Treaty of Ghent
* Military stalemate; both side's invasion attempts repulsed
Status quo ante bellum
* Defeat of Tecumseh\'s Confederacy
* United Kingdom
* Creek Red Sticks
* Delaware (Lenape)
* Florida (1814 )
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William H. Winder (POW)
William Hull (POW)
Zebulon Pike †
* George, Prince Regent
* Lord Liverpool
Isaac Brock †
Charles de Salaberry
Roger Hale Sheaffe
* Robert Ross †
Edward Pakenham †
James Lucas Yeo
U.S. Army :
* 7,000 (at war's start)
* 35,800 (at war's end)
* Rangers : 3,049
* Militia : 458,463*
U.S. Navy and
Revenue Cutter Service (at war's start):
* Frigates : 6
* Other vessels: 14
* Native allies:
* 125 Choctaw
* unknown others
British Army :
* 5,200 (at war's start)
* 48,160 (at war's end)
* Provincial regulars: 10,000
* Militia : 4,000
* Ships of the line : 11
* Frigates : 34
* Other vessels: 52
Provincial Marine (at war's start): ‡
* Ships: 9
* Native allies: 10,000
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
2,200 killed in action
* 4,505 wounded
* 15,000 (est.) died from all causes
1,160 killed in action
* 3,679 wounded
* 3,321 died from disease
* * Some militias operated in only their own regions.
Killed in action
* ‡ A locally raised coastal protection and seminaval force on the
Great Lakes .
St. Lawrence/Lake Champlain frontier
* 1st Sacket\'s Harbor
* 1st Lacolle Mills
* 2nd Sacket\'s Harbor
* Crysler\'s Farm
* 2nd Lacolle Mills
* Big Sandy Creek
* Queenston Heights
* Frenchman\'s Creek
* Fort George
* Stoney Creek
* Beaver Dams
* Black Rock
* Fort Niagara
* Port Dover
* Lundy\'s Lane
* Cook\'s Mills
Fort Mackinac (1812)
* Fort Harrison
* Fort Wayne
* Wild Cat Creek
* Africa Point
* Fort Stephenson
* Prairie du Chien
* Campbell Island
Mackinac Island (1814)
* Malcolm\'s Mills
* Havre de Grace
* Craney Island
* St. Michaels
Chesapeake Bay Flotilla
* Caulk\'s Field
* North Point
* Farnham Church
* 13 December 1814
* Lake Borgne
* Fort St. Philip
* Fort Peter
Naval campaigns of the
War of 1812
War of 1812
* USS _Essex_ vs HMS _Alert_
* USS _Constitution_ vs HMS _Guerriere_
* Capture of HMS _Frolic_
* USS _United States_ vs HMS _Macedonian_
* USS _Constitution_ vs HMS _Java_
* Sinking of HMS _Peacock_
* Rappahannock River
* Capture of USS _Chesapeake_
* Capture of HMS _Dominica_
* Capture of USS _Argus_
* Capture of HMS _Boxer_
* Capture of USS _Frolic_
* Capture of HMS _Epervier_
* Sinking of HMS _Reindeer_
* Sinking of HMS _Avon_
* Capture of USS _President_
* Capture of HMS _Cyane_ and HMS _Levant_
* Capture of HMS _Penguin_
* Capture of East India Company ship _Nautilus_
* Fort Peter
GREAT LAKES / SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER
* 1st Sacket\'s Harbor
* Fort George
* 2nd Sacket\'s Harbor
* Lake Champlain
WEST INDIES / GULF COAST
* La Guaira
Action of 13 December 1814
* Lake Borgne
* Fort St. Philip
* James Island
* Charles Island
* Nuku Hiva
* Downes Expedition
* Porter Expedition
* Typee Valley
* Valparaiso (Capture of USS _Essex_)
* _Seringapatam_ Mutiny
* Action of 9 May 1814
The WAR OF 1812 (1812–1815) was a conflict fought between the
United States and the United Kingdom and their respective allies.
Historians in Britain often see it as a minor theater of the
Napoleonic Wars ; however, in the
United States and
Canada , it is
seen as a war in its own right.
Since the outbreak of war with Napoleonic France , Britain had
enforced a naval blockade to choke off neutral trade to France, which
United States contested as illegal under international law. In
order to man the blockade, Britain forcibly impressed American
merchant sailors into the
Royal Navy . The British were in turn
outraged by the _Little Belt_ Affair , which resulted in the deaths of
11 British sailors. Moreover, British political support for a Native
American buffer state , which conducted raids on American settlers on
the frontier, hindered American expansion. On June 18, 1812,
James Madison signed the American declaration of war into
law. The British government felt it had done everything in its power
to try to avert the war and was therefore dismayed by the American
declaration. Senior figures such as Lord Liverpool and Lord
Castlereagh believed it to have been an opportunistic ploy by
President Madison to annex
Canada while Britain was fighting a war
with France. The view was shared in much of
New England , whose
leaders bitterly disputed the numbers of US sailors the War Hawks
claimed had been impressed by the British.
With the majority of its military deployed in Europe to fight
Napoleon , the British adopted a defensive strategy, though the war's
first engagement was an ill-fated assault on Sacket\'s Harbor , New
York. American prosecution of the war effort suffered from its
unpopularity , especially in New England, where it was derogatorily
referred to as "Mr. Madison's War". American defeats at Detroit and
Queenston thwarted attempts to seize Upper
Canada , improving British
morale. American attempts to invade
Montreal also failed. In 1813,
Americans won control of
Lake Erie and shattered Tecumseh\'s
Confederacy , securing a primary war goal. At sea, the powerful Royal
Navy blockaded the American coast, allowing them to strike American
trade at will. In 1814, one of these raids burned the capital,
Washington . The
Americans subsequently repulsed British attempts to
invade the north and mid-Atlantic states .
At home, the British faced mounting opposition to wartime taxation,
and demands to reopen trade with America. With the abdication of
Napoleon , the maintenance of the blockade of France, as well as the
issue of the impressment of American sailors, were nullified. Peace
negotiations began in August 1814, and the
Treaty of Ghent was signed
on December 24 later that year. News of the peace would not reach
America for some time. Unaware that the treaty had been signed,
British forces launched an invasion of
Louisiana , which was
decisively defeated in January 1815. The battle was seen to have
restored American honour after a mediocre war effort, and led to the
collapse of anti-war sentiment. News of the treaty arrived shortly
thereafter, halting military operations. The treaty was unanimously
ratified by the
United States on February 17, 1815, ending the war
with no boundary changes .
* 1 Origins
* 1.1 Honour and the second war of independence
* 1.2 Trade with France
Impressment and Naval actions
* 1.4 British support for Native American raids
* 1.5 American expansionism
* 1.6 U.S. political conflict
* 2 Forces
* 2.1 American
* 2.2 British
* 2.3 Indian
* 3 Declaration of war
* 4 Course of war
* 4.1 Unpreparedness
Great Lakes and Western Territories
* 4.2.1 Invasions of Upper and Lower Canada, 1812
* 4.2.2 American Northwest, 1813
* 4.2.3 Niagara frontier, 1813
* 4.2.4 St. Lawrence and Lower Canada, 1813
* 4.2.5 Niagara and Plattsburgh Campaigns, 1814
* 4.2.6 American West, 1813–14
* 4.3 Atlantic theatre
* 4.3.1 Opening strategies
* 4.3.2 Single-ship actions
* 4.3.3 Privateering
* 4.3.5 Freeing and recruiting slaves
* 4.3.6 Occupation of
* 4.3.7 Chesapeake campaign and "The Star-Spangled Banner"
* 4.4 Southern theatre
* 4.4.3 Postwar fighting
Treaty of Ghent
* 5.1 Factors leading to the peace negotiations
* 5.2 Negotiations and peace
* 6 Losses and compensation
* 7 Memory and historiography
* 7.1 Popular views
* 7.3 American
* 7.4 Historians\' views
* 7.4.1 Indians as losers
* 8 Long-term consequences
British North America (Canada)
* 8.3 Indigenous nations
* 8.5 Britain
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 Sources
* 13 Further reading
* 13.1 Primary sources
* 14 External links
Origins of the War of 1812 Re-enactors in UK
uniforms fire muskets toward the "Americans" in this annual
commemoration of the June 6, 1813 Battle of Stoney Creek.
Historians have long debated the relative weight of the multiple
reasons underlying the origins of the War of 1812. This section
summarizes several contributing factors which resulted in the
declaration of war by the United States.
HONOUR AND THE SECOND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
As Risjord (1961) notes, a powerful motivation for the
the desire to uphold national honour in the face of what they
considered to be British insults such as the Chesapeake–Leopard
H. W. Brands says, "The other war hawks spoke of the
struggle with Britain as a second war of independence; Jackson, 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
Americans at the time and historians since often called it
the United States' "Second War of Independence".
TRADE WITH FRANCE
In 1807, Britain introduced a series of trade restrictions via the
Orders in Council to impede neutral trade with France , which Britain
was then fighting in the
Napoleonic Wars . The
United States contested
these restrictions as illegal under international law. Historian
Reginald Horsman states, "a large section of influential British
opinion, both in the government and in the country, thought that
America presented a threat to British maritime supremacy."
The American merchant marine had come close to doubling between 1802
and 1810, making it by far the largest neutral fleet. Britain was the
largest trading partner, receiving 80% of U.S. cotton and 50% of other
U.S. exports. The British public and press were resentful of the
growing mercantile and commercial competition. The United States'
view was that Britain's restrictions violated its right to trade with
IMPRESSMENT AND NAVAL ACTIONS
Press gang: oil painting by
During the Napoleonic Wars, the
Royal Navy expanded to 176 ships of
the line and 600 ships overall, requiring 140,000 sailors to man.
Royal Navy could man its ships with volunteers in peacetime,
it competed in wartime with merchant shipping and privateers for a
small pool of experienced sailors and turned to impressment from
ashore and foreign or domestic shipping when it could not operate its
ships with volunteers alone.
United States believed that British deserters had a right to
become U.S. citizens . Britain did not recognize a right whereby a
British subject could relinquish his status as a British subject,
emigrate and transfer his national allegiance as a naturalized citizen
to any other country. This meant that in addition to recovering naval
deserters, it considered any
United States citizens who were born
British liable for impressment. Aggravating the situation was the
reluctance of the
United States to issue formal naturalization papers
and the widespread use of unofficial or forged identity or protection
papers by sailors. This made it difficult for the
Royal Navy to
Americans from non-
Americans and led it to impress some
Americans who had never been British. Some gained freedom on appeal.
Thus while the
United States recognized British-born sailors on
American ships as Americans, Britain did not. It was estimated by the
Admiralty that there were 11,000 naturalized sailors on United States
ships in 1805. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Albert Gallatin stated
that 9,000 U.S. sailors were born in Britain. Moreover, a great
number of these British born sailors were Irish. An investigation by
Isaac Chauncey in 1808 found that 58% of sailors based in New
York City were either naturalized citizens or recent immigrants, the
majority of these foreign born sailors (134 of 150) being from
Britain. Moreover, 80 of the 134 British sailors were Irish.
American anger at impressment grew when British frigates were
stationed just outside U.S. harbours in view of U.S. shores and
searched ships for contraband and impressed men while within U.S.
territorial waters. Well publicized impressment actions such as the
_Leander_ Affair and the _Chesapeake_–_Leopard_ Affair outraged the
The British public in turn were outraged by the _Little Belt_ Affair
, in which a larger American ship clashed with a small British sloop,
resulting in the deaths of 11 British sailors. Both sides claimed the
other fired first, but the British public in particular blamed the
U.S. for attacking a smaller vessel, with calls for revenge by some
newspapers, while the U.S. was encouraged by the fact they had won a
victory over the Royal Navy. The
U.S. Navy also forcibly recruited
British sailors but the British government saw impressment as commonly
accepted practice and preferred to rescue British sailors from
American impressment on a case-by-case basis.
BRITISH SUPPORT FOR NATIVE AMERICAN RAIDS
War of 1812
War of 1812
* _Chesapeake_–_Leopard_ Affair
Orders in Council (1807)
Embargo Act of 1807
Non-Intercourse Act (1809)
* Macon\'s Bill Number 2
* Tecumseh\'s War
* War hawks
Rule of 1756
* _Little Belt_ Affair
Northwest Territory , which consisted of the modern states of
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, was the battleground
for conflict between the Native American Nations and the United
British Empire had ceded the area to the
United States in
the Treaty of Paris in 1783, both sides ignoring the fact that the
land was already inhabited by various Native American nations. These
included the Miami , Winnebago ,
Shawnee , Fox , Sauk , Kickapoo ,
Delaware and Wyandot . Some warriors, who had left their nations of
Tenskwatawa , the
Shawnee Prophet and the brother of
Tenskwatawa had a vision of purifying his society by
expelling the "children of the Evil Spirit": the American settlers.
The Indians wanted to create their own state in the Northwest, which
would end the American threat forever as it became clear that the
Americans wanted all of the land in the
Old Northwest for themselves.
Tecumseh formed a confederation of numerous tribes to
block American expansion. The British saw the Native American nations
as valuable allies and a buffer to its
Canadian colonies and provided
arms. Attacks on American settlers in the Northwest further aggravated
tensions between Britain and the United States. Raiding grew more
common in 1810 and 1811; Westerners in Congress found the raids
intolerable and wanted them permanently ended. British policy towards
the Indians of the Northwest was torn between on one point the desire
to keep the
Americans fighting in the Northwest and to preserve a
region that provided rich profits for
Canadian fur traders vs. the
fear of too much support for the Indians would cause a war with the
United States. Through Tecumseh's plans for an Indian state in the
Northwest would benefit
British North America by making it more
defensible, at the same time, the defeats suffered by Tecumseh's
confederation had the British leery to going too far to support what
was probably a losing cause and in the months running to the war,
British diplomats attempted to defuse tensions on the frontier.
The confederation's raids and existence hindered American expansion
into rich farmlands in the Northwest Territory. Pratt writes:
There is ample proof that the British authorities did all in their
power to hold or win the allegiance of the Indians of the Northwest
with the expectation of using them as allies in the event of war.
Indian allegiance could be held only by gifts, and to an Indian no
gift was as acceptable as a lethal weapon. Guns and ammunition,
tomahawks and scalping knives were dealt out with some liberality by
However, according to the U.S Army Center of Military History, the
"land-hungry frontiersmen", with "no doubt that their troubles with
Americans were the result of British intrigue", exacerbated
the problem by " after every Native American raid of British Army
muskets and equipment being found on the field". Thus, "the westerners
were convinced that their problems could best be solved by forcing the
British out of Canada".
The British had the long-standing goal of creating a large, "neutral"
Native American state that would cover much of Ohio, Indiana, and
Michigan. They made the demand as late as the fall of 1814 at the
peace conference, but lost control of western Ontario in 1813 at key
battles on and around Lake Erie. These battles destroyed the Indian
confederacy which had been the main ally of the British in that
region, weakening its negotiating position. Although the area remained
under British or British-allied Native Americans' control until the
end of the war, the British, at American insistence and with higher
priorities, dropped the demands.
American expansion into the
Northwest Territory was being obstructed
by indigenous leaders such as
Tecumseh , who were supplied and
encouraged by the British.
Americans on the western frontier demanded
that interference be stopped. There is dispute, however, over whether
or not the American desire to annex
Canada brought on the war. Several
historians believe that the capture of
Canada was intended only as a
means to secure a bargaining chip, which would then be used to force
Britain to back down on the maritime issues. It would also cut off
food supplies for Britain's West Indian colonies, and temporarily
prevent the British from continuing to arm the Indians. However,
many historians believe that a desire to annex
Canada was a cause of
the war. This view was more prevalent before 1940, but remains widely
held today. Congressman
Richard Mentor Johnson
Richard Mentor Johnson told Congress that
the constant Indian atrocities along the Wabash River in Indiana were
enabled by supplies from
Canada and were proof that "the war has
already commenced. ... I shall never die contented until I see
England's expulsion from North America and her territories
incorporated into the United States."
Madison believed that British economic policies designed to foster
imperial preference were harming the American economy and that as
British North America existed, here was a conduit for American
strugglers who were undercutting his trade policies, which thus
required that the
United States annex British North America.
Furthermore, Madison believed that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade
route might become the main trade route for the export of North
American goods to Europe at the expense of the U.S. economy, and if
United States controlled the resources of British North America
like timber which the British needed for their navy, then Britain
would be forced to change its maritime policies which had so offended
American public opinion. Many
Americans believed it was only natural
that their country should swallow up North America with one
Congressman, John Harper saying in a speech that "the Author of Nature
Himself had marked our limits in the south, by the
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico and
on the north, by the regions of eternal frost". Upper
southern Ontario) had been settled mostly by Revolution-era exiles
United States (United Empire Loyalists ) or postwar American
immigrants. The Loyalists were hostile to union with the United
States, while the immigrant settlers were generally uninterested in
politics and remained neutral or supported the British during the war.
Canadian colonies were thinly populated and only lightly defended
by the British Army.
Americans then believed that many men in Upper
Canada would rise up and greet an American invading army as
liberators. That did not happen. One reason American forces retreated
after one successful battle inside
Canada was that they could not
obtain supplies from the locals. But the
Americans thought that the
possibility of local support suggested an easy conquest, as former
Thomas Jefferson believed: "The acquisition of
year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of
marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax,
the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent."
Annexation was supported by American border businessmen who wanted to
gain control of
Great Lakes trade.
James Madison , U.S.
President, (1809–1817) Lord Liverpool , British Prime
Carl Benn noted that the War Hawks' desire to annex the Canadas was
similar to the enthusiasm for the annexation of
Spanish Florida by
inhabitants of the American South; both expected war to facilitate
expansion into long-desired lands and end support for hostile Indian
Tecumseh's Confederacy in the North and the Creek in the
Stagg has examined the fate of the expansionist cause proposed by
Hacker and Pratt in the 1920s:
this 'expansionist' interpretation of the war can still be found in
textbooks currently in use in the nation's high schools. It has also
compounded popular confusion about the war by perpetuating an arid
dispute over what should be deemed to be its 'real' or most important
causes. Were these causes international or domestic in origin? That
debate became both interminable and insoluble. Consequently, a new
generation of historians by the 1960s ... repudiated the views of
Hacker and Pratt.
Felix Grundy considered it essential to acquire
Canada to _preserve_ domestic political balance, arguing that annexing
Canada would maintain the free state-slave state balance, which might
otherwise be thrown off by the acquisition of Florida and the
settlement of the southern areas of the new
Louisiana Purchase .
However historian Richard Maass argued in 2015 that the expansionist
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 argues that consensus among scholars is
United States went to war "because six years of economic
sanctions 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 theoretically expansionism might have tempted
Americans, but finds that "leaders feared the domestic political
consequences of doing so. Notably, what limited expansionism there was
focused on sparsely populated western lands rather than the more
populous eastern settlements ."
Horsman argued expansionism played a role 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
Louisiana Territory, and
widely supported by dozens of War Hawk congressmen such as John A.
Harper, Felix Grundy, Henry Clay, and Richard M. Johnson, who voted
for war with expansion as a key aim.
In disagreeing with those interpretations that have simply stressed
expansionism and minimized maritime causation, historians have ignored
deep-seated American fears for national security, dreams of a
continent completely controlled by the republican United States, and
the evidence that many
Americans believed that the
War of 1812
War of 1812 would
be the occasion for the
United States to achieve the long-desired
Thomas Jefferson well-summarized American
majority opinion about the war ... to say "that the cession of Canada
... must be a sine qua non at a treaty of peace".
However, Horsman states that in his view "the desire for
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."
Alan Taylor argues that many Republican congressmen, such as Richard
M. Johnson ,
John A. Harper and
Peter B. Porter , "longed to oust the
British from the continent and to annex Canada". Southern Republicans
largely opposed this, fearing an imbalance of free and slave states if
Canada was annexed, while anti-Catholicism also caused many to oppose
annexing mainly Catholic Lower Canada, believing its French-speaking
inhabitants "unfit ... for republican citizenship". Even major figures
Henry Clay and
James Monroe expected to keep at least Upper
Canada in the event of an easy conquest. Notable American generals,
William Hull were led by this sentiment to issue proclamations to
Canadians during the war promising republican liberation through
incorporation into the United States; a proclamation the government
never officially disavowed. General
Alexander Smyth similarly declared
to his troops that when they invaded
Canada "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." A lack of clarity
about American intentions undercut these appeals, however.
David and Jeanne Heidler argue that "Most historians agree that the
War of 1812
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
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 Indian 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
War of 1812 than American concern about protecting
neutral maritime rights."
U.S. POLITICAL CONFLICT
Federalist Party and Opposition to the
War of 1812
War of 1812 in
While the British government was largely oblivious to the
deteriorating North American situation because of its involvement in a
continent-wide European War, the U.S. was in a period of significant
political conflict between the
Federalist Party (based mainly in the
Northeast), which favoured a strong central government and closer ties
to Britain, and the
Democratic-Republican Party (with its greatest
power base in the South and West), which favoured a weak central
government, preservation of states' rights (including slavery),
expansion into Indian land, and a stronger break with Britain. By
Federalist Party had weakened considerably, and the
James Madison completing his first term of office
and control of Congress, were in a strong position to pursue their
more aggressive agenda against Britain. Throughout the war, support
for the U.S. cause was weak (or sometimes non-existent) in Federalist
areas of the Northeast. Few men volunteered to serve; the banks
avoided financing the war. The negativism of the Federalists,
especially as exemplified by the
Hartford Convention of 1814–15
ruined its reputation and the Party survived only in scattered areas.
By 1815 there was broad support for the war from all parts of the
country. This allowed the triumphant Republicans to adopt some
Federalist policies, such as a national bank, which Madison
reestablished in 1816.
United States Navy (USN) had 7,250 sailors and Marines in 1812.
The American Navy was well trained and a professional force that
fought well against the Barbary pirates and France in the Quasi-War.
The USN had 13 ocean-going warships, three of them "super-frigates"
and its principal problem was a lack of funding as many in Congress
did not see the need for a strong navy. The American warships were
all well-built ships that were equal, if not superior to British ships
of a similar class (British shipbuilding emphasized quantity over
quality). However, the biggest ships in the USN were frigates and the
Americans had no ships-of-the-line capable of engaging in a fleet
action with the
Royal Navy at sea. On the
Great Lakes and Lake
Americans constructed lake fleets which, both in 1813
and 1814, won pivotal battles on
Lake Erie and Lake Champlain which
forced British withdrawals from American territory.
On the high seas, the
Americans could only pursue a strategy of
_guerre de course_ of taking British merchantmen via their frigates
and privateers. Before the war, the USN was largely concentrated on
the Atlantic coast and at the war's outbreak had only two gunboats on
Lake Champlain, one brig on
Lake Ontario and another brig in Lake
United States Army was much larger than the
British Army in North
America, but leadership in the American officer corps was inconsistent
with some officers proving themselves to be outstanding but many
others inept, owing their positions to political favors. American
soldiers were well trained and brave, but in the early battles were
often led by officers of questionable ability. Congress was hostile
to a standing army, and during the war, the U.S. government called out
450,000 men from the state militas, a number that was slightly smaller
than the entire population of British North America. However, the
state militias were poorly trained, armed and led. After the Battle of
Bladensburg in 1814 in which the
Virginia militias were
soundly defeated by the British Army, President Madison commented: "I
could never have believed so great a difference existed between
regular troops and a militia force, if I not witnessed the scenes of
Canadian units of the War of 1812
Royal Navy was a well-led, professional force, described
Canadian historian Carl Benn as the world's most powerful navy.
However, as long as the war with France continued, North America was a
secondary concern. In 1813, France had 80 ships-of-the-line while
building another 35. Therefore, containing the French fleet had to be
the main British naval concern. In Upper Canada, the British had the
Provincial Marine was essential for keeping the army supplied since
the roads in Upper
Canada were abysmal. On
Lake Ontario and the St.
Royal Navy had two schooners while the Provincial Marine
maintained four small warships on Lake Erie. The
British Army in
North America was a very professional and well trained force, but
suffered from being outnumbered.
The militias of Upper
Canada and Lower
Canada had a much more lower
level of military effectiveness. Nevertheless,
Canadian militia (and
locally recruited regular units known as "Fencibles") were often more
reliable than American militia, particularly when defending their own
territory. As such they played pivotal roles in various engagements,
including at the
Battle of Chateauguay
Battle of Chateauguay where
Canadian and Indian
forces alone stopped a much larger American force despite not having
assistance from regular British units.
Because of their lower population compared to whites, and lacking
artillery, Indian allies of the British avoided pitched battles and
instead relied on irregular warfare, including raids and ambushes.
Given their low population, it was crucial to avoid heavy losses and,
in general, Indian chiefs would seek to only fight under favorable
conditions; any battle that promised heavy losses was avoided if
possible. The main Indian weapons were a mixture of tomahawks,
knives, swords, rifles, clubs, arrows and muskets. Indian warriors
were brave, but the need to avoid heavy losses meant that they would
only fight under the most favorable conditions and their tactics
favored a defensive as opposed to offensive style.
In the words of Benn, those Indians fighting with the Americans
provided the U.S with their "most effective light troops" while the
British desperately needed the Indian tribes to compensate for their
numerical inferiority. The Indians, regardless of which side they
fought for, saw themselves as allies, not subordinates and Indian
chiefs did what they viewed as best for their tribes, much to the
annoyance of both American and British generals, who often complained
about their unreliability.
DECLARATION OF WAR
U.S. Declaration of War Proclamation by
Isaac Brock in
response to the U.S. declaration of war
Wikisource has original text related to this article: US
DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST THE UNITED KINGDOM
On June 1, 1812, President
James Madison sent a message to Congress
recounting American grievances against Great Britain, though not
specifically calling for a declaration of war. After Madison's
message, the House of Representatives deliberated for four days behind
closed doors before voting 79 to 49 (61%) in favor of the first
declaration of war . The Senate concurred in the declaration by a 19
to 13 (59%) vote in favour. The conflict began formally on June 18,
1812, when Madison signed the measure into law and proclaimed it the
next day. This was the first time that the
United States had declared
war on another nation, and the Congressional vote would prove to be
the closest vote to formally declare war in American history. The
Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of
1991 , while not a formal declaration of war, was a closer vote. None
of the 39 Federalists in Congress voted in favour of the war; critics
of war subsequently referred to it as "Mr. Madison's War."
Earlier in London on May 11, an assassin had killed Prime Minister
Spencer Perceval , which resulted in Lord Liverpool coming to power.
Liverpool wanted a more practical relationship with the United States.
On June 23, he issued a repeal of the Orders in Council, but the
United States was unaware of this, as it took three weeks for the news
to cross the Atlantic. On June 28, 1812, HMS _Colibri_ was despatched
from Halifax under a flag of truce to New York. On July 9, she
Sandy Hook , and three days later sailed on her return
with a copy of the declaration of war, in addition to transporting the
British ambassador to the United States, Mr. Foster and consul,
Colonel Barclay. She arrived in
Halifax, Nova Scotia eight days later.
The news of the declaration took even longer to reach London.
However, the British commander in Upper
Canada received news of the
American declaration of war much faster. In response to the U.S.
declaration of war,
Isaac Brock issued a proclamation alerting the
citizenry in Upper
Canada of the state of war and urging all military
personnel "to be vigilant in the discharge of their duty" 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 Fort St. Joseph to initiate offensive operations against U.S.
forces in northern Michigan, who it turned out, were not yet aware of
their own government's declaration of war. The resulting Siege of Fort
Mackinac on July 17 was the first major land engagement of the war,
and ended in an easy British victory.
COURSE OF WAR
Timeline of the War of 1812
The war was conducted in three theatres:
Great Lakes and the
* At sea, principally the
Atlantic Ocean and the east coast of North
* The Southern states and southwestern territories
Although the outbreak of the war had been preceded by years of angry
diplomatic dispute, neither side was ready for war when it came.
Britain was heavily engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, most of the
British Army was deployed in the
Peninsular War (in
Spain), and the
Royal Navy was compelled to blockade most of the coast
of Europe. The number of British regular troops present in
July 1812 was officially stated to be 6,034, supported by Canadian
militia. Throughout the war, the British Secretary of State for War
and the Colonies was Earl Bathurst . For the first two years of the
war, he could spare few troops to reinforce North America and urged
the commander-in-chief in North America (Lieutenant General Sir George
Prévost ) to maintain a defensive strategy. The naturally cautious
Prévost followed these instructions, concentrating on defending Lower
Canada at the expense of Upper
Canada (which was more vulnerable to
American attacks) and allowing few offensive actions. _ This
painting of the
Battle of Queenston Heights _ depicts the unsuccessful
American landing on 13 October 1812.
United States was not prepared to prosecute a war, for 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 offered
poor pay, and there were few trained and experienced officers, at
least initially. The militia objected to serving outside their home
states, were not open to discipline, and performed poorly against
British forces when outside their home states. American prosecution
of the war suffered from its unpopularity, especially in
New England ,
where anti-war speakers were vocal. "Two of the
, Seaver and Widgery , were publicly insulted and hissed on Change in
Boston; while another, Charles Turner , member for the Plymouth
district, and Chief-Justice of the Court of Sessions for that county,
was seized by a crowd on the evening of August 3, and kicked through
the town". The
United States had great difficulty financing its war.
It had disbanded its national bank , and private bankers in the
Northeast were opposed to the war. The
United States was able to
obtain financing from London-based
Barings Bank to cover overseas bond
obligations. The failure of
New England to provide militia units or
financial support was a serious blow. Threats of secession by New
England states were loud, as evidenced by the Hartford Convention.
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
Map showing the northern theatre of the
War of 1812
War of 1812
American leaders assumed that
Canada could be easily overrun. Former
President Jefferson optimistically referred to the conquest of Canada
as "a matter of marching". Many Loyalist
Americans had migrated to
Canada after the Revolutionary War. There was also significant
non-Loyalist American immigration to the area due to the offer of land
grants to immigrants, and the U.S. assumed the latter would favour the
American cause, but they did not. In prewar Upper Canada, General
Prévost was in the unusual position of having to purchase many
provisions for his troops from the American side. This peculiar trade
persisted throughout the war in spite of an abortive attempt by the
U.S. government to curtail it. In Lower Canada, which was much more
populous, support for Britain came from the English elite with strong
loyalty to the Empire, and from the
Canadian elite, who feared
American conquest would destroy the old order by introducing
Anglicization , republican democracy, and commercial
capitalism; and weakening the
Catholic Church . The Canadian
inhabitants feared the loss of a shrinking area of good lands to
potential American immigrants.
In 1812–13, British military experience prevailed over
inexperienced American commanders. Geography dictated that operations
would take place in the west: principally around
Lake Erie , near the
Niagara River between
Lake Erie and
Lake Ontario , and near the Saint
Lawrence River area and Lake Champlain. This was the focus of the
three-pronged attacks by the
Americans in 1812. Although cutting the
St. Lawrence River
St. Lawrence River through the capture of
Montreal and Quebec would
have made Britain's hold in North America unsustainable, the United
States began operations first in the western frontier because of the
general popularity there of a war with the British, who had sold arms
to the Native
Americans opposing the settlers.
The British scored an important early success when their detachment
at St. Joseph Island , on
Lake Huron , learned of the declaration of
war before the nearby American garrison at the important trading post
Mackinac Island in
Michigan . A scratch force landed on the island
on July 17, 1812, and mounted a gun overlooking
Fort Mackinac . After
the British fired one shot from their gun, the Americans, taken by
surprise, surrendered. This early victory encouraged the natives, and
large numbers moved to help the British at
Amherstburg . The island
totally controlled access to the
Old Northwest , giving the British
nominal control of this area, and, more vitally, a monopoly on the fur
trade. Kensett's engraving of Upper & Lower
An American army under the command of
William Hull invaded
July 12, with his forces chiefly composed of untrained and
ill-disciplined militiamen. Once on
Canadian soil, Hull issued a
proclamation ordering all British subjects to surrender, or "the
horrors, and calamities of war will stalk before you". This led many
of the British forces to defect. John Bennett, printer and publisher
of the York Gazette ">
The senior British officer in Upper Canada, Major General Isaac
Brock, felt that he should take bold measures to calm the settler
population in Canada, and to convince the aboriginals who were needed
to defend the region that Britain was strong. He moved rapidly to
Amherstburg near the western end of
Lake Erie with reinforcements and
immediately decided to attack Detroit . Hull, fearing that the British
possessed superior numbers and that the Indians attached to Brock's
force would commit massacres if fighting began, surrendered Detroit
without a fight on August 16. Knowing of British-instigated indigenous
attacks on other locations, Hull ordered the evacuation of the
Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Fort Wayne. After initially
being granted safe passage, the inhabitants (soldiers and civilians)
were attacked by Potowatomis on August 15 after travelling only 2
miles (3.2 km) in what is known as the
Battle of Fort Dearborn . The
fort was subsequently burned.
Brock promptly transferred himself to the eastern end of Lake Erie,
where American General
Stephen Van Rensselaer was attempting a second
invasion. An armistice (arranged by Prévost in the hope the British
renunciation of the Orders in Council to which the United States
objected might lead to peace) prevented Brock from invading American
territory. When the armistice ended, the
Americans attempted an attack
Niagara River on October 13, but suffered a crushing defeat
at Queenston Heights. Brock was killed during the battle. While the
professionalism of the American forces would improve by the war's end,
British leadership suffered after Brock's death. A final attempt in
1812 by American General
Henry Dearborn to advance north from Lake
Champlain failed when his militia refused to advance beyond American
In contrast to the American militia, the
Canadian militia performed
well. French Canadians , who found the anti-Catholic stance of most of
United States troublesome, and United Empire Loyalists, who had
fought for the Crown during the American Revolutionary War, strongly
opposed the American invasion. Many in Upper
Canada were recent
settlers from the
United States who had no obvious loyalties to the
Crown; nevertheless, while there were some who sympathized with the
invaders, the American forces found strong opposition from men loyal
to the Empire.
American Northwest, 1813
Oliver Hazard Perry 's message to
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison after
Battle of Lake Erie began with what would become one of the most
famous sentences in American military history: "We have met the enemy
and they are ours". This 1865 painting by William H. Powell shows
Perry transferring to a different ship during the battle. Main
Ohio in the War of 1812
After Hull's surrender of Detroit, General
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was
given command of the
U.S. Army of the Northwest. He set out to retake
the city, which was now defended by Colonel Henry Procter in
conjunction with Tecumseh. A detachment of Harrison's army was
defeated at Frenchtown along the
River Raisin on January 22, 1813.
Procter left the prisoners with an inadequate guard, who could not
prevent some of his North American aboriginal allies from attacking
and killing perhaps as many as sixty Americans, many of whom were
Kentucky militiamen. The incident became known as the River Raisin
Massacre . The defeat ended Harrison's campaign against Detroit, and
the phrase "Remember the River Raisin!" became a rallying cry for the
In May 1813, Procter and
Tecumseh set siege to
Fort Meigs in
Ohio . American reinforcements arriving during the siege
were defeated by the natives, but the fort held out. The Indians
eventually began to disperse, forcing Procter and
Tecumseh to return
north to Canada. A second offensive against
Fort Meigs also failed in
July. In an attempt to improve Indian morale, Procter and Tecumseh
attempted to storm Fort Stephenson , a small American post on the
Sandusky River , only to be repulsed with serious losses, marking the
end of the
Lake Erie , American commander Captain
Oliver Hazard Perry fought
Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. His decisive victory at
Put-In-Bay " 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 paved the way for General Harrison to
launch another invasion of Upper Canada, which culminated in the U.S.
victory at the
Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, in which
Tecumseh was killed.
Niagara Frontier, 1813
Historical map of the
Niagara River area during the
War of 1812
War of 1812
Because of the difficulties of land communications, control of the
Great Lakes and the
St. Lawrence River
St. Lawrence River corridor was crucial. When the
war began, the British already had a small squadron of warships on
Lake Ontario and had the initial advantage. To redress the situation,
Americans established a Navy yard at Sackett\'s Harbor in
northwestern New York. Commodore
Isaac Chauncey took charge of the
large number of sailors and shipwrights sent there from New York; they
completed the second warship built there in a mere 45 days.
Ultimately, almost 3,000 men worked at the naval shipyard, building
eleven warships and many smaller boats and transports. Having regained
the advantage by their rapid building program, Chauncey and Dearborn
attacked York , on the northern shore of the lake, the capital of
Canada , on April 27, 1813. The
Battle of York was a "pyrrhic "
American victory, marred by looting and the burning of the small
Provincial Parliament buildings and a library (resulting in a spirit
of revenge by the British/Canadians led by Gov.
George Prévost , who
later demanded satisfaction encouraging the British Admiralty to issue
orders to their officers later operating in the
Chesapeake Bay region
to exact similar devastation on the American Federal capital village
of Washington the following year). However, Kingston was strategically
much more valuable to British supply and communications routes along
the St. Lawrence corridor. Without control of Kingston, the U.S. Navy
could not effectively control
Lake Ontario or sever the British supply
line from Lower
On 25 May 1813 the guns of the American
Lake Ontario squadron joined
by Fort Niagara began bombarding Fort George. On May 27, 1813, an
American amphibious force from
Lake Ontario assaulted Fort George on
the northern end of the
Niagara River and captured it without serious
losses. The British also abandoned
Fort Erie and headed towards the
Burlington Heights. With the British position in Upper
Canada on the
verge of collapse, the
Iroquois Indians living along the banks of the
Grand River considered changing side and ignored a British appeal to
come to their aid. The retreating British forces were not pursued,
however, until they had largely escaped and organized a
counteroffensive against the advancing
Americans at the Battle of
Stoney Creek on June 5. With Upper
Canada on the line, the British a
surprise attack at Stoney Creek at 2:00 am, leading to much confused
fighting. Through tactically a draw, the battle was a strategic
British victory as the
Americans pulled back to Forty Mile Creek
rather than continuing their advance into Upper Canada. At this
point, the Six Nations living on the Grand River began to come out to
fight for the British as an American victory no longer seemed
inevitable. The Iroquis ambushed an American patrol at Forty Mile
Creek while the
Royal Navy squadron based in Kingston came to bombard
the American camp, leading to General Dearborn to retreat back to Fort
George as he now mistakenly believed he was outnumbered and outgunned.
The British commander, General John Vincent was heartened by the fact
that more and more First Nations warriors were now arriving to assist
him, providing about 800 additional men. On June 24, with the help of
advance warning by
Laura Secord , another American force was forced to
surrender by a much smaller British and native force at the Battle of
Beaver Dams , marking the end of the American offensive into Upper
Canada. The British commander General Francis de Rottenberg did not
have the strength to retake Fort George, so he build a blockade,
hoping to starve the
Americans into surrender. Meanwhile, Commodore
James Lucas Yeo had taken charge of the British ships on the lake and
mounted a counterattack, which was nevertheless repulsed at the Battle
of Sackett\'s Harbor . Thereafter, Chauncey and Yeo's squadrons fought
two indecisive actions, neither commander seeking a fight to the
Late in 1813, the
Americans abandoned the
Canadian territory they
occupied around Fort George. They set fire to the village of Newark
(now Niagara-on-the-Lake ) on December 10, 1813, incensing the
Canadians and politicians in control. Many of the inhabitants were
left without shelter, freezing to death in the snow. This led to
British retaliation following the
Capture of Fort Niagara
Capture of Fort Niagara on December
18, 1813. Early the next morning on December 19, the British and their
native allies stormed the neighbouring town of Lewiston, New York,
torching homes and buildings and killing about a dozen civilians. As
the British were chasing the surviving residents out of town, a small
force of Tuscarora natives intervened and stopped the pursuit, buying
enough time for the locals to escape to safer ground. It is notable in
that the Tuscaroras defended the
Americans against their own Iroquois
brothers, the Mohawks, who sided with the British. Later, the
British attacked and burned Buffalo on December 30, 1813.
In 1814, the contest for
Lake Ontario turned into a building race.
