THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 30-Jan. 6)

December 31, 2012 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

The First Year

It has been a year of surprises — pleasant and unpleasant — for both sides in the conflict known alternately as “The Second American Revolution” and “Canada’s War of Independence.”

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

The Americans saw two major frontier forts, Mackinac and Detroit — both in Michigan — fall to the British, Canadians and their Indian allies with barely a shot fired. Three other U.S. post — Fort Dearborn in Illinois and Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne, both in Indiana — came under attack by Native Americans. Fort Dearborn was evacuated and about a score of its inhabitants — both soldier and civilian — were massacred. The fort, standing in what is now downtown Chicago, was burned to the ground.

British troops and Canadian militia — sometimes with the assistance of Native Americans (or First Nations as they are known in Canada) — were able to repulse three clumsy invasions of Canada by poorly led U.S. troops, but with the loss of one of their most skilled leaders: Major. Gen. Isaac Brock, who was killed at Queenston Heights in present day Ontario, Canada.

The Americans were more successful at sea, defeating three British frigates — the Guerriere, Macedonian and Java — while losing some smaller ships like the sloop USS Wasp.  Meanwhile, the Royal Navy expanded a blockade of U.S. ports from New England to Georgia.

The first year of the war, which began in June 1812 showed how ill prepared the armies on both sides were.

The American troops consisted mostly of state militias and volunteers commanded by elderly veterans of the Revolution or younger men who were eager but often inexperienced.

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Still at war with Napoleon in Europe, the British could spare but few troops to defend Canada or invade the United States. Instead the burden of war fell on Canadian militiamen who often had little training or supplies. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh threw in his lot with the British, hoping a U.S. defeat would put a halt to the Americans’ relentless expansion into tribal lands stretching West from the 13 original colonies into what was then called the Old Northwest (a region around the Great Lakes that would generate the future states of Indiana, Illinois,  Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota). Tecumseh’s attempt to unite all the tribes east of the Mississippi River against the Americans set the  frontier aflame in 1812, leading to attacks on settlements and Army posts.


This will be the last installment of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 as a weekly feature on 4GWAR.

In the future we will focus on significant developments like the battles of  Lake Erie, Bladensburg, Fort McHenry and New Orleans. The first posting, in late January, will explore the Battle of Frenchtown and the River Raisin massacre.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Your 4GWAR Editor


Entry filed under: Lessons Learned, Naval Warfare, SHAKO, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (Dec. 28, 2012) 4GWAR Blog News: 2012 in review

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