The USA - British War of 1812 - A British Perspective (2023)


War of 1812 Summary

The War of 1812, was fought between the t United States of America and Great Britain and was a spin off from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

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In this summary of the War of 1812 I will introduce you to the causes of the war, what actually happened and who won it.

Somewhat confusingly it was just fought in 1812 but lasted for nearly 3 years, finishing in 1815.

It was the first time that the United States’s had gone to war with a foreign enemy and bizarrely for a war that was fought principally about the freedom for American ships to sail the high seas it was mainly fought on land.

Added to which, America’s greatest naval victory was 1,000 from the sea!

Americans look with pride on their emphatic victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans and the British (if they know anything about this war) will remind our American cousins that we set fire to the Capitol and the White House…more of both of those events later.

What were the causes of the War of 1812?

A combination of British intriguing with Native Americans to attack American citizens, American ships being searched and prevented from trading with France by the Royal Navy, and American citizens being impressed into the Royal Navy.

When did the War of 1812 start?

On the 18th June 1812 President James Maddison declared war on Great Britain.
It was the first time that the United States had declared war on another nation.

What happened in the war of 1812?

Despite being a war about freedom of American ships on the high seas, it was mainly fought on land.
The US invasion of Canada was defeated at the battle of Queenston Heights and during the next 2 years further invasion fared no better.

Ironically, the Americans had greater success on the water, especially at the battle of Lake Erie where Oliver Hazard Perry wiped out a British fleet.

In 1814, with the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe, the British sent battle-experienced troops to North America.
Their invasion from Canada into New York State was defeated at the battle of Plattsburgh.

A British Army of over 4,000 men under the command of General Ross landed near Washington DC and quickly captured the capital.
The Capitol Building and Executive Mansion (The White House) were set on fire.

However, they were unable to capitalise on that success at the Battle of Baltimore when, despite a 25 hour bombardment, they couldn’t dislodge the American defenders at Fort McHenry.

The Defence of Fort McHenry inspired the poet Francis Scott Keys were inspired to write a poem to music…the Star Spangled Banner.
It became the national anthem of the United States.

In early 1815, the British were decisively defeated at the Battle of New Orleans by Andrew Jackson.
Ironically, this bloody battle was fought after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed but before it had arrived across the Atlantic for ratification by President Madison.

When did the War of 1812 end?

Somewhat bizarrely, despite its name, the war actually lasted until 1815.

How did the war of 1812 end?

With the Treaty of Ghent.
The treaty basically restored the pre-war status quo in North America.

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The War of 1812 was fought between the newly independent United States of America and Great Britain and was a spin-off from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe somewhat confusingly.

It was not just 14 1812 but lasted for three years finishing in 1815.

It was the first time that the United States had gone to war, with a foreign enemy and bizarrely for a war that was fought principally about the freedom for American ships to sail the high seas.

It was fought mainly on land added, to which America's greatest naval victory in the war was actually 1.

000 miles from the sea, Americans take pride in the defense of their new Republic and look with pride on their emphatic victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans and the British.

Quite frankly, if they know anything about this war will remind our American cousins that we set fire to the capital and the White House more of both of those events.

Later this is very much a 10 000 foot view of the war I'm going to go into some more detail in some further videos.

But having run a poll of my viewers and supporters, there is a general appetite for a summary video, except that those in-depth stories can be put into more context.

So, let's get cracking what exactly were the causes of the War of 1812? Well, like a lot of Wars, it was never straightforward.

There were a cocktail of reasons and, depending which historian you read will depend upon which reason you believe was the most important.

Firstly, ever since Independence 30 years beforehand, relations between the New Republic and Great Britain had been feisty to say the least, and whilst Britain had lost the 13 colonies, she still had a significant presence in North America retaining control of what is now Canada and many Americans saw the banishment of Britain from North America as unfinished business.

Meanwhile, the British in Canada encouraged Native Americans to resist Westward Expansion by the fledgling USA in what were referred to as the Northwest Territories roughly around the area of the Great Lakes Native American resistance solidified under a charismatic Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who succeeded in forming an Indian Confederation to oppose the United States American settlers.

Moving into the area faced attack from the Indian Confederation and, as I said, many Americans saw the hand of Great Britain behind this conflict, but strangely, for a war that was about to erupt in North America.

Its main Roots lay across the Atlantic in Europe Britain was embroiled in a war with Napoleonic France, and both sides saw that Victory would not just lie on the battlefield, but by squeezing their Rivals economies and thus their ability and willingness to actually wage war.

