The Book

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About The Book

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Click to see the major characters of "Through The Perilous Fight"
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Rear Admiral George C. Cockburn

"The most hated man in the United States, and the most feared."

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Francis Scott Key

Like many across the country, Francis Scott Key was fervently opposed to the war. As it entered its third year, Key’s sense of foreboding grew. “We see what other nations have suffered—shall we escape so much more lightly?” he asked.
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Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, commander of the British North American Station

Cochrane's hatred of America bordered on malevolence. "They are a whining, canting race, much like the spaniel and require the same treatment--[they]must be drubbed into good manners, he declared.
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Commodore Joshua Barney

The Maryland native had fought as many, if not more, naval battles against the British than any living American, and he was eager for another fight.
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President James Madison

His eyes were windows to a mind that Thomas Jefferson, his closest friend, considered unrivaled in the land. But for all his genius, the job of commander-in-chief was proving challenging for Madison.
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Major General Robert Ross

A blue eyed, forty-seven year old Irishman with a handsome nose and cleft chin, had been personally chosen by the Duke of Wellington to lead the expedition to America's east coast.
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Secretary of State James Monroe

Desperate for military glory and eager to burnish his presidential credentials, Monroe had grasped at the arrival of the British as a chance to serve as a scout. Sensing disaster, he wanted to do anything—go anywhere—except stay in Washington.
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Brigadier General William Winder, Commander of the Tenth Military District

“The Creator has not thought proper to mark those on the forehead who are of the stuff to make good generals,” Jefferson lamented.
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George de Lacy Evans

The most passionate voice arguing for Washington was that of Lieutenant George De Lacy Evans. The hard-knit and sinewy Irishman was from an old Norman family that had arrived in the British Isles in the footsteps of William the Conqueror.
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Dolley Madison

Hospitality was always the order of the day in Dolley Madison’s home, and she was determined to convey business as usual. Every day since the invasion, with Washington bustling with officers and transients, the table had been set in preparation for unexpected guests.
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Paul Jennings

Shortly before 3 p.m., a lone rider galloped down Pennsylvania Avenue, covered with dust and crying, “Clear out, clear out!” The British had crossed the river at Bladensburg and were rapidly marching on to the city. “All then was confusion,” recalled Paul Jennings, the Madison's 15 year-old house slave.
Click to see a map from "Through The Perilous Fight"
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Gene Thorp/Cartographic Concepts, Inc © Steve Vogel

Through The Perilous Fight
In a rousing account of one of the critical turning points in American history, Through the Perilous Fight tells the gripping story of the burning of Washington and the improbable last stand at Baltimore that helped save the nation and inspired its National Anthem.

In the summer of 1814, the United States of America teetered on the brink of disaster. The war it had declared against Great Britain two years earlier appeared headed toward inglorious American defeat. The young nation’s most implacable nemesis, the ruthless British Admiral George Cockburn, launched an invasion of Washington in a daring attempt to decapitate the government and crush the American spirit. The British succeeded spectacularly, burning down most of the city’s landmarks—including the White House and the Capitol—and driving President James Madison from the area. As looters ransacked federal buildings and panic gripped the citizens of Washington, beleaguered American forces were forced to regroup for a last-ditch defense of Baltimore. The outcome of that “perilous fight” would help change the outcome of the war—and with it, the fate of the fledgling American republic.

In a fast-paced, character-driven narrative, Steve Vogel tells the story of this titanic struggle from the perspective of both sides. Like an epic novel, Through the Perilous Fight abounds with heroes, villains, and astounding feats of derring-do. The vindictive Cockburn emerges from these pages as a pioneer in the art of total warfare, ordering his men to “knock down, burn, and destroy” everything in their path. While President Madison dithers on how to protect the capital, Secretary of State James Monroe personally organizes the American defenses, with disastrous results. Meanwhile, a prominent Washington lawyer named Francis Scott Key embarks on a mission of mercy to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. His journey will place him with the British fleet during the climactic Battle for Baltimore, and culminate in the creation of one of the most enduring compositions in the annals of patriotic song: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Like Pearl Harbor or 9/11, the burning of Washington was a devastating national tragedy that ultimately united America and renewed its sense of purpose. Through the Perilous Fight combines bravura storytelling with brilliantly rendered character sketches to recreate the thrilling six-week period when Americans rallied from the ashes to overcome their oldest adversary—and win themselves a new birth of freedom.

  • About Steve Vogel

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    Steve Vogel is the author of "The Pentagon" and a veteran military reporter for The Washington Post.
  • About The Book

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    "Through the Perilous Fight" combines bravura storytelling with brilliantly rendered character sketches to recreate the thrilling six-week period when Americans rallied from the ashes to overcome their oldest adversary—and win themselves a new birth of freedom.
  • Contact

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    Email Steve Vogel:
    Postal Mail for Steve Vogel:
    P.O. Box 301
    Barnesville MD 20838
  • Also by Steve Vogel

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    This study of a single enigmatic building tells a broader story of modern American history, from the eve of World War II to the new wars of the twenty-first century. Steve Vogel has crafted a dazzling work of military social history that merits comparison with the best works of David Halberstam or David McCullough. Like its namesake, The Pentagon is a true landmark.

Buy the Book

If you would like a signed and personally inscribed copy of Through the Perilous Fight or The Pentagon , please send a check or money order along with a note with the requested inscription and a mailing address for sending the books to the following address:

Steve Vogel
PO Box 301
Barnesville, Md. 20838

A hardcover of Through the Perilous Fight available for $20, and paperback for $15. A hardcover of The Pentagon is available for $40, and paperback for $15.Please include $5 shipping/handling for each hardcover book and $4 for each paperback.