The Second War of American Independence

We won't repeat much of what you can find elsewhere on the war. (See our links page for more.) But here are the basics. The United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812 in response to several factors: British restrictions on American trade during the Napoleonic Wars; the British pressing of naturalized American sailors of British origin from American merchant vessels; and British support for Native American tribes in nominal American territory. 


There were several theaters to the war. American forces attempted attacks on what is now Canada in mid to late 1812 and were repulsed. In 1813, naval warfare on the Great Lakes included the Battle of Lake Erie, which led to American control of the lake. American forces attacked in Ontario in 1813 and successfully secured our northwestern frontier. In 1814, British forces freed up by Napoleon's defeat landed in Maryland and marched to Washington, D.C., where they burned public buildings including the White House and U.S. Capitol. They proceeded to bombard Baltimore's Fort McHenry, the event that inspired Francis Scott key to write the Star Spangled Banner. A British naval force was also defeated on Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Even though the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Europe in December 1814, the news reached America after Andrew Jackson defeated British troops at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. The peace treaty did not result in any territorial gains for either country. An additional treaty in 1818 confirmed the border between the U.S. and Canada from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains along the 49th parallel.


The British, Canadian, and Native American perspectives on the war are also illuminating.