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Books  >>  History

Steve Vogel

Through the Perilous Fight

Steve Vogel Through The Perilous Fight From The Burning Of Washington To The Star Spangl
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Biographical note:

Steve Vogel is the author of The Pentagon and a veteran national reporter for The Washington Post. He has written extensively about military affairs and the treatment of veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His reporting on the war in Afghanistan was part of a package of Washington Post stories selected as a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. Vogel covered the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and the building’s subsequent reconstruction. He covered the war in Iraq and the first Gulf War, as well as U.S. military operations in Rwanda, Somalia, and the Balkans. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Vogel received a master’s degree in international public policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.


From the Hardcover edition.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

PRELUDE
I See Nothing Else Left
 
Potomac River, Tuesday, August 9, 1814
 
Sailing under a white flag of truce, American agent John Stuart Skinner rounded Point Lookout and entered the broad mouth of the Potomac River, searching for the enemy fleet. The river was at its widest here, three miles from shore to shore where its water fl owed lazily into the  Chesapeake Bay. The sultry August weather had turned cool overnight, and the day was refreshingly crisp. Even from a distance it was easy to spot HMS Albion, anchored along the far Virginia shore. The 74– gun frigate, weighing nearly 1,700 tons and manned by a crew of 620, was one of the largest and most powerful British warships ever seen in these waters, and it was accompanied by nearly two dozen brigs, sloops, and tenders. More daunting than the ships and weaponry was the man the agent had come to see: Rear Admiral George Cockburn. The “Great Bandit,” as the papers called him, was the most hated man in the United States, and the most feared. Americans compared him to notorious barbarians of ancient times, among them Attila the Hun.
 
For more than a year, the British squadron commander had waged a campaign of terror along the Chesapeake Bay, sacking Havre de Grace, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna, ravaging Hampton, plundering the Virginia shoreline, and torching farms in Maryland, acts that had infuriated Americans. Ruthless, witty, and swashbuckling, the lowlands Scot was determined to make Americans pay a hard price for their ill- considered war with Great Britain.
 
“[T]here breathes not in any quarter of the globe a more savage monster than this same British Admiral,” the Boston Gazette declared. “He is a disgrace to England and to human nature.” A Fourth of July celebration in Talbot County, Maryland, included a toast to Cockburn, “a man in person but a brute in principle; may the Chesapeake be his watery grave.” One irate Virginian had offered a thousand dollars for the admiral’s head or “five hundred dollars for each of his ears, on delivery.”
 
Skinner had sailed from Baltimore on August 7, 1814, bearing official dispatches for the British. As the government’s designated prisoner of war agent, Skinner was a veteran of many such missions, routinely carrying communications from Washington or negotiating prisoner exchanges. He was as familiar as anyone in America with Cockburn and his depredations. Just three weeks previously, the British had burned the Maryland plantation in Prince Frederick where Skinner had been born, and earlier in the summer, they had torched his barn and property at nearby St. Leonard. But if he held a grudge, Skinner was too savvy to make it known to Cockburn.


As usual, Skinner was courteously welcomed aboard Albion. For all of Cockburn’s haughty bombast and undisputed ruthlessn“[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.


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