American History Unit Study: War of 1812

Do you know why the War of 1812 was fought? Was the War of 1812 fought in Europe or North America?

This History Channel Documentary on the War of 1812 explained the war and described many key players and battles. Like almost all wars in history the main reason for this war was money. The secondary reason which helped to gain public support, was the fact that Americans were being seized from ships by the British Navy, and being forced to fight as British soldiers in their struggle against Napoleon.

Shortly after the French Revolution took place, Napoleon rose to power in France. After conquering many regions, he set his sights on England. As the two countries waged war, the new country of America tried to remain neutral. Both England and France wanted America on its side of the conflict, and used trade as an incentive to sway the Americans. In an attempt to force the Americans to enter the war, England successfully cut off exports from the majority of American ports. Their efforts brought the American economy to its knees and the public wanted it to stop. After England successfully stopped American trade and public support for war increased, war was declared on England.

Since Canada was a British territory and much closer to America, the Americans decided to wage war across the boarder. If the efforts were successful, the Americans stood to gain land. So the War of 1812 was fought both in Europe and North America. In Europe, the fighting was between the French and the British, where as in America, the fighting was between America, Britain, Canada and the Indians.

America spent two years engaged in battles with the British, Canadians, and Indians where Michigan and New York border Canada, (Detroit, Niagara, Toronto, Northern New York) and on the Great Lakes. During the fighting, both sides pillaged, plundered and burned cities along the border. Both sides won a few battles, lost a few battles, lost lives, and destroyed civilian property, but neither reigned supreme.

After years of fighting in Europe, the war between France and Britain finally came to an end. Once England had defeated the French, they turned their focus to North America. Since the Americans had few ships, and the soldiers were busy on the Canadian border, the English were able to sail up the river to Washington DC. During their acts of retaliation for the burning of Canadian cities, the White House was burned. After the British successes in Washington DC, they set their sights on the mouth of the Mississippi River. While they were on their way to attack, the American General Jackson assembled an army to defend the region. This time the Americans were successful.

Once the war in Europe was over, the stalemate in America was declared a draw, and peace was declared through a treaty written in Ghent, Belgium. The unnecessary war was finally over. The Treaty of Ghent stated that the borders between the nations of America and Canada would remain the same. During the fighting, the Indians had joined forces with the Canadians and British. Unfortunately for the Indians, this decision made them the biggest losers of the war. Once peace was declared, they were no longer recognized as a separate nation. They lost their ability to govern themselves and were pushed onto reservations, absorbed and assimilated into the white culture. The Canadians on the other hand, gained the most from the war. It was the first time in their history where Canadians from different backgrounds came together to fight for a common cause.  Therefore, in the end Canada gained a national identity, America and Britain ended where they began, and the Indians lost recognition as a separate nation.

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