In 1806 Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree, which established the Continental trading system, a trading block in Europe that specifically excluded Britain with the attention of hurting her Mercantile economy within that system, Bonaparte also forbade neutral countries such as the United States from Trading with Britain the following year.

Britain retaliated by issuing orders in Council, which stated that neutral ships would be searched for goods heading towards France and any such Goods confiscated.

Any neutral ships failing to either stop or head into a British port for inspection were liable to be seized by the Royal Navy Napoleon in turn, Ratched up the economic war with a further decree stating that any neutral ship that had complied with that British policy would be deemed to be siding with the British and would be impounded.

The Americans were between a rock and a hard place.

Nevertheless, as American ships trying to trade with France had to get across the british-controlled Atlantic first by default, it was the British who were interfering with American free passage more than the French, and this heavy-handed policy of the British irked the country that had thrown off the British yoke just 30 years beforehand.

But there was one more cause to the War of 1812 and once more, it was on the high seas.

The 20 plus years that Britain had spent at war with first revolutionary and then Napoleonic France had created Manpower shortages, especially in the Royal Navy, whose number of ships had quadrupled during this period short of willing volunteers, the authorities resorted to impressment press gangs.

Sailors under the command of an officer, would roam the streets in ports seizing unlucky victims to serve in the king's Navy.

The system of impressment had actually been formalized during Queen Elizabeth, the first days, although it actually had its roots way back into medieval times, but it wasn't just the alleys and pubs around the docks of Britain that provided impressed Sailors the Royal Navy would board Merchant ships and carry off Sailors from them too, especially if they had deserted from the Royal Navy in the first place.

So what's this ancient tradition got to do with the new American Republic? Well, the Royal Navy started to stop American vessels and impressing members of their Crews.

Now whether this was the royal Navy still treating American ships as if they were still colonies or whether it was because British deserters were seeking Sanctuary on neutral ships is a matter for debate.

The problem was that many of these Sailors, even if they were british-born, happy, become citizens of the United States, a citizenship that was mightily, convenient for Sailors, who had absconded from the Royal Navy, but a new allegiance that the Royal Navy refused to accept once his Majesty's subject, always his Majesty's subject, especially if he'd served in his Navy, and this was a red line for the Jefferson's successor, President Madison, with this combination of British intriguing with Native Americans to attack American citizens, American ships being searched and prevented from Trading with France and American citizens being impressed into the Royal Navy American politicians, angrily, denounced Britain and demanded war, and on the 18th of June 1812 President Madison declared war on Greek Britain.

It was the first time that the United States had declared war on another Nation.

Could the War of 1812 have been avoided? Well, with the reasons I've just outlined, you could understand why many Americans saw War as the only option.

It's also worth pointing out that the Republican Democrats who were pro-france were in the political ascendancy and the Federalists.

The party formerly was at Washington and Hamilton, which were more inclined towards Britain, were on the back foot at this moment in in American politics.

The irony was that, just as the U.S is squaring up for War, the British were softening their stance.

Hardline prime minister Spencer Percival had been assassinated just five weeks before Madison's declaration of war.

He remains the only British prime minister to have ever been assassinated.

His successor, Lord Liverpool, was willing to take a much more conciliatory line, announcing on the 16th of June 1812, that the order of council would be suspended and carrying out that suspension on the 23rd of June right.

At the same time as across the Atlantic Madison was signing off his declaration of war.

There was then one of those sliding door moments in history, thanks to the slowness of communications when we're talking sane ships.

Here we had this peculiar moment where the USA had declared war on Britain, but Lord Liverpool and his government were ignorant of that fact, and at the same time, President Madison was unaware that the British had suspended the orders in Council one of the key reasons his warhawks had been arguing for war.

When Madison finally learned about the British decision, he decided to wait and see how the British reacted when they finally found out that the U.S had declared war on them.

Faced with this Silence from Washington, the British came to the conclusion that the war was going ahead and seeing as the Americans had actually changed their stance, the War of 1812 started so could more have been avoided in 1812.

Well, what do you think Pena quite quick comment below what war there was.

So what exactly happened in the War of 1812, let's find out, despite this being a war about Freedom of the Seas, the Americans chose to fight it on land, principally by invading Canada.

Now, if you remember, many expansionist Americans had been eyeing up Canada for some time.

This was a perfect opportunity to sweep the British from North America and on paper.

