Robert Watson
Book: When Washington Burned

When Washington Burned

The British Invasion of the Capital and a Nation's Rise from the Ashes

Perhaps no single day in US history was as threatening to the survival of the nation as August 24, 1814, when British forces captured Washington. This unique moment might have significantly altered the nation's path forward, but the event and the reasons why it happened are little remembered by most Americans. When Washington Burned narrates the British campaign and American missteps that led to the fall of the capital city, but also tells the redeeming stories of the courageous young clerks and the bold first lady who risked their lives to save priceless documents from the flames, including the Constitution.

Book: America's First Plague

America's First Plague

The Deadly 1793 Epidemic that Crippled a Young Nation

America's First Plague offers the definitive telling of this long-forgotten crisis, capturing the wave of fear that swept across the fledgling republic, and the numerous unintended but far-reaching consequences it would have on the development of the United States and the Atlantic slave trade. It is an intriguing tale of fear and human nature... and the struggle to govern in the face of a crisis.

Book: George Washington’s Final Battle

George Washington’s Final Battle

The Epic Struggle to Build a Capital City and Nation

George Washington is remembered for leading the Continental Army to victory, presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and forging a new nation, but few know the story of his involvement in the establishment of a capital city and how it nearly tore the fledgling nation apart. In this book, Robert Watson brings the events to life, telling how the country’s first president tirelessly advocated for a capital on the shores of the Potomac and succeeded despite numerous surprising obstacles and bitter political feuds. Washington envisioned and had a direct role in planning every aspect of the city that would house the young republic and carry his name. In doing so, he created a landmark that gave the young democracy credibility, united a fractious country, and created a sense of American identity.

Book: Escape!


The Story of the Confederacy’s Infamous Libby Prison and the Civil War’s Largest Jail Break

This is the story of one of the worst and deadliest prisons in American history, one where senior Union officers suffered and died in alarming numbers. Located in the heart of the Confederacy’s capital—Richmond—the infamous prison was used for propaganda purposes by southern leaders and took on symbolic significance far beyond that of just a prison. However, it was also the site of a bold and daring prison break by a group of high-ranking Union officers, an event that captivated the nation, outraged the South, and sparked one of the largest manhunts in American history.

Book: The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn

The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn

An Untold Story of the American Revolution

2018 Commodore Barry Book Award
2017 John Lyman Book Award

Moored off the coast of Brooklyn until the end of the war, the derelict ship, the HMS Jersey, was a living hell for thousands of Americans either captured by the British or accused of disloyalty. Crammed below deck - a shocking one thousand at a time - without light or fresh air, the prisoners were scarcely fed food and water. Disease ran rampant and human waste fouled the air as prisoners suffered mightily at the hands of brutal British and Hessian guards. Throughout the colonies, the mere mention of the ship sparked fear and loathing of British troops. It also sparked a backlash of outrage as newspapers everywhere described the horrors aboard the ghostly ship. This shocking event, much like the better-known Boston Massacre before it, ended up rallying public support for the war.

Revealing for the first time hundreds of accounts culled from old newspapers, diaries, and military reports, award-winning historian Robert P. Watson follows the lives and ordeals of the ship's few survivors to tell the astonishing story of the cursed ship that killed thousands of Americans and yet helped secure victory in the fight for independence.

Book: The Nazi Titanic

The Nazi Titanic

The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II

2017 National Jewish Book Council Award

Built in 1927, the German ocean liner SS Cap Arcona was the greatest ship since the RMS Titanic and one of the most celebrated luxury liners in the world. When the Nazis seized control in Germany, she was stripped down for use as a floating barracks and troop transport. Later, during the war, Hitler’s minister, Joseph Goebbels, cast her as the 'star' in his epic propaganda film about the sinking of the legendary Titanic.

