- Remembering the War of 1812
- Was the War of 1812 necessary and just?
- Could the war have been avoided?
- Trade restrictions
- Territorial expansion
- Military and naval campaigns
- The African American divide
- Federalists and other dissenters
- Debate in Great Britain
- Remembering the war
- Historical perspective
Did you know?
- The United States invaded Canada in the War of 1812.
- Many U.S. leaders believed that conquering Canada would be easy because most British forces were fighting against Napoleon’s French forces in Europe.
- The United States almost declared war on France as well as Great Britain, as the navies of both countries had seized hundreds of U.S. merchant vessels.
- Every Federalist Party member in Congress opposed the declaration of war against Great Britain in June 1812.
- The Madison administration secretly authorized a paramilitary invasion of Spanish Florida in the hope of annexing the territory.
- During the War of 1812, the U.S. fought numerous battles and side wars against Native Americans: Tecumseh’s confederacy in the Ohio Valley, Seminoles in Spanish Florida, “Red Stick” Creeks in Mississippi Territory, Sauk and other tribes in the Upper Mississippi Valley, and the Grand River Iroquois and other First Nation allies of the British in Upper Canada.
- More than twice as many U.S. soldiers died from disease as from war wounds.
- At least 3,600 African American slaves escaped to British ships during the war, and 600 took up arms against the U.S., joining the British Colonial Marines.
- Napoleon’s defeat in April 1814 enabled the British to send more ships and soldiers to the American front, placing the U.S. on the defensive.
- British troops burned public buildings in Washington in August 1814, in retaliation for an earlier American attack on York (Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada.
- The single most important influence on the outcome of the war was not a battle, but the British economic blockade of American ports.
- In the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war, the United States gained neither territory nor British recognition of the maritime “rights” it demanded at the outset of the war.
One iconic moment in the War of 1812 is perpetually remembered in the United States. It is rekindled at the beginning of every sports game, as players and fans stand to hear the Star Spangled Banner. The words to this song were penned by Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, on the morning of September 14, 1814. He had spent the night aboard a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay, watching the British fleet bombard Fort McHenry with “a sheet of fire and brimstone.” When the smoke cleared in the morning, he saw the huge American flag still flying above the fort, indicating that the Americans had not surrendered. Elated, he wrote his patriotic poem to the tune of an English drinking song. Within weeks, the Baltimore Patriot printed it under the title, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” More than a century later, on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional act making “The Star Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States.
Remembering the War of 1812
The War of 1812 is popularly remembered in the United States as a war to defend American rights and honor on the high seas and, later in the war, to protect American cities such as Baltimore and New Orleans from British attacks. It is also known as “the second American war of independence,” in which Americans stood up to the powerful British empire and gained a new sense of national pride and international respect. It is said that the victors write history, but in this case, it was the victorious political party, the Democratic Republicans, that wrote this heroic account of the war. This is the party that agitated for war, pursued it through the Madison administration, and promoted a “mission accomplished” history of it in its aftermath. President James Madison fashioned the message just after the peace treaty was signed, telling the world that the war had been “necessary,” its conduct had been a “success,” and the American people had supported it:
The late war, although reluctantly declared by Congress, had become a necessary resort to assert the rights and independence of the nation. It has been waged with a success which is the natural result of the wisdom of the legislative councils, of the patriotism of the people, of the public spirit of the militia, and of the valor of the military and naval forces of the country.”
Madison’s partisan account has been carried forward into popular American history, overriding the views of the opposition party (Federalists), antiwar dissidents, and other governments. Scholarly accounts, of course, offer a more complex analysis of the issues, but many American accounts nonetheless elevate the claims of the White House over other views and secure those claims in the annals of history. “As a result of the war,” writes Robert P. Watson, in America’s First Crisis: The War of 1812 (2014), “a nation emerged on the world stage stronger, more confident, and more united.”
In fact, American citizens were sorely divided over this war. Not one of the 42 Federalists members of Congress voted to authorize the war in June 1812. Nor did one-fourth of Democratic Republicans in the House of Representatives, who either abstained or voted against the war. According to the historian Charles DeBenedetti, “Domestic opposition to the War of 1812 was as vehement and widespread as any in American history.” The dissenters argued that the war was unnecessary, dishonorable, and ruinous to the nation. It was unnecessary because the British had not attacked the United States and because compromise was still possible. It was dishonorable because the Madison administration was intent on attacking America’s peaceful neighbor to the north, British Canada, and perhaps annexing it. It was potentially ruinous because Great Britain could blockade American ports and attack vulnerable east coast cities and towns – which indeed is what happened as the war progressed. The U.S. began the war on the offensive and ended it on the defensive. The American historian Donald Hickey offers this sober assessment of the outcome of the war:
Far from bringing the enemy to terms, the nation [United States] was lucky to escape without making extensive concessions itself. The Treaty of Ghent (which ended the conflict) said nothing about the maritime issues that had caused the war and contained nothing to suggest that America had achieved its aims. Instead, it merely provided for returning to the status quo ante bellum – the state that had existed before the war.
To Canadians, the War of 1812 was clearly a war of aggression on the part of the United States, evident in the fact that the Americans invaded Canada and the British Canadians and their First Nation (Indian) allies defended it. The American assault on York, the capital of Upper Canada, on April 27, 1813, is particularly remembered, its memorabilia on display at the Fort York museum in Toronto:
The outnumbered defenders fought for six hours before retreating east to Kingston. American forces occupied Toronto for six days, took supplies, looted private property, abused townspeople, and torched Parliament Buildings and lieutenant-governor’s house. A year later, when British forces captured Washington, they burnt the Congress and White House in retaliation.
From the British point of view, the War of 1812 was an unwelcome diversion from the main event of the era, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, which Great Britain and its allies eventually won. As the British historian Jon Latimer writes, “For Britain the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were wars of national survival and the war in America an irritating distraction” While Americans recall British depredations on the high seas and the burning of Washington in August 1814, the British remember that Americans supplied Napoleon with $15 million through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which Napoleon used to initiate a new round of military campaigns in Europe (and threatened to invade Great Britain); and that the U.S. took advantage of British vulnerability in 1812 to launch an invasion of its North American colony – the equivalent of hitting a man when he’s down. While British historians recognize that Great Britain had its own imperial interests in securing British trade advantages and limiting American expansionism, most argue that responsibility for the war lay with the Americans.
Native American viewpoints are less prevalent in the historical literature on the War of 1812 but nevertheless significant. More than twenty First Nations took up arms against the United States, while a few segments of tribes fought with the U.S. The war is generally viewed as part of a larger struggle to stem the tide of U.S. “western expansionism” at a time when this seemed possible. Shawnee leader Tecumseh is regarded as a hero for his attempt to unite the diverse Indian nations and create a common Indian Territory in the Trans-Appalachian region. The Canadian government honors the First Nations, as without their help Canada would most likely have fallen to the U.S. invaders.
Was the War of 1812 a necessary and just war?
In justifying the War of 1812, U.S. leaders made the case that British actions were of sufficient offense as to require war. President James Madison presented his arguments in a message to Congress on June 1, 1812. He charged that the British Royal Navy had impressed thousands of American sailors, in effect kidnapping them and forcing them to crew Royal Navy ships; that the British had repeatedly harassed American merchant ships and cut off their “legitimate markets” in Europe and the Caribbean; and that British agents were colluding with hostile Native Americans on the northwestern frontier. As negotiations had failed to end these “injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country,” Madison insisted that the only recourse was war.
‘Free trade and sailor’s rights’ was not the simple cry of justice that popular history would have us believe. It was fraught with its own ambiguities and, perhaps more importantly, it was a cry co-opted to promote belligerency by annexationists who drove most of the government’s thinking. Combined with the native crisis on the western border, and Madison’s struggles to preserve his presidency, this led, in June 1812, to war.
Historians have explored many issues and questions in regard to the War of 1812, but the question of the war’s legitimacy has not necessarily been a priority. For the American historian J. C. A. Stagg, the “central question posed by the war” is why the U.S. failed “to mount a more effective military effort than it did and in ways that would have permitted the Madison administration to hold enough Canadian territory to force concessions from Great Britain.” This is undoubtedly an interesting question from a military standpoint, but it should not supersede the question of whether a war is necessary and just, lest the accolade of “success” be attributed to a wrongful war. One might ask instead:
Could the War of 1812 have been avoided?
Even after the U.S. declared war on Great Britain on June 18, peace was possible. On June 23, Great Britain repealed its much despised Orders-in-Council, which had placed restrictions on U.S. maritime trade, thus removing one of the major barriers to peace. The British government fully expected the U.S. to revoke its war declaration and instructed Lieutenant General George Prevost, the governor-in-chief of Canada, to implement an armistice with General Henry Dearborn in the field. General Dearborn also expected the war to be called off and thus signed an armistice on August 9, temporarily ending hostilities. The Madison administration, however, repudiated the agreement on September 8, citing the British impressment policy as sufficient reason for continuing the war. The American invasion of Canada proceeded.
U.S. territorial ambitions were also stimulated by the Napoleonic wars. The occupation of Spain by Napoleon’s French forces in 1808 meant that Spain could do little to protect or control its colonies in the Americas. Revolutions broke out across South and Central America, eventually leading to independent nations. In the U.S., expansionists opportunistically eyed the acquisition of Spanish West and East Florida. In 1810, the Madison administration conspired with Americans residing in Spanish West Florida to wrest control of the colony for the U.S. This was followed in January 1811 by a secret Congressional authorization to conduct paramilitary operations against Spanish East Florida (see Section III).
In 1809, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin estimated that about 9,000 British-born sailors were working on American merchant ships. “In other words,” writes the American historian Bradford Perkins, “about one-half of the able-bodied seamen serving on ships engaged in foreign trade were British. The Secretary of the Treasury calculated that the Americans recruited about 2,500 Englishmen each year.” The Royal Navy was intent on impressing these British-born sailors as well as capturing deserters. It was not interested in impressing American citizens, but many were nonetheless swept up in the navy’s search and seizure operations. Perkins calculates a “rock-bottom figure” of 3,800 American impressments between 1803 and 1812, but suggests a figure of over 6,000 may be more accurate. Bickham estimates a net total of 7,000 Americans seized over sixteen years:
Ideally, Britain would have preferred that the United States prevent British subjects from working on American ships and hand over violators. Stopping and searching merchant vessels on the high seas was ineffective. Roughly 30 percent of the men impressed from American ships were later released after providing satisfactory proof of their American citizenship. As a result, the Royal Navy’s efforts to seize British subjects aboard American ships netted a paltry seven thousand sailors between 1796 and 1812.
The impressment issue was complicated by the fact that U.S. and British law defined American citizenship differently. U.S. law allowed immigrants to become naturalized American citizens after five years residence. British law recognized American citizenship only for those residing in the U.S. before 1783 or those born in the U.S. since then. All others who were born in Great Britain or its colonies were deemed British subjects forever. There was no established international system defining citizenship, but England had been impressing sailors for some 400 years, giving the practice an aura of established legality.
In 1806, the British Ministry of All Talents contemplated “sharply limiting impressment in return for firm American commitments on the return of deserters,” in the words of Bradford Perkins, but British leaders were unwilling to give up the right to impress their subjects and they were skeptical that the U.S. would follow through on its end. The Jefferson administration, for its part, showed little interest in the deal after a Treasury Department report “showed the American merchant marine unable to stand the loss of men.” The reality was that the U.S. needed British-born sailors (and deserters) to crew its merchant vessels. According to the U.S. diplomatic historian Thomas A. Bailey:
The Americans, unfortunately for their case against “sailor snatching,” openly connived at desertion. Their prospering merchant marine was urgently in need of sailors, and in a position to offer alluring bounties, better working conditions, and seductively higher wages. . . . Every British warship that touched at American ports during the years of Napoleonic wars was in danger of losing some men. In 1804 twelve ships of the Royal Navy were detained at Norfolk, Virginia, because of deserters, some of whom paraded the streets cursing their officers and thumbing noses at them. Such episodes do much to explain why British press gangs made “mistakes” at the expense of the Americans on the high seas.
Had the issue of impressments been the sole motivation for war against Great Britain, the war would likely have begun in June 1807, when the British warship, H.M.S. Leopard, fired on the American warship, U.S.S. Chesapeake, killing three and wounding eighteen. A few weeks earlier, four sailors had deserted from a Royal Navy ship as it lay in harbor in Norfolk, Virginia. Rather than returning the deserters, as demanded by British officers, U.S. authorities allowed the four men to enlist on the Chesapeake. Fully aware of their employment, the commander of the Leonard ordered the Chesapeake to stop and allow the British to board. When the commander of the Chesapeake refused, the firing began. The British obtained their four deserters, of whom three were American-born; the fourth was British-born – and later hanged.
