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The War of 1812, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The independence of United States was established and recognized by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Even though the US was now free from the British Empire, there was some source of contention for obvious reasons. As expected the US, just like Britain desired expansion and the acquisition of land expansion. Free trade was also desired by the US with France, who had been warring with Britain. The United States needed to establish trade and also continued trading with Britain, however there were numerous problems. The British Empire was willing to trade with the U.S., but it was only if it was in their best interest. Of course Britain was not pleased with the United States attempts to establish and maintain trade with France and this became primarily problematic during the French and Indian War.1 During this time Britain moved to block the trade of France in order to weaken their government. Through their attempts, Britain began seizing American naval ships involved in trade, which further hindered the relationship causing additional strain. The navy was reporting that British ships were hindering in their trade attempts with other areas, by hovering and having a bully like mentality on the seas. This was possible because Britain had the manpower to do so and could position themselves in harbors and at possible trade points. [1]  This type of behavior made it increasingly obvious that the British Empire was working toward their good and interactions were not always conducive for America’s best interest. The Embargo of 1807 was enacted by President Jefferson in attempts to avoid war. The Embargo was aimed at reducing the amount of conflict on the open seas regarding free trade.

While it was meant to cease difficulties, it actually led to financial problems that quickly became an unpopular hit to the economy.

The already difficult economy fell in 1808, which ended thousands of sailor’s jobs, hurt shipping employment and even increased criminal smuggling activity. [2]  This not only displaced many and left ships sitting idle, it also hurt moral and caused the public to further blame the British Empire. Now in a slumped economy, jobless and already scorned this made the situation even more difficult. This coupled with the continued seizing of naval ships and attempting to sabotage the military, created tension that could no longer be ignored. One of the final acts was the sabotage of the USS Chesapeake in 1807, where several of the seamen were impressed. [3]  There was much causality during this attack and the US. Sailors were forced to succumb to the British, once again.

Military Strength & Economy Of The Time

Because the United States had separated in 1783, the military was not considered a super power at that point. While the time between 1783 and 1812 there was a formation of the services, it was the War Of 1812 that truly began the importance of and training of military forces. The mere factor of geographical distance and mass sea made it difficult to prepare for needed training and equipment. To this time in history there was very little standardized formation, training or even military equipment which posed difficulty. The fact that the British Empire had sieged numerous ships and sailors also created a disadvantage. 3 This was especially true because the British military had a greater supply of equipment and funds; however their struggle for manpower was the primary reason for impressing U.S. sailors. To assist the military engaged in espionage and even used codes written in invisible inks for communication attempts. The codes were easy to break and without a complex source of communication it hindered messages, and slowed the delivery messages.

In light of this situation, many of the U.S. Generals would use men on horseback to deliver messages, and even Indian scouts to assist in military networking. The intelligence to engage Indian scouts assisted in knowledge and even gave an advantage because of the Indian’s knowledge of the land, language and in many cases the habits of the enemy. In many cases the Indian’s were used in warfare by prompting conflict between rival tribes, in attempts to create pressure on the opposition, but weakening aid and support to the British. This form of intelligence did improve the military’s understanding of needs and shortcomings.

The War Hawks Encouraged War

A group of young males, known as the War Hawks, were elected to Congress in 1810. The War Hawks were led by Henry Clay and John Calhoun, governmental officials that had a large impact on Congress during this time. Clay was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, which lent itself to some power within decision making about the progression of expansion and war.  Most of the War Hawks were made up of young males that primarily came from Western and Southern states, who were primarily dominated by theories of land expansion. [4] This fostered desire to war with Great Britain. Some theorize that because the War Hawks were interested in taking additional Indian Territory, this was the primary reason for the desire to go to war.  The underlying theme is assumed to be the perception that Great Britain was supporting many of the Indian tribes which of course fueled the already heated relationship. Even though the Federalists were opposed to war with the British Empire, the public support, influence of the War Hawks and determined President would soon declare a state of war. 

Major Battles Of The War Of 1812

In August of 1812, the mentality was to avenge the loss that had transpired from the British taking US ships and men. Ships would sail in hopes of avenging their previous losses. On the 2nd of August the U.S. ship, “Constitution”, led by Captain Isaac Hull, yielded fire by the British ship “Guerriere” off coast of Nova Scotia. [5]  The U.S. crew was able to take over the Guerriere which would later surrender to the U.S. Constitution. While this success may not have seemed like a large victory, it actually increased morale and sent a message to the British Empire that the blockade was over, and showed improved ship to ship battle. The realization and assistance of morale was shown in the British forbade their ships from engaging in single ship battles, due to the losses such as Guerriere. The importance of this battle was the marked birth of American naval power.

