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The War of 1812

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 480
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    The War of 1812
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive and authoritative history of the War of 1812, thoroughly revised for the 200th anniversary of the historic conflict, is a myth-shattering study that will inform and entertain students, historians, and general readers alike. Donald R. Hickey explores the military, diplomatic, and domestic history of our second war with Great Britain, bringing the study up to date with recent scholarship on all aspects of the war, from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada._x000B__x000B_The newly expanded The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial Edition includes additional information on the British forces, American Indians, and military operations such as the importance of logistics and the use and capabilities of weaponry. Hickey explains how the war promoted American nationalism and manifest destiny, stimulated peacetime defense spending, and enhanced America's reputation abroad. He also shows that the war sparked bloody conflicts between pro-war Republican and anti-war Federalist neighbors, dealt a crippling blow to American Indians, and solidified the United States's antipathy toward the British.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09373-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface to the Bicentennial Edition
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The War of 1812 is probably our most obscure war. Although a great deal has been written about the conflict, the average American is only vaguely aware of why we fought or who the enemy was. Even those who know something about the contest are likely to remember only a few dramatic moments, such as the Battle of New Orleans, the burning of the nation’s capital, or the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    Why is this war so obscure? One reason is that no great president is associated with the conflict. Although his enemies called it “Mr. Madison’s War,” James...

  7. Chapter 1 The Road to War, 1801–1812
    (pp. 5-27)

    On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson walked from his boardinghouse in Washington City, as the nation’s capital was then called, to the Capital building, where he was inaugurated as third president of the United States. The walk was short but symbolic. Jefferson pointedly refused to take a carriage, a vehicle he considered a badge of aristocracy.¹ The nation’s new leaders favored a more democratic style than their Federalist predecessors. They also planned to adopt a new set of policies. It was these policies—initiated by Jefferson and carried on by Madison—that put the United States on a collision course...

  8. Chapter 2 The Declaration of War
    (pp. 28-47)

    The Twelfth Congress—known to history as the War Congress—convened on November 4, 1811. Republicans across the country showed a keen interest in its proceedings. “Never did the American Congress assemble under circumstances of greater interest and responsibility,” said the Boston Chronicle. The deliberations of this body, the Washington National Intelligencer predicted, “will, perhaps, do more to stamp the character of genuine republican governments than has been effected in this respect since the creation of the world.” “The people, the times and the government,” added the Salem Register, “all require DECISION.”¹

    The Republicans had solid majorities in both houses...

  9. Chapter 3 The Baltimore Riots
    (pp. 48-65)

    According to Samuel G. Goodrich, a Connecticut Federalist who later gained fame writing children’s books, news of the declaration of war hit “like a thunderbolt.”¹ Everywhere people were taken by surprise. Ever since 1805 the nation’s leaders had talked of war, and yet always the result was more commercial restrictions. Many people—Republicans and Federalists alike—assumed that war would again be averted, that some excuse would be found to continue diplomatic negotiations.

    Most Republicans found the news exhilarating. In Washington, an observer reported “felicitations, shaking of hands, and rejoicings as were never exhibited here before.”² In Kentucky, there was...

  10. Chapter 4 The Campaign of 1812
    (pp. 66-99)

    On December 16, 1811, after the debate on the war preparations had been under way for more than two weeks, John Randolph raised a specter that was to haunt contemporaries and historians alike. “Agrarian cupidity,” he said, “not maritime right, urges the war. Ever since the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations came into the House, we have heard but one word—like the whip-poor-will, but one eternal monotonous tone—Canada! Canada! Canada!”¹ Randolph exaggerated, since at no time during the debates did territorial expansion overshadow the maritime issues. Even in the West, where expansionist sentiment ran deep, the...

  11. Chapter 5 Raising Men and Money
    (pp. 100-122)

    The Campaign of 1812 was both disappointing and embarrassing to Republicans. The string of defeats on the Canadian frontier had dashed all hopes for a quick and an easy victory and had exposed the administration to criticism. The war had never lost its political character, and Republican leaders had hoped that triumphs on the battlefield would disarm their critics and enhance their chances at the polls. “A little success,” said one Republican, “would silence many who are clamerous.” “If our government does not look sharp,” said another, “the Federalists will come in again.”¹ But except for the naval victories, there...