The United States and Great Britain were both competitors and partners in global trade. In the years leading up to the War of 1812, British restrictions on neutral carriers were not so onerous as to inhibit Americans from enjoying a profitable and growing maritime business. According to the historian Troy Bickham, “American merchant shipping boomed during Britain’s wars with France to become the world’s second largest carrier, not only transporting American and French products but also making sizable inroads into routes between Britain and its colonies in Asia and the Caribbean…. With ‘free trade’ as their slogan, Americans gained access to an unprecedented number of ports and routes.” As Britons struggled under a heavy burden of taxation and debt to maintain their war against France, many came to view American traders as “profiteers of the worst possible kind,” and thus supported measures to limit American trade expansion and sustain British dominance in global trade.
The Jefferson administration passed up an opportunity to resolve many of the trade tensions plaguing U.S.-British relations when it dismissed a treaty signed by U.S. envoys James Monroe and William Pinkney in late 1806. According to the terms of the treaty, U.S. merchant ships would be allowed access to the British East Indies and to re-export goods; duties would be lowered at British ports; proper notice of blockades would be given to avoid unwarranted captures of U.S. vessels; compensation would be paid in the event of illegal captures; and the Royal Navy would not interfere with American vessels within five miles of the American coast. The U.S., in exchange, would deny the use of American harbors to French ships, prevent Americans from joining the armed forces of Great Britain’s enemies, and give up the doctrine of “free ships, free goods.” The agreement did not contain any provision to end impressments but the British promised to observe “the greatest caution” in impressing British seamen and to promptly address any claims that Americans had been taken. President Jefferson rejected the treaty, citing a lack of guarantees on the impressment issue and perhaps believing that he could get a better deal if the French were to gain ascendancy in the European war. Donald Hickey comments:
The rejection of the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty was a great turning point in the Age of Jefferson. Republicans would later claim that the only options the United States had in this era were submission, commercial sanctions, or war. But the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty offered another alternative, that of accommodation. By rejecting this treaty, the United States missed an opportunity to reforge the Anglo-American accord of the 1790s and to substitute peace and prosperity for commercial restrictions and war. After the loss of the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty, Anglo American relations steadily deteriorated.
Having passed up a reasonable diplomatic option, the Jefferson administration and its allies in Congress passed a series of embargo laws between December 1807 and January 1809, which prohibited American ships from trading in all foreign ports. The embargo was meant to deprive Great Britain of needed goods and markets, but the larger effect was to create economic hardship and unemployment at home, especially in the Northeast. The embargo essentially halted American oceanic trade in the name of “free trade.” With smuggling rife, the Jefferson administration and Congress passed the Enforcement Act in April 1808, which allowed port authorities to seize cargoes without a warrant. This act did little more than raise popular fears of governmental authoritarianism. In March 1809, Congress replaced the Embargo Act with the Non-Intercourse Act, a watered-down version that forbade commerce only with France and Great Britain. This, too, was routinely evaded.
The British government was not inclined to rescind its Orders-in-Council, but it did make a conciliatory gesture in May 1812 by offering the U.S. an equal share of the licensed trade enjoyed by the British on the European continent. This would have opened the continent to U.S. trade again but under rules set by Great Britain. The Madison administration declined the offer, “believing that accepting it would be tantamount to surrendering American independence,” according to Hickey. Finally, on June 23, the British made the concession that the Madison administration had demanded, repealing its Orders-in-Council, but the news did not reach the U.S. until August 13. President Madison suspected that the repeal was “a trick to turn America from war,” according to Perkins, but it was not a trick. It was a sincere attempt to avoid war as well as to repair the economic damage wrought by American trade restrictions. British officials, in fact, believed that the U.S. had been tricked by Napoleon into demanding accommodations from Great Britain that France itself had not made. London expected Washington to retract its war declaration, but the Madison administration was intent on the war. The only change was in American propaganda, as “free trade” could no longer be used to justify the war. “War Hawk journals quickly shifted to impressment and indemnities for past seizures,” notes Perkins. They also revived the patriotic fervor of old, portraying the war as a fight for independence, as if the British were intent on returning the U.S. to colonial status.
One problem for President Madison in terms of justifying war against Great Britain was that France never ceased preying on American merchant ships, contrary to its verbal assurances. In his war message to Congress on June 1, 1812, Madison left open the possibility that the U.S. would take action against France in the future. Yet it was hardly possible for the U.S. to undertake two wars against the world’s greatest powers. Madison’s rhetoric conveyed a sense of balance and justice in the administration of American foreign policy, but the reality was that the United States, by declaring war on Great Britain, was indirectly aiding Napoleonic France. The reverse was true as well. The success of the American war effort would at least partly depend on the military success of Napoleon, for if Napoleon’s forces were defeated, British forces would be released to fight against the United States. As it turned out, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia – which began on June 24, six days after the U.S. declared war on Great Britain – turned into a disastrous defeat, with some 400,000 French soldiers losing their lives; but it would take until April 1814 before British forces could be redeployed. Thomas Bailey writes:
America plunged into the conflict at such a time as to be a virtual ally of the dreaded Bonaparte. The Madison administration was counting on him to pin down British strength in Europe and thus clear the path for the invasion of Canada. During the ensuing months Napoleon’s victories were greeted in Madisonian circles with joy; his defeats with gloom. The reactions of the New England Federalists were precisely the opposite. In Federalist eyes, America was fighting against her true long-range interests. As the leading champion of constitutional government in the New World, she should have been waging war on the greatest despot of the age, Napoleon, at the side of England, the surviving champion of constitutional government in the Old World.
One such imperial effort took place in the Old Northwest Territory in the fall of 1809. William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory and superintendent of Indian affairs, convinced leaders of the Miami, Potawatomi, and Delaware tribes to transfer three million acres to the United States in exchange for payments to the tribes. The Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, met with Harrison in August 1810 to protest. “Sell a country!” he told Harrison. “Why not sell the air, the clouds and the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?” Tecumseh warned Harrison not to allow American settlers into the area. He and his brother Tenskwatawa, known as the Prophet, had a vision of establishing a permanent pan-Indian homeland in the Old Northwest Territory and reviving Native ways of life. They traveled across the Trans-Appalachian region gathering recruits and forming a loose confederacy of tribes and factions of tribes.
The War of 1812 pitted the U.S. against Great Britain, but it encompassed a number of Indian wars as well. In addition to the war against Tecumseh’s confederacy in the Ohio Valley, U.S. forces engaged Native Americans in the Upper Mississippi Valley led by Sauk chieftain Black Hawk, Red Stick Creeks in the Mississippi Territory (which had little to do with the British), Seminoles in Spanish East Florida, and First Nation allies of the British in Upper Canada. These associated Indian wars all played into U.S. expansionist ambitions. Although the U.S. failed to conquer Canada, it succeeded in gaining large cessions of land from Native American tribes. The Creeks were forced to cede 23 million acres to the United States in 1814. Following the War of 1812, the U.S. signed treaties of cession with eighteen different tribes between 1816 and 1823. The treaty with the Delaware, signed on October 3, 1818, was the first to completely remove a tribe to reservation lands west of the Mississippi River. In Florida, the U.S. revived its war against the Seminoles, which had begun in mid-1812, impelling the Spanish government to cede the peninsula to the United States in the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819.
From a geopolitical perspective, the War of 1812 was a contest between an emerging empire, the United States, and an established one, Great Britain. “The British knew all about aggrandizement,” writes Tony Bickham, “having added a further seventeen colonies to its empire along with tens of millions of people since going to war with France in 1793.” Although the United States had broken away from Great Britain in 1776, it was nonetheless following in the footsteps of the British empire. According to Bickman:
The United States was undeniably imperialist in 1812. Within two generations it had doubled its size, dispossessing the native inhabitants of their land and stripping the declining Spanish Empire of huge swaths of its territory. Like their colonial forefathers, Americans interchangeably employed violence, diplomacy, and commerce (sometimes simultaneously) in an impressive pace of growth. . . . Cheap and abundant land was crucial to the Republicans, who idealized the small farmer and relied heavily on his vote. Expansion was also highly controversial, as opponents, particularly in New England, worried about the necessity, cost, legality, and consequences of expansion.
American views on expansionism
Many aggressive expansionists furthermore envisioned U.S. dominion over the whole of North America. “I shall never die contented,” said Representative Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, “until I see her [Great Britain’s] expulsion from North America, and her territories incorporated with the United States.” Former President Thomas Jefferson thought similarly, writing to a friend on June 28, 1812, ten days after the war began, “Upon the whole, I have known no war entered into under more favorable auspices. Our present enemy will have the sea to herself, while we shall be equally predominant at land, and shall strip her of all her possessions on this continent.” Such imperial views were voiced in all parts of the country. Rep. John A. Harper of New Hampshire proffered an early version of the Manifest Destiny doctrine, saying, “To me, sir, it appears that the Author of Nature has marked our limits in the south, by the Gulf of Mexico; and on the north, by the regions of eternal frost.” The leading “war hawk,” Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky, was likewise intent on mastery of the continent, telling his colleagues on the House floor:
It is absurd to suppose that we will not succeed in our enterprise against the enemy’s Provinces. We have the Canadas as much under our command as Great Britain has the ocean, and the way to conquer her on the ocean is to drive her from the land. I am not for stopping at Quebec or anywhere else; but I would take the whole continent from them, and ask them no favors. . . . We must take the Continent from them. I wish never to see peace till we do. God has given us the power and the means; we are to blame if we do not use them.
The outbreak of war in the northwestern frontier on November 7, 1811, strengthened the hand of the hard-core expansionists. They could now claim that Great Britain was complicit in the murder of American settlers on the frontier. “We shall drive the British from our Continent,” declared Representative Felix Grundy of Tennessee on December 9; “they will no longer have an opportunity of intriguing with our Indian neighbors, and setting on the ruthless savage to tomahawk our women and children.” Like other expansionists, Grundy regarded Native American resistance to American encroachments as aggression against American “settlers,” thus requiring forceful and punitive actions by the U.S. government in response. This was a common pattern in U.S. history. As the momentum toward war gathered strength in Congress in the spring of 1812, Representative John C. Calhoun of South Carolina countered the idea that the U.S. was unprepared, telling his colleagues, “So far from being unprepared, sir, I believe that in four weeks from the time that a declaration of war is heard on our frontiers the whole of Upper and a part of Lower Canada will be in our possession.”
The soft-core expansionists were more sensitive to domestic and international criticism of aggression, and thus were more hesitant in their demands for Canada. President Madison and secretary of state James Monroe were of this mindset, waiting to see how the war progressed, whether Great Britain would give in on maritime issues, and whether public opinion would support, or demand, annexation. Both men publicly asserted that the invasion of Canada was primarily a means to an end, the end being British acquiescence to America’s maritime demands. Their diplomatic correspondence, however, tells a different story. Only one week after war was declared, Monroe wrote to Jonathan Russell, the American chargé d’affaires in London, stating that, should the U.S. invasion of Canada succeed, American public opinion could make it “difficult to relinquish Territory which had been conquered.” After American forces invaded and burned York, the capital of Upper Canada, in April 1813, Monroe instructed his commissioners in London to negotiate for the transfer of Upper Canada to the United States. At the war’s end, despite the fact that Canada had successfully fended off U.S. invasions, American negotiators were instructed to work for the cession of all of Canada, arguing that this would foreclose the possibility of future war – a veiled threat that the U.S. would try again to acquire Canada through forceful means. The British negotiators were not moved and Canada remained British.
Opposing all of the expansionists were the dissenters. “Opponents charged that the war was not a defense of maritime rights against British arrogance and rapacity, but an aggressive grab for territory,” according to the historian Jerald A. Combs. Lending support to this assertion, Combs asks why, if “maritime grievances were the genuine motivation for the war . . . did the opposition to the war center in the New England area, where maritime grievances were most felt, while young western war hawks like Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Felix Grundy led the congressional movement for war?”
