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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Causes of the 1812 war between the United States and Great Britain.
- Brief background of the war and people behind.
- Key battles and prominent figures.
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s find out more about the War of 1812
- The war was fought for two years and eight months between 18 June, 1812, and 17 February, 1815. “The Era of Good Feelings” marked a reflected sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812.
- Peace negotiations began in 1815, but communication across the Atlantic was a challenge, causing an undue protraction of the war.
- The war was fought in the US, Canadian Ontario and Quebec under British rule, and the high seas, against the British, Canadians and the Native Indians in Michigan, and New York.
Causes of the War
- Britain and France were fighting a war in Europe.
- Britain began capturing American sailors and “impressing” them or forcing them to work on British ships.
- By 1807, Britain had seized more than 1,000 American ships.
- France and Britain were in a constant conflict of superiority between 1789 and 1815, with Napoleon working to establish satellite kingdoms in Europe.
- President James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was a staunch federalist, but during and after the war, he became a keen advocate for a strong central government owing to the challenges he faced of getting the north to support the war with financial and human resources.
- When the war was declared, the US believed that the capture of Canada would be swift and easy because Canada only had 500,000 people compared to the US population of 7.5 million at the time.
- Furthermore, the majority of the settlers were Americans who moved north in search of land and relief from the high American taxes.
- John Randolph of Virginia was quoted as saying that the capture would be “at no expense of blood and treasure on our part, Canada is to conquer herself. She is to be subdued by the principals of fraternity.”
- Optimism aside, the US was unprepared for the war. The army lacked the appropriate command structure that would ensure the success in their attempts to capture Canada. The secretary of war William Eustis had only seven junior officers supporting him.
- President James Madison, therefore, approved a three-pronged approach developed by Major General Henry Dearborn.
- The first troop would move up Lake Champlain to take Montreal; the second would move through upper Canada by crossing the Niagara River between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The third thrust would come from the west, advancing east into Upper Canada through Detroit.
Key Battles of The War of 1812
Failure at Detroit
- The American troops from the west were in motion before the declaration of war under the leadership of Major General William Hull.
- He navigated his troops north towards Detroit. He encountered the schooner Cuyahoga. His sick and wounded boarded the Cuyahoga, and he placed complete records of his army aboard and dispatched it across Lake Erie.
- This was amid warning and fears from his men that the ship may be captured. The schooner was indeed arrested, at Fort Malden by the British.
- Records of his troops were sent to Major General Isaac Brock who was in command of the British army in Upper Canada.
- Hull crossed Detroit River and issued a pompous declaration that the Canadians were free from the oppressive British rule. On reaching Fort Malden, he chose not to launch an assault against the fort, despite his numerical advantage.
- At this point, there was a realisation that the Canadian people would not support America as had initially been expected. Furthermore, the Ohio militia that accompanied Hull refused to enter into Canada citing that they had only agreed to fight on American soil.
- Hull sent Major General Thomas Van Horn to meet a wagon train near River Raisin, as he and his men were running out of supplies. Van Horn was accosted by the Shawnee and retreated back to Detroit. Later, on 17 July Hull learned that Fort Mackinac surrendered.
- This meant that the British now controlled the entire Great Lake region. Hull then ordered the immediate evacuation of Americans from Fort Dearborn on Lake Michigan, who were attacked by the
- Potawatomi under chief Black Bird, and the Fort was burned.
- Hull gave orders for his army to retreat back across the Detroit River on 8 August, upon getting word that Brock was launching a campaign against him. The orders to retreat caused the militia to demand his removal from command.
- Brock also wanted to calm the British settlers in the region, and affirm to the Native Indians that the British would win the war. He therefore rushed to Amherstburg with Tecumseh the Shawnee leader and attacked Detroit. Hull surrendered without putting up resistance on 16 August, against the advice of his men.
The Assault through Niagara
- After his victory in Detroit, Brock returned to Niagara and was disappointed to find his senior in command Lieutenant Sir George who had taken a defensive position pending an attack by the Americans.
- An armistice was put in place to allow the two officials time to agree on a common approach. Taking advantage of the truce, was Major General Stephen van Rensselaer, a militia leader leading the campaign along the Niagara. He requested reinforcements, but since he was appointed leader due to his popularity as a federalist, he did not command the respect of his counterparts in the army.
