War of 1812

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The War of 1812
Date 1812—1815
Result Treaty of Ghent (status quo ante bellum)
United States British Empire
United States

Regular army: 99,000
Volunteers: 10,000*
Rangers: 3,000
Militia: 458,000**
Naval and marine: 20,000

Great Britain

Regular army: 10,000+
Naval and marine: ?
Canadian militia: 86,000+

Indigenous peoples

New York Iroquois: 600
Northwestern allies: ?
Southern allies: ?

Indigenous peoples: 3,500?
United States:

Killed in action: 2,260
Wounded in action: 4,505
Executed: 205+
Other deaths: 17,000
Civilian deaths: 500?

Indigenous peoples: ?

3,000 dead,
2,000 wounded
*Volunteers were semi-professional troops
**Most militia did not participate in fighting or campaigning

The War of 1812 was a conflict fought on land in North America and at sea around the world between the United States and United Kingdom from 1812 to 1815. Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia is also sometimes referred to as the "War of 1812."

Although the United States was officially at war with Great Britain, more than half of the British forces were made up of Canadian militia. Additionally, many Indigenous peoples (called "Native Americans" in the United States and "First Nations" in Canada) fought on both sides of the war for reasons of their own.

The war formally began on June 18, 1812 with the U.S. declaration of war. The United States launched invasions of the Canadian provinces in 1812 and 1813, but the borders were successfully defended by British and American Indian forces. The United States gained the upper hand in the American Indian part of war with victories at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813 and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, but by this time Napoleon had been defeated in Europe, and the British were finally able to divert more resources to North America. British invasions of American territory resulted in the burning of Washington, D.C. and the capture of part of the District of Maine, but the British counteroffensive was turned back at Lake Champlain, Baltimore, and New Orleans. The Treaty of Ghent (ratified in 1815) restored the status quo ante bellum between the combatants.

Although the War of 1812 ended as a stalemate and is often only dimly remembered, it had many effects on the futures of those involved. The war created a greater sense of nationalism in both Canada and the United States. The successful defense of the Canadian provinces against American invasion ultimately ensured the survival of Canada as a distinct nation, and the end of the war marked the decline of a longstanding desire of many Americans to see the British Empire expelled from North America. Peace between the United States and British North America also meant that American Indians could no longer use conflicts between the two powers to defend native lands against the expansion of white settlement.


Causes of the war

For a more detailed discussion, see the article Causes of the War of 1812.

The war was a result of two major causes: a dispute over repeated violations of American sovereignty by Great Britain, and American expansionism, a desire by some Americans to expand their territory and population by conquering Great Britain's Canadian colonies.

The British Canadian colonies were lightly populated and poorly defended compared to the crowded American states to their south, and many of the settlers were Americans by birth and believed to remain sympathetic to the United States. Some Americans argued that the majority of the population in the British colonies would rise up and greet an American invading army as liberators, and that, as Thomas Jefferson suggested in 1812, "the acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent." The belief that the United States was destined to control all of the North American continent would later gain the name Manifest Destiny, but that term was not yet in use at the time of the war.

Meanwhile, the United States had grievances against Great Britain for sovereignty violations in three areas:

  1. Britain's refusal to surrender western forts promised to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American War of Independence, together with allegations that Britain was arming native Americans fighting against them on the western frontier;
  2. The Royal Navy's stopping of American ships on the high seas to search for deserters, and the impressment of seamen who had been born as British subjects but later naturalized as American citizens; and
  3. The trade embargos by France and Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, which resulted in the seizing of hundreds of American merchant ships.

In 1795 the Jay Treaty with Britain and the Treaty of Greenville with the Native Americans temporarily resolved the conflict on the western frontier; however, the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty of 1806 dealt only with trade, not impressment, and was not ratified by the United States Congress. Continuing embargos and the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair of 1807 (which resulted in the deaths of three American seamen under attack by a British ship) further aggravated tensions between the two countries.

In 1811, in the United States House of Representatives, a loose political faction called the War Hawks, under the leadership of speaker Henry Clay, began agitating for a declaration of war against Britain, both as a response to the grievances and as an opportunity to acquire the British Canadian colonies. After a speech by President James Madison to Congress on June 18, 1812, Congress voted to declare war.

