Military Veterans Project


War of 1812

June 1812 to February 1815

Background

A conflict between the United States, the United Kingdom, and their respective allies. When Britain and France entered into the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 US foreign trade suffered as Napoleon forbade neutrals to trade with Britain, and Britain forbade neutrals to trade with France.

As the Napoleonic Wars depleted British Naval Forces US merchant vessels were targeted for search and impressment of sailors. In 1807 the British detained the US Frigate Chesapeake resulting in the death of three and wounding of 18 US Sailors. In response President Jefferson prohibited US trade with Britain and France. In December 1807 Jefferson convinced Congress to pass the Embargo Act prohibiting all US trade with any foreign country causing economic issues for the US with little impact against the British. With the election of James Madison the British were still patrolling the US coast and stopping vessels and impressing US sailors. Madison's efforts to stop a conflict with Britain failed as Congress was dominated by "War Hawks", young Democratic and Republican congressmen from the West and South led by Henry Clay. Retaliation against British impressment policy was primary. The British agents in Canada were also inciting the Indians against the US. An 1811 incident in Canada which resulted in British casualties caused the British to supply local Indians who then raided US frontier settlements. The American Declaration of War was signed June 18, 1812.

"Madison's War" was not supported by New England resulting in lack of action by Congress. The US land forces were ill-prepared for war with 60,000 only US troops and 470,000 untrained volunteers and militia. US Naval victories caused the tightening of the British blockade. A raid of the US Coast by British troops lead to the occupation of Washington, D.C. on August 24, 1814. The Capitol, White House and other buildings were burned in retaliation for destruction wrought by the US in Canada. The British turned toward Baltimore, but Ft. McHenry and Maryland Militia fended off the British assault. The fighting was immortalized in Frances Scott Key's poem "Defense of Ft McHenry".

The loss of trade and costs of war drove the US close to bankruptcy. Across the Atlantic British subjects were fighting War Taxes and wanted trade with the US reopened. Peace negotiations began in August 1814 with The Treaty of Ghent signed December 24, 1814. The British invasion of Louisiana which ended with the Battle of New Orleans, January 1815, was a major loss for the British. As news of the treaty reached the US all military operations halted. The Treaty was ratified on February 17, 1815 ending the war.

Veterans of the War of 1812 or their heirs were granted "Bounty Land Warrants" a practice begun during the Revolutionary War as means of acquiring and rewarding volunteers for military service.

Veterans of the War of 1812 along with prior wars did not initially receive a pension. Pensions were reserved for those veterans disabled during the war or to the heirs of soldiers who died during the war. An act of February 14, 1871 and a subsequent act of February 17, 1878 granted pensions to surviving soldiers and sailors of the War of 1812 who served at least 14 days and were honorably discharged. Widows of veterans were also granted pensions.

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Orange County California Genealogical Society
c/o Huntington Beach Central Library
7111 Talbert Avenue
Huntington Beach, California 92648

(714) 536-5549

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