Synopses & Reviews
August 28, 1814. Dressed in black, James Madison mourns the nation's loss. Smoke rises from the ruin of the Capitol before him; a mile away stands the blackened shell of the White House. The British have laid waste to Washington City, and as Mr. Madison gazes at the terrible vista, he ponders the future-his country's defeat or victory-in a war he began over the unanimous objections of his political adversaries. As we approach its bicentennial, the War of 1812 remains the least understood of America's wars. To some it was a conflict that resolved nothing, but to others, it was our second war of independence, settling once and for all that America would never again submit to Britain. At its center was James Madison-our most meditative of presidents, yet the first one to declare war. And at his side was the extraordinary Dolley, who defined the role of first lady for all to follow, and who would prove perhaps her husband's most indispensable ally.
In this powerful new work, drawing on countless primary sources, acclaimed historian Hugh Howard presents a gripping account of the conflict as James and Dolley Madison experienced it. Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War rediscovers a conflict fought on land and sea-from the shores of the Potomac to the Great Lakes-that proved to be a critical turning point in American history.
Advance praise for Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War :
"Hugh Howard has turned the least known and understood war in American history into a Technicolor, wide-screen epic of thrilling naval battles, brutal backwoods skirmishes, villainous intrigue, and stirring heroism. Thanks to Howard's prodigious research, fine eye for the telling detail, and vivid prose, the War of 1812 seems as contemporary and compelling as yesterday's battlefield dispatches from the Middle East."-Thurston Clarke, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Campaign
"This fluent if glamorized history of the War of 1812 mines what heroism and romance it can from the woeful record of American military ineptitude, cowardice, political dissension, and lackadaisical leadership. Historian Howard (Thomas Jefferson: Architect) does find stirring moments, especially in his accounts of American frigates' underdog battles with the British fleet, which yield gore ('his lifeless body fell to the deck, severed in two') and gallantry aplenty, including Capt. James Lawrence's immortal last words, 'Don't give up the ship!' (uttered just before the ship was, in fact, given up). The author's foregrounding of the first couple, especially in a set piece recreation of the British sack of Washington, is less edifying. As much as Howard talks up his statesmanship, President Madison seems a feckless commander-in-chief who needlessly took an unprepared country to war and never got a grip. And Dolley Madison's main impact was her star turn rescuing George Washington's portrait from the Redcoats. Still, Howard's entertaining saga extracts no little drama from an inglorious episode. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"An engrossing narrative history of a conflict that few today know much about."—BookPage.com
“Howards book makes no effort to be a comprehensive account of the war. Instead, he tends to select particular moments for detailed and intimate - you-are-there sorts - of descriptions of scenes or events.”—Gordon Wood, The New York Review of Books
“Hugh Howard has turned the least known and understood war in American history into a Technicolor, wide-screen epic of thrilling naval battles, brutal backwoods skirmishes, villainous intrigues, and stirring heroism. Mr. and Mrs. Madisons War moves smoothly between the White House, New Orleans, and the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake, and the waters off New England. Thanks to Howards prodigious research, fine eye for the telling detail, and vivid prose, the War of 1812 seems as contemporary and compelling as yesterdays battlefield dispatches from the Middle East.”—Thurston Clarke, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America
"Hugh Howard provides us with vividly written accounts of some of the more dramatic highlights of the War of 1812. Readers with particular interests in the Chesapeake Bay campaigns of 1814 will find much to enjoy here."—Professor J.C.A. Stagg, editor of The Papers of James Madison
"Hugh Howard tackles the history of a war that is incomprehensible in the modern sense of warfare and renders it understandable, giving a fascinating and engaging account of the people and events involved in Americas first war. Mr. and Mrs. Madisons War will add enormously to public understanding of the War of 1812."—Michael Quinn, President, James Madisons Montpelier
“An entertaining look at the forgotten war, the burning of Washington, and the fourth president's none-too-effective efforts to command the military.”—Military History Quarterly
“Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War has a wonderful visual quality that allowed me to feel I was standing on the deck the HMS Confiance as Captain Downie was struck by a canon barrel and mingling with members of congress at one of Dolley Madison's Wednesday gatherings.”—Patricia OSullivan, Historical Novel Society
“Hugh Howard's engaging and energetic Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War … is a worthy look at a rite of passage making the nascent United States into a nation that, although far from a world power, would be here to stay.”—Casey Common, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Howards descriptions, e.g., of the burning of Washington, are superb, as is his use of primary sources throughout. Highly recommended to all readers on this wars bicentennial.” —Library Journal
“An entertaining look at the forgotten war.” —Military History Quarterly
“It is as a work of military history the book excels. Howard's recountings of the naval battles are especially vivid…A worthy look at a rite of passage making the nascent United States into a nation that, although far from a world power, would be here to stay.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Now in paperback for the 200th anniversary of the British burning of Washington, a rousing history of the War of 1812 and the presidential couple at its center.
Now marking its bicentennial, the War of 1812 remains the least understood of Americas wars. Neither side gained a clear triumph, but in truth it was our second war of independence, settling once and for all that America would never again submit to Britain. It featured humiliating disasters—Washington was attacked, the White House burned—and stirring successes, like the Battle of Lake Erie, one of the greatest naval victory in American history. Here Hugh Howard, acclaimed for his vivid historical narratives, brings a forgotten conflict alive, and offers a vivid portrait of two key figures at its center, President James Madison and his charismatic, courageous first lady Dolley.
About the Author
Hugh Howard's numerous books include The Painter's Chair: George Washington and the Making of American Art; Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson; the definitive Thomas Jefferson: Architect; his memoir House-Dreams; and the classic Houses of the Founding Fathers. He resides in upstate New York.