Course of the war

Although the outbreak of the war had been preceded by years of angry diplomatic dispute, neither side was ready for war when it came. The United Kingdom was still hard pressed by the Napoleonic Wars, and was compelled to retain the greater part of her forces and her best crews in European waters. The total number of British troops present in Canada in July 1812 was officially stated to be 5,004 and consisted primarily of Canadians. During the war, successes against Napoleon left the United Kingdom free to send an overwhelming force of ships to American waters.

The United States was unready to prosecute a war. In 1812 the regular army consisted of fewer than 12,000 men. Congress authorized the expansion of the army to 35,000 men, but the service was voluntary and unpopular, and there was an almost total lack of trained and experienced officers. The militia, called in to aid the regulars, objected to serving outside their home states, were not amenable to discipline and, as a rule, performed poorly in the presence of the enemy.

The war was conducted in four theatres of operations:

  1. The Atlantic Ocean
  2. The Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier
  3. The coast of the United States
  4. The American South

Operations on the ocean

Since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Britain had been the world's preeminent naval power. In 1812, the Royal Navy had ninety-seven vessels in American waters. Of these, eleven were ships of the line and thirty-four were frigates. In contrast, the United States Navy, which was not yet twenty years old, had only twenty-two commissioned vessels, the largest of which were frigates, though a number of the American ships were 44-gun frigates and very heavily built compared to the usual British 38-gun frigates.

The strategy of the British was to protect its own merchant shipping to and from Canada, and enforce a blockade of major American ports to restrict American trade. Due to their numerical inferiority, the Americans aimed to cause disruption through hit-and-run tactics, such as the capture of prizes and only engaging Royal Navy vessels under favourable circumstances.

The Americans experienced much early success. On June 21, 1812, three days after the formal declaration of war, two small squadrons left New York. The ships included the frigate USS President and the sloop USS Hornet under Commodore John Rodgers (who had general command), and the frigates USS United States and USS Congress, with the brig USS Argus under Captain Stephen Decatur.

Two days later, the Hornet gave chase to the British frigate HMS Belvidera. Belvidera eventually escaped to Halifax, after discarding all unnecessary cargo overboard. The Hornet returned to Boston, Massachusetts by August 31. Meanwhile, the USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, sailed from the Chesapeake on July 12 without orders so as to avoid being blockaded. On July 17 a British squadron gave chase. The Constitution evaded its pursuers after two days, and later retired at Boston. On August 19 the Constitution engaged the British frigate HMS Guerriere. After a thirty five-minute battle, the Guerriere had been dismasted and captured, and was later burned.

On October 25 the USS United States, commanded by Captain Decatur, captured the British frigate HMS Macedonian, which he carried back to port. At the close of the month, the Constitution sailed south under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. On December 20, off Bahia, Brazil, it met the British frigate HMS Java, which was carrying General Hislop, the governor of Bombay, to India. After a battle lasting three hours, the Java struck her colours and was burned after being judged unsalvageable.

In January 1813, the American frigate USS Essex, under the command of Captain David Porter, sailed into the Pacific in an attempt to harass British shipping. Many British whaling ships carried letters of marque allowing them to prey on American whalers, nearly destroying the industry. The Essex challenged this practice. She inflicted an estimated $3,000,000 damage on British interests before she was captured off Valparaiso, Chile, by the British frigate HMS Phoebe and the sloop HMS Cherub on March 28, 1814.

In all of these actions, except the one in which the Essex was taken, the Americans had the advantage of greater size and heavier guns. Despite the greater experience in naval combat of the British, a large proportion of their seamen had been impressed. This contrasted with the Americans who were all volunteers, which may have given the Americans an edge in morale and seamanship.

The capture of three British frigates was a blow to the British and stimulated them to greater exertions. More vessels were deployed on the American seaboard and the blockade tightened. On June 1, 1813, the frigate USS Chesapeake was captured by the British frigate HMS Shannon as it attempted to leave Boston Harbor. This somewhat offset the blow to morale caused by previous disasters. The blockade of American ports had tightened to the extent that the United States ships found it increasingly more difficult to sail without meeting forces of superior strength. Because of this the Royal Navy was able to transport British Army troops to American shores, paving the way for the burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814.

