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War Evaluation

War of 1812 bicentennial: USA shrugs as Canada goes all out

An Evaluation War of 1812

LEWISTON, N.Y.–When the first big battle of the War of 1812 is re-enacted this fall, the U.S. 1st Artillery regiment will mount an ear-splitting barrage. The Yanks will point their cannons at British redcoats across the Niagara River in Canada. They will wear blue. They will curse King George.

  • Re-enactors, pictured on May 6 in Ontario, Canada, stage the Battle of Longwoods. The original occurred March 4, 1814.

By Dave Chidley, The Canadian Press, via AP
Re-enactors, pictured on May 6 in Ontario, Canada, stage the Battle of Longwoods. The original occurred March 4, 1814.

Dr. Michael Crawford, Senior Historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., details the reasons why the U.S. declared war on the British in 1812.

 


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Unlike 200 years ago, they will all be Canadians.
Many Americans aren't that into the War of 1812 — not like Canadians, anyway — so the latter often play the former in re-enactments along the international border here.
"For the weekend, I'll have to be a turncoat," says John Sek, 60, an English-born Canadian who will play a U.S. Army gunnery captain in the Battle of Queenston Heights. "There isn't the same interest in the war on your side."
To grossly generalize: Canadians, whose forebears helped repulse several U.S. invasions in 1812, regard the war that began 200 years ago Monday as a crucible of national identity. For them, its bicentennial is a big deal.
http://i.usatoday.net/_common/_notches/af26cf2b-9c92-4175-9898-23bd35c29ab7-crawford.jpgPlay Video