- Brigadier General Alex Smyth, to whom the orders for reinforcing van Rensselaer were sent, was reluctant to follow through. After the armistice ended, van Rensselaer commanded Smyth to bring his men to his base at Lewiston New York to enable him to launch an offensive to capture Queenston Heights. Smyth complied, but van Rensselaer was forced to postpone his attack due to bad weather, causing Smyth and his men to depart.
- Smyth was ordered to catch up with van Rensselaer, as the former was already on his way into Niagara. Brock was killed during a counter attack, and when van Rensselaer sent for reinforcements, the men refused to cross the river, causing the defeat and arrest of American soldiers. The devastating losses caused van Rensselaer’s resignation and Smyth replaced him.
Success at Sea
- At sea, at the time of the war, the Americans had 25 ships against the British 1,000. As they were outnumbered, the US engaged strategically, applying guerre de course.
- Furthermore, hundreds of letters of Marque were given to the privateers to help support the US Navy enabling the capture of over 1,500 British ships.
- On 19 August, Captain Isaac Hull, nephew of William Hull, Captain of the USS Constitution 44 guns, won over the HMS Guerriere 38 guns forcing its captain James Dacres to surrender. Hull was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Boston.
- On 25 October, Captain Stephen Decatur of the USS United States 44 guns captured the HMS Macedonian 38 guns. The USS Wasp 18 guns was seized by the HMS Poictiers 74 guns after having defeated the HMS Frolic 18 guns.
- The USS Constitution later defeated the HMS Java 38 guns on 29 December. Following the defeats at sea, the British warned its Navy to avoid engaging with the US ships at sea.
Recapture of Detroit
- Dearborn was assigned to lead the assault into upper Canada through Lake Champlain into Montreal. He took the time to raise an army and hadn’t launched his campaign by the end of the year after the war was declared. However, due to the failures in the previous year, President Madison opted to make some changes.
- Major General William Henry Harrison replaced William Hull with his first orders, to retake Detroit. However, Harrison’s success was based on the American capture of Lake Erie.
- Captain Isaac Chauncey was sent to Sackets Harbour, in New York, to oversee the construction of a fleet on Lake Ontario. The strategy indicated that a victory on Lake Ontario and Niagara would open the chance for an attack on Montreal.
- At Presque Isle, on the coasts of Lake Erie, Master Commandant Oliver H. Perry was the leader of the naval forces on Lake Erie. He diligently oversaw the construction of two 20-gun brigs, the USS Lawrence and USS Niagara. Commander Robert H. Barclay was the British counterpart.
- Both sides were working to ensure that they had enough men and supplies pending battle. Barclay oversaw the construction of the HMS Detroit, a 19- gunship. Upon engaging in war, Perry was able to secure a resounding victory for the Americans and sent out word to Harrison announcing, “we have met the enemy, and they are ours.”
- At first, Harrison was on the defensive in western Ohio in the second quarter of 1813 against Major General Henry Proctor and the Tecumseh in May. With Perry’s victory, Harrison went on the offensive. His troops were transported via Perry’s fleet into Detroit while a section approached Detroit by land. Proctor, in fear, abandoned Detroit, Fort Malden and Amherstburg and began retreating further east.
- Harrison continued pursuing, and the British continued retreating, against the advice of Tecumseh. Proctor finally made a stand along the Thames River near Moravian Town. In battle, Tecumseh died, and the British were crushed. Proctor fled, and the battle was among the clearest victories of the US in the Northwest. The death of Tecumseh led to reduced Native American attacks in the Detroit, with several tribes negotiating for an armistice with Harrison.
Failed Attempt at Lake Ontario
- The plan was to sever Lake Ontario from Lake Erie and St. Lawrence River. At Sackets Harbour, Chauncey’s efforts saw that the US Navy ships were superior to the British led by Captain Sir James Yeo. The two were never able to engage in a decisive battle, for fear of ruining their ships.
