yanks " a drubbing"-- some punishment. This would also give them an advantage in negotiations so that they could pick up some territory, such as Maine, which would be a nice Maritime Province for Canada. So Gen. Ross was able to defeat a larger force of around 6,000 with his army of 4,500 veterans (at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland). The Americans were mainly militia who were undisciplined and led by one of the most incompetent generals in US history-William Winder. After driving the Americans from the field, the British were able to march into Washington and burn the public buildings there, such as the White House, the Congress and the Treasury. A tragic event in American history to be sure, but I think it is most heartening to read that, after this disaster, the country rallied and, in the following campaign, the Americans were able to hold Baltimore against both a British fleet and Ross' army, Ross himself being killed by a sharpshooter. The successful defense of Fort McHenry gave the US the song-"The Star-Spangled Banner"- which would finally become its national anthem. So this is a story of a complete disaster followed by a tremendous victory. I have to add that I think the War of 1812-14 seems to have been a most useless and unnecessary war that President James Madison should never have led the republic into...but at least the United States and Britain have never gone to war with each other again since then.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Randall Russell

    Since I know so little about the War of 1812, I found this book to be an easy read, and quite interesting. What really caught my attention is that there are two battle sites - The Battle of Bladensburg, and the Battle of North Point, that are within 20 or 30 miles of my house, and about which I had heard nothing. In both cases, there has been almost no preservation of the battlefield sites, which is unfortunate, since they are an important part of the history of the United States. I was also int Since I know so little about the War of 1812, I found this book to be an easy read, and quite interesting. What really caught my attention is that there are two battle sites - The Battle of Bladensburg, and the Battle of North Point, that are within 20 or 30 miles of my house, and about which I had heard nothing. In both cases, there has been almost no preservation of the battlefield sites, which is unfortunate, since they are an important part of the history of the United States. I was also interested to learn some of the details about the occupation of Washington DC by the British, and the burning of the White House, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and other public buildings. I also found the account of the uncoordinated and ineffective generalship around the occupation of Washington DC to be quite remarkable, and if it were more widely known, could serve as a textbook example of how not to manage military forces in a crisis. So, if you want to learn more about a war that has been largely forgotten in American history, then I would recommend this book as a good place to start.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    A very interesting read in to a subject that many people doesn't know about. The author has written it in a way that makes it light and easy to read, that it isn't heavy like some history books can be. There's plenty of information to keep your interest as well as diagrams of the movements of each side, the British and the American. Subjects like the burning of the White House, should be something taught in all school's, even if it was only for a short period of time in our history. It's our his A very interesting read in to a subject that many people doesn't know about. The author has written it in a way that makes it light and easy to read, that it isn't heavy like some history books can be. There's plenty of information to keep your interest as well as diagrams of the movements of each side, the British and the American. Subjects like the burning of the White House, should be something taught in all school's, even if it was only for a short period of time in our history. It's our history at the end of the day, now I can't speak for American schools, but I know us British don't cover anything to do with the 1814 battle. Shame really as this would make a very good book to study while studying the subject.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    This book is a pretty straight forward history of the 1814 invasion of Washington, D.C. and subsequent attack on Baltimore during the War of 1812. Though the prose isn't overly elegant or stimulating, Snow does a great job of using a variety of primary sources to illustrate the effect of the British campaign in Washington and Maryland. There are some stylistic quirks that are to be expected (British spellings, ' ' for quotes instead of " ", endnotes that are just tied to pages numbers), and ther This book is a pretty straight forward history of the 1814 invasion of Washington, D.C. and subsequent attack on Baltimore during the War of 1812. Though the prose isn't overly elegant or stimulating, Snow does a great job of using a variety of primary sources to illustrate the effect of the British campaign in Washington and Maryland. There are some stylistic quirks that are to be expected (British spellings, ' ' for quotes instead of " ", endnotes that are just tied to pages numbers), and there's basically no historiography. But for a popular history book it achieves its goal of providing a readable and informative look at the time when Britain burned the White House.