Entangled in the Napoleonic conflicts on the European continent, the reasons for fighting the War of 1812 are far from clear. Once the conflict got underway, both the United States and Great Britain waged it in great confusion and finally concluded it inconclusively. Meanwhile, the war deeply divided American sentiment, possibly more than did any other war, including Vietnam. With an overview essay providing historical background, seven essays on specific topics related to the war, biographies of the major players, ten important primary documents, and a timeline, this book will serve as an introduction to these events, both to provide a clear understanding of them and to supply the student with major historical interpretations of the war's causes, progress, and consequences. Renowned historians David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler put the War of 1812 in historical and social context. In addition to a general overview, other essays examine Jefferson's ineffective use of sanctions as a diplomatic tool, the difficulties a young nation had in fighting and paying for a war against a major power, U.S.-Indian relations, and the Treaty of Ghent which ended the conflict but left many issues unresolved. Detailed biographies of key players enrich the reader's understanding of the time period, and promary source documents, ranging from Madison's recommendation for war to a British soldier's description of the burning of Washington DC, and to General Andrew Jackson's account of his great victory at New Orleans bring to life the controversial and destructive nature of the War, and a selection of portraits and cartoons add a valuable visual component to this all-in-one resource guide to this forgotten war.
"This book is a complete and careful description of the causes, battles, and personalities that surrounded the war…." —School Library Journal
"For those looking for something beyond the usual short history of the war, this is an attractive alternative…." —The Journal of Military History
"The War of 1812 is a meticulous and detailed history of America's "second war of independence" that places the battles, events, personalities, and ramifications into a social and historical context."—The Bookwatch
On 1 June 1813, the Chesapeake came out of Boston Harbor and found the Shannon about eighteen miles off the coast. Lawrence stood on his quarterdeck in a dress uniform. Perhaps his inexperienced crew was the reason he did not exploit an opportunity to rake the Shannon as he approached her, but the two ships eventually lined up to blast one another with broadsides. The Shannon took a beating, but Broke‘s gun crews did a better job of handing out punishment. In only fifteen minutes, both the Chesapeake and her crew were thoroughly shattered into submission. Lawrence did not see her boarded: fatally wounded, he had been taken below to die, but he had mustered enough strength to tell his crew: “Don’t give up the ship.” They were distressingly hopeless words under the circumstances.
The words would not die with Lawrence. The country took them up as a rallying cry. The navy adopted them as a motto. In only months, Lawrence‘s navy would avenge his words “Don’t give up the ship” on an inland sea hundreds of miles from where they were uttered. On a banner fluttering over a U.S. Navy ship bearing his name, they would not be hopeless at all. They would be fighting words.
From The War of 1812