War of 1812

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its North American Indian allies. By the war’s end in early 1815 the key issues had been resolved and peace came with no boundary changes.

On June 1, 1812, President James Madison sent a message to Congress recounting American grievances against Great Britain.  After Madison’s message, the House of Representatives deliberated for four days behind closed doors before voting 79 to 49 (61%) in favor of the first declaration of war.  The Senate concurred in the declaration by a 19 to 13 (59%) vote in favor.  President James Madison’s request to Congress for the first declaration of war ever declared on another nation was granted on June 5th, 1812.  This Congressional vote would prove to be the closest vote to formally declare war in American history. The United States declared war on June 18, 1812, for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by the British war with France, the impressment of as many as 10,000 American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, and British support for Native American tribes fighting American settlers on the frontier.

The war was fought in three theaters.  First; land and naval battles were fought on the U.S.–Canadian frontier, second; large-scale battles were fought in the Southern United States and Gulf Coast and third; at sea, where warships and privateers attacked the other’s merchant ships, while the British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the United States.

The U.S. was able to inflict serious defeats on Britain’s Native American allies, ending the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Native American state in the Midwest under British sponsorship. U.S. forces were also able to make several gains and score victories on the Canadian frontier; taking control of Lake Erie in 1813, seizing western parts of Upper Canada.

Andrew Jackson is the only president who served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 812.  After winning a major battle in this war, Jackson was promoted to major general in the U.S. Army with command of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

In the late summer of 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson of the U.S. Army moved his men south and attacked the British in Mobile, Alabama.  In November, he beat the British at the Spanish post of Pensacola, Florida and the British sailed on to New Orleans.  In December, Jackson followed, leading a small advance party of his troops to New Orleans.  For several days, Jackson’s men held their ground.  On January 8, 1815, the British rushed the Americans and were cut down in great numbers by rifle and cannon fire while the Americans suffered only a handful of deaths.  Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans and transformed into a nation icon and hero, which would later help him win the presidency.

In September 1814, the British won the Battle of Hampden, allowing them to occupy eastern Maine, and the British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington, D.C. They were repulsed, however, in an attempt to take Baltimore’s Fort McHenry.  On September 12, 1814, Baltimore’s Fort McHenry withstood 25 hours of bombardment by the British Navy. The following morning, the fort’s soldiers hoisted an enormous American flag, a sight that inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem he titled “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The flag that ultimately inspired our National Anthem was donated to the Smithsonian in 1912 by the family of Major Armistead, the fort commander.