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    a fairy tale masqueraded as history, peter snow seems to be very well aware of the outside termperature or what the individuals were thinking, yet knows nothing of the bigger picture. a romantic novel with some facts thrown in.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Great morsel of history here and reads like a pot boiler. Reminds me why I am addicted to history because it produces great « wow » moments and this has a few of those so well worthwhile.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    First off, I originally selected When Britain Burned the White House in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway because I thought it would be good to know more about the War of 1812. Even my college-level course barely glanced over it. I did win the copy I read and I was pleasantly surprised. This book was not only informative, but it was immaculately researched and written with a well-flowing prose. Plus it honestly read like a good adventure novel! I never expected to thoroughly enjoy reading this bo First off, I originally selected When Britain Burned the White House in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway because I thought it would be good to know more about the War of 1812. Even my college-level course barely glanced over it. I did win the copy I read and I was pleasantly surprised. This book was not only informative, but it was immaculately researched and written with a well-flowing prose. Plus it honestly read like a good adventure novel! I never expected to thoroughly enjoy reading this book! Peter Snow, the brother-in-law of World War I historian Margaret MacMillan, focused in on the one month period from August 17 to September 13, 1814. The British had just defeated Napoleon and exiled him for the first time allowing them to turn their attentions towards their former colony. The two nations had been at war for the past two years with skirmishes occurring in Canada and at sea. The Americans had also burned York (modern-day Toronto), the British Canadian capital. Initially, the British fleet under Admiral Alexander Cochrane and the Army component it carried led by General Robert Ross were only to harass the American coast. However, Admiral George Cockburn (pronounced co-burn), whom had been raiding the coast already, convinced Ross to take things one step further and march on to Washington, D.C. And this book examines that influence, decisions made about the campaign, American response, and both sides thoughts about the conflict. Most famously focused on were the march on and burning of Washington, D.C. and the later bombing at Fort McHenry at Baltimore. Readers will gain many understandings. They will see how Cockburn influenced Ross and other ranking commanders to do against orders from London. They will understand just how unorganized and unprepared the American military and militias were leading up to these events. Readers will see how President James Madison's cabinet bickered among themselves, causing much disorganization among the troops via conflicting orders and his reliance on Secretary of State James Monroe (whom during this month would also become Secretary of War). They will also see how tired and worn the British troops were after the European Peninsular campaign ended and how that also led to struggles within the British ranks once back on land. Better yet, the political and military leaders were not the only focus. The experiences of the average solider on both sides were addressed. So were the noncombatants, such as the women who fled the capital or opted to remain and the American doctors who cared for both sides without hesitation. And remember the story of how Dolley Madison saved George Washington's portrait? It was told in her own words and those of her loyalest servant, a slave she later freed. And of this was done in such a way that it flowed naturally in the text; not once did it feel forced. Snow used a brilliant technique by not simply retelling the story; he let the words of those who were there shine through. He uses extensive excerpts from letters, diaries, memoirs, battle reports, etc. to let history be told in the participants and observers own words. In cases where there are opposing viewpoints on a situation, he provided quotes from both sides so that readers can cast their own judgements. He uses his own words to summarize and describe events and connect them to the excerpts; sometimes these are mere sentences and other times pages. This technique also helped make the book feel more "personal" though sharing the observations of those who were there. It is also important to note that the author's note points out that since the War of 1812 is infrequently studied, this is the first non-diary/memoir published on this campaign! It was written with the express purpose of filling a gap and because the author realized that the topic is often presented as a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars and the American Revolution.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian Manville