Naval superiority shifted between the opposing fleets as each built
new, bigger ships. However, neither was able to bring the other to
battle when in a position of superiority, leaving the Engagements on
Lake Ontario a draw. At war's end, the British held the advantage with
the 112-gun HMS _St Lawrence_ , but the
Americans had laid down two
even larger ships. The majority of these ships never saw action and
were decommissioned after the war.
St. Lawrence And Lower Canada, 1813
Fort Oswego (May 1814) Sakawarton (John Smoke
Johnson ), John Tutela, and Young Warner, three Six Nations veterans
of the War of 1812. Photographed in 1882.
The British were potentially most vulnerable over the stretch of the
St. Lawrence where it formed the frontier between Upper
Canada and the
United States. During the early days of the war, there was illicit
commerce across the river. Over the winter of 1812 and 1813, the
Americans launched a series of raids from Ogdensburg on the American
side of the river, which hampered British supply traffic up the river.
On February 21, Sir
George Prévost passed through Prescott on the
opposite bank of the river with reinforcements for Upper Canada. When
he left the next day, the reinforcements and local militia attacked.
Battle of Ogdensburg
Battle of Ogdensburg , the
Americans were forced to retire.
For the rest of the year, Ogdensburg had no American garrison, and
many residents of Ogdensburg resumed visits and trade with Prescott.
This British victory removed the last American regular troops from the
Upper St. Lawrence frontier and helped secure British communications
with Montreal. Late in 1813, after much argument, the
two thrusts against Montreal. Taking
Montreal would have cut off the
British forces in Upper
Canada and thus potentially changed the war.
The plan eventually agreed upon was for Major General Wade Hampton to
march north from Lake Champlain and join a force under General James
Wilkinson that would embark in boats and sail from Sackett's Harbor on
Lake Ontario and descend the St. Lawrence. Hampton was delayed by bad
roads and supply problems and also had an intense dislike of
Wilkinson, which limited his desire to support his plan. On October
25, his 4,000-strong force was defeated at the Chateauguay River by
Charles de Salaberry 's smaller force of
Canadian Voltigeurs and
Mohawks . Salaberry's force of Lower
Canada militia and Indians
numbered only 339, but had a strong defensive position. Wilkinson's
force of 8,000 set out on October 17, but was also delayed by bad
weather. After learning that Hampton had been checked, Wilkinson heard
that a British force under Captain
William Mulcaster and Lieutenant
Joseph Wanton Morrison was pursuing him, and by November 10,
he was forced to land near Morrisburg , about 150 kilometres (90 mi)
from Montreal. On November 11, Wilkinson's rear guard, numbering
2,500, attacked Morrison's force of 800 at Crysler\'s Farm and was
repulsed with heavy losses. After learning that Hampton could not
renew his advance, Wilkinson retreated to the U.S. and settled into
winter quarters. He resigned his command after a failed attack on a
British outpost at Lacolle Mills . Had the
Canada would have certainly been lost and the failure
of the campaign ended in the greatest British defeat in the Canadas
during the war.
Niagara And Plattsburgh Campaigns, 1814
American Infantry attacks at Lundy's Lane
Rather trying to take
Montreal or Kingston, the
Americans chose again
to invade the Niagara frontier to take Upper Canada, largely because
Americans had occupied southwestern Upper
Canada after their
victory in Moraviantown, and it was believed in Washington that if the
Americans could take the rest of Upper Canada, then they would force
the British to cede that province to them when it came time to
negotiate the peace. The end of the war in Europe in April 1814 meant
that the British could now redeploy their Army to North America, so
Americans were anxious to have Upper
Canada to negotiate from a
position of strength. The plan for 1814 to invade Upper
the Niagara frontier while sending another force to recapture
Mackinac. The British were sending supplies to the Indians in the Old
Montreal via Mackinac, so is why the island was
considered important. By the middle of 1814, American generals,
including Major Generals
Jacob Brown and
Winfield Scott , had
drastically improved the fighting abilities and discipline of the
army. The Americans' renewed attack on the Niagara peninsula quickly
Fort Erie on 3 July 1814 with the 170 garrison quickly
surrendering to the 5, 000 Americans. General Phineas Riall rushed
towards the frontier and unaware of Fort Erie's fall or the size of
the American force chose to engage in battle.
Winfield Scott then
gained a victory over an inferior British force at the Battle of
Chippawa on July 5. The
Americans brought out overwhelming firepower
against the attacking British who lost about 600 dead to the 350 dead
on the American side. An attempt to advance further ended with a
hard-fought but inconclusive Battle of Lundy\'s Lane on July 25. Both
sides stood their ground, but after the battle, the American
Jacob Brown , pulled back to Fort George while the
British did not pursue them.
Americans withdrew but withstood a prolonged Siege of
Fort Erie . The British tried to storm
Fort Erie on 14 August 1814,
but suffered heavy losses losing 950 killed, wounded and captured
compared to only 84 dead and wounded on the American side. The
British suffered heavy casualties in a failed assault and were
weakened by exposure and shortage of supplies in their siege lines.
Eventually the British raised the siege, but American Major General
George Izard took over command on the Niagara front and followed up
only halfheartedly. An American raid along the Grand River destroyed
many farms that weakened British logistics. In October 1814 the
American advanced into Upper Canada, engaged in skirmishes at Cook's
Mill, but pulled back when they heard that the new British warship,
the HMS _St. Lawrence_ armed with 104 guns, which had been launched in
Kingston that September was on its way. The
provisions, and eventually destroyed the
Fort Erie and retreated
across the Niagara.
War of 1812
War of 1812 Re-enactment, Old Fort Erie,
Meanwhile, following the abdication of Napoleon, 15,000 British
troops were sent to North America under four of Wellington's ablest
brigade commanders. 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 Sackets Harbor, gain naval
control of Lake Erie,
Lake Ontario and the Upper Lakes, and defend
Canada from attack. He did defend Lower
Canada but otherwise
failed to achieve his objectives. Given the late season he decided to
invade New York State. His army outnumbered the American defenders of
Plattsburgh , but he was worried about his flanks so he decided he
needed naval control of Lake Champlain. On the lake, the British
squadron under Captain
George Downie and the
Americans under Master
Commandant Thomas Macdonough were more evenly matched.
On reaching Plattsburgh, Prévost delayed the assault until the
arrival of Downie in the hastily completed 36-gun frigate HMS
_Confiance_ . Prévost forced Downie into a premature attack, but then
unaccountably failed to provide the promised military backing. Downie
was killed and his naval force defeated at the naval Battle of
Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814. The Americans
now had control of Lake Champlain;
Theodore Roosevelt later termed it
"the greatest naval battle of the war". The successful land defence
was led by Alexander Macomb . To the astonishment of his senior
officers, Prévost then turned back, saying it would be too hazardous
to remain on enemy territory after the loss of naval supremacy.
Prévost was recalled and in London, a naval court-martial decided
that defeat had been caused principally by Prévost's urging the
squadron into premature action and then failing to afford the promised
support from the land forces. Prévost died suddenly, just before his
own court-martial was to convene. Prévost's reputation sank to a new
low, as Canadians claimed that their militia under Brock did the job
and he failed. Recently, however, historians have been more kindly,
measuring him not against Wellington but against his American foes.
They judge Prévost's preparations for defending the Canadas with
limited means to be energetic, well-conceived, and comprehensive; and
against the odds, he had achieved the primary objective of preventing
an American conquest.
To the east, the northern part of
Massachusetts , soon to be
was invaded. Fort Sullivan at Eastport was taken by Sir Thomas Hardy
on July 11. Castine , Hampden , Bangor , and Machias were taken, and
Castine became the main British base till April 15, 1815, when the
British left, taking £10,750 in tariff duties, the "Castine Fund"
which was used to found Dalhousie University. Eastport was not
returned to the
United States till 1818.
American West, 1813–14
Mississippi River during the War of 1812. 1: Fort
Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters; 2:
Fort Osage , abandoned 1813; 3:
Fort Madison , defeated 1813; 4: Fort Shelby , defeated 1814; 5:
Battle of Rock Island Rapids , July 1814 and the Battle of Credit
Island , Sept. 1814; 6:
Fort Johnson , abandoned 1814; 7: Fort Cap au
Gris and the
Battle of the Sink Hole , May 1815 Plans of the
Fort Madison in 1810, captured by British-supported Indians
Mississippi River valley was the western frontier of the United
States in 1812. The territory acquired in the
Louisiana Purchase of
1803 contained almost no U.S. settlements west of the Mississippi
except around Saint Louis and a few forts and trading posts. Fort
Bellefontaine , an old trading post converted to a
U.S. Army post in
1804, served as regional headquarters.
Fort Osage , built in 1808
along the Missouri was the western-most U.S. outpost, it was abandoned
at the start of the war.
Fort Madison , built along the Mississippi
in what is now Iowa, was also built in 1808, and had been repeatedly
attacked by British-allied Sauk since its construction. In September
Fort Madison was abandoned after it was attacked and besieged by
natives, who had support from the British. This was one of the few
battles fought west of the Mississippi. Black Hawk played a leadership
Little of note took place on
Lake Huron in 1813, but the American
Lake Erie and the recapture of Detroit isolated the British
there. During the ensuing winter, a
Canadian party under Lieutenant
Robert McDouall established a new supply line from York to
Nottawasaga Bay on
Georgian Bay . When he arrived at Fort Mackinac
with supplies and reinforcements, he sent an expedition to recapture
the trading post of Prairie du Chien in the far west. The Siege of
Prairie du Chien ended in a British victory on July 20, 1814.
Earlier in 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 August 4. They did
not attempt to achieve surprise, and at the brief Battle of Mackinac
Island , they were ambushed by natives and forced to re-embark. The
Americans discovered the new base at Nottawasaga Bay, and on August
13, they destroyed its fortifications and the schooner _Nancy_ that
they found there. They then returned to Detroit, leaving two gunboats
to blockade Mackinac. On September 4, these gunboats were taken
unawares and captured by British boarding parties from canoes and
small boats. These
Engagements on Lake Huron left Mackinac under
The British garrison at Prairie du Chien also fought off another
attack by Major
Zachary Taylor . In this distant theatre, the British
retained the upper hand until the end of the war, through the
allegiance of several indigenous tribes that received British gifts
and arms, enabling them to take control of parts of what is now
Michigan and Illinois, as well as the whole of modern Wisconsin. In
1814 U.S. troops retreating from the
Battle of Credit Island on the
upper Mississippi attempted to make a stand at
Fort Johnson , but the
fort was soon abandoned, along with most of the upper Mississippi
After the U.S. was pushed out of the Upper Mississippi region, they
held on to eastern Missouri and the St. Louis area. Two notable
battles fought against the Sauk were the Battle of Cote Sans Dessein ,
in April 1815, at the mouth of the
Osage River in the Missouri
Territory , and the
Battle of the Sink Hole , in May 1815, near Fort
Cap au Gris .
At the conclusion of peace, Mackinac and other captured territory was
returned to the United States. At the end of 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,
Americans retained the captured post at Fort Malden, near
Amherstburg , 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.
_ Map of Chesapeake_ 's first cruise during the War of 1812.
Modern boundaries are shown.
In 1812, Britain's
Royal Navy was the world's largest, with over 600
cruisers in commission and some smaller vessels. Although most of
these were involved in blockading the French navy and protecting
British trade against (usually French) privateers, the Royal Navy
still had 85 vessels in American waters, counting all British Navy
vessels in North American and the Caribbean waters. However, the
Royal Navy's North American squadron based in Halifax, Nova Scotia
(which bore the brunt of the war), numbered one small ship of the line
, seven frigates , nine smaller sloops and brigs along with five
schooners . By contrast, the
United States Navy comprised 8 frigates,
14 smaller sloops and brigs, and no ships of the line. The U.S. had
embarked on a major shipbuilding program before the war at Sackets
Harbor, New York and continued to produce new ships. Three of the
existing American frigates were exceptionally large and powerful for
their class, larger than any British frigate in North America. Whereas
the standard British frigate of the time was rated as a 38 gun ship,
usually carrying up to 50 guns, with its main battery consisting of
18-pounder guns; USS _Constitution_, _President_, and _United States_,
in comparison, were rated as 44-gun ships, carrying 56–60 guns with
a main battery of 24-pounders. _ USS Constitution_ defeats HMS
_Guerriere_ , a significant event during the war.
The British strategy was to protect their own merchant shipping to
and from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies, and 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 capture of prizes
Royal Navy vessels only under favourable circumstances.
Days after the formal declaration of war, however, it put out two
small squadrons, including the frigate _President_ and the sloop
_Hornet_ under Commodore John Rodgers , and the frigates _United
States_ and _Congress_ , with the brig _Argus_ under Captain Stephen
Decatur . 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 if the
Royal Navy was
concentrated, it could not watch all the ports on the American
seaboard. Rodgers' strategy worked, in that the Royal Navy
concentrated most of its frigates off
New York Harbor
New York Harbor under Captain
Philip Broke , allowing many American ships to reach home. But,
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.