- Dearborn was ready to take on Lake Ontario at Buffalo in preparation for an attack at Fort Erie and George, and another troop at Sackets Harbour. On the upper outlet of the lake, the US army was waiting to attack Kingston. Chauncey and Dearborn changed the plan upon meeting at Sackets Harbour on attacking Kingston. Chauncey feared the possibility of ice around Kingston and Dearborn was afraid they would be overpowered by the British, and therefore, opted to change course, just thirty miles from their target.
- They instead, attacked York, Ontario in present-day Toronto. Chauncey transported Dearborn troops across the lake to York. The soldiers, now under the leadership of Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, successfully took on the Brits at York under the command of Major General Roger Sheaffe, on 27 April. Pike, however, died as the US began occupying the town. Chauncey and Dearborn later withdrew from the town.
- The victory was of no strategic value to the US, and Dearborn was reprimanded by Secretary of War John Armstrong for the decision to attack York.
- To save face, Dearborn and Chauncey prepared for a campaign against Fort George. Yeo and the Governor General
- of Canada Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, attacked the Sackets Harbour as the US army was engaged along the Niagara. Their efforts were thwarted by Brigadier General Jacob Brown, leader of the New York militia.
- Dearborn, on the other hand, delegated command to Colonel Winfield Scott for the attack on Fort George. Facing off the British Brigadier General John Vincent, and with the help of Chauncey’s ships, the Brits were forced to surrender. The US troops also occupied Fort Erie.
- Scott broke his collarbone, and Dearborn replaced him with Brigadier Generals William Winder and John Chandler. The two, like van Rensselaer, were political appointees and lacked the requisite experience.
- At sea, Yeo managed to completely crush Chauncey on his way to Sackets Harbour. Noting Chauncey’s defeats, Dearborn ordered the retreat back to Fort George. The subsequent loss at the Battle of Beaver under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Boerstler on 24 June, led to Dearborn’s recall. Major General James Wilkinson replaced him.
Defeat at Saint Laurence
- Wilkinson was to join with Major General Wade Hampton troops heading north from Lake Champlain and attack Montreal. Wilkinson heard that Kingston had concentrated his fleet at Kingston, sent a decoy to Kingston and headed down the river.
- Hampton began moving north but afraid by the diminished navy superiority on Lake Champlain, he decided to go west through the Chateauguay River. His militia, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry, refused to cross the border into Canada.
- De Salaberry was fortified at fifteen miles below the St. Lawrence as Hampton and his men went forward. Hampton engaged the British in the Battle of the Chateauguay and retreated falsely fearing that the British army was more extensive than it actually was.
- Wilkinson, on the other hand, left Sackets Harbour on 17 October and went downstream. He was met by a small British army under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morrison. Morrison was ordered to delay Wilkinson as he awaited enforcement. Wilkinson ordered some of his troops to attack Morrison under the command of Brigadier General John Boyd.
- Boyd was successful, but suffered a counter-attack and was driven off the field. Wilkinson was, however, still keen on reaching Montreal, until he learned that Hampton had retreated and then he also abandoned his campaign.
- Upon learning of Hampton and Wilkinson’s retreat, Brigadier General George McClure also decided to abandon Fort George after getting word that the Brits under Lieutenant General George Drummond were approaching. Retreating across the Niagara, his men burned Newark village, in Ontario, on 19 December. In retaliation, the British troops burned Black Rock and Buffalo on 30 December.
Change of Wave at Sea
- In the first year of the war, the US achieved significant success at sea and continued with the offensive in the second year.
- The frigate, USS Essex 46 guns under David Porter, patrolled the South Atlantic. In March, Porter moved through the Pacific to Valparaiso, Chile, successfully engaging British ships along the way.
- On reaching Valparaiso, he was blocked by the HMS Phoebe 36 guns and HMS Cherub 18 guns. He feared other ships were coming and attempted to escape. The British engaged him, and he was forced to surrender.
- Master Commandant James Lawrence of the brig USS Hornet 20 guns had captured HMS Peacock 18 guns. He was promoted and put on board the USS Chesapeake 50 guns and went on to engage the HMS Shannon. He was fatally wounded, and the ship served the Royal Navy until it was sold in 1820.
The Creek War
- In the southeast region, the Creek Nation, also called the Red Sticks, sought to resist the white encroachment of their land. Incited by the Tecumseh, the British and armed by the Spaniards, in Pensacola, the Natives were ready for war.
