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The Dawn's Early Light

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  111 ratings  ·  16 reviews
In the summer of 1814, enemy naval and ground forces made a coordinated assault on Washington, DC, capital of the new republic, and then set their sights on Baltimore, home port to some of the most rapacious American privateers on the high seas. In The Dawn's Early Light, Walter Lord captures these events during the War of 1812.

A native Baltimorean, Lord wrote with great f
Published January 1st 1972 by W. W. Norton & Company
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'Aussie Rick'

This book is the first I have read concerning the War of 1812. In this book the author covers the period from August 1814 with the British marching onto Washington. Walter Lord offers a spendid account of the fighting at Bladensburg, the burning of Washington and the subsequent campaign against the British. The use of first hand account offers a splendid insight into the people, soldiers, sailors and politicians caught up during this period of history. A well researched and finely told account o
Paul Haspel
Walter Lord's The Dawn's Early Light is an energetic and well-written recounting of the Washington and Baltimore campaigns from the War of 1812. Lord, a Baltimore journalist and writer (best known for A Night to Remember, his book about the ill-fated voyage of R.M.S. Titanic), deploys his you-are-there approach to history effectively, capturing well the Americans' despair at the burning of Washington, D.C., as well as American pride at Baltimoreans' heroic and successful defense of Fort McHenry. ...more
In telling his story, Lord’s work is clearly not intended to be a formal study because analysis and thesis is generally eschewed. Lord uses his considerable skills to tell a compelling tale by weaving together often trivial historical detail into an understandable and engaging narrative accessible to a lay reader. Compelling and often riveting, The Dawn’s Early Light employs a journalistic style that imparts facts while retaining a sense of sensationalism and dramatic color. The lack of analysis ...more
I bought this book at the gift shop at Fort McHenry in 2011 and just got around to reading it. It is a non-fiction about the battle at Fort McHenry in 1814, the general aspect of the War of 1812, wrapping up with the Battle of New Orleans. I laughed out loud in many places from the dry wit and irony of the complete lack of discipline, the bad luck, the plain stupidity of both sides at times. God must have wanted the US to be a country because based on all the dumb things we did as well as the ar ...more
John Harder
The Dawn’s Early Light is an in depth analysis of the battle for Washington during the war of 1812. To a lesser extent it also delves into the battle for New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent. Prose and story trip right along for the first 100 pages – than something happens. Perhaps it is just my extraordinarily low I.Q. on show again, but the minutia of troop movements gets a bit old. I think an in depth look at a few individuals (including a better of understanding of their personalities) would ...more
Oct 28, 2008 Mahlon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dedicated Walter Lord fans only
Shelves: read-2008
Until very recently this was THE book to read on The War of 1812, given the publication of several new works on the subject, this may no longer be the case, but for my money, there's no better storyteller than Walter Lord. That said, this is not one of his best works, but it's still a worthwhile read, especially for dedicated fans. His prose is most effective when he's describing the actual battles, his minute-by minute account of the burning of Washington is the highlight of the book. The non-c ...more
Garth Moore
Frankly, I've never paid attention to the the War of 1812. Now that I live in the DC/Baltimore area, I wanted to find out more about the war and the burning of DC. This is a really good read and will give you all you need to know about the battles in this area, the British shelling at Ft McHenry, and how it was the folks in DC, not the British, who burned the place to the ground.
I stopped in to see Ft Mchenry last year after promising to do so for 30 years. Impressive and highly recommended. I asked the park ranger what was the best book to get an overview of the battle and this is how I came to read this book. It covers more than the battle in Baltimore. For good measure, it covers the burning of Washington D.C. and the British journey to New Orleans where they got their buts kicked but good in a battle fought after the peace treaty had been signed. This book is well w ...more
This is a very clear book about a very confusing time in American history, the War of 1812. While the story covers some of the strategic aspects of the war, its real focus is on the events in the Washington/Baltimore area during the events leading up to Frances Scott Key composing what is now called The Star Spangled Banner. The details make much more sense to me now than when I was first learning them in school. The burning of the original Library of Congress is seen in its full context, both i ...more
Walter Lord, like McCullough and Stephen Ambrose, can make history read like a novel...a war that grows out of the native-American threat, expansion, and freedom of the seas...a remarkable story of a woefully unprepared US tackling the preeminent world power of the day as told from both sides...the focus is on the Chesapeake and New Orleans campaigns...short shrift is given to the war in the West and and the invasion from Canada...the political can-of-worms, that is war, is portrayed quite well ...more
I had never read any detail of this war, so learned a lot. It did get bogged down in troop movement detail at times. The convoluted personal scheming and rivalries sent my head spinning, but the overall story was revealing of the mixed motives and disorganization on both sides.
Joel Manuel
Pretty good history of the attacks on Washington and Baltimore, August-September 1814.
Excellent account of a forgotten war -- the War of 1812 and America's improbable victory. (In most wars, when the enemy captures your capital and burns it down, you tend to lose. And yet, we still won.)
It's a little slow getting started, and I therefore am still in the beginning. We'll see if it improves.
Very interesting way to learn about history. A little too much detail of troops for me sometimes.
another book for the FT. McHenry gig
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Walter Lord was an American author, best known for his documentary-style non-fiction account, A Night to Remember, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

In 2009, Jenny Lawrence edited and published The Way It Was: Walter Lord on His Life and Books.
More about Walter Lord...
A Night to Remember Day of Infamy The Night Lives On Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway Miracle of Dunkirk

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