_ HMS Shannon_ leading the captured American frigate _Chesapeake_
Halifax, Nova Scotia (1813)
Meanwhile, _Constitution_, commanded by Captain
Isaac Hull , sailed
Chesapeake Bay on July 12. On July 17, Broke's British squadron
gave chase off New York, but _Constitution_ evaded her pursuers after
two days. After briefly calling at Boston to replenish water, on
August 19, _Constitution_ engaged the British frigate HMS _Guerriere_
. After a 35-minute battle, _Guerriere_ had been dis-masted and
captured and was later burned. _Constitution_ earned the nickname "Old
Ironsides" following this battle as many of the British cannonballs
were seen to bounce off her hull. Hull returned to Boston with news of
this significant victory. On October 25, _United States_, commanded by
Captain Decatur, captured the British frigate HMS _Macedonian_ , which
he then carried back to port. At the close of the month, the
_Constitution_ sailed south, now under the command of Captain William
Bainbridge . On December 29, off
Bahia , Brazil, she met the British
frigate HMS _Java_ . After a battle lasting three hours, _Java_
struck her colors and was burned after being judged unsalvageable.
_Constitution_, however, was relatively undamaged in the battle.
The successes gained by the three big American frigates forced
Britain to construct five 40-gun, 24-pounder heavy frigates and two
"spar-decked" frigates (the 60-gun HMS _Leander_ and HMS _Newcastle_
) and to razee three old 74-gun ships of the line to convert them to
heavy frigates. The
Royal Navy acknowledged that there were factors
other than greater size and heavier guns. The
United States Navy's
sloops and brigs had also won several victories over Royal Navy
vessels of approximately equal strength. While the American ships had
experienced and well-drilled volunteer crews, the enormous size of the
Royal Navy meant that many ships were shorthanded and
the average quality of crews suffered. The constant sea duties of
those serving in North America interfered with their training and
The capture of the three British frigates stimulated the British to
greater exertions. More vessels were deployed on the American seaboard
and the blockade tightened. On June 1, 1813, off
Boston Harbor , the
frigate _Chesapeake_ , commanded by Captain
James Lawrence , was
captured by the British frigate HMS _Shannon_ under Captain Philip
Broke. Lawrence was mortally wounded and famously cried out, "Don't
give up the ship! Hold on, men!" The two frigates were of
near-identical size. _Chesapeake_'s crew was larger but most had not
served or trained together. British citizens reacted with celebration
and relief that the run of American victories had ended. Notably,
this action was by ratio one of the bloodiest contests recorded during
this age of sail, with more dead and wounded than HMS _Victory_
suffered in four hours of combat at Trafalgar . Captain Lawrence was
killed and Captain Broke was so badly wounded that he never again held
a sea command. _ Marines aboard USS Wasp_ engage HMS _Reindeer_
In January 1813, the American frigate _Essex_ , under the command of
Captain David Porter , sailed into the Pacific to harass British
shipping. Many British whaling ships carried letters of marque
allowing them to prey on American whalers, and they nearly destroyed
the industry. _Essex_ challenged this practice. She inflicted
considerable damage on British interests before she and her tender,
USS _Essex Junior_ (armed with twenty guns) were captured off
Chile , by the British frigate HMS _Phoebe_ and the
sloop HMS _Cherub_ on March 28, 1814. In the summer of 1813, the brig
USS _Argus_ raided the waters off the British isles, taking 19 British
merchant ships until she was captured after a battle with the HMS
_Pelican_ on 14 August 1813.
The British _Cruizer_-class brig-sloops did not fare well against the
American ship-rigged sloops of war. _Hornet_ and _Wasp_ constructed
before the war were notably powerful vessels, and the _Frolic_ class
built during the war even more so (although _Frolic_ was trapped and
captured by a British frigate and a schooner). The British brig-rigged
sloops tended to suffer fire to their rigging more frequently than the
American ship-rigged sloops. In addition, the ship-rigged sloops could
back their sails in action, giving them another advantage in
Following their earlier losses, the British Admiralty instituted a
new policy that the three American heavy frigates should not be
engaged except by a ship of the line or smaller vessels in squadron
strength. An example of this was the capture of _President_ by a
squadron of four British frigates in January 1815. But, a month later,
_Constitution_ engaged and captured two smaller British warships, HMS
_Cyane_ and HMS _Levant_ , sailing in company.
Success in single ship battles raised American morale after the
repeated failed invasion attempts in Upper and Lower Canada. However
these single ship victories had no military effect on the war at sea
as they did not alter the balance of naval power, impede British
supplies and reinforcements, or even raise insurance rates for British
trade. During the war, the
United States Navy captured 165 British
merchantmen while the
Royal Navy captured 1,400 American merchantmen.
The operations of American privateers proved a more significant
threat to British trade than the U.S. Navy. They operated throughout
the Atlantic and continued until the close of the war, most notably
from ports such as
Baltimore . American privateers reported taking
1300 British merchant vessels, compared to 254 taken by the U.S. Navy.
although the insurer Lloyd\'s of London 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. However the British were able to limit privateering losses
by the strict enforcement of convoy by the
Royal Navy and 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
vigorously returned to the practice after experience in previous wars.
Bermuda sloops captured 298 American ships. Privateer
schooners based in
British North America , especially from Nova Scotia
took 250 American ships and proved especially effective in crippling
American coastal trade and capturing American ships closer to shore
Royal Navy cruisers.
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_ Captain Broke leads the boarding party to USS Chesapeake_
The naval blockade of the
United States began informally in 1812 and
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 most vocal about annexing
British North America by blockading
Charleston, Port Royal, Savannah and New York city was well. However,
as additional ships were sent to North America in 1813, the Royal Navy
was able to tighten the blockade and extend it, first to the coast
south of Narragansett by November 1813 and to the entire American
coast on May 31, 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 government, having need of American foodstuffs for its
army in Spain, benefited from the willingness of the New Englanders to
trade with them, so no blockade of
New England was at first attempted.
Delaware River and
Chesapeake Bay were declared in a state of
blockade on December 26, 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 U.S. government was driven to issue orders to
stop illicit trading; this put only a further strain on the commerce
of the country. The overpowering strength of the British fleet enabled
it to occupy the Chesapeake and to attack and destroy numerous docks
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 USS _United States_ and _Macedonian _ ended the
war blockaded and hulked in
New London, Connecticut . The 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 Sir
John Borlase Warren , commander in chief on the
American station in 1813. This allowed Wellington's army in
receive American goods and to maintain the New Englanders' opposition
to the war . The blockade nevertheless resulted in American exports
decreasing from $130 million in 1807 to $7 million in 1814. Most of
these were food exports that ironically went to supply their enemies
in Britain or 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 US Customs took in $13 million in 1811 and $6 million in 1814,
despite the fact that 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 a high probability that any ship
leaving port would be seized.
Royal Navy base that supervised the blockade, Halifax profited
greatly during the war. From that base British privateers seized many
French and American ships and sold their prizes in Halifax.
Freeing And Recruiting Slaves
The British Royal Navy's blockades and raids allowed about 4,000
Americans to escape slavery by fleeing American plantations to
find freedom aboard British ships, migrants known, as regards those
who settled in Canada, as the Black Refugees . The blockading British
Chesapeake Bay received increasing numbers of enslaved black
Americans during 1813. By British government order they were treated
as free persons when reaching British hands. Alexander Cochrane's
proclamation of April 2, 1814 , invited
Americans who wished to
emigrate to join the British, and though not explicitly mentioning
slaves was taken by all as addressed to them. About 2,400 of the
escaped slaves and their families who were carried on ships of the
Royal Navy following their escape settled in
Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick during and after the war. From May 1814, younger men among
the volunteers were recruited into a new
Corps of Colonial Marines .
They fought for Britain throughout the Atlantic campaign, including
Battle of Bladensburg and the attacks on
Washington, D.C. and
Battle of Baltimore, later settling in Trinidad after rejecting
British government orders for transfer to the West India Regiments ,
forming the community of the
Merikins . The slaves who escaped to the
British represented the largest emancipation of African Americans
American Civil War .
Occupation Of Maine
Maine, then part of Massachusetts, was a base for smuggling and
illegal trade between the U.S. and the British. Until 1813 the region
was generally quiet except for privateer actions near the coast. In
September 1813, there was a notable naval action when the U.S. Navy's
brig _Enterprise_ fought and captured the
Royal Navy brig _Boxer_ off
Pemaquid Point. The first British assault came in July 1814, when Sir
Thomas Masterman Hardy took Moose Island (Eastport,
Maine ) without a
shot, with the entire American garrison of Fort Sullivan —which
became the British Fort Sherbrooke—surrendering. Next, from his
Halifax, Nova Scotia , in September 1814, Sir John Coape
Sherbrooke led 3,000 British troops in the "Penobscot Expedition". In
26 days, he raided and looted Hampden , Bangor , and Machias ,
destroying or capturing 17 American ships. He won the Battle of
Hampden (losing two killed while the
Americans lost one killed).
Retreating American forces were forced to destroy the frigate _Adams_
. The British occupied the town of Castine and most of eastern Maine
for the rest of the war, re-establishing the colony of New Ireland .
Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States,
Machias Seal Island has remained in dispute. The British left
in April 1815, at which time they took ₤10,750 obtained from tariff
duties at Castine. This money, called the "Castine Fund", was used to
Dalhousie University , in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Chesapeake Campaign And "The Star-Spangled Banner"
Following their victory at the
Battle of Bladensburg , the
British entered Washington D.C.
The strategic location of the
Chesapeake Bay near America's new
Washington, D.C. on the major tributary of the
Potomac River , made it a prime target for the British and their Royal
Navy and the King\'s Army . Starting in March 1813, a squadron under
George Cockburn started a blockade of the mouth of the
Hampton Roads harbour and raided towns along the Bay from
Norfolk, Virginia , to Havre de Grace,
On July 4, 1813, Commodore
Joshua Barney , a Revolutionary War naval
hero, convinced the
U.S. Navy Department to build the Chesapeake Bay
Flotilla , 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 in the
Patuxent River , and while
successful in harassing the Royal Navy, they were powerless to stop
the British campaign that ultimately led to the "Burning of
Washington". This expedition, led by Cockburn and General Robert Ross
, was carried out between August 19 and 29, 1814, as the result of the
hardened British policy of 1814 (although British and American
commissioners had convened peace negotiations at
Ghent in June of that
year). As part of this, Admiral Warren had been replaced as commander
in chief by Admiral Alexander Cochrane, with reinforcements and orders
to coerce the
Americans into a favourable peace. Burning of
Washington, August 1814
A force of 2,500 soldiers under General Ross had just arrived in
Bermuda aboard _HMS Royal Oak _, three frigates, three sloops and ten
other vessels. Released from the
Peninsular War in
Spain and Portugal
by British victory, the British intended to use them for diversionary
raids along the coasts of
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
"Federal City" of
On August 24, U.S. Secretary of War , John Armstrong insisted that
the British would attack
Baltimore rather than Washington, even when
units of the
British Army , accompanied by major ships of the Royal
Navy , were obviously on their way to the capital. The inexperienced
American militia , which had congregated nearby at Bladensburg,
Maryland , to protect the capital, were defeated in the Battle of
Bladensburg , opening the route to Washington. While First Lady Dolley
Madison saved valuables from the then named "President's House" (or
"President's Palace" – now the "
White House "), Fourth President
James Madison and the government with members of the Presidential
Cabinet , fled to
Virginia . Seeing that the Battle of Bladensburg,
northeast of the town in rural Prince George\'s County was not going
well, Secretary of the Navy William Jones ordered Captain Thomas
Tingey , commandant of the
Washington Naval Yard on the Eastern Branch
Potomac River (now the
Anacostia River ), to set the facility
ablaze to prevent the capture of American naval ships, buildings,
shops and supplies. Tingey had overseen the Naval Yard's planning and
development since the national capital had been moved from
Philadelphia to Washington in 1800, and waited until the very last
possible minute, nearly four hours after the order was given to
execute it. The destruction included most of the facility as well as
the nearly-completed frigate _"Columbia"_ and the sloop _"Argus"_.
The British commanders ate the supper that had been prepared for the
President and his departmental secretaries after returning from
hopeful glorious U.S. victory, before they burned the Executive
Mansion; American morale was reduced to an all-time low. The British
viewed their actions as retaliation for the destructive American
invasions and raids into Canada, most notably the Americans' burning
of York earlier in 1813. Later that same evening, a furious storm
(some later weather experts called it a thunderstorm , almost a
hurricane ) swept into Washington, D.C., sending one or more tornadoes
into the rough, unfinished town that caused more damage but finally
extinguished the fires with torrential rains, leaving fire-blackened
walls and partial ruins of the President\'s House , The Capitol and
Treasury Department that were set alight the first night. In
addition, the combustibles used to finish off the Navy Yard
destruction that the
Americans had started, exploded, killing or
maiming a large number of "Red-Coats." Subsequently, the British left
Washington, D.C. the following day after the storm subsided.
Having destroyed Washington's public buildings, including the
President's Mansion and the Treasury, the British army and navy next
moved several weeks later to capture Baltimore, forty miles northeast,
a busy port and a key base for American privateers. However, by not
immediately going overland to the port city they sneeringly called a
"nest of pirates", but returning to their ships anchored in the
Patuxent River and proceeding later up to the Upper Bay, they gave the
Baltimoreans plenty of time to reinforce their fortifications and
U.S. Army and state militia troops from surrounding
counties and states. The subsequent "Battle for
Baltimore " began with
the British landing on Sunday, September 12, 1814, at North Point ,
Patapsco River met the
Chesapeake Bay ,
where they were met by American militia further up the "Patapsco Neck"
peninsula. An exchange of fire began, with casualties on both sides.
