The War of 1812 (18 June 1812 – 17 February 1815) was a conflict fought by the and its against and its allies in , with limited participation by in . It began when the US declared war on 18 June 1812 and although peace terms were agreed in the December 1814 , did not officially end until ratified by on 17 February 1815. Tensions originated in long-standing differences over territorial expansion in and British support for who opposed US colonial settlement in the . These escalated in 1807 after the began enforcing on American trade with , exacerbated by the of men claimed as British subjects, even those with American citizenship certificates. Opinion was split on how to respond and although majorities in both and voted for war, they divided along strict party lines, with the in favour and the against. News of British concessions made in an attempt to avoid war did not reach the US until late July, by which time the conflict was already underway. At sea, the far larger Royal Navy imposed an effective blockade on US maritime trade, while between 1812 to 1814 British regulars and colonial militia defeated a series of American attacks on . This was balanced by the US winning control of the Northwest Territory with victories at and the in 1813. The abdication of in early 1814 allowed the British to send additional troops to North America and the Royal Navy to reinforce their blockade, crippling the American economy. In August 1814, negotiations began in , with both sides wanting peace; the British economy had been severely impacted by the trade embargo, while in December Federalists convened the to formalise their opposition to the war. In August 1814, British troops , before American victories at and in September ended fighting in the north. It continued in the , where in late 1813 a had broken out between a supported by Spanish and British traders and those backed by the US. Supported by American under General , they won a series of victories, culminating in the capture of in November 1814. In early 1815, Jackson defeated a British attack on , catapulting him to national celebrity and later victory in the . News of this success arrived in Washington at the same time as that of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which essentially restored the position to that prevailing before the war. While Britain insisted this included lands belonging to their Native American allies prior to 1811, Congress did not recognize them as independent nations and neither side sought to enforce this requirement.


Since the conclusion of the War of 1812, historians have long debated the relative weight of the multiple reasons underlying its origins. During the nineteenth century, historians generally concluded that war was declared largely over national honour, neutral maritime rights and the British seizure of neutral ships and their cargoes on the high seas. This theme was the basis of James Madison's war message to Congress on June 1, 1812. At the turn of the 20th century, much of the contemporary scholarship re-evaluated this explanation and began to focus more on non-maritime factors as significant contributing causes as well. However, historian Warren H. Goodman warns that too much focus on these ideas can be equally misleading. Historian Richard Maass argues that the theme is a myth that goes against the "relative consensus among experts that the primary U.S. objective was the repeal of British maritime restrictions". He says that scholars agree that the United States went to war "because six years of had failed to bring Britain to the negotiating table, and threatening the Royal Navy's Canadian supply base was their last hope". Maass agrees that expansionism might have tempted Americans on a theoretical level, but he finds that "leaders feared the domestic political consequences of doing so", particularly because such expansion "focused on sparsely populated western lands rather than the more populous eastern settlements". However, Maass accepts that many historians continue to believe that expansionism was a cause. Reginald Horsman sees expansionism as a secondary cause after maritime issues, noting that many historians have mistakenly rejected expansionism as a cause for the war. He notes that it was considered key to maintaining sectional balance between free and slave states thrown off by American settlement of the and widely supported by dozens of War Hawk congressmen such as , , and , who voted for war with expansion as a key aim. However, Horsman states that in his view "the desire for Canada did not cause the War of 1812" and that "The United States did not declare war because it wanted to obtain Canada, but the acquisition of Canada was viewed as a major collateral benefit of the conflict". However, other historians believe that a desire to permanently annex Canada was a direct cause of the war. Carl Benn notes that the ' desire to annex the Canadas was similar to the enthusiasm for the annexation of by inhabitants of the American South as both expected war to facilitate expansion into long-desired lands and end support for hostile tribes ( in the North and the in the South). says that many congressmen such as John Adams Harper, Richard Mentor Johnson and "longed to oust the British from the continent and to annex Canada". A few Southerners opposed this, fearing an imbalance of free and s if Canada was annexed. also caused many to oppose annexing the mainly Catholic Lower Canada, believing its French-speaking inhabitants unfit "for republican citizenship". Even major figures such as Henry Clay and expected to keep at least Upper Canada in an easy conquest. Notable American generals such as issued proclamations to Canadians during the war promising republican liberation through incorporation into the United States. General similarly declared to his troops when they invaded Canada that "you will enter a country that is to become one of the United States. You will arrive among a people who are to become your fellow-citizens". However, a lack of clarity about American intentions undercut these appeals. David and Jeanne Heidler argue that "most historians agree that the War of 1812 was not caused by expansionism but instead reflected a real concern of American patriots to defend United States' neutral rights from the overbearing tyranny of the British Navy. That is not to say that expansionist aims would not potentially result from the war". However, they also argue otherwise, saying that "acquiring Canada would satisfy America's expansionist desires", also describing it as a key goal of western expansionists who, they argue, believed that "eliminating the British presence in Canada would best accomplish" their goal of halting British support for tribal raids. They argue that the "enduring debate" is over the relative importance of expansionism as a factor, and whether "expansionism played a greater role in causing the War of 1812 than American concern about protecting neutral maritime rights". In the 1960s, the work of , Reginald Horsman, and Roger Brown established a new eastern maritime consensus. While these authors approached the origins of the war from many perspectives, they all conceded that British maritime policy was the principle cause of the war.

Honour and the "second war of independence"

As historian notes, a powerful motivation for the Americans was their threatened sense of independence and the desire to uphold national honour in the face of what they considered British aggression and insults such as the . writes: "The other war hawks spoke of the struggle with Britain as a second war of independence; ndrewJackson, who still bore scars from the first war of independence, held that view with special conviction. The approaching conflict was about violations of American rights, but it was also about vindication of American identity". Some Americans at the time and some historians since have called it a "Second War of Independence" for the United States. The young republic had been involved in several struggles to uphold what it regarded as their rights, and honour, as an independent nation. The had resulted in an apparent victory but with the continued payment of ransoms. The against the French had involved single ship naval clashes over trade rights similar to the ones about to occur with Britain. Upholding national honour and being able to protect American rights was part of the background to the US political and diplomatic attitudes towards Britain in the early 1800s. At the same time, the British public were offended by what they considered insults, such as the . This gave them a particular interest in capturing the American ', an act that they successfully realized in 1815. They were also keen to maintain what they saw as their rights to stop and search neutral vessels as part of their war with France, and further ensure that their own commercial interests were protected.

Impressment, trade, and naval actions

Britain was the largest trading partner of the United States, receiving 80 percent of American and 50 percent of all other American s. The British public and press resented the growing mercantile and commercial competition. Historian Reginald Horsman states that "a large section of influential British opinion ..thought that the United States presented a threat to British maritime supremacy". During the , Britain introduced rules governing trade with their enemies. The , which the US had temporarily agreed to when signing the , stated that a neutral nation could not conduct trade with an enemy, if that trade was closed to them before hostilities had commenced. Since the beginning of Britain's war with France in 1793, the US merchant marine had been making a fortune continuing trading with both nations, America's share of trans-Atlantic trade growing from 250 thousand tons in 1790 to 981 thousand tons in 1810, in the process. Of particular concern to the British was the transport of goods from the French West Indies to France, something the US would have been unable to do, due to French rules, during times of peace. The United States' view was that the treaty they had signed violated its right to trade with others, and in order to circumvent the Rule of 1756, American ships would stop at a neutral port to unload and reload their cargo before continuing to France. These actions were challenged in the of 1805. In 1806, with parts of the Jay Treaty due to expire, a new agreement was sought. The offered the US preferential trading rights, and would have settled most its issues with Britain but did not moderate the Rule of 1756 and only offered to exercise "extreme caution" and "immediate and prompt redress" with regard to impressment of Americans. Jefferson, who had specifically asked for these two points to be extirpated, refused to put the treaty before the senate. Later, in 1806, Napoleon's declared a blockade of the British Isles, forbade neutral vessels harbour in British ports and declared all British made goods carried on neutral ships lawful prizes of war. The British responded in 1807 with which similarly forbade any shipping to France. By 1807, when Napoleon introduced his , declaring all ships touching at British ports to be legitimate prizes of war, it had become almost impossible for the US to remain neutral. Between 1804 and 1807, 731 American ships were seized by Britain or France for violation of one of the blockades, roughly two thirds by Britain. Since the Jay Treaty, France had also adopted an aggressive attitude to American neutrality. Whereas Britain, through a process known as pre-emption, compensated American ship owners for their losses, France did not. French frigates burned American grain ships heading for Britain and treated American sailors as prisoners of war. US–French relations had soured so much, that by 1812, Madison was also considering war with France. As a result of these increasing trade volumes during the the became the world's largest neutral shipping fleet. Between 1802 and 1810, it nearly doubled, which meant that there were insufficient experienced sailors in the United States to man it. To overcome this shortfall, British seamen were recruited, who were attracted by the better pay and conditions. It was estimated that 30% (23,000) of the 70,000 men employed on American ships were British. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British expanded to 600 ships, requiring 140,000 sailors. The Royal Navy could man its ships with volunteers in peacetime, but in wartime, competing with merchant shipping and s for the pool of experienced sailors, it turned to from ashore and at sea. Since 1795 the had been in use to feed men to the navy but it was not alone sufficient. Though most saw it as necessary, the practice of impressment was detested by most Britons. It was illegal under British law to impress foreign sailors; but it was the accepted practice of the era for nations to retrieve seamen of their own nationality from foreign navies during times of war. However, in the nineteen years Britain was at war with France prior to the war of 1812 some ten thousand American citizens were impressed into the British navy. The American ambassador in London, , under President Thomas Jefferson, protested to the British Foreign Office that more than fifteen thousand Americans had been impressed into the Royal Navy since March 1803. When asked for a list however, the Madison administration was only able to produce one based on hearsay, with 6,257 names, many of which were duplicated, and included those that had legitimately volunteered to serve. By 1804 the incidents of impressment of Americans had sharply increased. Underlying the dispute was the issue that Britain and the United States viewed nationality differently. The United States believed that British seamen, including naval deserters, had a right to become American citizens. In reality few actually went through the formal process. Regardless Britain did not recognize a right for a British subject to relinquish his citizenship and become a citizen of another country. The Royal Navy therefore considered any American citizen subject to impressment if he was born British. American reluctance to issue formal papers and the widespread use of unofficial or forged identity or among sailors made it difficult for the Royal Navy to tell native born-Americans from naturalized-Americans and even non-Americans, and led it to impress some American sailors who had never been British. Though Britain was willing to release from service anyone who could establish their American citizenship, the process often took years while the men in question remained impressed in the British Navy. However, from 1793 to 1812 up to 15,000 Americans had been impressed while many appeals for release were simply ignored or dismissed for other reasons. There were also cases when the also impressed British sailors. Once impressed, any seaman, regardless of citizenship, could accept a recruitment bounty and was then no longer considered impressed but a "volunteer", further complicating matters. American anger with Britain grew when Royal Navy s were stationed just outside American harbours in view of American shores to search ships for goods bound to France and impress men within the United States territorial waters. Well-publicized events outraged the American public such as the and the ''Chesapeake''–''Leopard'' affair. The British public were outraged in their turn by the in which the larger in search of HMS ''Guerriere'' instead clashed with a small British , resulting in the deaths of 11 British sailors. While both sides claimed that the other fired first, the British public particularly blamed the United States for attacking a smaller vessel, with calls in some newspapers for revenge. ''President'' had sighted and chased HMS ''Little Belt'' trying to determine her identity throughout the afternoon. The first shot took place after an exchange of hails had still failed to identify either ship to the other in the growing dusk. After 45 minutes of battle, taking place in darkness, ''Little Belt'' had received much damage, with several holes to her hull near the water-line and her rigging "cut to pieces". ''President''s Captain Rodgers claimed ''Little Belt'' had fired first; but he did not ascertain her size or country of origin until dawn. After sending over a boat, Rodgers expressed regret and apologized for the 'unfortunate affair'. ''Little Belt''s Captain claimed the opposite: ''President'' had fired first and had been manoeuvring in a such a way as to make him think she was planning an attack. Historian Jonathon Hooks echoes the view of and several other historians, that it is impossible to determine who fired the first shot. Both sides held inquiries which upheld their captain's actions and version of events. Meanwhile, the American public regarded the incident as just retribution for the Chesapeake–Leopard affair and were encouraged by their victory over the Royal Navy, while the British regarded it as unprovoked aggression.

