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The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  599 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
In this vivid narrative, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America.
In the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. In this second confrontation, soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought to determine the fate of a continent.
Paperback, 640 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
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Dec 26, 2010 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-of-1812
Every evening, I go to sleep secure in the knowledge that Canada is right above us, like a big, fuzzy, funnily-accented nightcap. Down south, America’s demand for drugs has turned Mexico into a near-failed state. There are assassinations and kidnappings and shootouts; drugs and guns and humans pass back and forth, despite all the walls and guards we put there. It’s a truly scary place.

Our border with Canada is different. It is the longest undefended border on earth. The only things that come fr
David Fox
Feb 05, 2011 David Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, owned-books
The Forgotten War

I sought out Taylor's historical analysis in my quest to learn something about the War of 1812. Other than knowing that the "Star Spangled Banner" was penned during this conflict I was largely ignorant of the events & causes surrounding this renewed conflict between ourselves & Great Britain. One caveat: if you read this book with the hope of gaining a comprehensive overview of the entire war, then this is not the book for you. The title clearly communicates that the pur
Lauren Albert
Nov 14, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-american
When the British navy began to stop American ships, both merchant and navy, and impress naturalized American sailors under the belief that once a British subject, always a British subject, the American government sent ships to fight, right? Of course not. They invaded Canada. ???

You see, the Americans had no real navy so in order to punish the British, they needed to start a land war. The War of 1812 was an odd one in more ways than this and would be laughable if it were not for the many real li
May 26, 2012 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In the years before the War of 1812, British policy in Canada encouraged American migration to its more underpopulated provinces, as Britain actively sought to create an alternate vision of North America that would appeal to residents in what many thought would be a short-lived republican experiment in the United States. Britain offered free land to American settlers of Upper Canada, but offered a more restricted press and more tightly controlled government. When war came, many of the newest set ...more
William Thomas
I can only imagine the years around the Napoleonic War. There you are, an Irishman, sitting in a pub in a port. You get sloppy drunk because some sailors were buying the rounds. You step outside to take a leak, get bopped on the head with a sap and the next thing you know, you wake up in the middle of the Atlantic ocean with a headache, now a part of the British navy. Against your will, you're a soldier trapped at sea.

The War of 1812 is one of the most overlooked periods in American history. It
Jun 29, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Every year, a little south of London, Ontario, military re-enacters act out the Battle of the Thames in which William Henry Harrison led American troops in a defeat of the British forces during which the legendary Indian chief, Tecumseh died. Harrison's troops' battle cry was "Remember the Raisin" (not the fruit silly,...the River). The River Raisin is not far from where my ancestor, Daniel Freeman had a farm in the Michigan territory (it wouldn't become a state until later). At the battle on th ...more
Jan 03, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about the War of 1812 which is very specific about which parts of the war to cover. I liked that about this book. I thought I was getting a book about the whole war, but I discovered that I didn't want that. Forget about all the boat stuff, it is rather boring. Taylor is concentrating here on invasions, raids, spies across the Niagara River, people defecting from one country to the other and back again, all kinds of juicy material.
The main thesis here is (as the title would indicate) tha
Aug 17, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As others have written, this book is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the War of 1812 (though it is thoroughly documented while remaining readable). Instead, it advances a particular thesis that focuses upon the fact that, at the time, the U.S. and Canada reflected roughly similar population groups but were divided ideologically between the citizenship in the republic of the U.S. and the Britain's idea of people as permanent subjects. In other words, can people choose their country of ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled over whether to give this three or four stars. The writing is excellent and the research is exhaustive and impressive. This book is not a full picture of the War of 1812; it alludes to (but does not explore in depth) most naval battles, the southern theater of war (Andrew Jackson and various Native American wars) or the Napoleonic Wars. I did eventually need to consult wikipedia in order to grasp the full picture. However, I greatly enjoyed the book's point of view that the war settl ...more
David R.
Nov 02, 2010 David R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Students are generally taught that the now-obscure War of 1812 was a clearly deliniated conflict between the young United States and the British Empire, if not a Second American Revolution. But as Professor Taylor points out, it was much more complex than that. His work examines the many external and internal divisions and such blocs as pro-British Americans, pro-American (pro-Republican) Canadians, American emigrants to Upper Canada, Native Americans on both sides, Irish immigrants on both side ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I have yet read on the War of 1812. I have always found this conflict fascinating, especially as my ancestors were United Empire Loyalists (General Brock died on my multi-great grandfather's farm). Unlike other volumes that cover the subject, focusing primarily on the battles, this author digs deep and clearly presents the reasons why Canada and the US evolved the way they did, beginning with the fallout from the Revolutionary War. There is a lot of excellent, well research ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 24, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally! I was happy with Jeremy Black's 1812 Atlantic work, but here is a study of the war firmly within the context of the Napoleonic Wars (complete with angry 1798 Irishmen, Spanish rebels, disgruntled Mohawks, assorted disunited American frontier people, British regulars, runaway slaves, etc.) and the unruly aftermath of the American Revolution, using long-neglected European sources. And on p. 232, it undermines the cherished American myth that we have some special gift for fighting the in w ...more
Madeleine McLaughlin
The real story of the war of 1812, probably the most little known war of North America, at least between white powers. Engaging, with a lot of interesting details into the soldiers lives, it's like you're right there. Makes you totally re-think your opinion of the war, especially who won and who lost.
Margaret Skrivseth
Feb 28, 2013 Margaret Skrivseth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-1812
Allen Taylor is one of my favorite contemporary historians. This book continues his style of making historical events easy to relate to.

