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America's First Crisis
The War of 1812
America's First Crisis
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Robert P. Watson - Author
Excelsior Editions
Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 425 pages
Release Date: January 2014
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5134-3


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GOLD MEDALIST - 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the U.S. History Category (tie)

Engaging and accessible account of the war that helped forge the American nation.

The 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 Robert P. Watson tells the stories of the most intriguing battles and leaders and shares the most important 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.

“...Watson’s book is a joy to read.” — Journal of America’s Military Past

“…Watson’s account provides a very sweeping overview of the important persons and military events of the war. His writing style is breezy, readable, and reflective of a journalistic approach to writing history … readers not familiar with the war but wanting to learn more about it will find Watson’s book a quick read and a useful introduction to the conflict.” — On Point

“Watson has produced a highly readable and lively account of the key battles, commanders, and events of this ‘forgotten war.’ Watson presents this important war as not only unnecessary and filled with intrigue, but a conflict that ended up shaping both American nationalism and the geopolitical future of the continent. This book accomplishes its goal of providing a new understanding of the importance of this underappreciated war.” — Richard M. Yon, United States Military Academy

“This thorough, informative, and engaging narrative of the War of 1812 will be of great interest to scholars, students, and anyone interested in military history and American politics. It brings battles from over two hundred years ago to life and illustrates why studying this war is essential to understanding conflicts over US foreign and defense policy today. It combines skillful historical research with careful attention to major institutional developments in the American political system.” — Meena Bose, Hofstra University

“Professor Watson provides marvelous insights into America’s first declared—though least known and understood—war. From British impressments to diplomatic missteps, the reasons for this war that almost started in 1807 are illuminated. The rookie mistakes that nearly cost America her newly won independence, the defensive stands that serve as a source of pride for many Canadians, and the exhausted adventures of British crusaders are brought to life, as the characters, ships, and battles are described with vivid detail and in a straightforward manner. This book will please students of American history interested in both diplomacy and war and also satisfy the casual reader looking for greater knowledge and awareness about the War of 1812.” — Sean D. Foreman, coeditor of The Roads to Congress 2012

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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Table of Contents


The Forgotten War

1. “The Silliest Damned War”

2. Stumbling Toward War

3. The Chesapeake Affair

4. “Leopardized”


5. Land, Empire, and Intrigue

6. The Indian Question

7. Tippecanoe and the Course of History

8. A Declaration of War

“On to Canada”

9. The Invasion Begins

10. The Battle of Queenston Heights

11. Three-Pronged Disaster

12. “Remember the Raisin”


13. The Sacking of York

14. Victories at Last

15. The Battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams

16. The Battle of Thames

The High Seas

17. The Making of a Navy

18. A New Generation of Heroes

19. Blockade

20. The Cursed Chesapeake

The Great Lakes Theater

21. “We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours”

22. The Battle of the Carpenters

23. Saving Canada

24. Turning the Tables on the Invaders


25. Canada’s Bloodiest Battle

26. Victory on Lake Champlain

27. “The Bladensburg Races”

28. The Burning of the White House

Turning Points

29. The Defense of Baltimore

30. “Oh Say Can You See”

31. The Siege of Fort Erie

32. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend


33. The Southern Campaign

34. The Treaty of Ghent

35. The Battle of New Orleans

36. The Making of a Nation

Select Bibliography
About the Author

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