A star-spangled banner of a follow-up to the historian-author's Dream West (1984) brings to vivid life a turning-point in American history. In a resonant narrative limning the sectionalism and discontents that threatened the young republic barely three decades after the revolution that created it, Nevin focuses on three central figures: President James Madison (sustained in crucial ways by his beloved Dolley); General Andrew Jackson (gentled as well as cherished by his Rachel); and Winfield Scott (a precocious military talent whose strong opinions bring him into frequent conflict with his colleagues). When events draw a deeply divided America into war with England, the wispy chief executive shows himself to be a principled man of strong convictions as he battles not only British armed forces but also recalcitrant New Englanders (whose lucrative trade with the erstwhile mother country has been disrupted), and states' rights frontiersmen like Jackson who distrust Madison's vision of the federal union's future. With emotional assistance from Dolley, the President manages to keep the ship of state on an even keel during a series of early setbacks in the War of 1812; concurrently, Scott learns the close-combat lessons that will lead to later victories along the Canadian border, and the volatile Jackson raises an army of irregulars who, defying the odds, mount successful campaigns in southern woodlands against Indian bands backed by the British. Before the tide turns, however, vengeful redcoats sack Washington, D.C., and raze the White House, forcing Madison and his government to flee. Bloodied but unbowed, the president rallies the nation, and Jackson stages an epic defense of New Orleans against British invaders at the start of 1815. A war-weary England agrees to peace, allowing a now-united America to pursue its manifest destiny in the West. A brilliantly realized chronicle that gives a human scale to the author's panoramic canvas. A considerable achievement and one that transcends genre.