37 books directly related to the War of 1812 📚

All 37 War of 1812 books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

By Donald R. Hickey,

Book cover of The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

Why this book?

This is the best comprehensive history of the period. The scope is daunting. The book, along with long phone conversations with the author, was my bible when writing Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes, Madison’s commanders in the War of 1812.  Don not only gives you the facts but is also adept at stinging them together into an absorbing narrative that will keep you looking for the next turning.  The period of the war is filled with the most audacious characters found in any nations’ early history.  From the heroes of the battlefield to the wretched politicians that haunt all our history, you will never find a more gripping read.


The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History

By J. MacKay Hitsman,

Book cover of The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History

Why this book?

If you want to know how the British and Canadians view the war, this is the book for you. The original edition was published in 1965 but lacked documentation. For the revised edition, a team of Canadian scholars headed by Donald E. Graves added a host of appendices with new material and tracked down sources to give the volume appropriate documentation. 


The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 V1

By Benson J. Lossing,

Book cover of The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 V1

Why this book?

Lossing was an accomplished sketch artist and antiquarian who traveled 10,000 miles in the 1850s and 1860s, visiting battle sites and interviewing survivors of the war. The result of his labors was this compendium that includes songs, poems, battle maps, and illustrations. Lossing treatment of almost every subject yields fascinating gems.


History of the Late War in the Western Country

By Robert B. McAfee,

Book cover of History of the Late War in the Western Country

Why this book?

Part memoir and part history, McAfee was a Kentuckian who participated in some of the campaigns of the war in the West and knew many of the participants personally. Hence, his treatment of the conflict goes beyond the usual memoir in that it presents a comprehensive history of the western phase of the conflict from the perspective of an insider. 


Where Right and Glory Lead!: The Battle of Lundy's Lane, 1814

By Donald E. Graves,

Book cover of Where Right and Glory Lead!: The Battle of Lundy's Lane, 1814

Why this book?

Canadian Don Graves is the preeminent military historian of the war. No one is better at examining the documentary record and the geographical setting of a battle and reconstructing what happened and presenting it in a coherent and compelling narrative. Graves has written first-class accounts of many of the major battles, but his treatment of the bloody Battle of Lundy’s Lane is perhaps his best work.


Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815

By Frank Lawrence Owsley Jr.,

Book cover of Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815

Why this book?

This traditional account of Jackson’s war against the Creeks and the British does a good job of tying together these two wars and showing how Jackson’s success in the first led seamlessly to his role in the second. A little dated but still rewarding.


Amateurs, to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812

By John R. Elting,

Book cover of Amateurs, to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812

Why this book?

I was given the opportunity to make a television program about the Battle of Plattsburgh /Lake Champlain. Amateurs to Arms proved out to the best source for research concerning the War of 1812. It was no wonder since Professor John Elting had also written the 1812 West Point Atlas. His book on the northern battlefields is groundbreaking. An infantry officer in Germany during WWII, his experience brought an understanding of men caught in hand-to-hand combat. As a result of my extensive research, John suggested that I write a companion book to the film. The Final Invasion, Plattsburgh, the war of 1812’s most decisive battle, won the Army Historical Foundation book prize and the endorsement of the US Army War College.


1812: The Navy's War

By George C. Daughan,

Book cover of 1812: The Navy's War

Why this book?

There are many great books written about the fledgling US Navy that came into its own during the campaign of 1812.  As an Army officer, I was compelled to read them all when researching if my book, Old Ironsides, Eagle of the Sea if I were to compete with that of the ‘old saults’. George was challenged not only to define the complexities of the fledgling American frigates, but to contrast it with the proven rulers of the waves.  The British navy had not had a significant challenge since the magnificent history laid down by captain Horacio Nelson. The unpresented victories over the Royal Navy’s frigates were “uncalled for” according to the London Times. If there is one book to read about the epic struggle at sea, this is the one to choose.


A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison

By Paul Jennings,

Book cover of A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison

Why this book?