Canada and the US

Whether the annexation of Canada was a primary American war objective has been debated by historians. Some argue it was an outcome of the failure to change British policy through economic coercion or negotiation, leaving invasion as the only way for the US to place pressure on Britain. This view was summarised by , who said " might be necessary to invade Canada, not as an object of the war but as a means to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion". Occupation would also disrupt supplies to colonies in the and Royal Navy, and prevent the British arming their allies among the Indian nations of the . Nevertheless, even though President Madison claimed permanent annexation was not an objective, he recognised once acquired it would be "difficult to relinquish". A large faction in Congress actively advocated this policy, including , who stated "I shall never die content until I see England's expulsion from North America and her territories incorporated into the United States". claimed "the Author of Nature Himself had marked our limits in the south, by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the north, by the regions of eternal frost". Both saw the war as part of a divine plan to unify the two countries, Johnson being its leading exponent. Others considered annexation a matter of domestic economic and political necessity. Tennessee Congressman was one of many who saw it as essential to preserve the balance between that might be disrupted by the incorporation of territories in the acquired in the 1803 . Control of the , the major outlet for trade between Europe and the , was a long-standing American ambition, going back to the early years of the Revolutionary War, and supported by powerful economic interests in the North-West. Madison also viewed it as a way to prevent American smugglers using the river as a conduit for undercutting his trade policies. All these groups assumed American troops would be greeted as liberators, guaranteeing an easy conquest. believed taking "...Canada this year, as far as..., will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on , the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent". In 1812, Canada had around 525,000 inhabitants, two thirds of whom were French-speakers living in Quebec. , now southern , had a population of less than 75,000, primarily exiles and recent immigrants from the . The former were implacably hostile to the US, the latter largely uninterested in politics and their loyalties unknown; unlike the in 1845, they were too few to provide a critical mass of pro-American support, while many followed their Loyalist neighbours and joined Canadian militia. Absence of local backing prevented American forces from establishing a foothold in the area, and of ten attempts to invade Upper Canada between 1812 and 1814, the vast majority ended in bloody failure.

US policy in the Northwest Territory

The , a region between the , the , , and , was a long-standing source of conflict in 18th and early 19th-century North America. This arose when settlers from the moved onto lands owned by the indigenous inhabitants, a collection of and -speaking peoples, chiefly the , , , , , , and . When was defeated in 1766, they generally accepted British sovereignty but retained ownership of their lands, while the prohibited colonial settlement west of the Appalachians, a grievance that contributed to the outbreak of the . The territory was ceded in 1783 to the new American government, who encouraged its citizens to settle in the region and ignored the rights of local inhabitants. In response, the tribes formed the which from 1786 to 1795 fought against the US in the , with military support provided by British forts along the . After the 1794 , the British handed over these strongpoints to the US, most notably , and abandoned their indigenous allies, who signed the 1795 with the American government. Under the treaty, they ceded most of what is now the state of but granted title to the rest of their lands in perpetuity, a commitment the US government had already secretly agreed to ignore. A key factor in this policy was the acquisition by France of the in 1800, which meant the US faced an expansionist power on its northwestern border, rather than a weak Spain. To ensure control of the , President incorporated the region into the , which originally contained the modern states of , , and . He appointed as governor, ordering him to acquire as much land as possible beyond the Greenville line, using deception if needed. In doing so, Harrison was helped by vague and competing claims, since tribes whose title to the lands was either limited or disputed were happy to sign them away in return for bribes. Although the December 1803 ended the French threat, between 1803 and 1805 he obtained extensive territorial cessions in the treaties of , , and . The policies adopted by Harrison meant low-level conflict between local tribes and American settlers quickly escalated post-1803. In 1805, a Shawnee leader named launched a nativist religious movement that rejected American culture and values, while his elder brother organized a new confederacy to defend their territory against settler encroachment. They established a community at in 1808, gaining support from young warriors and traditional chiefs including the Wyandot leader and from the Potawatomi. The , , and peoples, who lived along the Upper Mississippi and , initially rejected Tenskwatawa's message because of their dependence on the , but continued settler incursions into their lands meant they too became hostile to the U.S. Britain traditionally maintained good relations with the local people by handing out gifts, including arms and ammunition; after 1795, they ended this policy and advised the tribes to live peacefully with the American government. Their position changed following the 1808 Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, when the Northwest came to be seen as a buffer against an American attack on Upper Canada. They re-started the distribution of gifts and offered the tribes a defensive alliance if war broke out with the US, while urging them to refrain from aggressive action in the meantime. The situation worsened after the 1809 ; negotiated primarily with the Lenape, it included lands claimed by the Shawnee and Tecumseh insisted it was invalid without the consent of all the tribes. Alarmed at the threat posed by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, in 1811 Harrison secured permission to attack them. Taking advantage of Tecumseh's absence, he marched on Prophetstown with an army of nearly 1,000 men; in the ensuing , the Americans first repulsed an attack by forces under Tenskwatawa, then destroyed Prophetstown. Fighting along the frontier escalated, while Tecumseh reconstituted his confederacy and allied with the British. This action strengthened American hostility against Britain in the run up to the War of 1812, with many blaming them for unrest on the frontier, rather than government policy. in the ensuing conflict, most of the Northwest nations supported the British, including the previously neutral tribes of the Upper Mississippi.

Internal American political conflict

The United States was in a period of significant political conflict between the (based mainly in the Northeast) and the (with its greatest power base in the South and West). The Federalists, who sympathized with Britain and their struggle with Napoleonic France, were criticized by the Democratic-Republicans for being too close to Britain, while the Federalists countered that the Democratic-Republicans were allied to France, a country headed by Napoleon, who was seen as a dictator. The Federalist Party favoured a strong central government and closer ties to Britain while the Democratic-Republican Party favoured a smaller central government, preservation of states' rights (including slavery), westward expansion and a stronger break with Britain. By 1812, the Republicans believed that the Federalists in New England were conspiring with the British who were forming alliances with the various Indian tribes while recruiting "late Loyalists" in Canada, to break up the union. Instead, the war served to alienate the Federalists who were ready to trade and even smuggle with the British rather than to fight them. By 1812, the Federalist Party had weakened considerably and the Republicans were in a strong position, with James Madison completing his first term of office and control of Congress. Support for the American cause was weak in Federalist areas of the Northeast throughout the war as fewer men volunteered to serve and the banks avoided financing the war. The negativism of the Federalists ruined the party's reputation post-war, as exemplified by the of 1814–1815, and the party survived only in scattered areas. By 1815, after the victory at the , there was broad support for the war from all parts of the country. This allowed the triumphant Democratic-Republicans to adopt some Federalist policies, such as the national bank, which Madison re-established in 1816.



During the years 1810–1812, American naval ships were divided into two major squadrons, with the "northern division", based at New York, commanded by Commodore John Rodgers, and the "southern division,", based at Norfolk, commanded by Commodore Stephen Decatur. Although not much of a threat to Canada in 1812, the United States Navy was a well-trained and professional force comprising over 5,000 sailors and marines. It had 14 ocean-going warships with three of its five "super-frigates" non-operational at the onset of the war. Its principal problem was lack of funding, as many in Congress did not see the need for a strong navy. The biggest ships in the American navy were frigates and there were no capable of engaging in a with the Royal Navy. On the high seas, the Americans pursued a strategy of , capturing or sinking British with their frigates and privateers. The Navy was largely concentrated on the Atlantic coast before the war as it had only two s on , one on Lake Ontario and another brig in Lake Erie when the war began. The was initially much larger than the British Army in North America. Many men carried their own s while the British were issued muskets, except for one unit of 500 riflemen. Leadership was inconsistent in the American officer corps as some officers proved themselves to be outstanding, but many others were inept, owing their positions to political favours. Congress was hostile to a and the government called out 450,000 men from the during the war. The were poorly trained, armed, and led. The failed invasion of Lake Champlain led by General Dearborn illustrates this. The British Army soundly defeated the Maryland and Virginia militias at the in 1814 and President Madison commented "I could never have believed so great a difference existed between regular troops and a militia force, if I had not witnessed the scenes of this day".


The United States was only a secondary concern to Britain, so long as the war continued with France. In 1813, France had 80 ships-of-the-line and was building another 35 and containing the French fleet was the main British naval concern, leaving only the ships on the and Stations immediately available. In Upper Canada, the British had the . While largely unarmed, they were essential for keeping the army supplied since the roads were abysmal in Upper Canada. At the onset of war the Provincial Marine had four small armed vessels on , three on and one on . The Provincial Marine greatly outnumbered anything the Americans could bring to bear on the Great Lakes. When the war broke out, the British Army in North America numbered 9,777 men in regular units and . While the British Army was engaged in the , few reinforcements were available. Although the British were outnumbered, the long-serving regulars and fencibles were better trained and more professional than the hastily expanded . The militias of Upper Canada and Lower Canada were initially far less effective, but substantial numbers of full-time militia were raised during the war and played pivotal roles in several engagements, including the which caused the Americans to abandon the Saint Lawrence River theatre.

