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The war of 1812 was a military based conflict that was fought between British and American forces. The war was declared by United States of America which had grown tired of draconian British practices as a colonial master. The war was fought between June 1812 to early 1815 though the treaty that ended the war was signed in the last month of 1814. The war was fought along the Canadian border in a region called Chesapeake bay and along the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the war actually took place in the sea. This war ended in a stalemate but it served to confirm the independence of United States of America. Though the offensive actions of United States of America failed to capture Canada, the British forces were stopped effectively when it attempted to capture New Orleans and Baltimore. America scored a number of naval victories against the UK and this war helped to restore American pride.
What caused the war?
What led to the war? The war was sparked at the end of the American revolution of 1783 when the British refused to vacate from American territories along the great lakes and this irritated the Americans. The French and the British had imposed several economic sanctions during the Napoleonic wars but United States of America was outraged by the impressments of the British which led to an ugly incident at Chesapeake in 1807. United States of America tried to respond using retaliatory embargoes that did not work. The United States of America was also enraged by other activities of United Kingdom that really hurt America economically. For example the UK backed Indians on American frontiers and they were also unwilling to sign commercial agreements that favoured the United States of America. America resentment of the British started growing and it reached its peak after the French revolutionary war and the Napoleonic wars in which the French and the British were the main combatants. At that time, France dominated the whole Europe while Britain dominated overseas and these two world powers of the time fought each other from many dimensions including commercially. For example, the British attempted to blockade the whole Europe while France prevented the sale of goods from Britain in the land it controlled.
In the 1790s the maritime policies established by the French and the British created several problems in the united states of America but these problems worsened after 1803. In the council of 1807, Britain created orders that required all neutral trades to be channelled through UK while France created the Berlin and Milan decrees that declared UK in a state of blockade and condemned all the neutral shipping orders that obeyed the orders that the United Kingdom hand put in place. United States of America therefore believed that both countries were violating its rights in the seas as a neutral country but it resented the UK maritime policies more because the United Kingdom dominated the seas. The UK also claimed the right to take any British sailors that were sailing in American ships and even started taking the American sailors too and this was one of the major grievances that America had against the United Kingdom. At first, United States of America attempted to change the policies created by these two European powers using economic paths.
In 1807, a UK ship christened Leopard fired on an American frigate called Chesapeake and this led President Thomas Jefferson to rally the congress to pass and embargo act that banned all the American ships from foreign trade. However, this embargo did nothing to change the French and the UK policies; in fact they devastated shipping in New England. Economic measures that United States of America instituted were also unsuccessful. After failing in peaceful efforts and facing imminent economic depression, some people in United States of America began to urge the government to declare war so as to bring back national honour. There were elections in 1810 and the congress that was elected that year met towards the end of 1811 and the congress called for a war against the United Kingdom. The congress argued that the UK could change its policies if the US invaded Canada but the federalist party that represented new England mariners foresaw a devastation of their trade and they opposed this war against the united kingdom, Napoleon revoked his decrees in 1810 but the British refused to repeal theirs and this created more tensions between united Kingdom and united states of America.
How did the War Start
The new president of United States of America elected after the elections in 1810 was James Madison and he signed a declaration of war against the United Kingdom that had been passed by the new congress. The war began with an attack on Canada. Attacking Canada would hurt the British, the Americans thought and it really worked. The intention of attacking Canada was to cut off British supply lines to the east which crippled the British trade(Steve 1964:pg 111). United States of America suffered from inexperience and was pushed back by the British every time they mounted an attack. In the campaigns of 1812-1813, American hopes of invading Canada collapsed because its forces were ill prepared. United States of America attempted to invade Canada again but the efforts were unsuccessful because of the Niagara standoff. American success during the war started when it took control of Detroit and destroyed British ships at Lake Erie (Schama, 2006: pg 99. This minor victory by the Americans shook the United Kingdom whose forces started retreating towards the east but as they retreated, they were overtaken and attacked in what is commonly known as the battle of Thames. The British were defeated by American forces under the tutelage of William Henry Harrison.
