THE NAPOLEONIC WARS 1803 -
THE WAR OF 1812 (1812 -
xxxxxThe major cause of the war between Britain and the United States was the declared right of the British to stop and search neutral ships as part of their response to Napoleon’s blockade of European ports. The Americans objected to this, and to the British practice of impressing American sailors into the service of the Royal Navy. They declared war in June 1812, but their attempt to invade Canada met with limited success. However, they did win a number of land encounters against the British -
xxxxxThe conflict between the United States and Great Britain which started in 1812 was the result of a number of grievances, some of long standing. Since the end of the War of American Independence in 1783, for example, there had been tension between the United States and Britain on a number of counts. Despite the terms of the peace settlement, the British had failed to withdraw from territory along the Great Lakes, and they had openly supported Indians who were anxious to prevent any American expansion westward. And in 1805 there was a serious rift between the two countries over trade with the West Indies.
xxxxxBut the major cause of the war emerged during the Napoleonic Wars, when both the British and the French were engaged in a commercial conflict at sea. As we have seen, Napoleon resorted to a blockade of British goods, closing all continental ports to British shipping by his so-
xxxxxAt first, the United States attempted to retaliate by economic measures, triggered off by a serious event in 1807 when the British man-
xxxxxInxthe campaigns that followed in 1812 and 1813 the American forces -
xxxxxAt sea, it was a period of mixed fortunes for the Americans. They won a series of one-
xxxxxBy 1814 the United States was in greater danger, but both its army and navy faced up well to the challenge. Following the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of the Nations, Britain was able to commit its battle-
xxxxxThis defeat, plus the failure to take Baltimore, persuaded the British prime minister, Lord Liverpool, that peace was a sensible option The government had no wish to become bogged down in a long futile struggle far from home. The U.S. government likewise, financially crippled and anxious to keep the union in being, was quite willing to end the conflict. When negotiations opened, both countries made unrealistic demands, but these were soon abandoned. Both sides recognised that the conflict had been indecisive.
xxxxxThe Treaty of Ghent, signed on Christmas Eve 1814, produced a compromise, virtually restoring the pre-
xxxxxThroughout the war the British made extensive use of Congreve rockets, employed as we have seen to devastating effect upon the port of Copenhagen in 1807. At the Battle of Bladensburg, for example, in August 1814, rocket brigades played a major part in overcoming American resistance -
xxxxxThexrockets used against Fort McHenry are the ones referred to by the American poet and lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-
Madison: by the American painter John Vanderlyn (1775-
The Treaty of Ghent
xxxxxIncidentally, thexBattle of Lake Erie, which took place in and around Put-
xxxxx…… It was during the War of 1812 that the nickname Uncle Sam (derived from the initials U.S.) first came to be used, employed initially in a derogatory sense by those Americans opposing the war. He first appeared as a cartoon figure, dressed in the stars and stripes, in 1832. Later, as a character sporting long white hair and a short beard, and wearing a high hat and tails, he became widely accepted, especially in the First and Second World Wars, but he was not adopted by Congress as the national symbol until 1961. ……
xxxxx…… In 1814, when British troops captured Washington and set fire to the White House, the president’s wife, Dolly Madison, stayed back long enough to rescue the original draft of the American Declaration of Independence, and the famous painting of George Washington by the American artist Gilbert Stuart. ……
xxxxx…… Before the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 (fought after the peace settlement in fact) the nuns in the city’s Ursuline Convent spent the night praying for victory, and the prioress vowed to have a Mass of Thanksgiving sung annually should the British be defeated. The vow has been faithfully kept throughout the years!
Oh Say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say, does that star-
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?