Written in epic style (third person omniscient), Nevin’s book sprawls across North America from Canada to Washington to New Orleans and in the process brings many of the personalities from your American history classes to life in vivid color. The depictions of Andrew Jackson’s wife Rachel, and the President’s wife, Dolley Madison, are especially insightful and touching. Scenes of home life and parties in the White House are balanced by the heart-pumping action scenes. The battles, in all their glory and goriness, are depicted in excruciating detail — a real history buff’s orgy.
Nevin skillfully takes the reader inside the minds of Jackson, Madison, Winfield Scott and others and puts you there in the midst of the action. And, better than any college history course, he shows you how this war transformed the dis-united States from a disparate, disjointed collection of former British colonies into the United States, a real nation with unlimited potential.
The only flaws are a couple of apparent minor time control issues in the middle of the book and a verbal anachronism. At one point, Nevin has Winfield Scott talking about the phalanx formations used by the Ancient Sumerian states of Ur and Lagash. The problem is the stele that depicted that military formation was not excavated until the latter part of the 19th century. There is no way that a military officer in 1812-1815 could have known about Sumerian military techniques unless he was clairvoyant or a re-incarnated Sumerian.
However, I was totally engrossed from the beginning to the end and found the book hard to put down at the end of each evening. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the period.