Paul Jennings' memoirs are a vital voice to understanding this historical epoch. On August 24, 1814, he was present when Dolley Madison ordered the painting of George Washington to be taken off the wall before evacuating the White House. Jennings was also the last person out of the White House before the British military arrived. Were it not for Jennings, we would not know that an innkeeper cursed Dolley Madison and kicked her out of her hotel because she was angry that her husband had been fighting prior to the burning of the White House. His reminiscences of life as a slave and a free person show his character, honor, and determination.


The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King; Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents, and His Speeches Volume 5

By Rufus King,

Book cover of The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King; Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents, and His Speeches Volume 5

Why this book?

Senator Rufus King played the role of disrupter on Capitol Hill during James Madison's presidency. Once united in the public relations campaign to convince the states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, King and Madison became rivals when King ran as the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket against President Madison in the 1808 presidential campaign. That rivalry took a conspiratorial turn in 1813 and 1814. Thanks to King's letters, we now know that General Armstrong was speaking covertly to Senator King against President Madison while serving in Madison's cabinet. Both New Yorkers with their eye on the presidency, their mutual ambition was to ensure that no Virginian, especially Secretary of State James Monroe, won the presidency in 1816. Their failure shows why most Americans do not know the name of Rufus King.


Historical Sketch of the Second war Between the United States of America and Great Britain

By Charles Jared Ingersoll,

Book cover of Historical Sketch of the Second war Between the United States of America and Great Britain

Why this book?

A congressman during the War of 1812, Charles Ingersoll took on the role of journalist and historian in the years that followed. He interviewed key players during the lead-up and aftermath of the burning of the White House. Though his sketch is dense, he provides some of the most important details not covered in other accounts from the era. Ingersoll also provides some of the most inspirational, cinematic quotes coming out of the burning of the U.S. Capitol. 

"The smoldering fires of the Capitol were spices of the phoenix bed, from which a rose offspring more vigorous, beautiful and long-lived," Ingersoll wrote. "The immediate and enthusiastic effect of the fall of Washington was electric revival of national spirit and universal energy."


The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941

By Rebecca M. McLennan,

Book cover of The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941

Why this book?

In The Crisis of Imprisonment, McLennan examines the role of labor in the early prisons through to the Second World War. Labor was central to the motivation for adopting prisons, but also to their regular routines and functioning. After the Civil War, however, labor unions and others opposed to prisoner labor became more effective at restricting the sale of prisoner-made products, which helped to undermine the order of prisons.

The second half of the book explores the question of how do you maintain order in prisons if its central lynchpin is no longer available. It also has rich discussions on resistance and protests both inside and outside of prisons (not everyone wanted prisons, even early on, or liked how they were organized, even the people running them) and on the origin of prisoners’ “civil death” or rights-less status. Bonus: I love the introduction to this book. The prison riot scene perfectly sets up the rest of the book and its larger argument.


Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

By Stephen Budiansky,

Book cover of Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

Why this book?

While the outcome of the naval war was a foregone conclusion, the United States Navy and a swarm of privateers punched well above their weight, humiliating the world’s preeminent navy early in the conflict and boosting American national morale. There are a number of excellent books on the naval history of the conflict, but, carefully researched and accessibly written, Perilous Fight is my favorite telling of this critical aspect of the War of 1812.


The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

By Jeremy Black,

Book cover of The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

Why this book?

While the Napoleonic Wars affected all aspects of life in Britain, the complete marginalization of the War of 1812 in British history is more a reflection of British historians’ interests than the experiences of people at the time. Jeremy Black, the most prolific British historian of his generation, does much to correct that oversight in his War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon. 


The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

By Gene Allen Smith,

Book cover of The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

Why this book?

Gene Allen Smith’s Slaves’ Gamble is one of my favorite books on the War of 1812 primarily for two reasons. First, he shifts the focus to the largely overshadowed South. Second, he brings enslaved Africans into the wider discussion about the conflict and its consequences.  Aside from Native Americans, no group suffered more as in consequence of the War of 1812’s outcomes: U.S. hegemony over North America and with it the assured expansion of the slave-holding republic.


When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

By Peter Snow,

Book cover of When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

Why this book?

