August 28, 1814. Dressed in black, James Madison mourns the nation’s loss. Smoke rises from the ruin of the Capitol before him; a mile away stands the blackened shell of the White House. The British have laid waste to Washington City, and as Mr. Madison gazes at the terrible vista, he ponders the future-his country’s defeat or victory-in a war he began over the unanimous objections of his political adversaries. As we approach its bicentennial, the War of 1812 remains the least understood of America’s wars. To some it was a conflict that resolved nothing, but to others, it was our second war of independence, settling once and for all that America would never again submit to Britain. At its center was James Madison-our most meditative of presidents, yet the first one to declare war. And at his side was the extraordinary Dolley, who defined the role of first lady for all to follow, and who would prove perhaps her husband’s most indispensable ally.
In this powerful new work, drawing on countless primary sources, acclaimed historian Hugh Howard presents a gripping account of the conflict as James and Dolley Madison experienced it. Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War rediscovers a conflict fought on land and sea-from the shores of the Potomac to the Great Lakes-that proved to be a critical turning point in American history.