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A Brief Overview of the War of 1812

 

..And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there…
The Defence of Fort McHenry
Francis Scott Key

Although it would be difficult to discern, simply from reading her novels, the world Jane Austen lived in was one constantly at war. During her lifetime (1775-1817) she saw the American war for independence (known as the Revolutionary War) the French Revolution, Britain’s war with France (fighting Napoleon from 1803-1815) and the War of 1812, which is largely forgotten in light of the other, “major” wars which overshadow it, in both British and American history.

With the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (and no, the 1812 overture was not written for this war– it was written in Russia, in 1880, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, commemorating Russia’s battle and eventual triumph over Napoleon’s forces) and the introduction of the newest American Girl Doll, Caroline Abbott, interest has been renewed in this war which saw not only at British invasion of Washington D.C., with troops burning the White House, but also the battle which inspired the poem, The Defence of Fort McHenry, which would later be titled The Star Spangled Banner, and adopted as the United States’ national anthem.

war of 1812
The battle which inspired the poem, The Defence of Fort McHenry, by Francis Scott Key.

War of 1812

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States and those of the British Empire. The United States declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain’s ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas, and possible American desire to annex Canada. Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British at first used defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and ended the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship. In the Southwest, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 on April 6, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large invasion armies. The British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed all three British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The White House in Washington D.C. after being burned, 1814

The war was fought in three principal theatres: (1) at sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships, while the British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war; (2) both land and naval battles were fought on the American–Canadian frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River; and (3) the American South and Gulf Coast also saw major land battles in which the American forces defeated Britain’s Indian allies and repulsed a British invasion force at New Orleans.

Both sides invaded each other’s territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other’s land, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.

American General Andrew Jackson leads his troops in Louisiana

Early 1800’s in the United States

In the United States, victories at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and in the Battle of Baltimore of 1814 (which inspired the lyrics of the United States national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”) produced a sense of euphoria over a “second war of independence” against Britain. Peace brought an “Era of Good Feelings” in which partisan animosity nearly vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity, having repelled multiple American invasions. Battles such as the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Crysler’s Farm became iconic for English-speaking Canadians. In Canada, especially Ontario, memory of the war retains national significance, as the invasions were largely perceived by Canadians as an annexation attempt by America seeking to expand US territory. In Canada, numerous ceremonies are scheduled in 2012 to commemorate a Canadian victory. The war is scarcely remembered in Britain today; as it regarded the conflict as sideshow to the much larger Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe. As such it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States.


From Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

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