Dr. Michael Crawford, Senior Historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., details the reasons why the U.S. declared war on the British in 1812.
Americans, on the other hand, are familiar with the 1959 hit song The Battle of New Orleans and have a vague image of Dolley Madison fleeing the White House ahead of torch-brandishing Royal Marines with a portrait of George Washington under her arm.
Although they are supposed to study the war in high school, many can't recall exactly who fought it (the United States and Britain), why (trade issues, freedom of the sea, westward expansion) or who won (unclear).
Congress has declined to create a national bicentennial commission. In New York State, the last two governors have rejected, for financial reasons, proposals to create a state commission.
Lee Simonson, Lewiston's War of 1812 coordinator, has had to organize the town's part of the Battle of Queenston Heights re-enactment without any state funds to pay for soldiers' meals or black gunpowder. In the binational commemoration, he says, "we're the little brother."
This attitude could mute enthusiasm for the commemoration of a war that historians say secured the Revolution of 1776 and shaped the new American nation.
There are exceptions. Maryland — whose governor has participated in 1812 re-enactments — has issued War of 1812 license plates, and an official bicentennial commission has plans for a three-year, $25 million commemoration.
The bicentennial also is being promoted by the U.S. Navy, which traces many traditions to the war and hopes to use it to remind Americans, in a time of military budget cuts, of its own importance.
Canadians have their uses for the bicentennial, to which the federal government has committed $28 million. Plans include a new war memorial in Ottawa; more than 100 events, including re-enactments; commemorative stamps and coins; renovation of historic sites; and a phone app for battlefield tours.
It's part of an effort by the Conservative Party prime minister, Stephen Harper, to foster a more unified national identity by celebrating Canada's historic roots, including military victories and its British heritage.
A poll last year found that while 17% of Canadians say the War of 1812 was the most important war in forming their nation's identity, only 3% of Americans feel that way. More than one of three Americans say there were no significant outcomes from the war — or none they can name.
A war to forget
Many Americans don't know what to make of a war that historian Richard Hofstadter once called "ludicrous and unnecessary" and Brown's Gordon Wood more recently deemed "the strangest in American history."
It began with a declaration of war by Americans who did not realize, because word traveled by sea, that the British government had granted some of their key demands several days earlier.
It ended with a battle that took place, again unknown to the participants, two weeks after a peace treaty was signed in Europe.
The Americans picked a fight with the world's greatest military power, which they were unprepared to fight. The U.S. Army was a shadow of the one that won the Revolutionary War; the Navy had about 16 ships, compared with more than 500 for the British.
Even worse, the United States entered the war with an entire section —New England— vehemently opposed to it. What followed was equally bizarre, especially an early string of U.S. naval victories. James Grossman, director of the American Historical Association, says it's as if Serbia had smacked around the U.S. Air Force in 1999.
The war featured a major naval battle on Lake Erie; the burning of the Canadian and the American capitals, as well as Buffalo; and, in the midst of everything, a duel between two U.S. generals in western New York. "Unfortunately," historian John Elting once noted, "both missed."
In an age when officers were gentlemen and units largely homogeneous, the war's most famous battle (New Orleans) was won by an assemblage of soldiers, sailors, Marines, Indians, freed slaves, slaves and pirates commanded by a rough-edged country lawyer from Tennessee named Andrew Jackson.
In history, unfortunately, novelty does not guarantee fame. Forced to compete with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the War of 1812 fights obscurity for several reasons:
•Confusing causes. Was the war fought to stop Britain's seizing of U.S. sailors from U.S. ships to serve in the Royal Navy? Or to end trade restrictions? Or to seize Canada? Or to open the American West to settlement without interference from British-allied Indians? Or all of the above?
Take impressment — the seizing of sailors Britain claimed were British. New England, the region whose citizens suffered most from the practice, was the one most opposed to the war. British policies hampered the region's sea trade; war ended it.
Many of the war's biggest proponents in Congress came from landlocked states such as Tennessee and Kentucky, which saw impressment as part of a pattern of British mischief that included support for Native Americans who blocked westward expansion.
•Leaders with feet of clay. The war made some great men look bad. James Madison wasn't much of a war president; he became the only one ever driven from the White House. His sainted predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, wasn't much of a seer; he'd predicted the conquest of Canada "will be a mere matter of marching."
Although the Americans established a beachhead in their initial assault on Queenston Heights, victory turned into defeat when raw, untrained militia troops, ignoring the pleas of their general, refused to cross the river.
•Britain's heart wasn't in it. For the British, preoccupied with war in Europe against Napoleon, 1812 was a sideshow. "They sent their B team," says Maj. John Grodzinski, who teaches at the Royal Military College of Canada.
Jim Hill of the Niagara (Ont.) Parks Commission recalls an old saying: "Canadians are sure they won the War of 1812, Americans are pretty sure, and the British never heard of it." British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted as much on his last visit to the White House, joking, "We so much more prefer talking about defeating the French."
•An inconclusive conclusion. The war, which ended for lack of (British) interest and (American) money, "is ignored today because it was a tie," Grossman says. "A narrative that doesn't end definitively is hard to make interesting."
Some try by calling it "The Second American Revolution." Historian Alan Taylor of the University of California-Davis writes that the war "looms small in American memory … because it apparently ended as a draw that changed no boundary and no policy."
A war to remember
It's easy to forget that the War of 1812 gave America its national anthem, whose lyrics Francis Scott Key wrote after watching the British shelling of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. (The melody came from an old English drinking song.)
For all its foibles, historians say the war is one to remember for several other reasons:
•The United States was here to stay. Ever since the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 that ended the Revolutionary War, much of Europe still regarded the United States as an upstart and its democracy an experiment.
Like a kid who stands up to a playground bully and gets a bloody nose but makes a point, the United States upheld its national sovereignty by defending itself against British harassment at sea.
Moreover, "the war gave Americans a sense of what it meant to be an American," says Denver Brunsman, who will publish a book next year on the impressment issue. "Part of that was to volunteer as free citizens for military or naval service."
•It shaped the American future, economically, diplomatically and militarily. The war killed the idea of America as an agrarian nation with a weak military, static borders and a quasi-isolationist foreign policy. President Jefferson had tried to withdraw the nation from European trade to avoid war, and he was notoriously suspicious of manufacturing and its attendant "wage slavery."
Yet after what Brunsman calls "the war's near death experience" — Army humbled, Navy bottled up, capital sacked — "even the party of Jefferson and Madison realizes that it's not enough to be an agrarian power, that the country needs to make things. It needs to be more like Britain."
That included a strong military. Winfield Scott, a young Army officer, was taken prisoner in the disaster at Queenston Heights. When the war was over, he and other veterans reformed the Army to avoid a repetition of the mistakes they'd seen.
The war established that the United States would not expand into Canada and would grow west and south. The defeat of Britain's Creek Indian allies cleared the way for the spread of slave-based cotton planting into Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi and set the stage for the Civil War.
•The rise of Andrew Jackson.Old Hickory made his name at the Battle of New Orleans by giving the war a happy ending (for Americans). The victory marked the beginning of his political ascent and that of a class of people — white men of limited means — previously excluded from American politics. It was the end of Federalists, the party of Washington and John Adams, who bitterly opposed the war and looked foolish after Jackson's victory.
•The biggest losers. Although there is much debate over who won the War of 1812, it's clear who lost it: Native Americans east of the Mississippi. The Indians in the Great Lakes states hoped for British support for a sort of buffer state against American expansion. With the end of the war, they lost any hope of independence from, or equality with, the settlers.
Jeffrey Pasley, a University of Missouri historian, calls 1812 the last war "in which there was any doubt about the outcome" of a military clash between the two cultures.
•Canada stayed British. By repulsing the American invasion, the Canadian colony began its march toward self-rule in 1867 and created a pantheon of national heroes.
They include Gen. Isaac Brock, who died in the defense of Queenston Heights; his ally, the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh; and Laura Secord, a 37-year-old housewife who reportedly walked 20 miles in May 1813 to warn a British commander of an impending American attack.
Today Brock's statue stands 18 stories high on a column overlooking the Niagara River — and Lewiston. "Thanks to the war," says John Sek, the Canadian re-enactor who wears a blue coat, "we're not waving an American flag today."

