The War of 1812

1812 to 1815

Map of Major Northern Campaigns
Animated Map of Battle of Chrysler's Farm
Facing Colours of British Regulars in 1812

By Leslie Welch

In 1812, the American War of Independence was still within living memory for governments in London and Washington.

Britain still felt the pain of losing a prized colony, while America was eager to make itself more secure from foreign interference.

Therefore, it did not take too much to get the blood of both nations up and a clash of wills, at least, was a certainty.

The British Royal Navy ruled the waves and was keen to keep doing so. Much of its effort during the long wars went on ensuring that France and her allies did not receive supplies that could help their war effort.

Britain claimed the right to search all neutral shipping for such cargo - and for ex-British sailors who had deserted - a suggestion that infuriated America.

The war at sea was essentially limited to duels between single ships - and for the first time in a very long while the British navy came up against an opponent that could match its own prowess.

The Americans, however, were not blameless and their desire to control Canadian territory backing on to the Great Lakes lead to a series of battles between the two nations.

In fact, the United States declared war on Britain and militia units crossed the border into Canada on 18 June 1812.

The first engagements went poorly for the Americans - with the none of the expected support from colonists, French Canadians and the local Indians.

Recovering from the initial shock, the British then drove into America and seized key forts around the Lakes.

An American force of some 2500 militia under General William Hull surrendered to General Sir Isaac Brock and his Indian ally Tecumseh at Detroit in August.

Two months later, a larger American force (3200 men) again invaded Canada and took on Brock's 1000-strong force at Queenston. It was a decisive defeat for the invaders, losing 250 men and having 700 captured, although the British suffered a major blow when their commander was killed.

The war, however, then swung America's way, with a naval battle at Lake Erie halting a British amphibious push and a land encounter, at Thames River, leading to a British surrender after the death of Tecumseh and the desertion of his warriors.

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