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When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  114 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In August 1814, the United States Army is defeated in battle by an invading force just outside Washington DC. The US president and his wife have just enough time to pack their belongings and escape from the White House before the enemy enters. The invaders tuck into the dinner they find still sitting on the dining-room table and then set fire to the place.

September 11th,
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published September 1st 2013)
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Washington Post
Snow’s about the climactic event of the War of 1812 is a fine example of serious and literate popular history, a genre that has gained respectability and credibility in recent years as some of the best non-professional historians on both sides of the Atlantic have taken to writing it. It ranks with Anthony S. Pitch’s fine “The Burning of Washington” (2000) as among the best accounts of a war that hardly deserves to be forgotten.

Jonathan Yardley reviewed it for us:
Sep 06, 2013 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, carey, Wanda
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Peter Snow tells the story of the 1814 confrontation between Britain and the United States

Pete daPixie
Ever since the British, burned the White House down
There's a bleeding wound, in the heart of town
I saw you drinking, from an empty cup
I saw you buried, and I saw you dug up
It's a long road, it's a long and narrow way

Peter Snow not only introduced me to these events of 1814, he also introduced me to a Bob Dylan song that I had never come across before.

Although I was aware that the Brits had torched the White House, I had little knowledge of the history and logistics behind the deed. Snow's na
It is mostly history...but a very ineteresting find!!
Peter Snow's When Britain Burned the White House, is one of those books that you anticipate because you've always wanted to know more about the topic, but yet when you read it, you find you know more about some things, and even less about others. Difficult to understand? Well, it's difficult to explain. The reader will be aided immensely if you understand two things going in: 1. the subtitle is accurate, that is to say that it is focused mostly on the invasion Burning of Washington in 1814 and n ...more
I think I would have been tempted to emphasize even more the pointlessness and futility of this war with its attendant death and destruction. But within its emphasis on explaining the characters involved, this is a very engaging and illuminating account. It also efficiently puts the campaign in the context of American politics and the Napoleonic Wars--and explains nicely the drain it was on economic resources for both countries. And it's interesting not just how the events were experienced (and ...more
I was really looking forward to this book, having long been outraged at a vague tale I heard somewhere while living in Washington DC a few years ago, of the barbaric British burning the Library of Congress during the War of 1812. (The White House, I understand, but what reason could they have had to burn a library?Shame.) This was certainly a well-researched and very detailed account of the British march on Washington and the hapless American defense. But, in the end -- before the end, actually ...more
Charles Moore
The War of 1812 has been relegated to the back waters of history. And in reading Snow's account of the sacking of Washington, the reasons become evident. But, American history is still important history for Americans so readers might find this a good time to brush up on some of seemingly smaller events that eventually make larger histories.

The War of 1812 was a series of local battles fought far from each other: Canada, D.C., New Orleans. In this case, the entire battle for Washington and the s
Think we’ve got problems in Washington today? It was a real mess in 1814 when the Brits overran our capitol almost unopposed and set fire to all public buildings, burning Dolley and James Madison right out of their big white home (the burn marks on the White House are still visible today). What a fiasco. Our “army” suffered terrible leadership, the inside political skirmishes were debilitating, and as usual the little people paid the dearest price. Very interesting insight into an often overlook ...more
Cathleen Ross
I was very excited to find this book. It's very well written and extremely detailed. For those interested in the American/English war of 1812 this is a must read. What I particularly enjoyed was the in-depth character development of the major protagonists. Snow used family letters to detail the characteristics and natures of Major General Robert Ross and other Generals. It was particularly helpful to have the maps of the area and the explanation of the battle plans.
Informative and interesting especially since it made me realize just how little I know about the War of 1812! A very easy read, my only personal problem was keeping everyone straight but Snow does a good job at helping you with it.
This engaging narrative recounts debate among Brit generals and admirals whether it was wise to even think about trying to capture America's capital city and then to torch government buildings. Ultimately, due mainly to American leadership and military ineptitude, both events came about. To the British government the War of 1812 was an infuriating distraction, so one admiral in particular, the hard-bitten George Cockburn, resolved to torment the war's perpetrator, U.S. president "Jemmy" Madison, ...more
This is a very unique telling of the War of 1812 from the British point of view. As we all know this is limited to the Chesapeake campaign of 1814, it does tell it from an entirely different and, until know, an unspoken viewpoint. Peter Snow makes it quite clear that this was an accidental war and for Great Britain a diversion from the far more serious threat of Napoleon. He tells an excellent story which brings the major characters to life. His refreshing perspective of the dispute over the bur ...more
First off, I originally selected When Britain Burned the White House in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway because I thought it would be good to know more about the War of 1812. Even my college-level course barely glanced over it. I did win the copy I read and I was pleasantly surprised. This book was not only informative, but it was immaculately researched and written with a well-flowing prose. Plus it honestly read like a good adventure novel! I never expected to thoroughly enjoy reading this bo ...more
Sarah Wagner
An interesting look at the Britain invasion of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, an event often consigned to the footnotes of history - and after reading this book, I understand why. The British invasion is certainly important in terms of the history of the American capital city and the White House and how the national anthem emerged, but significance and impact of the war itself ranks lower in American history. As the author himself points out, a number of the battles fought in this war ...more
I received this book from the Goodreads First reads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review your newest book.

When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington by Peter Snow is a historical account of the Burning of the White House and the events leading up to it.

I am far from being any kind of history buff. I have been reading some fictional literature set around the time of the War of 1812. I had never even heard of the British burn
Lucas Moctezuma
A thrilling historical account of the British Invasion of Washington as part of the war of 1812. The figures of Madison, Winder, Armstrong, Cockburn, Ross and others are as interesting as the accounts of the communications and battles between the Americans and former rulers. A definite read for anyone interested in American history and military history.
A really enjoyable and informative read. My only criticism would be that the other events of the war were dealt with rather sketchily. However Peter Snow's enthusiasm about the topic comes through. The lively details made it both interesting and memorable.
This book follows the 3 week period in 1814 when the British invaded Maryland defeated an American Army and burned Washington DC. It then also tells about their subsequent attempt at taking Baltimore which ended with them retreating and Francis Scott Key writing the Star Spangled Banner. Good read.
Well written, with many perspectives on both sides of this conflict. Though I knew the basics about the War of 1812, this book filled in a lot of the details regarding the conflict in Washington and Baltimore.
When Britain Burned the White House is a look at the British campaigns against Washington and Baltimore during the War of 1812. It is perhaps a little "scholarly" for audiences that don't have a particular interest in the subject. But it is full of first-person accounts of the battles and events.
This is one book which is very inspiring! just go ahead and read this book
Rajesh babu y
Different way of writing.Nice
A great examination of this event, reaching all the way to the battle that led to the Star-Spangled Banner.

A really interesting book.
History was written in a better way !! Peter Show has stolen the book show!!
Rebecca Dunbar
FAB! So interesting - particularly the anecdotes about the White House itself and Dolly Madison - it would have been 5 stars if it hadn't been so heavy on the military history - as interesting as the legacy in letters of commanders was ... The naval achievements of the British and their war strategy was a bit boring after a while.

Excellent writing though.
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