- At first, they were intercepted by American troops on their way from Pensacola to receive arms. The Natives managed to drive away the soldiers in the battle of Burnt Corn. The Natives also carried out a mascara of settlers and militia at Fort Mims on 30 August, 1813.
- Secretary of War John Armstrong sent troops to attack the upper Creek nation and potentially Pensacola, upon determining their latter’s engagement in the incident. Major General Andrew Jackson and his volunteers defeated the Creek nation at Tallahatchie and Talladega. He built a Fort and started negotiating with the Creek.
- He demanded that they sever their relationship with the British and Spanish or face termination. The Creeks in fear agreed, leading to the Treaty of Fort Jackson through which they ceded 23 million acres of land.
Did you know?
- The War of 1812 produced a new generation of great American generals, including Andrew Jackson, Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott, and helped propel no fewer than four men to the presidency: Jackson, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe and William Henry Harrison.
Newly Produced Generation of Great American Generals of the War of 1812
- Birth Date: 15 March, 1767
- Birth Place: Waxhaw Settlement between North Carolina and South Carolina, British America
- Date of Death: 8 June, 1845
- A lawyer and a landowner, Andrew Jackson became a national war hero after defeating the British in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Jackson was elected the seventh president of the United States in 1828.
- During the War of 1812 General Andrew Jackson led his troops through enemy territory to victory in several tide-turning battles. In doing so, he greatly aided the nation's victory in the war. This led to the procurement of millions of acres in the present-day southern United States, including Florida.
- Birth Date: 13 June, 1786
- Birth Place: Dinwiddie County,Virginia, United States
- Date of Death: 29 May, 1866
- An American military commander and political candidate.
- He served as a general in the United States Army from 1814 to 1861, taking part in the War of 1812.
- Dearborn delegated command to Colonel Winfield Scott for the attack on Fort George. Scott broke his collarbone, and Dearborn replaced him with Brigadier Generals William Winder and John Chandler.
- Birth Date: 9 May, 1775
- Birth Place: Bucks County, Pennsylvania,United States
- Date of Death: 24 February, 1828
- Leader of the New York militia.
- An American army officer in the War of 1812. His successes on the northern border during that war made him a hero. In 1821, he was appointed Commanding General of the United States Army and held that post until his death.
End of the War of 1812 and its impact
- By that time, peace talks had already begun in Ghent (modern Belgium), and Britain moved for an armistice after the failure of the assault on Baltimore. In the negotiations that followed, the United States gave up its demands to end impressment, while Britain promised to leave Canada’s borders unchanged and abandon efforts to create an Indian state in the Northwest.
- On 24 December, 1814, commissioners signed the Treaty of Ghent, which would be ratified the following February. On 8 January, 1815, unaware that peace had been concluded, British forces mounted a major attack in the Battle of New Orleans, only to meet with defeat at the hands of future U.S. president Andrew Jackson’s army.
- News of the battle boosted sagging U.S. morale and left Americans with the taste of victory, despite the fact that the country had achieved none of its pre-war objectives.
Impact of the War of 1812
- Though the War of 1812 is remembered as a relatively minor conflict in the United States and Britain, it looms large for Canadians and for Native Americans, who see it as a decisive turning point in their losing struggle to govern themselves.
- In fact, the war had a far-reaching impact in the United States, as the Treaty of Ghent ended decades of bitter partisan infighting in government and ushered in the so-called “Era of Good Feelings.” The war also marked the demise of the Federalist Party, which had been accused of being unpatriotic for its antiwar stance, and reinforced a tradition of Anglophobia that had begun during the Revolutionary War.
- Perhaps most importantly, the war’s outcome boosted national self-confidence and encouraged the growing spirit of American expansionism that would shape the better part of the 19th century.
The Effects of the War of 1812
- With two victories over Britain, the United States gains respect as a solidified nation.
- The United States peacefully accepts Canada as a neighbour.
- Federalist's reasoning for breaking apart the Union is later used by the South.
- Federalist Party is terminated because there is no more interest in New England leaving the Union.
- Native Americans forced to surrender land.
- With limited European imports during the war, the U.S. built more factories and became more industrially self-sufficient.
- War heroes like Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison become the next political leaders.
- Increased American nationalism.