Authors: Ralph E. Eshelman and Burton K. Kummerow
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press – 252 pages
Book Review by: Paiso Jamakar

This amply-illustrated book with full-color historical drawings, and present-day photographs and maps is a delight for the lover of United States history and for all, an informative collection of narratives that brings into pictorial life the events relating to the War of 1812, known also America’s “second war of independence.”

Thirty-six years after America became independent in 1776, the nation went to war against Britain. The new nation wanted to force Britain to allow trade between America and  Europe. The British had restricted that free trade through a maritime policy begun in 1807 known as “Orders-in-Council.”

“In full glory reflected” is in the second stanza of the American national anthem Star-Spangled Banner. This book tells the story of the sacrifices, struggles, failures and achievements of the men and women who fought in the War of 1812 (which lasted until 1815) on both sides – the American patriots who were defending Baltimore and Fort McHenry and the invading forces of the British Royal Navy who were trying to capture that fort and take control of the area.

In 1814, the British troops had burned many public buildings in Washington D.C. and were then threatening Baltimore, sailing up through the Chesapeake Bay. Seeing the huge number of defenders of Baltimore one day that were “dug in” with over a hundred cannon, the invading British called off their assault.  This was a victorious moment in U.S. history and it was symbolized by the flag, and the song that became the national anthem in 1931.

The path where that historic war was fought was named as The Star Spangled Banner Trail by the National Park Service almost two centuries later, in 2008. In this book are depicted the sites along the trail of that historic war. Those sites consist of the archeological areas, artifacts, documents, historic buildings and various other things and places brought to life in this volume.

Read about and see in this book the colorful drawings of the notable navy men who directed the battles in that action-packed war, the troops fighting in them, as well as the burning buildings, cannon, explosions, fires, guns, horses, musketry, rifles, swords and  ships, among other visual items.

Also, in the last part of this book, appreciate the present-day scenery and sights of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay region. It has been described by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in the Foreword as “the land of pleasant living,” with its “succulent blue crabs, great sailing, and charming coastal villages.” He urges you to “discover tales of disgrace and honor, of despair and hope” in this pictorial history book.

This book is indeed a unique opportunity to get a close-up look on one significant aspect of U.S. history, written by Ralph E. Eshelman, a historian and researcher, and Burton K. Kummerow, president and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society.

This book has an Introduction by Donald R. Hickey, a well-known War of 1812 scholar; beautiful illustrations by Gerry Embleton, Richard Schlect and Patrick O’Brien, all experts on period clothing and many visual aspects of life in and around the period covered in this book; and maps by the veteran award-winning cartographer and illustrative designer Robert E. Pratt.