Major Gen. Robert Ross was killed by American snipers as he attempted
to rally his troops in the first skirmish. The snipers were killed
moments later, and the British paused, then continued to march
northwestward to the stationed
Baltimore City militia
units deployed further up Long Log Lane on the peninsula at "Godly
Wood" where the later
Battle of North Point was fought for several
afternoon hours in a musketry and artillery duel under command of
British Col. Arthur Brooke and American commander for the Maryland
state militia and its Third Brigade (or "
Baltimore City Brigade"),
John Stricker . The British also planned to simultaneously
Baltimore by water on the following day, September 13, to
support their military now arrayed facing the massed, heavily dug-in
and fortified American units of approximately 15,000 with about a
hundred cannon gathered along the eastern heights of the city named
"Loudenschlager's Hill" (later "Hampstead Hill" - now part of
Patterson Park ). These overall
Baltimore defences had been planned in
advance and foreseen by the state militia commander, Maj. Gen. Samuel
Smith , who had been set in charge of the
Baltimore defences instead
of the discredited
U.S. Army commander for the Mid-Atlantic's 10th
Military District (following the debacle the previous month at
William H. Winder . Smith had been earlier a
Revolutionary War officer and commander, then wealthy city merchant
and U.S. Representative , Senator and later Mayor of
Baltimore . The
"Red Coats" were unable to immediately reduce
Fort McHenry , at the
Baltimore Harbor to allow their ships to provide heavier
naval gunfire to support their troops to the northeast. An
artist's rendering of the bombardment at
Fort McHenry , where Francis
Scott Key placed off-shore in a U.S. truce ship was inspired to write
the four-stanza poem he originally titled "The Defence of Fort
McHenry", which later when set to music became named "The
Star-Spangled Banner ", adopted as the national anthem in 1931.
At the bombardment of
Fort McHenry , the British naval guns, mortars
and revolutionary new "
Congreve rockets " had a longer range than the
American cannon onshore, and the ships mostly stood off out of the
Americans' range, bombarding the fort, which returned very little fire
and was not too heavily damaged during the onslaught except for a
burst over a rear brickwall knocking out some fieldpieces and
resulting in a few casualties. Despite however the heavy bombardment,
casualties in the fort were slight and the British ships eventually
realized that they could not force the passage to attack
coordination with the land force. After a last ditch night feint and
barge attack during the heavy rain storm at the time led by Capt.
Charles Napier around the fort up the Middle Branch of the river to
the west which was split and misdirected partly in the storm, then
turned back with heavy casualties by alert gunners at supporting
Fort Covington and Battery Babcock , so 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
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
Francis Scott Key to write "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem that was
set to music as "
The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner ".
Battle of Burnt Corn between
Red Stick Creeks and U.S. troops,
occurred in the southern parts of
Alabama on July 27, 1813 prompted
the state of Georgia as well as the Mississippi territory militia to
immediately take major action against Creek offensives. The Red Sticks
chiefs gained power in the east along the Alabama, Coosa, and
Tallapoosa Rivers – Upper Creek territory. The Lower Creek lived
along the Chattahoochee River. Many Creeks tried to remain friendly to
the United States, and some were organized by federal Indian Agent
Benjamin Hawkins to aid the 6th Military District under General Thomas
Pinckney and the state militias. The
United States combined forces
were large. At its peak the
Red Stick faction had 4,000 warriors, only
a quarter of whom had muskets.
Before 1813, the
Creek War had been largely an internal affair
sparked by the ideas of
Tecumseh farther north in the Mississippi
Valley, but the
United States was drawn into a war with the Creek
Nation by the War of 1812. The Creek Nation was a trading partner of
United States actively involved with Spanish and British trade as
well. The Red Sticks, as well as many southern Muscogeean people like
Seminole , had a long history of alliance with the Spanish and
British Empires. This alliance helped the North American and European
powers protect each other's claims to territory in the south. On
August 30, 1813,
Red Stick chiefs attacked Fort Mimms , north of
Mobile, the only American-held port in the territory of West Florida.
The attack on Fort Mimms resulted in the death of 400 settlers and
became an ideological rallying point for the Americans. The Fort
Mims massacre in 1813. The Creek warriors attacked the fort, and
killed a total of 400 to 500 people.
The Indian frontier of western Georgia was the most vulnerable but
was partially fortified already. From November 1813 to January 1814,
Georgia's militia and auxiliary Federal troops - from the Creek and
Cherokee Indian nations and the states of
North Carolina and South
Carolina – organized the fortification of defences along the
Chattahoochee River and expeditions into Upper Creek territory in
present-day Alabama. The army, led by General John Floyd , went to the
heart of the "Creek Holy Grounds" and won a major offensive against
one of the largest Creek towns at Battle of Autosee , killing an
estimated two hundred people. In November, the militia of Mississippi
with a combined 1200 troops attacked the "Econachca" encampment
("Battle of Holy Ground") on the
Alabama River. Tennessee raised a
militia of 5,000 under Major Generals
Andrew Jackson and Brigadier
John Coffee and won the battles of Tallushatchee and Talladega
in November 1813.
Jackson suffered enlistment problems in the winter. He decided to
combine his force with that of the Georgia militia. However, from
January 22-24, 1814, while on their way, the Tennessee militia and
allied Muscogee were attacked by the Red Sticks at the Battles of
Emuckfaw and Enotachopo Creek . Jackson's troops repelled the
attackers, but outnumbered, were forced to withdraw to his base at
Fort Strother .
In January Floyd's force of 1,300 state militia and 400 Creek Indians
moved to join the U.S forces in Tennessee, but were attacked in camp
on the Calibee Creek by Tuckaubatchee Indians on the 27th.
Jackson's force increased in numbers with the arrival of U.S. Army
soldiers and a second draft of Tennessee state militia and Cherokee
and Creek allies swelled his army to around 5,000. In March 1814 they
moved south to attack the Creek. On March 26, Jackson decisively
defeated the Creek Indian force at Horseshoe Bend , killing 800 of
1,000 Creeks at a cost of 49 killed and 154 wounded out of
approximately 2,000 American and
Cherokee forces. The American army
moved to Fort Jackson on the
Alabama River . On August 9, 1814, the
Upper Creek chiefs and Jackson's army signed the "Treaty of Fort
Jackson ". The most of western Georgia and part of
Alabama was taken
from the Creeks to pay for expenses borne by the United States. The
Treaty also "demanded" that the "Red Stick" insurgents cease
communicating with the Spanish or British , and only trade with
British aid to the Red Sticks arrived after the end of the Napoleonic
Wars in April 1814 and after Admiral Sir
Alexander Cochrane assumed
command from Admiral Warren in March. The Creek promised to join any
body of 'troops that should aid them in regaining their lands, and
suggesting an attack on the tower off Mobile.' In April 1814 the
British established an outpost on the
Apalachicola River at Prospect
Bluff (Fort Gadsden) . Cochrane sent a company of Royal Marines, the
vessels HMS _Hermes_ and HMS _Carron_ , commanded by Edward Nicolls,
with further supplies to meet the Indians. In addition to training
the Indians, Nicolls was tasked to raise a force from escaped slaves,
as part of the Corps of Colonial Marines.
In July 1814, General Jackson complained to the Governor of
Pensacola, Mateo Gonzalez Manrique, 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. He appealed to the British for help, with Woodbine arriving on
July 28, and Nicolls arriving at Pensacola on August 24.
The first engagement of the British and their Creek allies against
Americans on the
Gulf Coast was the attack on Fort Bowyer
September 14, 1814. Captain William Percy tried to take the U.S. fort,
hoping that would enable the British to move on Mobile and block U.S.
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 took the town in November. This underlined the superiority
of numbers of Jackson's force in the region. The U.S 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.
Battle of New Orleans
Battle of New Orleans
American forces under General
James Wilkinson , who was himself
getting $4,000 per year as a Spanish secret agent, took the Mobile
area—formerly part of
West Florida —from the Spanish in March
1813; this would be the only territory permanently gained by the U.S.
during the war. The
Fort Bowyer , a log and
earthenwork fort with 14 guns, on
Mobile Point .
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
George Cockburn was to close the Intracoastal Waterway
trade and land
Royal Marine battalions to advance through Georgia to
the western territories. On the Gulf coast, Admiral Alexander Cochrane
would move on the new state of
Louisiana and the Mississippi Territory
. Admiral Cochrane's ships reached the
Louisiana coast December 9, and
Cockburn arrived in Georgia December 14. The Battle of New
Orleans, January 1815
On January 8, 1815, a British force of 8,000 under General Edward
Pakenham attacked Jackson's defences in New Orleans. The Battle of New
Orleans was an American victory, as the British failed to take the
fortifications on the East Bank. The British suffered high casualties:
291 dead, 1262 wounded, and 484 captured or missing whereas American
casualties were 13 dead, 39 wounded, and 19 missing. It was hailed as
a great victory across the U.S., making Jackson a national hero and
eventually propelling him to the presidency. The American garrison
at Fort St. Philip endured ten days of bombardment from Royal Navy
guns, which was a final attempt to invade Louisiana; British ships
sailed away from the
Mississippi River on January 18. However, it was
not until January 27, 1815, that the army had completely rejoined the
fleet, allowing for their departure.
After New Orleans, the British tried to take Mobile a second time;
General John Lambert laid siege for five days and took the fort,
winning the Second Battle of
Fort Bowyer on February 12, 1815. HMS
_Brazen_ brought news of the
Treaty of Ghent the next day, and the
British abandoned the Gulf coast.
In January 1815, Admiral Cockburn succeeded in blockading the
southeastern coast by occupying
Camden County, Georgia . The British
quickly took Cumberland Island , Fort Point Peter , and Fort St.
Tammany in a decisive victory. Under the orders of his commanding
officers, Cockburn's forces relocated many refugee slaves, capturing
St. Simons Island as well, to do so. During the invasion of the
Georgia coast, an estimated 1,485 people chose to relocate in British
territories or join the military. In mid-March, several days after
being informed of the Treaty of Ghent, British ships finally left the
In May 1815, a band of British-allied Sauk, unaware that the war had
ended months before, attacked a small band of U.S. soldiers northwest
of St. Louis. Intermittent fighting, primarily with the Sauk,
continued in the
Missouri Territory well into 1817, although it is
unknown if the Sauk were acting on their own or on behalf of British
agents. Several uncontacted isolated warships continued fighting well
into 1815 and were the last American forces to take offensive action
against the British.
TREATY OF GHENT
Treaty of Ghent
FACTORS LEADING TO THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
By 1814, both sides had either achieved their main war goals or were
weary of a costly war that offered little but stalemate. They both
sent delegations to a neutral site in Ghent, Flanders (now part of
Belgium). The negotiations began in early August and concluded on
December 24, when a final agreement was signed; both sides had to
ratify it before it could take effect. Meanwhile, both sides planned
In 1814 the British began blockading the United States, and brought
the American economy to near bankruptcy, forcing it to rely on
loans for the rest of the war. American foreign trade was reduced to a
trickle. The parlous American economy was thrown into chaos with
prices soaring and unexpected shortages causing hardship in New
England which was considering secession. The
Hartford Convention led
to widespread fears that the
New England states might attempt to leave
the Union, which was exaggerated as most New Englanders did not wish
to leave the Union and merely wanted an end to a war which was
bringing much economic hardship, suggested that the continuation of
the war might threaten the union. But also to a lesser extent British
interests were hurt in the West Indies and
Canada that had depended on
that trade. Although American privateers found chances of success much
reduced, with most British merchantmen now sailing in convoy,
privateering continued to prove troublesome to the British, as shown
by high insurance rates. British landowners grew weary of high taxes,
and colonial interests and merchants called on the government to
reopen trade with the U.S. by ending the war.
NEGOTIATIONS AND PEACE
At last in August 1814, peace discussions began in the neutral city
of Ghent. Both sides began negotiations warily The British diplomats
stated their case first, demanding the creation of an Indian barrier
state in the American
Northwest Territory (the area from
Wisconsin). It was understood the British would sponsor this Indian
state. The British strategy for decades had been to create a buffer
state to block American expansion. Britain demanded naval control of
Great Lakes and access to the Mississippi River. The Americans
refused to consider a buffer state and the proposal was dropped.
Although article IX of the treaty included provisions to restore to
Natives "all possessions, rights and privileges which they may have
enjoyed, or been entitled to in 1811", the provisions were
Americans (at a later stage) demanded damages for
the burning of Washington and for the seizure of ships before the war
American public opinion was outraged when Madison published the
demands; even the Federalists were now willing to fight on. The
British had planned three invasions. One force burned Washington but
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 Battle of Plattsburgh
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 the Duke of Wellington to command
Canada and take control of the Great Lakes. Wellington said that he
would go to America 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:
I think you have no right, from the state of war, to demand any
concession of territory from America ... You have not been able to
carry it into the enemy's territory, notwithstanding your military
success and now undoubted military superiority, and have not even
cleared your own territory on the point of attack. You cannot on any
principle of equality in negotiation claim a cessation of territory
except in exchange for other advantages which you have in your power
... Then if this reasoning be true, why stipulate for the uti
possidetis ? You can get no territory: indeed, the state of your
military operations, however creditable, does not entitle you to
The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, aware of growing opposition to
wartime taxation and the demands of Liverpool and Bristol merchants to
reopen trade with America, realized Britain also had little to gain
and much to lose from prolonged warfare especially after the growing
concern about the situation in Europe. After months of negotiations,
against the background of changing military victories, defeats and
losses, the parties finally realized that their nations wanted peace
and there was no real reason to continue the war. The main focus on
British foreign policy was the Congress of Vienna, during which
British diplomats had clashed with Russian and Prussian diplomats over
the terms of the peace with France, and there were fears at the
Britain might have go to war with Russia and Prussia. Now each side
was tired of the war. Export trade was all but paralyzed and after
Napoleon fell in 1814 France was no longer an enemy of Britain, 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.
