Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The War of 1812

On this date in 1812 James Madison signed the declaration that started the War of 1812 with Great Britain. War was opposed by a sizable minority, but the British economic blockade of France, the pressing of American sailors into service aboard British vessels, and the British support for hostile Great Lakes tribes on the American frontier gave congressional war hawks the support they needed.

American forces began the conflict by launching a three-point invasion of Canada, which failed miserably. In 1914 Napoleon Bonaparte's empire began to crumble, allowing the British to focus on combat in America. Washington DC fell that year and in August the White House, the Capitol, and other government were burned by British and Canadian troops as repayment for similar acts of arson by US troops while in Canada.

September brought the turning of the leaves and the tide. Thomas Macdonough won the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain, forcing the invading British to retreat back to Canada and leading to the conclusion of US-British peace negotiations in Belgium. On Christmas Eve 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed and the War of 1812 formally came to an end, but it wasn't the end of hostilities.

Communication of the era being what it was, British forces assailing the US Gulf Coast weren't informed of the treaty for weeks. On January 8, US forces under the command of Andrew Jackson achieved what is arguably the greatest American victory of the war when they routed the British at the Battle of New Orleans. News of the Treaty of Ghent and Jackson's victory reached the US public nearly simultaneously, fostering a false connection between the two, encouraging a new found sense of confidence in American power, and providing inspiration for a 1960's hit by Johnny Horton.

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