he war continued and the Americans seemed to have had and over the British until the United Kingdom defeated Napoleon in one of the Napoleonic wars. The UK started transferring a large number of ships and troops to fight in United States of America and planned to attack America in three major areas: New York, Hudson River and New Orleans. The United Kingdom had hopes of getting a territorial concession after a peace treaty and the situation for the United States of America appeared grim because the nation was becoming insolvent. The situation was complicated by New England because most of the people in New England opposed the war and also called for separation from the United States of America. The British were almost assured of success especially after American diversionary attacks in Chesapeake Bay failed so terribly that after the British won the battle of Bladensburg, they marched to the capital city, Washington D.C and burnt public property, forcing President Madison to flee the city and seek refuge in the countryside. The United Kingdom thought it would conquer more areas in the United States of America and went ahead to attack Baltimore, Maryland but it met stiff resistance from the American forces (Malcomson 2006: Pg 44). British forces started advancing into America from Montreal but the American forces barricaded them at New York and the British retreated into Canada .New Orleans, an American city was home to people of different nationalities pursuing different economic opportunism and also occupied a very strategic place in America geography and it presented a tempting gift to the UK who were still buoyant after desecrating Washington.
Britain's strategy was to attack the United States from three different fronts namely; at New Orleans in order to block the Mississippi, in Chesapeake Bay essentially as a decoy or a diversionary manoeuvre, and along Lake Champlain in New York and Hudson River in a bid to separate New England from the union. The Britain also expected to obtain significant territorial concessions in the peace treaty. The situation was serious for America due to the fact that the country had been made insolvent by the fall of 1814. Back in the New England, those opposed to the war were discussing severance from the union. The 1814 Hartford Convention that met in Connecticut in December that year and January 1815 almost sanctioned separation from the union, suggesting instead several constitutional amendments that were all geared toward restricting federal power. However, the British were repulsed by the American forces led by Captain Jackson and this marked the end of British dominance over the Americans in the war. The last Nail in the coffin of the British came in the battle that was fought between Kentucky and Tennessee. The British lost heavily to the America forces and ended with their captain dead alongside all his seniors. They died in the early phases of the war and this completely weakened the British forces. More than 2,000 British soldiers were killed and many others seriously wounded. Many soldiers we also captured by the American troops. American loss during this final episode of the war was minimal with only eight people dead and thirteen wounded. Although it is said to have come after the end of the war, Jackson's win saved New Orleans.
This war of 1812 ended with the signing of the treaty of Ghent; in December 1814 this treaty restored the territories to their original status before the war and established a commission to settle boundary disputes (Lee, 2010:pg 119). Historians have however, pointed out that this treaty did not address the main issues that brought the war in the first place. The actual winner of the war is not known with certainty, as both sides to the conflict claimed victory, but it is clear that United States of America gained more than the British
What was the Aftermath of the War of 1812?
America scored a series of victories against the United Kingdom which forced the British forces to retreat. Though there was no truce made, the war recoded some significant gains for United States of America. The war brought some permanent benefits to Canada because it brought a renewed sense of pride after the Americans were able to defend their land. It also brought some benefits to United States of America because it earned the respect of the world and managed to push its interests further. The war brought a lot of prosperity to Canada especially because the British spent a lot of money in the Canadian provinces that were on war. This war was the foundation of modern Canada because it led to the union of the provinces of Canada in order to defend their country. However the United States of America garnered the most benefits from the war. To start with the war created an embargo for British manufacturers which sheltered manufacturers in New England?
The factory owners in New England gained because of the reduced competition from products from Great Britain. They did not have to compete with cheap British goods and this boosted industrialisation in United States of America especially in the north and this industrialisation has continued for hundreds of years uninterrupted. The war also led to the construction of the national railroad network in the United States of America. The war also produced very many America heroes. Some of the future presidents of United States of America were war veterans. These include Andrew Jackson and Henry Harrison, people who rose to national prominence by engaging the Indians and the Red coats during the war. The war also boosted America nationalism. The war was the background of the nineteenth century isolationist united states of America and emergence of United States of America as a world superpower 15o years after the war. Facing the British in the war of 1982 and emerging unscathed boosted the confidence of the America forces and since that time, the sovereignty of United States of America in the west has never been challenged.