Chapter 12 - The Second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism
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 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
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 H. Harrison’s
defeat of the British during the
Battle of the Thames
, 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,
challenged the British and snatched victory from the fangs of defeat and forced the British to retreat.
Washington Burned and New Orleans Defended.
In August 1814, British troops landed in the Chesapeake Bay area, dispersed 6000 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 McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star
Another British army menaced the entire Mississippi Valley and threatened New Orleans, and Andrew Jackson, fresh off his slaughter of the Creek
Indians, led a hodgepodge force of 7000 sailors, regulars, pirates, and Frenchmen, entrenching them and helping them defeat 8000 overconfident British that
had launched a frontal attack.
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”
During the war, the American navy had done much better than the army, since the sailors were angry at British impressments.