Blog Post

The War of 1812 – National vs. Local

The War of 1812 is a largely forgotten war by the general public, but it had far reaching consequences for our country. The war stemmed from national problems but had many local consequences. The war stemmed from America’s entanglement in two international issues. The first was the U.S.’s desire to remain a neutral trading nation during the Anglo-French Wars. The second war the difference in American and British interests that conflicted with each other.

One such difference of opinion were impressments or the practice of forcing American soldiers to join the British Navy which was the biggest source of conflict. Another reason was that in 1806 due to a French naval blockade of Britain, the British demanded neutral ships carry their goods to Britain first and pay a transit fee before heading to France. However, Britain, France, and their allies continued to seize American ships to numbers of about 900. This caused Jefferson to pass an Embargo Act which mainly only hurt the U.S. economy. A local consequence of said act is that it caused American exports to plummet 80% and wreaked havoc on the economies of American port cities. This restriction of trade due to the British reminded Americans of the Intolerable Acts and caused American resentment of the British to grow.

Another cause of anti-British resentment was due to the nation supplying Native Americans in the West in order to have an ally in the event of another war with the U.S. More locally a single battle caused this when Tecumseh and his Confederacy began amassing numbers in a settlement called Prophetstown. While traveling through the Mississippi Valley building support the U.S. sent troops and arranged to me with the Native Americans. However, warriors from Prophetstown attacked the army, but the United States won when the warrior’s ammunition ran low. The army burned it down and destroyed food supplies for the winter. Many Americans blamed this violence on what they saw as British interference in America by financial and munition support for the Native Americans. This internal conflict was growing and it was going to come to a head soon.

Only six months after this event, Madison asked that Congress declare war on Britain. Republicans argued that it was necessary to complete the War for Independence by preventing British efforts to keep Americans subjugated at land and sea and would represent a war against the Loyalists who sought to establish a counter to the U.S. The Republicans had the majority in the House and Senate and the War Hawks who were too young to remember the Revolutionary War were the main proponents of war. The Northern states where most financial resources were concentrated were opposed to war, arguing that international trade was improving while the West and South were in favor. Behind this was a desire for Western expansion into Native American territory and a desire to annex Southern Canada and remove Britain from their backyard. Obviously, the declaration for war went through.

The key players in the war were or course, Britain, the U.S. as well as Tecumseh and his Confederacy. There were three stages or theatres to the war. The first was the Atlantic Theater which lasted until the spring of 1813. Britain was occupied in Europe against Napoleon while the U.S. invaded Canada in which they failed when many militiamen refused to cross the border on two separate occasions, citing that their military obligations didn’t extend to a foreign land. America also sent their navy against British ships. The U.S. navy managed to defeat most British ships because their main and best ships were busy keeping Napoleon at bay. Tecumseh was also killed during this theater and the Confederacy was shattered by Andrew Jackson. This resulted in both friendly and hostile Creek and Cherokee Native Americans having to cede their land to America which equaled about 23 million acres in the Southeast.

The Second Theater lasted from early 1813 to 1814. The U.S. launched their second offensive against Canada and the Great Lakes and won their first success at that time. Britain burned down D.C. and opened a new Theater of operations in the south of the United States. The third or Southern Theater concluded with Andrew Jackson’s January 1815 victory outside New Orleans which was mostly a psychological victory that boosted American morale. In fact, the Treaty of Ghent had been sighed on December 24, 1814.

However, speaking of more local consequences of the war was the burning down of cities and towns. Although, not only by the British. Indeed the British used burnings as a tactic to draw out and attack the enemy as well as terrorize the civilian population. A strategy they demonstrated by proceeding to burn down Buffalo, New York, and the nation’s capital. America burned down Canadian towns such as York which came to be known as Toronto and Newark. The podcast describes the burning and massacre of an American town named Black Rock. Another consequence was the ceding of over 23 million acres of Creek and Cherokee land in the Southeast.

Some national effects of the war were the returned semi-friendly relations between the U.S. and Britain. The war also strengthened American nationalism and increased expansion into the west and Native American land. Afterwards, the government aimed to make America more economically independent and encouraged commerce between states over trade with Europe and the West Indies. Republican leaders after the war advocated strengthening the government to strengthen the nation.