Land expansion was a major factor before and during the War of 1812. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend took place on March 27, 1814 and was in direct result of the Red Stick Indians becoming increasingly frustrated with white settlers moving onto their land. General Andrew Jackson led the battle at the Tallapoosa River. The battle took place in what would be present day Alabama area. The battle was a devastating blow to the Indians, which resulted in 1000 dead and a loss of less than 50 from the troops of General Jackson.5 This series of raids and fighting led to battles that eventually led to the Indians giving up rights to millions of acres and move further West. This was a tremendous victory as the lands were vast and allowed great economic growth due to cotton, which was a large portion of the economy at this time in history. Because of this battle, General Jackson was considered a hero and would later become the President of the United States. After his election, the Trail of Tears was established because of President Jacksons Removal Bill of the Indians, pushing them into Oklahoma.

The Battle of New Orleans would prove to be the final battle that would stop the fighting of the War of 1812. 6 Again General Jackson led the battle which defeated the British Army while they were attempting to seize New Orleans. The Louisiana Purchase had secured new Orleans and also other territory and had become the property of the United States, which they had right to defend against the British Army. During this time there were several battles that led to the most significant land victory. [6]  When the British aimed their attack, the Americans were ready, having artillery in place. About 1200 British soldiers were wounded and the Americans lost only a handful, which was a great victory against the British. Not only did they hold the enemy off of their own territory, they also were able to defeat the Army, which led to the Treaty of Ghent. This Treaty was signed in Ghent, Belgium and the place where both the British and

Americans agreed to stop fighting, and agreed to put the past behind them and move forward. This would cease the fighting and lead the United States to have a more present authority amongst the world powers of the time.

President Madison & The War

James Madison was elected United States President in the election of 1808. The problems between America and Britain were in full swing by this time.  President Jefferson had enacted

The Non-Intercourse Act, which was on the verge of expiration, which could lead to an increased difficulty on the high seas. This act was placed back into law, which further restricted trade with Britain. Again this was a fueling fact that increased the tensions and moved a step closer to the War of 1812. President Madison was also working toward land expansion and moving America’s boundaries in Spanish Florida.6 The expansion attempts and theory created popularity for President Madison, as far as his foreign policy. During this time President Madison pushed for the expansion of the military and seemed to be preparing for war, even at the earliest stages. Even though the United States was ill prepared for a war against Britain, President Madison declared war. Incredibly, the United States was able to fight British force and build their reputation as a stronger force. President Madison was credited with the victories on both land and sea.

Battle Losses Of The War Of 1812

While there was American loss throughout the War of 1812, it paled in comparison to the battle of Lundy’s Lane. This battle was fought on July 25, 1814 and was considered the bloodiest battle. The battle took place on Canadian soil and consisted of several attacks, where the American General Gaines and the British General Drummond exchanged mass attacks. There were 850 casualties on both sides. [7]  This happened because British soldiers were occupying positions along the Niagara River. During the 12 hours of hand to hand combat, General Gaines charged the enemy line, which led to heavy casualties. This final act and maneuver of Gaines led to the withdrawal of troops by the United States. The casualties and loss were a large setback for the military, however they would continue on to eventually regain their footing.

The Battle of Chateauguay River took place in October of 1813 and was considered one of the larger setbacks of the United States Military during the War of 1812. General Wade Hampton led a troop of 3000 Americans. [8]  This attack was met with much resistance and a well-constructed defense by the enemy. In addition to being ill prepared for the mission, the geographical area lent itself to difficulty because of wooded areas that the American soldiers would have difficulty finding their way through. They would get lost in the area, which facilitated additional causalities. There were a number of American causalities that were attributed to the elaborate defense structure of the opponents and the difficult terrain. This loss for the Americans was not a great deal of bloodshed; and actually helped Canada establish their Nationalism, which was a source of wounded pride for the Americans.

Who Won The War Of 1812 & What Was Gained

The ending of the War of 1812 came with the Treaty of Ghent and agreeable cease fighting. While both the British and Americans suffered loss, they also both had some gains. There was no true “winner” in this war, because the Americans, like the British were able to retain their military structure. The Americans however did have significant changes as they were able to strength their military power and hold back the British. This was something that was relatively new and in the beginning of the war, the Americans were not formally established as a strong power. Through the battles, much was learned and they proved to themselves as well as the rest of the world that they were a force to be reckoned with when it came to national security and defense.

While there were no geographical changes or even new policies that were created, there were some differences that assisted the United States as a whole. The relationship and fear of the Indians was put to rest through the war, which assisted in expansion as well as reducing feelings of threat. Honor was developed and fostered through this war, because the United States was now seen as a super power that was to be respected and even feared.8 Even though there were no clear cut winners of the war, it did establish the fact that America could hold their own and would not back away from confrontation. The factors that lead to the war had ceased and the British Empire was no longer taking over U.S. ships or capturing seaman, which was a positive. The Treaty of Ghent was signed, which noted that the United States existed and Britain agreed to officially give up all claims to the land south of Canada.

Feelings After The War

After the war and the Treaty of Ghent was signed there seemed to be a sense and surge of nationalism. This was the first time that America had been able to stand firmly against the British Empire, and actually be respected in their demands and expansion. This of course created a sense of pride and assisted in building morale as well as a feeling of security within independence. Following the War Of 1812 it became apparent that there was a shortage of farm products that had been caused because of the fighting and attention away from home. In order to rectify the shortages agricultural expansion was began, which drastically changed the economy. The growth not only was good for the overall American economy, but also added jobs for Americans. This was a positive and the added feelings of pride led to a sense of well-being and happiness. The term, “Era of Good Feeling” was commonly used to describe this time and the general attitude of the Americans after the war ended.

In conclusion, the War of 1812 was a necessary war that led to a number of positive events. While it is important to remember those that were lost and not discredit their service, it is essential to understand the worldwide impact of the war. The British were attempting to regain and show their power over America, by means of illegal acts. They continued to occupy areas along the Canadian border, which was a violation of the Treaty of Paris. Along with occupying unauthorized property they also were hindering the land expansion of America, as well as engaging in battle on the seas. Even though America was far from ready, the actions and bullying mentality could not be ignored. If it would have been ignored, the prosperity and strength of America could have likely been jeopardized. This war is where America gained her name of a world power and established a strong military stance. Without that taking place it could have changed the course of history, and allowed for others to continue inappropriate actions, which would have hurt America’s progress.

Bibliography

Borneman, Walter H. (2004), 1812: The War that forged a nation, New York: HarperCollins.

Callo, Joseph. “1812 VICTORY AT SEA.” Military History 27, no. 6 (March 2011): 36-41.

“Digital History.” Jeffersonian Republicanism. Digital History, May 2006. Web. 08 May 2012 <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=19>.

Gilje, Paul A. “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights”: The Rhetoric of the War of 1812.” Journal Of The Early Republic 30, no. 1 (Spring2010 2010): 1-23.

Hickman, Kennedy. “An Introduction To The War of 1812.” The Address Bar. Web <http://www.techuser.net/bookmarks/urlbar.html>.

Hooks, Jonathon. 2009. “1812: War with America.” Journal Of The Early Republic 29, no. 4: 732-734.

Hymel, Kevin M. 1999. “Winfield Scott’s long and illustrious career was tarnished by incessant political infighting.” Military History 16, no. 2: 70-72.

Poremba, David Lee. 2011. “1812: The Navy’s War.” Library Journal 136, no. 17: 91.

[1] Davis Lee Porembae. 2011. “1812: The Navy’s War.” Library Journal 136, no. 17: 91.

[2] “Digital History.” Jeffersonian Republicanism. Digital History, May 2006. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=19>.

[3] Paul Gilje. A. “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights”: The Rhetoric of the War of 1812.” Journal Of The Early Republic 30, no. 1 (Spring2010 2010): 1-23.

[4] Hooks, Jonathon. 2009. “1812: War with America.” Journal Of The Early Republic 29, no. 4: 732-734.

[5] Kennedy Hickman. “An Introduction To The War of 1812.” The Address Bar. Web. <http://www.techuser.net/bookmarks/urlbar.html>.

[6] Walter Borneman. (2004), 1812: The War that forged a nation, New York: HarperCollins,

[7] Kevin Hymel. 1999. “Winfield Scott’s long and illustrious career was tarnished by incessant political infighting.” Military History 16, no. 2: 70-72.

[8] Joseph Callo. “1812 VICTORY AT SEA.” Military History 27, no. 6 (March 2011): 36-41.

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