The War of 1812: America’s First Crisis


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americas first crisis - the war of 1812The War of 1812, sometimes called “America’s forgotten war,” was a curious affair. At the time, it was dismissed as “Mr. Madison’s War.”

Later it was hailed by some as America’s “Second War for Independence” and ridiculed by others, such as President Harry Truman, as “the silliest damned war we ever had.” The conflict, which produced several great heroes and future presidents, was all this and more.

In America’s First Crisis: The War of 1812 (SUNY Press, 2014) Robert P. Watson tells the stories of the battles and leaders and shares the blunders and victories of the war. What started out as an effort to invade Canada, fueled by anger over the harassment of American merchant ships by the Royal Navy, soon turned into an all-out effort to fend off an invasion by Britain.

Armies marched across the Canadian border and sacked villages; navies battled on Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, and the world’s oceans; both the American and Canadian capitals were burned; and, in a final irony, the United States won its greatest victory in New Orleans—after the peace treaty had been signed.

Robert P. Watson is Professor of American Studies at Lynn University. His many books include The Obama Presidency: A Preliminary Assessment, George W. Bush: Evaluating the President at Midterm, and Life in the White House: A Social History of the First Family and the President’s House; all published by SUNY Press. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

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