The Story of the War of 1812 for Young Readers
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When James Madison was elected to the presidency in , he instructed Congress to prepare for war with Britain.
On June 18, , buoyed by the arrival of "war hawk" representatives, the United States formally declared war for the first time in the nation's history. Citizens in the Northeast opposed the idea, but many others were enthusiastic about the nation's "Second War of Independence" from British oppression. Ironically, the British Parliament was already planning to repeal their trade restrictions.
By the time the ship carrying news of the declaration of war reached Great Britain, almost a month and a half after war had been declared, the restrictions had been repealed. The British, however, after hearing of the declaration, chose to wait and see how the Americans would react to the repeal. The Americans, after hearing of the repeal, were still unsure how Great Britain would react to the declaration of war. Thus, although one of the main causes for war had vanished, fighting began anyway. The poorly trained U. America's military fleet was large, but Britain's was much larger.
The United States entered the war seeking to secure commercial rights and uphold national honor. The American strategy was to quickly bring Great Britain to the negotiating table on these issues by invading Canada. Captured Canadian territory could be used as a powerful bargaining chip against the crown. The invasion of Canada, which began in the summer of , ended in disaster.
Meanwhile, British-allied Native Americans continued their raids in Indiana and Illinois, massacring many settlers. The Americans performed better at sea.
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Although the British were able to set a semi-tight blockade along the Atlantic seaboard, American ships won several battles against British warships and captured a number of British trade vessels. The Americans continued to ably combat the formidable Royal Navy throughout the war. American fortunes fared little better through most of An attempt to retake Detroit failed near Frenchtown , Michigan, though the resulting massacre of American prisoners at the hands of Native Americans on January 23, inspired Kentucky soldiers to enlist, heeding the new rally cry "Remember the River Raisin!
The only considerable American successes occurred in September, with Oliver Hazard Perry winning a major naval battle on Lake Erie, and in October, when the Tecumseh's Confederacy of northwestern Native American tribes was crushed at the Battle of the Thames. Towards the end of , a war among the Creek nations erupted in the Southeast between factions influenced by Tecumseh's nativism and those who sought to adopt white culture. Andrew Jackson organized a force of militia over the winter of and defeated the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on May 24, Through the Treaty of Fort Jackson, he forced both sides of the Creek Nation, even those allied to him, to cede nearly 23 million acres of what would become Alabama and portions of Georgia.
In , the newly promoted Brigadier General Winfield Scott implemented a plan of strict drill for American troops on the Canadian border. In April, a brief peace broke out in Europe as Napoleon was forced into his first exile. Great Britain was able to shift more resources to the North American theater. The tone of the war changed as Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin described, "We should have to fight hereafter not for 'free Trade and sailors rights,' not for the Conquest of the Canadas, but for our national existence.
On August 19, , an expeditionary force of 4, hardened British veterans under the command of General Robert Ross landed at Benedict, Maryland and began a lightning campaign. After routing Maryland militia at the Battle of Bladensburg , Ross's men captured and burned the public buildings in Washington, D. That month, peace negotiations began in the European city of Ghent. Maryland militia held off the land assault at the Battle of North Point, killing Ross.
Fort McHenry repulsed the British ships in a hour battle that inspired the American national anthem. The British abandoned their designs on Baltimore, but soon launched another invasion of the Gulf Coast.
On December 24, , the Treaty of Ghent was signed and peace was agreed upon. Word was again slow to travel, however, and on January 9, , Andrew Jackson engaged a British force outside of New Orleans , resulting in a stunning but ultimately pointless victory. On February 18, , the Treaty of Ghent was officially ratified by President Madison, and the nation ended the War of with "less a shout of triumph than a sigh of relief.
The terms of the peace were status quo ante bellum , "the way things were before the war. British agents stopped supporting Native American raiders. The British trade restrictions and impressment policies had already been repealed. America had fought its old master to an honorable draw, and Britain had avoided disaster in North America while defeating the French in Europe. Canada gained a proud military heritage.
History.org: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website
The War of is somewhat paradoxical in that relations between the warring factions generally improved after the war. We lay near the bank of the lake at the extremity of the right [i. The fleet of the enemy moved on with a gentle breeze which began to chase away the fog and anchored opposite to us. Some murmured that the position was too much exposed to the fire from the ships.
Those who desire that only should remain at home. The warrior knows no anxiety for his safety. He only hopes to be truly so when his body is under ground and his soul is gone above. While the [vessels in the] flotilla of the enemy were putting themselves in order, at about three or four hundred paces from the shore, the boats, filled with men, remained at some distance behind them.
Our batteries at this time observing the strictest neutrality, and no reinforcement coming to the support of our little party, many of our men seemed to lose confidence and expressed that appearances gave no indication of any resistance being intended.http://gelatocottage.sg/includes/2020-06-27/2847.php
Entering the War of : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site
I went to the nearest battery, about one hundred paces on our left, to enquire the cause, and there I met an officer who was giving injunctions not to fire till the boats full of troops should approach the shore. As I returned he passed on to our position. I told him that unless we received support, I felt assured that in a little time I would be left with only a few of the bravest warriors, and that the others were already beginning to show much unsteadiness.
Immediately after he had passed, the enemy opened a heavy cannonade from seventeen vessels anchored along the shore. They fired very close, but the bank of the ravine afforded some cover when we stooped low.
A Brief Overview of the War of 1812
The fire continued, and my forebodings were verified. The wavering had retired. It is the ravine on our left, about a quarter of a mile distant, but I am assured that they will land here. Therefore, as soon as you see the boats pass the ships, hasten to our assistance.
The cannonade had now continued for an hour. The battery on our right was deserted. The boats of the enemy moved towards the shore. I felt disappointed at having been called from my position to gain such intelligence. I then saw Captain Brock of the 49th. He told me that the Glengarry had advanced to the shore of the lake, which made me hasten to return, desirous to take to their succour as many as I could. I required young Claus to run and call those who had sought shelter from the cannon. He complained of lameness. I sent another, and he advanced with me towards the shore with the most active zeal.
We heard the fire of small arms, and my little band hastened their speed. We directed our course towards the heaviest fire and crossed a muddy brook. The fire was very hot. Between the Glengarry and the Newfoundland, we came to the lake. They were standing within about twenty paces of the bank, from behind which the enemy kept up a heavy fire. Lieutenant-Colonel Myers was already badly wounded; his horse lay dead on the bank.
Poor Joseph Claus soon fell, and the ranks were quickly thinned. The enemy seldom showed their heads above the bank but fired incessantly.
We advanced to get a fair view of them.