These were indispensable throughout the writing of Invasion!, Subversion!, and Retribution! I highly recommend them all, especially since this is the bicentennial of The War of 1812. The complete list will be posted as an appendix of Retribution!
The War of 1812, The History Channel Presents DVD Compilation, 2005. This compilation is built around the two-hour documentary First Invasion: The War of 1812. This now seems to me like a broad-brush over-simplified summary, but between the reenactments, and the location shots, and the dozen or so eminent historians it does a great job of presenting the war. This novel was born when I heard historian Anthony Pitch sing Dolley’s praises.
The Burning of Washington — The British Invasion of 1814, Anthony S. Pitch, 1998, Naval Institute Press. On 25 August 2005 I purchased this extraordinary book at Fort McHenry and devoured it. My copy is so dog-eared and marked up that I’ll probably retire it and buy another. Pitch wrote the book as an engaging story so you can read it to the kids as we begin celebrating the 200th anniversary of this event.
Dolley — A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War, Rita Mae Brown, 1995, Bantam Books. This is a work of dramatic fiction that focuses on Dolley’s life from 31 December 1813 through 31 August 1814. Shortly after buying Pitch’s book I checked to see what Dolley fiction existed. This was the only one. It’s fictional like Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels is fictional, except that Brown’s research is more extensive: three full pages of references–Killer Angels has none. Daunting, then inspiring! I devoured this book, too, on one of my innumerable journeys to Maryland, even though it lacked the things I usually prefer to read about: time travel, space ships, hobbits, etc. (My book lacks them as well. What’s to become of us?) What she gave me was an accurate portrayal of Dolley and Jemmy, which I appreciated even more after I read the two actual biographies below. Her biggest contributions, however, were Sukey and French John. Sukey was Dolley’s servant for decades, yet only appears in the Biographies because Paul Jennings mentions her in his short pamphlet. Oh, and a few of Dolley’s letters mention ‘Suky[sic] ran away again…’, but Sukey was such a common slave name these might be different people. The PBS biography on Dolley doesn’t even portray her, nor does the 1930s movie Magnificent Doll. Brown brought Sukey to life, and although her Sukey isn’t my Sukey, I’ll be forever grateful!
Freedom through Military Victory, R.B. Thieme, Jr, 4th Ed 2003, R.B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries. Like Dolley, I was born into the Quaker Church, as was my wife. We both desired a clearer, more complete version of Bible Doctrine and discovered Berachah Church in Houston Texas, then pastored by Lieutenant Colonel (retired) R.B. Thieme, Jr. Shortly after that I read Freedom through Military Victory and decided to join the Army instead of pursuing a career in Physics. One of the best decisions I ever made! Many of these Biblical principles are scattered throughout Invasion! to illustrate that killing in war or in self defense is not incompatible with the Christian way of life. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those in the Armed Forces. Order it free (and without obligation of any kind!) from www.rbthieme.org.
On Combat — The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace, LTC Dave Grossman, 2004, PPCT Research Publications. Almost every combat scene, and its after-effects, are based on this excellent study: Dolley and Sukey’s reaction to their first—quite justified!—kills, their process of recovery, time dilation, auditory disruptions, loss of fine motor skills, and much more. Dave Grossman also wrote an excellent Sci-Fi book that incorporates these studies: The Two-Space War. These books should be required reading for every soldier!
Strength and Honor – The Life of Dolley Madison, Richard N. Cote, 2005, Corinthian Books —and— A Perfect Union – Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, Catherine Allgor, 2006, Henry Holt and Co. These are both excellent Dolley biographies, each with a slightly different perspective. Using them both I gleaned a ton of useful information that I incorporated into my story for realism . . . and which people will accuse me of fabricating. For example, Dolley’s wedding dress really did have a 23-inch waistline (Cote 125), and her vicious macaw really was named Polly (Allgor 363).
1812 – The War that Forged a Nation, Walter R. Borneman, 2004, HarperCollins. There are many one-book summaries of this war, but this is my favorite. Easy to read, good endnotes, bibliography and index. It’s not the most detailed or complete, but if you want that then buy Lossing’s below. What sells me on Borneman is the way he focuses on the essentials and his conclusions at the end. Historians that fall into the trap of “The battle of New Orleans was a wasted fight that didn’t make any difference because the war was already over” don’t understand human nature, or the facts of that time period. Borneman gets it right.
Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler Editors, 1997, ABC-CLIO. Six-hundred page coffee-table book on steroids, organized alphabetically by topic. Some (perhaps much) of this information can be found on Wikipedia if you’re just curious, but this shines if you need a credible footnote or more certainty as to its accuracy.
Lossing’s Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, vol 1 & 2, Benson J. Lossing, Originally published in 1868, currently by Pelican Publishing Co. The unabridged version of the War of 1812! 1084 pages of tiny-font narration, diagrams, maps, portraits, signatures, you name it. Lossing’s terrain sketches show things as they were in 1860, fifty years after the war. His section on Fulton’s ironclads is (in my opinion) worth the price of the book. People have put this online, so Google it and see for yourself.
The US Army in the War of 1812 – An Operational and Command Study, Vols 1 & 2, Robert S. Quimby, 1997, Michigan State University Press. My number one definitive source for information relating to Army force structure and battle analysis. Absolutely excellent resource!
Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America from 1607-1783, Dale Taylor, 1997, Writers Digest Books. Forget the “Writer’s Guide” part of the title: if you’re interested in this period of history you’ll love this book! This book is very well organized and very well written. Don’t let the 1607-1783 date range fool you; cultural/lifestyle things in 1812 were pretty much like they were in 1783 since the really huge changes started around 1820 when steamships invaded the Mississippi and canals & trains revolutionized transport elsewhere. I have a similar book covering the 1800s but seldom use it since 95% of it is post-1820.
Lieutenant Colonel Valerie Baker, United States Air Force. The War of 1812 was fought in the age of Horse and Sail. Dolley won’t board a sailing ship until later, but she rides and fights from horseback throughout the novel. Knowing nothing about horses, I turned to Valerie, a lifelong horse owner who is also a championship roper and mounted cowboy action shooter. She taught me all things horse, even endangered the life of her favorite mount by putting me in the saddle and letting me ride the huge beastie about the practice field while explaining how one might—and might not!—engage targets. Invaluable! Any errors in describing horses or horsemanship are due to my faulty memory or failure to ask. Thanks, Val!