The Second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism
I. On to Canada Over Land and Lakes
Due to widespread disunity, the War of 1812 ranks as one of America’s worst fought wars.
There was not a burning national anger, like there was after the Chesapeake outrage; the regular
army was very bad and scattered and had old, senile generals, and the offensive strategy against Canada
was especially poorly conceived.
Had the Americans captured Montreal, everything west would have wilted like a tree after its trunk
has been severed, but the Americans instead focused a three-pronged attack that set out from Detroit,
Niagara, and Lake Champlain, all of which were beaten back.
In contrast, the British and Canadians displayed enthusiasm early on in the war and captured the
American fort of Michilimackinac, which commanded the upper Great Lakes area (the battle was led by
British General Isaac Brock).
After more land invasions were hurled back in 1813, the Americans, led by
Oliver Hazard Perry
built a fleet of green-timbered ships manned by inexperienced men, but still managed to capture a British
fleet. His victory, coupled with General
William Henry Harrison
’s defeat of the British during the
, helped bring more enthusiasm and increased morale for the war.
In 1814, 10,000 British troops prepared for a crushing blow to the Americans along the Lake
Champlain route, but on September 11, 1814,
Capt. Thomas MacDonough
challenged the British and
snatched victory from the fangs of defeat and forced the British to retreat.
II. Washington Burned and New Orleans Defended
In August 1814, British troops landed in the Chesapeake Bay area, dispersed 6,000 panicked
Americans at Bladensburg, and proceeded to enter Washington D.C. and burn most of the buildings there.
At Baltimore, another British fleet arrived but was beaten back by the privateer defenders of Fort
Francis Scott Key
wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Another British army menaced the entire Mississippi Valley and threatened New Orleans,
, fresh off his slaughter of the Creek Indians at the
Battle of Horseshoe Bend
, led a
hodgepodge force of 7,000 sailors, regulars, pirates, and Frenchmen, entrenching them and helping them
defeat 8,000 overconfident British that had launched a frontal attack in the
Battle of New Orleans
The news of this British defeat reached Washington early in February 1815, and two weeks later
came news of peace from Britain.
Ignorant citizens simply assumed that the British, having been beaten by Jackson, finally wanted
peace, lest they get beaten again by the “awesome” Americans.