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1812: The Navy's War

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  344 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, America’s prospects looked dismal. It was clear that the primary battlefield would be the open oceanbut America’s war fleet, only twenty ships strong, faced a practiced British navy of more than a thousand men-of-war. Still, through a combination of nautical deftness and sheer bravado, the American navy managed to take the fight to the B
Hardcover, 491 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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'Aussie Rick'
Feb 21, 2013 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it
1812: The Navy’s War is a well written account of America’s war with Britain from 1812 till 1815. The author has attempted to show the role of the fledgling US Navy and how it was a determining factor on the conduct of the war and the subsequent peace signed at Ghent in 1814.

The author has provided the reader with great accounts of naval combat; ship-to-ship broadsides, boarding parties and frigates manoeuvring through shot and shell and stormy waters to gain the tactical advantage. Mr Daughan h
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
The title is misleading. This book is about the entire war both on land and at sea. The title refers to the most organized, if smallest department of our military that has always been the strong arm of the United States, the US Navy, during the war with England in 1812. Though it was the Navy who was able to project strength halfway around the world and delivered several David vs. Goliath blows against the worlds' Nautical Super Power, surviving this war was, what the Navy would call, an "all ha ...more
Dec 05, 2012 TalonWyrm rated it liked it
I'll say up front that, if I'd tried to read this book, I never would've made it past the introduction. The prose is hideously dense; totally laden with 19th century naval terminology with little or no explanation.

However, I downloaded the audio version of this through Then I proceeded to listen to it while playing Skyrim. And I have to say it was very enlightening. The 1812 war gets fairly short shrift in history classes - odd, considering it was the only time the United States was
Brad Wheeler
May 16, 2012 Brad Wheeler rated it really liked it
Call it 4.5 stars. Despite the title, this book is a good all-around introduction to one of America's most under-appreciated wars, and much like Washington's Crossing it kind of makes you wonder how America managed to succeed at all. Certainly the country's first few decades were a thoroughly precarious affair, and never moreso than the second half of this war.

This book should be required reading for two groups of people: military officers, and politicians. The former because the war went far wo
Jan 16, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing
The United States entered the War of 1812 wholly unprepared. There was no national army or navy; there was no way to raise money other than borrowing, as there was no taxation system; and there was no agreement among Federalists and Madison's party on either whether or how the war should be waged. "The Congress have met in a bad temper, grumbling at everything in order to avert the responsibility which they have incurrred in refusing to provide the solid foundation for revenue and relying on loa ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Jb rated it really liked it
The U.S. situation was grim two years after the war of 1812 began. Washington, D.C., was in ruins, red rockets were glaring and bombs bursting in air at Baltimore. Might we again become subjected to Britain? It all began when President Madison and Congress declared war after Great Britain had over the years condescendingly impressed (kidnapped) 14,000 sailors from American ships. Madison, in particular, was fed up and thought the time opportune to retaliate. After all, since the British were pre ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Byron rated it really liked it

It took me a couple of days of listening before it dawned on me that this is the bicentennial of the War of 1812. That is not why I read this book, but it is one reason why I am glad I read this book now.

My ignorance about all things related to the War of 1812 was appalling. However, in the course of reading the book, I discovered that I was not alone, and that many of my friends knew no more than I did.