Peter Snow is amongst the greatest historical storytellers, able to produce driving narratives that bring characters both great and small to life and make sense of complex events. This book is the most comprehensive and riveting account of one of the most memorable, yet misunderstood, events of the War of 1812.


Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812

By Donald R. Hickey,

Book cover of Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812

Why this book?

Don Hickey’s book separates fact from fiction – surely a laudable goal for any historian. But all too often, folklore and fairytale become established as truth and there can be no shaking it. Hickey has written five books and more than 50 articles on the War of 1812 and there are few more authoritative writers than him. I chose this one because it looks at so many aspects of the war: military and naval history, politics, diplomacy, economics, and trade. He includes the British, the Americans, the Canadians, the native and black people: men and women, soldiers and sailors, civilians, pirates, and spies. There is something in it for everyone and I for one could not put it down.


Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814

By Robert Malcomson,

Book cover of Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on Lake Ontario, 1812-1814

Why this book?

This award-winning work is the best account of naval rivalry and warfare on the most important of the Great Lakes. Malcomson clearly explains the details of the various vessels employed and the wider context of the naval contest. He shows how the mobility that naval forces provided to each side significantly affected all aspects of land warfare.

The Peace of Christmas Eve

By Fred L. Engelman,

Book cover of The Peace of Christmas Eve

Why this book?

The ending of that war by one of the most remarkable peace treaties ever signed, deserves the detailed treatment it receives in The Peace of Christmas Eve. When the United States declared war in June 1812, its government and people were deeply divided on the wisdom or necessity of such a course of action. Once begun and pursued, a way had to be found the end the conflict. The reader will find the who, how, and why clearly set out in Engelman’s book.

And All Their Glory Past: Fort Erie, Plattsburgh, and the Final Battles in the North, 1814

By Donald E. Graves,

Book cover of And All Their Glory Past: Fort Erie, Plattsburgh, and the Final Battles in the North, 1814

Why this book?

This is the final book in Don Graves’s trilogy on the War of 1812, following Where Right and Glory Lead, and Field of Glory. Don is an eminent historian on the war and his research is impeccable. Just as important, he writes an engaging narrative with surprisingly vivid insights into the minds of men in battle. It is no surprise that his books have remained in print for many years. I have had the pleasure of Don’s friendship for almost 20 years and have tramped many of the battlefields with him – always enlightening, always enjoyable.


The Good Soldier: The Story of Isaac Brock

By D.J. Goodspeed,

Book cover of The Good Soldier: The Story of Isaac Brock

Why this book?

When I was 11 years old, my parents put this book in my Christmas stocking. They knew nothing of Isaac Brock and were probably attracted by the cover, showing Brock in his cocked hat, mounted on a grey horse, waving his sword, and encouraging British troops in red coats forward into action. Historically it was full of errors, but I loved that cover and I loved the book. Because of it, I became one of the few British Army officers who knew about Brock and in 2012, it led me to do what I had long wanted to do – write an authoritative biography of the General. I shall always be grateful to Don Goodspeed!


Tennesseans at War, 1812-1815: Andrew Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans

By Tom Kanon,

Book cover of Tennesseans at War, 1812-1815: Andrew Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans

Why this book?

In this book longtime Tennessee archivist Tom Kanon presents the most detailed analysis of the Volunteer State’s role in the Creek War and the War of 1812. That role is disproportionately large, considering that it raised the majority of the troops involved in the former and supplied the pivotal American leadership which played significant roles in winning both in the form of Andrew Jackson. The book is not exclusively focused on Tennesseans despite the title, and does a commendable job of telling the story of the war and the Battle at New Orleans in their entirety.


James Madison: Writings (Loa #109)

By James Madison,

Book cover of James Madison: Writings (Loa #109)

Why this book?

Though this collection spans Madison's career, his letters during the War of 1812 show a cinematic transformation in his leadership style and views on his power as president. 

Because of his pivotal role in securing the U.S. Constitution, President Madison often deferred to Congress as a co-equal branch of government. He was overly trusting with his cabinet members. But the burning of the White House and the U.S. Capitol lit a fire of urgency in him and changed him, like the hero of a movie. After the burning of the White House on August 24, 1814, Madison carefully documented his conversation with his war secretary, General John Armstrong. Madison skillfully confronted Armstrong for disobeying his orders and failing to defend Washington. It's a throw-down in the most gentlemanly way.


Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey

By Henry Charlton Beck,

Book cover of Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey

Why this book?

Folklore is not history, nor is history folklore, but they often intersect. Henry Charlton Beck, a journalist who became an Episcopal priest and who wrote a series of New Jersey folklife classics, began his career with this volume, stories of abandoned iron forges, villages, and forgotten legends in the state’s iconic Pinelands. Rutgers University Press reprinted Beck’s books, beginning with this book in 1961.

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

By Alan Taylor,

Book cover of The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

Why this book?

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 injected new life into a largely sidelined subject in early American history, drawing a variety of contributions from a range of historians. The Civil War of 1812 is the contribution of one of the leading historians of early America. Beautifully written, as are all of Taylor’s books, this book focuses primarily on the political, social, and cultural aspects of the conflict that transpired along the United States-Canadian borderlands.  In so doing, he gives equal attention to divisions the war caused in Canadian, Native American, and U.S. communities.


The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862

By Carol Sheriff,

Book cover of The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862

Why this book?

The Artificial River is so well-written, and features so many surprising and illuminating insights about early America, that I have assigned it many times in undergraduate classes. Sheriff speaks trenchantly about the concept of progress that inspired—and continues to inspire—so many of us. Yet by looking at how that concept played out over the course of the building of the Erie Canal, one of the most massive public works projects of the early Republic, she also shows the ways that Americans’ views of the common good were transformed. In a series of brilliantly executed chapters, Sheriff demonstrates the extent to which Americans’ embrace of market capitalism undermined their commitments to the good of all, and their willingness to accept that some of their fellow citizens would live in permanent poverty. It is a book that speaks as much to contemporary ideas about progress and self-determination as to those ideas in the nineteenth century.

The Windflower

By Laura London,

Book cover of The Windflower

Why this book?

Set during the War of 1812 this is a great pirate romance. It tells the story of innocent, sheltered Merry Wilding, an American living in Virginia with her maiden aunt. Merry has a talent for drawing faces from memory, a talent her brother, an American spy will use to his benefit, exposing her to pirates and worse. On her way to England with her aunt, she is kidnapped. Taken to a pirate ship, Merry meets the English pirate, Devon, who remembers her from a night long ago. 

The writing is superb, the characters courageous, heartwarming, and very special; the descriptions vivid. The story is a wonder to read. You will be swept away on a pirate ship to experience adventures, battles at sea, storms, death, humor, and love.


Matthew Elliot, British Indian Agent

By Reginald Horsman,

Book cover of Matthew Elliot, British Indian Agent

Why this book?

Here is an excellent biography of another British partisan who operated in the American midwest. Elliott emigrated from Ulster in 1760 and served under Bouquet at Fort Pitt two years later. He took up the Indian trade in the Shawnee country, married a Shawnee, and earned their nation’s confidence. After much prevarication, he joined the British resistance to the rebellion in the spring of 1778 and became a significant officer in the Indian Department. In 1778, he attended Governor Hamilton’s expedition against rebel-held Vincennes, and in 1780, supported Captain Henry Bird’s invasion of Kentucky, and fought in the battle of Blue Licks in 1782. 

Elliott’s notable career continued long after the war. Incredibly, the old veteran served in a senior Indian Department role in the early days of the War of 1812.


Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

By H.W. Brands,

Book cover of Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

Why this book?

My first novel, Redcoats’ Revenge, an alternative history of the war of 1812 was a break from the lockstep writing of non-fiction and a relief, in a way. But it became a whole new challenge. A primary character in the book was Andrew Jackson, a man without bounds. I read extensively to find his soul and there it was in Brand’s book.  From his backwoods beginnings to his firebrand speeches in the congress, Bill Brand captures the heart of that warrior. Jackson, a leader we must all emulate, stands out in every crowd as a trailblazer, a warrior, an American frontiersman we all think of when building our own stories. At the end of this volume, you will say to yourself, “what a man”.


