War of 1812 Essay

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Due to British interference in American commerce, both the United States and Britain were parties to the War of 1812. The War of 1812, also known as the Anglo-American War, started in 1812 and lasted until 1815, according to Taylor (100). The United States would suffer greater effects from this battle than Britain because, at the time, it was a young, developing nation while Great Britain was a well-known naval power. Taylor (50) emphasizes that the British invasion of American territorial waters served as the impetus for the conflict. Besides, the British impressed the American soldiers by kidnapping sailors from the United States. This paper critically discusses in detail the war of 1812 including the causes and the aftermath.

Causes of the war

As Langguth (452) writes, Napoleon wars and the French Revolutionary led to the rising of the 1812 war. Other contributing factors were the need and desire by the U.S to expand their territory and impressment of the American sailors by the British. Napoleon wars between Britain and Napoleonic France led to the start of the conflict when Napoleon made an order to block British trade to cripple their economy. All British ships cut off from European ports, and Britain made a response by seizing French ships that would try would to enter a British port or requesting a trading license in an aim to block any neutral trade to Napoleonic. Foner contends that to ensure the blockade was effective, the British who had the sea power took American sailors as recruits into the Royal Navy (Foner).

The conflict sprung up more when the British begun to stop American ships from trading, not only that but also the British norm of searching American ships for goods they considered illegal which they referred to as ‘contraband.’ They would also search for escapees of the Royal Navy who regularly run from Britain due to the inhumane conditions that they had to live in the navy. In addition to that, Royal Navy would seize American ships that would comply with the continental system of Napoleon and vice versa. Roosevelt (120) states that the resentment of the Americans towards the British rose more in 1807 due to the Chesapeake affair. The Chesapeake affair took place at the shores of Chesapeake Bay when the British naval was due to the usual duty of seizing French ships, and some of the British sailors escaped to join the American navy. Once the other loyal British sailors found out about this, they searched the Chesapeake ship, which led to gunfire and killing and injuring of some of the American crew.

Despite the Chesapeake issue, the Americans did not take aggressive action as much as they were in anger but this was because the British made an apology. After this in the years to come, Jefferson led to the passing of the Embargo Act, which involved Americans receiving imports from Britain and not exporting, but this became ineffective when James Madison came into office and made changes. However, no acts helped since Britain could not accept to abide on neutral rights since they would serve against their interests, which state that the duty for the Royal Navy was to sustain Britain trade by promoting it and keeping off competitors. Langguth (452) further posits that due to this policy of the British, Americans were now sure that the British were, in fact, colonizing them, which led to them taking part in the Napoleonic continental system.

The northwestern frontier of U.S.A was also in chaos due to the expansion of America since the Indians who were the inhabitants of this area were against the American invasion, which led to them conspiring with the British. Benn (90) adds that the British would supply the Indians who would in turn raid the American settlers, therefore, hindering the expansion and causing more rage and resentment towards the British. This issue and the ‘War Hawks’ demanding war put a lot of pressure on President James Madison who later on 18th June 1812 after receiving support from the Congress did sign a war declaration against Britain. Britain after receiving this news begun to strategize early enough and the fact that majority of U.S.As army was busy fighting Napoleon was an advantage to them as Roosevelt (123) emphasizes.

Start of the War

The planning phase of America in the war against Britain involved invasion of Canada, their target was Upper Canada due to its vulnerability as it had less security than other areas. This is because Canada was a colony of Britain. However, Langguth (452) states that the Americans were not aware that the British militia was ready despite being few in Upper Canada, Isaac Brock who was the administrator had been preparing for years for this. The American army, which was under the command of General Hull, came from Detroit into Upper Canada attacking the British militia. The Americans after facing a defeat had to surrender Detroit to Canada and later in October 1812 they lost, Queenston Heights, which was also their territory (Foner). Later in the year, General Brock passed away, and Americans with their new army in Kentucky made a try to recover Detroit, but they lost again and gave up trying to invade Canada.

As the year, 1813 begun there were campaigns in Upper Canada, and it was during this time that American militia made way to Upper Canada’s capital seizing the town and occupying it. According to Benn (90) that in May that year the Americans left the capital of Upper Canada to seize Fort George and it was a success, however, they did not manage to capture the army and their general. After a month, part of the American army in Fort George left and the British army, which had time to prepare, made an attack on them at Stoney Creek. This led to the capturing of two American army generals and the defeat of the Americans who made flee to Niagara. As Roosevelt (123) writes, the American army made another attack at Beaver Dams and lost again they left Fort George. However, before moving, they set Niagara ablaze, and it was due to the repeat of such incidents that finally the British set Washington on fire in August.