I knew two things about the war... It was with England, and that Francis Scott Key wrote th
Sep 17, 2012 Jeffery rated it it was amazing
Naval History was mandatory at Navy. This retold the facts and details I knew (and ones I did not know, the very last hold outs defending Washington DC from burning by the British after the Army had left were Sailors and Marines at the Washington Navy yard. They stopped them for a while too.) in a more readable way. It tells the story of the people who made the history, the Captains and Admirals and their egos that were a part of the story. It also explains very well why this was an important wa ...more
James Nelson
Oct 25, 2014 James Nelson rated it it was amazing
Great book, excellent single volume history of the naval war of 1812. Daughan does an excellent job of putting the naval action in the proper setting and giving the wider picture of the action, and the political aspects as well, along with the goings-on in Europe and how they affected the war effort.
Dec 11, 2012 Jonathan rated it liked it
A little long winded at times, this tome of knowledge will satisfy your thirst for an often overlooked piece of American history. Well written and easy to digest, it includes a glossary to help understand sailing terms from an earlier era that Salts and Lubbers will appreciate.
Jul 25, 2015 Jerome rated it really liked it
A thorough, well-written, and well-researched history of the naval war of 1812, both on the high seas and the Great Lakes, although it doesn’t include anything new. In 34 unimaginatively titled chapters, Daughan gives us a detailed history of the US navy and its impact on the course of the conflict. His accounts of the various ship-to-ship engagements are vivid, and, unlike many books on this topic, he also gives us all of the necessary detail on the war’s land campaigns, although most of the ti ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
This book is more than just a naval history of the War of 1812. It covers a lot of the land battles like the battles in the Niagara region, the Battle of the Thames, the British burning the White House and other public buildings in Washington D.C. and the Battle of New Orleans, because these land battles can't be separated from the navies that transported the soldiers or the struggles for naval supremacy on Lakes Erie & Ontario. Without naval supremacy on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, ...more
Bob Price
Oct 01, 2012 Bob Price rated it really liked it
If you read only one book about the War of 1812 this year (but really, who could read JUST one?), read this one.

George C. Daughan presents a very readable and dare I say 'enjoyable' overview of the War, its causes, the major battles, and instrumental players, and the effects of the war.

When I was in high school, the War of 1812 was largely skipped over. In fact, I think my teacher taught it something like this, "and then we had the war of 1812...after that Abraham Lincoln was elected president a
Branche Steinbach
Aug 24, 2012 Branche Steinbach rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An absolutely magnificent book.

It reads like an action-thriller fiction novel, it gives detail about tactics and strategy like a military training manual, and is long enough for a good read but not so long that you become bored.

I am quite impressed. I have never read a book that described the War of 1812, the last war between the Union, and it's parent country (and close friend) Great Britain, so accurately, excitingly, and vividly. Although I may read quite a few books that others may consider
Feb 12, 2013 Rod rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
In spite of the title, this book addresses all aspects of the War, not just naval. As it happens, even the land campaigns were largely determined by naval actions on the lakes and rivers.

Most ship vs ship actions were fought during the early part of the war. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Royal Navy was able to blockade the American coast more effectively, making egress of American warships difficult. Also, after the string of decisive American victories in equally matched engageme
Kevin Symmons
Sep 08, 2013 Kevin Symmons rated it really liked it
It has been my summer for books on American History... Nancy Rubin Stuart, Nate Philbrick, Joseph Ellis, Bill O'Reilly and several on the Battle of the Alamo. While Mr. Daughan's work will most likely not make it to the silver screen soon, for someone like me who is a bit of a nautical junky it was fascinating. What did I enjoy the most? Obviously, the author was an expert at the methods and technology employed by the captains who made the British sit up and take notice of the nascent American N ...more
May 25, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it
This is a very well written and easy to read review of the critical role that the Navy played in the War of 1812.

