Winner of The 2012 George Pendleton Prize

Winner of The 2012 Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards in U.S. History (IPPY)

Winner of the 2012 Military Order of Saint Louis Award

Chosen for the 2012 Navy Reading List of Essential Reading

Selected as one of the top 20 Notable Naval Books of 2011

A finalist for an Audie in History from the Audio Book Industry


"Every American should read George C. Daughan's riveting 1812: The Navy's War. Daughan masterfully breaks down complicated naval battles to tell how the U.S. thwarted the British armada on the Great Lakes and the high seas. Highly recommended!"...............Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University.


"At last, a history of the War of 1812 that Americans can read without wincing. By focusing on our small but incredibly courageous Navy, George Daughan has told a story of victories against awful odds that makes for a memorable book.".......Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty!: The American Revolution.


"In this vitally important and extraordinarily well researched work, award-winning historian George Daughan demonstrates the often overlooked impact of the 20 ship U.S. Navy's performance against the 1,000 ship British Navy in the War of 1812. Daughan makes a compelling case that the Navy's performance in the war forced Europe to take the U.S. more seriously, initiated a fundamental change in the British-American relationship, and enabled us to maintain a robust Navy even in peacetime." .................Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progresss and former Assistant Secretary of Defense.


"The War of 1812 was a difficult test for the Untied States, still wobbly on the world stage nearly two decades after formal independence. That Americans received a passing grade was due in no small part to the exceptional performance of the U.S. Navy, which humiliated the legendary British Navy time and time again. With verve and deep research, George Daughan has brought those gripping naval battles back to life. For military historians and general historian alike, 1812: The Navy's War restores an important missing chapter to our national narrrative."........Edward L. Widmer, author of Ark of the Liberties: America and the World.


"1812: The Navy's War is a sparkling effort. It tells more than the naval history of the war, for there is much in it about the politics and diplomacy of the war years. The stories of ship-to-ship battles and of the officers and men who sailed and fought form the wonderful heart of the book. These accounts are told in a handsome prose that conveys the strategy, high feeling, and courage of both British and Americans. In every way this is a marvelous book.".............Robert Middlekauff, author of The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789.


"The War of 1812 was America's first great naval war, and George Daughan tells the story, from the coast of Brazil to the Great Lakes, from election campaigns to grand strategy to ship-to-ship combat. Sweeping, exciting and detailed."........Richard Brookhiser, author of James Madison.


Reviews and other information are added below as they are received. Scroll down to see them all. Some of these reviews are lengthy and have been condensed here. For full reviews visit the publication websites.

The Washington Times

"With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 soon upon us, a plethora of books on the subject are in the market. Some treat individual actions or single theaters. Some deal with politics, and some deal with diplomacy, but "1812: The Navy's War" deals with it all. The full panoply is described in detail with charts, diagrams and references enough to please the most demanding scholar, yet it is pleasantly readable to amateur and professional alike. In the end, the read will know full well why some scholars call the War of 1812, "America's Second War of Independence."

Mr Daughan sums it up nicely in the book's Chapter 34: "America's newfound unity and her commitment to a strong military forced Europe to take her more seriously. She was an incipient power that Britain and other European imperialists could no long treat lightly."

Other authors in the recent past have covered vaious aspects of the War of 1812, but George C Daughan has put it all together in one well-written and most interesting volume. It's a book hard to put down and is most highly recommended as a good read. It's coverage of an important time in the history of the United States will make it a worthy reference for years to come."

....................Vice Adm. Robert F. Dunn for the Washington Times, Dec 20, 2011
Vice Adm Dunn is presidentof the Naval Historical Foundation

Open Letters Monthly/Stevereads

Stevereads 2011 Best Books of the Year. Number Three - "1812: The Navy's War"

"The author tackles his still-too-neglected subject with an unflagging enthusiasm, focusing on the fledgling U.S. Navy's efforts, outnumbered and out-gunned, to wage the new nation's war against the greatest naval power on the face of the Earth. Daughan is a master of evocative set-pieces (no history buff will want to miss his account of the Constitution v.s. the Java, which actually manages to out-do the fictional version in Partick O'Brian's The Fortunes of War),thrilling battle-narratives, and pithy exposition, but he's also adept at the broader scene-setting so many accounts of this war either lack or overdo. This volume supercedes all other accounts of the War of 1812, even, I'm melancholy to observe, Pierre Barton's great two-volume work from a few decades ago, and it's the single best work of history I read all year."