    Perspective is a peculiar thing. As the saying goes, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." A common colloquialism is "it depends on whose ox is getting gored." A glass of milk can either be half full or half empty depending on how thirsty you are. The American perspective on the War of 1812 was a fight for national honor, against perceived diplomatic slights and the impressment of American citizens into the Royal Navy as well as trade restrictions with France. For the English, Perspective is a peculiar thing. As the saying goes, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." A common colloquialism is "it depends on whose ox is getting gored." A glass of milk can either be half full or half empty depending on how thirsty you are. The American perspective on the War of 1812 was a fight for national honor, against perceived diplomatic slights and the impressment of American citizens into the Royal Navy as well as trade restrictions with France. For the English, this was an irritant in the greater Napoleonic Wars that were going on at the time. The very last thing England wanted was to fighting another two-front war on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Rather than focus on the whole war, Peter Snow instead focuses in on the two of the last battles of the war. Up to this time, the war had largely been fought to a stalemate, with England having something of the upper hand. America - fighting "Madison's War" - had assumed that its armies and militias were sufficient to make territorial gains in Canada where General Sir George Prevost was maintaining a defensive strategy in Lower Canada (southern Quebec and the Labrador region of Newfoundland). Prevost was forced into this posture from London, which could not spare the troops. Snow dives right into the narrative of the sacking of Washington, D.C. The alleged reason for the sacking - retaliation for the American sacking and burning of Toronto - seems on shaky ground as British troops had already exacted a measure of revenge against Buffalo. After troops led by General Robert Ross (with an assist from Rear Admiral George Cockburn) defeated a hastily assembled and hilariously inept force at the Battle of Bladensburg, the path to Washington was clear. Snow keeps the story flowing with a copious attention to detail, including the heartache suffered by Captain Thomas Tingey to destroy the Naval Yard to prevent its contents from falling into enemy hands. Once the destruction of Washington is complete, the English decide to move on to Baltimore. Here, at what would be America's darkest hour in light of the events in the capital, a nation - and specifically Maryland Militia Major General Samuel Smith - decided that Baltimore would not suffer the same fate. Given nearly two weeks to prepare, Smith has Fort McHenry beefed up and two other ad hoc forts built, as well as to deploy a land force to meet up with the army attacking from the east. Here is where perspective comes in; the battle of Fort McHenry is widely regarding as a shining moment in American history, owing to the fact that Francis Scott Key penned what would be the National Anthem from an English ship in the harbor. From Snow's (English) perspective, this is considered "myth making". Given there was an asymmetrical battle (American cannons could not reach the British ships firing at them), Snow is not entirely off the reservation with his assertion. It is considered a truly American moment because - as we had a generation earlier - taken the best that the best military force in the world could offer, and remained standing. It is a quintessentially American moment. Snow should be lauded for producing an in-depth look at the truly pivotal month in the War of 1812 and showing the events that led to the Treaty of Ghent. Given that the war was a sideshow for the English, the fact that a Englishman took up a study of this is commendable. The fact that the war basically ended in a stalemate without any truly defining moments in English history allows Snow to remain above his material and present an objective view of the actions of that time. BOTTOM LINE: Necessary reading for early 19th century history buffs.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I received this book from the Goodreads First reads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review your newest book. When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington by Peter Snow is a historical account of the Burning of the White House and the events leading up to it. I am far from being any kind of history buff. I have been reading some fictional literature set around the time of the War of 1812. I had never even heard of the British burn I received this book from the Goodreads First reads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review your newest book. When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington by Peter Snow is a historical account of the Burning of the White House and the events leading up to it. I am far from being any kind of history buff. I have been reading some fictional literature set around the time of the War of 1812. I had never even heard of the British burning the White House in 1814 .. and nobody else I had asked about it was aware of it either. So this book struck my interest only because I was shocked this event had even happened. The book goes into detail of the prominent historical figures involved on both sides .. British and American. President at the time James Madison and his wife Dolly, and many military figures and leaders are also discussed. August 24, 1814. British troops set the White House on fire. The White House was only fourteen years old at the time of the burning. Only the outside charred walls were remaining after the devastation. Unfortunately this was not the only public building burned...both houses of Congress, the Treasury, and the War Office were also burned. The reason given for the burning was retaliation for U.S. actions in Canada. The British did spare private residences. Today the White House structure remains the same except for the added North and South porticoes. There is so much more to this book than the burning of the White House the book then goes on to describe events afterwards... the creation of the Star Spangled Banner ..the Americans defeating the British in Baltimore ...followed by The Treaty of Ghent. I really enjoyed the easy to read style of this book and pictures within the book. When Britain Burned the White House was a good historical read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charles Moore

