The Battle of Bladensburg

330px-Private_of_MarinesToday is Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth. We honor those who have served in the armed forces. It seems a good day to look at one battle of the Regency period. This is 'my Regency battlefield'. Unlike Waterloo and Austerlitz, it happened near to home.

When Americans think of the War of 1812 they rather vaguely think 'we won'.


Dolly Madison

They recognize some famous quotes. The Capital got burned. Boo! And there was Dolly Madison. But they have no idea What It Was All About. Historians still scratch their heads over this question.

British people, when this 'War of 1812' is mentioned, are apt to say, "What? Oh, that." For them the war in America was a little bagatelle of a campaign, fought while everybody was concerned with Napoleon.

This indecisive and fairly pointless war crosses my own life the day the British marched into Washington and burned the capitol building. On their way in, they fought in a hamlet called Bladensburg. My home town. I learned the history of this battle in a school perched on a hill where American scouts once waited for the British.

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PoppyHi, Jo here composing this on Remembrance Day in the UK, which we mark by wearing poppies. That's not the sort of poppy that bloomed around the trenches in WWI, but it's a picture of my own. There's a famous poem that begins,

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row…"

If you don't know it, you can read the rest here. In the end it seems to be pro-war, so I have mixed feelings about it. You?

Let's talk about soldiers in historical fiction. I felt sure that I'd done this subject before, but I've done a skim through the archives and haven't found it, so here goes. Most of us never experience war, either as soldiers or civilians caught up in war, and I'm sure most people are as grateful as I am about that. And yet, war and warriors have strong appeal in fiction going back to Beowulf and beyond. Sharpe

I honestly don't know how I feel about this, for to me war seems all wrong. There has to be a better way. That's probably why I haven't used war as a setting for any of my Georgian or Regency stories, and mostly avoided it in my medievals. I've had some soldier heroes, but not many, and not on active duty. At the same time I have enjoyed some active soldier heroes. I regard Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe etc) as a guilty pleasure because his military heroes don't suffer doubts about right or wrong, and in some cases revel in battle. I suspect he captures warriors of the past more accurately than most modern writers and I enjoy his books. Comment?

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