May 10, 2013

Joyce Appleby’s review of Steve Vogel’s book “Through the Perilous Fight” [“A stumbling, fiery end to War of 1812,” Book World, May 5] was remarkable for what it did not mention: the role the infant U.S. Navy played in the War of 1812.

Apparently, Mr. Vogel concentrated on the inept record of the army to highlight the destruction of Washington. What a one-sided story! Great Britain would never have agreed to peace if that was all there was to it. But the U.S. Navy caught the world’s attention with its stunning defeats of Royal Navy ships while U.S. privateers were seizing and sinking British commercial vessels, creating havoc for British trade.

Before the army’s debacle at Washington, the only effort to stop the invading troops was made by Commodore Joshua Barney with a few hundred men. He was wounded and taken prisoner. Even the British recognized his valor.

When the confident British turned to Baltimore, they faced well-trained fighting men, army and navy, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith of the Maryland Militia and Commodore John Rodgers. The city’s strong defense, coupled with the death of Maj. Gen. Robert Ross, the British commander, and the failure of the attack on Fort McHenry persuaded the invaders to withdraw.

Within days, there was news of Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s brilliant victory at Plattsburgh, N.Y., which ended the British attempt to split New England from the rest of the United States.

Eileen F. Lebow, Washington

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