War of 1812 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Historians have long debated the relative weight of the multiple reasons underlying the United States declaration of war.

Honor and the second war of independence

As Risjord (1961) notes, a powerful motivation for the Americans was the desire to uphold "national honor" in the face of what they considered to be British insults such as the Chesapeake affair. Brands says, "The other war hawks spoke of the struggle with Britain as a second war of independence; [Andrew] Jackson, who still bore scars from the first war of independence held that view with special conviction. The approaching conflict was about violations of American rights, but was it also about vindication of American identity".[10] People at the time and historians since often called it America's "Second War of Independence."[11]

Trade with France

In 1807, Britain introduced a series of trade restrictions via a series of Orders in Council to impede American trade with France, with which Britain was at war. The United States contested these restrictions as illegal under international law.[12] Also, historian Reginald Horsman states, "a large section of influential British opinion, both in the government and in the country, thought that America presented a threat to British maritime supremacy".

The American merchant marine had come close to doubling between 1802 and 1810, making it by far the largest neutral fleet. Britain was the largest trading partner, receiving 80% of U.S. cotton and 50% of other U.S. exports. The British public and press were resentful of the growing mercantile and commercial competition. The United States' view was that Britain's restrictions violated its right to trade with others.


During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy expanded to 175 ships of the line and 600 ships overall, requiring 140,000 sailors to man. While the Royal Navy could man its ships with volunteers in peacetime, it competed in wartime with merchant shipping and privateers for a small pool of experienced sailors and turned to impressment when it could not operate ships with volunteers alone. Britain did not recognize the right of a British subject to relinquish his status as a British subject, emigrate and transfer his national allegiance as a naturalized citizen to any other country. Thus while the United States recognized British-born sailors on American ships as Americans, Britain did not. It was estimated that there were 11,000 naturalized sailors on United States ships in 1805. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin stated that 9,000 were born in Britain.[16] The Royal Navy went after them by intercepting and searching U.S. merchant ships for deserters. Impressment actions such as the Leander Affair and the Chesapeake–Leopard Affair outraged Americans, because they infringed on national sovereignty and denied America's ability to naturalize foreigners. Moreover, a great number of British sailors serving as naturalized Americans on U.S. ships were Irish. An investigation by Captain Isaac Chauncey in 1808 found that 58% of the sailors based in New York City were either naturalized citizens or recent immigrants, the majority of foreign sailors (134 of 150) being from Britain. Moreover, eighty of the 134 British sailors were Irish. The US Navy also forcibly recruited British sailors but the British government saw impressment as commonly accepted practice and preferred to rescue British sailors from American impressment on a case-by-case basis.[19]

The United States believed that British deserters had a right to become United States citizens. Britain did not recognize naturalized United States citizenship, so in addition to recovering deserters, it considered United States citizens born British liable for impressment. Aggravating the situation was the widespread use of forged identity or protection papers by sailors. This made it difficult for the Royal Navy to distinguish Americans from non-Americans and led it to impress some Americans who had never been British. (Some gained freedom on appeal.) American anger at impressment grew when British frigates were stationed just outside U.S. harbors in view of U.S. shores and searched ships for contraband and impressed men while in U.S. territorial waters. "Free trade and sailors' rights" was a rallying cry for the United States throughout the conflict.

British support for American Indian raids

The Northwest Territory, comprising the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, was the battleground for conflict between the Indian Nations and the United States. The British Empire had ceded the area to the United States in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, both sides ignoring the fact that the land was already inhabited by various Indian nations. These included the Miami, Winnebago, Shawnee, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Delaware and Wyandot. Some warriors, who had left their nations of origin, followed Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet and the brother of Tecumseh. Tenskwatawa had a vision of purifying his society by expelling the "children of the Evil Spirit": the American settlers. Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh formed a confederation of numerous tribes to block American expansion. The British saw the Indian nations as valuable allies and a buffer to its Canadian colonies and provided arms. Attacks on American settlers in the Northwest further aggravated tensions between Britain and the United States. The confederation's raids and existence hindered American expansion into rich farmlands in the Northwest Territory. Pratt writes:

There is ample proof that the British authorities did all in their power to hold or win the allegiance of the Indians of the Northwest with the expectation of using them as allies in the event of war. Indian allegiance could be held only by gifts, and to an Indian no gift was as acceptable as a lethal weapon. Guns and ammunition, tomahawks and scalping knives were dealt out with some liberality by British agents.

Raiding grew more common in 1810 and 1811; Westerners in Congress found the raids intolerable and wanted them permanently ended.

However, according to the U.S Army Center of Military History, the "land-hungry frontiersmen", with "no doubt that their troubles with the Indians were the result of British intrigue", exacerbated the problem by "[circulating stories] after every Indian raid of British Army muskets and equipment being found on the field". Thus, "the westerners were convinced that their problems could best be solved by forcing the British out of Canada".[28]

The British had the long-standing goal of creating a large "neutral" Indian state that would cover much of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. They made the demand as late as the fall of 1814 at the peace conference, but lost control of western Ontario in 1813 at key battles on and around Lake Erie. These battles destroyed the Indian confederacy which had been the main ally of the British in the region, and which would make up the proposed neutral state. Although the area remained under British or British-allied Indians' control until the end of the war, it became a less practicable idea. At American insistence, and with higher priorities, the British dropped the demands.