Those grandiose aims didn't seem that absurd.

The USA had a population of 7 million British Canada, just 80 000.

and with their focus on fighting Napoleon in Europe, the British had under 2 000 professional troops in Canada to ward off an American attack.

Many Americans, including former President Jefferson, honestly believed that they would be welcomed as liberators by the settlers and colonists in Canada, but it wouldn't be the first time that wild optimism about easy military victories would be ruined by a supposed Underdog.

For a start, the colonists in Canada were not the Sons of Liberty.

Far from it, they were a collection of oratory, loyalists people, who'd supported Britain in the war of independence and had gone into Exile after the defeat of the British recent settlers from the U.S who were far more interested in making a new financial future for their families than being part of a greater USA and the French community in Quebec.

This latter group were proudly French and Catholic, and they saw no Affinity with a Protestant English-speaking Republic.

So many of these disparate groups joined the militias being hurriedly put together by the British authorities, and then the British could rely on another source of military support too.

The Native Americans, the Indian Confederation under Tecumseh, had no love for the Americans, especially after they've, been attacked and defeated by U.S forces under William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe the previous year.

If the British, however, were unprepared for this war, the Americans, despite their abundant optimism, were equally ill-prepared in many respects.

The failure of the Americans to sweep the British from Canada in 1812 was more to do with their inept organization than any British military prowess.

This was no more evident than in the first American reversal of the war.

The American invasion of Canada was to be conducted in a three-pronged attack.

William Hull would invade Upper Canada modern-day Ontario from the West.

The second prom would thrust across the Niagara River skirting Lake Ontario towards York, modern-day Toronto and finally in the East there would be an advanced into into Quebec, with Upper Canada and the Saint Lawrence River under their belt.

The U.S forces would then finish off what remained at Britain's North North American Empire on the Eastern Seaboard, which now New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland, 59-year-old, William Hull Advanced over the Border in the west, only to be confronted by British troops, together with their Native American Allies under Major General Isaac Brock, believing he was facing overwhelming numbers.

Hull beat a hasty Retreat back across the border to Fort Detroit with Brock in Hot Pursuit, and then the American general surrendered his Army and the fort without a shot even being fired.

Meanwhile, a 3 000 Army of U.S militiamen gathered near Niagara under the command of Stephen Van Rensselaer, whose principal claimed to military command was that he was a well-connected New York congressman crossing the Niagara into the Canada on the 13th of October.

The politician comes soldier now found that many of his militiamen wouldn't leave the United States his somewhat depleted Army Was Defeated later that day at Queenston Heights, with 925 of his men surrendering to the British.

The only glimmer of light in this debacle for the Americans was that one of the British casualties was Major.

General Brock the man who'd captured Fort Detroit, and so the War of 1812 moved into 1813.

Would the New Year be a better year for the Americans? Well, it didn't start better in January 1813, an attempt to retake Fort Detroit ended in defeat at the Battle of Frenchtown on the River Raisin of the American Force, mainly men from Kentucky.

Nearly 400 were killed in action and 500 captured and the following day.

Many of the Wounded prisoners were massacred by Britain's Native American Allies, supposedly in response to massacres on their people by American forces in the past.

This was one of many acts of brutality in the war along the American Canadian Frontier, for example, American forces burned Newark near Niagara and York Toronto, not endearing themselves to the locals, who sure, as heck didn't no longer saw them as liberators.

Meanwhile, the British did the same to Buffalo, maybe somewhat surprisingly, considering their numerical advantage on land.

It was on the water that the Americans gained their successes in 1813.

The small U.S Navy might not have matched the Royal Navy in size, but it was more than held its own in seamanship.

In a series of one-on-one encounters, they bested the Royal Navy to the extent that the admiralty in London ordered their captains to work in packs, thus outgunning the Americans and ordered them to enforce a strict blockade on U.S ports.

But the greatest American success on water was actually one thousand miles from the sea.

On the Great Lakes in September, 1813 Oliver Hazard Perry wiped out the British Fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie the following month, Britain's allies, the Indian Confederation, were defeated at the Battle of the Thames, where their leader Tecumseh was killed.

With the command of the lake.

The Americans were now able to retake Fort, Detroit and once more invade Canada.

But yet again the Americans couldn't press home their Invasion and were forced to retire back across the border.

The war dragged on into 1814 with yet another American invasion of Canada in July 1814 an army once more crossed the Niagara into Ontario and met the British at the Battle of londis Lane.