Representative John Randolph of Virginia was among the twenty Democratic Republicans in Congress who voted against the war resolution. Speaking on the House floor on December 16, 1811, he declared, “Agrarian cupidity, not maritime right, urges the war.” He was also one of the very few to acknowledge American responsibility for the outbreak of the Indian war in the Ohio Valley:
Advantage had been taken of the spirit of the Indians, broken by the war which ended in the Treaty of Greenville . Under the ascendancy then acquired over them, they had been pent up by subsequent treaties into nooks, straightened in their quarters by a blind cupidity, seeking to extinguish their title to immense wilderness . . . It was our own thirst for territory, our own want of moderation, that had driven these sons of nature to desperation, of which we felt the effects.
When the Jefferson administration purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, the American minister, Robert Livingston, asked the French foreign minister, Charles Talleyrand, whether the purchase included West Florida. Talleyrand gave no definitive response, saying only, “You have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it.” The Treaty of San Ildefonso that ceded the Louisiana Territory from Spain to France in 1800 did not include the Florida colonies. What it did include was a proviso that France could not transfer or sell the Louisiana Territory to a third power. That, of course, is exactly what Napoleon did in 1803, and why Spain and Great Britain deemed the Louisiana Purchase illegal.
President James Madison moved first against Spanish West Florida. In 1810 he instructed his agents to encourage American residents living near Baton Rouge to rebel against Spanish authority, form a provisional government, and request annexation by the United States. The resident Americans carried out the plan, capturing a small Spanish fort at Baton Rouge – and killing two soldiers and wounding three in the process – then proclaiming the independent “Republic of West Florida” and requesting annexation by the United States along with protection from any Spanish counterattack. Two days after hearing news of the insurrection, President Madison ordered the governor of Louisiana to station troops in the area. On October 27, 1810, he issued a formal proclamation taking possession of West Florida (from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River) on behalf of the United States. Spanish forces nevertheless remained at Fort Mobile until April 1813, when they evacuated to Pensacola.
In 1812, the population of Spanish East Florida was less than 10,000, a mixture of Anglos, Spaniards, blacks (both slave and free), Greeks, and some 3,000 Seminoles living in the interior. The population of Georgia, in contrast, was about one-quarter million. The main towns on the east coast were Fernandina, a prosperous trading center, and St. Augustine, the governmental and military center – protected by the sizable Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. Black slaves, numbering about 2,000, were generally treated better in Spanish East Florida than their counterparts in the U.S., with some serving in the Spanish military. A number of the Anglo businessmen in the area were raising families with black women, former slaves they had bought and freed; and some were married (Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley). These families and their mulatto children were accepted in the Spanish colony. The arming of blacks, the acceptance of multi-racial families, and the refuge provided for escaped slaves from the U.S. by the Seminoles were all intolerable to most white Georgians.
Gen. Mathews and Col. McKee arrived at St. Marys, Georgia, just north of the Florida border, on February 25, 1811. By March 1812, Matthews had recruited about 125 men, mostly from Georgia, along with a handful of residents of Spanish East Florida. Mathews was ready to launch an attack on fortified St. Augustine, but the detachment of U.S. Army troops at St. Marys had received no orders to attack; hence, Major Jacint Laval refused to allow his troops to accompany Mathews. After a bitter argument, Mathews settled on taking possession of Fernandina, a largely defenseless town. Laval relented to some degree by allowing nine American gunboats to be used. The plan was carried out on March 16, and the residents of Fernandina were sufficiently intimidated by the sight of the gunboats to surrender the town without a fight.
On June 18, 1812, the U.S. formally declared war on Great Britain. One day later, Democratic Republican “war hawks” in Congress introduced a bill to formally authorize U.S. military occupation of East and West Florida. The bill passed easily in the House, 70-48, but it was unexpectedly defeated in the Senate. According to the historian James G. Cusiak:
Several factors contributed to the bill’s defeat. Federalists in the Senate were still bitterly resentful about the declaration of war against England, which they had strenuously opposed. Some of them thought that the war had been rammed down their throats and that their objections and calls for public debate had been ignored. Now they were being asked to acquiesce in a war with Spain. Determined to reassert themselves against their hawkish colleagues, they used the Florida bill to make known their dissent. Newspaper accounts of affairs in East Florida helped them to underscore their objections. . . . [There was] so much evidence for American threats and intimidations against the residents of Amelia Island that it was impossible to maintain a pretense that the Spaniards had been the aggressors.
Although the pretense of a “rebellion” had been exposed and legislation to permit U.S. occupation had been defeated, the Madison administration still carried on with the occupation of Spanish East Florida. U.S. military forces were not recalled. Mathews, before learning of his dismissal, increased his offer of land to new recruits from 50 to 500 acres, thereby swelling the ranks of his “Patriot” volunteers. In September, Col. Smith organized a siege of St. Augustine, but he was forced to retreat due to ambushes and a shortage of supplies. Shortages became more acute for the residents of East Florida, as the occupying Americans made a steady practice of stealing goods and property. “By some estimates,” writes Cusiak, “as many as 10,000 head of cattle were either stolen away or killed and left to decompose in East Florida during the thirteen months between April 1812 and May 1813.” Those who refused to join the rebel ranks were harassed further; and if they abandoned their homes for safer quarters, their houses were ransacked and burned down.
In July 1812, the Seminoles joined the battle on the side of the Spanish, having heard that the Patriot leaders were handing out generous land grants in their territory. Seminole warriors ambushed U.S. supply wagons and Patriot raiding parties. One attack by a large number of black and Indian Seminoles on September 12 resulted in the death of a U.S. Army captain. Two weeks later, Colonel Daniel Newman led a group of Georgia volunteers in a raiding expedition into the interior. A fierce battle at Payne’s Prairie led to an anguished U.S. retreat. A second expedition of Georgia and Tennessee militia in February 1813 did more damage. Although the Seminoles evaded their opponents, they lost much of their subsistence. The Americans recorded setting fires to 386 houses, seizing 1500-2000 bushels of corn, and taking 300 horses and 400 head of cattle. Unlike the invasion of Spanish East Florida, few Americans objected to the invasion of Seminole country, as wars against Native Americans were deemed allowable under almost any circumstances.
In 1812, Upper Canada (Ontario region) was populated by 75,000 non-Indian residents, of whom three-fifths had emigrated from the United States after the War for Independence, enticed by generous land purchase terms. These “late Loyalists,” as they were called, joined American Loyalists from the American Revolutionary War, French-speaking Canadians, and other hearty souls who could brave the Canadian winters. There were many cross-border family ties as well as trade and business connections. Religious affiliations also transcended national boundaries. Some Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist congregations shared the same itinerant preachers. “Upper Canadians had no quarrel with their neighbours and, even among the Loyalists, the United States was scarcely seen as a foreign country,” writes the Canadian historian George Sheppard. “The colonists were firm in their belief that they were not responsible for the deteriorating relationship between Britain and the United States.” All in all, Americans and British Canadians had no cause to fight each other.
Yet savagery and the spirit of revenge, the usual products of war, were not missing from the War of 1812. Prisoners were sometimes killed – and scalped – and defenseless towns were sometimes burned. In lieu of the normal moral restraints of civilian life, military rules-of-warfare, leadership, and troop discipline were needed to curb wanton violence and plunder. Oftentimes, one or more of these restraints were absent. Both the U.S. and British governments “professed to favor humane treatment,” but operations in the field often belied this intent, especially when Native American warriors were involved. The rules of “civilized” warfare, in which soldiers were not to harm prisoners and civilians nor destroy or steal civilian property, were generally not applied to U.S.-Indian warfare. From the vantage point of Native Americans, the European and American way of war could hardly be considered more civilized given the high number of casualties caused by their advanced weaponry. In any case, the atrocities that occurred during the war served to reinforce dehumanizing stereotypes of the “enemy” and foster vicious cycles of retaliation. Donald Hickey writes:
The plunder, burning, and atrocities committed by both sides left a legacy of bitterness and hatred that persisted long after the war was over. This was especially true on the Niagara River frontier. Such was the devastation on both sides of the river that Canadians and Americans living there probably suffered more from this war than people living anywhere else.
The War of 1812 was fought with primitive weapons by today’s standards: muskets that took twenty seconds to reload and would often misfire; rifles that took even longer to reload but were more accurate; swords, bayonets, and pistols for close range fighting; and cannons (called guns), mortars, and rockets for longer range assaults and warship battles. These weapons took their toll, to be sure, but the more frequent killer was disease. According to Alan Taylor, “only 3 percent of the American troops died in combat and 8 percent died of disease.” The debased conditions in the military camps at Buffalo and Black Rock (Niagara region) in the fall of 1812 prompted one soldier to quip, “everything that is sure to rid man of life is here practiced.” As Taylor writes, “Afflicted by colds, dysentery, measles, pleurisy, and pneumonia, many soldiers were finished off by a typhoid fever. They died so fast that coffin makers and grave diggers could not keep up.” The prevalence of disease, in turn, fostered desertion, as many “would rather take the chance of being shot for desertion, than to fall a certain prey to disease,” in the words of U.S. General Morgan Lewis. Donald Hickey estimates that the desertion rate for American land forces (regulars, militia, and short-term volunteers) “was probably around 20 percent,” while the rate for British land forces was “perhaps around 15 percent.”
Providing soldiers with food rations, clean water, adequate shelter, fuel, blankets, clothing, shoes, and medical care required an immense effort. Food was often in short supply, especially on the Canadian side. According to Jon Latimer:
Food production in Upper Canada was barely above subsistence levels in the best of years, and mobilizing the militia distorted and reduced production. For example, in the summer of 1814 commissariat officers in central Upper Canada had to feed 4,949 regulars and 527 militia in eight widely scattered posts. Doing this required 75 tons of flour to provide bread for thirty days, while the Indians assembled at Burlington Heights would require about the same . . . All these people would consume almost 1,000 head of cattle, but the farmers of Burlington Heights were estimated to have only 300 between them in September 1813. . . . Every militiaman mobilized was another mouth to feed and one less to work the fields; British reinforcements only exacerbated the problem, which increased the farther west they moved.
On the American side, food scarcity was more a problem of distribution than of production. “Long supply lines, seasonal swings in weather, frontier underdevelopment, and a corrupt contracting system combined to limit the food that Americans could accumulate for their northern armies,” writes Taylor. The private contracting system was repeatedly denounced as “corrupt and destructive” by American commanders. General Edmund Gaines insisted that the army “lost more men by the badness of the provisions, than by the fire of the enemy.” American armies on the march were particularly likely to suffer shortages. The common remedy was to steal from the local populace. “Each American invasion attempt on Canada trailed ruination in its path,” writes Latimer. In the fall of 1813, for example, as General James Wilkinson’s 7,000-man army moved along the St. Lawrence River, U.S. troops helped themselves to civilian stores of grain, vegetables, and meat, tore down fence rails for firewood, and also stole personal valuables. “Worse still,” writes Dianne Graves, “some of Wilkinson’s men robbed and raped the pregnant wife of the Church of England primate of Upper Canada, the Reverend John Strachan, at Cornwall in November of that year.” Such actions turned Canadian civilians against the invaders. As American troops made their way across the Canadian Niagara region, one American regular officer complained, “The whole population is against us; not a foraging party but is fired on, and not infrequently returns with missing numbers.”
