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They Burned the White House?: What was the War of 1812 all about?
Resources and Links

Theme: The United States and the World: American Foreign Relations
Topic: They Burned the White House?: What Was the War of 1812 All About?
Date: March 2005

Annotated Bibliography | Websites and Web Resources
Related Archives and Collections
| Published Primary Sources | Other

Resources and Links compiled and annotated by Dane Morrison, Ph.D. Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Annotated Bibliography

Compiled and annotated by Dane Morrison, Ph.D. Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Secondary Sources: Books

Banner, James M. Jr.  To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789-1815.  New York: Alfred Knopf, 1970.

Considered one of the best studies of both the convention and the Federalists. As title suggests, focus is on Massachusetts.

Benn, Carl. The Iroquois in the War of 1812. Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1998.

Native American tribes served as scouts, translators, diplomats and soldiers for both the British and American troops during the War of 1812. This study    documents the role one particular tribe, the Iroquois, played during the war: their motivations, their successes and their internal conflicts.

Berton, Pierre. The Invasion of Canada, 1812-1813. Canada: Anchor Canada, 1980.

This narrative history traces the developments leading to the invasion of Canada and the first two years of war, weaving the perspectives of American and British soldiers, Native Americans and the Canadians on whose land the battles were waged. The author, a popular Canadian historian, argues that if the War of 1812 had never been fought then Ontario (then known as Upper Canada) would have become part of the United States, and if Britain had lost, then all of Canada would have become part of the union. As it was, however, the war and the mythology around the war served to bring the local residents of both British and American citizenship together and begin the formation of a new Canadian culture.

Borneman, Walter R.  1812: The War That Forged a Nation.  New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Narrative history of the war. Suggests its importance in shaping an emerging nation. Borneman is an historian of the American west and this book places   special emphasis on the struggle for western land in both the coming of the war and its long term impact on America.

Brown, Roger H. The Republic in Peril: 1812. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1971. (rpt. Columbia University Press, 1964.)

An account of the American party politics that the author argues led to America’s decision to declare war on Britain. Specifically, the author argues that fighting between the Federalists and the Republicans in national government forced James Madison to declare war in order to unite both parties and to demonstrate that America’s “republican experiment” would succeed.

Buel, Richard. America on the Brink: How the Political Struggle over the War of 1812 Almost Destroyed the Young Republic.  New York: St. Martin's, 2005.

Buel’s book links party politics and foreign policy as it traces the nuanced ways in which Federalists worked to jeopardize (in Buel’s analysis) the Federal government’s policies in and prosecution of the war of 1812. Argues that the Federalists’ actions almost ruined the new nation. Offers a solid explanation of the political, economic, and legal complexities of the period.  

Coles, Harry L. The War of 1812. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

An overview of the causes of the War of 1812, focusing particularly on maritime operations.

Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984.

A biography of the Native American leader and his failed attempt to organize a military alliance among Native American tribes.

Fischer, David Hackett.  The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy.  New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

One of the few “must read” books (along with Banner) on the Federalists.  Explores the changes that came to the party after their defeat in the 1800 election.

Forester, C.S. The Age of Fighting Sail: The Story of the Naval War of 1812. Sandwich, MA: Chapman Billies, 1956.

A narrative history of the sea battles of the War of 1812, written by the author of The African Queen.

Fredriksen, John C.  Free Trade and Sailors' Rights: A Bibliography of the War of 1812 Greenwood, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Indispensable for both serious students and buffs of the War of 1812. In this bibliography Frederiksen offers over 5,000 book and periodical citations, identifies and briefly describes more than 100 manuscript collections and offers three appendices which include, among other things, a list of wartime newspapers.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

This comprehensive study includes coverage of the military, political, economic and social aspects of the war. The author argues that divisions in American politics led to the nation engaging a war it was not fully prepared to fight. Written largely from the American perspective. The War of 1812: A Short History (1995) is an abridged version of this book.

Horsman, Reginald. The Causes of the War of 1812. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962.

A synthesis of the causes of the war finds the origins in the nationalism of the United States and England’s underestimation of such nationalism. Also by the author: The War of 1812 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969).

Muller, Charles G.  The Darkest Day, 1814: The Washington-Baltimore Campaign during the War of 1812.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2003.

Reprint of book originally published in 1963. Vivid account of events leading to the burning of Washington and the attack on Fort McHenry made famous by Francis Scott Key.

Perkins, Bradford. Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805-1812. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968.

A study of relations between Britain and the United States leading to the
War of 1812.

