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

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  145 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
In August 1814, the United States army was defeated just outside Washington, D.C., by the world's greatest military power. President James Madison and his wife had just enough time to flee the White House before the British invaders entered. British troops stopped to feast on the meal still sitting on the Madisons' dining-room table before setting the White House on fire. ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published September 1st 2013)
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Washington Post
Aug 18, 2014 Washington Post rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 liked it  ·  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!!
Oct 23, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 22, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2014 Sam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 18, 2014 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 08, 2013 Cathleen Ross rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brian Manville
Jan 29, 2016 Brian Manville rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perspective is a peculiar thing. As the saying goes, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." A common colloquialism is "it depends on whose ox is getting gored." A glass of milk can either be half full or half empty depending on how thirsty you are. The American perspective on the War of 1812 was a fight for national honor, against perceived diplomatic slights and the impressment of American citizens into the Royal Navy as well as trade restrictions with France. For the English, ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 09, 2015 Jb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2016 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written, well-researched and balanced history of the Washington-Baltimore campaign, told in an engaging blow-by-blow fashion and mostly through primary sources. The narrative moves along at a crisp pace, and Snow does a fine job telling the story through the voices of the participants, as well as making all of the participants human. He also does a great job making the battles vivid and understandable.

Although the British retreat at Baltimore would later be hailed as a victory for US arms
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
Sep 24, 2014 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jul 15, 2015 Lucas Moctezuma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 14, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very informative account of an almost forgotten conflict which resulted in many state institutions of the fledgling United States, being burned to the ground. This included the White House. Peter Snow does a great job of exploring how the different personalities on both sides contributed to this conflict, especially the indecision that almost led to the British abandoning the planned assault on Washington.
Jeannette Dilouie
This was a really great, informative and enjoyable read from start to finish, especially when compared and contrasted with "Through the Perilous Fight" by Steve Vogel and "The Man Who Captured Washington" by John McCavitt and Christopher George. While many of the stories between the three are, naturally, the same; the slight difference in details and perspectives was well worthwhile. Glad I bought and read it!
Nov 01, 2014 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 31, 2014 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, us-history
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.
Jan 21, 2015 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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.
Feb 12, 2016 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrific read, and it focused just on the six weeks the Brits attacked DC and Baltimore, as the title implied it would. Still some context would have been useful re the overall two year war. A semblance of that only came in the last chapter.
May 03, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 31, 2015 Ricky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one book which is very inspiring! just go ahead and read this book
Oct 09, 2015 United rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Snow's about the climatic
Rajesh babu y
Mar 24, 2015 Rajesh babu y rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Different way of writing.Nice
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