Women were not expected to fight in the war, but many participated in the support networks that surrounded every army camp. “In the United States and Canada,” writes Hickey, “women fed and nursed soldiers and civilians who participated in the war, managed businesses and farms when their men were gone . . . and in general performed a number of support services that were vital to the war effort.” Those tasks included “cooking, sewing, washing, cleaning, nursing, and hauling food and water to the front lines.” On occasion, women also took part in the fighting. Most notable among the latter was Fanny Doyle, the wife of an American artillery private who had been recently captured in battle. After obtaining permission from the commanding officer at Fort Niagara, she took part in a fierce artillery duel on November 21, 1812, working from dawn to dusk on the exposed gun deck loading six-pound cannon balls to be fired at Fort George. Her actions won her praise from officers and soldiers, and a place in history.[509
The War of 1812 lasted two years and eight months, from June 18, 1812, when President James Madison signed the declaration of war, to February 16, 1815, when Congress ratified the Treaty of Ghent. The total number of military and civilian deaths attributed to the war is estimated at over 35,000, according to the Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 (2012).
|CASUALTIES||United States||Britain & Canada||Native Americans|
|Killed in action or died of wounds||2,260||2,000||1,500|
|Died of disease or accident||13,000||8,000||8,500|
Although the casualties of this war were small in comparison to the massive casualties of the Napoleonic Wars, they were significant in proportion to the population at the time. The death toll of some 15,000 Americans in proportion to a population of roughly eight million (circa 1813) places the War of 1812 as the third most lethal foreign war in U.S. history.
|U.S. wars||U.S. population (midway thru war)||Deaths per 1,000 people|
|War for Independence||3 million||8.3|
|World War II||138 million||2.9|
|War of 1812||8 million||1.9|
|World War I||100 million||1.2|
|Vietnam War||203 million||0.3|
On the Canadian side, if as many as 5,500 of the 10,000 who perished were Canadian residents, as distinct from British troops stationed in Canada, then the War of 1812 would top Canadian and American charts in terms of proportional losses, with ten out of every 1,000 Canadians dying in the War of 1812. (The approximate population of the five Canadian provinces in 1813 was 550,000, with 90,000 in Upper Canada, 325,000 in Lower Canada, and 135,000 in the provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.) The proportional losses for Native Americans were greatest. More than two dozen tribes and about 10,000 warriors participated in the War of 1812. According to the historian J. C. A. Stagg:
In all, as many as 3,500 warriors may have been killed on the northwestern and southwestern frontiers of the United States and possibly another 10,000 Indian men, women, and children could have died as a result of the war-related diseases and starvation that were always more regular features of Indian life than they were for Americans or Canadians. Many of the small Indian nations, such as the Shawnee, lacked the demographic depth to absorb such losses, and if the total population of all the Indian peoples involved in the war was in the region of seventy-five thousand, their casualties can be described only as disastrous.
The staggering proportion of deaths for the First Nations that participated in the war – perhaps one out of every eight persons – produced a desired outcome for U.S. expansionists. Western tribes, said Secretary of War John C. Calhoun after the war, “have, in great measure, ceased to be an object of terror, and have become that of commiseration.” As Donald Hickey writes:
Never again would Indians seriously threaten the United States, and never again would a foreign nation tamper with American Indians. The subjugation of the Indians, in turn, promoted manifest destiny and the westward movement. The heady nationalism and expansionism that characterized American foreign policy throughout the nineteenth century was at least partly a result of the War of 1812.
Military and naval campaigns
The American-Canadian front
The first invasion began less than three weeks after the U.S. declared war. General Hull, the governor of Michigan Territory, crossed the Detroit River with 2,200 regulars and militia, and set up camp at Sandwich (Windsor) just across the border. There was no immediate opposition, only a protest by 200 Ohio militiamen who refused to join the invasion. On July 12, 1812, Hull issued a proclamation to the townspeople designed to both persuade and threaten residents into accepting American rule:
The army under my Command has invaded your Country and the standard of the United States waves on the territory of Canada. . . . Separated by an immense ocean and an extensive Wilderness from Great Britain you have no participation in her counsels, no interest in her conduct. You have felt her Tyranny, you have seen her injustices . . . You will be emancipated from Tyranny and oppression and restored to the dignified status of freemen. . . . If contrary to your own interest and the just expectation of my country, you should take part in the approaching contest, you will be considered and treated as enemies and the horrors, and calamities of War will stalk you. . . . No white man found fighting by the Side of an Indian will be taken prisoner. Instant destruction will be his Lot.
Hull hoped to thwart an Indian-Canadian alliance, but events were already moving in the opposite direction. On July 17, the American fort at Michilimackinac, on the northern tip of Michigan Territory, was surrendered to a combined force of 45 British regulars, 200 Canadian militia, and 400 First Nation warriors – all without firing a shot. Unaware that war had been declared, the American commander, Lieutenant Porter Hanks, and his men had been terrorized by the sight and sounds of Indians in the distance yelling and discharging their guns. Fearing a massacre, Hanks surrendered to British Captain Charles Roberts, who paroled all of Porter’s men except for three British deserters. The fort was an important way station in the Indian fur trade and its seizure convinced a number of tribes that their future lay with the British Canadians rather than the invading Americans. The same message was promoted by Tecumseh and Canadian agents such as Robert Dickson, who had great credibility with the tribes due to his role in distributing goods to starving Indians the previous winter.
News of the surrender of Fort Detroit shocked and embarrassed the Madison administration. Instead of gaining Canada, the U.S. had lost the territory of Michigan. Democratic Republicans blamed General Hull for the defeat, while Federalists denounced the whole war as a wrong-headed escapade directed by an incompetent administration. Among Canadians, the British victory “sent a powerful signal to bolster the faithful, encourage the wavering, and subdue the disloyal in both the white and native populations of Upper Canada,” writes Carl Benn. “Most of the Iroquois of the Six Nations Tract along the Grand River, for instance, who had largely stood aloof before the capture of Detroit, swung behind the British, adding 400 valuable warriors to augment the Upper Canadian garrison.” Canadian resistance was also stiffened by the fact that General Hull had allowed his troops to plunder homes at Sandwich, contrary to his promises.
The Fort Dearborn Massacre created a sensation in the American press, while U.S. attacks on Indian villages did not. Many Americans blamed British commanders for allowing such atrocities, but the latter had only marginal control over their Indian allies, as they often noted despairingly. Even Indian leaders such as Tecumseh and Wyandot chief Roundhead exerted only limited influence over the broad array of tribes and warriors, especially when revenge seemed justified. The first scalping, for example, was reportedly done by Captain William McCulloch of the Kentucky militia, who killed and scalped a Menominee warrior on July 25, 1812. According to Alan Taylor:
That mutilation enraged the Menominee, who had honored a British request not to scalp any of Hull’s men. Carrying the corpse back to Amherstburg, the angry warriors confronted the British officers and vowed to resume scalping their enemies. Ten days later McCulloch fell into an Indian ambush and lost his own scalp – to the delight of the Menominee.
The second U.S. invasion of Canada began on October 13, 1812, and proved no more successful than the first. U.S. troops crossed the Niagara River opposite Queenston Heights and were met by Brock and a force of 1,600 troops. Although Brock was killed in the initial battle, his mixed force of British regulars, Canadian militiamen, and indigenous warriors counterattacked and forced the Americans to retreat. At that point, Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer called for reinforcements to cross the river, but the New York militia refused to leave American territory “to my utter astonishment,” Van Rensselaer reported. This sealed the American defeat and the capture of 950 soldiers. In the aftermath of the battle, Brock became known as “the hero and savior of Upper Canada,” but, as the historian Robert Allen points out, “the victories at Michilimackinac, Detroit, and Queenston Heights were all determined in large measure by the physical presence or active military use of significant numbers of Indian allies.”
Among Great Britain’s First Nation allies, the most important leader was John Norton, the son of a Cherokee father and Scottish mother. He grew up in Scotland, came to Canada as an army private, and was adopted into the Mohawk tribe (part of the Iroquois confederacy). Talented in languages, diplomacy, and military strategy, Norton was instrumental in convincing the Grand River Iroquois to ally with the British. He played a key role in the British victory at Queenston Heights and participated in subsequent battles in the Niagara region. The Grand River Iroquois did not seek war but were convinced that they would lose their lands and independence if the United States won the war. On the American side of the U.S.-Canadian border (which the Iroquois deemed artificial), the New York Iroquois initially remained neutral but were later recruited by the United States to fight against their Grand River compatriots.
On May 27, 1813, the U.S. initiated its second invasion of the Niagara River region, attacking Fort George, the main British garrison. The British were forced to withdraw, allowing U.S. troops to occupy the fort. Recognizing their vulnerability, the British also evacuated their garrisons at Queenston, Chippewa, and Fort Erie, retreating to Burlington Heights on the west end of Lake Ontario. Americans thus controlled for the first time a slice of Canadian territory. “Giddy with victory,” writes Alan Taylor, “the American officers insisted that the local people welcomed them as liberators.” General Dearborn apparently thought he had succeeded, as he wrote to his superiors, “A large majority are friendly to the United States and fixed in their hatred to the Government of Great Britain.” Taylor offers a more realistic assessment: “In fact, relatively few felt committed to the [American] republic; a larger minority of Loyalists longed to oust the invaders; and the great majority simply hated militia service and wanted the war to end.”
The glow of victory quickly faded for Americans as the British launched a surprise attack at Stoney Creek on the night of June 5. The attack resulted in the capture of two American generals and the retreat of American forces to Fort George. The Americans planned their own surprise attack in response, but Laura Secord, a Queenston housewife married to a sergeant in the Canadian militia, got word of the plan and traveled on foot thirty-two kilometers (20 miles) to inform British authorities. On June 24, the First Nation allies of the British from the Grand River intercepted 500 American soldiers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Bœrstler at Beaver Dams, forcing their surrender. Laura Secord, who was born in Massachusetts, earned a place in Canadian history as a heroine of the war – the equivalent of Paul Revere in the American Revolution.
Further to the west, in northern Ohio, U.S. forces regained the initiative after resisting a British-Indian attack on Fort Meigs on May 1, 1813, and another on Fort Stephenson on August 2. On September 10, the greatest naval battle of the war took place on Lake Erie, near Put-in-Bay. The encounter pitted nine U.S. warships under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry against six British warships under the command of Robert Heriot Barclay. Perry’s famous dispatch at the end of the battle summarized the results: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours, two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”
Control of Lake Erie enabled the U.S. to shuttle provisions and troops around the lake and to prevent the British from doing the same. Recognizing his vulnerability, British General Henry Proctor decided, against the advice of Tecumseh, to abandon Fort Detroit and march his 900 men on a hasty retreat to the east, traveling along the road north of the lake. Tecumseh and some 1,000 warriors accompanied Proctor, expecting a fight. The fight came when Major General William Henry Harrison and 3,500 American troops caught up with them at Moraviantown on the Thames River on October 5, 1813. Before the battle, Tecumseh reportedly rode in front of the British line of soldiers, shaking hands with each man. He painted his face black, having had a premonition of his death. The Americans quickly routed Proctor’s forces, killing Tecumseh and Wyandot leader Roundhead. This victory for the Americans was followed by a bout of needless savagery, as Kentucky militiamen burned down the nearby village of Moraviantown, where peaceful Christian Indians resided. “The missionaries begged Harrison to intervene ‘to protect us from the wild mob,’” writes Alan Taylor. “But the general could not restrain the Kentuckians, who hated all Indians and despised any white men who consorted with them.” The Americans returned to Detroit where Harrison was welcomed as a hero.
Outraged by this action, British-Canadian forces under Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond and their Indian allies crossed into American territory on December 19 and conducted a midnight raid on Fort Niagara, killing or wounding 80 and capturing 350 Americans. Leaving a detachment at the fort, Drummond ordered revenge attacks on the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown, which were put to the torch. As the villagers ran, “Indians killed about a dozen of the slower civilians, including at least one child,” according to Alan Taylor:
Breaking into stores and homes, the warriors got drunk on plundered liquor and then wounded two British soldiers and killed two of their own people. So impressive in surprising Fort Niagara, the discipline of the British regulars also broke down at Lewiston. An officer reported, “Indians, Regulars & Militia were plundering every thing they could get hold of. . . . I have never witnessed such a scene before & hope I shall not again.” The victors burned every house in Lewiston and the nearby village of the Tuscarora, a Haudenosaunee people who had helped the Americans.
Buffalo was next. On December 30, a British force of 965 regulars, 50 militia, and 400 Indians assaulted the town after unnerving 2,000 American militiamen who had recently arrived to defend it. They latter ran for their lives alongside hundreds of inhabitants. The British pillaged and burned much of Buffalo as well as nearby Black Rock.
American and British leaders each blamed the other for violating the rules of civilized warfare, a code of conduct that presumably exempted civilians from military violence. On January 12, 1814, General George Prevost, the Governor-in-Chief of British North America, issued a statement expressing regret for the burning of American towns but nevertheless blamed the U.S. for initiating this “departure from the established usages of war.” In the U.S., Democratic Republicans were indignant at the charge, arguing that U.S. commanders had never ordered such savage warfare. According to Taylor:
The Madison administration also denied responsibility for the plundering at Sandwich and York, dismissed as the unauthorized misdeeds of undisciplined troops. The government blamed Newark’s destruction on McClure, cast as a rogue commander who misunderstood his orders. And the U.S. secretary of state, James Monroe, dismissed Moraviantown as a worthless Indian village that should not be avenged by burning a civilized American town.”