..........................................Stevereads at

Baton Rouge Advocate

Little-studied War of 1812 gets overdue treatment, by Andrew Burstein*

As we approach the bicentennial of that formative, little-studied war, naval historian George C. Daughan has written a deep and detailed page-turner of a book. With crystal clear maps and unadorned prose, he gives new life to the personalities, strategies, and desperate struggles of the ........... War of 1812. It is a story, told by a real expert, of the prowess and stamina of men such as the 28 year old commandant Oliver Hazzard Perry................ and Captain Isaac Hull of the USS Constitiution (Called "Old Ironsides") after enemy cannonballs harmlessly bounced of her).......................

*Andrew Burstein is Manship Professor of History at LSU and author of books on American political culture. ............................... Baton Rouge Advocate November 27, 2011

The Weekly Standard

Victory at Sea: The Navy comes of age in the War of 1812 by Joseph F. Callo*

"Frequently {The War of 1812} is seen as a sequence of freestanding, intensely dramatic events rather than as the tightly intertwined series of battles, military campaigns, diplomancy, and domestic politics that it was. But if a compulsion to concentrate excessively on the more spectacular bits and pieces of the conflict has been an endemic problem among academics and writers, this volume is an antidote. Daughan not only thoroughly illuminates the emotion-triggering events of the conflict; he also adds the background that connects the highlighhts. That background includes, for example, the American and British domestic politics and diplomacy, which were continuously both cause and effect in the process."

*Joseph F Callo is the author of John Paul Jones: America's First Sea Warrior
..................................................The Weekly Standard, December 5, 2011

Providence Journal

America's first war after independence. BYLINE: Tony Lewis*

"In 1812: The Navy's War, George C. Daughan does a terrific job of explaining {The War of 1812s} origins in the British policy of boarding United States merchant ships and impressing sailors, and in its general treatment of America as an upstart challenging its supremacy of the high seas..........

"With paiinstaking attention to detail and the ability to make complex naval confrontations understandable, even gripping, Daughan pursues the war north to the St. Lawrence River, east to the British coast where American privateers harassed British shipping , and south to New Orleans. In addition, Daughan never forgets that the British were mightily distracted by Napoleaon and the threat he posed to Europe.

"The cast of characters is robust, with Stephen Decatur, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Rhode Island's Oliver Hazard Perry, all playing leading roles. Even dearer to any New Englander's heart, however, will be the USS Constitution and its sister vessels, which played key roles in creating a new, lasting peace with the British."

* Tony Lewis is a retired English professor living in Padanaram...The Providence Journal, Dec 4, 2011

The Washington Independent Review of Books

" In his new book, George Daughan provides vivid and detailed recreations of the U.S. navy's signigicant battles during the War of 1812.In an era when the British Navy supposedly ruled the world, the U.S. navy successfullly challenged British supremacy. Daughan picks up where he left off in his Samuel Eloit Morison award-winning If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy -From the Revoluiton to the War of 1812 (which Basic just released in paperback). 1812: The Navy's War is an important, well-researched and timely book - next year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 - which scholars and lay persons alike will enjoy for its descriptions of the battles and Daughan's analysis of the domestic and international dimensions of the war.".................................

"At first blush, the War of 1812 looked like a waste of blood and treasure. However, Daughan convincingly argues that the navy's performance, a bipartisan belief that the U.S. needed a permanent defense capabillity, and British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh's realpolitik calculations led to a lasting peace between the United Sates and Great Britain. Castlereagh realized that the United States could no longer be pushed around, and the impessments and free trade disputes quietly disappeared.

"Colorful descriptions of the battles, the American sailors such as Captain Stephen Decatur and Commodores William Bainbridge and Oliver Perry who waged them, as well as the famous ships they commanded such as the "U.S. Constitution" , dominate this book. The glossary of naval terms that Daughan included at the end of the book - I finally know what a jib and a mizzenmast really are - helped a landlubber like me understand their tactics and really brought long-ago battles, in particular the "Constitution" versus the H.M.S. "Java", to life. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in (re)learning about the "Second War for American Independence."