The Battle of londis Lane was the costliest battle in the entire War each side suffering about 800 casualties, despite neither side winning the field.

The numerically smaller American Force, which had actually suffered twice as many dead as the British, decided to withdraw back into U.S territory.

In that same year, Napoleon had been defeated and forced into Exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean finally released from their European commitments.

The British were able to send experienced reinforcements to America, and it was now the turn of the British to go on the offensive.

The governor of Canada George Provost invaded New York State, just as the Americans had been let down in the past by their generals.

It was now the turn of the British George Provost had successfully defended Canada over the previous two years by adopting a careful defensive strategy.

Those skills which have worked so well in defense now hampered him as an attacker and he was defeated by the Americans at the Battle of Plattsburgh in on the 11th of September, but the British were on the move.

Elsewhere, a joint Naval Army Expedition under Admiral Alexander Cochran and General Robert Ross entered Chesapeake Bay Ross landed with 4 500 troops, battle-hardened from fighting Napoleon's armies in the peninsula, War brushing aside a force of local Medusa.

He entered Washington on the 24th of August, capturing the capital and the presidential Mansion.

It is the only time in American history that a hostile Army has captured the center of political power.

Fortunately, for the Americans President Madison was not at home, but in retaliation for the sacking of York Toronto Ross ordered the capital and the executive Mansion to be set on fire in early September, Ross and Cochrane tried to storm Baltimore.

This time they didn't have such an easy ride.

Despite enduring a 25-hour bondment Fort McHenry held fast for the Americans, seeing the American flag still flying over the fort.

In the morning, poet Francis Scott Keys was inspired to write a poem to music, the Star-Spangled Banner, unable to seize the fort and drive home their attack on Baltimore and with General Ross lying dead, the British re-emarked on their ships and sailed away what next? Well, maybe it was time for peace, or should they continue to fight somehow we actually ended up with both as you're about to find out militarily.

This war was turning into a stalemate: try as they made the Americans couldn't break into Canada, but on the other side, the British, arguably didn't have the numbers, or indeed the political will, to Snuff out American independence.

The Royal Navy, with their numerical advantage, had been tightening a naval blockade on the U.S ports, impacting the American economy merchants, not least in New England were urging for some form of peace deal.

The success of the British blockade was also having a negative effect back in Britain, as both the source of raw materials that were needed for her Industrial Revolution and a sizeable market for her goods were being stifled.

So British merchants were now pressing their government to also end the conflict.

That was achieving nothing and was irrelevant now that Napoleon was in Exile in August.

At the same time, the British were trying to make inroads in New York state in the Chesapeake Bay Area delegates, from both Nations met at Ghent modern day Belgium to hammer out a peace treaty with the orders and Council already abandoned back in 1812.

The two sides negotiated over the remaining points that were caused in one way or other: the war, impressment control of Canada and the Native American buffer zone to the West.

The Americans abandoned their anti-impressment stance.

In reality, the war against Napoleon was over and the Royal Navy was now looking to let go of Crews rather than recruit more men voluntarily or through press ganks.

So by the time of Ghent, it was really a non-issue.

The British abandoned tried to reshape the Border or some pipe dream of reincorporating the United States into the British Empire, and the Americans accepted that Canada was never going to be part of the Republic and finally, the British quietly abandoned their North Native American Allies on the 24th of December 1814.

The two sides signed to the Treaty of Ghent, the net result the status quo from before the war was maintained and no land exchanged hands, which was pretty rare.

In this era of both war and diplomacy.

This war started with slow Communications, making their way across the Atlantic, and it ended the same way too, because the last battle of the War of 1812 was actually fought after the peace treaty had been signed in Ghent on the 23rd of December.

One day before the signing in Ghent, a British Army landed just south of New Orleans.

It was commanded by General, Edward pakenham a 36 year old brother-in-law to the Duke of Wellington, with whom he had served in the peninsula War by the 8th of January 1815.

The sailing ships had still not reached Washington with the peace treaty and that very day, pakenham attacked New Orleans and was emphatically defeated.

The Battle of New Orleans was a convincing victory for the Americans under Andrew Jackson, over 290 British soldiers were killed, 1, 200 wounded and 480 captured one quarter of pakenham's force, not that pakenham witnessed this humiliation.