The administration’s denials notwithstanding, American troops continued to depart from the established rules of civilized warfare. On May 15, 1814, Lieutenant Colonel John B. Campbell and 700 Pennsylvania militia crossed Lake Erie in eight boats and ravaged the Canadian village of Dover. Experiencing no resistance, the residents pleaded with the Americans to not destroy their food supply, but to no avail. The Americans burned every building – twenty houses, twelve barns, and three flour mills – and shot every horse, cow, and pig in sight. Campbell described his actions as payback for the burning and plundering of Buffalo. As Campbell’s actions were not authorized, the commanding U.S. officer, General Jacob Brown, ordered a court-martial. Given the need for soldiers, however, the military court issued only a mild reprimand and returned Campbell to his unit. Two months later, Colonel Isaac Stone and a small group of American militiamen plundered the tiny village of St. Davids, four miles west of Queenston, and burned down fourteen homes, two shops, and a mill. General Brown dismissed Stone the following day, but he could not compensate the residents for the damage done. Upon hearing of these abuses of Canadian civilians and towns, Prevost sent a letter to Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, commander of the North American division of the Royal Navy, advising him to “assist in inflicting that measure of retaliation which shall deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages.” The cycle of vengeance and violence would continue on the Atlantic seaboard.
The war at sea
The Royal Navy had five major objectives during the War of 1812:
- Blockade American seaports
- Control the Great Lakes
- Protect British merchant vessels
- Capture or sink American warships and privateers
- Destroy American military and naval assets on land
Americans, of course, had a contrary agenda. They sought to break through the blockade, control the Great Lakes, capture or destroy British trade vessels, defeat Royal Navy ships and privateers, and protect the American coastline.
The cannon-laden sailing ships of the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy clashed more than two dozen times during the war. These battles had less effect on the outcome of the war than on the psychology of both nations. Three U.S. victories in the summer and fall of 1812 evoked jubilation in the U.S. and humiliation in Great Britain. In the U.S., the naval victories partly compensated for America’s shocking defeats on land (Detroit and Queenston Heights), while in Great Britain, the naval defeats “caused a furor, with much public soul-searching about fighting quality,” according to the British historian Jeremy Black. The Royal Navy nevertheless continued to rule the seas. It addition to blockading U.S. ports, it was able to protect most of its merchant vessels by organizing them into convoys escorted by warships. While American international trade went into steep decline, British international trade rose by two-thirds between 1811 and 1814.
- 17 July # Royal Navy squadron captures USS Nautilus
- 13 August * USS Essex captures HMS Alert in the north Atlantic
- 19 August * USS Constitution defeats HMS Guerriere 400 miles SE of Halifax
- 18 October # HMS Poictiers captures HMS Wasp and rescues HMS Frolic
- 25 October * USS United States defeats HMS Maedonian near Canary Islands
- 22 November # HMS Southampton captures USS Vixen in West Indies
- 29 December * USS Constitution takes HMS Java off Brazil
- 17 January # HMS Narcissus captures USS Viper in the Caribbean Sea
- 24 February * USS Hornet sinks HMS Peacock off the coast of Guyana
- 1 June # HMS Shannon captures USS Chesapeake in Boston harbor
- 14 August # HMS Pelican captures USS Argus off the coast of Wales
- 5 September * USS Enterprise captures HMS Boxer near Bristol, Maine
- 10 September * Nine U.S. vessels captured six British vessels in Lake Erie battle
- 25 December # HMS Belvidera captures USS Vixen off the coast of Delaware
- 14 February * USS Constitution captures HMS Pictou near Barbados
- 28 March # HMS Phoebe & Cherub capture USS Essex & Essex Jr. off Chile
- 20 April # HMS Orpheus & Shelburne capture USS Frolic in Florida Strait
- 28 April * USS Peacock captures HMS Epervier off Cape Canaveral, Florida
- 22 June # HMS Leander defeats USS Rattlesnake off Nova Scotia
- 28 June * USS Wasp captures HMS Reindeer in the English Channel
- 12 July # HMS Medway captures USS Syren off South Africa
- 1 September * USS Wasp sinks HMS Avon in English Channel
- 6-11 Sept. * British assault on Plattsburgh repelled in Battle of Lake Champlain
- 15 January # British squadron captures USS President off New York City
- 20 February * USS Constitution captures HMS Cyane & HMS Levant in mid-Atlantic
- 11 March # HMS Leander recaptures Levant off Cape Verdes Islands
- 23 March * USS Hornet captures HMS Penquin off Tristan in South Atlantic
- 22 June # HMS Leander captures USS Rattlesnake off Nova Scotia
The war at sea between the U.S. and Great Britain also featured the commissioning of armed private vessels – privateers – to capture or sink enemy merchant vessels, known as “prizes.” A prize successfully brought to port could earn the captain and crew a handsome reward. Privateering was essentially regulated piracy. Its political purpose was to wreak havoc on the enemy’s trade. At least 526 American privateer ships were commissioned during the war. Lighter and faster than merchant vessels, they could slip out of a blockaded port on a dark night with a strong wind. American privateer operations stretched from the Boston harbor to the English Channel, to the Caribbean Sea and South Atlantic.
Naval battles and privateer captures were generally conducted in accordance with “civilized” rules of warfare, which meant that fighting ended when one side surrendered and that crews were taken prisoner (and often paroled), not slaughtered. Such “civilized” warfare was more likely to falter in British coastal raids. A fleet of British warships under the command of Vice Admiral George Cockburn arrived off the Chesapeake Bay in early March 1813. “Guided through the countryside by runaway slaves, he devoted the spring of 1813 to plundering the Chesapeake,” writes Donald Hickey. “His immediate aim was to destroy American warships, burn government supplies, and ruin the coasting trade.” Any resistance to British raids brought reprisals. According to Carl Benn, British forces “burned or took property when the locals opened fire or otherwise resisted them . . . although those who remained quietly at home generally were left in peace and were paid for supplies requisitioned to support these British operations.”
However intimidating the presence of British troops and ships to white Americans, it posed the possibility of freedom for enslaved black Americans in the Chesapeake region. Hundreds made their way to British lines, much as an earlier generation of slaves had done in the War for Independence. The British Admiralty issued instructions not to encourage a slave revolt but to accept runaway slaves and employ any able-bodied men in the British Colonial Marines if they chose. Those who did so received training, pay, extra rations, and red jackets. The black recruits quickly proved their worth, as they knew the local terrain and were used as spies, guides, and messengers. They were also disciplined and courageous, much to the surprise of Admiral Cockburn. As he wrote, “they have induced me to alter the bad opinion I had of the whole of their Race and I now really believe these, we are training, will neither show want of zeal of courage when employed by us in attacking their old Masters.” Irrespective of British instructions, the remaking of slaves into British soldiers evoked fears in the white community of a slave rebellion, as had happened in Haiti a decade earlier; hence, much effort was expended on patrolling for escaped slaves. One oddity was that Cockburn allowed American slave owners to come aboard his ships and plead with their former slaves to return. He insisted that the refugees had come to him of their own will and could only return to their “masters” under their own volition. None did so.
On April 2 1814, the commander of all North American operations, Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, issued an official proclamation offering American slaves the choice of joining “His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces” or “being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with due encouragement.” That same month, a base camp for escaped slaves was constructed on Tangier Island. The British struggled to provide the refugees with food, medical care, and other necessities, and plundering the local area increased as a consequence. The British government followed through with its promise of freedom, taking about 2,000 escaped slaves to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Life was not easy there, but the government offered provisions for the first two years along with ten acres of land. Other freed men and women were settled in Trinidad.
The defeat of French forces in Paris on March 31, 1814, and Napoleon’s subsequent exile opened the way for Great Britain to redirect its forces against the United States. By September 1814, 13,000 British soldiers had been transferred to the American front, bringing the total British force of regulars to 30,000. Another 10,000 would arrived by the end of the year. The British devised a three-part counteroffensive: from the north, British forces would move down Lake Champlain and take Plattsburgh in upstate New York; from the east, they would move into the Chesapeake Bay and capture Washington and Baltimore; and from the south, they would take possession of the Gulf Coast forts at Mobile and Pensacola, and capture New Orleans. Possession of this American real estate would allow Great Britain to dictate the terms of peace, perhaps carving out an Indian homeland in the Old Northwest Territory. The U.S. necessarily shifted to a defensive strategy. The situation was aptly described by Joseph Nicholson, a Baltimore judge: “We should have to fight hereafter not for ‘free Trade and sailors rights,’ not for the Conquest of the Canadas, but for our national Existence.”
Vengeance was a secondary motive in the British counteroffensive. On July 18, 1814, Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane ordered all British squadrons under his North American command to take aggressive action against American communities as revenge for, and in proportion to, American abuses of Canadian communities:
You are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts upon the coast as you may find assailable. You will hold strictly in view the conduct of the American army toward his Majesty’s unoffending Canadian subjects, and you will spare merely the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States. For only by carrying this retributory justice into the country of our enemy can we hope to make him sensible to the impropriety as well as the inhumanity of the system he has adopted. You will take every opportunity of explaining to the people how much I lament the necessity of following the rigorous example of the commander of the American forces. And as these commanders must obviously have acted under instructions from the Executive government of the United States, whose intimate and unnatural connection with the late government of France has led them to adopt the same system of plunder and devastation, it is therefore to their own government the unfortunate sufferers must look for indemnification for the loss of property.
It was the Golden Rule in reverse: do unto others as they have done to you – until they learn their lesson! The order was to remain in force until the U.S. government had agreed “to make full remuneration to the injured and unoffending inhabitants of the Canadas for all the outrages their troops have committed.” A copy of the order was sent to Washington. By mid-July, two dozen British warships and additional transports carrying 4,500 troops had arrived in the Chesapeake Bay. The commander of the squadron, Admiral Cockburn, issued his own orders to his troops to “lay waste” towns and villages while sparing the lives of unarmed inhabitants. This order was coupled with a secret memorandum exempting from harm those places that furnished supplies to the British. As there was no resistance to the British in many towns, private homes and property were often spared, while government property and ships were seized or destroyed. The lack of resistance also seemed to have a salutary effect on some British soldiers, who “expressed ambivalence about fighting Americans at all because they realized the close kinship between Britons and Americans,” according to Jon Latimer.
On August 19, 4,000 British soldiers under Major General Robert Ross began their march to Washington. The Madison administration was ill-prepared for an invasion, believing that this city of 8,000 people was of little military value and would be left alone. Brigadier General William Winder belatedly rounded up some 7,000 American regulars, militia, sailors, and marines to defend the city, but the force was poorly organized. U.S. soldiers made a stand at the village of Bladensburg on August 24 but were routed in three hours. The British then marched into Washington unopposed, arriving about 8:00 p.m. According to Donald Hickey:
A group of British officers headed by Cockburn entered the White House. “We found a supper all ready,” one recalled, “which many of us speedily consumed . . . and drank some very good wine also.” Having satisfied their appetites, the British took some souvenirs and then set fire to the building. They also burned the Capitol (which included the Library of Congress), the Treasury, and the building housing the War and State departments.
Cockburn ordered most public buildings burned but spared private dwellings. As one journalist put it, “This was to be a civilized sacking; no rapes, no murders, minimal plundering. They even spared the Patent Office after being persuaded that patents were private property.” There was little time for plunder, in any case, as a violent storm swept through the city the next day, dousing fires and compelling the British to leave.
The British invasion of Plattsburg also failed. In early September, Sir George Prevost, the Governor-in-Chief of Canada, assembled 16,000 troops in preparation for an assault on Plattsburg. The key battle took place on Lake Champlain. On one side was a British squadron commanded by Captain George Downie consisting of four warships (total of 75 guns) and twelve smaller gunboats (total of 17 guns). On the other side was an American fleet under Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough consisting of four warships (total of 70 guns) and ten gunboats (total of 16 guns). On the morning of September 11, the cannon balls and grape shot began flying. After two and a half hours, the largest British ship surrendered, soon followed by others. Provost ordered a retreat, not being confident that his troops could be resupplied without control of the lake. Total casualties were light, about 100 on each side, which led many on the British-Canadian side to question Prevost’s decision to retreat.
The three defensive victories in September 1814 heartened Americans, but the overall outlook was still grim – for a number of reasons. Militarily, none of the British defeats involved heavy casualties, thus large scale invasions were still possible (one later took place at New Orleans). British coastal raids were becoming more destructive and the blockade prevented most American warships from leaving port in 1814. As Donald Hickey notes, “the navy actually suffered its greatest losses to British troops operating inland,” as it was forced to burn a number of its own ships – the Columbia, Argus, and Adams – in order to keep them out of British hands. In addition, between June and September, British forces took over northern Maine, giving them “effective control over 100 miles of the Maine coast.”