Indigenous peoples

The highly decentralized bands and tribes considered themselves allies of, and not subordinates to, the British or the Americans. Various Indian tribes fighting with United States forces provided them with their "most effective light troops" while the British needed indigenous allies to compensate for their numerical inferiority. The indigenous allies of the British, in the west and in the east avoided pitched battles and relied on , including raids and ambushes that took advantage of their knowledge of terrain. In addition, they were highly mobile, able to march 30–50 miles a day. Their leaders sought to fight only under favourable conditions and would avoid any battle that promised heavy losses, doing what they thought best for their tribes, much to the annoyance of both American and British generals. The indigenous fighters saw no issue with withdrawing if needed to save casualties. They always sought to surround an enemy, where possible, to avoid being surrounded and make effective use of the terrain. Their main weapons were a mixture of s, rifles, bows, s, knives and swords as well as clubs, bows and melee weapons, which sometimes had the advantage of being quieter than guns.

Declaration of war

On 1 June 1812, President sent a message to Congress recounting American grievances against Great Britain, though not specifically calling for a declaration of war. The then deliberated for four days behind closed doors before voting 79 to 49 (61%) in favour of . The concurred in the declaration by a 19 to 13 (59%) vote in favour. The declaration focused mostly on maritime issues, especially involving British blockades, with two thirds of the indictment devoted to such impositions, initiated by Britain's .} The conflict began formally on 18 June 1812, when Madison signed the measure into law. He proclaimed it the next day, while it was not a formal declaration of war. This was the first time that the United States had declared war on another nation and the Congressional vote was the closest vote in American history to formally declare war. None of the 39 s in Congress voted in favour of the war, while other critics referred to it as "Mr. Madison's War". Just days after war had been declared, a small number of Federalists in were attacked for printing anti-war views in a newspaper, which eventually led to over a month of deadly in the city. Prime Minister was in London on 11 May and came to power. He wanted a more practical relationship with the United States. On June 23, he issued a repeal of the , but the United States was unaware of this, as it took three weeks for the news to cross the Atlantic. On 28 June 1812, was despatched from Halifax to New York under a flag of truce. She anchored off on July 9 and left three days later carrying a copy of the declaration of war, British ambassador to the United States and consul Colonel . She arrived in eight days later. The news of the declaration took even longer to reach London. British commander in Upper Canada received the news much faster. He issued a proclamation alerting citizens to the state of war and urging all military personnel "to be vigilant in the discharge of their duty", so as to prevent communication with the enemy and to arrest anyone suspected of helping the Americans. He also issued orders to the commander of the British post at to initiate offensive operations against American forces in northern Michigan who were not yet aware of their own government's declaration of war. The resulting on 17 July was the first major land engagement of the war and ended in an easy British victory.

Course of war

The war was conducted in three theatres: # The and the Canadian frontier. # At sea, principally the Atlantic Ocean and the American east coast. # The Southern states and southwestern territories.


The war had been preceded by years of diplomatic dispute, yet neither side was ready for war when it came. Britain was heavily engaged in the , most of the British Army was deployed in the in Portugal and Spain, and the was blockading most of the coast of Europe. The number of British regular troops present in Canada in July 1812 was officially 6,034, supported by additional Canadian militia. Throughout the war, the British was , who had few troops to spare for reinforcing North America defences during the first two years of the war. He urged Lieutenant General to maintain a defensive strategy. Prévost, who had the trust of the Canadians, followed these instructions and concentrated on defending Lower Canada at the expense of Upper Canada, which was more vulnerable to American attacks and allowed few offensive actions. Unlike campaigns along the east coast, Prevost had to operate with no support from the Royal Navy. The United States was also not prepared for war. Madison had assumed that the state militias would easily seize Canada and that negotiations would follow. In 1812, the regular army consisted of fewer than 12,000 men. Congress authorized the expansion of the army to 35,000 men, but the service was voluntary and unpopular; it paid poorly and there were initially few trained and experienced officers. The militia objected to serving outside their home states, they were undisciplined and performed poorly against British forces when called upon to fight in unfamiliar territory. Multiple militia refused orders to cross the border and fight on Canadian soil. American prosecution of the war suffered from its unpopularity, especially in where anti-war speakers were vocal. Massachusetts Congressmen and were "publicly insulted and hissed" in Boston while a mob seized Plymouth's Chief Justice on 3 August 1812 "and kicked through the town". The United States had great difficulty financing its war. It had disbanded its , and private bankers in the Northeast were opposed to the war, but it obtained financing from London-based to cover overseas obligations. New England failed to provide militia units or financial support, which was a serious blow, and New England states made loud threats to secede as evidenced by the . Britain exploited these divisions, blockading only southern ports for much of the war and encouraging smuggling.

Great Lakes and Western Territories

Invasions of Upper and Lower Canada, 1812

An American army commanded by invaded Upper Canada on July 12, arriving at Sandwich () after crossing the . His forces were chiefly composed of untrained and ill-disciplined militiamen. Hull issued a proclamation ordering all British subjects to surrender, or "the horrors, and calamities of war will stalk before you". The proclamation said that Hull wanted to free them from the "tyranny" of Great Britain, giving them the liberty, security, and wealth that his own country enjoyed—unless they preferred "war, slavery and destruction". He also threatened to kill any British soldier caught fighting alongside indigenous fighters. Hull's proclamation only helped to stiffen resistance to the American attacks as he lacked artillery and supplies. Hull also had to fight just to maintain his own lines of communication. Hull withdrew to the American side of the river on 7 August 1812 after receiving news of a on Major 's 200 men, who had been sent to support the American supply convoy. Half of Horne's troops had been killed. Hull had also faced a lack of support from his officers and fear among his troops of a possible massacre by unfriendly indigenous forces. A group of 600 troops led by Lieutenant Colonel remained in Canada, attempting to supply the American position in the Sandwich area, with little success. Major General believed that he should take bold measures to calm the settler population in Canada and to convince the tribes that Britain was strong. He moved to near the western end of Lake Erie with reinforcements and , using as his stronghold. Hull feared that the British possessed superior numbers; also lacked adequate gunpowder and cannonballs to withstand a long siege. He agreed to surrender on 16 August, saving his 2,500 soldiers and 700 civilians from "the horrors of an Indian massacre", as he wrote. Hull also ordered the evacuation of (Chicago) to , but warriors ambushed them, escorted them back to the fort where they were on 15 August after they had travelled only . The fort was subsequently burned. Brock moved to the eastern end of Lake Erie, where American General was attempting a second invasion. The Americans attempted an attack across the on 13 October, but they were defeated . Brock was killed during the battle and British leadership suffered after his death. American General made a final attempt to advance north from , but his militia refused to go beyond American territory.

American Northwest, 1813

After Hull surrendered Detroit, General took command of the American . He set out to retake the city, which was now defended by Colonel and Tecumseh. A detachment of Harrison's army was defeated at along the on 22 January 1813. Procter left the prisoners with an inadequate guard and his Potowatomie allies killed and scalped . The defeat ended Harrison's campaign against Detroit, but "Remember the River Raisin!" became a rallying cry for the Americans. In May 1813, Procter and Tecumseh set in northwestern Ohio. Tecumseh's fighters ambushed American reinforcements who arrived during the siege, but the fort held out. The fighters eventually began to disperse, forcing Procter and Tecumseh to return to Canada. Along the way they attempted to , a small American post on the near . They were repulsed with serious losses, marking the end of the Ohio campaign. Captain fought the on 10 September 1813. His decisive victory at ensured American military control of the lake, improved American morale after a series of defeats and compelled the British to fall back from Detroit. This enabled General Harrison to launch another invasion of Upper Canada, which culminated in the American victory at the on 5 October 1813, where was killed.

Niagara frontier, 1813

Both sides placed great importance on gaining control of the and the because of the difficulties of land-based communication. The British already had a small squadron of warships on when the war began and had the initial advantage. The Americans established a Navy yard at , a port on . Commodore took charge of the thousands of sailors and s assigned there and recruited more from New York. They completed a warship (the corvette ) in 45 days. Ultimately, almost 3,000 men at the shipyard built 11 warships and many smaller boats and transports. Army forces were also stationed at Sackett's Harbor, where they camped out through the town, far surpassing the small population of 900. Officers were housed with families. was later built at Sackett's Harbor. Having regained the advantage by their rapid building program, on 27 April 1813 Chauncey and Dearborn attacked , the capital of . At the , the outnumbered British regulars destroyed the fort and dockyard and retreated, leaving the militia to surrender the town. American soldiers set fire to the Legislature building, and looted and vandalized several government buildings and citizens' homes. On 25 May 1813, Fort Niagara and the American Lake Ontario squadron began bombarding . An American amphibious force assaulted Fort George on the northern end of the on 27 May and captured it without serious losses. The British abandoned and headed towards . The British position was close to collapsing in Upper Canada; the considered changing sides and ignored a British appeal to come to their aid. However, the Americans did not pursue the retreating British forces until they had largely escaped and organized a counter-offensive at the on 5 June. The British launched a surprise attack at 2 a.m., leading to confused fighting and a strategic British victory. The Americans pulled back to Forty Mile Creek rather than continue their advance into Upper Canada. At this point, the began to come out to fight for the British as an American victory no longer seemed inevitable. The Iroquois ambushed an American patrol at Forty Mile Creek while the Royal Navy squadron based in Kingston sailed in and bombarded the American camp. General Dearborn retreated to , mistakenly believing that he was outnumbered and outgunned. British Brigadier General was encouraged when about 800 Iroquois arrived to assist him. An American force surrendered on 24 June to a smaller British force due to advance warning by at the , marking the end of the American offensive into Upper Canada. British Major General did not have the strength to retake Fort George, so he instituted a blockade, hoping to starve the Americans into surrender. Meanwhile, Commodore had taken charge of the British ships on the lake and mounted a counterattack, which the Americans repulsed at the . Thereafter, Chauncey and Yeo's squadrons fought two indecisive actions, off the Niagara on 7 August and at Burlington Bay on 28 September. Neither commander was prepared to take major risks to gain a complete victory. Late in 1813, the Americans abandoned the Canadian territory that they occupied around Fort George. They set fire to the village of Newark (now ) on 10 December 1813, incensing the Canadians. Many of the inhabitants were left without shelter, freezing to death in the snow. The British retaliated following their on 18 December 1813. The British and their Indian allies stormed the neighbouring town of on 19 December, torching homes and killing about a dozen civilians. The British were pursuing the surviving residents when a small force of warriors intervened, buying enough time for the civilians to escape to safer ground. The British and burned on Lake Erie on 30 December 1813 in revenge for the attack on and Newark in May.

