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1814: disaster and triumph

The Americans won the Battle of New Orleans after the War of 1812 ended.
The Americans won the Battle of New Orleans after the War of 1812 ended.
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War dominated the western world in 1814. The Napoleonic Wars engulfed Europe and spilled over to America. The United States went to war with Britain in 1812 over British privations on the high seas. A second string British army dominated their American counterparts while the U.S. Navy achieved surprising victories. Britain and her allies finally defeated Napoleon in 1814 and placed Louis XVIII on the French throne. This freed up British forces to combat the United States with full force. In 1814, the British ran wild in America, burnt Washington D.C. to the ground, and appeared on the verge of victory. Eventually, the two sides signed a peace treaty as Andrew Jackson achieved a decisive victory over the British as the Federalist Party committed suicide by discussing secession.

The Napoleonic Wars appeared over in 1814. The allies routed Napoleon, marched into Paris, and installed Louis XVIII on the French throne. Napoleon went into exile on Elba while the victors began to reorganize the continent. Meanwhile, the British needed to finish the war in America. Napoleon's temporary exile freed millions of soldiers for duty overseas. This changed the game in America. The United States needed to end the war before the full might of the British Empire pummeled the young nation.

The American army struggled against the British in the War of 1812. They relied too much upon citizen militias. The militias often refused to leave their home states, obey orders, and often fled when confronted. Many refused to fight in Canada. The U.S. and British engaged at Niagara Falls, Ontario in the Battle of Lundy's Lane. The fight ended in a stalemate, but American losses necessitated retreat. As a result, Lundy's Lane ended in British victory. It left the United States on the defensive in Canada for the remainder of the conflict.

The British army scored a bigger success in Washington D.C. They completely routed American forces at Bladensburg opening the road to the American capitol. First Lady Dolley Madison escaped as cannon balls exploded. The British marched into the city on August 24, held a mock session of Congress, ate at the White House, and torched federal buildings. They burnt the White House, Capitol, and several federal facilities but left private buildings and homes alone.

Following the burning of Washington D.C., the British continued to push their advantage. They attacked Baltimore and Fort McHenry in September. At that moment, Francis Scott Key journeyed to the enemy side to negotiate a prisoner release. He succeeded, but found himself temporarily incarcerated. The British did not want Key to divulge his knowledge of the pending attack. Key watched helplessly as explosions rocked the fort on the night of September 13. The next morning, he saw the American flag fluttering in the breeze and wrote the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner.

While the American military seemed to be holding on against the British elsewhere, Andrew Jackson managed to score impressive victories against Native American foes. He ended the Creek War and Native American threat in Alabama. Jackson forced the Creek to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson which ceded 23 million acres in Alabama and Georgia to the United States. Jackson received a promotion for his effort and moved to defend New Orleans against the British. His victories against the Creek and British propelled General Jackson to the presidency.

Jackson defeated John Quincy Adams for the White House in 1828. While one future president ended the Creek War, another ended the War of 1812. Adams negotiated the Treaty of Ghent with the British. The belligerents signed the document on Christmas Eve. The treaty ended hostilities, but left the status quo. It did not deal with any of the issues that led to the conflict. However, the two nations hammered out their differences in short order. Additionally, communication delays meant neither side knew of the armistice until after Jackson smote the British at New Orleans in 1815.

The peace treaty and Jackson's exploits at New Orleans signaled the end of the Federalist Party. The Federalists devolved into a regional New England party. They often felt at odds with President James Madison's Democratic-Republicans. During the war, they cheered British victories and refused to allow their militiamen fight. They called a convention on December 15, 1814 to address their grievances. The Hartford Convention lasted three weeks while Federalists discussed secession and constitutional fixes to protect New England. Moderates eventually assumed control, but the public only heard the radicals. Jackson's victory and Adams' treaty completely undercut the convention. The Federalists appeared treasonous to most Americans. The party decline that began in 1800 accelerated dramatically. In 1820, Democratic-Republican President James Monroe ran unopposed.

The War of 1812 finally ended in 1814. The Napoleonic Wars end allowed the British to turn on their pesky American enemy. The conflict dominated the American landscape that year. American military incompetence allowed the British to burn Washington D.C. Despite the problems, Andrew Jackson managed to score major victories on the frontier. Eventually, peace arrived just in time for the Federalist Party to commit suicide. The Hartford Convention made the Federalists look treasonous and led to their end. As a result, 1815 ushered in a new era in American history.