The War of 1812

The War of 1812 is sometimes referred to as a “Second War for Independence” and was a very important event in America’s early history. During their conflict with the French in the Napoleonic Wars, the United Kingdom violated several U.S. rights. Angered by these actions, the United States declared war against the United Kingdom.

During their war with France, Britain wanted to restrict trade between the U.S. and France. Needing more men, Britain’s Royal Navy used impressment, capturing U.S trade ships and kidnapping and forcing the sailors to fight for them. Furthermore, the British encouraged Native Americas to attack American settlers. One such instance was The Battle of Tippecanoe between the Shawnee Indians and the U.S. Army. The Shawnee tribe created alliances with other tribes to resist American settlers. Under the command of William Henry Harrison, U.S. forces defeated the Native American Confederacy and destroyed Prophetstown, their main village. Americans blamed the British for inspiring the Indians to fight against the U.S.

War was eventually declared on June 18, 1812. Early important victories such as the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 ensured American control of the lake and key ground. By 1814, Britain’s war with France ended, and Britain focused on the war with the U.S. On August 24, 1814, the British won the Battle of Bladensburg taking control of Washington, D.C. and burned down the Capitol and the White House. The U.S. were able to secure a victory a month later in the Battle of Plattsburgh saving New York from British invasion, however the British were still gaining ground

In the Battle of Baltimore British ships heavily bombarded Fort McHenry for several days. Aboard a British ship, lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key watched the bombing of the Fort throughout the night and saw the American flag still flying. This inspired him to write the Star Spangled Banner. The U.S. Troops held off the attack and the British troops withdrew. The final battle ended with a victory for U.S. forces led by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The battle however, was fought after the U.S. and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent ending the war on December 24, 1814.

America won a huge moral victory by fighting off the British, bringing the “Era of good feelings” to the U.S. with less partisan disagreement. The Federalist party was all but gone due to their antiwar stance, and military leader Andrew Jackson was elected president ushering in the age of the “common man”.