He was one of the Dead and finally on the 18th of February 1815 President Madison ratified the Treaty of Ghent and the War of 1812, or should we call it? 1812 1815 was over so who won the War of 1812? Well, it's debatable and depends which criteria you used and how biased you are as either a Britain or an American.

The USA had set out with the aim of driving the British from Canada.

They failed, they'd wanted to stop impressment and the boarding of their ships.

They'd ended up being blockaded by the Royal Navy.

Instead, the ordering Council had been suspended before the ward started and impressment ended effectively with the defeat of Napoleon and the Royal Navy is no longer needing men to serve in it.

The British, on the other hand, had not added an inch of territory to their empire and their Native American Allies were weakened forever.

When you compare the War of 1812 casualties, both the British and Americans suffered similar casualty figures.

Roughly fifteen thousand, the war itself was numerically on a small scale compared to the numbers involved in the European conflict, the Battle of New Orleans.

For instance, involved less than 15 000 men, the Battle of Waterloo involved, nearly 200 000 men, the British lost more men at Waterloo than they lost, killed in action throughout the War of 1812 1812-15.

So, who do you think won the war? Please post a comment below which leaves us with one last question was the War of 1812 pointless well, based on everything.

I've said you could definitely argue that, but there were some longer term results.

The Americans came away with a surge in patriotism and national identity, reflected in that new national anthem, inspired by the defense of Fort McHenry.

Whilst they may not have driven the British from North America and had the immunity of having their Capital set Ablaze, they had defeated the invading British at Plattsburgh, Baltimore and New Orleans and of course, they came away with a presidential mansion that needed to be painted white so as to disguise the smoke damage and it gained a new name.

The White House, whilst it created a sense of unity and energy in the USA, the American policy of burning settlements had alienated Canadians from their would-be liberators.

The War of 1812 strengthened the sense of identity amongst those, disparate loyalist American, French communities, ultimately forging the nation of Canada later in the century.

As for the British well, most of them were and still are far more concerned with the war against their old enemy.

The French under Napoleon than what happened in North America I mean there are no monuments to the War of 1812 in London, unlike say, Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Station.

So if there wasn't a winner, was there a loser? Undoubtedly the losers were the Native Americans, their defeat at the Battle of the Thames shattered the Indian Confederation, and at the Treaty of Ghent, the British quietly abandoned them to the mercy of America's westward expansion, which in itself was a win for the USA.

The War of 1812 is, in many respects a strange War, a war about freedom of shipping that was fought on land.

It achieved little on the battlefield, but shaped the national identities of both the USA and the Canada.

It was a war that one side remembers with pride, even though the invasions of Canada were a failure, and it was a war not remembered by the British.

Despite the fact that they'd held off an American invasion of Canada and burnt the capital, maybe its greatest Legacy- was that, because neither side had an emphatic, Victory or land grab, it helped build a relationship between Britain and the USA, based not upon Rancor and resentment, but on common values, values that they would defend together in two world wars.

Thanks for watching and I hope you enjoyed that summary of The War of 1812.

If you like what I'm about then how about joining my supporters Club details in the description below and at the end of this video more to come, including the Battle of New Orleans, the Battle of Baltimore and the Birmingham Washington DC.

But in the meantime, keep well and I'll, see you very soon.


The USA - British War of 1812 - A British Perspective? ›

The British had no interest in fighting this war, and once it began, they had one clear goal: keep the United States from taking any part of Canada. At the outset, they hoped that, by pointing out that the Orders in Council had been revoked, the U.S. would suspend hostilities.

What was the British perspective on the War of 1812? ›

The British had no interest in fighting this war, and once it began, they had one clear goal: keep the United States from taking any part of Canada. At the outset, they hoped that, by pointing out that the Orders in Council had been revoked, the U.S. would suspend hostilities.

What were the causes of the War of 1812 from the British perspective? ›

The two leading causes of the war were the British Orders-in-Council, which limited American trade with Europe, and impressment, the Royal Navy's practice of taking seamen from American merchant vessels to fill out the crews of its own chronically undermanned warships.

What was the Americans perspective of the War of 1812? ›

Series: The Global Context of the War of 1812

Americans remember the War of 1812 as a second war of independence, as a war to force the British to give up practices that violated American rights and undermined US sovereignty. But this was a byproduct of a much larger conflict in Europe.

What did the Americans and British agree to after the War of 1812? ›

A meeting in Belgium of American delegates and British commissioners ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Great Britain agreed to relinquish claims to the Northwest Territory, and both countries pledged to work toward ending the slave trade.

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