The Second War for Independence

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The War of 1812- “The Second War for Independence”


In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of France, started a war with Britain. The United States was not involved in this war at all and only wanted to continue freely trading with both countries. However, the British and the French began to capture American ships which were headed to Europe to trade! This was called impressment. Americans became very angry with this interference with shipping because not only were their ships getting captured; they were not making any money on trading their goods.

By 1812, Americans had enough of the British impressment and declared war on the country. The leaders in Congress who demanded war with Britain were called War-Hawks and were led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. James Madison was the president at the time and figured that the war should be quick and easy to win. The War of 1812 ended up lasting two years.

The Early War in Canada

One of the major battle areas during the War of 1812 was in Canada. In this area, British troops encouraged Native Americans to attack American settlements and provided them with weapons. The Americans decided to try and take over Canada, which was owned by Great Britain. Although Americans destroyed many towns and cities in Canada, they lost the fight, mainly because of the Native American leader Tecumseh. He disliked the Americans because they continued to take over Indian lands in North America, driving the Natives off their lands. So, Tecumseh sided with the British and secured their success in Canada.

The War on U.S. Soil

The British were so upset by the destruction in Canada, that they decided to burn the American capital in Washington D.C. President Madison was not home when this occurred, but his wife, Dolley Madison, was. Many government buildings including the White House were burned to the ground. Fortunately, Dolley saved as many important things as she could. This included important government paperwork and the painting of George Washington.

As the war continued through 1814, the British tried to capture Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. As this battle ended, Francis Scott Key saw the American flag raised in victory at the fort. He was inspired to write a song about the flag. He called it the “Star Spangled Banner”. This song later became our country’s national anthem.

The End of the War

In January 1815, the British set their eyes on the port of New Orleans in Louisiana. Andrew Jackson, a successful general for the American army, led his men into the Battle of New Orleans. He won the battle by a landslide, defeating the British. Ironically, the battle never even needed to be fought. The British and Americans signed a peace treaty in December of 1814 called The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war.

Effects of the War

The effects of the War of 1812 changed America drastically. The power and strength of the Native Americans would begin to weaken as Americans continued to take their lands. U.S. manufacturing would grow! America learned a valuable lesson from the War of 1812. We could not rely on foreign nations to supply goods we need for ourselves. We learned we needed to start making manufactured goods ourselves. Finally, American patriotism will soar. We were proud of ourselves for standing up to Britain again. We stood our ground and gained the respect of the world.

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