The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and the United Kingdom. It is sometimes called the "Second War of Independence."
Causes of the War of 1812
There were several events that led up to the War of 1812. The United Kingdom was engaged in a war against France and the armies of Napoleon. They had placed trade restrictions on the United States, not wanting them to trade with France. The navy of the United Kingdom also captured U.S. trade vessels and forced the sailors to join the Royal Navy. Finally, the United Kingdom supported Native American tribes in an effort to prevent the United States from expanding to the west.
President James Madison (1816) by John Vanderlyn
Who were the leaders?
The President of the United States during the war was James Madison. U.S. military leaders included Andrew Jackson, Henry Dearborn, Winfield Scott, and William Henry Harrison. The United Kingdom was led by the Prince Regent (George IV) and Prime Minister Robert Jenkinson. British military leaders included Isaac Brock, Gordon Drummond, and Charles de Salaberry.
U.S. Attacks Canada
On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom. The first thing the U.S. did was to attack the British colony of Canada. The invasion did not go well. Inexperienced U.S. troops were easily defeated by the British and the U.S. even lost the city of Detroit.
U.S. Gains Ground
Things began to turn around for the United States in 1813 with a decisive victory in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 19, 1813. A few weeks later, William Henry Harrison led the U.S. forces as they defeated a large Native American force led by Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames.
The British Fight Back
In 1814, the British began to fight back. They used their superior navy to blockade U.S. trade and to attack U.S. ports along the east coast. On August 24, 1814, British forces attacked Washington, D.C. They took control of Washington and burnt down many buildings including the Capitol and the White House (it was called the Presidential Mansion at the time).
Battle of Baltimore
The British were gaining ground in the war until the Battle of Baltimore which lasted three days from September 12-15, 1814. Over several days, British ships bombarded Fort McHenry in an effort to make their way to Baltimore. However, U.S. troops were able to hold off the much larger British force, causing the British to withdraw. This victory proved to be an important turning point in the war.
The Battle of New Orleans (1910) by Edward Percy Moran.
Battle of New Orleans
The final major battle of the War of 1812 was the Battle of New Orleans which took place on January 8, 1815. The British attacked New Orleans hoping to take control of the port city. They were held off and defeated by U.S. forces led by Andrew Jackson. The U.S. won a decisive victory and forced the British out of Louisiana.
The U.S. and Great Britain signed a peace treaty called the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on February 17, 1815.
The war ended in a stalemate with neither side gaining ground. No borders were changed as a result of the war. However, the end of the war did bring long-term peace between the United States and the United Kingdom. It also brought about an "Era of good feelings" in the United States.
Interesting Facts About the War of 1812
Different Native American tribes allied with both sides during the war. Most tribes sided with the British including the Tecumseh Confederacy which allied several tribes against the U.S.
The Battle of Baltimore was the inspiration for a poem written by Francis Scott Key that later became the lyrics for The Star-Spangled Banner.
The Treaty of Ghent was signed before the Battle of New Orleans, but word of the treaty did not reach Louisiana before the battle.
Dolly Madison, wife of President James Madison, is often credited with saving a famous portrait of George Washington from being destroyed when the British burned down the White House.