.................Review by Chris Tudda, a historian at the Department of State. He is the author of "The Truth is our Weapon: The Rhetorical Dipolomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jonn Foster Dulles". His second book," A Cold War Turning Point: Nixon and China, 1969-1972", will be published in spring 2012. (Note: The views presented here are the reviewer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the United States Government.)

from the Tucson Citizen

"Even though the War of 1812 helped define the country we became, most Americans know little about the conflict. ................Daughan, author of several previous books including "If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy - From the Revolution to the War of 1812," has written a concise, invaluable history of the War of 1812, placing it in context and making it accessible for modern readers. The War of 1812 was America's first great naval war and Daughan's crisp writing and extraordinary research helps breathe life into this defining moment of our national history."....................Larry Cox, Shelf Life review, Tuscon Citizen, Nov 8, 2011

Steve Goddard's History Wire Review

"Scores of books on the American Revolution, the Civil War, the two World Wars, and the Vietnam War cross our desk each year. But a history of the War of 1812 is a rarity, yet as author George C Daughan writes, it 'changed the shape of the world.' Given that its bicentenial is next year, expect to hear a great deal more about this war that, unlike most of the others, concentrated on naval forces much more than infantry. In fact, Daughan argues, the War of 1812 was not only waged -- but won--on the high seas and caused Britain to develop newfound respect for the United States. Few if any would give odds to America at the beginning of the war, with its puny 20 ships against Britain's fleet of more than 1,000 men-of-war. The author credits America's victory to a mixture of 'keen strategizing, nautical deftness, and sheer bravado...' George C Daughan obtained his doctorate in American History and Government from Harvard and is a winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award.".........On the internet, Nov 3, 2011

Boston Globe, October 23, 2011

"In a broadside-to-broadside slugfest on Aug 19, 1812, lasting barely 30 minutes, the US frigate Constitution defeated the British frigate Guerrier some 600 miles east of Boston. Days later, Captain Isaac Hull, who was headed home, decided to anchor the Constituion off Boston Light for the night.

"As the sun rose, a fleet of warships was spotted just off-shore. Fearing that they were British, Hull prepared for battle. But as they drew nearer, Hull realized that they were four of the Constitution's sister frigates, returning from a foray into the Caribbean. So the vessels joined in a victory procession that the Constitution led into Boston Harbor, where cheering crowds thronged the waterfront.

"In "1812: The Navy's War", George C. Daughan argues that the young nation's naval victories against the ships of the world's largest imperial power helped establish America as a burgeoning force in the world. With his new, richly detailed, well-documented, and compelling account released in time for the bicentennial, Daughan, a Harvard-trained historian who lives in Portland, Maine, continues the saga he began with his 2008 book, "If By Sea", an account of the American Navy from the Revolution up to 1812.

"Daughan's is a history that expands our understanding, debunking several popular myths, such as that surrounding the heroism of Captain James Lawrence and his famous cry "Don't give up the ship!" uttered as he lay dying on the frigate Chesapeake, pummeled by the British frigate Shannon off Boston Light in June 1813. Daughan notes that Lawrence should not have sought that battle at all, as '(he) was disregarding his orders' to evade the blockade and 'intercept supplies moving to Quebec.'"

"Besides chronicling battles at sea and in the Great Lakes, Daughan also provides solid accounts of the war on land - the burning of Washington by the British, Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans, and the ill-advised invasions of Canada.

"Daughan keeps a fairly tight focus on military events, but he also examines how the fallout from battles rippled through the politics of the day, suggesting, for instance, that the elation over the Constitution's naval victory saved President Madison from defeat in the 1812 election by trumping disappointment over that summer's loss of Detroit and other military defeats on the western frontier.

"In the end, this history of an oft-forgotten war holds value for all. The reader who is curious as to just what the coming bicentnnial commemorates will find that curiosity thoroughly satisfied. Readers who have been eagerly awaiting the bicentennial will find in Daughan's "1812" an account that confirms why the conflict merits remembrance - and celebration.

..........Michael Kenney, a Cambridge freelance writer for the Boston Globe

Charleston Post and Courier

"From 1812 to 1814, the outnumbered but undaunted 20-vessel American naval war fleet provided crucial resistence to British territorial designs in North America. This, in what has been termed the second war for independence.

"Awarded the Samuel Eliot Morrison Award in 2008 for his previous book, "If By Sea", George C Daughan again has penned a contributory history that is at once enjoyable to read and informative in its disclousures.

"With considerable skill, the author has interwoven the political strife with the naval actions to form a coherent and well-written story of that important transitional time in American history."

San Francisco Book Review, November 2011

"An American sailor stands with all hands on deck while a skipper of the Royal Navy boards for inspection at the point of broadside cannons. The American admiralty looks askance while his nemesis hauls away his crewmen under the established tradition of British impressment. But, as the man-o'-war sails away, American pride seethes, until the day our country stands up and proves its worth.

