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Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation [Kindle Edition]

Steve Vogel
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In a rousing account of one of the critical turning points in American history, Through the Perilous Fight tells the gripping story of the burning of Washington and the improbable last stand at Baltimore that helped save the nation and inspired its National Anthem.
 
In the summer of 1814, the United States of America teetered on the brink of disaster. The war it had declared against Great Britain two years earlier appeared headed toward inglorious American defeat. The young nation’s most implacable nemesis, the ruthless British Admiral George Cockburn, launched an invasion of Washington in a daring attempt to decapitate the government and crush the American spirit. The British succeeded spectacularly, burning down most of the city’s landmarks—including the White House and the Capitol—and driving President James Madison from the area. As looters ransacked federal buildings and panic gripped the citizens of Washington, beleaguered American forces were forced to regroup for a last-ditch defense of Baltimore. The outcome of that “perilous fight” would help change the outcome of the war—and with it, the fate of the fledgling American republic.
 
In a fast-paced, character-driven narrative, Steve Vogel tells the story of this titanic struggle from the perspective of both sides. Like an epic novel, Through the Perilous Fight abounds with heroes, villains, and astounding feats of derring-do. The vindictive Cockburn emerges from these pages as a pioneer in the art of total warfare, ordering his men to “knock down, burn, and destroy” everything in their path. While President Madison dithers on how to protect the capital, Secretary of State James Monroe personally organizes the American defenses, with disastrous results. Meanwhile, a prominent Washington lawyer named Francis Scott Key embarks on a mission of mercy to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. His journey will place him with the British fleet during the climactic Battle for Baltimore, and culminate in the creation of one of the most enduring compositions in the annals of patriotic song: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
 
Like Pearl Harbor or 9/11, the burning of Washington was a devastating national tragedy that ultimately united America and renewed its sense of purpose. Through the Perilous Fight combines bravura storytelling with brilliantly rendered character sketches to recreate the thrilling six-week period when Americans rallied from the ashes to overcome their oldest adversary—and win themselves a new birth of freedom.

Praise for Through the Perilous Fight

“Very fine storytelling, impeccably researched . . . brings to life the fraught events of 1814 with compelling and convincing vigor.”—Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of An Army at Dawn
 
“Probably the best piece of military history that I have read or reviewed in the past five years. . . . This well-researched and superbly written history has all the trappings of a good novel. . . . No one who hears the national anthem at a ballgame will ever think of it the same way after reading this book.”—Gary Anderson, The Washington Times
 
“[Steve] Vogel does a superb job. . . . [A] fast-paced narrative with lively vignettes.”—Joyce Appleby, The Washington Post
 
“Before 9/11 was 1814, the year the enemy burned the nation’s capital. . . . A splendid account of the uncertainty, the peril, and the valor of those days.”—Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison
 
“A swift, vibrant account of the accidents, intricacies and insanities of war.”Kirkus Reviews


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From the War of 1812, Vogel selects the British invasion of the Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 1814 for this tight-focus treatment. Few details escape his attention, from the appearances and characters of commanders to specifications of weaponry, ships, and forts, which he integrates into an active narrative of military events. Showing the British initiative conferred by their naval supremacy, Vogel depicts American leaders guessing where their opponents would land in the deeply incised coastline of the bay. One such was James Monroe, who suspended his duties as secretary of state to scout the enemy on horseback. Also in the saddle, President James Madison personally inspected defense lines, fleeing their collapse in the Battle of Bladensburg and ensuing incineration of Washington. After inflicting this humiliation, British admiral Cockburn and general Ross decided to visit a conflagration on Baltimore, whose defiance of this fate an eyewitness expressed in a militant composition. Vogel, a Washington Post reporter, superbly dramatizes a campaign whose legacy is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” both the anthem and the flag for which it stands, today displayed in Washington. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“[A] fine study . . . Steve Vogel does a superb job of bringing this woeful tale to life. He leavens his fast-paced narrative with lively vignettes of the principal participants. . . . Vogel meticulously sets the stage for the ensuing debacle.”—Joyce Appleby, The Washington Post

