Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 316. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0812244311.
1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism takes an interesting look at American society and the “Second War for Independence” on the occasion if its bicentennial.
Prof. Eustace (NYU) opens with a look at America and its people on the eve of the conflict, examining their notions of citizenship, patriotism, and war. She the looks at the ways in which the war developed, especially as it affected society and support for the struggler. Eustace weaves back and forth from the battlefronts to the political front to the front, while following the course of the war from the disasters of 1812, to the apparent victories of 1813, through the crisis of 1814, which almost brought the nation to utter defeat. She covers many topics usually left unmentioned, including the ‘romance’ of the war, slavery and anti-slavery within the context of the war, women and the war, the meaning of citizenship, and more. Eustace is also rather adept at profiles of individual people, whether heroes (Winfield Scott, Andrew Jackson, Dolly Madison), villains (James Wilkinson), or just ordinary folk. She ends the book with a discussion of how the post-war victory at New Orleans, though politically and militarily moot, helped turn a disastrous struggle into a seemingly glorious triumph.
As Eustace is primarily a social and cultural historian, there are some errors in military terminology, which do not affect the value of 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism as a look at America during the war, as her overall account is excellent subject.