British captains would eventually take over and capture over 10,000 Americancitizens to man British ships. In June of 1807, three miles off thecoast of Virginia, an American ship named the Chesapeake was commandedby a British ship named the Leopard to be boarded. When the Chesapeakerefused to cooperate, the Leopard fired, killing three and wounding eighteen. This humiliated the United States and its people.
The anti-Britishframe of mind was in full swing on the eve of the upcoming election. In 1812, James Madison was elected Presidentof the United States. Aggressive southern frontiersman known as theWarhawks dominated Congress. The group included Kentuckian HenryClay as Speaker of the house and South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. These men and others rejected Thomas Jefferson’s strategy of peaceful coercion.
These speakers could ignite a crowd and stir up aggressiveness towardsthe British. They would talk of the humiliation and how America shouldn’thave to put up with it. They were pressuring Madison to do something. Congress wanted Madison to invade Canada and attack the Indians who hadbeen tormenting homes on the frontier. Madison finally succumbedto their wishes and declared war on the British June 1, 1812. Thetiming of his actions seemed odd as over the last few months actions againsteach country seemed to have been at ease.
There had been no new attackson the high seas and at the time Madison called for war, British Governmentwas suspending the Orders in Council. This was an appeasing gesturethat in all likelihood would have preserved the peace. Madison never really wanted the annexationof Canada; he was merely pushed into the decision. There were threeattempts to invade Canada and they all failed. Toronto, the capital ofCanada was assaulted and burned to the ground in the Battle of York April27, 1813.
Two more attempts were made and the struggling United StatesArmy was pushed back. British naval ships blockaded all major portsand no ships were allowed to leave or enter. As successful as the British troops wereon land, the high seas belonged to the Americans. Captain Isaac Hull’sship, the Constitution won a major battle against the HMS Guerriere andAmerican privateers crushed or captured a number of British merchant ships.
On September 13,1813, Oliver Hazard Perry commanded a decisive Americannaval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie. In October of that sameyear, Indian Chief Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of Thames, a UnitedStates victory. In March of 1814, Andrew Jackson scored a victoryat the Battle of Horseshoe Bend over the Creek Indians. By this timethe British were already tired of the war and it was costing them too muchmoney.
As the threat of Napoleon decreased inEurope, the British navy increased in size and power in North America. The naval blockades in American ports became much stronger than they wereever before. Sir George Prevost, commander of the British forceshastily entered upper New York State; an American fleet headed by CaptainThomas Macdonough was waiting to turn him back. The Battle of Plattsburghwas an American victory and it secured a northern border between the twocountries.
Before the Battle of Plattsburgh, Britishforces had already planned a three-part invasion into the United States. They were amazed to see that the Chesapeake region, which they had tormentedthroughout the war, was totally defenseless. The British invadedand burned down the Capital and other Government buildings. In noway were these actions essential to a British victory. They weresimply retaliation for Americans burning down the Canadian capital of Ontario. The British were not impressed with the defenseless capital and wantedmore.
On September 13,1814, British Naval ships began bombardingBaltimore and Fort McHenry. For twenty-four hours Fort McHenry becamea theater of war. When the British finally gave up the maneuver,Francis Scott Key wrote a song devoted to the perseverance of Fort McHenrycalled The Star Spangled Banner. Today it is our National Anthem. While a Peace treaty was being put togetherin Europe, British troops were about to invade New Orleans in one of themost bitter endings to one of the strangest wars of all time.
TheWar of 1812 was over and British troops were going into Battle one lasttime. Andrew Jackson was the leader of the American forces in NewOrleans and his troops were well defended. Seven hundred Britishtroops were killed and over thirteen hundred were wounded. The entire Britishforce was routed.
The Americans only suffered light casualties. Andrew Jackson became a national hero and gave the United States a much-neededsense of pride. I think the War of 1812 was the turningpoint in American independence. It marked the end of the United Statesdependence on Great Britain and the Americans totally accepted it.
The War also contributed to the strengthening of Canada. In the endthe United States finally became its own nation.