The Perilous Fight is probably the best piece of military history that I have read or reviewed in the past five years. . . . This well-researched and superbly written history has all the trappings of a good novel. There is great heroism, treacherous self-interest, cowardice and intrigue. . . . No one who hears the national anthem at a ballgame will ever think of it the same way after reading this book, nor want the national anthem changed.”—Gary Anderson, The Washington Times
 
“Complementing Donald R. Hickey’s War of 1812 and Alan Taylor’s The Civil War of 1812, this title will contribute to making this war no longer one of our ‘forgotten’ conflicts.”Library Journal

“Vogel . . . superbly dramatizes a campaign whose legacy is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ both the anthem and the flag for which it stands, today displayed in Washington.”Booklist
 
“The experienced author knows how to write about the military and its human and martial conflicts. . . . A swift, vibrant account of the accidents, intricacies and insanities of war.”Kirkus Reviews

“Very fine storytelling, impeccably researched . . . Through the Perilous Fight brings to life the fraught events of 1814 with compelling and convincing vigor.”—Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of An Army at Dawn
 
“Before 9/11 was 1814—the year the enemy burned the nation’s capital. Steve Vogel gives a splendid account, fast-paced and detailed, of the uncertainty, the peril, and the valor of those days.”—Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison
 
“The War of 1812 remains one of the most important and least appreciated events in American history. In these engaging pages, Steve Vogel does much to rectify that, telling the story of a critical episode of the conflict with eloquence and insight.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 8912 KB
  • Print Length: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (May 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A5MRG9Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,129 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book May 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover
Having lived in Baltimore for seven years I passed the bouncing marker where Francis Scott Key was reported to have written the Star Spangled Banner. I also saw where the historic battle took place at Fort Morgan. So, when I saw Steven Vogel's newest book "Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks that Saved a Nation" I had to read it.

This spring is the anniversary of when the British attempted to capture the Chesapeake Bay. Vogel gives his readers a rousing account of one of the most critical turning points in American history. The story he tells is gripping, exciting, and seems at times to be unbelievable. However, it is true.

One of the things I most appreciated about the book is that it is character driven rather than event driven, which so many books of battle are. All the characters are rich and full. James Madison is the mild mannered president. British Admiral George Cockburn is the most hated man in America and makes Patton look demure. Secretary of State and future president James Monroe is a man of action but inept in battle. Francis Scott Key is a man of mercy and courage who is so moved by liberty that he encases its ideal in his historic poem. Dolly Madison, the First Lady that risks her life to protect the White House, then when forced to flee insures the portrait of George Washington.

However, do not be mistaken there are plenty of events and action. The book reads well as you are taken into the burning of Washington, the ransacking of the federal government and the Battle for Baltimore.

This is an excellent book that reads like a novel. Most Americans know little about the War of 1812, but it was one of the most important turning points of our nations history. This book is an excellent way to become familiar with this exciting and powerful time in our nations history.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of terror May 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent, supremely readable popular history. At a time when fewer and fewer Americans learn the objective facts of our country's past, this work is valuable (as well as wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable) on multiple levels. This "forgotten war" of 1812 was replete with devastating British terror attacks; American bluster--and military unpreparedness; and great heroism alongside craven behavior and profound ineptitude. That said, the author does not hector the reader on these points and others, but allows them to emerge from a skillfully crafted narrative. An accomplished journalist and author, Vogel is one of a dwindling band of writers who actually can write. Very highly recommended--and a splendid Father's Day gift, it seems to me. Fine history that's as entertaining as any novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars solid history and a great read June 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Through the Perilous Fight," by Washington Post reporter Steve Vogel, tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Washington-Baltimore area--a story of events that had at least as significant an effect on our country as 9/11. Yet, the most important thing most Americans know about the War of 1812 is that Dolley Madison saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. Vogel's subtitle, "Six Weeks that Saved the Nation," is spot on.