It also made me more understanding of the importance of fighting this war to a stalemate. If the US had seriously lost the the war (lost control of Lake Erie, lost the Battle of Plattsburg, lost Baltimore), the shape of the North American continent would look very different. British North America (then Canada ??) would be the major player on the continent. Mexico perhaps retains it t
Oct 31, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war, reviewed
Very solid book on the War of 1812, encompassing not just the events in North America but also the developments in Europe and how they impacted the American and British strategy. While the subtitle is 'The Navy's War', that is more a qualitative assessment as the book covers all of the major land engagements of the conflict as well as the encounters and fights on the high seas. Very accessible, evenhanded, and well written. This book reads rather quickly as the chapters are not too long but deft ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Amy marked it as abandoned
Hmm. Unfortunately this wasn't quite what I was looking for in a book about the War of 1812. It started out as a promising book, but boy, I sure am not wanting a blow by blow description of each naval battle. I don't know a frigate from a sloop of war, and I certainly don't understand the naval or nautical jargon the author populated this book with. Based on the subtitle I should have guessed that this book was not going to be quite what I was after, but it seemed like a good place to start. I a ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
I bought this thinking it would be a naval history of the often forgotten War of 1812. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a good history of the war in general, though with a heavy Naval emphasis. Overall I love it when i open a history book and forget that I am reading a history. There is no reason history or any book for that matter, has to be difficult to read. This one was such a book, pleasant and well written. The facts are there and I think are arranged well. The war is well ...more
Dan Pepper
Oct 01, 2013 Dan Pepper rated it it was ok
Daughan takes the unappealing tack of constantly using nautical terms without explaining them. If you know about how ships worked in the Age of Sail, you'll be able to follow his accounts of naval fights. If not, then not. As a general history, it's pretty standard. Most of the interest is just in cataloguing the sheer amount of incompetence and tripping over their own shoes that the Madison Administration managed in the shiny new war they choose.

Anyone whining about the divisiveness of current
Eric Miller
Mar 10, 2012 Eric Miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: done-listening
If you are a history fan, and you are not that familiar with the war of 1812, this is a must read. I enjoyed it. Well written and the level of detail I like. I've always known this was a very important piece of American history, but I never got my head around how important or what actually happened.

This author certainly has a naval focus which is interesting, but probably not the full picture. Lots to learn here and very interesting. What the young country achieved was amazing, especially from a
Oct 22, 2013 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an engaging book detailing the circumstances and events of the War of 1812. Daughan gives a thorough treatment of not only the domestic events, but also the worldwide political situation that this war took place in. His chapter on Napoleon's invasion of Russia ranks as one of the most memorable chapters I've read in a book. The reader will learn about the many colorful personalities that defined the early navy of the United States of America. I highly recommend this book to those intere ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Silas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very thorough account of a notoriously underreported war. I particularly liked how it emphasized the relationship of this war to the Napoleonic wars which were contemporary in Europe and how the two conflicts influenced each other. Where this book stumbled a bit was in how it failed to establish what certain terms meant. This is not a beginner's book. It assumes you already know a good deal about naval combat and the geography of the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake, in particular. Sinc ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Margaret rated it really liked it
Though tedious at times, it provides a comprehensive account of the War of 1812. While special emphasis is placed on the Navy, the Army is not ignored. Daughan makes no bones about his patriotic fervor in favor of the Americans while justly criticizing the obnoxious deeds of the British. Great ending includes Daughan's thesis that the War of 1812 prompted Americans to develop a strong military in order that no other nation take advantage of them again.
Apr 13, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it
George Daughan brings an aspect of the 1812 war not often thought about and that was the naval batters fought throughout the Great Lakes, up and down the major rivers, and on the high seas from the Mediterranean to off the coast of South America to the islands of the South Pacific. Daughan's writing is very descriptive and takes you right into the many engagements between the Royal Navy and the newly created American navy. Jefferson and Madison both opposed the idea of a large navy and so when h ...more
May 15, 2013 Preston rated it really liked it
An excellent novel which does a fine job revealing many of the lesser discussed details of the War of 1812. I found myself frequently using wikipedia to understand some of the 19th century nautical terms and a few illustrations may have helped with this notwithstanding the author does an excellent job depicting both the naval battles as well as the politics that shaped the war.
Dan Ward
Dec 04, 2012 Dan Ward rated it did not like it
For a book that says "The Navy's War" on the cover it seems to spend 1/2 the time talking about anything but the navy. I actually didn't finish the book and skipped huge sections about the land battles. The text drug on and on. If you are looking into a history of the Navy during the war of 1812 this isn't the book for you.
Feb 12, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thorough narrative account of the major incidences of the war, but almost exclusively that. Only cursory consideration of the causes, effects, and larger themes.
Aug 30, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
An excellent history, especially for those unfamiliar with the war. Filled with tons of boarding actions, broadsides, and more, I highly recommend this one.
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