  12. Chapter 6 The Campaign of 1813
    (pp. 123-161)

    When the spring thaw opened the campaigning season in 1813, the United States was in a stronger position than it had been in 1812. The addition of John Armstrong and William Jones to the cabinet had improved the leadership in Washington, and there were better commanders in the field as well. Although no competent officers had been found to take charge of the Niagara and St. Lawrence fronts, William Henry Harrison had succeeded William Hull in the Northwest, and Andrew Jackson was emerging as a leader in the Southwest. Moreover, Armstrong was promoting talented young officers to positions of authority....

  13. Chapter 7 The Last Embargo
    (pp. 162-182)

    By the time the Thirteenth Congress convened for its second session on December 6, 1813, there was a note of apprehension in the air. Despite the victories in the Northwest and Southwest, the news from the other fronts was uniformly bad. Canada was still in British hands, the British fleet was in American waters, and British troops moved freely about the Chesapeake. The tide of war appeared to be turning against the United States. “The result of the last campaign,” lamented a Republican, has “disappointed the expectations of every one.” “In spite of some gleams of success,” added a Federalist,...

  14. Chapter 8 The British Counteroffensive
    (pp. 183-228)

    By the time the campaign of 1814 opened, the initiative in the war had shifted to the British. The Battle of Leipzig the previous October had forced Napoleon to retreat to France with the Allies in pursuit. At the same time, a British army under the Duke of Wellington had shattered French power in Spain and invaded France from the south. On March 31, 1814, the Allies entered Paris—the only time that Russian troops have ever occupied the French capital. On April 11 Napoleon abdicated unconditionally and shortly thereafter was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. For the...

  15. Chapter 9 The Crisis of 1814
    (pp. 229-260)

    By the fall of 1814 it was clear to everyone that the United States faced a crisis. The war had changed dramatically since the beginning of the year. Freed from the contest in Europe, Great Britain was able to mount one campaign in the Chesapeake and prepare a second against the Gulf Coast while still maintaining a large army in Canada. “We are contending with an exasperated foe,” said a Republican paper, “whose mighty power will soon be levelled at our liberties.”¹ Menaced on every front, Americans viewed the war with a growing sense of foreboding. “Our affairs,” said Secretary...

  16. Chapter 10 The Hartford Convention
    (pp. 261-283)

    The War of 1812 was one of America’s most unpopular wars. It generated more intense opposition than any other war, including the war in Vietnam. Although most scholars have focused on New England’s opposition, Federalists in the middle and southern states opposed the conflict, too. Except for two brief periods—one in the summer of 1812 and the other in the fall of 1814—the party presented a united front against the war.

    In Congress Federalists voted as a bloc on almost all war legislation. They unanimously opposed the declaration of war in June 1812, and thereafter they voted against...

  17. Chapter 11 The Treaty of Ghent
    (pp. 284-302)

    In the military and naval campaigns, the record of the United States during the War of 1812 was decidedly mixed. There were some successes—most notably on the northern lakes and at New Orleans—and some failures—particularly in the Chesapeake Bay and on the Canadian frontier. In the peace negotiations, however, the nation’s record was much better, not because of what the envoys won but because of what they avoided losing. No single campaign in the field loomed as large as these negotiations. It was here—in Ghent, Belgium, rather than on the Canadian-American border—that the United States...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 303-316)

    The War of 1812 is often called America’s “second war of independence.” The issues and ideology of this conflict echoed those of the Revolution. In addition, this was the nation’s second and last struggle against Great Britain, the second and last time that it was the underdog in a war, and the second and last time that it tried to conquer Canada. Nevertheless, the supposed threat to American independence in 1812 was more imagined than real. It existed mainly in the minds of thin-skinned Republicans who were unable to shake the ideological legacy of the Revolution and interpreted all British...

  19. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 317-324)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 325-438)
  21. Index
    (pp. 439-454)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 455-461)