10. What was the outcome of the War?

Both sides returned to the pre-war status quo..
During the War Britain deployed some 48,000 regular and 7,000 native and militia troops to counter the 39,000 strong US army and some 460,000 militia. By the end of the war Britain had suffered over 4,000 casualties and had 1,554 ships captured to America’s 24,500 casualties and 1,593 ships captured. The US army burned the towns of Newark and York (now known respectively as Niagara by the Lake and Toronto) and in retaliation the British burned Buffalo and much of Washington DC including the razing of many of the public buildings.

Certain war hawks in the US government wanted to continue the conquest of Canada and Florida but the resounding failure of the Canadian invasion and the sacking of their capital city made the war unpopular with most of the government and the population.

The treaty of Ghent signed in Belgium on 24 December 1814 ended the War by returning the protagonists to the pre-war status quo. Both sides returned all captured land and prisoners. Britain, however, did not return the many slaves freed during the conflict but offered cash settlement to allow the slaves to retain their freedom.

The British viewed the War as a successful defence against the US attempt to conquer Canada and of their right to impose trade restrictions against nations with who they were at war. The conflict also served to unite Canada as a nation independent of the US.

Although the US began hostilities, incurred huge losses and failed in the key war aim of a Canadian conquest, they bizarrly claimed the War of 1812 as a victory in a 'second war of independence'.

Certainly the War propelled Andrew Jackson to the Presidency and did remove the power of the native American tribes.

The war aims of lifting the British trade restrictions with France and stopping the impress of seamen had become moot points as Britain and the European coallition had defeated France in April 1814.

All wars are pointless but the War of 1812 particularly so in that:

1. The American government declared war even after the British conceeded to their main demand of lifting trade restrictions.

2. The main American victory at New Orleans was achieved after the peace treaty was signed.

There are quite a few websites relating to the War of 1812 and some have contradictory information, particularly concerning statistics. Most of the information for this quiz has come from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1812_War and official US army and navy history websites: http://www.army.mil & http://www.history.navy.mil.

War of 1812
Also called "Mr. Madison's War"

1812 - 1814*


The War of 1812 was in many ways the strangest war in United States history. It could well be named the War of Faulty Communication. Two days before war was declared, the British government stated that it would repeal the laws which were the chief reason for fighting. If there had been telegraphic communication with Europe, the war might well have been avoided. Speedy communication would also have prevented the greatest battle of the war, which was fought at New Orleans 15 days after a treaty of peace had been signed.

The chief United States complaint against the British was interference with shipping. But New England, the great shipping section of the United States, bitterly opposed the idea of going to war. The demand for war came chiefly from the West and South.

