Why the War of 1812 is Important to Minnesota

While no battles were fought here, perhaps the most important result of the war was the final demarcation of the border with Canada, and the resulting two centuries of peaceful and prosperous co-existence. 


Before the war, British trade posts proliferated in what is now Minnesota. The Treaty of Ghent (1814) removed British control over these areas that had been gained by the American Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase. (The treaty also dispensed with any American ideas of annexing Canada.) The Rush-Bagot Pact of 1817 then demilitarized the Great Lakes. The Anglo-American Convention of 1818 that addressed remaining territorial disputes ensured that the Iron Range and Red River Valley would be in America and not Canada. The United States then initiated a stronger strategic and military presence here by building Fort Snelling.


The assertion of American sovereignty also ended the British plan to maintain an “Indian Reserve” in the northwest free of European settlement. Native Americans chose to support the British during the War of 1812 to keep this idea alive. Treaties signed between the United States and tribes after the war led to more European American settlement and an eventual confining of the Dakota to a narrow strip of land along the Minnesota River. The strain of these and other factors exploded in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.


While no American soldiers fought here during the war, the graves of hundreds of War of 1812 veterans are in Minnesota. They came from many places but settled here to seek a better life. It is also likely that Ojibway and Dakota warriors who fought on behalf of the British also have their final resting place in the state.