Pitch, Anthony S. The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

This account of the most remembered action of the War of 1812 was written by a journalist. Although a detailed account of the event, the book does only a fair job of putting the attack into the context of political and military strategies. Other books on the burning of Washington include: By the Dawn’s Early Light (1972) by Walter Lord and The Battle for Baltimore, 1814 (1997) by Joseph A. Whitehorne.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Naval War of 1812.  New York: Random House, 1999.

Originally published when T.R. was only 23, this is still considered one of the  classics on the topic. Narrative history. At the time of its publication, The Naval War challenged older interpretations of the war and renewed contemporary interest in forgotten military forces.

Skaggs, David. A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997.

A close accounting and solid history of the very important struggle for Lake Erie.

Skaggs, David C. and Larry L. Nelson, eds. The Sixty Years’ War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.

Twenty essays that collectively trace and comment on the battles and naval operations on the Great Lakes over half a century. Address the political, social, economic and cultural forces, interactions and impact of the ongoing battles to control the freshwater lakes and waterways at the center of North America. Essays help make the importance of this place and its resources clear.

Skeen, C. Edward. Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

This book documents the failure of President James Madison’s strategy of reliance on the militia during the War of 1812. According to the author, throughout the war the federal government struggled with raising money to support the troops, mainly because there was political disagreement about the need for a standing army and between the state and federal governments as to who was responsible for the funding of the militia. As a result, the military was over-reliant on under-trained and under-armed citizen soldiers who often served as little as three months. The book also looks at the organization of the militia: the practice of hiring replacements, raising supplies, and the relationship between the militia and their commanders.

Sugden, John. Tecumseh’s Last Stand. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

The author conducted extensive research into primary sources in America, England and Canada to trace in detail the final months of the Native American hero’s life in 1813 and his death at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario, Canada.

White, Patrick C.T. A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812. New York: Wiley, 1965.

Interpretive survey focuses on foreign policy and economic factors leading to the war.

Secondary Sources: Articles

Dixon, Ruth Priest. “Genealogical Fallout from the War of 1812.” Prologue 24 (1992):
70-76. (Note: this details possible primary sources)

Description of the National Archives records on the War of 1812 that can
be used by historians and researchers, including a collection of Seamen’s
Protection Certificates which were used to protect American merchants from
being impressed into the service of the British navy.

George, Christopher T. “Mirage of Freedom: African Americans in the War of 1812.” Maryland Historical Magazine 91 (1996): 426-450.

Slaves and freedmen fought both for and against the Americans during the War of 1812. British soldiers trained a Corps of Colonial Marines comprised of escaped slaves to fight against the Americans. But slaves and freedmen also fought for the American side, particularly at the battles of Baltimore and New Orleans.

Glynn, Gary. “The Man who Burned Washington.” American History Illustrated 27 (1992): 60-65, 73-74.

A very readable profile of British Admiral George Cockburn and his invasion and burning of Washington in August 1814.

Hickey, Donald R. “The War of 1812: Still a Forgotten Conflict?” Journal of Military History 65 (2001): 741-769.

Describes the renewed interest in “the forgotten war” that came about in the 1990s. Provides an overview of the books, articles and films about the War of 1812 that were published in the 1990s and suggests areas for additional research.

Shulman, Mark Russell. “The Influence of History Upon Sea Power: the Navalist Reinterpretation of the War of 1812.” Journal of Military History 56 (1992): 183-205.

During the 1880s and 1890s, historians and politicians focused on the role that seapower played in the War of 1812 in order to gain political support for the expansion of the American navy.

Taney, Roger Brooke. “By the Dawn’s Early Light.” American History Illustrated (2) 1967: 12-17.

This excerpt from a memoir written by the brother-in-law of Francis Scott Ke describes what Key told the author about his writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

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Websites and Web Resources

Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates
American Memory, Library of Congress

Part of the Library of Congress American Memory digital collection. Includes the published congressional records for the United States from 1774-1875. Searchable for bills, resolutions, congressional debates and other documents relating to the War of 1812.

Documents from the War of 1812
The Avalon Project, Yale University Law School

This section of the Avalon project site contains eight important documents related to the war of 1812 including: “An Act to Prohibit American Vessels from Proceeding to or Trading with the Enemies of the United States, and for Other Purposes; July 6(1812)”; “Cartel for the Exchange of Prisoners of War Between Great Britain and the United States of America, May 12 (1813),” and “The Treaty of Ghent, December 24 (1814).”

The site’s collection (and the focus of the Avalon project as a whole) highlights diplomatic and legal documents.