St. Lawrence and Lower Canada, 1813

The British were vulnerable along the stretch of the St. Lawrence that was between Upper Canada and the United States. In the winter of 1812–1813, the Americans launched a series of raids from that hampered British supply traffic up the river. On 21 February, passed through on the opposite bank of the river with reinforcements for Upper Canada. When he left the next day, the reinforcements and local militia attacked in the and the Americans were forced to retreat. The Americans made two more thrusts against Montreal in 1813. Major General was to march north from and join a force under General that would sail from Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario and descend the St. Lawrence. Hampton was delayed by road and supply problems and his intense dislike of Wilkinson limited his desire to support his plan. defeated Hampton's force of 4,000 at the on 25 October with a smaller force of and . Salaberry's force numbered only 339, but it had a strong defensive position. Wilkinson's force of 8,000 set out on 17 October, but it was delayed by weather. Wilkinson heard that a British force was pursuing him under Captain and Lieutenant Colonel and landed near by 10 November, about 150 kilometres (90 mi) from Montreal. On 11 November, his rear guard of 2,500 attacked Morrison's force of 800 at and was repulsed with heavy losses. He learned that Hampton could not renew his advance, retreated to the United States and settled into winter quarters. He resigned his command after a failed attack on a British outpost at .

Niagara and Plattsburgh campaigns, 1814

The Americans again invaded the Niagara frontier. They had occupied southwestern Upper Canada after they defeated Colonel Henry Procter at in October and believed that taking the rest of the province would force the British to cede it to them. The end of the war with Napoleon in Europe in April 1814 meant that the British could deploy their army to North America, so the Americans wanted to secure Upper Canada to negotiate from a position of strength. They planned to invade via the Niagara frontier while sending another force to recapture Mackinac. They captured on 3 July 1814. Unaware of Fort Erie's fall or of the size of the American force, the British general engaged with , who won against a British force at the on 5 July. The American forces had been through a hard training under Winfield Scott and proved to the professionals under fire. They would deploy in a shallow U formation bringing flanking fire and well-aimed volleys against Riall's men. Riall's men were chased off the battlefield. An attempt to advance further ended with the hard-fought but inconclusive on July 25. The battle was fought several miles north of near Niagara Falls and is considered the bloodiest and costliest battle of the war. Both sides stood their ground as American General pulled back to Fort George after the battle and the British did not pursue. Commanders Riall, Scott, Brown and Drummond were all wounded; Scott's wounds ended his commission for the rest of the war. The Americans withdrew but withstood a prolonged . The British tried to storm Fort Erie on 14 August 1814, but they suffered heavy losses, losing 950 killed, wounded and captured compared to only 84 dead and wounded on the American side. The British were further weakened by exposure and shortage of supplies. Eventually, they raised the siege, but American Major General took over command on the Niagara front and followed up only halfheartedly. An American raid along the destroyed many farms and weakened British logistics. In October 1814, the Americans advanced into Upper Canada and engaged in skirmishes at , but they pulled back when they heard that the new British warship , launched in Kingston that September, was on its way, armed with 104 guns. The Americans lacked provisions and retreated across the Niagara after destroying Fort Erie. Meanwhile, 15,000 British troops were sent to North America under four of Wellington's ablest brigade commanders after Napoleon abdicated. Fewer than half were veterans of the Peninsula and the rest came from garrisons. Prévost was ordered to neutralize American power on the lakes by burning Sackett's Harbor to gain naval control of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the Upper Lakes as well as to defend Lower Canada from attack. He did defend Lower Canada but otherwise failed to achieve his objectives, so he decided to invade New York State. His army outnumbered the American defenders of , but he was worried about his flanks and decided that he needed naval control of Lake Champlain. Upon reaching Plattsburgh, Prévost delayed the assault until Downie arrived in the hastily completed 36-gun frigate . Despite the Confiance not being fully completed, she had a raw crew that had never worked together. Prévost forced Downie into a premature attack when there was no reason for the rush. The British squadron on the lake under Captain was more evenly matched by the Americans under Master Commandant . At the Battle of Plattsburgh on 11 September 1814, the British had the advantage of larger vessels and guns; the American gunboats were more suited to engagements on Lake Champlain, while MacDonough was able to manoeuvre his ships using pulley lines attached to anchors. Early in the battle each side lost a ship; Downie was killed by the recoil of a loose gun carriage while MacDonough was twice knocked down and dazed. After two and a half hours suffered heavy casualties and struck her colours and the rest of the British fleet retreated. Prevost, already alienated from his veteran officers by insisting on proper dress codes, now lost their confidence, while MacDonough emerged as a national hero. The Americans now had control of Lake Champlain; later termed it "the greatest naval battle of the war". General led the successful land defence. Prévost then turned back, to the astonishment of his senior officers, saying that it was too hazardous to remain on enemy territory after the loss of naval supremacy. He was recalled to London, where a naval court-martial decided that defeat had been caused principally by Prévost urging the squadron into premature action and then failing to afford the promised support from the land forces. He died suddenly, just before his court-martial was to convene. His reputation sank to a new low as Canadians claimed that their militia under Brock did the job but Prévost failed. However, recent historians have been kinder. Peter Burroughs argues that his preparations were energetic, well-conceived, and comprehensive for defending the Canadas with limited means and that he achieved the primary objective of preventing an American conquest.

American West, 1813–1815

The valley was the western frontier of the United States in 1812. The territory acquired in the of 1803 contained almost no American settlements west of the Mississippi except around and a few forts and trading posts in the . was an old converted to an Army post in 1804 and this served as regional headquarters. , built in 1808 along the , was the westernmost American outpost, but it was abandoned at the start of the war. was built along the Mississippi in Iowa in 1808 and had been repeatedly attacked by British-allied since its construction. The United States Army abandoned Fort Madison in September 1813 after the indgenous fighters attacked it and besieged it—with support from the British. This was one of the few battles fought west of the Mississippi. played a leadership role. The and the recapture of Detroit isolated the British on Lake Huron. In the winter a Canadian party under Lieutenant Colonel established a new supply line from York to on . He arrived at on 18 May with supplies and more than 400 militia and Indians, then sent an expedition which the key trading post of , on the Upper Mississippi. The Americans dispatched a substantial expedition to relieve the fort, but Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo warriors under Black Hawk ambushed it and forced it to withdraw with heavy losses in the In September 1814, the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo, supported by part of Prairie du Chien's British garrison, repulsed a second American force led by Major in the . These victories enabled the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo to harass American garrisons further to the south, which led the Americans to abandon , in central Illinois Territory. Consequently, the Americans lost control of almost all of Illinois Territory, although they held onto the St. Louis area and eastern . However, the Sauk raided even into these territories, clashing with American forces at the Battle of in April 1815 at the mouth of the in the and the in May 1815 near . This left the British and their Indian allies in control of most of modern Illinois and all of modern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the British were supplying the Indians in the Old Northwest from Montreal via Mackinac. On 3 July, the Americans sent a force of five vessels from Detroit to recapture Mackinac. A mixed force of regulars and volunteers from the militia landed on the island on 4 August. They did not attempt to achieve surprise, and Indians ambushed them in the brief and forced them to re-embark. The Americans discovered the new base at Nottawasaga Bay and on 13 August they destroyed its fortifications and the schooner ' that they found there. They then returned to Detroit, leaving two gunboats to blockade Mackinac. On 4 September, the gunboats were taken unawares and captured by British boarding parties from canoes and small boats. These left Mackinac under British control. The British returned Mackinac and other captured territory to the United States after the war. Some British officers and Canadians objected to handing back Prairie du Chien and especially Mackinac under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent. However, the Americans retained the captured post at Fort Malden near until the British complied with the treaty. Fighting between Americans, the Sauk and other indigenous tribes continued through 1817, well after the war ended in the east.

Atlantic theatre

Opening strategies

In 1812, Britain's Royal Navy was the world's largest and most powerful navy, with over 600 vessels in commission, following the defeat of the French Navy at the in 1805. Most of these ships were employed blockading the French navy and protecting British trade against French privateers, but the Royal Navy still had 85 vessels in American waters, counting all North American and Caribbean waters. However, the Royal Navy's North American squadron was the most immediately available force, based in and , and numbered one small and seven s as well as nine smaller and s and five s. By contrast, the entire was composed of 8 frigates, 14 smaller sloops and brigs, with no ships of the line. The United States had embarked on a major shipbuilding program before the war at to provide ships for use on the Great Lakes, and continued to produce new ships. The British strategy was to protect their own merchant shipping between Halifax and the West Indies, with the order given on 13 October 1812 to enforce a blockade of major American ports to restrict American trade.
Because of their numerical inferiority, the American strategy was to cause disruption through hit-and-run tactics such as the capturing prizes and engaging Royal Navy vessels only under favourable circumstances. Days after the formal declaration of war, the United States put out two small squadrons, including the frigate ''President'' and the sloop under Commodore and the frigates ''United States'' and , with the brig under Captain . These were initially concentrated as one unit under Rodgers, who intended to force the Royal Navy to concentrate its own ships to prevent isolated units being captured by his powerful force. Large numbers of American merchant ships were returning to the United States with the outbreak of war and the Royal Navy could not watch all the ports on the American seaboard if they were concentrated together. Rodgers' strategy worked in that the Royal Navy concentrated most of its frigates off under Captain , allowing many American ships to reach home. However, Rodgers' own cruise captured only five small merchant ships, and the Americans never subsequently concentrated more than two or three ships together as a unit.

