THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (November 23-November 29, 1814)

November 23, 2014 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

A World In Motion.

November 25

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane (National Galleries, Scotland)

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane
(National Galleries, Scotland)

The British invasion fleet that has been building up in the Caribbean since early fall sets sail from Negril Bay, Jamaica for Louisiana.

The Royal Navy’s Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane commands a small armada of more than 60 warships, ranging from frigates and bomb ships to sloops, gunboats and troop transports. Some 4,000 soldiers, many of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe under the Duke of Wellington, form the land force of this invasion. Cochrane, who oversaw the failed attack on Fort McHenry outside Baltimore in September,  is the overall commander. The ground troops were to be commanded by Major General  Robert Ross, but he was killed at the battle of North Point outside of Baltimore. The new commander, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham, Wellington’s brother-in-law, is still in Europe and will take weeks to catch up to Cochrane’s fleet.

Meanwhile Major General Andrew Jackson is making his way with an “army” of less than 2,000 regulars and militia from Mobile to New Orleans. Jackson has sent word to President Madison and the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee to send more troops to help him defend New Orleans.

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November 27

The chief negotiators at Ghent, Britain's Fleet Admiral Lord James Gambier (left) and the United States' John Quincy Adams (right). Detail from a painting in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The chief negotiators at Ghent, Britain’s Fleet Admiral Lord James Gambier (left) and the United States’ John Quincy Adams (right).
Detail from a painting in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In the Flemish city of Ghent, where U.S. and British officials are trying to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war, the British change course.

Flush with the news of the routing of U.S. troops at Bladensburg, Maryland and the subsequent burning of most public buildings in Washington in August, the British thought victory was at hand and offered to end hostilities with both sides keeping the territory seized during the war. That would leave the British in control of a big chunk of Maine and most of the Upper Mississippi Valley — as well as a key fort (Mackinac) where lakes Michigan and Superior meet. Since the Americans have abandoned their footholds on Canadian soil opposite Detroit in the West and across from Buffalo, New York in the East, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Not surprisingly, they rejected the British offer in October.

But now word has reached London — and Ghent — of the simultaneous British failures to take Plattsburgh — and strategic Lake Champlain — in northern New York and Baltimore, Maryland on the Atlantic Coast. In just two days in September, British arms suffered two strategic setbacks — although the third part of the three-pronged assault on America in late 1814 (through Louisiana) has just begun.

No longer holding the winning hand they thought they had, the British government shifts its treaty demands from “we keep captured territory that we hold now” (the concept know as “utis posseditis”) to “let’s go back to the way things were before the shooting started in June 1812.” It’s a diplomatic/legal concept known as  “status quo ante bellum.” The stalled negotiations pick up again with this development.

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Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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