Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War
In 1807, the HMS Leopard attacked the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. After blowing twenty-two holes in the Chesapeake‘s hull, the British boarded her and impressed a handful of sailors, most of them American, into the Royal Navy. So began a series of skirmishes between the British and the Americans that led to America’s second war of independence, the War of 1812.
In a narrative style, Hugh Howard introduces his readers to the personalities and key events of the war. Dominating Howard’s tale is Dolley Madison, the quiet Quaker widow who became Washington’s most formidable socialite. Because she was frequently called upon to be a diplomat, hostess, and private secretary to her ailing husband, Dolley Madison is, in Howard’s view, a natural center to the story of the war. Written with meticulous detail, Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War has a wonderful visual quality that allowed me to feel I was standing on the deck the HMS Confiance as Captain Downie was struck by a canon barrel and mingling with members of congress at one of Dolley Madison’s Wednesday gatherings.