Single-ship actions

The more recently built frigates of the US Navy were intended to overmatch their opponents. The United States of America did not believe that it could build a large enough navy to contest with the Royal Navy in fleet actions. As such where it could be done, individual ships were built to be tougher, larger, and carry more firepower, than the equivalent in European navies.With this in mind the newest three 44-gun ships were designed with a 24-pounder main battery. These frigates were intended to demolish the 36 to 38 gun (18-pounder) armed frigates that were by far the majority of the world's navies, while being able to evade larger ships. Similarly the Wasp class ship-sloops were an over-match to the Cruizer class brigs being employed by the British. The Royal Navy maintaining more than 600 ships, in fleets and stations worldwide, was overstretched and undermanned. Its crews were also with a few exceptions, less practiced and drilled with their guns than the crews of the smaller US Navy. This meant that in single-ship actions the Royal Navy ships often found themselves against larger ships with larger crews, who were better drilled, as intended by the US planners. However naval ships do not fight as individuals by the code of the duel, they are national instruments of war, and are used as such. The Royal Navy counted on its numbers, experience, and traditions to overcome the individually superior vessels. As the US Navy found itself mostly blockaded by the end of the war, the Royal Navy was correct. For all the fame that these actions received, they in no way affected the outcome of the results of Atlantic theatre of War. The final count of frigates lost was three on each side, with most of the US Navy blockaded in port. During the war, the United States Navy captured 165 British merchantmen (although privateers captured many more) while the Royal Navy captured 1,400 American merchantmen. More significantly, the British blockade of the Atlantic coast caused the majority of warships to be unable to put to sea and shut down both American imports and exports. 19 August 1812, 2pm 750 miles east of Boston the USS ''Constitution'' sighted HMS ''Guerriere''. After manoeuvring for advantage both ships were at broadsides at a range of 75 yards at 6:00pm. The first exchange of broadsides was delivered at 6:05pm. The result was very one-sided. ''Guerriere'' had lost her mizzenmast, mainyard, and many of her gun crews. With ''Guerriere''s mizzenmast in the water the ship was hard to manoeuvre. The return fire from ''Guerriere'' was far less successful. Two royal halyards fell and ''Constitution''s heavy scantlings and planking shrugged off the ''Guerriere''s fire. A failed boarding attempt was made by ''Guerriere'' and she swung helplessly into the wind as ''Constitution'' luffed by her bow raining down musket fire on her quarterdeck then raking her with a port broadside. Completely de-masted by ''Constitution''s fire the ''Guerriere'' surrendered. On 25 October, the USS ''United States'' commanded by Commodore Decatur captured the British frigate HMS ''Macedonian''. ''Macedonian'' was faster, and the USS ''United States'' was a notoriously slow vessel and ''Macedonian''s captain John S. Carden used this to keep the weather gage. Decatur hove round to two points off the wind, forcing ''Macedonian'' into a stern chase on a parallel course to maintain contact. This was a deliberate tactic, as it allowed for the superior range of ''United States'' 24-pounder guns. ''Macedonian'' closed the distance slowly. At 0900 hours both ships fired long-range broadsides to no effect. At 0920 ''United States'' opened fire again. This time ''Macedonian'' lost several carronades, her mizzen topmast, and her driver gaff. With this damage ''Macedonian'' had lost her sailing advantage. Decatur used this fact to take up a raking fire from ''Macedonian''s quarter. The results were horrific; cannonballs were flying through both sides of Macedonian, and the crew was slaughtered. Captain Carden felt that he had to surrender. USS ''Constitution'' vs On 29 December at 9:00 a.m., at sea off , Brazil. in search of prizes, ''Constitution'' sighted unknown sails on the distant horizon. Captain was initially unsure of the type and nationality of the ships, but hours later as they drew closer he was able to discern that the approaching vessels were large, and now assumed them to be British. ''Constitution'' hoisted the US private signal at 11:30 a.m., while the presumed British vessel, the frigate , also hoisted its signals, but neither ship made the correct counter-signal. p. 148 ''Constitution'', tacking the wind, made her way from the neutral Portuguese territorial waters with ''Java'' giving chase. The following day at 12:30 p.m. ''Java'' hoisted her colours and ensign with ''Constitution'' hoisting her colours in reply. With the affiliations of each ship now confirmed, ''Java'', with the to her advantage, came about to position herself to rake ''Constitution''. Being French-built, she was comparatively light for a frigate and was consequently faster and more manoeuvrable. In reply ''Constitution'' fired a shot across ''Java''s bow with ''Java'' returning fire with a full broadside. The opening phase of the action comprised both ships turning to and fro, attempting to get the better position for which to fire upon and rake the other, but with little success. Bainbridge now ''Constitution'' to a matching course and opened fire with a broadside at half a mile. This broadside accomplished nothing and forced Bainbridge to risk being raked in order to get closer to ''Java''.As the battle progressed a broadside from ''Java'' carried away ''Constitution''s helm, disabling her rudder and leaving Bainbridge severely wounded; however he retained command, refusing to sit out the battle. Both ships continued firing broadsides but by now ''Java'' had a mast and sail falling over her starboard side that prevented most of her guns on that side from firing, which also prevented her from laying alongside ''Constitution'' to board. The guns that attempted to fire only managed to set the fallen sail and rigging ablaze. After a battle lasting three hours, ''Java'' finally struck her colours and was burned after being judged unsalvageable. ''Constitution'' sustained considerable damage to both her hull and rigging. ''Java'' had fought hard and had the butcher's bill to show for it. In single ship battles, superior force was the most significant factor. In response to the majority of the American ships being of greater force than the British ships of the same class, Britain constructed five 40-gun, 24-pounder heavy frigates and two "spar-decked" frigates (the 60-gun and ) and others. To counter the American sloops of war, the British constructed the of 22 guns. The British Admiralty also instituted a new policy that the three American heavy frigates should not be engaged except by a ship of the line or frigates in squadron strength. . Despite her unlucky reputation Captain James Lawrence took the command of the in in May 1813. Up to 25% of Chesapeake's crew was new, and 50% of her officers. Those men had not practiced either gunnery or small arms. under Captain was on patrol off of the harbour. In a fleet that largely maintained blockades against the French Navy, most Royal Navy ships rarely practiced their guns. HMS ''Shannon'' was an exception. ''Shannon''s gunnery practice drills were noted from a Boston hill. However both captains were eager to engage, and both captains were disobeying orders not to engage enemy warships – one on one in duels in Shannon's case. Not at all in Lawrence's case. Captain Broke issued a challenge to Lawrence, who had however sailed to battle before receiving it. Initially Lawrence held the weather gauge but refused to use it, coming up on ''Shannon''s weather quarter. From the onset of the battle, ''Shannon''s superior small arms musketry told. Of interest, ''Chesapeake'' was holding her own with the great guns. ''Chesapeake'' lost her forward head-sails and her helmsman, lost way, and tangled rigging with ''Shannon''. By this stage most of her crew were wounded or dead. A boarding action captured ''Chesapeake'' at further cost to both crews. Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded and famously cried out to Lieutenant , "Tell the men to fire faster! Don't give up the ship!" Lawrence would die from wounds, Broke would barely survive the boarding action. This would prove to the bloodiest action of the war. In January 1813, the American frigate , commanded by Captain , sailed into the Pacific to harass British shipping. Many British whaling ships carried allowing them to prey on American whalers, and they had nearly destroyed the American industry. ''Essex'' challenged this practice and in turn inflicted considerable damage on British interests. The British dispatched and a collection of smaller vessels to hunt down the ''Essex''. Eventually ''Essex'' and her consort were captured off , by ''Phoebe'' and the sloop on 28 March 1814 in what statistically appears as battle of equal force as ''Essex'' and ''Phoebe'' were of similar tonnage, scantling and broadside weight. ''Cherub'' and ''Essex Junior'' were similarly matched. Once again the Americans had more men. Nevertheless, ''Phoebe'' was armed with long 18-pounder guns, where as ''Essex'' carried heavy but short ranged carronades. This gave the British a decisive long range advantage. To conclude the cycle of duels caused by the ''Little Belt'' affair, USS ''President'' was finally captured in January 1815. In her efforts to escape the blockade of New York ''President'' grounded on a sandbar but, after incurring damage, managed to break free into the Atlantic. Following the Royal Navy's standing orders, ''President'' was pursued by a squadron consisting of four frigates, one being a 56-gun . ''President'' was an extremely fast ship and successfully out-sailed the British squadron with the exception of , which has been regarded as the fastest ship in the age of fighting sail. Captain of ''Endymion'' had fitted his ship with 's gunnery technology as used on ''Shannon''. This gave him the slight advantage at range and he was able to slow ''President'' with rigging hits. Commodore Decatur commanding ''President'' had the advantage in scantling strength, firepower crew, and tonnage, but not in manoeuvrability. Despite having fewer guns, ''Endymion'' was armed with the larger 24-pounders just like ''President''. Using her speed ''Endymion'' was able to position herself to rake ''President'' and following Broke's philosophy of "Kill the man and the ship is yours", fired into the hull severely damaging her. ''President'' was left shot holes below the waterline, ten to fifteen starboard guns disabled, water in the hold and shot from ''Endymion'' were later found inside the . Decatur knew his only hope was to damage or disable the ''Endymion''s rigging and then outrun the rest of the squadron. However the cumulative damage told and he struck his colours. Both ships then paused to conduct repairs and Decatur took advantage of the fact ''Endymion'' had no boats intact to send over a prize crew with and attempted to escape under the cover of night. After the crew of the ''Endymion'' had quickly repaired her rigging, she, along with and finally overtook and captured the damaged ''President''. Later Decatur was to give unreliable accounts of the battle stating that ''President'' was already "severely damaged" by the grounding before the engagement, but was undamaged after the engagement with ''Endymion''. He stated ''Pomone'' caused "significant" losses aboard ''President'', although ''President''s crew claim they were below deck gathering their belongings as they had already surrendered. Despite saying "I surrender my ship to the captain of the black frigate", Decatur also writes that he said, "I surrender to the squadron". Nevertheless, many historians such as , and quote Decatur's remarks to either enforce that ''Endymion'' alone took ''President'' or that ''President'' surrendered to the whole squadron, when actually it was something in-between. The United States Navy's smaller ship-sloops had also won several victories over Royal Navy sloops-of-war of approximately equal armament. The American sloops , , , and were all -rigged while the British sloops that they encountered were -rigged, which gave the Americans a significant advantage. Ship rigged vessels are more manoeuvrable in battle because they have a wider variety of sails and thus being more resistant to damage. Ship-rigged vessels can back sail, literally backing up or heave to (stop). In the only engagement between two brig-sloops the ''Cruizer''-class brig overwhelmed the as she had greater firepower and tonnage, despite having less crew. , a that had been converted to a brig, took HMS ''Boxer'' a -class gun-brig. These ships were of a comparable size with similar crews. USS ''Enterprise'' led a chasing ''Boxer'' out on run then turned and let fly at 10 yards. The ''Boxer'' replied at the same time. The ''Boxer''s captain was killed instantly while ''Enterprise''s captain received a mortal wound. The quality of gunnery was better on the ''Enterprise'', demasting ''Boxer''. Unable to reply when ''Enterprise'' took up a raking position, ''Boxer'' surrendered.