The Royal Navy also cut off the nation’s coastal islands from the mainland. Although Nantucket was dominated by Republicans who supported the war, by August of 1814 the threat of starvation was so acute that the island had to declare its neutrality. In exchange for surrendering its public stores, supplying British warships, and discontinuing the payment of federal taxes, Nantucket won the right to import provisions and fuel from the mainland and to fish in nearby waters. . . .
The British blockade was taking a toll on the whole American economy, shutting down not only oceanic trade but also coastal trade. The federal government’s finances were also in jeopardy. Having failed to plan for a long war, let alone an invasion of the United States, the government was running out of sources of loans to meet payroll and keep the war going, and the idea of raising taxes met with stiff resistance in the depressed economy. Secretary of the Treasury George W. Campbell was so frustrated that he quit after only eight months in office (February to October 1814). President Madison tried to put the best face on the situation. In his Sixth Annual Message to Congress on September 20, 1814, he encouraged Americans to “cheerfully and proudly bear every burden of every kind which the safety and honor of the nation demand.” Perhaps thinking of the historical record, he also assured Americans that the British were responsible for the war, having abused “the tranquility of the civilized and commercial world.”
On the southern front, Royal Navy Admiral Alexander Cochrane had hoped to form an alliance with dissident Indians, escaped slaves, and Spanish soldiers, but this proved untenable. The “Red Stick” Creeks had been defeated by General Andrew Jackson’s army in late March 1814 and the Spanish evacuated Pensacola in early November. Regardless, Cochrane joined forces with British Army General Edward Pakenham for a major assault on New Orleans.
The African American divide
General Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans was due in no small part to his enlistment of free blacks and slaves in the defense of the city. Jackson, a slave owner himself, had previously rejected the inclusion of African Americans under his command. His dire need for soldiers and laborers, however, impelled him to change course. He was well aware of the aid given to the British by escaped slaves in the Chesapeake region. He was also aware of the slave uprising just outside New Orleans in January 1811, in which 500 slaves armed with axes, hoes, pikes, and a few firearms marched toward the town, plundering plantations and freeing slaves along the way. That revolt was speedily suppressed, but fear and suspicion remained among whites.
Once victory had been attained, however, Jackson reneged on his promise. He refused to grant the slaves freedom, telling them that he could not “take another man’s property and set it free” and to “go home and mind their masters.” Jackson’s deceit earned him no censure in the white community. Indeed, they celebrated him as a hero. His false promise had not only secured the necessary means to protect the city but also dissuaded many slaves from escaping to British lines. As it was, only 160 escaped slaves departed with the British – and not before Admiral Alexander Cochrane allowed American slave owners to board his ships and directly appeal to the liberated men and women to return.
Free blacks also played a significant role in the defense of New Orleans. Prior to the U.S. acquisition of New Orleans in 1803, a free black militia had served under the Spanish government. In September 1812, the first legislature of Louisiana continued this legacy by authorizing the organization of a free black militia corps, consisting of four companies of sixty-four men each commanded by white officers. Jackson recruited these companies along with other free black men. In mid-December 1814, he appealed to them “to share in the perils and to divide the glory of your white countrymen.” Although they had no voting rights, he addressed them as “sons of freedom” and “brave fellow citizens,” terms that riled many white residents. Jackson promised that those who joined him would “be paid the same bounty in money and lands” as white soldiers, amounting to $124 in cash and 160 acres of land. A total of 600 free blacks enlisted, amounting to ten percent of Jackson’s forces. Free black soldiers did receive the same pay as white soldiers, but land bounties were much delayed and their opportunities remained limited. The American historian Gene Allen Smith comments:
Unfortunately, military service did not elevate the status of free blacks, creating instead renewed suspicion and distrust. Nor did their service win for them the immediate pensions, land warrants, and bounties promised by Jackson. In fact, a generation passed before black soldiers began receiving pensions, and many had to be renewed periodically by the state legislature. The promises of land were not fulfilled until the 1850s, and even then most of the survivors or their descendants sold their holdings for cash. . . . Unfortunately, many of the freemen of color had died before the federal government finally lived up to Old Hickory’s promise.
In 1812, neither the U.S. Army nor U.S. Navy officially accepted African Americans into their ranks. Navy recruiters, however, often ignored this ban in meeting their recruitment goals, listing the men on muster rolls by occupation instead of race. African Americans constituted about fifteen percent of the U.S. Navy during the war. The close quarters on ships allowed for no segregation. Commander Isaac Chauncey described the fifty black sailors on his ship as “excellent seamen” and “among my best men.” Commander Oliver Hazard Perry found them “as good and useful as any men on board.” Black sailors also crewed privateer ships. Of the 6,550 American sailors captured by the British Royal Navy during the war, 955, or 14.5 percent, were African American. The acceptance of free black soldiers was much more limited. Most state and local militias rejected black participation until the British counteroffensive directly threatened their communities. Following the burning of Washington in August 1814, Baltimore leaders called on all “able bodied free men of colour,” of whom there were about 220 in the city, to “turn out and labour on the Fortifications or other works.” They did so, making an important contribution to the defense of the city. Although free blacks were excluded from the Maryland militia, black sailors participated in the fighting around the city. Among the “enemy” they sought to kill were 200 African Americans, former slaves from the region, fighting with the British Colonial Marines.
Elsewhere, the British blockade of the New York harbor during the summer of 1814 belatedly convinced state leaders to allow blacks to enlist in the state militia. In October, the New York legislature passed a law providing for two regiments of black soldiers (2,160). Even slaves would be allowed to participate if they had permission from their master. (New York still had about 13,000 slaves at the time, as the state’s 1802 gradual emancipation law did not fully abolish slavery until the last slave turned 25 in 1827.) Before the new militia policy could be implemented, however, the war ended.
Federalists and other dissenters
When the votes were cast, opposition to the war resolution was concentrated in the New England states (except Vermont), New York, and New Jersey, where the Federalist Party was strongest. In the table below, House and Senate votes are combined for each state:
|State||Number of votes||Votes for war||Percentage for war|
Two weeks after the U.S. enacted a formal declaration of war, Federalists gathered in New Jersey and called for its repeal. Governor Caleb Strong of Massachusetts, a prominent Federalist who had been a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, proclaimed July 23, 1812 a day of public fasting in order to mourn a war “against the nation from which we are descended, and which for many generations has been the bulwark of the religion we profess.” Similar proclamations were issued by Governors Roger Griswold of Connecticut and William Jones of Rhode Island. John Lowell, a state legislator in Massachusetts, produced a widely read pamphlet, titled “Mr. Madison’s War,” which challenged every justification for the war. He contended that “no new cause of irritation exists against her [Great Britain] which has not existed for five years,” and that President Madison’s arguments were a “tissue of exaggerations” designed “to deceive and irritate the people, and to drive them into a ruinous war of an offensive nature.”
Antiwar sentiments were not unanimous across the Northeast. While the Massachusetts House condemned the war, the Massachusetts Senate, with a Democratic Republican majority, passed a resolution in support of the war: “The rightful authority has decreed. Opposition must cease. He that is not for his country is against it.” Such resolutions dispensed with logical arguments to persuade and instead relied on authority and patriotic loyalty to intimidate. In Baltimore, intimidation turned violent when a Republican mob destroyed the office of the Federal Republican in June 1812. When the newspaper reappeared on the streets the next month, mobs reassembled and attacked, leaving one dead and two others mortally wounded, including the publisher. Republican partisans in Savannah, Georgia, and Norristown, Pennsylvania, also drove Federalist newspapers out of business in 1812, while other Federalist editors were warned to tone down their opposition to the war. According to Donald Hickey, “There was enough violence and threats of violence to suggest a pattern.” Democratic Republican newspapers had no qualms about inciting citizens against Federalist critics. The Baltimore American editorialized, “there are but two parties, Citizen Soldiers and Enemies . . . Americans and Tories.” The leading Democratic Republican newspaper, the Washington National Intelligencer, proclaimed, “He that is not for us must be considered as against us and treated accordingly.”
Some communities took matters into their own hands. While Congress debated the war resolution in June 1812, the citizens of Eastport, in the District of Maine (part of the state of Massachusetts), informed their Canadian neighbors in nearby St. John, New Brunswick that they had “agreed to preserve a good understanding with the Inhabitants of New Brunswick, and to discountenance all depredations on the Property of each other.” According to the historian James Ellis, “The British authorities responded accordingly. Sir John C. Sherbrooke, the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, and his naval chief, Vice Admiral Herbert Sawyer, informed Eastporters that British forces were under orders to respect their persons and property ‘so long as they shall carry on their usual and accustomed trade and intercourse’ with the maritime provinces ‘and abstain from acts of hostility and molestation towards the inhabitants thereof and their property.’ A state of neutrality benefited both sides.” Other Maine communities were similarly disposed toward maintaining peaceful relations with their Canadian neighbors, but a few went along with the president. The town of Monmouth, for example, approved a resolution stating, “we do highly approve of the act of Congress declaring war” and that “we will consider all persons calculated and intended to create disunion . . . as enemies to the best interest and well-being of our common country.”
The idea of a regional conference excited hopes among some New Englanders, notably John Lowell, that the region might move toward more autonomy, if not secede from the national union. That hope was thoroughly discouraged by conference organizers but nonetheless gained visibility from critics who wanted to taint the Federalists as treasonous (a well-honed tactic of political election campaigns). The Hartford Convention met from December 15, 1814, to January 5, 1815. Its proceedings were not published until after the conference, thus increasing speculation and accusations. The delegates addressed a number of specific grievances and, in the end, proposed seven constitutional amendments, including recommendations that embargoes be restricted to sixty days and that war declarations require two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress (neither was enacted). Governor Strong, meanwhile, had begun to quietly explore the possibility of a separate peace with Great Britain, sending an envoy in mid-November to meet with British General Sherbrooke at Halifax. Such a peace agreement would be necessary only if President Madison refused to agree to peace terms in Ghent. Should the war continue, in other words, Massachusetts might find itself in the same position as Nantucket Island, faced with the choice of desolation or a separate peace agreement.
Although the Federalist Party faded out of existence in the postwar era, the antiwar movement that began during the war continued to evolve. In August 1815, David Low Dodge, a Christian pacifist and businessman, organized the New York Peace Society. The executive committee was limited to pacifists, but the organization welcomed all citizens interested in peace. A few months later, Noah Worcester, a Unitarian minister, founded the Massachusetts Peace Society. The two leaders spread their views in part through Worcester’s A Solemn Review of the Custom of War (1814) and Dodge’s War Inconsistent with the Religion of Jesus Christ (1815). Within a few years, nearly fifty peace societies had formed in a triangular area stretching from Maine to Ohio to Pennsylvania. The leaders of these peace societies tended to speak in religious terms but pursued practical goals such as the creation of a Congress of Nations to settle disputes between nations. They encouraged Anglo-American reconciliation and networked with their counterparts in Great Britain. In 1828, the various groups joined to form the first national peace organization, the American Peace Society.
Debate in Great Britain
Verbal jousting also increased antagonism, particularly attacks on character. A “War Manifesto” issued by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee on June 3, 1812, for example, read, “The mad ambition, the lust of power, and commercial avarice of Great Britain, arrogating to herself the complete dominion of the ocean, and exercising over it an unbounded and lawless tyranny, have left to neutral nations an alternative only between the base surrender of their rights, and a manly vindication of them.” The British government responded in January 1813 with a “Manifesto Against America” that dismissed American grievances as “trivial,” asserted that the real American goal was aggression against British North America, and judged that the American soul was filled with “lust for power” abetted by “French tyranny.” The Quebec Gazette similarly editorialized, “Let the hostility of the United States to Great Britain be attributed to its true cause . . . that vicious love of power, engendered by their political institutions; that insatiable thirst to gain which so invariably prevails in a country where money is the only source of distinction, and that inquietude which is never contented with present enjoyments.”