The operations of American privateers were extensive. They continued until the close of the war and were only partially affected by the strict enforcement of convoy by the Royal Navy. An example of the audacity of the American cruisers was the capture of the American sloop USS Argus at St David's Head in Wales by the more heavily armed British sloop HMS Pelican, on August 14, 1813.

Operations on the Great Lakes and Canadian border

Invasions of Canada, 1812

Major General Sir Isaac Brock skillfully repulsed an American invasion of Canada, but his death was a severe loss for the British cause.
Major General Sir Isaac Brock skillfully repulsed an American invasion of Canada, but his death was a severe loss for the British cause.

While they had expected little from their tiny navy, the American people had assumed that Canada could be easily overrun. Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson dismissively referred to the conquest of Canada as "a matter of marching." However, in the opening stages of the conflict, British military experience prevailed over inexperienced American commanders.

Geography dictated that operations would take place in the West principally around Lake Erie, near the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and near Saint Lawrence River area and Lake Champlain. This would be the focus of the three pronged attacks by the Americans in 1812.

Although cutting the St. Lawrence River through the capture of Montreal and Quebec would make Britain's hold in Canada unsustainable, operations in the West began first due to the general popularity of war with the British there.

The British scored an important early success, when their detachment at Saint Joseph Island on Lake Huron learned of the declaration of war before the nearby American garrison at the important trading post at Mackinac Island in Michigan did. A scratch force landed on the island on July 17, 1812 and mounted a gun overlooking the fort. The Americans, taken by surprise, surrendered. This early victory encouraged the Indians, and large numbers of them moved to help the British at Amherstburg.

The American Brigadier General William Hull had invaded Canada on July 12, 1812 from Detroit, with an army mainly composed of militiamen, but turned back after his supply lines were threatened in the Battles of Brownstown and Monguagon. British Major General Isaac Brock sent false correspondence and allowed it to be captured by the Americans, saying they required only 5,000 Native warriors to capture Detroit. Hull was deathly afraid of Native Americans and some tribes' practice of scalping. Hull surrendered at Detroit on August 16.

Brock promptly transferred himself to the eastern end of Lake Erie, where the American General Stephen Van Rensselaer was attempting a second invasion. Brock fell in action on October 13 at the Battle of Queenston Heights, where the Americans were defeated largely because the militia refused to reinforce the regulars, citing Constitutional reasons. While the professionalism of the American forces would improve by the war's end, British leadership suffered after Brock's death.

A final attempt in 1812 by the American General Henry Dearborn to advance north from Lake Champlain failed ingloriously when his militia too refused to advance beyond American territory. In contrast to the American militia, the Canadian militia performed well. French-Canadians, who found the anti-Catholic stance of most of the United States troublesome, and United Empire Loyalists, who had fought for the Crown during the American Revolutionary War and had settled primarily in Upper Canada, strongly opposed the American invasion. However, a large segment of Upper Canada's population were recent settlers from the United States who had no such loyalties to the Crown, but American forces found, to their dismay, that most of the colony took up arms against them.

Operations in the West, 1813

After Hull's surrender, General William Henry Harrison was given command of the American Army of the Northwest. He set out to retake Detroit, which was now defended by Colonel Henry Procter in conjunction with Tecumseh. A detachment of Harrison's army was defeated at Frenchtown along the River Raisin on 22 January 1813. Procter left the prisoners in custody of a few American Indians, who then proceeded to execute perhaps as many as 60 American prisoners, an event which became known as the "River Raisin Massacre." The defeat ended Harrison's campaign against Detroit, and the phrase "Remember the River Raisin!" became a rallying cry for the Americans.

Oliver Hazard Perry's message to William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie began with what would become one of the most famous sentences in American military history: "We have met the enemy and they are ours." This 1865 painting by William H. Powell shows Perry transferring to a different ship during the battle.
Oliver Hazard Perry's message to William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie began with what would become one of the most famous sentences in American military history: "We have met the enemy and they are ours." This 1865 painting by William H. Powell shows Perry transferring to a different ship during the battle.