It is strange also that the war, fought for freedom of the seas, began with the invasion of Canada. In addition, the treaty of peace that ended the war settled none of the issues over which it had supposedly been fought.

Another oddity was that the young United States was willing to risk war against powerful Great Britain. Finally, add that both sides claimed victory in the War of 1812, and it becomes clear that the whole struggle was a confused mass of contradictions.

Causes of the war

Napoleon Bonaparte, head of the French government after 1799 and emperor after 1804, had made himself the master of continental Europe. Except for one short breathing spell (1801-1803), Great Britain had been fighting France since 1793. Napoleon had long hoped to invade and conquer Britain, but in 1805 his navy was destroyed at the battle of Trafalgar. This forced Napoleon to give up the idea of taking an army across the English Channel. So he set out instead to ruin Great Britain by destroying British trade. Napoleon's Berlin and Milan decrees (1806-1807) were an attempt to shut off Great Britain from all trade with Europe. Great Britain, in turn, issued a series of Orders in Council which declared a blockade of French ports and of ports in Europe and elsewhere that were under French control.

The British and French blockades had disastrous effects on United States shipping. Before 1806, the United States was getting rich on the European war. United States ships took goods to both Great Britain and France, and the value of trade carried increased fourfold from 1791 to 1805. Now the picture had suddenly changed. A United States ship bound for French ports had to stop first at a British port for inspection and payment of fees. Otherwise the British were likely to seize the ship. But Napoleon ordered neutral ships not to stop at British ports for inspection, and he also announced that he would order his forces to seize any United States ships which they found had obeyed the British Orders in Council.

The British navy controlled the seas. So the easiest thing for United States vessels was to trade only with other neutrals, with Great Britain, or under British license. A few adventurous spirits ran the British blockade for the sake of huge profits they could make, and continued the risky trade with continental Europe. The United States complained of both French and British policies as illegal "paper blockades," because neither side could really enforce such an extensive blockade. See BLOCKADE (Paper blockade).

Impressment of seamen. The British navy was always in need of seamen. One reason for this need was that hundreds of deserters from the British navy had found work on United States ships. The British government claimed the right to stop neutral ships on the high seas, remove sailors of British birth, and impress, or force, them back into British naval service. The United States objected strongly to this practice, partly because many native-born Americans were impressed "by mistake" along with men who had actually been British seamen.

In June 1807, Captain James Barron of the frigate Chesapeake refused to let the British search his ship for deserters. The British frigate Leopard fired on the Chesapeake, removed four men whom the British called deserters, and hanged one of them. Anti-British feeling in the United States rose sharply. President Thomas Jefferson ordered all British naval vessels out of American harbors. Four years later, the British apologized for the incident and paid for the damage done, but the bitterness remained.

American reaction. The United States tried several times to get the British to change their policy toward neutral shipping and toward impressment. In April 1806, the United States Congress passed a Non-Importation Act, which barred British goods from American markets. The act was not put into continuous operation until December 1807. By that time, the Chesapeake incident had taken place and sterner measures were believed to be necessary. Also in December 1807, Congress passed the Embargo Act. This act prohibited exports from the United States and forbade American ships from sailing into foreign ports.

The embargo did not produce anything like the results Congress desired. Overseas trade nearly stopped, almost ruining New England shipowners and putting many sailors out of work. Shipyards closed, and goods piled up in warehouses. The embargo also hurt Southern planters, who normally sold tobacco, rice, and cotton to Great Britain. Opponents of the embargo described its effects on the United States by spelling the word backward. They called the embargo the "O-Grab-Me" act. Even with the hardships the embargo caused for the United States, it failed as a policy. The British and the French were intent on winning the European war at all costs, and so both refused to yield to American pressure.

After 14 months, Congress gave up the embargo and tried a new device for hurting British and French commerce. It passed the Non-Intercourse Act in March 1809, permitting American ships to trade with any countries but Great Britain and France. The act also opened American ports to all but British and French ships. But this plan also failed.

In 1810, Congress passed Macon's Bill No. 2, which removed all restrictions on trade. The law went on to say that if either Great Britain or France would give up its orders or decrees, the United States would restore nonintercourse rules against the other nation, unless it also agreed to change its policy.

