When Washington Burned: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812, Arnold Blumberg

When Washington Burned: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812, Arnold Blumberg

The War of 1812, the last open war between the United States and the United Kingdom, is hardly known at all in Britain, although it is a little more familiar in the US and Canada. The war was effectively a draw, ending with the pre-war situation restored (this could be seen as a British victory, as it had been the Americans who originally declared war and who thus failed to achieve their war aims, but that would be something of a stretch). Most of the land battles took place on the US-Canadian border, where a series of American invasions of Canada were repulsed, and British expeditions south of the border did no better. Perhaps the most dramatic American successes came at sea, where their large and well manned frigates inflicted a series of embarrassing defeats on the Royal Navy. The two major British attempts to attack along the American coast had very different results - at the book's title suggests the attack on Washington was a success, but the attempt to take New Orleans ended in a defeat in a battle fought after the war had officially come to an end.

The War of 1812 was a fairly disjointed affair, often with several quite small-scale campaigns going on at the same time, at quite a distance from each other, and with little or no impact on each other. Blumberg has done a good job of producing a clear narrative out of this, organising his material well. Each chapter covers a single topic, generally limited to a particular geographic front, avoiding the danger of losing focus by attempting to cover all of the events of a particular period. Naval topics get their own chapters, including the naval conflicts on the Great Lakes.

The vast majority of the illustrations are contemporary artworks - engravings and paintings being most common. There are also some useful modern maps that illustrate the more complex campaigns. This is a good single volume history of the War of 1812, providing a clear idea of what happened and why, well balanced with material from both sides.

1 - The Road to War
2 - Amateurs to Arms
3 - Disaster at Detroit, Debacle at Queenston
4 - American Success at Sea
5 - Battle for the Lakes
6 - The Battles of 1813
7 - Warships and Privateers
8 - The Niagara Front Ablaze
9 - Britain Invades America
10 - War in the South and the Battle of New Orleans

Author: Arnold Blumberg
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2012

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