The War of 1812 – First Invasion (History Channel Video)



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The War of 1812 – First Invasion (History Channel Video)
Known in history as the “Forgotten War”, the War of 1812 played a crucial role in helping America form its Identity
The War of 1812 gave the United States a new standing in the world. It was a defining

moment in American history.

It was the first test of the United State’s endurance and unity as a young nation.
At this time in history, shipping (commerce/trade) was very important in America.

Shipbuilding and working as sailors or in the maritime industry was big in America.
Great Britain (England) was fighting a war with France at this time. Because the British were always looking for sailors to serve in the British navy, they were stopping American shipping vessels (boats) on the high seas, taking American sailors, and forcing/impressing them into the British navy. (5,000 sailors from American ships were taken).
In addition to this, the British are encouraging the Native Americans to fight the American settlers and pioneers and are arming them with weapons .
In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson issues the Embargo Act. This Act basically stated that….


  • The United States is not to trade with other nations.

This act backfired and hurt United State’s trade quite a bit. President Jefferson and congress repeal (cancel) the act.
After Thomas Jefferson’s presidency ends, James Madison takes over as the president of the United States. Standing only 5 feet 4 inches tall, President James Madison was not a big figure. Known to many people the nation as, “Little Jimmy”, James Madison was a very intelligent person.
In June of 1812, James Madison asks the United State’s congress to declare war with Britain. His reasons given are:

  1. British interference with U.S. trade

  2. British inciting and encouraging of the Native Americans to attack the white settlers and pioneers on the frontier.

  3. British impressments of US sailors in our territorial control.


Britain is trying to reclaim the American land won during the American Revolutionary War.
There was a group of Americans who were claiming that Britain was to blame for the Native American uprisings on the frontier. They were eager to go to war with Britain. These people were called, War Hawks.
The United States was not ready to go to war with Britain at this time. The American military at this time is not well-organized, trained, or does not have strong leadership in the beginning.
British army is well-trained, determined, and has good leadership

The United States does not have a navy to match Britains.


The beginning of the war finds the United States to be unprepared and losing. The ship, The U.S.S. Constitution fights the famous British warship, The Guerriera ( a ship known for impressing US sailors) and fights it well. It fights bravely at sea and is given the nickname

Old Ironsides.”


Early in 1814, Britain defeats Napoleon and ends its war with France. Once France is out of the way, Britain sends many more soldiers over to the United States to fight.
Burning of Washington, D.C.

The British army raids many towns up and down the countryside along the Chesapeake, burning American towns, killing and raping civilians and women.


British march into Washington, D.C. and burn many important government buildings ( including the Capitol, the White House, the national library ). “Destroy and lay waste” are the orders given to the British army.
First Lady, Dolly Madison risked her life to save a famous portrait of George Washington for future generations. She finally evacuated the city.
On August 25, 1814, a fierce storm (hurricane) hits Washington, D.C. A tornado even touches down, killing some British soldiers.
Defense of Ft. McHenry and Baltimore:

American Major George Armistead is in charge of guarding the entrance to the city of Baltimore, Maryland.


American merchants were willing to sink/destroy their own ships to block the way. A man-made reef that prevented the British fleet from getting any closer to Baltimore from the water.
Mary Pickersgill , and others make a large U.S. flag. It is called, “Stars and Stripes” Flag. The flag was huge. It measured 30 ft. by 42 ft. Major George Armistead wanted to be sure the British could see the US flag flying high above the fort.
On September 11th, 1814 the British naval fleet is seen. The British attack was a combined attack by land and by sea. ( 50 British naval ships along with 4,000 British soldiers by land via North Point, outside Baltimore, Maryland).
During the land part of the battle, British General Robert Ross is fatally shot and killed at North Point. His death affected the British army. The British army had difficulty recovering from the loss of their well-liked leader.
During the sea part of the battle, an American lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key

was watching the bombardment of the American fort by the British navy. He was watching the battle about 8 miles away on a British ship being temporarily detained their during the assault of Ft. McHenry. The British navy pounded the fort constantly with bombs and cannon.



  • 190lb. cast iron bombs

  • 30” mortar shells

The lights to Baltimore are turned off to prevent the British from seeing the fort.


Fort McHenry is not taken. Baltimore is safe! The British fleet leaves Baltimore. Francis Scott Key takes out a pen and writes down his thoughts of what he saw as an eyewitness.
The words are later turned into a poem called, “The Defense of Fort McHenry”

The poem was put to the British tune, To Anacreon in Heaven, a popular British drinking song from the late 1700’s.


Finally, In 1931, The US Congress officially approves the song as the national anthem.

The Star Spangled Banner.
British and American representatives begin discussing peace talks in Ghent, Belgium in the fall of 1814. While these talks are going on, the British are planning to attack the American city of New Orleans.
Andrew Jackson is in charge of defending New Orleans for the Americans. Because word of the peace treaty never reaches New Orleans in time, the Battle of New Orleans happens. It is a huge victory for the United States and makes a hero of general Andrew Jackson.
The War of 1812 was a defining moment in American history. It proved that America was indeed a free, democratic and independent nation. The United States of America emerged with a clearer identity and purpose as a young nation.


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