The operations of American privateers proved a more significant threat to British trade than the United States Navy. They operated throughout the Atlantic until the close of the war, most notably from . American privateers reported taking 1300 British merchant vessels, compared to 254 taken by the United States Navy, although the insurer reported that only 1,175 British ships were taken, 373 of which were recaptured, for a total loss of 802. The Canadian historian Carl Benn wrote that American privateers took 1,344 British ships, of which 750 were retaken by the British. The British tried to limit privateering losses by the strict enforcement of by the and directly by capturing 278 American privateers. Due to the massive size of the British merchant fleet, American captures only affected 7.5% of the fleet, resulting in no supply shortages or lack of reinforcements for British forces in North America. Of 526 American privateers, 148 were captured by the Royal Navy and only 207 ever took a prize. Due to the large size of their navy, the British did not rely as much on privateering. The majority of the 1,407 captured American merchant ships were taken by the Royal Navy. The war was the last time the British allowed privateering, since the practice was coming to be seen as politically inexpedient and of diminishing value in maintaining its naval supremacy. However, privateering remained popular in British colonies. It was the last hurrah for privateers in who vigorously returned to the practice with experience gained in previous wars. The nimble s captured 298 American ships. Privateer schooners based in , especially from took 250 American ships and proved especially effective in crippling American coastal trade and capturing American ships closer to shore than the Royal Navy's cruisers.


The of the United States began informally in the late fall of 1812. Under the command of British Admiral , it extended from South Carolina to Florida. It expanded to cut off more ports as the war progressed. Twenty ships were on station in 1812 and 135 were in place by the end of the conflict. In March 1813, the Royal Navy punished the Southern states, who were most vocal about annexing British North America, by blockading , , and as well. Additional ships were sent to North America in 1813 and the Royal Navy tightened and extended the blockade, first to the coast south of by November 1813 and to the entire American coast on 31 May 1814. In May 1814, following the abdication of Napoleon and the end of the supply problems with Wellington's army, New England was blockaded. The British needed American foodstuffs for their army in Spain and benefited from trade with New England, so they did not at first blockade New England. The and Chesapeake Bay were declared in a state of blockade on 26 December 1812. Illicit trade was carried on by collusive captures arranged between American traders and British officers. American ships were fraudulently transferred to neutral flags. Eventually, the United States government was driven to issue orders to stop illicit trading. This put only a further strain on the commerce of the country. The British fleet occupied the Chesapeake Bay and attacked and destroyed numerous docks and harbours. The effect was that no foreign goods could enter the United States on ships and only smaller fast boats could attempt to get out. The cost of shipping became very expensive as a result. The blockade of American ports later tightened to the extent that most American merchant ships and naval vessels were confined to port. The American frigates and ended the war blockaded and in . USS ''United States'' and USS ''Macedonian'' attempted to set sail to raid British shipping in the Caribbean, but were forced to turn back when confronted with a British squadron, and by the end of the war, the United States had six frigates and four ships-of-the-line sitting in port. Some merchant ships were based in Europe or Asia and continued operations. Others, mainly from New England, were issued licences to trade by Admiral Warren, commander in chief on the American station in 1813. This allowed Wellington's army in Spain to receive American goods and to maintain the New Englanders' . The blockade nevertheless decreased American exports from $130 million in 1807 to $7 million in 1814. Most exports were goods that ironically went to supply their enemies in Britain or the British colonies. The blockade had a devastating effect on the American economy with the value of American exports and imports falling from $114 million in 1811 down to $20 million by 1814 while the United States Customs took in $13 million in 1811 and $6 million in 1814, even though the Congress had voted to double the rates. The British blockade further damaged the American economy by forcing merchants to abandon the cheap and fast coastal trade to the slow and more expensive inland roads. In 1814, only 1 out of 14 American merchantmen risked leaving port as it was likely that any ship leaving port would be seized. As the Royal Navy base that supervised the blockade, Halifax profited greatly during the war. From there, British privateers seized and sold many French and American ships. More than a hundred prize vessels were anchored in awaiting condemnation by the Admiralty Court when a hurricane struck in 1815, sinking roughly sixty of the vessels.

Freeing and recruiting slaves

The British Royal Navy's blockades and raids allowed about 4,000 African Americans to escape by fleeing American s aboard British ships. American slaves near to the British military rebelled against their masters and made their way to British encampments. The migrants who settled in Canada were known as the . The blockading British fleet in the received increasing numbers of freed slaves during 1813. By British government order, they were considered free persons when they reached British hands. Alexander Cochrane's invited Americans who wished to emigrate to join the British. Although it did not explicitly mention slaves, it was taken by all as addressed to them. About 2,400 escaped slaves and their families were transported by the Royal Navy to the at Bermuda (where they were employed on works about the yard and organized as a militia to aid in the defence of the yard), and during and after the war. Starting in May 1814, younger male volunteers were recruited into a new . They fought for Britain throughout the Atlantic campaign, including the and the attacks on Washington, D.C., and Battle of Baltimore, before withdrawing to Bermuda with the rest of the British forces. They were later settled in after having rejected orders for transfer to the , forming the community of the (none of the freed slaves remained in Bermuda after the war). These escaped slaves represented the largest emancipation of African Americans prior to the . Britain paid the United States for the financial loss of the slaves at the end of the war.

Occupation of Maine

Maine, then part of Massachusetts, was a base for smuggling and illegal trade between the United States and the British. Until 1813, the region was generally quiet except for privateer actions near the coast. In September 1813, the United States Navy's brig the Royal Navy brig off . On 11 July 1814, took Moose Island () without a shot and the entire American garrison, 65 men of peacefully surrendered. The British temporarily renamed the captured fort "Fort Sherbrooke". In September 1814, led 3,000 British troops from his base in in the "Penobscot Expedition". In 26 days, he raided and looted , and , destroying or capturing 17 American ships. He won the , with two killed while the Americans had one killed. Retreating American forces were forced to destroy the frigate . The British occupied the town of and most of eastern Maine for the rest of the war, governing it under martial law and re-establishing the colony of . The Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States. When the British left in April 1815, they took £10,750 in duties from Castine. This money, called the "Castine Fund", was used to establish in Halifax. Decisions about the islands in Passamaquoddy Bay were decided by joint commission in 1817. However, had been seized by the British as part of the occupation and was unaddressed by the commission. While kept by Britain/Canada, it remains in dispute to this day.

Chesapeake campaign

The strategic location of the near the made it a prime target for the British. Rear Admiral arrived there in March 1813 and was joined by Admiral Warren who took command of operations ten days later. Starting in March a squadron under Rear Admiral started a blockade of the mouth of the Bay at harbour and raided towns along the Bay from to . In late April Cockburn landed at and set fire to and destroyed ships that were docked there. In the following weeks he routed the local militias and looted and burned three other towns. Thereafter he marched to and destroyed it along with sixty-eight cannons. On 4 July 1813, Commodore , an naval officer, convinced the Navy Department to build the , a squadron of twenty barges powered by small sails or oars (sweeps) to defend the Chesapeake Bay. Launched in April 1814, the squadron was quickly cornered on the . While successful in harassing the Royal Navy, they could not stop subsequent British operations in the area. In August 1814, a force of 2,500 soldiers under General Ross had just arrived in Bermuda aboard , three frigates, three sloops and ten other vessels. Released from the by victory, the British intended to use them for diversionary raids along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. In response to Prévost's request, they decided to employ this force, together with the naval and military units already on the station, to strike at the national capital. Anticipating the attack, valuable documents, including the original Constitution, were removed to Leesburg, Virginia. United States Secretary of War insisted that the British were going to attack Baltimore rather than Washington, even as British army and naval units were on their way to Washington. Brigadier General , who had burned several bridges in the area, assumed the British would attack Annapolis and was reluctant to engage because he mistakenly thought the British army was twice its size. The inexperienced state militia was easily routed in the , opening the route to Washington. British troops led by Major General , accompanied by Rear Admiral , the 3rd Brigade attacked and captured Washington with a force of 4,500. On 24 August, after the British had finished looting the interiors, Ross directed his troops to , including the and the . Extensive damage to the interiors and the contents of both were subsequently reported. US government and military officials fled to Virginia, while Secretary of the United States Navy ordered the and a nearby fort to be razed in order to prevent its capture. Public buildings in Washington were destroyed by the British though private residences ordered spared. After taking some munitions from the Washington Munitions depot, the British, boarded their ships and moved on to their major target, the heavily fortified major city of Baltimore. Because some of their ships were held up in the , they delayed their movement allowing Baltimore an opportunity to strengthen the fortifications and bring in new federal troops and state militia units. The "" began with the British landing on 12 September 1814 at , where they were met by American militia further up the Patapsco Neck peninsula. An exchange of fire began, with casualties on both sides. The British Army commander Major Gen. was killed by snipers. The British paused, then continued to march northwestward to face the stationed Maryland and Baltimore City militia units at Godly Wood. The was fought for several afternoon hours in a musketry and artillery duel. The British also planned to simultaneously attack Baltimore by water on the following day, although the Royal Navy was unable to reduce at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor in support of an attack from the northeast by the British Army. The British eventually realized that they could not force the passage to attack Baltimore in coordination with the land force. A last ditch night feint and barge attack during a heavy rain storm was led by Captain around the fort up the Middle Branch of the river to the west. Split and misdirected partly in the storm, it turned back after suffering heavy casualties from the alert gunners of and Battery Babcock. The British called off the attack and sailed downriver to pick up their army, which had retreated from the east side of Baltimore. All the lights were extinguished in Baltimore the night of the attack, and the fort was bombarded for 25 hours. The only light was given off by the exploding shells over Fort McHenry, illuminating the flag that was still flying over the fort. The defence of the fort inspired the American lawyer to write "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem that was later set to music as "".

Southern theatre

Because of the region's polyglot population, both the British and the Americans perceived the war in the Gulf South as a fundamentally different conflict from the one occurring in the and Chesapeake.