British negotiators were urged by Lord Liverpool to offer a status
quo and dropped their demands for the creation of an Indian barrier
state, which was in any case hopeless after the collapse of Tecumseh's
alliance. This allowed negotiations to resume at the end of October.
British diplomats soon offered the status quo to the U.S. negotiators,
who accepted them. Prisoners would be exchanged, and captured slaves
returned to the
United States or be paid for by Britain.
On December 24, 1814 the diplomats had finished and signed the Treaty
of Ghent. The treaty was ratified by the British three days later on
December 27 and arrived in Washington on February 17 where it was
quickly ratified and went into effect, thus finally ending the war.
The terms called for all occupied territory to be returned, the prewar
Canada and the
United States to be restored, and the
Americans were to gain fishing rights in the
Gulf of Saint Lawrence .
Treaty of Ghent failed to secure official British acknowledgement
of American maritime rights or ending impressment. However, in the
century of peace until
World War I
World War I these rights were not seriously
violated. The defeat of
Napoleon made irrelevant all of the naval
issues over which the
United States had fought. The
achieved their goal of ending the Indian threat; furthermore the
American armies had scored enough victories (especially at New
Orleans) to satisfy honour and the sense of becoming fully independent
LOSSES AND COMPENSATION
British losses in the war were about 1,160 killed in action and 3,679
wounded; 3,321 British died from disease. American losses were 2,260
killed in action and 4,505 wounded. While the number of
died from disease is not known, it is estimated that about 15,000 died
from all causes directly related to the war. These figures do not
include deaths among
Canadian militia forces or losses among native
There have been no estimates of the cost of the American war to
Britain, but it did add some £25 million to the national debt. In
the U.S., 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 treasury
notes 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.
Stephen Girard , the richest man in
America at the time, personally funded the
United States government
involvement in the war.
In addition, at least 3,000 American slaves escaped to the British
lines. Many other slaves simply escaped in the chaos of war and
achieved their freedom on their own. The British settled some of the
newly freed slaves in Nova Scotia. Four hundred freedmen were settled
in New Brunswick. The
Americans protested that Britain's failure to
return the slaves violated the Treaty of Ghent. After arbitration by
the Tsar of Russia the British paid $1,204,960 in damages to
Washington, which reimbursed the slaveowners.
MEMORY AND HISTORIOGRAPHY
During the 19th century the popular image of the war in the United
States was of an American victory, and in Canada, of a Canadian
victory. Each young country saw its self-perceived victory as an
important foundation of its growing nationhood. The British, on the
other hand, who had been preoccupied by Napoleon's challenge in
Europe, paid little attention to what was to them a peripheral and
secondary dispute, a distraction from the principal task at hand.
Canadian Voltigeurs in action at the
Battle of the Chateauguay
British North America (which would become the Dominion of Canada
in 1867), the
War of 1812
War of 1812 was seen by Loyalists as a victory, as they
had claimed they had successfully defended their country from an
American takeover. The outcome gave the Canadians confidence and,
together with the postwar "militia myth" that the civilian militia had
been primarily responsible rather than the British regulars, was used
to stimulate a new sense of
John Strachan , the
first Anglican bishop of Toronto, created the myth, telling his flock
Canada had been saved from the American invaders by the
heroism of the local citizenry.
A long-term implication of the militia myth that remained widely held
Canada at least until the First World War—was that
Canada did not
need a regular professional army. While
Canadian militia units had
played instrumental roles in several engagements, such as at the
Battle of the Chateauguay, it was the regular units of the British
Army, including its "Fencible" regiments which were recruited within
North America, which ensured that
Canada was successfully defended.
Main article on
Canadian Fencible and Militia Units:
War of 1812
War of 1812
U.S. Army had done poorly, on the whole, in several attempts to
invade Canada, and the Canadians had shown that they would fight
bravely to defend their territory. But the British did not doubt that
the thinly populated territory would be vulnerable in a third war. "We
Canada if the
Americans declare war against us again",
Admiral Sir David Milne wrote to a correspondent in 1817, although
Rideau Canal was built for just such a scenario.
By the 21st century it was a forgotten war in Britain, although
still remembered in Canada, especially Ontario. In a 2009 poll, 37% of
Canadians said the war was a
Canadian victory, 9% said the U.S. won,
15% called it a draw, and 39%—mainly younger Canadians—said they
knew too little to comment.
A February 2012 poll found that in a list of items that could be used
to define Canadians' identity, the belief that
repelled an American invasion in the
War of 1812
War of 1812 places second (25%),
only behind the fact that
Canada has universal health care (53%). The
survey states that 77% of Canadians believe that War of 1812
Bicentennial is an important commemoration.
Today, American popular memory includes the British capture and the
burning of Washington in August 1814, which necessitated its
extensive renovation. The fact that before the war, many Americans
wanted to annex
British North America was swiftly forgotten, and
instead American popular memory focused on the victories at Baltimore,
New Orleans to present the war as a successful effort
to assert American national honour, the "second war of independence"
that saw the mighty British empire humbled and humiliated. In a
speech before Congress on 18 February 1815, President Madison
proclaimed the war a complete American victory. This interpretation
of the war was and remains the dominant American view of the war The
American newspaper the _Niles Register_ in an editorial on 14
September 1816 announced that the
Americans had crushed the British,
declaring "...we did virtually dictate the treaty of
Ghent to the
British". A minority of Americans, mostly associated with the
Federalists saw the war as a defeat and an act of folly on Madison's
part, caustically asking if the
Americans were "dictating" the terms
of the treaty of Ghent, why the British Crown did not cede British
North America to the United States? However, the Federalist view of
the war is not the mainstream American memory of the war. The view of
Congressman George Troup who stated in a speech in 1815 that the
Treaty of Ghent was "the glorious termination of the most glorious war
ever waged by any people" is the way that most
the war. Another memory is the successful American defence of Fort
McHenry in September 1814, which inspired the lyrics of the U.S.
national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner". The successful Captains
U.S. Navy became popular heroes with plates with the likeness
of Decatur, Steward, Hull, and others, becoming popular items.
Ironically, many were made in England. The Navy became a cherished
institution, lauded for the victories that it won against all odds.
After engagements during the final actions of the war, U.S. Marines
had acquired a well-deserved reputation as excellent marksmen,
especially in ship-to-ship actions.
Historians have differing and complex interpretations of the war.
They agree that ending the war with neither side gaining or losing
territory allowed for the peaceful settlement of boundary disputes and
for the opening of a permanent era of good will and friendly relations
between the U.S. and Canada. The war established distinct national
Canada and the United States, with a "newly significant
In recent decades the view of the majority of historians has been
that the war ended in stalemate, with the
Treaty of Ghent closing a
war that had become militarily inconclusive. Neither side wanted to
continue fighting since the main causes had disappeared and since
there were no large lost territories for one side or the other to
reclaim by force. Insofar as they see the war's resolution as allowing
two centuries of peaceful and mutually beneficial intercourse between
the U.S., Britain and Canada, these historians often conclude that all
three nations were the "real winners" of the War of 1812. These
writers often add that the war could have been avoided in the first
place by better diplomacy. It is seen as a mistake for everyone
concerned because it was badly planned and marked by multiple fiascoes
and failures on both sides, as shown especially by the repeated
American failures to seize parts of Canada, and the failed British
New Orleans and upstate New York.
However, other scholars hold that the war constituted a British
victory and an American defeat. They argue that the British achieved
their military objectives in 1812 (by stopping the repeated American
invasions of Canada) and retaining their
Canadian colonies. By
contrast, they say, the
Americans suffered a defeat when their armies
failed to achieve their war goal of seizing part or all of Canada.
Additionally, they argue the U.S. lost as it failed to stop
impressment, which the British refused to repeal until the end of the
Napoleonic Wars, arguing that the U.S. actions had no effect on the
Orders in Council, which were rescinded before the war started. The
Canadian historian Carl Benn wrote: An assessment of objectives set in
1812 and realized in 1814 points to a British victory, although
perhaps one that is not clear in the modern mind, partly because the
war occurred in an age when diplomatic negotiations, the preservation
of dignity and compromise marked treaties, rather than the images of
unconditional surrender that have came to dominate our consciousness.
Furthermore, a successful defensive war has less impact on the popular
imagination than a conflict that changes national boundaries. On
maritime issues, the British understood that their prewar policies
risked conflict with the United States, but they believed that they
could not abandon these policies because of the imperative to defeat
Napoleon. Yet, as the possibility of hostilities loomed larger, they
rescinded the Orders-in-Council to avoid a confrontation before the
U.S. declaration, and so the revocation of the Orders had nothing to
do with the war itself.
Britain would not, however, negotiate a compromise on impressment or
other martime policies, such as excluding American ships from trade
routes it wanted to keep for exclusive British use, and thus the peace
treaty was silent on these points and did not challenge British
policies or practices. That impressment evaporated as a problem
between the two powers was due entirely to Britain's triumph over
France and had nothing to do with American actions, and the United
Kingdom came out of the war fully prepared to implement any
restrictions it wished if future tensions required them".
Historian Troy Bickham, author of _The Weight of Vengeance: The
United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812_, sees the
British as having fought to a much stronger position than the United
"Even tied down by ongoing wars with Napoleonic France, the British
had enough capable officers, well-trained men, and equipment to easily
defeat a series of American invasions of Canada. In fact, in the
opening salvos of the war, the American forces invading Upper Canada
were pushed so far back that they ended up surrendering Michigan
Territory. The difference between the two navies was even greater.
Americans famously (shockingly for contemporaries on both
sides of the Atlantic) bested British ships in some one-on-one actions
at the war’s start, the
Royal Navy held supremacy throughout the
war, blockading the U.S. coastline and ravaging coastal towns,
Washington, D.C. Yet in late 1814, the British offered
surprisingly generous peace terms despite having amassed a large
invasion force of veteran troops in Canada, naval supremacy in the
Atlantic, an opponent that was effectively bankrupt, and an open
secessionist movement in New England."
He considers that the British offered the
United States generous
terms, in place of their initially harsh terms (which included massive
forfeiture of land to
Canada and the American Indians), because the
"reigning Liverpool ministry in Britain held a loose grip on power and
feared the war-weary, tax-exhausted public." The war was also
technically a British victory "because the
United States failed to
achieve the aims listed in its declaration of war."
A second minority view is that both the U.S. and Britain won the
war—that is, both achieved their main objectives, while the Indians
were the losing party. The British won by losing no territories and
achieving their great war goal, the total defeat of Napoleon. U.S. won
by (1) securing her honor and successfully resisting a powerful empire
once again, thus winning a "second war of independence"; and (2)
ending the threat of Indian raids and the British plan for a
semi-independent Indian sanctuary—thereby opening an unimpeded path
for the United States' westward expansion.
Indians As Losers
Historians generally agree that the real losers of the War of 1812
were the Indians (called First Nations in Canada). Hickey says:
The big losers in the war were the Indians. As a proportion of their
population, they had suffered the heaviest casualties. Worse, they
were left without any reliable European allies in North America ...
The crushing defeats at the Thames and Horseshoe Bend left them at the
mercy of the Americans, hastening their confinement to reservations
and the decline of their traditional way of life.
The First Nations of the
Old Northwest (the modern Midwest) had hoped
to create an Indian state that would be a British protectorate.
American settlers into the Middle West had been repeatedly blocked and
threatened by Indian raids before 1812, and that now came to an end.
Throughout the war the British had played on terror of the tomahawks
and scalping knives of their Indian allies; it worked especially at
Hull's surrender at Detroit. By 1813
Americans had killed
broken his coalition of tribes. Jackson then defeated the Creek in the
Southwest. Historian John Sugden notes that in both theatres, the
Indians' strength had been broken prior to the arrival of the major
British forces in 1814. The one campaign that the
decisively won was the campaign in the Old Northwest, which put the
British in a weak hand to insist upon an Indian state in the Old
Notwithstanding the sympathy and support from commanders (such as
Brock, Cochrane and Nicolls), the policymakers in London reneged in
assisting the Indians, as making peace was a higher priority for the
politicians. At the peace conference the British demanded an
independent Indian state in the Midwest, but, although the British and
their Indian allies maintained control over the territories in
question (i.e. most of the
Upper Midwest ), British diplomats did not
press the demand after an American refusal, effectively abandoning
their Indian allies. The withdrawal of British protection gave the
Americans a free hand, which resulted in the removal of most of the
Indian Territory (present-day
Oklahoma ). In that sense
according to historian Alan Taylor, the final victory at New Orleans
had "enduring and massive consequences". It gave the Americans
"continental predominance" while it left the Indians dispossessed,
powerless, and vulnerable.
Treaty of Ghent technically required the
United States to cease
hostilities and "forthwith to restore to such Tribes or Nations
respectively all possessions, rights and privileges which they may
have enjoyed, or been entitled to in 1811"; the
United States ignored
this article of the treaty and proceeded to expand into this territory
regardless; Britain was unwilling to provoke further war to enforce
it. A shocked
Henry Goulburn , one of the British negotiators at
Till I came here, I had no idea of the fixed determination which
there is in the heart of every American to extirpate the Indians and
appropriate their territory.
Creek War came to an end, with the
Treaty of Fort Jackson being
imposed upon the Indians. About half of the Creek territory was ceded
to the United States, with no payment made to the Creeks. This was, in
theory, invalidated by Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent. The British
failed to press the issue, and did not take up the Indian cause as an
infringement of an international treaty. Without this support, the
Indians' lack of power was apparent and the stage was set for further
incursions of territory by the
United States in subsequent decades.