"This vivid edition carries us back to the era of Madison when our nation quibbled over whether or not having a navy was a waste of money. Daughan depicts the political climate influenced by the Napoleonic wars, British impressment, and imperialistic ambitions for Canada's porous borders which blended into the tinder box that ignited our second war with England.

"' The rockets red glare illuminating the night sky and the bombs bursting in air inspired an American spectator aboard the 74-gun Minden, Francis Scott Key, to begin a poem that later became the national anthem.'"

"With a sailor's heart, Daughan follows the action of blue water battles on the Great Lakes, deep water fusillades, besieged ports, the razing of our nation's capitol, and the victory at New Orleans that forever earned international respect for American resolve. Expertly researched and illustrated, Daughan recounts the courage and skill of the men who gave birth to the United States Navy."

....................Review by Casey Corthron for The San Francisco Book Review.

Military History Review

"................readers are unlikely to find a more engaging or stirring recounting of the conflict and its place in the rebirth of the U.S. Navy.

"......................Daughan unravels the story of a nation that, without allies, sundered by partisan politics and sporting a military establishment that barely qualified as third-rate, managed to hold its own against the greatest power of the day.

"This finely researched volume is a sequel to (or continuation of) Daughan's award winning: If By Sea:The Forging of the American Navy - From the Revolution to the War of 1812.

"Complementing the well-written and exciting narratives of naval action are concise analyses of the Americans' abortive land campaigns along the Candadian border (necessary toward a full understanding of the conflict along the Great Lakes), the burning of Washington and the final redemption of the U.S. military at New Orleans. Daughan also spends some words on politics and diplomacy."

............... Wade G. Dudley for Military History magazine, Nov 2011.

Kirkus Review

"A naval expert's readable take on the U.S. Navy's surprising performance in the war that finally reconciled the British to America's independence.

"Maritime disputes over impressments and free trade forced a reluctant Madison to ask Congress to declare war in 1812 against Great Britain. Presumptions on both sides - that the U.S. could easily invade and conquer Canada and that the Royal Navy would vanquish America's woefullly inadequate navy - proved erroneous. The antagonists signed a treaty three years later, quietly dropping the disagreements over sailors' rights and sea-going commerce. Daughan (If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy - From the Revolution to the War of 1812, 2008) follows up his award-winning debut about the U.S. Navy's birth with this story of its maturation. If the U.S. Navy, along with considerable assistance from privateers, didn't win the War of 1812, it probably kept the nation from losing. The Great Lakes, coastal and blue-water exploits of outstanding officers like Isaac Hull, David Porter, Stephen Decatur and Oliver Hazard Perry earned new respect for America's fleet; victories by the Essex, the Hornet and the Constitution (dubbed "Old Ironsides" after its triumph over the Guerriere) set off national celebrations. Daughan supplies just enough of the big picture - the dismal struggles of both armies, Napoleon's off-stage machinations that determined so much of the war's progress, the outcome of domestic political squabbles upon which the navy's survival depended - to place the navy's role in context, but he focuses on the personalitites, ships and battles that prevented the British from suffocating the infant nation's maritime ambitions. With each success, the navy demonstrated its value, shaming the politicians reluctant to fund it. After the war, writes the author, the navy became an integral part of the nation's new defense strategy.

"A smart salute to a defining moment in the history of the U.S. Navy."

Kirkus Reviews, August 16, 2011

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Daughan follows his award-winning If By Sea, about the American navy in the Revolutionary War, with a solidly researched, well-crafted account of U.S. sea power in the War of 1812. ..........The navy's performance convinced critics that a strong navy was indispensable to its protection and did not threaten the Constituion. Second, the performances of individual warships generated increasing British respect, both in the Royal Navy and in the administration, for American abilities at sea. Over the previous century, British warships had come to assume superiority in single-ship actions. Such fights as Constituiton versus Guerrier impelled rethinking the subject. Finally, the successes of American privateers against British shipping drove costs higher than the business community was willing to accept without protest. The treaty ending the war provided numerous unresolved grounds for renewed conflict. What kept the peace, Daughan argues provocatively, was America's postwar commitment to 'a strong navy, an adequate professional army, and the finacial reform necesssary to support them'--in other words, an effective deterrent."...............................Publisher's Weekly August 1, 2011