In April 1813, Russia offered to mediate a peace agreement. The Madison administration was quick to accept the offer, as U.S. gains were expected in Canada. A three-person commission was chosen and instructed to pursue the transfer of Upper Canada to the U.S. The commissioners arrived in St. Petersburg on July 21, 1813. The British government, however, decided to forego the Russian offer and proposed direct negotiations instead, although it was in no hurry to get started. On January 28, 1814, the Madison administration reconstituted the commission to include John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Jonathan Russell, Henry Clay, and Albert Gallatin, and issued new instructions. According to the Canadian historian Patrick C. T. White, “These instructions might be considered the product of an overvaulting ambition.” The American instructions included demands for the abolition of the practice of impressments, reparation payments for impressed Americans, payments for the destruction of American private property, and either the return of slaves taken by the British or payments for them. Most importantly, the delegation was to work for “the cession of Canada.” The latter was needed, according to Secretary of State James Monroe, in order to avoid a future war over control of the Great Lakes, and secondly, in order to end British support for hostile Indian tribes on the frontier. White comments:
As so often in the past, the United States had asked for terms which neither her power nor situation justified. And again, as so often in the past, she hoped that the skill of her negotiators would gloss over the weakness of her case. But America was bound to be disappointed. Only one or two conditions would give American aspirations substance and hope. Either Britain would have to be soundly defeated in Canada, or she would have to be desperately engaged in Europe. Neither of these conditions existed.
By June 1814, the military situation on the ground had shifted in favor of Great Britain. Recognizing this, the Madison administration ordered its commissioners to abandon the issue of impressments and to concentrate on retaining American territory and fishing rights in the Atlantic. The issue of impressments had lost its salience, as the end of the war in Europe meant that Great Britain no longer needed to impress sailors from American ships. At the first meeting in Ghent on August 9, 1814, the British delegation, consisting of Henry Goulburn, Baron Gambier, and William Adams, took the diplomatic offensive. Its first priority was to secure Canada. According to Troy Bickham, “The theme of the British Empire standing up to the bullying American ‘aggrandizers’ was the central pillar of the British position for the first three months of the negotiations.” In a series of formal letter exchanges in September, the British delegation accused the U.S. of extending its empire by the “progressive occupation of the Indian territories, by the acquisition of Louisiana, by the more recent attempts to wrest by force of arms from a nation in amity the two Floridas, and lastly by the avowed intentions of permanently annexing the Canadas to the United States.” Had the U.S. invasion of Canada succeeded, the British delegates asked rhetorically, “is there any person who doubts that they [U.S. leaders] would have availed themselves of their situation to obtain on the side of Canada important cessions of Territory, if not the entire abandonment of that Country by Great Britain?”
In the end, the British delegation withdrew its proposal for an Indian homeland and settled for the restoration of Indian lands taken since 1811. Although this did little to stop continuing American encroachment and land-grabbing, it allowed the British to save face with their Indian allies. The two parties agreed to the principle of the status quo ante bellum – each side retaining the lands it held before the war. Boundary disputes, fishing privileges, navigation of the Mississippi River, and naval forces on the Great Lakes were left to joint commissions and future negotiations. “The new treaty,” writes White, “simply provided for the cessation of hostilities and the establishment of mixed commissions to settle certain boundary disputes.”
Remembering the War of 1812
The Democratic Republicans were as intent on maintaining their “honor” at the war’s conclusion as they were at its outset, and thus they extolled the treaty as a great success. “The terms of the treaty are yet unknown to us,” said Representative Charles Ingersoll of Pennsylvania. “But the victory at Orleans has rendered them glorious and honorable, be they what they may. . . . Who is not proud to feel himself an American – our wrongs revenged – our rights recognized.” So began the intentional forgetting of causes and nature of the war. “The myth of American victory continued to grow,” writes Donald Hickey, “so that by 1816 Niles’ Register could unabashedly claim that ‘we did virtually dictate the treaty of Ghent.’” Several months later, Representative Henry Southard of New Jersey spoke of the “glorious achievements of the late war . . . and the Treaty of Ghent has secured our liberties, and established our national independence, and placed this nation on high and honorable ground.” Hickey comments:
As the years slipped by, most people forgot the causes of the war. They forgot the defeats on land and sea and lost sight of how close the nation had come to military and financial collapse. According to the emerging myth, the United States had won the war as well as the peace. Thus the War of 1812 passed into [American] history not as a futile and costly struggle in which the United States had barely escaped dismemberment and disunion, but as a glorious triumph in which the nation had single-handedly defeated the conqueror of Napoleon and the Mistress of the Seas.
The Federalist view of the War of 1812 as wrong-headed and dishonorable was drowned out amidst the paeans to American righteousness and glory. So, too, were Canadian and British views, and facts and experiences that ran counter to the popular American myth. One Federalist complained that the suffering and losses caused by the war “are carefully concealed,” while a treaty that merely re-established peace and nothing else “is represented as glorious.” Hickey identifies as the number one American myth the notion that the “War of 1812 was a second American war of independence.”
This hearty perennial was first articulated by Republicans at the beginning of the conflict and has been repeated by countless historians ever since. It is not true. None of the British policies that precipitated the war actually threatened American independence, nor was American independence ever at stake in the war itself. British policies that led to the war were a direct outgrowth of the Napoleonic Wars and would cease when that war ended. At no time after 1783 did the British have any real designs on American independence or was American independence in any real jeopardy. Although the War of 1812 was not an American war of independence, it was a war of independence for people living in Canada and for Indians living on both sides of the border. . . . Since Great Britain’s independence was at stake in the Napoleonic Wars, one might argue that the United States was the only belligerent on either side of the Atlantic in the War of 1812 that had nothing to fear for its independence.
The American heroic account helped propel two military generals to the presidency – Andrew Jackson in 1829 and William Henry Harrison in 1841. More broadly, it exonerated the United States from any wrongdoing in its invasion of Canada and set the stage for future aggressive expansionism. As Donald Hickey writes, “American military victories during the war encouraged an aggressive territorial expansion that later generations would call manifest destiny.” Troy Bickham comments, “Rather than humbling the United States, the war helped to create a nation that was far more powerful and resolute in its expansionist plans.” With regard to Great Britain and Canada, however, U.S. leaders pursued a more cautious path, recognizing the limits of American power. Canada was henceforth excluded from U.S. expansionist designs, which in turn allowed for a stable peace. In 1817, the two nations signed the Rush-Bagot Agreement, which limited warships on the Great Lakes. Treaties resolving boundary disputes were signed in 1818, 1842, and 1846. Trade issues remained contentious, but no one suggested war. According to J. C. A. Stagg:
After the war, Americans, as they had in 1783, sought unrestricted access to the [British West Indies] islands, but Great Britain refused to grant it. Congress retaliated, in 1817 and 1818, with two navigation acts, the first excluding British colonial imports into the United States unless they were carried in American bottoms, and the second prohibiting both exports to and imports from all British colonial possessions closed to American shipping. . . . The quarrel lasted until 1830, when Andrew Jackson ended it – and on terms that favored Americans more than they did Britons or Canadians. As these developments played out, the armistice of Ghent was gradually transformed into a permanent peace.
For Canadians, the War of 1812 was most significant, as it drew Canadians together in common defense, established national heroes, and strengthened ties with Great Britain (Canada peacefully gained independence in 1867). Popular history in Canada tends to exaggerate the national unity sparked by the War of 1812, but, unlike its American counterpart, it has the basic story right: Canada successfully resisted foreign subjugation. The Canadian historian Carl Benn served as curator of the Fort York museum from 1985 to 1998, and regularly inquired of his visitors what they knew about the War of 1812:
One thing we asked them was, “What was the most surprising thing you learned today?” From the large number of replies by our guests from the United States, far and away the most common response was, “I never knew we invaded Canada” (with that particular phrase, word-for-word, appearing most often). A little bit of probing revealed that the War of 1812 for most of them comprised the attacks on Washington and Baltimore, the Battle of New Orleans, a select grouping of frigate actions, fought in their minds in a war to protect American rights on the high seas or even to prevent the British from reconquering the United States. This suggest that the interpretations that Americans favored at the return of peace in 1815 remain strong today. Canadian visitors, in contrast, knew about the invasions across the border . . . At the same time, our conversations with visitors told us that Canadians tend to know few details and occasionally thought some odd things, with a number of them believing that the burning of the White House in 1814 had been carried out by Canadians who somehow marched overland from British North America.
Benn draws from these conversations an important lesson about the uses of history: “Obviously much needs to be done to correct common misconceptions, enrich understanding, enlarge the range of subjects and horizons addressed by studying the war, and curtail the misuse of history that only achieves simpleminded patriotic reactions that are sadly subversive to encouraging civic maturity and critical engagement among a nation’s citizens.”
At the heart of this viewpoint is the assumption that the most important concern in history is who holds power – who wins and loses it – rather than how that power is gained, morally speaking, and whether it is used for good or ill. More nationalistic versions of this line of thinking simply conflate national power and goodness, such that questions of right and wrong are categorically excluded. The formula is simple: Americans are a good people, with democratic and free institutions, and thus their foreign policies must be good and their wars must be defensive and necessary. To question the legitimacy of the War of 1812 is to challenge this nationalistic bias, and ultimately to invite critical questioning of the whole of U.S. foreign policy.
* * *
 President James Madison, “Special Message to Congress on the Treaty of Ghent (February 18, 1815),” http://millercenter.org/president/madison/speeches/speech-3627.
 Robert P. Watson, America’s First Crisis: The War of 1812 (Albany: State University of New York, 2014), p. 353. Similarly, Walter R. Borneman, in The War that Forged a Nation (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), writes: “During the War of 1812, the United States would cast aside its cloak of colonial adolescence and – with more than a few bumbles along the way – stumble forth onto the world stage. After the War of 1812, there was no longer any doubt that the United States of America was a national force to be reckoned with” (p. 3).
 Charles DeBenedetti, The Peace Reform in American History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), p. 28.
 Donald Hickey, “An American Perspective on the War of 1812,” Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/american-perspective.
 Fort York Museum display. The painting below is titled “The Death of Captain Neal McNeale at the Battle or York, 27 April 1813,” by BTA Griffiths, circa 1830, Fort York, City of Toronto Museum Services. Canadian histories of the war include James Hannay, History of the War of 1812 (Toronto: Morang & co., limited, 1905), and Carl Benn, The War of 1812 (Oxford, England: Osprey Publishing, 2002).
 Jon Latimer, 1812: War with America (London: Belknap Press, 2007), p. 4.
 See, for example, Andrew Lambert, The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812 (London: Faber and Faber, 2012); and Brian Arthur, How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy’s Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: The Boydell Press, 2011).
 See, for example, Donald Fixico, “A Native Nations Perspective on the War of 1812,” http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/native-nations-perspective; “Turning Point: The War of 1812 from the Native American Perspective,” http://www.harborspringshistory.org/images/downloads/HSAHS_Turning_Point_booklet_WEB.pdf; and “Aboriginal Contributions to the War of 1812,” Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1338906261900/1338906300039.
 The United Nations Charter bans national aggression but allows for national and collective defense “until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Charter of the United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter. This prohibition against military aggression is also affirmed in the Charter of the Organization of American States.
 James Madison, “War Message to Congress, June 1, 1812,” http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/historicspeeches/madison/warmessage.html.
 Paul A. Gilje, “’Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights’: The Rhetoric of the War of 1812,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring 2010), p. 7.
 Carl Benn, The War of 1812, p. 19. The classic study of expansionist motives is Julius W. Pratt’s Expansionists of 1812 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1925), which documents expansionist rhetoric but without discounting the importance of maritime grievances against Great Britain. His study has been criticized by other U.S. historians, notably Bradford Perkins and Donald Hickey, who assert that maritime issues impelled the U.S. to war, expansionist rhetoric notwithstanding. The argument is probably impossible to resolve as it involves determining a collective motivation, which is an abstraction. In reality, different parties had different interests and their views changed over time in response to new developments. The policies of the U.S. government reflected this mix of interests and views in proportion to the political clout each carried.
 J. C. A. Stagg, in The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 157-58.
 “James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, [9 March 1812],” National Archives, Founders Online, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-04-02-0433; and Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 308.
 Norman K. Risjord, “National Honor as the Unifying Force,” in Bradford Perkins, ed., The Causes of the War of 1812: National Honor or National Interest? (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962), p. 94.
 Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), p. 74.
 Jon Latimer, 1812: War with America (London & Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 16; Donald Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2006, p. 19; and Troy Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 62. Bickham is an American-born historian who studied and taught in Great Britain before returning to the U.S.; he specialty is the Atlantic world, with emphasis on the British empire.
 Bradford Perkins, Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805-1812 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), pp. 90-92; Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), p. 104; and Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 32-33.
 Perkins, Prologue to War, pp. 94-95; and Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, Tenth Edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1980), p.120.
