The War of 1812
Question 16: The War of 1812
The war of 1812 was mainly caused by the fact that Britain was interfering with American affairs. It kidnapped American sailors, interfered with its trade, as well as strengthening Native Americans to cause chaos in the United States. During the war, America had a number of inspiring victories as well as grave losses. Nevertheless, this war ended up setting the stage for America’s growth to become a super power. This paper explores the War of 1812 in details.
One of the reasons that made the United States to declare war on Britain was naval blockade and continued interference of the American shipping. This had been caused by the fact that the British were fighting Napoleon’s forces (McNeese, 2003). At the same time, the United States was involved in trade with both countries since it relied heavily on trade with Europe. Britain did not want the Americans ships to take supplies and food to France and as such, they enforced a partial blockade on all American ships (McNeese, 2003).
The second reason was to address the impressments of American Sailors. The war against the French had strained the Great Britain, which needed more men to serve in its navy. Therefore, the British navy resorted to some unpleasant strategies where they would kidnap American sailors and force them to work in their ships. It is estimated that from 1803 to 1812, the British had kidnapped more than six thousand American sailors (McNeese, 2003).
In addition, the Americans were angered by the role that the British were playing in setting the Native Americans to fight against settlers. This was being done by arming the natives with better weaponry in order to resist settler’s attempts to occupy their region. To the United States, this amounted to contempt and interference on matters of a sovereign state (McNeese, 2003).
Lastly, some of the American leaders wanted to expand their territory by occupying Canada. A section of the western members in the House of Representatives, popularly known as the ‘War Hawks’ had serious issues with British activities in Northern Territory. They also wanted the British to vacate Canada. Led by leaders such as Henry Clay, they put a lot of pressure on the United States President to declare war on Britain (McNeese, 2003).
One of the notable events was the war in the Baltimore City. The British targeted a military site known as Fort McHenry (McNeese, 2003). In order to inspire his men to put a fight, the commander of the fort gave instructions to have a huge American flag made. It was flown over the fort to make it easily noticeable by the British troops. The British bombarded the brick fort for twenty five hours but it did not fall. Francis Scott Key witnessed this and was inspired to write a poem that would later become America’s national anthem (McNeese, 2003).
Another event was the Battle of New Orleans. Initially, the United States had been losing a number of battles on land. However, this last victory brought much hope to the country. The battle was led by Andrew Jackson who was determined to stop the British from advancing (McNeese, 2003). The British wanted to close the Mississippi River and interfere with trade. Jackson’s army was victorious and it forced the British to destroy their war base at Pensacola and flee for safety (McNeese, 2003). After Pensacola, Jackson matched to New Orleans where the final assault took place. The British were forced to surrender after incurring heavy casualties that amounted to 2,000 compared to America’s 71 casualties (McNeese, 2003).
On the other hand, One of the events that weakened the Americans was the capture and burning of Washington DC. In August 1814, 4,500 British military personnel prepared to capture the capital (McNeese, 2003). The city was defenceless and could not manage to stand against the British attack. The Americans in the city fled for safety, including the president. When the British entered the city, they set it in flames. They burned down the white house and other government offices (McNeese, 2003).
This war led to an increase in American patriotism. The war demonstrated that Americans were courageous people who could afford to put the interests of their nation first. A large number of Americans participated in heroic acts, which later became great stories that unified Americans as patriots of a great nation (Childress, 2004).
In addition to this, the Native Americans’ resistance was severely weakened. The defeat of the British forces made them to abandon the Native Americans, leaving them to fight on their own. Many of their leaders who had sided with the British were killed in this war. The Northern territory collapsed along with the hopes of declaring it free from the control of the United States (McNeese, 2003).
To add on the above, the war led to the growth of the American manufacturing industry. Before the war, the United States relied on trade with European countries in order to obtain various commodities. However, the war interfered with this trade forcing Americans to manufacture the goods they had been importing (Childress, 2004).
Lastly, the war reinforced American’s confidence in their country’s ability to survive, grow, and prosper. It is worth noting that during this time, the Great Britain was the world’s super power. It had well trained soldiers who could not be compared with the American soldiers (Childress, 2004). It also had powerful and better weapons as well as wealthy experience in fighting sea and land battles. In view of this, it was not a small feat for the United States to stand against such a powerful opponent. The fact that the United States could defend itself against Britain and score a number of victories against them confirmed the country’s ability to survive (Childress, 2004). At the same time, the Americans’ confidence was strengthened by the country’s ability to manufacture goods of its own. In reality, this war ended up setting the stage for the United States to become a great industrial power in the world (Childress, 2004).
Justification for Calling the 1812 War ‘the Second War of American Independence’
The concept of calling this war ‘the second war of American Independence’ has sufficient merit that makes the term valid. To begin with, it is important to clarify that Britain was not keen on reducing the United States to colonial status. It had fully accepted American independence (Coles, 1966). However, the main reason that justifies the term is the fact that the war broke American dependence on Europe. The United States no longer had to make its decisions in order to match the changes that were being experienced in the European System (Coles, 1966).
Secondly, many nations in the world did not consider the United States to be a strong nation. Some people even thought that it was an experiment that was bound to fail. In view of this, the United States was keen to make a statement through this war. It wanted to send a clear message that it was a strong country that needed to be considered as an equal country amongst other sovereign nations of the world (Coles, 1966).
This war had great effects on the United States. It set the stage for the country to develop into a superpower. It proved that America could stand on its own without relying on Europe. It also provided Americans with inspiring patriotic stories that increased their confidence in their country. Lastly, it earned the United States respect and position among other world powers.
Childress, D. (2004). The war of 1812. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books.
Coles, H. L. (1966). The war of 1812. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
McNeese, T. (2003). Revolutionary war. Dayton: Lorenz Educational Press.