The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain’s ongoing war with France, impressments of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion westward and over national honor after humiliations on the high seas. Jefferson sought to take advantage of Britain and France occupation with war and fill the gaps in trade created by the disruption to their agriculture.
American shippers took advantage of the hostilities in Europe to absorb the carrying trade between Europe and the French and Spanish islands in the West Indies. By breaking the passage with a stop in a U. S. port, they evaded seizure under the British rule of 1756, which forbade to neutrals in wartime trade that was not allowed in peacetime. In 1805, however, in the Essex Case, a British court ruled that U. S. ships breaking passage at an American port did not circumvent the prohibitions set out in the rule of 1756. As a result the seizure of American ships by Great Britain increased. In 1805 Britain seized over 200 ships alone.
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Then Napoleon declared a blockade of England and also began to confiscate American ships. The exchange between British ship “Leopard” and American frigate “Chesapeake” in 1807 prompted Jefferson to order all British ships out of American water and prohibited foreign ships from the American export trade. The effect of this self imposed embargo would have a disastrous effect on the American economy sending it into a depression in 1808. Napoleon took advantage of this flawed policy and claimed the right to attack American ships in any continental port because, by Jefferson’s own order they were illegal carriers and in violation of the embargo.
In 1809 Congress with President Madison’s approval replaced the embargo with the NON-Intercourse. This re-opened trade with all of Europe except Britain and France; however the President had autonomy to resume trade with either country as long as they removed restriction and stopped attacks on American ships. In the summer of 1810 Napoleon agreed to cease attacks on American ships if Britain would also comply. On June 1, 1812 Madison asked Congress to declare war on Great Britain for their continued attacks on American ships. On June 4, the House voted to pass the war bill. On June 18 the Senate concurred.
The war was fought in three theaters: At sea, warships of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U. S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British at first used defensive strategy, repelling numerous American invasions of the provinces of Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and destroyed the dream of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship.
In the Southwest General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed the British to capture; loot and burn Washington, D. C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repelled all three British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. American successes at sea were characterized by single ship duels against British frigates, and combat against British provincial vessels on the Great Lakes, such as at the Battle on Lake Erie.
Both land and naval battles were fought on the frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The South and the Gulf coast saw major land battles in which the American forces destroyed Britain’s Indian allies and repelled the main British invasion force at New Orleans. The final battle of the war took place on January 15, 1815 in New Orleans, where Andrew Jackson’s militia successfully defended the port against 7,500 British regulars defeating them in 30 minutes. Ironically the battle took place after the “Treaty of Ghent “was signed ending the war in Ghent Belgium on December 24, 1814.