Lani's Reviews > The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

The Burning of Washington by Anthony S. Pitch
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Aug 04, 08

bookshelves: own, non-fiction
Read in July, 2008

I knew very little about the burning of Washington, and while at Fort McHenry I saw this book. I'm always happy to buy books at little gift shops like this - better the money goes to the NPS than to Amazon.com or B&N.

Being fairly ignorant of the War of 1812, but at least familiar with the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, I was shocked to read what a small country it was. I had no idea that Lighthorse Harry Lee had nearly been killed by a mob in Baltimore, and was surprised to recognize the commander of Fort McHenry as the uncle of Lew Armistead.

The book is billed as being a very readable and lively account of the war, but I found it fairly dry. I suppose I am spoiled by novelists like Jeff Shaara, and I should have known better. I found the accounts of the battles fairly dull and difficult to follow, but the personal accounts of the escape from Washington and the defense of Baltimore were quite interesting. I ended up skimming through large chunks of fighting, but that wasn't why I was reading the book anyway.

Since I have lived in the DC area for about 15 years, it was fun to read about its history and even its geographic development since the beginning of the 19th century. I really don't think of Georgetown or Tenleytown as great distances from the Capitol or far enough away as a 'retreat' from occupying forces.

This wasn't a particularly 'fun' read, but it did have some interesting tidbits and personal accounts of important parts of DC's history. If you are curious about the burning of Washington, or the battle of Fort McHenry, this was certainly informative. I don't know of any more engaging books to recommend on the subject, but I would certainly be willing to read more about the topic.
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