Macon's Bill really helped Napoleon, who was eager to get the United States into the war against Great Britain. He pretended to repeal his Berlin and Milan decrees so far as they applied to United States ships. President James Madison shut off all trade with Great Britain. In the summer of 1811, further attempts were made to reach an agreement with the British. But these attempts failed, and in November, Madison advised Congress to get ready for war.

The War Hawks. A group of young men known as "War Hawks" dominated Congress during this period. Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina were the outstanding leaders of the group. Clay was then Speaker of the House of Representatives. Like Clay and Calhoun, most of the War Hawks came from Western and Southern states, where many of the people were in favor of going to war with Great Britain.

The people of New England generally opposed going to war because they feared that war with Great Britain would wipe out entirely the New England shipping trade which had already been heavily damaged. Another reason New England opposed war was because many New Englanders sympathized with Great Britain in its struggle against Napoleon.

Some historians have argued that a leading motive of the War Hawks was a desire for expansion. The people of the Northwest were meeting armed resistance in their attempt to take more land from the Indians, and they believed that the Indians had considerable British support. Friction between Westerners and Indians climaxed in November 1811 at the Battle of Tippecanoe near what is now Lafayette, Ind. Indians attacked an American army, and British guns were found on the battlefield. A desire to eliminate British aid to the Indians may have inspired some Westerners to seek an invasion of Canada, Britain's main possession in North America. But most Westerners favored such an invasion chiefly because of a deep resentment over long-lasting British insults at sea.

The main concerns of Congress were maritime rights, national honor, and the country's obligation to respond to foreign threats. The Federalists in Congress strongly opposed going to war. But the Democratic-Republicans believed that war was the only solution to America's dilemmas. They hoped a successful invasion of Canada would force Britain to change its policies. See DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Progress of the war

Declaration of war. On June 1, 1812, President Madison asked Congress to declare war against Great Britain. He gave as his reasons the impressment of United States seamen and the interference with United States trade. He charged also that the British had stirred up Indian warfare in the Northwest. Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. Two days earlier, the British foreign minister had announced that the Orders in Council would be repealed, but word of this announcement did not reach America until after the war had begun. Because President Madison asked for the declaration of war, many Federalists blamed him for the conflict, calling it "Mr. Madison's war."

Attitude of the nation. Congress had known for seven months that war was likely to come, but no real preparations had been made. There was little money in the U.S. treasury. The regular Army had less than 10,000 troops, and very few trained officers. The Navy had fewer than 20 seagoing ships.

To make matters worse, a large minority, both in Congress and in the country, was opposed to war. The declaration of war had passed by a vote of only 79 to 49 in the House, and 19 to 13 in the Senate. New England, the richest section in the country, bitterly opposed the war, and interfered with its progress by withholding both money and troops.

The war at sea. At sea, the United States depended primarily on privateers--that is, armed ships owned by private people and hired by the government to fight. This was because the tiny regular American navy was dwarfed by the massive British fleet. Several single-ship U.S. victories against British ships improved American morale but had no permanent effect on the naval struggle.

A British blockade was clamped on the United States coast, and United States trade almost disappeared. Because duties on imports were the chief source of federal revenue, the U.S. treasury drifted further and further into debt.

The only American naval victories that directly affected the course of the war were those won by Oliver Hazard Perry on Lake Erie, on Sept. 10, 1813, and by Thomas Macdonough on Lake Champlain, on Sept. 11, 1814. But United States naval vessels and privateers did considerable damage to British commerce, taking about 1,500 prize ships in all.

Land campaign of 1812. The American plan of attack called for a three-way invasion of Canada. Invasion forces were to start from Detroit, from the Niagara River, and from the foot of Lake Champlain.

At Detroit, General William Hull led about 2,000 troops across the Detroit River into Canada. The British commander, General Sir Isaac Brock, drove Hull's forces back into Detroit, surrounded them, and captured both the city and Hull's entire army. The British and Indians also captured Michilimackinac and Fort Dearborn (Chicago).

On the Niagara River, a United States force occupied Queenston Heights on the Canadian side. This force was defeated and captured when New York militia units refused to come to its support.

