War of 1812 Causes, Battles, Results

Causes for the War of 1812

Reason #1: Impressment: Great Britain began stopping American sea vessels and forcing subjects on the vessels into the British military. This practice was called "impressment." The British justified the practice with the idea that American soldiers, once subjects of the King, were always subjects of the King.

Unfulfilled Treaties

Great Britain had violated American sovereignty by refusing to surrender western forts as promised in the Treaty of Paris after the Revolutionary War.

British Interfered with American Trade

Great Britain had been at war with Napoleonic France. Great Britain issued a series of trade restrictions designed to prevent France from getting supplies from other countries. These restrictions were hurting American trade since many supplies were seized by the British.

Native American Attacks

During the years before the war, the United States wanted to expand its territories westward. This desire fueled the invasion of native homelands throughout the interior of the continent. Tribal nations saw their lands at risk. The Native leaders shared a single concern, that of protecting tribal lands.

There were Indians who sided with the Americans in the War of 1812, but most Indian nations sided with the British against the U.S, believing that a British victory might mean an end to American expansion.

To make matters worse, Great Britain provided arms and support to Native Americans in the western frontiers who were attacking American settlers.

Important Battles of the War of 1812

Battle of Lake Erie

The Battle of Lake Erie was a major naval battle in the War of 1812. It featured nine U.S. naval vessels and six British naval vessels.

After the British surprisingly withdrew from their naval blockade at Erie, Pennsylvania, a fleet of American ships organized by Oliver Hazard Perry prepared for battle, sailing west on Lake Erie. Perry’s fleet eventually captured five British ships. He received the British surrender on the deck of his damaged flagship, The Lawrence.

As a result of the battle, the British retreated to Detroit and lost control of the Great Lakes. The loss prevented them from reinforcing or resupplying their troops in Upper Canada. It also ensured there would be no British attacks in the Great Lakes states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York.

Battle of Fort McHenry

The siege and bombardment at Baltimore in 1814 was the turning point in the War of 1812. After routing American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, and burning Washington to the ground, British land and naval forces hoped to further demoralize the Americans by destroying the port of Baltimore.

Baltimore was well protected and under the command of Samuel Smith. The British initially chose to attack by land, but American defenses were much stronger than anticipated. Furthermore, British Commander Robert Ross was killed during the British excursion, and the decision to attack Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor was made. American forces concentrated in and around Fort McHenry to prepare to defend it against the impending attack. Before the battle, commander of the fort George Armistead, ordered the sinking of a line of American merchant ships to prevent British ships from gaining access to the harbor.

On the night of September 13, 1814, British naval forces began firing shells and rockets at Fort McHenry. The bombardment continued for more than 27 hours. During the bombardment, Francis Scott Key, who was a temporary British prisoner, became inspired to write the Star-Spangled Banner on the back of an envelope. He originally named his poem "Defense of Fort McHenry." When it became apparent the Americans would not surrender the fort, British forces withdrew from the region and set their sights on New Orleans.

Battle of New Orleans

The bloody Battle of New Orleans, the deadliest battle of the War of 1812, actually occurred after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in late 1814, which put an end to hostilities between the Americans and British. Word of the war’s end, however, failed to reach New Orleans in time to prevent the battle.

On January 8, 1815, British General Edward Pakenham and over 10,000 British soldiers and Native warriors attacked Andrew Jackson and his well fortified army of over 5,000 men at Chalmette, about five miles downriver from New Orleans. The object was to separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. American soldiers, aided by pirates under the command of Jean Lafitte, cut down wave after wave of British soldiers from behind impenetrable defenses. Pakenham was killed in the battle and the British suffered over 2,000 total casualties. The battle was the last armed conflict of the War of 1812.

Although the battle had no impact on the war, it did elevate Andrew Jackson to a national hero and eventually propelled him to the White House.

Results of the War of 1812

The War of 1812 seemed not to have changed anything, but it did. It had some important results: The United States gained respect at home and in Europe. English influence in the Northwest Territory was ended. Lastly, Americans began to show a new sense of patriotism and pride in their country. A new feeling ran through the land - a feeling that Americans were a united people, a nation. This feeling of nationalism was one of the most important results of the War of 1812.

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