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 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, 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 McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Another British army menaced the entire Mississippi Valley and threatened New Orleans, and Andrew Jackson, 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.
During the war, the American navy had oddly done much better than the army, since the sailors were angry over British impressment of U.S. sailors.
However, Britain responded with a naval blockade, raiding ships and ruining American economic life such as fishing. III. The Treaty of Ghent
At first, the confident British made sweeping demands for a
neutralized Indian buffer state in the Great Lakes region, control of the Great Lakes, and a substantial part of conquered Maine, but the Americans, led by John Quincy Adams, refused. As American victories piled up, though, the British reconsidered.
The Treat of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, was an armistice, acknowledging a draw in the war and ignoring any other demands of either side. Each side simply stopped fighting. The main issue of the war, impressment, was left unmentioned.
IV. Federalist Grievances and the Hartford Convention
As the capture of New Orleans seemed imminent, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island secretly met in Hartford from December 15, 1814 to January 5, 1815, to discuss their grievances and to seek redress for their wrongs.
While a few talked about secession, most wanted financial
assistance form Washington to compensate for lost trade, and an amendment requiring a 2/3 majority for all declarations of embargos, except during invasion.
Three special envoys from...
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