At Lake Champlain, the third United States army advanced from Plattsburgh, N.Y., to the Canadian frontier. Here, too, the militia refused to leave United States territory, and the army marched back again to Plattsburgh. Thus the first attempt to invade Canada failed completely.

Campaigns of 1813. In January 1813, an American army advancing toward Detroit was defeated and captured at Frenchtown on the Raisin River. In April, York (now Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada, was captured by United States troops and held for a short time. Some of the public buildings were burned.

Perry's destruction of the British fleet on Lake Erie forced the British to pull out of Detroit, and much of the Michigan Territory came under United States control. General William Henry Harrison was able to take his army across the lake and defeat the retreating British at the Battle of the Thames.

In the autumn, General James Wilkinson and General Wade Hampton undertook a campaign against Montreal. This attempt failed, and the United States armies retreated into northern New York. In December, the British crossed the Niagara River, captured Fort Niagara, and burned Buffalo and neighboring villages.

Campaigns of 1814. By 1814, Napoleon had been defeated in Europe. Great Britain was then able to send over 15,000 troops to Canada, thus ending all American hopes of conquest. But the United States had at last built up a well-trained and disciplined army on the New York frontier. Under the able leadership of Major General Jacob Brown and Brigadier General Winfield Scott, this army crossed the Niagara River from Buffalo in July and defeated the British at the Battle of Chippewa. But soon after that, the Americans were turned back at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. After holding Fort Erie in Canada for several months, United States troops finally withdrew to the American side. This was the last attempt to invade Canada. Meanwhile, nearly 11,000 British troops had moved into New York by way of Lake Champlain. The troops retreated hastily when the destruction of the British fleet on the lake threatened their supply lines back to Canada.

Another British army, under General Robert Ross, was escorted by a fleet to Chesapeake Bay, scattered the United States troops at the Battle of Bladensburg, occupied Washington, D.C., and set fire to the Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings. Both the British army and the British fleet were driven back at Baltimore. This engagement inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner".

"The needless battle." The Battle of New Orleans was the last engagement of the war. It was fought on Jan. 8, 1815. Like the declaration of war, this battle might have been prevented if there had been speedy communication. A treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent, Belgium, 15 days before the battle took place, but the treaty was not ratified by the United States until a month later.

The British had sent an army of more than 8,000 men to capture New Orleans. There were several possible routes to the city, but the British army chose to march straight toward the entrenchments that had been prepared by General Andrew Jackson. American artillery and sharpshooting riflemen killed or wounded about 1,500 British soldiers, including the commanding officer, General Sir Edward Pakenham. The Americans lost few men in the battle.

Treaty of Ghent. The British public was tired of war and especially of war taxes, and an increasing number of Americans feared disaster if the war continued. Commissioners of the two countries met at Ghent, Belgium, in August 1814.

The British at first insisted that the United States should give up certain territory on the northern frontier, and set up a large permanent Indian reservation in the Northwest. But American victories in the summer and fall of 1814 led the British to drop these demands. A treaty was finally signed in Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814, and ratified on Feb. 17, 1815. By the terms of this treaty, all land that had been captured by either party was to be given up. Everything was to be exactly as it was before the war, and commissions from both of the countries were to settle any disputed points about boundaries. Nothing whatever was said in the treaty about impressments, blockades, or the British Orders in Council, although they supposedly had caused the war.

Results of the war

The United States had faced near disaster in 1814. But the victory at New Orleans and what seemed to be a successful fight against Britain increased national patriotism and helped to unite the United States into one nation.

The war settled none of the issues over which the United States had fought. But most of these issues faded out during the following years. In the long period of peace after 1815, the British had no occasion to make use of impressments or blockades. Indian troubles in the Northwest were practically ended by the death of the chief Tecumseh and by the rapid settlement of the region. The United States occupied part of Florida during the war, and was soon able to buy the rest of it from Spain.

One indirect result of the War of 1812 was the later election to the presidency of Andrew Jackson and of William Henry Harrison. Both of these men won military fame which had much to do with their elections. Another indirect result was the decline of Federalist power. New England leaders, most of them Federalists, met in secret in Hartford, Conn., to study ways to protest the conduct of the war. Their opponents accused them of plotting treason, and the Federalists never recovered

GENERAL TIME LINE OF EVENTS

Napoleon excludes British goods from "fortress Europe."
1806 - Europe
American ships caught in middle as British respond with blockade.
British seize 1000 U.S. ships, French ca. 500.