The War of 1812 is often overlooked. The causes leading up to it were a lot more involved than I had realized. Taylor explains the principal parties and the reasons and actions that ultimately lead to the conflict.

Marilyn Getts
Not what you heard in history class, probably because it wasn't that complementary to the Americans. The author makes a good case for the War of 1812 being more of a civil war than an invasion by those wretched British redcoats.
Nov 01, 2010 Paddy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, history, america, ebook
Something to remind you that while it may have been 200 years, "celebration" is not the right way to mark the anniversary
Saw the PBS "War of 1812" and decided to pick this one out of the pile. So far, so good. Taylor authors another great book on the "old" northwest.
Jun 13, 2012 Cory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our pick for the fall semester 2012 Book of the Semester at BYU's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
Steven Muhlberger
Very good on Upper Canada.

Shocking depiction of a Nasty little war, where people wre all too ready to a attack their neighbors.
Feb 06, 2012 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I now have a much better understanding of why the war of 1812 happened. Also, this book puts a much more human, everyday face on those who fought in the war.
Jan 30, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The War of 1812 is the overlooked war, often not given more than a passing mention in any foundational course on American History, and little remembered in our collective memory. If it is remembered at all it is for the one permanent fixture of American life that almost everyone knows (or at least pretends to know) – The Star Spangled Banner. It’s obscurity is understandable, after all it is sandwiched between two far more significant conflicts, the American Revolution and the Civil War, it didn ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very authentic and well researched work.
Aug 07, 2012 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific! Gave me a new perspective on the War of 1812.
May 18, 2012 Hélène rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 30, 2015 Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic- and unbelievably long - book about the War of 1812. It’s listed as 623 pages, but in audio form it’s 18 discs long, so that 623 feels manipulated by small type or large pages, or both. It’s also almost entirely focused on the ‘Canadian Front’

The author posits (correctly, in my case) that, if anything, the only things Americans remember about the War of 1812 is, in some order, the star Spangled Banner, the British burning the White House, and Jackson slaughtering the British
Oct 06, 2015 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Taylor argues that the War of 1812 is best understood as a civil war between American Republicans (triumphant in the earlier showdown) and British Loyalists who had fled to Canada — in essence, a continuation of the American Revolutionary War. (12) In his view, the Americans secured a victory that gave them continental predominance. (437) The War of 1812, often dismissed as insignificant, was a crucial period in American history. Its ending consolidated the United States and gave its leader ...more
Steve Harrvey
This book covers something most of us know nothing about -- how the War of 1812 was, in fact a civil war, and how it defined the relationships between Americans and Native Americans, between the US and Canada, and between the US and Britain from then until today. I found the book very interesting, but it's a heavy read, and I found it fairly disorganized, and with a bit too much detail. I'm glad I stuck it out, because of what I learned. I summarize that here, in case you're interested. If, like ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always thought the War of 1812 was a short lived event fought and won in New Orleans, the US versus the Brits and Indians. The reality is the majority of the war was fought in the north and the Battle of New Orleans was at the very end of the war, one notable win. This book does a very good job reframing exactly what the war was using the term "first American civil war." The US was a new country still working to find itself and not everyone was in agreement what the country should look like/be ...more
Jul 02, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not a traditional history of the War of 1812. Where a traditional history might take a more chronological approach to the conflict and focus more on particular battles, this book takes a different approach. Here, the focus is on the author's thesis that the War of 1812 was really a continuation of the American war of Revolution, with the Canadians seen initially as possible partners, once they overthrew (or let the American forces overthrow) the shackles of the Imperial government o ...more
This is not Taylor's best work, although there are sentences and paragraphs of great insight at moments. The book would have benefitted greatly from better editing and cutting because many times it gets pulled down by Taylor's inclusion of small details or side-stories that do little to enhance the work. In many ways the book suffers like the American military did in the war, from inaction, unclear goals, and a lack of structure. Much of the book is chronological, but then a few of the middle ch ...more
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Alan Shaw Taylor is a historian specializing in early American history. He is the author of a number of books about colonial America, the American Revolution, and the Early American Republic. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize for his work.

Taylor graduated from Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, in 1977 and earned his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1986. Currently a professor
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