American expansionism

American expansion into the Northwest Territory was being obstructed by indigenous leaders like Tecumseh, who were supplied and encouraged by the British. Americans on the western frontier demanded that interference be stopped. There is dispute, however, over whether or not the American desire to annex Canada brought on the war. Several historians believe that the capture of Canada was intended only as a means to secure a bargaining chip, which would then be used to force Britain to back down on the maritime issues. It would also cut off food supplies for Britain's West Indian colonies, and temporarily prevent the British from continuing to arm the Indians.[32] However, a significant minority of historians believes that a desire to annex Canada was a cause of the war. This view was more prevalent before 1940, but continues to be held by a number of historians.[39][40] The U.S. Army Center for Military History compares War Hawks' desire to annex the Canadas to the enthusiasm for the annexation of Spanish Florida by inhabitants of the American South.[28] Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson told Congress that the constant Indian atrocities along the Wabash River in Indiana were enabled by supplies from Canada and were proof that, "the war has already commenced. ... I shall never die contended until I see England's expulsion from North America and her territories incorporated into the United States."[46]

Upper Canada (modern southern Ontario) had mostly been settled by Revolution-era exiles from the United States (United Empire Loyalists) or postwar American immigrants. The Loyalists were hostile to union with the United States, while the immigrant settlers were generally uninterested in politics and remained neutral or supported the British during the war. The Canadian colonies were thinly populated and only lightly defended by the British Army. Americans then believed that many men in Upper Canada would rise up and greet an American invading army as liberators. That did not happen. One reason American forces retreated after one successful battle inside Canada was that they could not obtain supplies from the locals. But the Americans thought that the possibility of local support suggested an easy conquest, as former President Thomas Jefferson believed: "The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent".

Annexation was supported by American businessmen who wanted to gain control of Great Lakes trade.[49]

Stagg has examined at the fate of the expansionist cause proposed by Hacker and Pratt in the 1920s:

this 'expansionist' interpretation of the war can still be found in textbooks currently in use in the nation's high schools. It has also compounded popular confusion about the war by perpetuating an arid dispute over what should be deemed to be its 'real' or most important causes. Were these causes international or domestic in origin? That debate became both interminable and insoluble. Consequently, a new generation of historians by the 1960s ... repudiated the views of Hacker and Pratt.

Maass argued in 2015 that the expansionist theme is a myth that goes against the "relative consensus among experts that the primary U.S. objective was the repeal of British maritime restrictions". He argues that consensus among scholars is that the United States went to war "because six years of economic sanctions had failed to bring Britain to the negotiating table, and threatening the Royal Navy’s Canadian supply base was their last hope." Maass agrees that theoretically expansionism might have tempted Americans, but finds that "leaders feared the domestic political consequences of doing so. Notably, what limited expansionism there was focused on sparsely populated western lands rather than the more populous eastern settlements [of Canada]."[50]

David and Jeanne Heidler argue that "acquiring Canada would [have] satisfied America's expansionist desires", also describing it as a key goal of western expansionists, who, they argue, believed that "eliminating the British presence in Canada would best accomplish" their goal of halting British support for Indian raids. They argue that the "enduring debate" is over the relative importance of expansionism as a factor, and whether "expansionism played a greater role in causing the War of 1812 than American concern about protecting neutral maritime rights." [51]

U.S. political conflict

While the British government was largely oblivious to the deteriorating North-American situation because of its involvement in a continent-wide European War, the U.S. was in a period of significant political conflict between the Federalist Party (based mainly in the Northeast), which favored a strong central government and closer ties to Britain, and the Republicans (with its greatest power base in the South and West), which favored a weak central government, preservation of slavery, expansion into Indian land, and a stronger break with Britain. By 1812, the Federalist Party had weakened considerably, and the Republicans, with James Madison completing his first term of office and control of Congress, were in a strong position to pursue their more aggressive agenda against Britain.[52] Throughout the war, support for the U.S. cause was weak (or sometimes non-existent) in Federalist areas of the Northeast. Few men volunteered to serve; the banks avoided financing the war. The negatavism of the Federalists, especially as exemplified by the Hartford Convention of 1814–15 ruined its reputation and the Party survived only in scattered areas. By 1815 there was broad support for the war from all parts of the country. This allowed the triumphant Republicans to adopt some Federalist policies, such as a national bank, which Madison reestablished in 1816.[53][54]

The war was conducted in three theatres:

  1. At sea, principally the Atlantic Ocean and the east coast of North America
  2. The Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier
  3. The Southern states and southwestern territories

Atlantic theatre

Opening strategies

In 1812, Britain's Royal Navy was the world's largest, with over 600 cruisers in commission and some smaller vessels. Although most of these were involved in blockading the French navy and protecting British trade against (usually French) privateers, the Royal Navy still had 85 vessels in American waters, counting all British Navy vessels in North American and the Caribbean waters.[83] But, the Royal Navy's North American squadron based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which bore the brunt of the war, numbered one small ship of the line, seven frigates, nine smaller sloops and brigs along with five schooners. By contrast, the United States Navy comprised 8 frigates, 14 smaller sloops and brigs, and no ships of the line. The U.S. had embarked on a major shipbuilding program before the war at Sackets Harbor, New York and continued to produce new ships. Three of the existing American frigates were exceptionally large and powerful for their class, larger than any British frigate in North America. Whereas the standard British frigate of the time was rated as a 38 gun ship, usually carrying up to 50 guns, with its main battery consisting of 18-pounder guns; the USS Constitution, President, and United States, in comparison, were rated as 44-gun ships, carrying 56–60 guns with a main battery of 24-pounders.

The British strategy was to protect their own merchant shipping to and from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies, and to enforce a blockade of major American ports to restrict American trade. Because of their numerical inferiority, the American strategy was to cause disruption through hit-and-run tactics, such as the capture of prizes and engaging Royal Navy vessels only under favorable circumstances. Days after the formal declaration of war, however, it put out two small squadrons, including the frigate President and the sloop Hornet under Commodore John Rodgers, and the frigates United States and Congress, with the brig Argus under Captain Stephen Decatur. These were initially concentrated as one unit under Rodgers, who intended to force the Royal Navy to concentrate its own ships to prevent isolated units being captured by his powerful force.

Large numbers of American merchant ships were returning to the United States with the outbreak of war, and if the Royal Navy was concentrated, it could not watch all the ports on the American seaboard. Rodgers' strategy worked, in that the Royal Navy concentrated most of its frigates off New York Harbor under Captain Philip Broke, allowing many American ships to reach home. But, Rodgers' own cruise captured only five small merchant ships, and the Americans never subsequently concentrated more than two or three ships together as a unit.[citation needed]

Single-ship actions

Meanwhile, the Constitution, commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, sailed from Chesapeake Bay on July 12. On July 17, Broke's British squadron gave chase off New York, but the Constitution evaded her pursuers after two days. After briefly calling at Boston to replenish water, on August 19, the Constitutionengaged the British frigateHMS Guerriere. After a 35-minute battle, Guerriere had been dis-masted and captured and was later burned. The Constitution earned the nickname "Old Ironsides" following this battle as many of the British cannonballs were seen to bounce off her hull. Hull returned to Boston with news of this significant victory. On October 25, the United States, commanded by Captain Decatur, captured the British frigate HMS Macedonian, which he then carried back to port. At the close of the month, the Constitution sailed south, now under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. On December 29, off Bahia, Brazil, she met the British frigate HMS Java. After a battle lasting three hours, Javastruck her colors and was burned after being judged unsalvageable. The Constitution, however, was relatively undamaged in the battle.[citation needed]

The successes gained by the three big American frigates forced Britain to construct five 40-gun, 24-pounder heavy frigates and two "spar-decked" frigates (the 60-gun HMS Leander and HMS Newcastle) and to razee three old 74-gun ships of the line to convert them to heavy frigates. The Royal Navy acknowledged that there were factors other than greater size and heavier guns. The United States Navy's sloops and brigs had also won several victories over Royal Navy vessels of approximately equal strength. While the American ships had experienced and well-drilled volunteer crews, the enormous size of the overstretched Royal Navy meant that many ships were shorthanded and the average quality of crews suffered. The constant sea duties of those serving in North America interfered with their training and exercises.

The capture of the three British frigates stimulated the British to greater exertions. More vessels were deployed on the American seaboard and the blockade tightened. On June 1, 1813, off Boston Harbor, the frigate Chesapeake, commanded by Captain James Lawrence, was captured by the British frigate HMS Shannon under Captain Philip Broke. Lawrence was mortally wounded and famously cried out, "Don't give up the ship! Hold on, men!" The two frigates were of near-identical size. Chesapeake ‍ '​s crew was larger but most had not served or trained together. British citizens reacted with celebration and relief that the run of American victories had ended. Notably, this action was by ratio one of the bloodiest contests recorded during this age of sail, with more dead and wounded than HMS Victory suffered in four hours of combat at Trafalgar. Captain Lawrence was killed and Captain Broke was so badly wounded that he never again held a sea command.

In January 1813, the American frigate Essex, under the command of Captain David Porter, sailed into the Pacific to harass British shipping. Many British whaling ships carried letters of marque allowing them to prey on American whalers, and they nearly destroyed the industry. The Essex challenged this practice. She inflicted considerable damage on British interests before she and her tender, Essex Junior (armed with twenty guns) were captured off Valparaiso, Chile by the British frigate HMS Phoebe and the sloop HMS Cherub on March 28, 1814.

The British 6th-rate Cruizer-class brig-sloops did not fare well against the American ship-rigged sloops of war. The Hornet and Wasp constructed before the war were notably powerful vessels, and the Frolic class built during the war even more so (although Frolic was trapped and captured by a British frigate and a schooner). The British brig-rigged sloops tended to suffer fire to their rigging more frequently than the American ship-rigged sloops. In addition, the ship-rigged sloops could back their sails in action, giving them another advantage in manoeuvring.

Following their earlier losses, the British Admiralty instituted a new policy that the three American heavy frigates should not be engaged except by a ship of the line or smaller vessels in squadron strength. An example of this was the capture of the President by a squadron of four British frigates in January 1815. But, a month later, the Constitution engaged and captured two smaller British warships, HMS Cyane and HMS Levant, sailing in company.

Success in single ship battles raised American morale after the repeated failed invasion attempts in Upper and Lower Canada. However these single ship victories had no military effect on the war at sea as they did not alter the balance of naval power, impede British supplies and reinforcements, or even raise insurance rates for British trade.


The operations of American privateers proved a more significant threat to British trade than the U.S. Navy. They operated throughout the Atlantic and continued until the close of the war, most notably from ports such as Baltimore. American privateers reported taking 1300 British merchant vessels, compared to 254 taken by the U.S. Navy.[97][98][99] although the insurer Lloyd's of London reported that only 1,175 British ships were taken, 373 of which were recaptured, for a total loss of 802.[100] However the British were able to limit privateering losses by the strict enforcement of convoy by the Royal Navy and by capturing 278 American privateers. Due to the massive size of the British merchant fleet, American captures only affected 7.5% of the British merchant fleet, resulting no supply shortages or lack of reinforcements for British forces in North America.

Due to the large size of their navy, the British did not rely as much on privateering. The majority of the 1,407 captured American merchant ships were taken by the Royal Navy. The war was the last time the British allowed privateering, since the practice was coming to be seen as politically inexpedient and of diminishing value in maintaining its naval supremacy. However privateering remained popular in British colonies. It was the last hurrah for privateers Bermuda who vigorously returned to the practice after experience in previous wars.[102] The nimble Bermuda sloops captured 298 American ships. Privateer schooners based in British North America, especially from Nova Scotia took 250 American ships and proved especially effective in crippling American coastal trade and capturing American ships closer to shore than the Royal Navy cruisers.


The small British North American squadron had difficulty at the beginning of the war in blockading the entire U.S. coast, faced by the need to convoy vessels against American privateers. However as additional ships were sent to North America in 1813, the Royal Navy was able to tighten the blockade and extend it, first to the coast south of Narragansett by November 1813 and to the entire American coast on May 31, 1814.

The British government, having need of American foodstuffs for its army in Spain, benefited from the willingness of the New Englanders to trade with them, so no blockade of New England was at first attempted. The Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay were declared in a state of blockade on December 26, 1812. Illicit trade was carried on by collusive captures arranged between American traders and British officers. American ships were fraudulently transferred to neutral flags. Eventually, the U.S. government was driven to issue orders to stop illicit trading; this put only a further strain on the commerce of the country. The overpowering strength of the British fleet enabled it to occupy the Chesapeake and to attack and destroy numerous docks and harbors.

The blockade of American ports later tightened to the extent that most American merchant ships and naval vessels were confined to port. The American frigates United States and HMS Macedonian ended the war blockaded and hulked in New London, Connecticut. Some merchant ships were based in Europe or Asia and continued operations. Others, mainly from New England, were issued licences to trade by Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, commander in chief on the American station in 1813. This allowed Wellington's army in Spain to receive American goods and to maintain the New Englanders' opposition to the war. The blockade nevertheless resulted in American exports decreasing from $130 million in 1807 to $7 million in 1814. Most of these were food exports that ironically went to supply their enemies in Britain or British colonies.

As the Royal Navy base that supervised the blockade, Halifax profited greatly during the war. From that base British privateers seized many French and American ships and sold their prizes in Halifax.

Freeing and recruiting slaves

The British Royal Navy's blockades and raids allowed about 4,000 African Americans to escape slavery by fleeing American plantations to find freedom aboard British ships, a migration known as the Black Refugees. The blockading British fleet in Chesapeake Bay received increasing numbers of enslaved black Americans during 1813. They were welcomed by British government order, and were treated as free persons when reaching British hands.[105] A proclamation of April 2, 1814, offered freedom to slaves reaching British lines or ships. About 2,400 of the escaped slaves and their families who served in the Royal Navy following their escape settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during and after the war. From May 1814, younger men among the volunteers were recruited into a new Corps of Colonial Marines. They fought for Britain throughout the Atlantic campaign, including the Battle of Bladensburg and the attacks on Washington, D.C. and Battle of Baltimore, later settling in Trinidad. The slaves who escaped to the British navy represented the largest emancipation of African Americans before the American Civil War.[106]

Occupation of Maine

Maine, then part of Massachusetts, was a base for smuggling and illegal trade between the U.S. and the British. Until 1813 the region was generally quiet except for privateer actions near the coast. In September 1813, there was a notable naval action when the U.S. Navy's brig Enterprisefought and captured the Royal Navy brig Boxer off Pemaquid Point. The first British assault came in July 1814, when Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy took Moose Island (Eastport, Maine) without a shot, with the entire American garrison of Fort Sullivan—which became the British Fort Sherbrooke—surrendering. Next, from his base in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 1814, Sir John Coape Sherbrooke led 3,000 British troops in the "Penobscot Expedition". In 26 days, he raided and looted Hampden, Bangor, and Machias, destroying or capturing 17 American ships. He won the Battle of Hampden (losing two killed while the Americans lost one killed). Retreating American forces were forced to destroy the frigate Adams. The British occupied the town of Castine and most of eastern Maine for the rest of the war, re-establishing the colony of New Ireland. The Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States, though Machias Seal Island has remained in dispute. The British left in April 1815, at which time they took ₤10,750 obtained from tariff duties at Castine. This money, called the "Castine Fund", was used to establish Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Chesapeake campaign and "The Star-Spangled Banner"

The strategic location of the Chesapeake Bay near America's new national capital, Washington, D.C. on the major tributary of the Potomac River, made it a prime target for the British and their Royal Navy and the King's Army. Starting in March 1813, a squadron under Rear Admiral George Cockburn started a blockade of the mouth of the Bay at Hampton Roads harbor and raided towns along the Bay from Norfolk, Virginia to Havre de Grace, Maryland.

On July 4, 1813, CommodoreJoshua Barney, a Revolutionary War naval hero, convinced the U.S. Navy Department to build the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, a squadron of twenty barges powered by small sails or oars (sweeps) to defend the Chesapeake Bay. Launched in April 1814, the squadron was quickly cornered in the Patuxent River, and while successful in harassing the Royal Navy, they were powerless to stop the British campaign that ultimately led to the "Burning of Washington". This expedition, led by Cockburn and General Robert Ross, was carried out between August 19 and 29, 1814, as the result of the hardened British policy of 1814 (although British and American commissioners had convened peace negotiations at Ghent in June of that year). As part of this, Admiral Warren had been replaced as commander in chief by Admiral Alexander Cochrane, with reinforcements and orders to coerce the Americans into a favorable peace.

Governor-in-chief of British North America in Upper and Lower Canada, Sir George Prévost had written to the Admirals on the North American Station in Bermuda, calling for retaliation for the American sacking and burning of York (now largest city of Toronto on north shore of Lake Erie).[citation needed] A force of 2,500 soldiers under General Ross had just arrived in Bermuda aboard ""H.M.S. Royal Oak", three frigates, three sloops and ten other vessels. Released from the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal by British victory, the British intended to use them for diversionary raids along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. In response to Prévost's request, they decided to employ this force, together with the naval and military units already on the station, to strike at the "Federal City" of Washington, D.C.

On August 24, U.S. Secretary of War, John Armstrong insisted that the British would attack Baltimore rather than Washington, even when units of the British Army, accompanied by major ships of the Royal Navy, was obviously on their way to the capital. The inexperienced American militia, which had congregated at Bladensburg, Maryland, to protect the capital, were defeated in the Battle of Bladensburg, opening the route to Washington. While First Lady Dolley Madison saved valuables from the then named "President's House" (or "President's Palace" [executive mansion] - now "White House"), Fourth President James Madison and the government with members of the Presidential Cabinet, fled to Virginia.[110] Seeing that the Battle of Bladensburg, northeast of the town in rural Prince George's County was not going well, the Secretary of the Navy commanded Captain Thomas Tingey, commandant of the Washington Naval Yard on the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River (now the Anacostia River), to set the facility ablaze to prevent the capture of American naval ships, buildings, shops and supplies.[110] Tingey had overseen the Naval Yard's planning and development since the national capital had been moved from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800, and waited until the very last possible minute, nearly four hours after the order was given to execute it. The destruction included most of the facility as well as the nearly-completed frigate "Columbia" and the sloop "Argus".[111]

The British commanders ate the supper that had been prepared for the President and his departmental secretaries after returning from hopeful glorious U.S. victory, before they burned the Executive Mansion; American morale was reduced to an all-time low. The British viewed their actions as retaliation for the destructive American invasions and raids into Canada, most notably the Americans' burning of York (now Toronto) earlier in 1813. Later that same evening, a furious storm (some later weather experts called it a thunderstorm, almost a hurricane) swept into Washington, D.C., sending one or more tornadoes into the rough, unfinished town that caused more damage but finally extinguished the fires with torrential rains, leaving fire-blackened walls and partial ruins of the President's House, The Capitol, Treasury Department that were set the first night.[112] The British left Washington, D.C. the following day after the storm subsided. Also unfortunately, an explosion of the combustibles they used to finish off the Navy Yard destruction that the Americans had started, exploded, killing or maimed a large number of "Red-Coats"

Having destroyed Washington's public buildings, including the President's Mansion and the Treasury, the British army and navy next moved several weeks later to capture Baltimore, forty miles northeast, a busy port and a key base for American privateers. However by not immediately going overland to the port city they sneeringly called a "nest of pirates", but returned to their ships anchored in the Patuxent River and proceeding later up to the Upper Bay, gave the Baltimoreans plenty of time to reinforce their fortifications and gather regular U.S. Army and state militia troops from surrounding counties and states. The subsequent "Battle for Baltimore" began with the British landing on Sunday, September 12th, 1814, at North Point, where the Baltimore harbor's Patapsco River met the Chesapeake Bay, where they were met by American militia further up the "Patapsco Neck" peninsula. An exchange of fire began, with casualties on both sides. Major Gen. Robert Ross was killed by American snipers as he attempted to rally his troops in the first skirmish. The snipers were killed moments later, and the British paused, then continued to march northwestward to the stationed Maryland and Baltimore City militia units deployed further up Long Log Lane on the peninsula at "Godly Wood" where the later Battle of North Point was fought for several afternoon hours in a musketry and artillery duel under command of British Col. Arthur Brooke and American commander for the Maryland state militia and its Third Brigade (or "Baltimore City Brigade"), Brig. Gen. John Stricker. The British also planned to simultaneously attack Baltimore by water on the following day, September 13th, to support their military now arrayed facing the massed, heavily dug-in and fortified American units of approximately 15,000 with about a hundred cannon gathered along the eastern heights of the city named "Loudenschlager's Hill" (later "Hampstead Hill" - now part of Patterson Park). These overall Baltimore defenses had been planned in advance and foreseen by the state militia commander, Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith, who had been set in charge of the Baltimore defenses instead of the discredited U.S. Army commander for the Mid-Atlantic's 10th Military District (following the debacle the previous month at Bladensburg), William H. Winder). Smith had been earlier a Revolutionary War officer and commander, then wealthy city merchant and U.S. Representative, Senator and later Mayor of Baltimore. The "Red Coats" were unable to immediately reduce Fort McHenry, at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor to allow their ships to provide heavier naval gunfire to support their troops to the northeast.

At the bombardment of Fort McHenry, the British naval guns, mortars and revolutionary new "Congreve rockets" had a longer range than the American cannon onshore, and the ships mostly stood off out of the Americans' range, bombarding the fort, which returned very little fire and was not too heavily damaged during the onslaught except for a burst over a rear brickwall knocking out some fieldpieces and resulting in a few casualties. Despite however the heavy bombardment, casualties in the fort were slight and the British ships eventually realized that they could not force the passage to attack Baltimore in coordination with the land force. After a last ditch night feint and barge attack during the heavy rain storm at the time led by Capt. Charles Napier around the fort up the Middle Branch of the river to the west which was split and misdirected partly in the storm, then turned back with heavy casualties by alert gunners at supporting western batteries Fort Covington and Battery Babcock, so the British called off the attack and sailed downriver to pick up their army which had retreated from the eastside of Baltimore. All the lights were extinguished in Baltimore the night of the attack, and the fort was bombarded for 25 hours. The only light was given off by the exploding shells over Fort McHenry, illuminating the flag that was still flying over the fort. The defence of the fort inspired the American lawyer Francis Scott Key to write "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem that was set to music as "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Great Lakes and Western Territories

Invasions of Upper and Lower Canada, 1812

American leaders assumed that Canada could be easily overrun. Former President Jefferson optimistically referred to the conquest of Canada as "a matter of marching".[113] Many Loyalist Americans had migrated to Upper Canada after the Revolutionary War. There was also significant non-Loyalist American immigration to the area due to the offer of land grants to immigrants, and the U.S. assumed the latter would favor the American cause, but they did not. In prewar Upper Canada, General Prévost was in the unusual position of having to purchase many provisions for his troops from the American side. This peculiar trade persisted throughout the war in spite of an abortive attempt by the U.S. government to curtail it. In Lower Canada, which was much more populous, support for Britain came from the English elite with strong loyalty to the Empire, and from the Canadien elite, who feared American conquest would destroy the old order by introducing Protestantism, Anglicization, republican democracy, and commercial capitalism; and weakening the Catholic Church. The Canadien inhabitants feared the loss of a shrinking area of good lands to potential American immigrants.

In 1812–13, British military experience prevailed over inexperienced American commanders. Geography dictated that operations would take place in the west: principally around Lake Erie, near the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and near the Saint Lawrence River area and Lake Champlain. This was the focus of the three-pronged attacks by the Americans in 1812. Although cutting the St. Lawrence River through the capture of Montreal and Quebec would have made Britain's hold in North America unsustainable, the United States began operations first in the western frontier because of the general popularity there of a war with the British, who had sold arms to the Native Americans opposing the settlers.

The British scored an important early success when their detachment at St. Joseph Island, on Lake Huron, learned of the declaration of war before the nearby American garrison at the important trading post at Mackinac Island in Michigan. A scratch force landed on the island on July 17, 1812 and mounted a gun overlooking Fort Mackinac. After the British fired one shot from their gun, the Americans, taken by surprise, surrendered. This early victory encouraged the natives, and large numbers moved to help the British at Amherstburg. The island totally controlled access to the Old Northwest, giving the British nominal control of this area, and, more vitally, a monopoly on the fur trade.

An American army under the command of William Hull invaded Canada on July 12, with his forces chiefly composed of untrained and ill-disciplined militiamen. Once on Canadian soil, Hull issued a proclamation ordering all British subjects to surrender, or "the horrors, and calamities of war will stalk before you".[this quote needs a citation] He also threatened to kill any British prisoner caught fighting alongside a native. The proclamation helped stiffen resistance to the American attacks. Hull's army was too weak in artillery and badly supplied to achieve its objectives, and had to fight just to maintain its own lines of communication.[citation needed]

The senior British officer in Upper Canada, Major General Isaac Brock, felt that he should take bold measures to calm the settler population in Canada, and to convince the aboriginals who were needed to defend the region that Britain was strong. He moved rapidly to Amherstburg near the western end of Lake Erie with reinforcements and immediately decided to attack Detroit. Hull, fearing that the British possessed superior numbers and that the Indians attached to Brock's force would commit massacres if fighting began, surrendered Detroit without a fight on August 16. Knowing of British-instigated indigenous attacks on other locations, Hull ordered the evacuation of the inhabitants of Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Fort Wayne. After initially being granted safe passage, the inhabitants (soldiers and civilians) were attacked by Potowatomis on August 15 after travelling only 2 miles (3.2 km) in what is known as the Battle of Fort Dearborn. The fort was subsequently burned.

Brock promptly transferred himself to the eastern end of Lake Erie, where American General Stephen Van Rensselaer was attempting a second invasion. An armistice (arranged by Prévost in the hope the British renunciation of the Orders in Council to which the United States objected might lead to peace) prevented Brock from invading American territory. When the armistice ended, the Americans attempted an attack across the Niagara River on October 13, but suffered a crushing defeat at Queenston Heights. Brock was killed during the battle. While the professionalism of the American forces would improve by the war's end, British leadership suffered after Brock's death. A final attempt in 1812 by American General Henry Dearborn to advance north from Lake Champlain failed when his militia refused to advance beyond American territory.

In contrast to the American militia, the Canadian militia performed well. French Canadians, who found the anti-Catholic stance of most of the United States troublesome, and United Empire Loyalists, who had fought for the Crown during the American Revolutionary War, strongly opposed the American invasion. However, many in Upper Canada were recent settlers from the United States who had no obvious loyalties to the Crown. Nevertheless, while there were some who sympathized with the invaders, the American forces found strong opposition from men loyal to the Empire.[117]

American Northwest, 1813

After Hull's surrender of Detroit, General William Henry Harrison was given command of the U.S. Army of the Northwest. He set out to retake the city, which was now defended by Colonel Henry Procter in conjunction with Tecumseh. A detachment of Harrison's army was defeated at Frenchtown along the River Raisin on January 22, 1813. Procter left the prisoners with an inadequate guard, who could not prevent some of his North American aboriginal allies from attacking and killing perhaps as many as sixty Americans, many of whom were Kentucky militiamen.[118] The incident became known as the River Raisin Massacre. The defeat ended Harrison's campaign against Detroit, and the phrase "Remember the River Raisin!" became a rallying cry for the Americans.

In May 1813, Procter and Tecumseh set siege to Fort Meigs in northwestern Ohio. American reinforcements arriving during the siege were defeated by the natives, but the fort held out. The Indians eventually began to disperse, forcing Procter and Tecumseh to return north to Canada. A second offensive against Fort Meigs also failed in July. In an attempt to improve Indian morale, Procter and Tecumseh attempted to storm Fort Stephenson, a small American post on the Sandusky River, only to be repulsed with serious losses, marking the end of the Ohio campaign.

On Lake Erie, American commander Captain Oliver Hazard Perry fought the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. His decisive victory at "Put-In-Bay" ensured American military control of the lake, improved American morale after a series of defeats, and compelled the British to fall back from Detroit. This paved the way for General Harrison to launch another invasion of Upper Canada, which culminated in the U.S. victory at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, in which Tecumseh was killed. Tecumseh's death effectively ended the North American indigenous alliance with the British in the Fort Detroit region. American control of Lake Erie meant the British could no longer provide essential military supplies to their aboriginal allies, who therefore dropped out of the war. The Americans controlled the area during the conflict.

Niagara frontier, 1813

Because of the difficulties of land communications, control of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River corridor was crucial. When the war began, the British already had a small squadron of warships on Lake Ontario and had the initial advantage. To redress the situation, the Americans established a Navy yard at Sackett's Harbor in northwestern New York. Commodore Isaac Chauncey took charge of the large number of sailors and shipwrights sent there from New York; they completed the second warship built there in a mere 45 days. Ultimately, almost 3,000 men worked at the naval shipyard, building eleven warships and many smaller boats and transports. Having regained the advantage by their rapid building program, Chauncey and Dearborn attacked York, (future Toronto), on the northern shore of the lake, the capital of Upper Canada, on April 27, 1813. The Battle of York was a "pyrrhic" American victory, marred by looting and the burning of the small Provincial Parliament buildings and a library (resulting in a spirit of revenge by the British/Canadians led by Gov. George Prévost, who later demanded satisfaction encouraging the British Admiralty to issue orders to their officers later operating in the Chesapeake Bay region to exact similar devastation on the American Federal capital village of Washington the following year). However, Kingston was strategically much more valuable to British supply and communications routes along the St. Lawrence corridor. Without control of Kingston, the U.S. Navy could not effectively control Lake Ontario or sever the British supply line from Lower Canada.

