The British and their allies from indigenous nations in North America proved a formidable foe. American armies invaded Canada in at three points, but all three campaigns ended in failure. A similar multi-pronged invasion went better in , but only in the West, where an American victory on Lake Erie paved the way for a land victory at the Thames in Upper Canada, which restored U. But further east, American forces made little headway.
The U. Her sides are made of iron! On June 18, , buoyed by the arrival of "war hawk" representatives, the United States formally declared war for the first time in the nation's history. Citizens in the Northeast opposed the idea, but many others were enthusiastic about the nation's "Second War of Independence" from British oppression. Ironically, the British Parliament was already planning to repeal their trade restrictions.
US History: The War of for Kids
By the time the ship carrying news of the declaration of war reached Great Britain, almost a month and a half after war had been declared, the restrictions had been repealed. The British, however, after hearing of the declaration, chose to wait and see how the Americans would react to the repeal. The Americans, after hearing of the repeal, were still unsure how Great Britain would react to the declaration of war.
Thus, although one of the main causes for war had vanished, fighting began anyway.
The poorly trained U. America's military fleet was large, but Britain's was much larger.
The War That Both Sides Won
The United States entered the war seeking to secure commercial rights and uphold national honor. The American strategy was to quickly bring Great Britain to the negotiating table on these issues by invading Canada. Captured Canadian territory could be used as a powerful bargaining chip against the crown. The invasion of Canada, which began in the summer of , ended in disaster. Meanwhile, British-allied Native Americans continued their raids in Indiana and Illinois, massacring many settlers. The Americans performed better at sea. Although the British were able to set a semi-tight blockade along the Atlantic seaboard, American ships won several battles against British warships and captured a number of British trade vessels.
The Americans continued to ably combat the formidable Royal Navy throughout the war. American fortunes fared little better through most of An attempt to retake Detroit failed near Frenchtown , Michigan, though the resulting massacre of American prisoners at the hands of Native Americans on January 23, inspired Kentucky soldiers to enlist, heeding the new rally cry "Remember the River Raisin! The only considerable American successes occurred in September, with Oliver Hazard Perry winning a major naval battle on Lake Erie, and in October, when the Tecumseh's Confederacy of northwestern Native American tribes was crushed at the Battle of the Thames.
Towards the end of , a war among the Creek nations erupted in the Southeast between factions influenced by Tecumseh's nativism and those who sought to adopt white culture. Andrew Jackson organized a force of militia over the winter of and defeated the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on May 24, Through the Treaty of Fort Jackson, he forced both sides of the Creek Nation, even those allied to him, to cede nearly 23 million acres of what would become Alabama and portions of Georgia. In , the newly promoted Brigadier General Winfield Scott implemented a plan of strict drill for American troops on the Canadian border.
In April, a brief peace broke out in Europe as Napoleon was forced into his first exile. Great Britain was able to shift more resources to the North American theater.
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The tone of the war changed as Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin described, "We should have to fight hereafter not for 'free Trade and sailors rights,' not for the Conquest of the Canadas, but for our national existence. On August 19, , an expeditionary force of 4, hardened British veterans under the command of General Robert Ross landed at Benedict, Maryland and began a lightning campaign.
After routing Maryland militia at the Battle of Bladensburg , Ross's men captured and burned the public buildings in Washington, D. The dispirited American force retired towards Niagara. Lawrence Valley. Secord took a circuitous route through inhospitable terrain to avoid American sentries on her trek and was helped by a group of Mohawk warriors she encountered along the way. Finally, worn down by sickness, desertion and the departure of short-term soldiers, the American command evacuated Fort George on 10 December and quit Canada.
On leaving, the militia burned the town of Newark Niagara-on-the-Lake , an act that drove the British to brutal retaliation at Buffalo. The Americans fared better on the western flank. A struggle for control of Lake Erie followed see War on the Lakes. The British were hampered by the American seizure of naval supplies at York the previous spring and by the loss, early in the battle, of several senior officers.
American commodore Oliver Hazard Perry , a bold seaman, used unorthodox tactics to turn defeat into victory and become the first man in history to capture an entire British fleet. The British army abandoned Detroit and retreated up the Thames River. Henry Procter delayed fatally in his retreat, however, and Harrison caught up with him at the Battle of the Thames Moraviantown. There, the exhausted British regulars and First Nations warriors were routed and scattered.
Procter fled and Tecumseh was killed. The defeat was not fatal to the province, as Harrison could not follow up his victory his Kentuckians were eager to get back to their farms at harvest time , but it effectively ended the First Nations alliance. On Lake Huron , the American fleet searched for British supply vessels, which led to the sinking of the Nancy ; they also razed Sault Ste.
The British regained a presence on the lake in early September with the capture of the Tigress and Scorpion. America forces also invaded Lower Canada during the war. The Americans could potentially have struck a mortal blow against the British in Lower Canada, but their invading armies, which outnumbered the British 10—1, were led with almost incredible ineptitude by Generals James Wilkinson and Wade Hampton. The Voltigeurs were initially assigned to defend the Eastern Townships. In November , they faced American Major General Dearborn and his 6,strong force, who invaded the region from Plattsburgh.
De Salaberry rushed with a company of Voltigeurs and Kahnawake Mohawk warriors to staunch the invasion at Lacolle. While they could not halt the invasion, days of skirmishing increased the cost, and Dearborn retreated days later. In the spring of , the Voltigeur units split, with some bolstered the defences at Kingston and others participating in the failed assault on Sackets Harbor.
Fought in the pitch dark of a sultry night by exhausted troops who could not tell friend from foe, it ended in a stalemate. The American invasion was now effectively spent, and they withdrew to Fort Erie. Here they badly trounced the forces of the new British commander, Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond , when he attempted a night attack 14—15 August With both sides exhausted, a three-month standoff followed see Siege of Fort Erie.
Finally, on 5 November, the Americans again withdrew across the Niagara River , effectively ending the war in Upper Canada. By the middle of September, British forces held much of the Maine coast, which was returned to the US only with the signing of the peace treaty in December However, Prevost was hesitant to attack, and the defeat of the British fleet in Plattsburgh Bay by the American commodore, Thomas Macdonough, on 11 September led Prevost to withdraw his troops. However, his withdrawal forced the British peace negotiators at Ghent to lower their demands and accept the status quo.
Hostilities continued after the peace treaty was signed, however.
A Brief Overview of the War of 1812
Several naval engagements also followed the signing of the treaty, including the final battle of the war, between the US sloop Peacock and East India cruiser Nautilus in the Indian Ocean, four-and-a-half months after the peace treaty was signed. This did not happen. Lured northwards by free land and low taxes , most settlers wanted to be left alone.
Thus the British and Loyalist elite were able to set Canadians on a different course from that of their former enemy. Although the majority of the fighting was done by British regulars and First Nations warriors, a myth developed that civilian soldiers had won the war, and this helped to germinate the seeds of nationalism in the Canadas.
Canada owes its present shape to negotiations that grew out of the peace, while the war itself — or the myths created by the war — gave Canadians their first sense of community and laid the foundation for their future nationhood. To this extent the Canadians were the real winners of the War of For the Americans, the outcome was more ambiguous.
Since the issues of impressment and maritime rights were not resolved in the peace treaty , the war could be considered a failure; however, the Americans had some spectacular victories at sea, which were indicators of the future potential of American power. If the winners are qualified, the losers are easier to identify.