These 13 books about the War of 1812 give you a look at this lesser known war between the United States and Great Britain.
It lasted for two years and eight months, from 1812 to 1815. Despite being a short war, it had a significant impact on both countries. There was also a lot that could have been done to stop the war.
One fact most people don't realize is that it was also when the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key. He watched a battle, wrote a poem, and that turned into this well known song.
There are many books about the War of 1812, and below you will find some we think you will really enjoy reading.
Written by: Alan Taylor
The best way to think about this book is by calling it a mini-history. Instead of taking on all of the war, Taylor focuses on the small area in the far Northeast border of Canada and the United States. Because it is so specific, it can detail the war and how it affected all the people involved. This includes not only the obvious, such as the Canadians, British, and U.S. citizens but the Irish and the Native peoples also.
Many of the characters in the book are just ordinary folk who want nothing more than to be left alone, but the powers that be won't allow that to happen. They want to have a war, and they will do whatever they need to have it. Many of the stories are firsthand accounts and incredibly powerful because of the war's outcome. These include citizens changing sides during the war, the Canadians trying to keep their country, native people and their cultures being lied to and destroyed, and so much more, including the utter ineptitude of the U.S. government trying to deal with all of this. It is just a tiny slice of the war in a small section of the area, but it is utterly enthralling.
Written by: Walter E. Borneman
Borneman's premise is that the war of 1812 made the United States a truly united country because of the need to work together against British aggression. This started with the British focusing on shipping rights and controlling the Atlantic Ocean. It then explains how the Americans wanted to take over parts of Canada and make one nation.
Five main battles are examined in this book, and they are broken down into the leaders, the soldiers, and the civilians, including the Native Peoples who took sides during the war. It goes into how the different parties in the U.S. were also basically fighting against each other to decide the fate of the new country. It is also written with a sense of humor at certain parts to see each significant player in this war through a more human viewpoint.
Written by: Stephen Budiansky
Stephen Budiansky's Perilous Fight is a riveting account of America's War of 1812 against Britain. The book's focus is on the gloves-off fighting between American and British naval officers and their crews, which was often brutal and resulted in heavy losses on both sides. Even more than that, it looks at the battle inside the newly formed nation as Republicans who did not want to expand. At the same time, the Federalists felt that the U.S. needed a strong navy to protect itself from any other nations in the future.
Budiansky provides an impressive amount of detail about this little-known conflict, painting a vivid picture of the courage and sacrifice shown by these men during what turned out to be a decisive moment in America's young history. Suppose you're interested in learning more about the origins of America's Navy or want to read a gripping tale of war. In that case, we highly recommend picking up a copy of Perilous Fight.
Written by: Theodore Roosevelt
Published: 1902, Updated in 2017
In his book, The Naval War of 1812, Theodore Roosevelt provides a detailed account of this little-known conflict. Drawing on firsthand accounts from both sides, Roosevelt paints a vivid picture of the battles fought at sea and onshore. He does an excellent job of giving an in-depth understanding of how the war was fought and the progression during the years.
Roosevelt does an excellent job of staying objective and looks at the strengths and weaknesses of both militaries. He also offers insights into the strategies employed by both navies and analyzes the factors that led to America's victory. If you're interested in learning more about this fascinating chapter in American history, then be sure to check out Roosevelt's book. The fun fact is that four years after it was initially published, this book was required to be on every single U.S. Navy ship and required reading.
Written by: A. J. Langguth
In 1812, America was again at war with Britain. This time, the conflict was known as the Second War of Independence. Unlike the first war, which British and American regulars had fought, this one was fought by local volunteers who were often farmers or shopkeepers. In Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence, author Robert Langguth tells the story of these brave men and women who fought for their country despite facing overwhelming odds.
From New England to Georgia, from the ordinary person to the highest levels of the government, Langguth profiles the courageous men and women who risked everything to defend their homes and liberty. If you’re interested in learning more about America’s second war for independence, be sure to check out this fascinating read.
Written by: George C. Daughan
In George C. Daughan's book, 1812: The Navy's War, the author offers a comprehensive and detailed account of the naval conflict between America and Great Britain during the War of 1812. However, he doesn't just focus on the Navy but goes into the land battles and how they were related to it. Drawing on extensive archival research, Daughan provides an insightful look at all aspects of the war at sea, from tactical engagements to strategic maneuvers.
He also puts the war in its broader historical context, highlighting its causes and consequences. Some of which include the almost absolute inability for President Madison to lead the country, the political fights between the Federalists and the Republicans, and to some extent, how nearly all of Europe was involved in it. This engaging and well-written work is sure to be a valuable resource for anyone interested in this fascinating chapter of history.
