|Re-enactors (in UK uniforms) fire muskets toward the "Americans" in this annual commemoration of the June 6, 1813 Battle of Stoney Creek|
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The Historian Channel's Documentary: "The War of 1812" History Documentary, The War of 1812 -- Full Documentary
The War of 1812 was a military conflict that lasted from June 18, 1812, to February 18, 1815, fought between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, its North American colonies, and its North American Indian allies. Historians in the United States and Canada see it as a war in its own right, but Europeans often see it as a minor theater of the Napoleonic Wars. By the war's end in early 1815 the key issues had been resolved and peace came with no boundary changes.
The United States declared war for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by the British war with France, the impressment of as many as 10,000 American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support for Native American tribes fighting American settlers on the frontier, outrage over insults to national honor during the Chesapeake–Leopard Affair, and American interest in annexing British territory, and expanding the United States further north. The primary British war goal was to defend their North American colonies; they also hoped to set up a neutral Indian buffer state in the Midwest that would impede American expansion in the Old Northwest and to minimize American trade with Napoleonic France, which Britain was blockading.
The war was fought in three theaters. First, at sea, warships and privateers of each side attacked the other's merchant ships, while the British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the United States and mounted large raids in the later stages of the war. Second, land and naval battles were fought on the U.S.–Canadian frontier. Third, large-scale battles were fought in the Southern United States and Gulf Coast. At the end of the war, both sides signed and ratified the Treaty of Ghent and, in accordance with the treaty, returned occupied land, prisoners of war and captured ships (though neither side returned the other's warships due to frequent re-commissioning upon capture) to its pre-war owner and resumed friendly trade relations without restriction.
With the majority of its land and naval forces tied down in Europe fighting the Napoleonic Wars, the British used a defensive strategy until 1814. Early victories over poorly-led U.S. armies demonstrated that the conquest of the Canadas would prove more difficult than anticipated. Despite this, the U.S. was able to inflict serious defeats on Britain's Native American allies, ending the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Native American state in the Midwest under British sponsorship. U.S. forces took control of Lake Erie in 1813, and seized western parts of Upper Canada. However, an American attempt to capture Montreal was repulsed in November 1813. Despite the major U.S. victory at Chippawa on July 5, 1814, serious attempts to fully conquer Upper Canada were ultimately abandoned following the bloody Battle of Lundy's Lane on July 25, 1814, which led to the Siege of Fort Erie and the final major battle fought on the Canadian side of the border.
In April 1814, with the defeat of Napoleon, Britain now had large, seasoned armies to use. It adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending large invasion armies and tightening their naval blockade. However, with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, both governments were eager for a return to normality and peace negotiations began in Ghent in August 1814. In the Deep South, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In September 1814, the British won the Battle of Hampden, allowing them to occupy eastern Maine, and the British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington, D.C. They were repulsed, however, in an attempt to take Baltimore and Fort Bowyer. An American victory in September 1814 at the Battle of Plattsburgh repulsed the British invasions of New York, which, along with pressure from merchants on the British government, prompted British diplomats to drop their demands at Ghent for an independent native buffer state and territorial claims that London previously sought. As it took six weeks for the ship carrying news of the peace treaty to cross the Atlantic, it did not arrive before the British suffered a major defeat at New Orleans in January 1815.
In the United States, late victories over invading British armies at the battles of Plattsburg, Baltimore (inspiring the United States national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner") and New Orleans produced a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain.The war ended on a high note for Americans, winning the final major and minor engagements of the war and bringing an "Era of Good Feelings" in which partisan animosity nearly vanished in the face of strengthened American nationalism. The war was also a major turning point in the development of the U.S. military. The poor performance of several U.S. militia units, particularly during the 1812–13 invasions of Canada and the 1814 defence of Washington, convinced the U.S. government of the need to move away from its Revolutionary-era reliance on militia and focus on creating a more professional regular force. Spain was involved in fighting in Florida but was not an official belligerent; some Spanish forces fought alongside the British during the Occupation of Pensacola. The U.S. took permanent ownership of Spain's Mobile District.
In Upper and Lower Canada, British and local Canadian militia victories over invading U.S. armies became iconic and promoted the development of a distinct Canadian identity, which included strong loyalty to Britain. Today, particularly in Ontario, memory of the war retains its significance, because the defeat of the invasions ensured that the Canadas would remain part of the British Empire, rather than be annexed by the United States. The government of Canada declared a three year commemoration of the War of 1812 in 2012; numerous events have taken place including re-enactments of specific battles. These are intended to commemorate the war, offer historical lessons and celebrate 200 years of peace across the border.
The conflict has not been commemorated on nearly the same level in the modern-day United States, though it is still taught as an important part of early American history, and Dolley Madison's and Andrew Jackson's respective roles in the war are especially emphasized. The war is scarcely remembered in Britain, being heavily overshadowed by the much larger Napoleonic Wars occurring in Europe.