    The War of 1812 has been relegated to the back waters of history. And in reading Snow's account of the sacking of Washington, the reasons become evident. But, American history is still important history for Americans so readers might find this a good time to brush up on some of seemingly smaller events that eventually make larger histories. The War of 1812 was a series of local battles fought far from each other: Canada, D.C., New Orleans. In this case, the entire battle for Washington and the s The War of 1812 has been relegated to the back waters of history. And in reading Snow's account of the sacking of Washington, the reasons become evident. But, American history is still important history for Americans so readers might find this a good time to brush up on some of seemingly smaller events that eventually make larger histories. The War of 1812 was a series of local battles fought far from each other: Canada, D.C., New Orleans. In this case, the entire battle for Washington and the subsequent attack on Baltimore do not cover more than 30 miles and as with most localized engagements, Peter Snow has to make each movement by either side seem important. Which means the reader has to wade through a lot of detail. But, the outcome of the invasion of Washington and the failure to capture Baltimore (spoiler alert? or did you already know that?) are important and the genesis of those two events becomes maybe more important as components to our future history than we think. The member of our superb legislature is proposing a civics test independent of all other testing for high school students. I would wonder how many questions might deal with the War of 1812 (other than Johnny Horton's song)? We should never belittle that people died even during these smaller battles (I don't know what defines "battle.") In their memory, sometimes the story needs telling. I live in part of the world that wants to glorify a couple dozen men shooting at each other at some meaningless crossroads. Future importance might be the best criteria for understanding pieces of history. I have a friend of mine who insists that some day I visit Fort McHenry, in Baltimore. I've put it on my list of historic sites including Shiloh, Tennessee, and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It is to Peter Snow's credit to tackle a relatively small event and make a good story of it with sufficient supporting material. (Sixty pages of sources and index.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A well-written, well-researched and balanced history of the Washington-Baltimore campaign, told in an engaging blow-by-blow fashion and mostly through primary sources. The narrative moves along at a crisp pace, and Snow does a fine job telling the story through the voices of the participants, as well as making all of the participants human. He also does a great job making the battles vivid and understandable. Although the British retreat at Baltimore would later be hailed as a victory for US arms A well-written, well-researched and balanced history of the Washington-Baltimore campaign, told in an engaging blow-by-blow fashion and mostly through primary sources. The narrative moves along at a crisp pace, and Snow does a fine job telling the story through the voices of the participants, as well as making all of the participants human. He also does a great job making the battles vivid and understandable. Although the British retreat at Baltimore would later be hailed as a victory for US arms (to the extent that it was remembered at all), Snow reminds the reader how anticlimactic it was: the battle had simply turned into an inconclusive, abortive standoff that Ross decided to terminate. And afterwards, of course, the war would be remembered, if at all, as an embarrassment to both sides. There are only a few problems here and there: Snow attributes some comments to Robert Ross that are open to question. And at one point he calls William Winder “commander-in-chief.” He wasn’t; he was the district commander. Elsewhere Snow writes that Secretary of War Armstrong commanded troops along the Canadian frontier. He also writes that Washington was burned in retaliation for the burning of York; it wasn’t, it was part of a wider strategy to force an end to the war. At one point Snow writes that Wellington “refused” to lead the Chesapeake expedition; he didn’t explicitly refuse, he just asserted that he was unable to leave Europe until springtime. A witty, vivid and novelistic history and an enjoyable read, even if it doesn’t tell us anything new.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    An interesting look at the Britain invasion of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, an event often consigned to the footnotes of history - and after reading this book, I understand why. The British invasion is certainly important in terms of the history of the American capital city and the White House and how the national anthem emerged, but significance and impact of the war itself ranks lower in American history. As the author himself points out, a number of the battles fought in this war An interesting look at the Britain invasion of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, an event often consigned to the footnotes of history - and after reading this book, I understand why. The British invasion is certainly important in terms of the history of the American capital city and the White House and how the national anthem emerged, but significance and impact of the war itself ranks lower in American history. As the author himself points out, a number of the battles fought in this war were not overwhelming victories or defeats, but frustrating skirmishes and calculated retreats. Furthermore, the only resounding victory achieved by the Americans was largely irrelevant (to both sides) because a peace treaty had already been signed. Nevertheless, the author focuses on the military side of the war and highlights a few of the interesting personalities involved (First Lady Dolley Madison, Secretary of State James Monroe, the British admiral George Cockburn, Captain Harry Smith and his beautiful wife), but the narrative never really jumps fully to life. A good read for those interested in the War of 1812, but I imagine that may be a somewhat limited audience.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Think we’ve got problems in Washington today? It was a real mess in 1814 when the Brits overran our capitol almost unopposed and set fire to all public buildings, burning Dolley and James Madison right out of their big white home (the burn marks on the White House are still visible today). What a fiasco. Our “army” suffered terrible leadership, the inside political skirmishes were debilitating, and as usual the little people paid the dearest price. Very interesting insight into an often overlook Think we’ve got problems in Washington today? It was a real mess in 1814 when the Brits overran our capitol almost unopposed and set fire to all public buildings, burning Dolley and James Madison right out of their big white home (the burn marks on the White House are still visible today). What a fiasco. Our “army” suffered terrible leadership, the inside political skirmishes were debilitating, and as usual the little people paid the dearest price. Very interesting insight into an often overlooked and embarrassingly huge military defeat in our national history. Especially enjoyed all the first person accounts from the soldiers, on both sides. And it all took place just 30 years after the Revolutionary War ended with our independence from Britain. It’s a good enlightening history read. Rating 3 out of 5 rockets red glaring. PS. Ft.. McHenry near Baltimore took an awful pounding in one of the key battles and Francis Scott Key wrote a poem about it which didn’t become our national anthem until 1931.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