Written by: Walter Lord
It's not surprising that the War of 1812 is often referred to as "The Forgotten War." After all, it was overshadowed by the American Revolution and the Civil War. But the conflict, which lasted from 1812 to 1815, was a watershed moment in U.S. history. Not only did the U.S. gain our independence from Great Britain, but it also cemented its status as a world power.
Looking into the battles on both sides of the Atlantic, how Native People were involved in the war, and the effects of the wars with Napoleon, this book gives an excellent overview of why this war happened and the outcomes. He draws on extensive research and personal accounts to create a gripping narrative that will keep you turning pages until the very end. And, of course, he writes about the attack on Fort Henry, which led to Francis Scott Key writing "The Star Spangled Banner."
Written by: Pierre Berton
Unlike most of the other books on this list, this one focuses on how the people of Canada saw the war. It is not biased or anti-American; it is just a different viewpoint worth considering keeping an open mind. The war was fought primarily in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) and Lower Canada (present-day Quebec), with minor skirmishes in the U.S. Northeast and Gulf Coast.
The Americans invaded Canada to gain Canadian territory and end British support for American Indian tribes raiding settlements in the U.S. The war was fought in many different places, but most took place in Canada. Most people don't realize how much of the land could have been taken by the newly formed United States if the Canadians hadn't survived with the support of the British.
Written by: Pierre Berton
The second part of Berton's books on the war of 1812 follows mostly the same idea. However, it does become more specific about battles and movements, so it feels as if you are actually in that moment and place. As he did in the previous novel, he shows that both sides are at fault and that this war was not needed at this point.
The battle scenes, with accompanying maps, make it much easier to envision what the leaders were thinking and the horrors the soldiers had to endure. This is especially true with the naval warfare attacks and retreats. The book ends with the Treaty of Ghent, which in reality, didn't even address many of the issues that started the war. This includes ignoring the impressment of U.S. ships by the British, which was the original reason for the war. It also examines how the Native People living here were utterly ignored and betrayed by the government if noticed at all.
Written by: Robert V. Remini
On January 8, 1815, General Andrew Jackson and his ragtag army of militiamen, frontiersmen, and Native Americans decisively defeated the British forces in the Battle of New Orleans. It was America's first military victory against a foreign power.
For Jackson, it was also a personal vindication; he had been savagely attacked by the British press before the battle and was determined to prove them wrong. The victory helped cement Jackson's place in American history and made him one of the most celebrated heroes of the War of 1812.
Written by: Troy Bickham
Bickham provides a comprehensive history of the war that shook the young republic in this book. In this detailed look at America's relations with Britain in the early 1800s, he reveals how these two superpowers went to war over trade restrictions and maritime issues - and why historians have largely overlooked the conflict.
He offers a detailed analysis of the causes and consequences of the conflict, exploring how it shaped both American and British national identity in the early nineteenth century. Drawing on a variety of sources, including newspapers, letters, and government documents from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Bickham offers readers a fresh perspective on one of America's most significant military engagements.
Written by: Gene Allen Smith
Although the War of 1812 is often overshadowed by the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, it was a significant conflict in its own right. In this book, Gene Allen Smith takes a fresh look at the motivations of enslaved people who sided with either the British or American forces. Unlike many of the other books on this war, this is specifically focused on the black soldiers during the war. Many joined the U.S. side and were told they'd be freed if they won. Some even tried escaping from Canada to the northern states. However, many were sent back to slavery, and the slave owners stole their newfound freedom.
Other facts include how the U.S. then used the black people to fight against the native ones so that they'd destroy each other. Drawing on exhaustive research, smith makes a compelling case that these enslaved people were not simply acting out of self-interest but were instead making a deliberate choice based on their understanding of the complex political situation. The British were offering the slaves true freedom. If they had won the war, this would have forever changed the U.S. and its history. This book provides a much-needed perspective on an often-overlooked chapter in American history.
Written by: Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
In the early morning hours of January 8, 1815, General Andrew Jackson and his ragtag force of American soldiers waited in the darkness along the banks of the Mississippi River. Across from them were the massive British troops and their Creole allies. In a matter of minutes, Jackson's troops would be engulfed in a hail of bullets and cannon fire.
Even though the Treaty at Ghent had already been signed, the Battle of New Orleans had begun.
This would be their last glimpse of glory on the battlefield for many Americans. But for Andrew Jackson, it was only the beginning. Thanks to his stunning victory at New Orleans, America's destiny would be forever changed. The victory at New Orleans made it clear that America was a force to be reckoned with in the world and helped shape America's destiny.