In May 1813, Procter and Tecumseh set siege to Fort Meigs in northern Ohio. American reinforcements arriving during the siege were defeated by the Indians, but the fort held out. Indians began to withdraw, forcing Procter and Tecumseh to return to Canada. A second offensive against Fort Meigs also failed in July. In an attempt to improve Indian morale, Procter and Tecumseh attempted to storm Fort Stephenson, a small American post on the Sandusky River, only to be repulsed with serious losses, marking the end of the Ohio campaign.

On Lake Erie, the American commander Captain Oliver Hazard Perry fought the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. His decisive victory ensured American control of the lake, improved American morale after a series of defeats, and compelled the British to fall back from Detroit. This paved the way for General Harrison to launch another invasion of Canada, which culminated in the U.S. victory at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, in which Tecumseh was killed. Tecumseh's death effectively ended the American Indian alliance with the British in the Detroit region. The Americans would control Detroit and Amherstburg for the duration of the war.

Operations on the Niagara Frontier, 1813

Because of the difficulties of land communications, control of the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River corridor was crucial, and so both sides spent the winter of 1812-13 building ships. The Americans, who had far greater shipbuilding facilities than the Canadians, nevertheless had not taken advantage of this before the war, and had fallen behind.

On April 27, 1813, American forces attacked and burned York (now called Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada, including the Parliament Buildings. However, Kingston was strategically more valuable, and vital to British supply and communications along the St. Lawrence. Without control of Kingston, the American navy could not effectively control Lake Ontario or sever the British supply line from Quebec.

On May 27, 1813 an American amphibious force from Lake Ontario assaulted Fort George on the northern end of the River Niagara and captured it without serious losses. The retreating British forces were not pursued, however, until they had largely escaped and organized a counter-offensive against the advancing Americans at the Battle of Stony Creek on June 5. On June 24, with the help of advance warning by Loyalist Laura Secord, another American force was bluffed into surrender by a much smaller British and Indian force at the Battle of Beaver Dams, marking the end of the American offensive into Central Canada.

On Lake Ontario, Sir James Lucas Yeo took command on 15 May 1813 and created a more mobile though less powerful force than the Americans under Isaac Chauncey. An early attack on Sackett's Harbour by Yeo and Governor General Sir George Prevost was repulsed. Three naval engagements in August and September led to no decisive result.

By 1814 Yeo had constructed the HMS St. Lawrence, a first-rate ship of the line of 102 guns which gave him superiority, and the British became masters of Lake Ontario. The burning by the American General McClure, on December 10, 1813, of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), led to British retaliation and similar destruction at Buffalo, on December 30, 1813.

Operations along the Saint Lawrence and Lower Canada

Sakawarton (John Smoke Johnson), John Tutela, and Young Warner, three Six Nations War of 1812 veterans.
Sakawarton (John Smoke Johnson), John Tutela, and Young Warner, three Six Nations War of 1812 veterans.

The Americans made little attempt to bar the Saint Lawrence to British traffic at the point where it was also the frontier between Canada and the United States. British supplies and reinforcements were able to move to Upper Canada with little difficulty.

Early in 1813, there was a series of raids and counter-raids between Prescott in Canada and Ogdensburg on the American side of the river. On February 21, Sir George Prevost passed through Prescott with reinforcements for Upper Canada. When he left the next day, the reinforcements attacked and looted Ogdensburg. For the rest of the year, Ogdensburg had no American garrison and the British freely obtained goods there.

Late in 1813, after much argument, the Americans made two thrusts against Montreal. The plan eventually agreed upon was for Major-General Wade Hampton to march north from Lake Champlain and join with a force under General James Wilkinson which would sail from Sacket's Harbour on Lake Ontario and descend the Saint Lawrence.

Hampton was delayed by bad roads and supply problems. On October 25, his 4,000-strong force was defeated at the Chateauguay River by Charles de Salaberry's force of less than 500 French-Canadian Voltigeurs and Mohawks.

Wilkinson's force of 8,000 sailed on October 17 but was also held up by bad weather. After learning that Hampton had been checked, Wilkinson heard that a British force under Captain William Mulcaster was pursuing him, and by November 10 he was forced to land near Morrisburg, Ontario, about 150 kilometers from Montreal. On November 11, Wilkinson's rearguard attacked a British force of 800 under Colonel Joseph Morrison at Crysler's Farm, and was repulsed with heavy losses. Wilkinson subsequently retreated back to the US after learning that Hampton was unable to renew his advance.

