Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
In this deeply researched and clearly written book, the Pulitzer Prize—winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. During the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. Soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought in a northern borderland to determine the fate of a continent. Would revolutionary republicanism sweep the British from Canada? Or would the British empire contain, divide, and ruin the shaky American republic?
In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous boundaries, the leaders of the republic and of the empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. The border divided Americans—former Loyalists and Patriots—who fought on both sides in the new war, as did native peoples defending their homelands. Serving in both armies, Irish immigrants battled one another, reaping charges of rebellion and treason. And dissident Americans flirted with secession while aiding the British as smugglers and spies.
During the war, both sides struggled to sustain armies in a northern land of immense forests, vast lakes, and stark seasonal swings in the weather. In that environment, many soldiers panicked as they fought their own vivid imaginations, which cast Indians as bloodthirsty savages. After fighting each other to a standstill, the Americans and the British concluded that they could safely share the continent along a border that favored the United States at the expense of Canadians and Indians. Both sides then celebrated victory by forgetting their losses and by betraying the native peoples.
A vivid narrative of an often brutal (and sometimes comic) war that reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.
“The Civil War of 1812 is a stunning new take on the settlement of the American Revolution. In tightly wound prose, author Alan Taylor weaves a story of crisis, conspiracy, and colorful characters embedded in a larger struggle between citizens, subjects, and native peoples over the future of the North American continent. The resulting tapestry is a rich, new chapter of American history that transforms our understanding of the era. Taylor is the best historian of America working today.” —Elizabeth Fenn, author of Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82
“When neighbor invaded neighbor in 1812, a cast of bunglers, heroes, crackpots and turncoats stepped forward to ensure that nothing would proceed according to plan. In this richly researched book, master story-teller Alan Taylor shows how the clash between a divided republic and a distracted empire defined and differentiated two North American nations.” —Allan Greer, author of Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits
“The War of 1812 made two nations. It restored the Republic and gave the US its national anthem. Canada survived with a national mythology of resistance against America. Alan Taylor’s book, splendidly researched on both sides of the border, shows how at terrible human cost this little war could have two winners.” —H. V. Nelles, L.R., author of A Little History of Canada and co-author of The River Returns
“Alan Taylor’s treatment of the War of 1812 expands the history of the war and in doing so recasts our understanding of the war. Eminently fair-minded in his treatment of both sides, republican Americans and loyalist Americans, Taylor shows the conflict was a continuation and culmination of the first American civil war of the 1770s and 1780s.” —Robert Bothwell, author of The Penguin History of Canada
“Masterfully argued and full of wry detail, The Civil War of 1812 uncovers a lively, grubby panorama of war—as subjects and citizens each dreamed of re-fighting the Revolution, raiding the borders between an empire that saw Americanness as an opportunistic fiction, and a republic that was not post-colonial so much as hoping to get there.” —Peter Silver, author of Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America
“A provocative look at America’s forgotten war. Impeccably researched and vast in scope, this deft analysis of the diverse ethnic groups, ideological pressures, national loyalties, and international pressures at work in the War of 1812 forces us to reconsider that conflict as a major crisis in North American, indeed, Atlantic, society. An impressive achievement.” —Steven Watts, author of The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790–1820
“Alan Taylor has crafted both a breathtaking reinterpretation that surpasses the highest standards of historical scholarship and a narrative synthesis that will engross non-specialist readers. His complex and nuanced explanation makes clear that the conflict was a foundational event for North American nation-states. Taylor again adds to his stature as the preeminent historian of North America.” —John H. Thompson, co-author of Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies