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1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism

Nicole Eustace
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    As military campaigns go, the War of 1812 was a disaster. By the time it ended in 1815, Washington, D.C., had been burned to the ground, the national debt had nearly tripled, and territorial gains were negligible. Yet the war gained so much popular support that it ushered in what is known as the "era of good feelings," a period of relative partisan harmony and strengthened national identity. Historian Nicole Eustace's cultural history of the war tells the story of how an expensive, unproductive campaign won over a young nation-largely by appealing to the heart. 1812 looks at the way each major event of the war became an opportunity to capture the American imagination: from the first attempt at invading Canada, intended as the grand opening of the war; to the battle of Lake Erie, where Oliver Perry hoisted the flag famously inscribed with "Don't Give Up the Ship"; to the burning of the Capitol by the British. Presidential speeches and political cartoons, tavern songs and treatises appealed to the emotions, painting war as an adventure that could expand the land and improve opportunities for American families. The general population, mostly shielded from the worst elements of the war, could imagine themselves participants in a great national movement without much sacrifice. Bolstered with compelling images of heroic fighting men and the loyal women who bore children for the nation, war supporters played on romantic notions of familial love to espouse population expansion and territorial aggression while maintaining limitations on citizenship. 1812 demonstrates the significance of this conflict in American history: the war that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" laid the groundwork for a patriotism that still reverberates today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0636-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface Emotion, Persuasion, and the Meaning of War
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Chapter 1 Celebrating Love, Liberty, and Progeny UNITED STATES, CIRCA 1811
    (pp. 1-35)

    Hezekiah Niles nurtured a visceral antagonism toward the British. The founder and editor of the Niles Weekly Register, who began publishing out of Baltimore in 1811, claimed that, back during the American Revolution, British soldiers had menaced his pregnant mother and almost killed him in utero. As he told the story in the pages of his paper, he “nearly perished with his mother a short time before he was born. A British grenadier gallantly attacked her with his bayonet, but she was saved as though by the interposition of Providence.” In relating this episode, Niles no doubt hoped, as he...

  5. Chapter 2 Failures of Feeling as National Disasters DETROIT, AUGUST 1812
    (pp. 36-75)

    When the men first saw a blue-and-red-striped marquee tent rising in the American camp on the Detroit River, “a singular structure never before seen in this army,” many may have shrugged it off as just one more example of indulgence by “so many fops” given to “so much parade and no action among them.” But when the officers and soldiers of the Northwestern Army of the United States later watched a white flag being raised over that tent, they were “struck with astonishment.” The first American effort at invading Canada, intended as the grand opening of the War of 1812,...

  6. Chapter 3 Romantic Stories of Republican Conquest on the Great Lakes LAKE ERIE, SEPTEMBER 1813
    (pp. 76-117)

    The sky was blue, the wind was light, and the air was clear on the bright September noon in 1813 when Captain Oliver Perry sailed to victory against the British on Lake Erie. In an initial hard-fought encounter lasting some two and a half hours, the British disabled Perry’s vessel, the Lawrence, and forced him to flee in a rowboat to another ship, the Niagara. Then, from the deck of the Niagara, Perry directed an assault on the British side that culminated in the capture of the entire royal squadron on the lake. Hours after the action had ended, Perry...

  7. Chapter 4 Demographic Strategies and the Defeat of Tecumseh MORAVIANTOWN, CANADA, OCTOBER 1813
    (pp. 118-167)

    The progress of war can be tracked on a map or tabulated in body counts. When General William Henry Harrison’s troops confronted the British forces of General Henry Proctor on the River Thames in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) on October 5, 1813, they made good on the promise of Perry’s victory on Lake Erie. They consolidated late September gains made by retaking Detroit from the British and seizing the British Fort at Malden on the opposite bank of the Detroit River. And they eliminated the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, one of the staunchest Indian opponents of the United States. According to...

  8. Chapter 5 Liberty, Slavery, and the Burning of the Capital WASHINGTON, D.C., AUGUST 1814
    (pp. 168-210)

    Philadelphia physician Jesse Torrey traveled to Washington, D.C., in December 1815 to witness history. Torrey had arrived at the seat of the national government in time to observe the start of a new session of Congress. He wished to see firsthand the determined endurance of a nation literally rising from the ashes. Fifteen months earlier, in August 1814, the British had burned the Capitol, the president’s house, and most other major government buildings to cinders. The legislators who gathered in the District of Columbia on the day of Torrey’s visit were governing in the aftermath of a foreign conquest. Yet...

  9. Conclusion Ardor and Triumph NEW ORLEANS, JANUARY 1815
    (pp. 211-236)

    After the many disasters, surrenders, defeats, desertions, and general embarrassments that the United States endured in the War of 1812, the tide of history finally reversed itself on the Mississippi River, a few miles south of New Orleans, on January 8, 1815. On that great day, General Andrew Jackson led a patched-together force of regular soldiers, militiamen from Tennessee and Kentucky, Baratarian pirates, and French, Spanish, Anglo-American, and African American residents of New Orleans to a stunning victory against the British. Hunkered down behind earthworks along the east side of the river line, Jackson’s troops first waited patiently for the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 237-298)
  11. Index
    (pp. 299-312)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 313-315)