This book has three important things going for it:
* First, an astounding story:foreign troops invading Washington;the White House and Capitol in flames;the President on the run;the populace fleeing for their lives; private citizens arrested by the enemy; battles ending in devastating defeats or inspiring victories.
* Second, solid scholarship-- Steve Vogel's research is impeccable, and there's not a paragraph that isn't backed up by primary sources, carefully cited in end notes that are conveniently identified by page number, as well as quoted text where necessary, thereby avoiding interruption of the flow with reference numbers.
* Third, first-rate writing that's up to the task of recounting events day-by-day, without losing sight of the big picture. The story is told mainly in terms of the people who were part of it, with all their foibles; their histories, families, and friends; their strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, successes and failures. Even the battle scenes (which some of us find daunting to read) come alive when they're related in the words of the participants explaining their motives (or excuses). "Through the Perilous Fight" provides both a serious history lesson and a terrifically good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A real eye-opener, but far from "saving" the nation, Vogel's well written and masterfully researched book demonstrates how Madison-Monroe and company nearly lost it all in 1812. I never realized what a blunder it was for this small, weakly organized country to think they could just declare war on Britain and invade Canada. They were on the low end of the learning curve for Manifest Destiny. But in doing so, Madison really stepped on the sleeping British Lion's proverbial tail and found out the hard way that Britannia still had a big bite in America. I always thought the American stand at Fort McHenry was more heroic and legendary than strategic, the original "shock and awe", stuff you write National Anthems about. Not so by a long shot - the defense of Baltimore gave our peace negotiators at Ghent lead by John Quincy Adams just barely enough negotiating leverage to sign a peace treaty that returned us to the pre-war status quo; nothing gained, but fortunately nothing lost. Before that victory, they were on the verge of giving the Brits control of the Great Lakes and relinquishing the then northwest as a "buffer nation" under Indian rule. That would have been a game changer for American history. You've got to read it to believe it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Well written story of an event usually relegated to footnotes. Gives life to both known and unknown historical figures and the ambiguity that was the War of 1812.
Published 1 day ago by DGS
4.0 out of 5 stars Great balance between scholarship and accessability
This book hit the sweet spot for me of being clearly and well-researched while still being parsimonious in word. Read more
Published 3 days ago by OmahaJoe
5.0 out of 5 stars The War of 1812: How did we ever manage to win it?
A well written, well researched history of our least known war. Focusing on Francis Scott Key, the destruction of Washington DC, the defensive battle for Baltimore, the British... Read more
Published 4 days ago by H. Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars I hope my brother in law liked this book
I hope my brother in law liked this book; I have not read it personally, but he seemed happy with it.
Published 17 days ago by C. Roellig
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent narrative of the story of the National Anthem and War of 1812.
Published 22 days ago by Richard G. Holt
4.0 out of 5 stars Through the Perilous Fight
Good read & overview of the War of 1812.
Published 25 days ago by Donald L. Sielert
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read on the 1812 War
Best book I've read on the 1812 War. Easy to read and very interesting. This book will keep you at it till the end. Read more
Published 1 month ago by V. Larsen
5.0 out of 5 stars How we almost effectively lost our independence
During a recent two-week hospitalization, my closest companion was Vogel’s account of the six-week British campaign to end the see-saw War of 1812 by capturing both the U.S. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul Cool
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will inspire you
If you have had a bad day or week, read this book. James Madison had the world against him and somehow survived along with the United States. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gary Payson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book and one I would highly recommend
If the author is correct regarding all his facts, it is a wonder we survived as a nation. Great book and one I would highly recommend.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Steve Vogel is a veteran reporter on the National staff of The Washington Post with long experience covering the military. His first book, "The Pentagon: A History," was published by Random House in 2007. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Through The Perilous Fight," an account of the British invasion of the Chesapeake in 1814, to be published in the spring of 2013 by Random House.

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