Results of the War of 1812
Neither side lost territory in the war, nor did the treaty that
ended it address the original points of contention—and yet it
changed much between the
United States of America and Britain.
Treaty of Ghent established the _status quo ante bellum_; that
is, there were no territorial losses by either side. The issue of
impressment was made moot when the Royal Navy, no longer needing
sailors, stopped impressment after the defeat of Napoleon. Except for
occasional border disputes and the circumstances of the American Civil
War , relations between the U.S. and Britain remained generally
peaceful for the rest of the 19th century, and the two countries
became close allies in the 20th century.
Rush–Bagot Treaty between the
United States and Britain was
enacted in 1817. It provided for the demilitarization of the Great
Lakes and Lake Champlain, where many British naval arrangements and
forts still remained. The treaty laid the basis for a demilitarized
boundary and was indicative of improving relations between the United
States and Great Britain in the period following the War of 1812. It
remains in effect to this day.
Border adjustments between the U.S. and
British North America were
made in the
Treaty of 1818 . Eastport , Massachusetts, was returned to
the U.S. in 1818; it would become part of the new State of
1820. A border dispute along the Maine–
New Brunswick border was
settled by the 1842
Webster–Ashburton Treaty after the bloodless
Aroostook War , and the border in the
Oregon Country was settled by
splitting the disputed area in half by the 1846
Oregon Treaty . A
further dispute about the line of the border through the island in the
Strait of Juan de Fuca resulted in another almost bloodless standoff
in the Pig War of 1859. The line of the border was finally settled by
an international arbitration commission in 1872.
1812 N Moore office tower, completed in 2013 near Washington
D.C., was named after the war.
The U.S. suppressed the Native American resistance on its western and
southern borders. The nation also gained a psychological sense of
complete independence as people celebrated their "second war of
independence". Nationalism soared after the victory at the Battle of
New Orleans. The opposition
Federalist Party collapsed, and the Era of
Good Feelings ensued.
No longer questioning the need for a strong Navy, the U.S. 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 it being captured on the stocks.) In 1816, the U.S. 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 9 ships of the
line and 12 heavy frigates. The Captains and Commodores of the U.S.
Navy became the heroes of their generation in the U.S. 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. Three of the war heroes used their
celebrity to win national office:
Andrew Jackson (elected President in
1828 and 1832 ),
Richard Mentor Johnson
Richard Mentor Johnson (elected Vice President in
1836 ), and
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison (elected President in 1840 ).
During the war,
New England states became increasingly frustrated
over how the war was being conducted and how the conflict was
affecting them. They complained that the U.S. government was not
investing enough in the states' defences militarily and financially,
and that the states should have more control over their militias. The
increased taxes, the British blockade, and the occupation of some of
New England by enemy forces also agitated public opinion in the
states. As a result, at the
Hartford Convention (December 1814 –
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 at the
same time that 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 British lines or
ships for freedom, despite the difficulties. The planters' complacency
about slave contentment was shocked by their seeing slaves who would
risk so much to be free.
In 1815, with the British gone, most of the Indian tribes of the
Midwest made peace with the United States. In the next 15 years they
signed a series of treaties selling approximately half of Michigan,
half of Indiana, and two thirds of Illinois to the U.S. government,
which set up a process for selling the land to white farmers. Pratt
concludes, "the war had given the Northwest what it most desired."
After the decisive defeat of the Creek Indians at the battle of
Horseshoe Bend in 1814, some warriors escaped to join the Seminoles 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 Creeks were now separated from
any future help from the Spanish in Florida, or from the
Chickasaw to the west. During the war the
United States seized Mobile,
Alabama, which was a strategic location providing oceanic outlet to
the cotton lands to the north. Jackson invaded Florida in 1818,
Spain that it could no longer control that territory
with a small force.
Spain sold Florida to the
United States in 1819 in
Adams-Onís Treaty following the First
Seminole War . Pratt
Thus indirectly the
War of 1812
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
BRITISH NORTH AMERICA (CANADA)
Douglas Coupland 's 'Monument to the War of 1812' (2008) in
Toronto; depicts a larger-than-life
Canadian soldier triumphing over
an American; both are depicted as metallic toy soldiers of the sort
small children play with.
Pro-British leaders demonstrated a strong hostility to American
influences in western
Canada (Ontario) after the war and shaped its
policies, including a hostility to American-style republicanism.
Immigration from the U.S. was discouraged, and favour was shown to the
Anglican church as opposed to the more Americanized
Methodist church .
Battle of York showed the vulnerability of Upper and Lower
Canada. In the 1820s, work began on
La Citadelle at
Quebec City as a
defence against the United States. Additionally, work began on the
Halifax citadel to defend the port against foreign navies. From 1826
to 1832, the
Rideau Canal was built to provide a secure waterway not
at risk from American cannon fire. To defend the western end of the
British Army also built Fort Henry at Kingston.
Americans allied to the British lost their cause. The
British proposal to create a "neutral" Indian zone in the American
West was rejected at the
Ghent peace conference and never resurfaced.
After 1814 the natives, who lost most of their fur-gathering
territory, became an undesirable burden to British policymakers who
now looked to the
United States for markets and raw materials. British
agents in the field continued to meet regularly with their former
American Indian partners, but they did not supply arms or
encouragement and there were no American Indian campaigns to stop U.S.
expansionism in the Midwest. Abandoned by their powerful sponsor,
American Great Lakes-area Indians ultimately migrated or reached
accommodations with the American authorities and settlers.
In the Southeast, Indian resistance had been crushed by General
Andrew Jackson during the
Creek War ; as President (1829–37),
Jackson systematically expelled the major tribes to reservations west
of the Mississippi, part of which was the forced expulsion of
Cherokee in the
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears .
Bermuda had been largely left to the defences of its own militia and
privateers before U.S. independence, but the
Royal Navy had begun
buying up land and operating from there in 1795, as its location was a
useful substitute for the lost U.S. ports. It originally was intended
to be the winter headquarters of the North American Squadron, but the
war saw it rise to a new prominence. As construction work progressed
through the first half of the 19th century,
Bermuda became the
permanent naval headquarters in Western waters, housing the Admiralty
and serving as a base and dockyard. The military garrison was built up
to protect the naval establishment, heavily fortifying the archipelago
that came to be described as the "Gibraltar of the West". Defence
infrastructure would remain the central leg of Bermuda's economy until
World War II
World War II .
The war is seldom remembered in Great Britain. The massive ongoing
conflict in Europe against the French Empire under
War of 1812
War of 1812 against America was never seen as more than a
sideshow to the main event by the British. Britain's blockade of
French trade had been entirely successful and the
Royal Navy was the
world's dominant nautical power (and would remain so for another
century). While the land campaigns had contributed to saving Canada,
Royal Navy had shut down American commerce, bottled up the U.S.
Navy in port and heavily suppressed privateering. British businesses,
some affected by rising insurance costs, were demanding peace so that
trade could resume with the U.S. The peace was generally welcomed by
the British, though there was disquiet at the rapid growth of the U.S.
However, the two nations quickly resumed trade after the end of the
war and, over time, a growing friendship.
Hickey argues that for Britain:
the most important lesson of all that 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.
War of 1812
War of 1812 portal
* History of
Bibliography of early American naval history
Bibliography of early American naval history
Elgin Military Museum
Indiana in the War of 1812
Kentucky in the War of 1812
Bibliography of the War of 1812
List of War of 1812 Battles
* Opposition to the
War of 1812
War of 1812 in the
Timeline of the War of 1812
War of 1812 Campaigns
* ^ All U.S. figures are from Donald Hickey (Hickey 2006 , p. 297)
* ^ The British were unsure whether the attack on
Baltimore was a
failure, but Plattsburg was a humiliation that called for court
martial (Latimer 2007 , pp. 331, 359, 365).
* ^ As
Winston Churchill concluded, "The lessons of the war were
taken to heart. Anti-American feeling in Great Britain ran high for
several years, but the
United States were never again refused proper
treatment as an independent power". From _A History of the
English-speaking Peoples: The age of revolution, Volume 3 of A History
of the English-speaking Peoples_, p. 366.
* ^ Spain, a British ally, lost control of the Mobile,
area to the Americans.
* ^ Battle of the Thames,
Encyclopædia Britannica , "Many British
troops were captured and
Tecumseh was killed, destroying his Indian
alliance and breaking the Indian power in the
Ohio and Indiana
territories. After this battle, most of the tribes abandoned their
association with the British."
* ^ Upton 2003 .
* ^ Allen 1996 , p. 121.
* ^ _A_ _B_ "
War of 1812
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* ^ _A_ _B_ Hooks, J. "Redeemed honor: the President-Little Belt
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* ^ _A_ _B_ Donald Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict
(Chicago, IL, 1989). p22
* ^ Stagg 1983 , p. 4.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Woodsworth 1812 .
* ^ Benn 2002 , p. 34.
* ^ Heidler Egan 1974 ; Goodman 1941 , pp. 171–186.
* ^ Scott A. Silverstone (2004). _Divided Union: The Politics of
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* ^ Risjord 1961 , pp. 196–210.
* ^ Brands 2006 , p. 163.
* ^ Hickey, Donald R. ed._The War of 1812: Writings from America's
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* ^ Fanis 2011 , p. 94.
* ^ Horsman 1962 , p. 264.
* ^ Toll 2006 , p. 281.
* ^ Toll 2006 , p. 382.
* ^ Rodger, N. A. M. (2005). _Command of the Ocean_. London:
Penguin Books. pp. 565–566. ISBN 0-140-28896-1 .
* ^ Latimer 2007 , p. 17.
* ^ Caffrey 1977 , p. 60
* ^ Toll 2006 , pp. 278–279.
* ^ Black 2002 , p. 44.
* ^ Taylor 2010 , p. 104.
* ^ Hooks, J. W. (2009). “A friendly salute the President-Little
Belt Affair and the coming of the war of 1812” Ebscohost P ii
* ^ "John P. Deeben, "The
War of 1812
War of 1812 Stoking the Fires: The
Impressment of Seaman Charles Davis by the U.S. Navy", _Prologue
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* ^ White 2010 , p. 416.
* ^ Willig 2008 , p. 207.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Benn 2002 , p. 18.
* ^ Hitsman 1965 , p. 27.
* ^ Heidler Zuehlke 2007 , p. 62.
* ^ Heidler & Heidler 1997 , pp. 253, 392.
* ^ Pratt 1955 , p. 126.
* ^ "American Military History, Army Historical Series, Chapter 6".
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* ^ David Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler, The War of 1812, pg4
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* ^ "War of 1812–1815 (Milestones 1801–1829). US Department of
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* ^ Nugent , p. 75
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* ^ Stagg 2012 , pp. 5-6.
* ^ John Roderick Heller (2010). _Democracy\'s Lawyer: Felix Grundy
of the Old Southwest_. p. 98.
* ^ Richard W. Maass, "Difficult to Relinquish Territory Which Had
Been Conquered": Expansionism and the War of 1812", _Diplomatic
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* ^ _A_ _B_ Horsman, R.. (1987). On to Canada: Manifest Destiny and
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* ^ David Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler, _The War of 1812_ (2002) pg.
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* ^ Donald R. Hickey, "
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* ^ James M. Banner, _To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists
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* ^ Ronald J. Dale (2001). _The Invasion of Canada: Battles of the
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* ^ Benn 2002 , p. 48.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Benn 2002 , p. 49.
* ^ Benn 2002 , p. 49-50.
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* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Benn 2002 , p. 52.
* ^ Grodzinski 2010 , pp. 560–1.
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* ^ Lambert 2012 , p. 102.
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Northern Mariner_, Vol. XXII, No. 4 (October 2012), p. 366.
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* ^ Remini, pp. 70–73.
* ^ Adams 1918 , pp. 791-793.
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* ^ Sugden, pp. 286–7.
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* ^ Hickey 1989 , pp. 217–218.
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73–78 in JSTOR
* ^ Robert Remini, _Henry Clay_ (1991), p. 117.
* ^ Mahan, "The Negotiations at
Ghent in 1814," pp. 73–78 in
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* ^ Mills 1921 , pp. 19–32; Toll 2006 , p. 441.
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* ^ Hickey 2006 , p. 297.
* ^ Latimer, p. 389.
* ^ Adams 1930 , p. 385; Hickey 1989 , p. 303.
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* ^ Lambert 2012 , p. 1.
* ^ Boswell 2009 .
* ^ Ipsos Reid. "
Americans (64%) less likely than Canadians (77%)
War of 1812
War of 1812 had Significant Outcomes, Important to
formation National Identity, but still more likely to Commemorate War"
(PDF). Ipsos Reid. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
* ^ "
Americans less likely than Canadians to Believe War of 1812
had Significant Outcomes, Important to Formation National Identity,
but still more likely to Commemorate War". February 13, 2012.
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* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ Benn 2002 , p. 83.
* ^ "
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* ^ Should we still care about the War of 1812?, Troy Bickham, July
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* ^ Thompson, John Herd; Randall, Stephen J. (2008). _
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* ^ Sugden 1982 , p. 311.
* ^ Sugden, pp. 301–302, mentions that 'Brock 'had urged the
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* ^ Taylor 2011 , pp. 435–439.
* ^ Taylor 2011 , p. 421.
* ^ Taylor 2011 , p. 437.
* ^ PBS, _The War of 1812_, Essays.
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