Throughout its history America, like many other countries, has outlasted a number of wars and military conflicts, both internal and international. One of such conflicts was the War of 1812 between the United States and United Kingdom. It lasted two and a half years and ended only in 1815. In America the war of 1812 is known as the Second Independence War, an event that significantly improved national identity of citizens of the country. The aim of this work is to elucidate the main reasons of the war, its principal developments, results, and outcomes.
In 1807, Great Britain prohibited all trades between France, with which it was in war, her allies, and America. In return, later in the year Congress passed an embargo act that prohibited trade between US vessels and European countries, and the Non-Intercourse Acts of 1809, applied only to France and Britain. However, all these measures were ineffective, and in 1810 America resumed trade with France and Great Britain claimed they ceased blockades against neutral trading. But British continued to stop American ships searching for Royal Navy deserters, impressing US merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, and enforcing blockade of neutral commerce. Great Britain supported Native Americans against European American expansion and decried national dignity of American citizens by stopping American slave ships that carried black slaves to the New World in disregard for the trade slave ban of 1808; all of these reasons led to the US declaring war on June 18, 1812 (Stagg, 4).
The war had three main theatres of operations. The first of them was at sea, mainly the Atlantic ocean and the east cost of North America, where warships of one side attacked merchant ships of another, the second was on the US-Canadian borders and the Great Lakes, where all land and naval battles took place, and the last one was in the Southern United States and Golf Coast. The war started in June 1812, near the US-Canadian borders, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and went with varying success. Despite the fact lots of angry diplomatic disputes took place before the war, neither America nor Great Britain were ready when it came. Britain was involved in the Napoleonic Wars that captured Europe in 1812, and could not send to the United States its main forces. America, in turn, had a small regular army, and, in spite of its voluntary expansion, the idea of war in public sentiments was unpopular. Talking about that in New England, Adams states, “Two of the Massachusetts members [of Congress], Seaver and Widgery, were publicly insulted and hissed on Change in Boston; while another, Charles Turner was seized by a crowd on the evening of August 3,  and kicked through the town” (Adams, 514). The United States also had financial problems, and supporting the war for them was difficult.
On July 12, 1812, an American General William Hull led his small army of about a thousand of untrained recruits to the Canadian town of Sandwich, and in a month they retreated to Detroit, where surrendered to united forces of Britain, Canadians, and Native Americans led by Major General Isaac Brock and Shawnee leader Tecumseh, which were even smaller (Heidler, 248). This loss cost the US the control over most part of Michigan territory. In a few months, Americans began a second invasion to Canada, at the Niagara Peninsula, and in the Battle of Queenston Heights they lost again (Heidler, 437).
At the beginning of the war The United States suffered from weaknesses of military and citizen leadership. After several losses, in October 1813 American army retreated for redeployment, which depended on location of forces and remained so during the Upper Canadian theater of War (Heidler, 362). At the end of 1813, the course of the war completely changed; on the Great Lakes the Americans started to use their Naval powers and won a number of important battles, such as the Battle of the Lake Erie that gave the US control under the Lake Erie, and the Battle of the Thames under the command of General William Henry Harrison in October 1813. The leader of Shawnee, Tecumseh, was killed, and the tribe left the ranks of the British-Canadian army (“Tecumseh”). The Americans obtained control under western Ontario and achieved the basic war goal by ending the threat of Indian raids supplied by the British located in Canada into the American Midwest (Heidler, 505).
At sea, the US strategies against powerful British Navy were not very successful. Americans were good in ship-to-ship actions, but British power was enough to attack bayside towns. One of the most famous episodes of British raids was the attack of the shores of Chesapeake Bay and attack on Washington resulted in burning of the White House, the Capitol, and the Navy Yard. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain led its main forces to America, but by that time Americans had learnt how to fight successfully. After a number of successful and non-successful battles both sides achieved their goals and decided to end the war.
The war ended with signing the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814 at Ghent, Belgium. Despite the treaty did not resolved two key problems that began the war – the impressment of American sailors and the rights of neutral US vessels – it opened the region of the Great Lakes to American expansion; that was recognized as a great diplomatic victory of the United States. It took about two months to inform both armies about the end of the war, and before that, on January 8, 1815, the US and British forces participated in the last battle in New Orleans ended with the great and probably the most spectacular victory of Americans under the command of General Andrew Jackson. American citizens heard about the results of the Battle of New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent at the same time, and it significantly increased the national pride and self-confidence across the country.
The War of 1812 took place at almost the same time as the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, and, thus, is not well known in other countries. However, in American history it was an event of high importance, the one that resolved some issues between the US and Great Britain after the American Revolutionary War and proved the USA to be a sovereign state.
Adams, Henry (1986). History of the United States of America during the Administrations of James Madison. New York, NY: Library of America.
Goltz, Herbert S. W. “Tecumseh.” In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved from http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tecumseh_5E.html.
Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T. (1997). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Stagg, John C. A. (2012). Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.