The war between American army and British was also ongoing on the western flank, but despite their trials, the British did not manage to defeat the Americans. Benn (95) argues that it was under the command of American commandant Oliver Perry that they were able to capture the whole British army that was involved in the attack, the western flank was now an American territory and the British gave up Detroit. American army did invade Lower Canada too during the war. However, the British army was in large numbers here thus outnumbering the American army and defeating them (Foner).

In the year 1814, the American army made a last try at invading Upper Canada seizing Fort Erie on 3 July (Foner). The war grew gruesome as both parties were in the war for Niagara and on July 25, the war ended in a tie. After this, the American army drew to Fort Erie, and after a standstill of three months they drew to Niagara, Roosevelt (121) emphasizes that this was a marking of the end of the war in Upper Canada. However, in September the British armies set out to attack and occupy American territories such as Northern New York. Despite their defensive strategies, the British face defeat in Plattsburgh this was on 11 September 1814. Therefore, the British army, which was under General Prevost, drew from Plattsburgh (Benn, 92). The upper part of New York would be part of Canada if Britain would win.

The Treaty of Ghent and the End of the War

Both nations were growing weary due to the fighting not only that, but they also had satisfaction with most of the outcome. Therefore, both nations made their delegations known by sending them to a neutral area known as Ghent. Another factor that made the Americans involve themselves positively in the treaty was due to Britain’s abuse, which was blocking and seizing American ships and high taxation was leading to the bankruptcy of the government. In August 1814, the treaty of Ghent was in the making, and the withdrawal of British army from Plattsburgh did affect this treaty process (Foner). The British had to reduce the number of demands they were making for the treaty due to their loss. According to Roosevelt (122), the British terms were such as creating an Indian state that would act as a barrier in the northwest of America. The real motive for this was to prevent the expanding of America.

The British also made a demand to have control over Mississippi River and Great Lakes, however; the Americans could not comply with these demands. Foner asserts that the peace negotiators from Britain who were at Ghent due to the treaty had to accept the terms of the treaty due to their failure in Plattsburgh (Foner). However, the Americans issues of abuse of their maritime rights and impressment were not in consideration in the treaty. The signing of the treaty took place on 24 December, it was put in effect, however, Britain was not aware, and America too was in the dark. Therefore, the two nations were still hostile to each other leading to the war known as ‘Battle of New Orleans.’

The British army made an attack on Louisiana on 8 January 1815 but did not succeed, and during this war period, Americans were gaining self-confidence in the country. They had national unity; their focus was now more on restoring honor to the country as Benn contends, and once they heard of the treaty they made a stop to military operations (Benn 80). To most Americans, this second war was like one of independence since it did enable the country to grow a lot since it was a source of inspiration and motivation to them. Despite most of their demands not being in consideration, they were happy since there was peace and the Indians were no longer a threat to them.

Aftermath of the War

The American slaves in Britain did not come back according to Benn (88) many of the slaves who were able to make it back to America were those who escaped the war. Despite Americans holding protests for their own to return home as enslaving them was a violation of the treaty, the British did not return the slaves. The Americans put their focus on building the nation and renovating Washington, which had been set ablaze during the war. The victory was of all nations that is Britain, Canada, and America thus despite the losses that came with the war of 1812; it also led to lots of benefits. However, the Indians were at a loss due to this war since their hopes for the creation of an Indian state and it being a British colony did not happen (Foner). Due to the treaty and British no longer taking concern with American invasion the Americans later made the Indian Territory theirs since they did not have power.


In conclusion, the war of 1812 was necessary, and Langguth (451) supports this by stating that many of America’s goals came to life due to this war. Canada was able to develop a national identity and pride due to the war as they held the belief that it was they who won the war. U.S.As administrations also changed due to the war and world events became different. Federalist Party also ended, and patriotism was highly developing after the treaty was in effect.

Works Cited

Benn, Carl. The War of 1812. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 5th ed., WW Norton & Co, 2017.

Langguth, A. Jack. Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence. Simon and Schuster, 2006.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The naval war of 1812. Open Road Media, 2016.

Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. Vintage, 2010.

June 26, 2023

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