British seize American sailors
1803-1812 - High seas
British captains take more than 10,000 American citizens to man British ships.

Chesapeake - Leopard fight
June 1807 - 3 miles off Norfolk, Virginia
Chesapeake fired on by Leopard after refusing to be boarded. 3 Americans killed, 18 wounded.

Embargo Act
December 1807 - Washington, D.C.
Jefferson's attempt at "peaceful coercion" results in economic disaster for American merchants.

War Hawks elected to Congress
1810 - U.S.
Calhoun, Clay, others, bothered by insults to U.S., and by Indian incursions into settled areas.

Battle of Tippecanoe
1811 - Ohio River Valley, near present day West Lafayette, IN.
Tecumseh's brother, the Prophet, led attack on Harrison's army of 1000. It was believed that the attack was instigated by the British.

Congress declares war on Britain.
June 18, 1812 - Washington, D.C.
Pushed by War Hawks, Madison asks for declaration of war. All Federalists oppose it.

Invasion attempts of Canada
1812 - U.S. / Canadian border
3 attempts to invade, all fail.

Detroit captured by British
August 16, 1812 - U.S. / Canadian border
Detroit fell to British and Indian forces.

USS Constitution defeats British frigate Guerrière,
August 19, 1812, off coast of Nova Scotia.
Victory by U.S. ship -- "Old Ironsides".
Marks the birth of American naval power.
Other privateers captured or burned British ships.

Battle of York (Toronto)
April 1813 - Toronto, Canada
U.S. troops take control of Great Lakes, burn York (Toronto).

See W. H. Harrison letter from Camp Meigs Ohio

Battle of Lake Erie
September 1813 --- Put-in-Bay
Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry, starts an attack but his ship, the Lawrence, is destroyed. Transferring to the Niagara he repulses the British naval attack and becomes a national hero as the public calls him 'Commodore' Perry.

Battle of Thames
October 1813 - Ontario, Canada
Tecumseh killed in U.S. victory. Northwest Indians permanently weakened by this battle.

December 29, 1813 - Buffalo, New York
Still fighting for control of the lakes, British burn city of Buffalo.

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
March 1814 - Mississippi Territory
Andrew Jackson defeats Creek Indians.

British plan 3-part invasion of U.S.: Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, & mouth of Mississippi River
1814 -Washington, D.C
British burn capital buildings, but are turned back at Baltimore harbor.
See Dolley Madison description
See Bristish version

Battle of Plattsburgh
September 1814 - Lake Champlain
U.S. secured northern border with victory over larger British force.

Hartford Convention
December 15, 1814 - Hartford, Connecticut
Group of Federalists discuss secession but end up proposing 7 constitutional amendments to protect influence of Northeast states. [They're still at it by proposing to eliminate the Electoral College. Ed.]

Treaty of Ghent
December 24, 1814 - Ghent, Belgium
British and American diplomats agree on status quo ante bellum. [Just stop fighting and forget it. -- No reprisals, no reparations.]

Battle of New Orleans* -- Jackson Letter to the Secretary of War.
January 1815 * - New Orleans
Jackson's forces defeat British. 700 British killed, 1400 wounded.
U.S. losses: 8 killed, 13 wounded.

* The war had ended December 24, 1814 but Jackson had not received word about the Treaty of Ghent.


SOURCES: IBM World Book 1999 / Encyclopedia Britannica

Additional resources

Berton, Pierre F. D. Flames Across the Border. 1981. Reprint. Penguin, 1988. The Invasion of Canada. 1980. Reprint. Penguin, 1988.

Bosco, Peter I. The War of 1812. Millbrook, 1991.

Elting, John R. Amateurs, to Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812-1815. Algonquin Bks., 1991.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812. Univ. of Ill. Pr., 1989.

Kroll, Steven. By the Dawn's Early Light: The Story of the Star Spangled Banner. Scholastic, 1994.

Turner, Wesley. The War of 1812. Dundurn, 1990.

 

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