Niagara Campaign and the Battle of Lake Champlain, 1814

By 1814, American generals, including Major Generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott, had drastically improved the fighting abilities and discipline of the army. Their renewed attack on the Niagara peninsula quickly captured Fort Erie. Winfield Scott then gained a decisive victory over an equal British force at the Battle of Chippewa on July 5. An attempt to advance further ended with a hard-fought drawn battle at Lundy's Lane on July 25. The Americans withdrew but withstood a prolonged Siege of Fort Erie. The British raised the siege, but lack of provisions forced the Americans to retreat across the Niagara.

Meanwhile, veteran British troops no longer needed in Europe began arriving in North America. Governor-General Sir George Prevost now had enough men to launch an offensive into the United States. He hoped to gain a significant victory in order to give Britain bargaining power in the ongoing peace negotiations. However, his invasion was repulsed by the naval Battle of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814 which gave the Americans control of Lake Champlain. Theodore Roosevelt termed it the greatest naval battle of the war.

Operations in the West 1814

Little of note took place on Lake Huron in 1813, but the American victory on Lake Erie cut off the British from their supplies. During the winter, a Canadian party under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Macdouall established a new supply line from York to Nottawasaga Bay on Georgian Bay. When he arrived at Michilimackinac with reinforcements, he sent an expedition to recapture the trading post of Prairie du Chien in the far West.

In 1814, the Americans sent a force of six vessels from Detroit to recapture Fort Mackinac. A mixed force of regulars and volunteers from the militia landed on the island on July 4. They did not attempt to achieve surprise, and while marching to attack the fort, were ambushed by Indians and forced to re-embark.

The Americans now discovered the new base at Nottawasaga Bay, and on August 13, they destroyed its fortifications and a schooner there. They then returned to Detroit, leaving two gunboats to blockade Michilimackinac. On September 4, these gunboats were taken unawares and captured by boarding parties from canoes and small boats. These prizes now re-established the supply line from Nottawasaga Bay.

The British garrison at Prairie du Chien also fought off an attack by Major Zachary Taylor. In this distant theatre, the British retained the upper hand till the end of the war.

Operations on the American coast

When the war began, the British naval forces had some difficulty in blockading the whole coast, and they were also preoccupied in their pursuit of American privateers. The British government, having need of American foodstuffs for its army in Spain, was willing to benefit from the willingness of the New Englanders to trade with them, and so no blockade of New England was at first attempted. The Delaware and Chesapeake were declared in a state of blockade on December 26, 1812. This was extended to the whole coast south of Narragansett by November 1813, and to the whole American coast on May 31, 1814. In the meantime much illicit trade was carried on by collusive captures arranged between American traders and British officers. American ships were fraudulently transferred to neutral flags. Eventually the United States government was driven to issue orders for the purpose of stopping illicit trading. This only helped to further ruin the commerce of the country. The overpowering strength of the British fleet enabled it to occupy the Chesapeake, and to attack and destroy numerous docks and harbors.

Chesapeake campaign and the Star-Spangled Banner

The best known of these destructive raids was the burning of public buildings, including the White House, in Washington by Admiral Sir George Cockburn and General Robert Ross. The expedition was carried out between August 19 and August 29, 1814. On the 24th, the inexperienced American militia who had collected at Bladensburg, Maryland to protect the capital were soundly defeated, opening the route to Washington. President James Madison was forced to flee to Virginia, and American morale was reduced to an all-time low. The British viewed their actions as fair retaliation for the Americans' burning of York (later renamed Toronto) in 1813.

Having destroyed Washington's public buildings, the British army next moved to capture Baltimore, a busy port and a key base for American privateers. The subsequent Battle of Baltimore began with a British landing at North Point, but the attack was repulsed. The British also attempted to attack Baltimore by sea on September 13, but were unable to reduce Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. The defense of the fort inspired the American lawyer Francis Scott Key to write a poem that would eventually supply the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States.

The Creek War

For a more detailed discussion, see the article Creek War.

