The Civil War of 1812 by Alan Taylor
American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

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In this deeply researched and clearly written book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. During the early nineteenth century, Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. Soldiers, immigrants, settlers, and Indians fought in a northern borderland to determine the fate of a continent. Would revolutionary republicanism sweep the British from Canada? Or would the British empire contain, divide, and ruin the shaky American republic?

In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous boundaries, the leaders of the republic and of the empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. The border divided Americans—former Loyalists and Patriots—who fought on both sides in the new war, as did native peoples defending their homelands. Serving in both armies, Irish immigrants battled one another, reaping charges of rebellion and treason. And dissident Americans flirted with secession while aiding the British as smugglers and spies.

During the war, both sides struggled to sustain armies in a northern land of immense forests, vast lakes, and stark seasonal swings in the weather. In that environment, many soldiers panicked as they fought their own vivid imaginations, which cast Indians as bloodthirsty savages. After fighting each other to a standstill, the Americans and the British concluded that they could safely share the continent along a border that favored the United States at the expense of Canadians and Indians. Both sides then celebrated victory by forgetting their losses and by betraying the native peoples.

A vivid narrative of an often brutal (and sometimes comic) war that reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Alan Taylor

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Born and raised in Maine, Alan Taylor teaches American and Canadian history at the University of California, Davis. His books include The Divided Ground, Writing Early American History, American Colonies, and William Cooper's Town, which won the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes for American history. He also serves as a contributing editor to The New Republic.
Published October 12, 2010 by Vintage. 640 pages
Genres: History, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The author writes especially well about the Patriot dream of conquering Canada and the Loyalists’ desire to recover America, the transition of American war aims from acquiring territory to merely maintaining military honor, the foul life of the soldier and the controversies over scalping on the f...

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Publishers Weekly

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Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Taylor (William Cooper’s Town) presents the War of 1812 not as the conventionally understood “second war for independence,” but as a civil war waged in the context of a U.S.-Canadian boundary barely separating “kindred peoples, recently and incompletely ...

Aug 30 2010 | Read Full Review of The Civil War of 1812: Americ...

The Wall Street Journal

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The British insisted that the citizens of the United States were as much traitors to their king in 1812 as they had been in 1776.

Oct 09 2010 | Read Full Review of The Civil War of 1812: Americ...

Open Letters Monthly

Once again, the British and American governments positioned themselves on opposite ideological sides: the British partnership with the Natives led to American accusations of British “savagery;” and the scalp-for-scalp Kentuckians, known as “Big Knives” to the Natives, were militiamen, objects of ...

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Historian Alan Taylor offers a corrective in The Civil War of 1812, arguing that the United States used the war to consolidate its victory in the American Revolution and become a fully sovereign nation.

Nov 26 2010 | Read Full Review of The Civil War of 1812: Americ...

The New York Review of Books

This second war by the recently established US government against the former mother country of Great Britain was, said Virginia’s John Taylor, the philosopher of Jeffersonian Republicanism, a “metaphysical war, a war not for conquest, not for defense, not for sport,” but rather “a war for honour,...

Oct 28 2010 | Read Full Review of The Civil War of 1812: Americ...

Reviews in History

The Canada Constitutional Act of 1791, which divided Quebec into the new provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, created ‘a mixed constitution meant to attract American settlers while minimizing their political activity’ in order to maintain British control (pp.

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