On May 27, 1813, an American amphibious force from Lake Ontario assaulted Fort George on the northern end of the Niagara River and captured it without serious losses. The retreating British forces were not pursued, however, until they had largely escaped and organized a counteroffensive against the advancing Americans at the Battle of Stoney Creek on June 5. On June 24, with the help of advance warning by Laura Secord, another American force was forced to surrender by a much smaller British and native force at the Battle of Beaver Dams, marking the end of the American offensive into Upper Canada. Meanwhile, Commodore James Lucas Yeo had taken charge of the British ships on the lake and mounted a counterattack, which was nevertheless repulsed at the Battle of Sackett's Harbor. Thereafter, Chauncey and Yeo's squadrons fought two indecisive actions, neither commander seeking a fight to the finish.

Late in 1813, the Americans abandoned the Canadian territory they occupied around Fort George. They set fire to the village of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) on December 15, 1813, incensing the Canadians and politicians in control. Many of the inhabitants were left without shelter, freezing to death in the snow. This led to British retaliation following the Capture of Fort Niagara on December 18, 1813. Early the next morning on December 19, the British and their native allies stormed the neighboring town of Lewiston, New York, torching homes and buildings and killing about a dozen civilians. As the British were chasing the surviving residents out of town, a small force of Tuscarora natives intervened and stopped the pursuit, buying enough time for the locals to escape to safer ground. It is notable in that the Tuscaroras defended the Americans against their own Iroquois brothers, the Mohawks, who sided with the British.[119][120] Later, the British attacked and burned Buffalo on December 30, 1813.

In 1814, the contest for Lake Ontario turned into a building race. Naval superiority shifted between the opposing fleets as each built new, bigger ships. However, neither was able to bring the other to battle when in a position of superiority. The Engagements on Lake Ontario were a draw.

St. Lawrence and Lower Canada, 1813

The British were potentially most vulnerable over the stretch of the St. Lawrence where it formed the frontier between Upper Canada and the United States. During the early days of the war, there was illicit commerce across the river. Over the winter of 1812 and 1813, the Americans launched a series of raids from Ogdensburg on the American side of the river, which hampered British supply traffic up the river. On February 21, Sir George Prévost passed through Prescott on the opposite bank of the river with reinforcements for Upper Canada. When he left the next day, the reinforcements and local militia attacked. At the Battle of Ogdensburg, the Americans were forced to retire.

For the rest of the year, Ogdensburg had no American garrison, and many residents of Ogdensburg resumed visits and trade with Prescott. This British victory removed the last American regular troops from the Upper St. Lawrence frontier and helped secure British communications with Montreal. Late in 1813, after much argument, the Americans made two thrusts against Montreal. The plan eventually agreed upon was for Major General Wade Hampton to march north from Lake Champlain and join a force under General James Wilkinson that would embark in boats and sail from Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario and descend the St. Lawrence. Hampton was delayed by bad roads and supply problems and also had an intense dislike of Wilkinson, which limited his desire to support his plan. On October 25, his 4,000-strong force was defeated at the Chateauguay River by Charles de Salaberry's smaller force of Canadian Voltigeurs and Mohawks. Wilkinson's force of 8,000 set out on October 17, but was also delayed by bad weather. After learning that Hampton had been checked, Wilkinson heard that a British force under Captain William Mulcaster and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison was pursuing him, and by November 10, he was forced to land near Morrisburg, about 150 kilometres (90 mi.) from Montreal. On November 11, Wilkinson's rear guard, numbering 2,500, attacked Morrison's force of 800 at Crysler's Farm and was repulsed with heavy losses. After learning that Hampton could not renew his advance, Wilkinson retreated to the U.S. and settled into winter quarters. He resigned his command after a failed attack on a British outpost at Lacolle Mills.

Niagara and Plattsburgh Campaigns, 1814

By the middle of 1814, American generals, including Major Generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott, had drastically improved the fighting abilities and discipline of the army. Their renewed attack on the Niagara peninsula quickly captured Fort Erie. Winfield Scott then gained a victory over an inferior British force at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5. An attempt to advance further ended with a hard-fought but inconclusive battle at Lundy's Lane on July 25.

The outnumbered Americans withdrew but withstood a prolonged Siege of Fort Erie. The British suffered heavy casualties in a failed assault and were weakened by exposure and shortage of supplies in their siege lines. Eventually the British raised the siege, but American Major General George Izard took over command on the Niagara front and followed up only halfheartedly. The Americans lacked provisions, and eventually destroyed the fort and retreated across the Niagara.

Meanwhile, following the abdication of Napoleon, 15,000 British troops were sent to North America under four of Wellington's ablest brigade commanders. Fewer than half were veterans of the Peninsula and the rest came from garrisons. Prévost was ordered to neutralize American power on the lakes by burning Sackets Harbor, gain naval control of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Upper Lakes, and defend Lower Canada from attack. He did defend Lower Canada but otherwise failed to achieve his objectives. Given the late season he decided to invade New York State. His army outnumbered the American defenders of Plattsburgh, but he was worried about his flanks so he decided he needed naval control of Lake Champlain. On the lake, the British squadron under Captain George Downie and the Americans under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough were more evenly matched.