    This engaging narrative recounts debate among Brit generals and admirals whether it was wise to even think about trying to capture America's capital city and then to torch government buildings. Ultimately, due mainly to American leadership and military ineptitude, both events came about. To the British government the War of 1812 was an infuriating distraction, so one admiral in particular, the hard-bitten George Cockburn, resolved to torment the war's perpetrator, U.S. president "Jemmy" Madison, This engaging narrative recounts debate among Brit generals and admirals whether it was wise to even think about trying to capture America's capital city and then to torch government buildings. Ultimately, due mainly to American leadership and military ineptitude, both events came about. To the British government the War of 1812 was an infuriating distraction, so one admiral in particular, the hard-bitten George Cockburn, resolved to torment the war's perpetrator, U.S. president "Jemmy" Madison, by burning down his house. Following the destruction, the British left the town (then about 8,000 population) to aim for the larger Baltimore and its mercantile prizes. There they encountered a much more efficient American defense and lost. The emblematic Star Spangled Banner yet waved.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    Ever since the British, burned the White House down There's a bleeding wound, in the heart of town I saw you drinking, from an empty cup I saw you buried, and I saw you dug up It's a long road, it's a long and narrow way Peter Snow not only introduced me to these events of 1814, he also introduced me to a Bob Dylan song that I had never come across before. Although I was aware that the Brits had torched the White House, I had little knowledge of the history and logistics behind the deed. Snow's na Ever since the British, burned the White House down There's a bleeding wound, in the heart of town I saw you drinking, from an empty cup I saw you buried, and I saw you dug up It's a long road, it's a long and narrow way Peter Snow not only introduced me to these events of 1814, he also introduced me to a Bob Dylan song that I had never come across before. Although I was aware that the Brits had torched the White House, I had little knowledge of the history and logistics behind the deed. Snow's narrative is taken from primary source documents from both sides of the Atlantic to produce this most informative history of the events in Washington D.C., Alexandria, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    This is a very unique telling of the War of 1812 from the British point of view. As we all know this is limited to the Chesapeake campaign of 1814, it does tell it from an entirely different and, until know, an unspoken viewpoint. Peter Snow makes it quite clear that this was an accidental war and for Great Britain a diversion from the far more serious threat of Napoleon. He tells an excellent story which brings the major characters to life. His refreshing perspective of the dispute over the bur This is a very unique telling of the War of 1812 from the British point of view. As we all know this is limited to the Chesapeake campaign of 1814, it does tell it from an entirely different and, until know, an unspoken viewpoint. Peter Snow makes it quite clear that this was an accidental war and for Great Britain a diversion from the far more serious threat of Napoleon. He tells an excellent story which brings the major characters to life. His refreshing perspective of the dispute over the burning of Washington makes for compelling reading. This is a great book to read for all history buffs!

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

    This was a very informative account of an almost forgotten conflict which resulted in many state institutions of the fledgling United States, being burned to the ground. This included the White House. Peter Snow does a great job of exploring how the different personalities on both sides contributed to this conflict, especially the indecision that almost led to the British abandoning the planned assault on Washington.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette Dilouie

    This was a really great, informative and enjoyable read from start to finish, especially when compared and contrasted with "Through the Perilous Fight" by Steve Vogel and "The Man Who Captured Washington" by John McCavitt and Christopher George. While many of the stories between the three are, naturally, the same; the slight difference in details and perspectives was well worthwhile. Glad I bought and read it!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Dunbar

    FAB! So interesting - particularly the anecdotes about the White House itself and Dolly Madison - it would have been 5 stars if it hadn't been so heavy on the military history - as interesting as the legacy in letters of commanders was ... The naval achievements of the British and their war strategy was a bit boring after a while. Excellent writing though.

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