Fort Erie and the War of 1812

Website for historical re-enactors of the Siege of Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, which took place on August 15, 1814. Site includes information about the battle and transcriptions of letters written by soldiers who fought there.

Naval Historical Center
Department of the Navy

A wealth of information about the history of the American Navy. Two particularly useful sections of the site are 1) “Wars and Conflicts of the United States Navy” which includes transcribed primary sources from all US Naval wars from the American Revolution to Desert Storm. These are arranged by period. 2) “Sources on US Naval History” which offers a state-by-state accounting of all repositories of materials related to US Navy history and indicates what is available at each one. Within each state listing, the holdings are broken down by repository to make searching and accessing even easier. Check “Massachusetts” and see what riches you find!

The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals
American Memory, Library of Congress

Part of the Library of Congress American Memory digital collection. Full-text database of magazines and journals from the 1800s including Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and Scientific American. Searchable for contemporary accounts of the War of 1812.

Oneida Indian Nation: Oneidas in the War of 1812

Web page with introduction to the role of the Oneida Indians in the War of 1812. Includes bibliography.

President Madison’s 1812 War Message (grades 9-12) – Lesson Plan
EdSiteMent, National Endowment for the Humanities

High school-level lesson plan on President Madison’s declaration of war. Includes links to primary sources that can be used in the lesson.

The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
Smithsonian Institution

An online exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. A handful of items from the War of 1812 include a trade tomahawk, Andrew Jackson’s uniform coat and household items.

The Star-Spangled Banner
Smithsonian Institution

An online exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Includes information on our national anthem, Francis Scott Key and an interactive “You Solve the Mystery” where visitors use primary sources to explain some of the mysteries surrounding the flag and then can read what historians have discovered using the same sources.

War of 1812 Maps
United States Military Academy at West Point

Part of the United States Military Academy at West Point website. Historical maps from the War of 1812.

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Related Archives and Collections

--none listed at this time--

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Published Primary Sources

Brannan, John, ed. Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States, During the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 13, 14 and 15. New York: Arno Press, Inc., 1971 (rpt. Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823).

Campbell, Maria. Revolutionary services and civil life of General William Hull... together with the history of the campaign of 1812, and surrendert of the post of Detroit, by his grandson, James Freeman Clarke. New York: D. Appleton & Co.; Philadelphia: G.S. Appleton, 1848.

Channing, William Ellery. A sermon, preached in Boston, August 20,1812 [microform): the day of humiliation and prayer, appointed by the president of the United States, in consequence of the declaration of war against Great Britain. Boston: Printed by C. Stebbins, no. 4, Suffolk Building, 1812.

Corbett, William. Letters on the late war between the United States and Great Britain [microform): together with other miscellaneous writings, on the same subject. New York: Published by J. Belden and Co., Van Winkle & Wiley, printers, 1815.

McLeod, Alexander. A scriptural view of the character, causes and ends of the present war [microform). New York: Eastburn, Kirk, 1815.

Muller, Joseph, ed.. The Star spangled banner; words and music issued between 18141864; an annotated bibliographicallist with notices of the different versions, texts, variants, musical arrangements and noted on music publishers in the United States. New York: Da Capo Press, 1973. (rpt. NY: G.A. Baker, 1935)

Tompkins, Daniel D. Public papers of Daniel D. Tompkins, governor of New York, 18071817 [microform). New York: State of New York, 1898-1902.

Wood, William Charles Henry, ed. Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.

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Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff

Children/Young Adult Books

Alder, Elizabeth. Crossing the Panther’s Path. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2002.

Fictional story of a sixteen-year-old boy who leaves home to join Tecumseh to help fight the American encroachment into the Northwest Territory.

Cobblestone Magazine “War of 1812” issue (January 1988)

For Reading and Comprehension questions for use with this issue see Questions can be easily printed and copied for classroom use.

Rinaldi, Ann. Broken Days. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1995.

Fictional story about a young girl set in Salem, MA on the eve of the War of 1812.

Robinson, Mary Alice Burke. The War of 1812. Carlisle, MA: Discovery Enterprises, Ltd., 1998.

History of the War of 1812 for young readers.

Gelb, Norman. “Reluctant Patriot.” Smithsonian (September 2004).

Profile of Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Gilbert, Bil. “The Object at Hand.” Smithsonian (July 1995).

Profile of Shawnee warrior Tecumseh.


 The History Channel Presents the War of 1812. Directed by Gary Foreman.

This five-part series includes segments on the declaration of war, the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the battle of New Orleans, a profile of Andrew Jackson, and a look at the battleships first used in the War of 1812.

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