 Spencer C. Tucker and Frank T. Reuter, Injured Honor: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, June 22, 1807 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996).
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, p. 11, 55-56.
 Ibid., pp. 26-27; and John R. Grodzinski, “The Duke of Wellington, the Peninsular War and the War of 1812; Part I: North America and the Peninsular War – Logistics,” The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 5 (December 2006), http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/Warof1812/2006/Issue5/c_Wellington.html.
 J. C. A. Stagg, The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 30.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 16-17.
 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, pp. 128-29.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 42; and Perkins, Prologue to War, p. 421.
 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, p. 144.
 U.S. Census of Population and Housing, “Table 1. United States Resident Population by State: 1790 – 1850,” http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lpa/census/1990/poptrd1.htm; and “Population of the Major European Countries” [Source: B. R. Mitchell, European Historical Statistics, 1750-1975, 2nd ed. (New York, 1980)], http://dmorgan.web.wesleyan.edu/materials/population.htm.
 Walter Nugent, Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion (New York: Random House, 2008), p. 10.
 Ohio History Central, “Tecumseh’s Confederation,” http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Tecumseh’s_Confederation?rec=637.
 George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 124. On the relationship between the British and Tecumseh’s confederacy, see Robert S. Allen, “His Majesty’s Indian Allies: Native Peoples, the British Crown and the War of 1812,” Michigan Historical Review 14.2 (1988): 1–24.
 Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! p. 38. On treaties, see Donald L. Fixico, ed., Treaties with American Indians: An Encyclopedia of Rights, Conflicts, and Sovereignty (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008), pp. 294-303.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 244, 43, 47.
 Johnson, Jefferson, and Harper quoted in Julius W. Pratt, Expansionists of 1812 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1925), pp. 51-52, 153. Clay quoted in James Hannay, History of the War of 1812 (Toronto: Morang & Co., limited, 1905), pp. 27-28.
 Grundy quoted in Pratt, Expansionists of 1812, p. 51-52; Calhoun quoted in Henry Adams, History of the United States of America during the Administrations of James Madison (New York: Literary Classics of the U.S., 1986; first published 1889-91), p. 440.
 Patrick C. T. White, A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1965), pp. 133, 143, 145.
 Jerald A. Combs, The History of American Foreign Policy, Volume I: To 1917 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986), p. 52, 49; and Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Short History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), p. 11.
 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, p. 138; and “Debate in the House of Representatives, December 10, 1811,” in Richard Hofstadter, ed., Great Issues in American History, From the Revolution to the Civil War, 1765-1865 (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), pp. 229-30.
 Howard Jones, Quest for Security: A History of U.S. Foreign Relations, Volume I to 1813 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996), p. 55.
 James G. Cusiak, The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003), p. 32.
 Ibid., pp. 41, 205, 114.
 Ibid., pp. 83, 89, 130.
 Ibid., p. 137; and Gene Allen Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 75.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, p. 92.
 Cusiak, The Other War of 1812, pp. 191-92.
 Ibid., pp. 194-95.
 Ibid., p. 236.
 Ibid., pp. 254, 9.
 Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, p. 182; and Cusiak, The Other War of 1812, p. 308.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 56, 444; and George Sheppard, Plunder, Profit, and Paroles: A Social History of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), p. 37.
 Samuel Eliot Morison, Frederick Merk, and Frank Freidel, Dissent in Three American Wars (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 3. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 176; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up The Ship! p.201. On the “laws of war,” see Donald E. Graves, “’Every horror committed with impunity . . . and not a man was punished!’ Reflections on British Military Law and the Atrocities at Hampton in 1813,” The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 11 (June 2009), http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/Warof1812/2009/Issue11/c_hampton.html.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 347; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up The Ship! pp. 257-58.
 Latimer, 1812: War with America, pp. 262, 265.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, pp. 346-47, 390; and Dianne Graves, In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812 (Montreal: Robin Brass Studio Inc, 2007), pp. 365-66.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 193; and Latimer, 1812: War with America, pp. 259-60.
 Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! pp. 192-94; and Robert Kostoff, Nuggets of Niagara County History (New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2003), pp. 74-75.
 Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2012), Vol. 1, p. 113.
 United States Department of Veterans Affairs, “America’s Wars,” http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf; and U.S. Censuses of Population and Housing, http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lpa/census/1990/poptrd1.htm.
 Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/98-187-x/4064809-eng.htm.
 Stagg, The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent, pp. 156-57.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 304.
 Benn, The War of 1812, pp. 27, 20; and Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 126.
 Latimer, 1812: War with America, p. 84.
 South West Ontario War of 1812 Project, “William Hull,” http://www.1812ontario.ca/history/important-people/william-hull.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 152-53; and Robert S. Allen, His Majesty’s Indian Allies: British Indian Policy in the Defence of Canada, 1774-1815 (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1993), p. 140.
 Allen, His Majesty’s Indian Allies, p. 135; and Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 164.
 Benn, The War of 1812, p. 34.
 Allen, His Majesty’s Indian Allies, p. 138; Patrick T. Reardon, “It wasn’t the Fort Dearborn Massacre,” Chicago Tribune, August 15, 2012, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-15/opinion/ct-perspec-0815-dearborn-20120815_1_fort-dearborn-massacre-indian-country-indian-culture; and Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 210.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 87; and Allen, His Majesty’s Indian Allies, p. 140.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, pp. 211-12, 206; Linai Taliaferro Helm, The Fort Dearborn Massacre (Chicago: Rand, McNally, 1912), pp. 9-10; and Sandy Antal, “Remember the Raisin! Anatomy of a Demon Myth,” The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 10 (October 2008), http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/Warof1812/2008/Issue10/c_Raisin.html
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 302.
 U.S. Naval Institute, Naval History Blog, “The Battle of Lake Erie, 10 September 1813, http://www.navalhistory.org/2010/09/10/the-battle-of-lake-erie-10-september-1813.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 245.
 Ibid., pp. 249-50; and Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 141-42.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, pp. 254-55.
 Ibid., p. 259; and Christopher Klein, “The Burning of Buffalo, 200 Years Ago,” December 30, 2013, History in the Headlines, http://www.history.com/news/the-burning-of-buffalo-200-years-ago.
 Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, pp. 385-87, 391; and Robert Leckie, The Wars of America (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 1998), p. 284.
 Dianne Graves, In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812″ (Quebec: Robin Brass Studio, 2007), p. 388.
 Benn, The War of 1812, pp. 55, 57; and Brian Arthur, How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy’s Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2011), p. 241.
 Jeremy Black, “A British View of the Naval War of 1812,” Naval History Magazine, Vol. 22, No. 4 (August 2008), http://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2008-08/british-view-naval-war-1812; and Benn, The War of 1812, p. 56.
 Donald R Hickey, Don’t Give Up The Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2006), p. 122; Black, “A British View of the Naval War of 1812”; and John A. Tures, “’A Word of ‘Captain Caution’: Myths About Privateers in the War of 1812,” The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 14 (October 1810), http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/Warof1812/2010/Issue14/c_Privateers.html.
 Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship!, p. 123; “Privateering in the War of 1812,” War of 1812 website (Canada), http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng/Topic/66; and Arthur, How Britain Won the War of 181, pp. 210-21.
 Benn, The War of 1812, p. 57; and Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 153.
 Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, pp. 91, 93.
 Latimer, 1812: War with America, pp. 171-72; and Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, pp. 104, 92, 96.
 “Proclamation of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander F. I. Cochrane, R.N.,” April 2, 1814, https://pastnow.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/april-2-1814-cochranes-proclamation.
 Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, p. 211, 101-102; and Government of Canada, “War of 1812; The War at Sea,” http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1442343934051/1442344036829#a2.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 182.
 Henry Adams, The War of 1812, (New York: First Cooper Square Press, 1999; original publication circa 1890), p. 218; and Latimer, 1812: War with America, pp. 303-304.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Short History, p. 62.
 Joel Achenbach, “D.C.’s darkest day, a war that no one remembers,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/2014/08/23/abf407ae-24bd-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html.
 President James Madison, “Proclamation upon British Depredations, Burning of the Capitol (September 1, 1814),” http://millercenter.org/president/madison/speeches/speech-3624.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Short History, p. 64.
 Ibid., pp. 57, 193.
 Ibid., pp. 71-72; and Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 206, 194-95.
 President James Madison, “Sixth Annual Message (September 20, 1814),” http://millercenter.org/president/madison/speeches/speech-3625.
 Robert V. Remini, The Battle of New Orleans (Viking Penguin, 2001), pp. 5-6.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 212-13.
 Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, pp. 164, 170.
 Ibid., p. 160; and Kenneth R. Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans (New York: New York University Press, 2014), p. 183.
 Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble, pp. 205-206, 208.
 Ibid., pp. 47, 183, 126.
 Ibid., p. 141.
 United States Congress (January 1, 1834), American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Volume 10, pp. 185-87; also cited in Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, p. 177.
 “An Address of Members of the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, to their Constituents, on the Subject of the War with Great Britain,” http://www.warof1812.net/p/war-protest-letter.html.
 New York Evening Post, April 21, 1812, quoted in James H. Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War: New England and the War of 1812 (New York: Algora Publishing, 2009), p. 73.
 Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, p. 9; and John Lowell, Mr. Madison’s War. A Dispassionate Inquiry into the Reasons Alleged by Mr. Madison for Declaring an Offensive and Ruinous War against Great Britain. Together with Some Suggestions as to a Peaceable and Constitutional Mode of Averting that Dreadful Calamity – by a New England Farmer (Boston: Russell & Cutler, 1812), pp. 4, 5.
 Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, pp. 28-29.
 Ibid., p. 8; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up The Ship! p. 206.
 Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, p. 11; and Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, p. 193.
 Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, pp. 11-13.
 J. I. Little, Loyalties in Conflict: A Canadian Borderland in War and Rebellion, 1812-1840 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), pp. 37, 44.
Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, p. 51; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up The Ship! p. 29.
 Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, pp. 185, 192.
 Ibid., p. 211.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 272.
 Senate records, http://www.senate.gov/history/partydiv.htm; House records, http://history.house.gov/Institution/Party-Divisions/1-73.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 308.
 DeBenedetti, The Peace Reform in American History, pp. 28-37; and Lawrence Wittner, “New York’s 200-Year Conspiracy for Peace,” Counterpunch, http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/09/new-yorks-200-year-conspiracy-for-peace.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 68-69; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! p. 8.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 211, 217.
 “War Manifesto” House Foreign Relations Committee Report on a Declaration of War (excerpts) June 3, 1812, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, https://www.archives.gov/legislative/resources/education/1812/handout3.pdf.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 162, 72.
 Ibid., pp. 205-206; and Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! p. 7.
 Patrick C. T. White, A Nation on Trial: America and The War of 1812 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1965), pp. 145-47.
 Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 244-45.
 White, A Nation on Trial, p. 164; and Benn, The War of 1812, p. 83.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 309.
 Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 308; and Donald Hickey, “Leading Myths of the War of 1812,” The War of 1812 Magazine, Issue 4 (September 2006).
 Donald Hickey, “Review Essay: Small War, Big Consequences: Why 1812 Still Matters,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 91, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 2012), p. 150; and Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, p. 277.
 Stagg, The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent, p. 168.
 Carl Benn, “Introduction,” in Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 2012), Vol. 1, p. xxiii.
 On the historiographical debate in the U.S., see Thomas Sheppard, “Dubious Victories: Refighting the War of 1812,” The Annual Journal produced by the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, Fall 2013, http://www.essaysinhistory.com/content/dubious-victories-refighting-war-1812; and Warren H. Goodman, “The Way of 1812: A Survey of Changing Interpretations,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 28 (September 1941): 171-186. The debate is revived in Stephanie M. Amerian, “‘Difficult to Relinquish Territory Which Had Been Conquered’: Expansionism and the War of 1812,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 39, No. 1 (January 2015). Amerian asserts that the Madison administration was not expansionist at heart, but only wanted to repeal the Orders in Council (p. 77). She cites as evidence the administration’s lack of preparation for the military invasion of Canada and Federalist objections to it, neither of which prove the point. In the end, she makes the convoluted argument “that U.S. leaders consistently rejected the possibility of absorbing Canada and merely asked Britain for sparsely populated western territories during peace negotiations” (p. 96), as if absorbing Upper Canada was not expansionist in design. The U.S., moreover, did not “merely” ask, but used every means of force at its disposal to obtain these territories, resulting in the deaths of thousands.
 Walter Borneman, The War that Forged a Nation (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), p. 3.
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