Early 19th-century wartime personalities are the focus of this illuminating companion book to the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery's commemorative exhibit marking the bicentennial of the second war between Great Britain and the United States. The conflict's familiar episodes--the burning of the capitol, the attack on Baltimore, and the Battle of New Orleans--are briefly detailed and lushly illustrated. But this book from Hart, the Gallery's senior historian; and Penman, the exhibit's assistant curator; gets its distinctive heft from the stunning collection of portraits and brief but informative bios of famous military and political leaders of the era, including James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Napoleon, as well as lesser-known figures like Zebulon Pike, who led an attack into Canada and is immortalized by a Coloradan summit bearing his name. Especially noteworthy are the profiles of American Indian leaders, like Governor Blacksnake (whose daguerreotype portrait is one of the book's most arresting), who tried to defend their territories and ways of life through ultimately futile alliances with the British. The authors also go beyond the beloved First Lady Dolley Madison to look at the lives of other prominent women who carved out unique places in American society during an intensely patriarchal era. Scholars may be miffed to find little or no new information here, but these portraits provide a remarkable glimpse into the people that fought in the U.S.'s second struggle for independence. Photos & illus. Publishers Weekly 1812: A Nation Emerges is a magnificent collection of art that introduces readers to the war, how it came to be, the conflict's aftermath, and the individuals involved. It is not just an American history, but also incorporates the viewpoints of the other combatants who fought in this too-long-neglected war. For those unable to view the exhibit and those who want to remember the exhibition long after it closes, this book is a worthy addition to any collection. Pirates and Privateers
About the Author
Sidney Hart is the senior historian of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. He is editor of the Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983-2000). Rachael L. Penman is assistant curator of "1812: A Nation Emerges" at the National Portrait Gallery. Her previous work includes "Presidents-in-Waiting" (2009) at the National Portrait Gallery and "An Artist Visits the White House Past" (2011) for The White House Historical Association. She also serves as the collections manager and special events coordinator at the Crime Museum.