In March of 1814, General Andrew Jackson led a force of Tennessee militia, Cherokee warriors, and U.S. regulars southward to attack the Creek tribes, led by Chief Menawa. While some of the Creeks had been British allies in the past, the fighting was related to control of Creek land in Alabama rather than the British-American conflict. On March 26, Jackson and General John Coffee fought the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend, killing 800 of 1,000 Creeks at a cost of 49 killed and 154 wounded of approximately 2,000 American and Cherokee forces. Jackson pursued the surviving Creeks to Wetumpka, near present-day Montgomery, Alabama, where they surrendered.

As one historian write,

We speak of the War of 1812, but in truth there were two wars. The war between the Americans and the British ended with the treaty of Ghent. The war between the Big Knives [American frontiersmen] and the Indians began at Tippecanoe, and arguably did not run its course until the last Red Sticks were defeated in the Florida swamps in 1818.5

The Treaty of Ghent and the Battle of New Orleans

"New Orleans" 1815 by Herbert Morton Stoops
"New Orleans" 1815 by Herbert Morton Stoops

Jackson's forces moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in November 1814. Between December 1814 and January 1815, he defended the city against a force led by Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham, who was killed in an assault on January 8, 1815. The Battle of New Orleans was hailed as a great victory in the United States, making Andrew Jackson a national hero, eventually propelling him to the presidency.

Meanwhile, diplomats in Ghent, Belgium signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814, paving the way for the official end of the war. News of the treaty had not reached New Orleans, because of the slow nature of international communications. On February 17, 1815, President Madison signed the American ratification of the Treaty of Ghent, and the treaty was proclaimed the following day.

By the terms of the treaty, all land captured by either side was returned to the previous owner, the Americans received fishing rights in the gulf of the St. Lawrence River, and all outstanding debts and property taken was to be returned or paid for in full. Later that year, John Quincy Adams complained that British naval commanders had violated the terms of the treaty by not returning American slaves captured during the war, since the British did not recognize slaves as property [1]

Consequences of the war

The Treaty of Ghent established the status quo ante bellum; there were no territorial concessions made by either side. Relations between the United States and Britain would remain peaceful, if not entirely tranquil, throughout the 19th century. Border adjustments between the United States and British Canada would be made in the Treaty of 1818. (A border dispute between the state of Maine and the province of New Brunswick was settled in the Aroostook War in the 1830s.) The issue of impressing American seamen was made moot when the Royal Navy subsequently stopped impressment after the defeat of Napoleon.

This war was also the first and only time since its independence that the US Capital was invaded and occupied.

Effects of the war on the United States

The United States did gain a measure of international respect for managing to withstand the British Empire. The morale of the citizens was high because they had fought one of the great military powers of the world and managed to survive, which increased feelings of nationalism; the war has often been called the "Second War of Independence." The war also contributed to the demise of the Federalist Party, which had opposed the war.

A significant military development was the increased emphasis by General Winfield Scott on improved professionalism in the U.S. Army officer corps, and in particular, the training of officers at the United States Military Academy ("West Point"). This new professionalism would become apparent during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848).

In a related development, the Army Corps of Engineers (which at that time controlled West Point), began building fortifications around New Orleans, as a response to the British attack on the city during the war. This effort then grew into numerous civil river works, especially in the 1840s and 1850s under General Pierre Beauregard. The Corps continues to be the authority over Mississippi (and other) river works to this day.

The War of 1812 had a dramatic effect on the manufacturing capabilities of the United States. The British blockade of the American coast created a shortage of cotton cloth in the United States, leading to the creation of a cotton-manufacturing industry, beginning at Waltham, Massachusetts by Francis Cabot Lowell.

The Southwestern campaign led to increasing contact and conflict with the Seminole tribes in Florida. The subsequent Seminole Wars eventually lead to American annexation of Florida in 1819.

Effects of the war on Canada

The War of 1812 had little impact in Great Britain and was generally forgotten, since it was considered to be insignificant when compared to the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. However, this was not the case in Canada, where the war had been a matter of national survival. The war united the French-speaking and English-speaking colonies against a common enemy and some pride of being largely successful in repulsing the invaders, giving many inhabitants a sense of nationhood as well as a sense of loyalty to Britain. At the beginning of the War of 1812 it is estimated that perhaps one third of the inhabitants of Upper Canada were American born. Some were United Empire Loyalists but others had simply come for low-cost land and had little loyalty to the British Crown. For instance, Laura Secord was originally an American immigrant to Upper Canada, but did not hesitate to make her arduous trek to warn the British forces of a pending attack by her former country. In fact, a primary reason Canadians remember the war is because they managed to repulse the American invaders and maintain their borders against poor odds; a conclusion many Canadians consider a victory in its own way.

