The War of 1812 was fought between American and British forces. It began on June 18, 1812. As the British army was using many of their resources fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, Canadians (who at the time lived in what was Upper Canada and Lower Canada) and Native Americans helped the British in their fight against the United States. Many Canadians, especially those in Lower Canada (modern-day Quebec) worried that an American invasion would threaten their right to speak French. Many of those living in Upper Canada (modern-day Ontario) preferred to stay loyal to the British crown. Many Native Americans also fought on the side of the British. They were led by Chief Tecumseh.
The War of 1812 today is considered to be one of the most pivotal wars in American history. The war is said to have started as an American response to the impressment of American seamen by the British. Impressment means that American seamen were being forced to work for the British Navy against their own accord. Within the War of 1812, American forces launched three unsuccessful three-point invasions of Canada with the hopes of expanding their territory in the name of Manifest Destiny.
When it comes to who won the War of 1812, historically, the American side and the British side have differing opinions. In American history, the War of 1812 is considered to be a War of Independence. As the Americans did not have to cede any of their territory to the British, the War of 1812 is seen as an American territory. However, as Canada did not become part of the United States, the British see the War of 1812 as a British-won war.
When the French empire was collapsed under Napoleon Bonaparte, the British were able to put more resources into the war being fought in America. This eventually resulted in the capturing of Washington, D.C. by the British army and the burning down of public buildings including White House, in what was perhaps the War of 1812's most remembered moment today. The burning down of Washington was in retaliation for the American invasion of the Canadian government buildings. However, this was not the only battle that occurred during the War of 1812, which was the most recent war to have been fought on American soil. The most important of battles are outlined in the list below.
5. Battle of Plattsburgh - September 11, 1814
The Battle of Plattsburgh, which is also called the Battle of Lake Champlain, took place on September 11, 1814. The British army, under the command of George Prevost, entered the United States from what was then Lower Canada through New York state and advanced towards the town of Plattsburgh. A British naval squadron was also advancing via Plattsburgh Bay on Lake Champlain under the command of Captain George Downie. At the lake’s edge, a smaller United States naval force was waiting and the battle began immediately. The British naval commander was killed and the British surrendered when Prevost called off the land battle. The army retreated back to Lower Canada.
4. Battle of Bladensburg and Burning of Washington - August 24, 1814
The British forces under General Robert Ross overcame American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland, on August 24, 1814. From there, they marched unopposed towards the U.S. national capital of Washington, D.C. They occupied Washington and famously set fire to several presidential buildings including the White House, which was then known as the Presidential Mansion. The attack was a retaliation in response to the previous American attack on Canadian government buildings. On August 26, General Ross ordered a withdrawal and President Madison returned to Washington where he vowed to rebuild the city.
3. Battle of Lake Erie - September 10, 1813
The Battle of Lake Erie, also known as the Battle of Put-In-Bay, was a naval engagement between British forces and American forces during the War of 1812. The battle involved nine vessels of the United States Navy. The United States Navy defeated and captured six British vessels of the Royal Navy. The battle was pivotal to the control and recovery of Detroit and also enabled the Americans to win the Battle of Thames. The Battle of Lake Erie was one of the biggest naval engagements in the entire War of 1812.
2. Battle of New Orleans - January 8-18, 1815
The Battle of New Orleans was the final major battle waged in the War of 1812. The American combatants were led by Major General Andrew Jackson against the British forces who were led by Admiral Alexander Cochrane. The battle was one of the biggest and most decisive engagements that prevented the British from seizing New Orleans and other territory acquired through the Louisiana Purchase agreement. This was despite the signing of the Treaty of Ghent (signed in the city in Belgium of the same name) which was not yet ratified by the United States government until February of 1815. The warring parties continued with hostilities as they did not yet have knowledge of the treaty. The war came to an end when the British retreated on January 18.
1. Battle of Baltimore and Siege of Fort McHenry - September 13-14, 1814
The Battle of Baltimore and the British siege of Fort McHenry took place on September 13th and 14th in 1814 amid the larger War of 1812. The war was between the United States and the British forces. The United States under Major General Samuel Smith comprised of 1000 men at Fort McHenry who had 20 guns, against the British forces under Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane. The British were more well equipped with 19 ships and about 5,000 men. The British advanced to attack Baltimore, a vital port city which they believed was the base of many American privateers who were preying on their shipping. Baltimore's residents and defenders had declared their firm stance against the British by seizing their merchant ships and transporting limited cargoes to foreign ports. Baltimore had accounted for about 30% of all merchant ships captured by U.S forces hence earning the nickname "nest of pirates". The war ended with a successful defense of Baltimore and a restoration of American pride, much needed after the burning of Washington, D.C. The attack of the Baltimore Harbor famously inspired American lawyer to write "the Star-Spangled Banner", the song that would eventually become the national anthem of the United States.
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