Creek War

Before 1813, the war between the Creeks, or , had been largely an internal affair sparked by the ideas of Tecumseh farther north in the Mississippi Valley. A faction known as the , so named for the colour of their war sticks, had broken away from the rest of the Creek Confederacy, which wanted peace with the United States. The Red Sticks were allied with Tecumseh, who had visited the Creeks about a year before 1813 and encouraged greater resistance to the Americans. The Creek Nation was a trading partner of the United States, actively involved with British and Spanish trade as well. The Red Sticks as well as many southern Muscogee people like the had a long history of alliance with the British and Spanish empires. This alliance helped the North American and European powers protect each other's claims to territory in the south. On 27 July the Red Sticks were returning from with a pack train filled with trade goods and arms when they were by Americans who made off with their goods. On 30 August 1813, in retaliation for the raid, the Red Sticks, led by chiefs of the Creeks and , attacked north of , the only American-held port in the territory of . The attack on Fort Mims resulted in the horrific death of 400 refugee settlers, all butchered and scalped, including women and children, and became an ideological rallying point for the Americans. It prompted the state of Georgia and the Mississippi militia to immediately take major action against Creek offensives. The Red Sticks chiefs gained power in the east along the , and in the Upper Creek territory. By contrast, the Lower Creek, who lived along the , generally opposed the Red Sticks and wanted to remain allied to the U.S. recruited Lower Creek to aid the under General and the state militias against the Red Sticks. The United States combined forces were 5,000 troops from East and West Tennessee, with about 200 indigenous allies. At its peak, the Red Stick faction had 4,000 warriors, only a quarter of whom had s. The Indian frontier of western was the most vulnerable but was partially fortified already. From November 1813 to January 1814, Georgia's militia and auxiliary troops from the and indigenous nations and the states of and organized the fortification of defences along the and expeditions into Upper Creek territory in present-day Alabama. The army, led by General , went to the heart of the Creek Holy Grounds and won a major offensive against one of the largest Creek towns at the , killing an estimated two hundred people. In November, the militia of Mississippi with a combined 1,200 troops attacked the Econachca encampment in the on the . Tennessee raised a militia of 5,000 under Major General and Brigadier General and won the battles of and in November 1813. Jackson suffered enlistment problems in the winter. He decided to combine his force, composed of Tennessee militia and pro-American Creek, with the Georgia militia. In January, however, the Red Sticks attacked his army at the . Jackson's troops repelled the attackers, but they were outnumbered and forced to withdraw to his base at . In January, Floyd's force of 1,300 state militia and 400 Creek moved to join the United States forces in Tennessee, but they were attacked in camp on the Calibee Creek by Muscogees on 27 January. Jackson's force increased in numbers with the arrival of United States Army soldiers and a second draft of Tennessee state militia, Cherokee, and pro-American Creek swelled his army to around 5,000. In March 1814, they moved south to attack the Red Sticks. On 27 March, Jackson decisively defeated a force of about a thousand Red Sticks at , killing 800 of them at a cost of 49 killed and 154 wounded. Jackson then moved his army to on the Alabama River. He promptly turned on the pro-American Creek who had fought with him and compelled their chieftains, along with a single Red Stick chieftain, to sign the , which forced the Creek tribe as a whole to cede most of western and part of to the U.S. Both Hawkins and the pro-American Creek strongly opposed the treaty, which they regarded as deeply unjust. The treaty also demanded that the Creek cease communicating with the British and Spanish and trade only with United States-approved agents. British aid to the Red Sticks arrived after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in April 1814 and after Admiral assumed command from Admiral Warren in March. Captain Huge Pigot arrived with two ships to arm the Red Sticks. He thought that some 6,600 warriors could be armed and recruited. It was overly optimistic at best. The Red Sticks were in the process of being destroyed as a military force. In April 1814, the British established an outpost on the (). Cochrane sent a company of Royal Marines commanded by Edward Nicolls, the vessels and and further supplies to meet the Indians in the region. In addition to training them, Nicolls was tasked to raise a force from escaped slaves as part of the . In July 1814, General Jackson complained to the governor of , that combatants from the Creek War were being harboured in Spanish territory and made reference to the British presence on Spanish soil. Although he gave an angry reply to Jackson, Manrique was alarmed at the weak position he found himself in and appealed to the British for help. Woodbine arrived on 28 July and Nicolls on 24 August. The first engagement of the British and their Creek allies against the Americans on the Gulf Coast was the 14 September 1814 attack on . Captain William Percy tried to take the United States fort, hoping to then move on Mobile and block United States trade and encroachment on the Mississippi. After the Americans repulsed Percy's forces, the British established a military presence of up to 200 Marines at Pensacola. In November, Jackson's force of 4,000 men . This underlined the superiority of numbers of Jackson's force in the region. The United States force moved to New Orleans in late 1814. Jackson's army of 1,000 regulars and 3,000 to 4,000 militia, pirates and other fighters as well as civilians and slaves built fortifications south of the city.

Gulf Coast

American forces under General , himself a paid Spanish secret agent, took the area from the Spanish in March 1813. This region was the rump of Spanish , the western portion of which had been annexed to the United States in 1810. The Americans built , a log and earthen-work fort with 14 guns, on to defend it. Major Latour opined that none of the three forts in the area were capable of resisting a siege. At the end of 1814, the British launched a double offensive in the South weeks before the Treaty of Ghent was signed. On the Atlantic coast, Admiral was to close the trade and land battalions to advance through Georgia to the western territories. While on the coast, Admiral Alexander Cochrane moved on the new state of Louisiana and the . Admiral Cochrane's ships reached the Louisiana coast on 9 December and Cockburn arrived in Georgia on 14 December. The British had the objective of gaining control of the entrance of the Mississippi, and to challenge the legality of the Louisiana Purchase. To this end, an expeditionary force of 8,000 troops under General attacked Jackson's prepared defences in New Orleans on 8 January 1815. The was an American victory, as the British failed to take the fortifications on the East Bank. The British attack force suffered high casualties, including 291 dead, 1,262 wounded and 484 captured or missing whereas American casualties were light with 13 dead, 39 wounded and 19 missing, according to the respective official casualty returns. This battle was hailed as a great victory across the United States, making Jackson a national hero and eventually propelling him to the presidency. In January 1815 Fort St. Philip endured from five boats of the . Remini believes this was preventing the British moving their fleet up the Mississippi in support of the land attack. Roosevelt does not share Remini's theory. He observes that the British disengaged once the fort's mortar was resupplied on 15 January 1815 and was able to return fire, the engagement being described as 'unsuccessfully bombarding' the fort by the British. After deciding further attacks would be too costly and unlikely to succeed; the British fleet withdrew from the on 18 January. However, it was not until 27 January 1815 that the rejoined the fleet, allowing for its final departure. After New Orleans, the British moved to take Mobile as a base for further operations. In preparation, General laid siege to Fort Bowyer taking it on 12 February 1815. However HMS ' brought news of the Treaty of Ghent the next day and the British abandoned the Gulf Coast. This ending of the war prevented the capture of Mobile, and renewed attacks on New Orleans. Meanwhile, in January 1815, Admiral Cockburn succeeded in blockading the southeastern coast of by occupying . The British quickly took , and Fort St. Tammany in a decisive victory. Under the orders of his commanding officers, Cockburn's forces relocated many refugee slaves, capturing Island as well to do so. He had orders to recruit as many runaway slaves into the as possible and use them to conduct raids in Georgia and the Carolinas. Cockburn also provided thousands of muskets and carbines and a huge quantity of ammunition to the Creeks and Seminole Indians for the same purpose. During the invasion of the Georgia coast, an estimated 1,485 people chose to relocate to British territories or join the British military. However, by mid-March, several days after being informed of the Treaty of Ghent, British ships left the area. The British did not recognize the West Florida territory as being legally American, as it had been seized from the Spanish during the war. The British also did not recognize the because they and Spain voided all land deals and treaties made by Napoleon, especially the 1800–1804 transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France to the United States. Owsley is of the opinion this appeared to be compelling evidence that Britain had no intention of returning the region, had it completed capture of the territory, without new American concessions. West Florida was the only territory permanently gained by the United States during the war.

Treaty of Ghent

Factors leading to the peace negotiations

By 1814, both Britain and the United States either achieved their main war goals or were weary of the costly . They both sent delegations to , a neutral site. The negotiations began in early August and concluded on December 24, when a final agreement was signed as both sides had to ratify it before it could take effect. Meanwhile, both sides planned new invasions.

Negotiations and peace

In August 1814, peace discussions began. Both sides approached negotiations warily. British diplomats stated their case first, demanding the creation of an Indian barrier state in the American Northwest Territory (the area from Ohio to Wisconsin). It was understood the British would sponsor this state. The British strategy for decades had been to create a to block American expansion. Britain also demanded naval control of the Great Lakes and access to the . On the American side, Monroe instructed the American diplomats sent to Europe to try to convince the British to cede the Canadas, or at least Upper Canada, to the U.S. At a later stage, the Americans also demanded damages for the burning of Washington and for the seizure of ships before the war began. American public opinion was outraged when Madison published the demands as even the Federalists were now willing to fight on. The British had planned three invasions. One force burned Washington, but it failed to capture Baltimore and sailed away when its commander was killed. In northern New York State, 10,000 British veterans were marching south until a decisive defeat at the forced them back to Canada. Nothing was known of the fate of the third large invasion force aimed at capturing New Orleans and southwest. The prime minister wanted to command in Canada and take control of the Great Lakes. Wellington said that he would go to the United States, but he believed he was needed in Europe. Wellington emphasized that the war was a draw and the peace negotiations should not make territorial demands: Prime Minister , aware of growing opposition to wartime taxation and the demands of and merchants for reopened trade with America, realized Britain also had little to gain and much to lose from prolonged warfare especially given growing concern about the situation in Europe. After months of negotiations, against a background of changing military victories, defeats and losses, Britain and the United States finally realized that both their nations wanted peace and there was no real reason to continue the war. The main focus of British foreign policy was the , at which British diplomats had clashed with Russian and Prussian diplomats over the terms of the peace with France and there were fears that Britain might have to go to war with Russia and Prussia. Each side was now tired of the war. Export trade was all but paralyzed and France was no longer an enemy of Britain after Napoleon fell in 1814, so the Royal Navy no longer needed to stop American shipments to France and it no longer needed to impress more seamen. It had ended the practices that so angered the Americans in 1812. The British were preoccupied in rebuilding Europe after the apparent final defeat of Napoleon. Consequently, Lord Liverpool urged the British negotiators to offer a peace based on the restoration of the pre-war status quo. The British negotiators duly dropped their demands for the creation of an Indian neutral zone, which allowed negotiations to resume at the end of October. The American negotiators accepted the British proposals for a peace based on the pre-war status quo. Prisoners were to be exchanged and escaped slaves returned to the United States or paid for by Britain. At this point, the number of slaves was approximately 6,000. Britain eventually refused the demand, allowing many to either emigrate to Canada or Trinidad. On 24 December 1814, the diplomats had finished and signed the Treaty of Ghent. The treaty was ratified by the British Prince Regent three days later on 27 December. On 17 February, it arrived in Washington, where it was quickly ratified and went into effect, ending the war. The terms called for all occupied territory to be returned, the prewar boundary between Canada and the United States to be restored, and the Americans were to gain fishing rights in the . The British insisted on the inclusion of provisions in Article IX of the treaty which called on both signatories to restore to the Indians "all possessions, rights and privileges which they may have enjoyed, or been entitled to in 1811". The inherent flaw in the British demand was the assumption that the Indian tribes were independent, however, they were only considered dwellers in the United States who had recently made war upon her in co-operation with Great Britain. Subsequently, the Americans did not comply with these provisions and the British made no effort to compel them to do so. Much like the Congress of Vienna, the Treaty of Ghent completely maintained Britain's maritime belligerent rights, a key goal for the British, without acknowledging American maritime rights or the end of impressment. While American maritime rights were not seriously violated in the century of peace until World War I, the defeat of Napoleon made the need for impressment irrelevant and the grievances of the United States no longer an issue. In this sense, the United States achieved its goals indirectly and felt its honour had been upheld.