Following the film’s enormous failure, the German navy used the Cap Arcona to transport German soldiers and civilians across the Baltic, away from the Red Army’s advance. In the Third Reich’s final days, the ill-fated ship was packed with thousands of concentration camp prisoners. Without adequate water, food, or sanitary facilities, the prisoners suffered as they waited for the end of the war. Just days before Germany surrendered, the Cap Arcona was mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force, and nearly all of the prisoners were killed in the last major tragedy of the Holocaust and one of history’s worst maritime disasters.

Although the British government sealed many documents pertaining to the ship’s sinking, Robert P. Watson has unearthed forgotten records, conducted many interviews, and used over 100 sources, including diaries and oral histories, to expose this story. As a result, The Nazi Titanic is a riveting and astonishing account of an enigmatic ship that played a devastating role in World War II and the Holocaust.

Book: America's First Crisis

America's First Crisis

The War of 1812

GOLD MEDALIST - 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards ("The Ippys")

The War of 1812, sometimes called "America's forgotten war," was a curious affair. At the time, it was dismissed as "Mr. Madison's War." Later it was hailed by some as America's "Second War for Independence" and ridiculed by others, such as President Harry Truman, as "the silliest damned war we ever had." The conflict, which produced several great heroes and future presidents, was all this and more.

In America's First Crisis Robert P. Watson tells the stories of the most intriguing battles and leaders and shares the most important blunders and victories of the war. What started out as an effort to invade Canada, fueled by anger over the harassment of American merchant ships by the Royal Navy, soon turned into an all-out effort to fend off an invasion by Britain. Armies marched across the Canadian border and sacked villages; navies battled on Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, and the world’s oceans; both the American and Canadian capitals were burned; and, in a final irony, the United States won its greatest victory in New Orleans—after the peace treaty had been signed.

Book: Affairs of State

Affairs of State

The Untold History of Presidential Love, Sex, and Scandal

In recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and countless other politicians have made headlines for their sexual scandals. But such stories are not new. Indeed, there is a long history of misbehavior in politics, including in the nation’s highest office. Bill Clinton, it can safely be said, was not the first president to misbehave, nor was he the worst.

In fact, there is a long history of presidential peccadilloes. Many presidents have been influenced and had their careers affected by the hand of a woman, sometimes that of a wife or mother, but at other times that of a mistress. But these stories are rarely told. Instead, history has tended to glorify our leaders. Such a scrubbed version of the lives of presidents, however, omits their marital woes, love lives, and sexual peccadilloes. As Robert P. Watson reveals, it is precisely these intimate and all-too-human moments that provide some of the most valuable insights into our leaders.

Affairs of State is not just about sex and scandal—the "who did it" of history—although such incidents are described in detail. It is a book about love, marriage, and affairs in the White House, offering an intimate character study of the First Couples who made history.

Book: The Presidents' Wives

The Presidents' Wives

The Office of the First Lady in US Politics, 2nd Edition

Robert P. Watson's groundbreaking study on the presidents' wives proved that the first lady can be an influential force in presidential politics and is a subject worthy of scholarly attention. Now, this fully revised second edition incorporates the first ladyships of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama in each chapter. The new edition also includes a decade-and-a-half of new research on public opinion, the growth and political development of the East Wing, and the issue of first lady character.

Book: First Ladies of the United States

First Ladies of the United States

A Biographical Dictionary

Whether editing speeches and appearing on the campaign trail, presiding over White House renovations and social events, championing important causes, or functioning as the president's most trusted adviser, first ladies have made significant contributions to the heads-of-state's careers and to the nation. Yet, the accomplishments of those who have acted as the power behind the presidency have gone largely unreported and underappreciated. Systematically profiling each first lady from Martha Washington to Laura Bush, Watson offers the reader an intimate look at these women who have served the United States.

The chronologically arranged biographies examine each first lady's early years and education, her family life, her presidential years, and her legacy. A short bibliography for each entry provides a selected list of additional sources. First Ladies of the United States is a convenient, well-researched, and thoroughly indexed reference, as well as an insightful account of the lives of forty-three women who have helped shape the course of U.S. history.