The British at the Gates: The New Orleans Campaign in the War of 1812

By Robin Reilly,

Book cover of The British at the Gates: The New Orleans Campaign in the War of 1812

Why this book?

This account by a British scholar draw upon British sources to present their side of the story. Reilly shows how the Gulf Coast campaign originated and evolved and does a fine job of delineating the British characters who played a central role in the battle.


The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison

By Dolley Madison,

Book cover of The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison

Why this book?

Because Dolley Madison didn't keep a diary, her letters are the best examples that we have of her personality. This social butterfly shows us how she slyly tried to set up a young woman to be romantically involved with her son. 

Yet for all of her Southern charm and pretension, Dolley had a steely side. After her first husband died, she wrote to her brother-in-law demanding the inheritance owed to her. After all, women couldn't easily get a job to support themselves. Her letters also show her pride in her parents for emancipating their slaves. Her most famous letter about saving George Washington's painting before the British military burned the White House reveals the chaos of this historic moment and the character of this woman who became known as the first, first lady.


Defender of Canada, Volume 40: Sir George Prevost and the War of 1812

By John R. Grodzinski,

Book cover of Defender of Canada, Volume 40: Sir George Prevost and the War of 1812

Why this book?

John Grodzinski was a career army officer in the Canadian military and a professor of history at the RMC. He is also a personal friend of many years. His subject, Sir George Prevost, is one of the neglected heroes of the War of 1812. He was neglected at the time, as the attention of the Government in London was far more engaged by Napoleon than President Madison; neglected thereafter in favour of more glamorous subjects. But it was Prevost’s defensive plans and actions that preserved Canada from the American invasions of 181. Much went wrong as well as right thereafter, and Prevost took the blame. John Grod’s book provides a thoroughly balanced look at what actually happened and why. Having myself been in command of a theatre of military operations far from home, I understand the stresses and strains, and the loneliness of command that Prevost knew all too well.


A Paradise of Blood: The Creek War of 1813-14

By Howard T. Weir III,

Book cover of A Paradise of Blood: The Creek War of 1813-14

Why this book?

Weighing in at 466 pages, Weir’s account of this transformative conflict is the most detailed yet published. He describes in-depth both the iconic events which led to the war and the course of its fighting, including the famed Creek conference at Tuckaubatchee at which Tecumseh spoke, the ensuing Creek Civil War, and the vicious fighting between Red Sticks and American forces at places like the Holy Ground, Autossee, Talladega, and finally at Horseshoe Bend—where more Native Americans died than at any other battle in American history.


In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812

By Dianne Graves,

Book cover of In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812

Why this book?

Readers are Dianne and her husband Don have been personal friends for many years. Like many people, I was deeply saddened by her untimely death last year. Dianne had a wonderfully fluent written style, so easy to read, and could capture a moment like few others. Her book gives insights into wartime life and the role of women in the early 19th Century in Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto (the York), as well as in Washington DC and Philadelphia. While the men did the fighting, the women backed them up – on the frontier, quite literally. A fascinating book written with passion and insight.


The Iroquois in the War of 1812

By Carl Benn,

Book cover of The Iroquois in the War of 1812

Why this book?

This book written by a leading scholar of indigenous history fills a serious gap in scholarly studies of that conflict. Whether or not to remain neutral or, if they participated, which side to support in the war were life and death decisions for the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee. Benn’s account with a very informative appendix and bibliography adds to our understanding of how those nations responded.


Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership

By R. David Edmunds,

Book cover of Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership

Why this book?

Indians fought on both sides in this war, but for the British, who were tied up in the Napoleonic Wars, they played a central role in saving Canada. The preeminent Native leader was the Shawnee war chief Tecumseh, who built an Indian confederacy allied to the British and was killed in 1813 in the Battle of the Thames. Dave Edmunds does a superb job of ferreting out the details of the life of the man who was arguably North America’s greatest war chief.


Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

By Gordon S. Wood,

Book cover of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Why this book?

Gordon Wood is the foremost authority on the American Revolution and the Founding. In his contribution to the Oxford History of the United States series, he provides a masterful introduction to the history of the Early Republic. Prodigious research and profound insights deriving from it will enlighten readers for generations.