Losses and compensation

Losses figures do not include deaths among Canadian militia forces or losses among Indian tribes. British losses in the war were about 1,160 killed in action and 3,679 wounded, with 3,321 British who died from disease. American losses were 2,260 killed in action and 4,505 wounded. While the number of Americans who died from disease is not known, it is estimated that about 15,000 died from all causes directly related to the war. There have been no estimates of the cost of the American war to Britain, but it did add some £25 million to its . In the United States, the cost was $105 million, about the same as the cost to Britain. The national debt rose from $45 million in 1812 to $127 million by the end of 1815, although by selling bonds and at deep discounts—and often for irredeemable paper money due to the suspension of specie payment in 1814—the government received only $34 million worth of specie. , the at the time, was one of those who funded the United States government's involvement in the war. The British national debt rose from £451 million in 1812 to £841 million in 1814, although this was at a time when Britain was fighting a war against Napoleon. The war was bad for both economies. In addition, at least 3,000 American slaves escaped to British lines. Many other slaves simply escaped in the chaos of war and achieved freedom on their own. The British settled some of the newly freed slaves in . Four hundred were settled in . The Americans protested that Britain's failure to return the slaves violated the Treaty of Ghent. After arbitration by the the British paid $1,204,960 in damages to Washington, to reimburse the slave owners. In the United States, the economy grew every year from 1812 to 1815, despite a large loss of business by East Coast shipping interests. Prices were 15% higher—inflated—in 1815 compared to 1812, an annual rate of 4.8%. The national economy grew 1812–1815 at 3.7% a year, after accounting for inflation. Per capita GDP grew at 2.2% a year, after accounting for inflation. Hundreds of new banks were opened; they largely handled the loans that financed the war since tax revenues were down. Money that would have been spent on foreign trade was diverted to opening new factories, which were profitable since British factory-made products were not for sale. This gave a major boost to the in the United States as typified by the . The , built the first integrated spinning and weaving factory in the world at in 1813.

Long-term consequences

The border between the United States and Canada remained essentially unchanged by the war and the treaty that ended it addressed the original points of contention—and yet it changed much between the United States and Britain. The Treaty of Ghent established the '. The issue of impressment became irrelevant when the Royal Navy no longer needed sailors and stopped impressing them. The long-term results of the war were generally satisfactory to the United States and Britain. Except for occasional border disputes and some tensions during and after the , relations between the United States and Britain remained peaceful for the rest of the 19th century and the two countries became in the 20th century. Historian Troy Bickham argues that each participant defined success in a different way. The new American republic could claim victory in that its independence from London was assured, and the Indian nation opposition to westward expansion was removed. The memory of the conflict played a major role in helping to consolidate a Canadian national identity after 1867. The British retained Canada, but their attention was overwhelmingly devoted to celebrating the defeat of Napoleon. The consensus is that the tribes were the big losers. The between the United States and Britain was enacted in 1817. It demilitarized the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, where many British naval arrangements and forts still remained. The treaty laid the basis for a demilitarized boundary. It remains in effect to this day. Britain defeated the American invasions of Canada and its own invasion of the United States was defeated in Maryland, New York and New Orleans. After two decades of intense warfare against France, Britain was in no mood for more conflicts with the United States and focused on expanding the into . Border adjustments between the United States and British North America were made in the .


Bermuda had been largely left to the defences of its own militia and privateers before American independence, but the Royal Navy had begun buying up land and operating from there beginning in 1795. As construction work progressed through the first half of the 19th century, Bermuda became the permanent naval headquarters in Western waters, housing the and serving as a base and . Defence infrastructure remained the central leg of Bermuda's economy until after World War II.


After the war, pro-British leaders in Upper Canada demonstrated a strong hostility to American influences, including republicanism, which shaped its policies. Immigration from the United States was discouraged and favour was shown to the as opposed to the more Americanized . The Battle of York showed the vulnerability of Upper and Lower Canada. In the decades following the war, several projects were undertaken to improve the defence of the colonies against the United States. They included work on at , at Kingston, and rebuilding at York. Additionally, work began on the to defend the port against foreign navies. Akin to the American view that it was "Second War of Independence" for the United States, the war was also somewhat of a war of independence for Canada. Before the war Canada was a mix of French Canadians, native-born British subjects, loyalists and Americans who migrated there. Historian Donal Hickey maintains that the war that threatened Canada greatly helped to cement these disparate groups into a unified nation.

Indigenous nations

The Indian tribes allied to the British lost their cause. The Americans rejected the British proposal to create an "" in the American West at the Ghent peace conference and it never resurfaced. argues that " ter the War of 1812, the U.S. negotiated over two hundred Indian treaties that involved the ceding of Indian lands and 99 of these agreements resulted in the creation of reservations west of the Mississippi River". The indigenous nations lost most of their fur- territory. Indigenous nations were displaced in , , and , losing most of what is now , , and within the as well as in and the . They came to be seen as an undesirable burden by British policymakers, who now looked to the United States for markets and raw materials. Everyone, including British fur traders were prohibited from entering in the United States for purposes of trade. British Indian agents however continued to meet regularly with their former allies among the tribes of the Old Northwest, but refused to supply them with arms or help them resist American attempts to displace them. The American government rapidly built a network of forts throughout the Old Northwest, thus establishing firm military control. It also sponsored American fur traders, who outcompeted the British fur traders. Meanwhile, Euro-American settlers rapidly migrated into the Old Northwest, into the lands occupied by the tribes who were previously allied with the British. of the region, many of whom fought with the British during the war. After the decisive defeat of the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, some Creek warriors escaped to join the in Florida. The remaining Creek chiefs signed away about half their lands, comprising 23,000,000 acres, covering much of southern Georgia and two-thirds of modern Alabama. The Creek were separated from any future help from the Spanish in Florida and from the Choctaw and Chickasaw to the west. After much confrontation between settlers and tribes, and failed attempts to assimilate Indians to a life of farming and ranching, they were ultimately sent to various reservations. The War of 1812 marked a turning point in the history of the Old Northwest because it established United States authority over the British and Indians of that border region.

Great Britain

The war is seldom remembered in Great Britain. The massive ongoing conflict in Europe against the French Empire under ensured that the British did not consider the War of 1812 against the United States as more than a sideshow. Britain's blockade of French trade had been entirely successful, and the Royal Navy was the world's dominant nautical power (and remained so for another century). While the land campaigns had contributed to saving Canada, the Royal Navy had shut down American commerce, bottled up the United States Navy in port and widely suppressed privateering. British businesses, some affected by rising insurance costs, were demanding peace so that trade could resume with the United States. The peace was generally welcomed by the British, although there was disquiet about the rapid growth of the United States. However, the two nations quickly resumed trade after the end of the war and a growing friendship over time. Historian maintains that for Britain, "the best way to defend Canada was to accommodate the United States. This was the principal rationale for Britain's long-term policy of rapprochement with the United States in the nineteenth century and explains why they were so often willing to sacrifice other imperial interests to keep the republic happy".

United States

The nation gained a strong sense of complete independence as people celebrated their "second war of independence". Nationalism soared after the victory at the . The opposition collapsed and the Era of Good Feelings ensued. No longer questioning the need for a strong Navy, the United States built three new 74-gun ships of the line and two new 44-gun frigates shortly after the end of the war. Another frigate had been destroyed to prevent its capture on the stocks when Washington had been burned. In 1816, the United States Congress passed into law an "Act for the gradual increase of the Navy" at a cost of $1,000,000 a year for eight years, authorizing nine ships of the line and 12 heavy frigates. The captains and commodores of the Navy became the heroes of their generation in the United States. Decorated plates and pitchers of Decatur, Hull, Bainbridge, Lawrence, Perry, and Macdonough were made in Staffordshire, England, and found a ready market in the United States. Several war heroes used their fame to win elections to national office. Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison both benefited from their military successes to win the presidency, while representative Richard Mentor Johnson's role during the war helped him attain the vice presidency. During the war, New England states became increasingly frustrated over how the war was being conducted and how the conflict affected them. They complained that the United States government was not investing enough militarily and financially in the states' defences and that the states should have more control over their militias. Increased taxes, the British blockade, and the occupation of some of New England by enemy forces also agitated public opinion in the states. At the held between December 1814 and January 1815, Federalist delegates deprecated the war effort and sought more autonomy for the New England states. They did not call for secession but word of the angry anti-war resolutions appeared as peace was announced and the victory at New Orleans was known. The upshot was that the Federalists were permanently discredited and quickly disappeared as a major political force. This war enabled thousands of slaves to escape to freedom, despite the difficulties. The British helped numerous Black Refugees resettle in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where had also been granted land after the American Revolutionary War. Jackson invaded Florida in 1818, demonstrating to Spain that it could no longer control that territory with a small force. Spain sold Florida to the United States in 1819 under the following the . Pratt concludes that " us indirectly the War of 1812 brought about the acquisition of Florida. ..To both the Northwest and the South, therefore, the War of 1812 brought substantial benefits. It broke the power of the Creek Confederacy and opened to settlement a great province of the future Cotton Kingdom".


See also

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Further reading

* Benn, Carl, ed. ''A Mohawk Memoir from the War of 1812: John Norton-Teyoninhokarawen'' (U of Toronto Press, 2019) * * * * * * * * * * Historiography. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 1955. ''Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age''. New York: Oxford University Press. * * * * * * * * * * * * *

External links

The War of 1812
Government of Canada website.
The War of 1812
Department of National Defence (Canada) website.
Library of Congress Guide to the War of 1812
Kenneth Drexler.

The William C. Cook Collection, The Williams Research Center, The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army, 1989.
War of 1812 collection
William L. Clements Library. * *

chart by Greg D. Feldmeth, Polytechnic School (Pasadena, California), 1998. * *

David Omahen, New York State Military Museum and Veteran Research Center, 2006.
President Madison's War Message
lesson plan with extensive list of documents, EDSitement.com (National Endowment for the Humanities).
PBS Documentary The War of 1812
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Indexed eLibrary of War of 1812 Resources
at Fire Along the Frontier Resource Site.
Illustrated War of 1812 Timelines
at Fire Along the Frontier Resource Site.

BBC Radio 4: In Our Time. The War of 1812, 31 January 2013

Indiana University Lilly Library Digital Collection of War of 1812

The War: A War of 1812 Newspaper
Brock University Library Digital Repository.
War of 1812 Collection
Brock University Library Digital Repository. {{DEFAULTSORT:War Of 1812 Canadian Militia