Peter Snow's When Britain Burned The White House

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Peter Snow’s book, “When Britain Burned the White House”, details one of the most embarrassing, but influential moments in America’s history, the seizure and burning of the capitol by the British during the War of 1812. Snow provides ample information for the reader to understand the event, such as important figures of both sides, an analysis of the attack, and details of some of the problems within the American command that aided the British’s victory. He also gives entertaining anecdotes and quotes surrounding the time. In reading his book, I was better able to understand the pivotal event of the burning of the White House. Learning about the significant figures of the British and American side through Snow’s narration was important for…show more content…
From reading his book, I better understood the strategies, advantages and disadvantages of both sides, and the result of the attack. For example, one aspect of the British strategy that I learned which benefited the British was that before the British stormed the capital they managed to keep the Americans guessing as to where they would attack. They would take paths that were ambiguous in their destinations. This caused confusion with American leaders, such as William Winder. Another advantage the British had was the American’s failure to confront the British after their arrival at Patuxent. It wasn’t until the battle for Washington at Bladensburg that they received any serious damage by the Americans. During the battle, the Americans had the advantage of numbers having around 6,000 men while the British Army had around 4,500 (82). The British were outnumbered by the Americans, but the British were also veterans with more experience, while most of the Americans were inexperienced and untrained (84). Another advantage for the British was the ineffectiveness of the American’s defense strategy, which had many weaknesses. The American’s defense was made of three lines that were widely separated, so they could not give each other support, and were easily susceptible to being outmaneuvered by the British (83). All these strategies, advantages, and disadvantages are just some of the reasons why the British were successful in their attack. As a result, the British were able to burn the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, the War Office, and the Navy Yard in their attack. However, after the British were victorious the British made efforts to be respectful with their treatment of the locals. Admiral Cockburn and General Ross followed strict rules of engagement and did not destroy any private property; they said: “Their war was with the government
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