This nationalistic sentiment also caused a great deal of suspicion of American ideas like democracy and republicanism which would frustrate political reform in Upper and Lower Canada until the Rebellions of 1837. However, the War of 1812 also started the process that ultimately led to Canadian Confederation in 1867. Although later events such as the rebellions and the Fenian raids of the 1860s were more directly pivotal, Canadian historian Pierre Berton has written that if the War of 1812 had never happened Canada would be part of the United States today, as more and more American settlers would have arrived, and Canadian nationalism would never have developed.

A related idea that developed out of the war was that Canadian militiamen had performed admirably while the British officers were largely ineffective. Jack Granatstein has termed this the "Militia Myth", and he feels it has had a deep impact on Canadian military thinking, which placed more stress on a citizen's militia than a professional standing army — the U.S. suffered from a similar Frontiersman Myth at the start of the war, believing falsely that individual initiative and marksmanship could be effective against a well-disciplined British battle line. Granatstein feels that the militia was not particularly effective in the war and that any military success the British Empire had was by British regular forces and through British dominion over the sea (Isaac Brock, for example, was reluctant even to trust the militia with muskets); likewise, the U.S. army won most of its land victories late in the war, only after it trained its troops to fight in disciplined lines like the British and other European armies.

During the war, British officers constantly worried that the Americans would block the St. Lawrence River, which is narrow and forms a large part of the border with the U.S. If the U.S. military had done so, there would have been no British supply route for Upper Canada (where most of the land battles took place), and British forces would likely have had to withdraw or surrender all western British territory within a few months. British officers' dispatches after the war show astonishment that the Americans never took such a simple step, but the British were not willing to count on the enemy making the same mistake a second time; as a result, Britain commissioned the Rideau Canal, an expensive project connecting Kingston on Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River, providing an alternate supply route bypassing the part of the St. Lawrence River along the U.S. border. The settlement at the northeastern end of the canal, where it joins the Ottawa River, later became the city of Ottawa, Canada's fourth-largest city and its capital (placed inland to protect it from U.S. invasion).

See also


  • Allen, Robert S. "His Majesty's Indian Allies: Native Peoples, the British Crown, and the War of 1812" in The Michigan Historical Review, 14:2 (Fall 1988), pp 1-24.
  • Benn, Carl. The Iroquois in the War of 1812. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998. ISBN 0802043216 (hardcover); ISBN 0802081452 (paperback).
  • Berton, Pierre. The Invasion of Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980. ISBN 0316092169.
  • ———. Flames Across the Border. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1981. ISBN 0316092177
  • Carter-Edwards, Dennis. "The War of 1812 Along the Detroit Frontier: A Canadian Perspective," in The Michigan Historical Review, 13:2 (Fall 1987), pp. 25-50.
  • Elting, John R. Amateurs, To Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin, 1991. ISBN 0945575084 (hardcover); ISBN 0306806533 (1995 Da Capo Press paperback).
  • Hickey, Donald. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 1989. ISBN 0252016130 (hardcover); ISBN 0252060598 (1990 paperback).
  • Horsman, Reginald. The Causes of the War of 1812. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1962. ISBN 0374939608 (1972 printing); ISBN 0498040879 (2000 printing).
  • ———. "On to Canada: Manifest Destiny and United States Strategy in the War of 1812" in The Michigan Historical Review, 13:2 (Fall 1987), pp. 1-24.
  • Roosevelt, Theodore. The Naval War of 1812. Da Capo Press, 1999. ISBN 0306809109 (paperback), eText at Project Gutenberg.
  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Holt, 1997. ISBN 0805041389 (hardcover); ISBN 0805061215 (1999 paperback).
  • Morris Zaslow (ed), The Defended Border. Macmillan of Canada, 1964. ISBN 0770512429

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