The Warrior President

By Jon Cleal

While James Madison is best known for being a small, quiet, scholarly man and one of the principal authors of the United States Constitution, he also holds the distinction of being the only American President to ride armed for battle.

At the battle of Bladensburg in August 1814, he arrived armed with a pair of borrowed dueling pistols in belt holsters and was part of the "lead by political committee" Bladensburg disaster.

He almost rode into British lines by accident along with Attorney-General Rush and later sat on his mount observing the opening stages of the battle from the centre of the American line.

He gave no orders, only advice, and once battle was joined was soon persuaded to go back to the safety of Washington.

The President, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of State, the Attorney-General, several congressmen and some senators were all part of the political interference at the battle and must share in the blame for one of the worst American defeats in history.

- Jon Cleal describes himself as an old Napoleonic wargamer and amateur historian. His principal sources were The Dawn's Early Light by Walter Lord and The War of 1812 by Harry L. Coles.


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