The War of 1812

The War of 1812

The War of 1812

The immediate causes of the War of 1812 were a series of economic sanctions by the British and French against America as part of the Napoleonic Wars and American resentment over the British exercise of influence, especially after the Chesapeake Incident of 1807.

In response to the 1806 British Order in Council, which paralyzed American trade, America (under Jefferson) first tried various retaliatory sanctions. These sanctions harmed America far more than Britain, angered American citizens and provided support to war hawks in Congress like Henry Clay. In 1812, with President Madison in office, Congress declared war on the British.

The war began with an attack on Canada, both as an attempt to gain land and to cut off British supply lines to Tecumseh’s Indian Confederation, which had long troubled America.

The initial fighting in Canada was not as smooth as the War Hawks had hoped, and inexperienced American troops were swiftly pushed back. In fact, only on the basis of clutch naval victories by Oliver Hazard Perry on Lake Erie and Thomas McDonough on Lake Champlain, was a serious northern-front offensive of the United States, including New York, prevented.

In the midst of a decisive victory against British General Isaac Brock’s small army, General William Henry Harrison’s forces did manage to kill Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in 1813.

On the mid-Atlantic coast, British troops landed in the Chesapeake Bay area in 1814 and headed for Washington. US General William Winder attempted to intercept British forces under the command of General Robert Ross at Bladensburg. American troops were badly repulsed. The city of Washington was evacuated, and the British burned the Capitol and White House, as well as most of the non-residential Washington.

The British advanced, and Admiral Cochrane sought to invade Baltimore. General Ross was killed as his forces advanced towards the city, and his movement came to a halt. Cochrane’s forces bombed Fort McHenry, which guarded the port of Baltimore, but were unable to take it.

The incident inspired Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer detained on one of Cochrane’s ships, to write the Star-Spangled Banner. Unsuccessful in Baltimore, Cochrane’s damaged fleet was confined to Jamaica for repairs, and prepared for an invasion of New Orleans, hoping to cut off American use of the Mississippi River.

By mid-1814, the War of 1812 was turning into a more difficult battle than either side expected. Britain, engulfed in the costly Napoleonic Wars, began to seek a way out of its American commitment. In the Belgian city of Ghent, American negotiators (including John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay) met with British diplomats.

After much estrangement, the negotiators signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814, officially ending the war. The treaty returned US-UK relations to the state they were in before the war. America has neither gained nor lost any territory. The impression went undressed.

The war was officially over, but news slowly spread across the Atlantic Ocean. In New Orleans, Cochrane landed British troops, who were still waiting for their replacement commander for Ross, General Packenham, to arrive from Britain. On January 8, 1815, Andrew Jackson’s ragtag army badly defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

Even though the fight was unnecessarily fought (the treaty had already been signed) America celebrated wildly, revealing a surge in American nationalism.

Although the war had sheltered the creation of New England from British competition, New England merchant shipping was seriously hurt, and a group of Federalists met at the Hartford Convention in late 1814 to discuss their grievances.

Some spoke of leaving the Union, but most simply wanted to make it difficult for America to declare war or impose sanctions in the future. When news of the treaty came from Ghent, it made the federalists foolish, or even traitors. The Hartford Convention spelled the end of the Federalist Party.

Major Battles Of War of 1812

1. Battle of Baltimore and Siege of Fort McHenry

The Battle of Baltimore and the British siege of Fort McHenry took place on September 13th and 14th in 1814 amid the larger War of 1812. The war was between the United States and the British forces. The United States under Major General Samuel Smith comprised of 1000 men at Fort McHenry who had 20 guns, against the British forces under Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane.

The British were more well equipped with 19 ships and about 5,000 men. The British advanced to attack Baltimore, a vital port city which they believed was the base of many American privateers that were preying on their shipping.

Baltimore’s residents and defenders had declared their firm stance against the British by seizing their merchant ships and transporting limited cargoes to foreign ports.The war ended with a successful defense of Baltimore and restoration of American pride especially after the burning of Washington, D.C.

2. Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans was the last major battle waged in the War of 1812, and was fought between January 8 and January 18 in 1815. American fighters were led by Major General Andrew Jackson against British forces led by Admiral Alexander Cochran.

The fighting was one of the largest and most decisive actions that prevented the British from seizing New Orleans and other territories acquired through the Louisiana Purchase Agreement.

This was despite the signing of the Treaty of Ghent (signed in the Belgian city of the same name), which had not yet been ratified by the United States government until February of 1815. The warring sides continued with hostilities without knowledge of the treaty. The war ended when the British retreated on 18 January.

3. Battle of Lake Erie

The Battle of Lake Erie, also known as the Battle of Put-in-Bay, was a naval engagement between British forces and American forces during the War of 1812. It was fought on 10 September in 1813 and involved nine ships. United States Navy. The United States Navy defeated and captured six British Royal Navy ships. The battle was crucial to the control and recovery of Detroit and also enabled the Americans to win the Battle of the Thames. The Battle of Lake Erie was one of the largest naval activities in the War of 1812.

4. Battle of Bladensburg and Burning of Washington

British forces led by General Robert Ross conquered American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland on August 24, 1814, and from there marched unopposed to the US national capital, Washington, D.C. They captured Washington and Set fire to public buildings, including White House, which was then known as Rashtrapati Bhavan and several federal buildings. The attack was in retaliation for a previous US attack by US troops on Canadian government buildings. On August 26, General Ross ordered a withdrawal and President Madison returned to Washington and vowed to rebuild the city.


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