On reaching Plattsburgh, Prévost delayed the assault until the arrival of Downie in the hastily completed 36-gun frigate HMS Confiance. Prévost forced Downie into a premature attack, but then unaccountably failed to provide the promised military backing. Downie was killed and his naval force defeated at the naval Battle of Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814. The Americans now had control of Lake Champlain; Theodore Roosevelt later termed it "the greatest naval battle of the war".[this quote needs a citation] The successful land defence was led by Alexander Macomb. To the astonishment of his senior officers, Prévost then turned back, saying it would be too hazardous to remain on enemy territory after the loss of naval supremacy. Prévost was recalled and in London, a naval court-martial decided that defeat had been caused principally by Prévost's urging the squadron into premature action and then failing to afford the promised support from the land forces. Prévost died suddenly, just before his own court-martial was to convene. Prévost's reputation sank to a new low, as Canadians claimed that their militia under Brock did the job and he failed. Recently, however, historians have been more kindly, measuring him not against Wellington but against his American foes. They judge Prévost's preparations for defending the Canadas with limited means to be energetic, well-conceived, and comprehensive; and against the odds, he had achieved the primary objective of preventing an American conquest.

To the east, the northern part of Massachusetts, soon to be Maine, was invaded. Fort Sullivan at Eastport was taken by Sir Thomas Hardy on July 11. Castine, Hampden, Bangor, and Machias were taken, and Castine became the main British base till April 15, 1815, when the British left, taking £10,750 in tariff duties, the "Castine Fund" which was used to found Dalhousie University.[122] Eastport was not returned to the United States till 1818.

American West, 1813–14

The Mississippi River valley was the western frontier of the United States in 1812. The territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 contained almost no U.S. settlements west of the Mississippi except around Saint Louis and a few forts and trading posts. Fort Bellefontaine, an old trading post converted to a U.S. Army post in 1804, served as regional headquarters. Fort Osage, built in 1808 along the Missouri was the western-most U.S. outpost, it was abandoned at the start of the war.Fort Madison, built along the Mississippi in what is now Iowa, was also built in 1808, and had been repeatedly attacked by British-allied Sauk since its construction. In September 1813 Fort Madison was abandoned after it was attacked and besieged by natives, who had support from the British. This was one of the few battles fought west of the Mississippi. Black Hawk played a leadership role.[124]

Little of note took place on Lake Huron in 1813, but the American victory on Lake Erie and the recapture of Detroit isolated the British there. During the ensuing winter, a Canadian party under Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDouall established a new supply line from York to Nottawasaga Bay on Georgian Bay. When he arrived at Fort Mackinac with supplies and reinforcements, he sent an expedition to recapture the trading post of Prairie du Chien in the far west. The Siege of Prairie du Chien ended in a British victory on July 20, 1814.

Earlier in July, the Americans sent a force of five vessels from Detroit to recapture Mackinac. A mixed force of regulars and volunteers from the militia landed on the island on August 4. They did not attempt to achieve surprise, and at the brief Battle of Mackinac Island, they were ambushed by natives and forced to re-embark. The Americans discovered the new base at Nottawasaga Bay, and on August 13, they destroyed its fortifications and a schooner that they found there. They then returned to Detroit, leaving two gunboats to blockade Mackinac. On September 4, these gunboats were taken unawares and captured by British boarding parties from canoes and small boats. This Engagement on Lake Huron left Mackinac under British control.

The British garrison at Prairie du Chien also fought off another attack by Major Zachary Taylor. In this distant theatre, the British retained the upper hand until the end of the war, through the allegiance of several indigenous tribes that received British gifts and arms, enabling them to take control of parts of what is now Michigan and Illinois, as well as the whole of modern Wisconsin.[125] In 1814 U.S. troops retreating from the Battle of Credit Island on the upper Mississippi attempted to make a stand at Fort Johnson, but the fort was soon abandoned, along with most of the upper Mississippi valley.

After the U.S. was pushed out of the Upper Mississippi region, they held on to eastern Missouri and the St. Louis area. Two notable battles fought against the Sauk were the Battle of Cote Sans Dessein, in April 1815, at the mouth of the Osage River in the Missouri Territory, and the Battle of the Sink Hole, in May 1815, near Fort Cap au Gris.[127]

At the conclusion of peace, Mackinac and other captured territory was returned to the United States. At the end of the war, some British officers and Canadians objected to handing back Prairie du Chien and especially Mackinac under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent. However, the Americans retained the captured post at Fort Malden, near Amherstburg, until the British complied with the treaty.

Fighting between Americans, the Sauk, and other indigenous tribes continued through 1817, well after the war ended in the east.[129]

Southern theatre

Creek War

The Battle of Burnt Corn between Red Stick Creeks and U.S. troops, occurred in the southern parts of Alabama on July 27, 1813 prompted the state of Georgia as well as the Mississippi territory militia to immediately take major action against Creek offensives. The Red Sticks chiefs gained power in the east along the Alabama, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Rivers – Upper Creek territory. The Lower Creek lived along the Chattahoochee River. Many Creeks tried to remain friendly to the United States, and some were organized by federal Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins to aid the 6th Military District under General Thomas Pinckney and the state militias. The United States combined forces were large. At its peak the Red Stick faction had 4,000 warriors, only a quarter of whom had muskets.[130]

Before 1813, the Creek War had been largely an internal affair sparked by the ideas of Tecumseh farther north in the Mississippi Valley, but the United States was drawn into a war with the Creek Nation by the War of 1812. The Creek Nation was a trading partner of the United States actively involved with Spanish and British trade as well. The Red Sticks, as well as many southern Muscogeean people like the Seminole, had a long history of alliance with the Spanish and British Empires.[131] This alliance helped the North American and European powers protect each other's claims to territory in the south.[132] On August 18, 1813, Red Stick chiefs planned an attack on Fort Mimms, north of Mobile, the only American-held port in the territory of West Florida. The attack on Fort Mimms resulted in the death of 400 settlers and became an ideological rallying point for the Americans.[133]

The Indian frontier of western Georgia was the most vulnerable but was partially fortified already. From November 1813 to January 1814, Georgia's militia and auxiliary Federal troops - from the Creek and Cherokee Indian nations and the states of North Carolina and South Carolina – organized the fortification of defenses along the Chattahoochee River and expeditions into Upper Creek territory in present-day Alabama. The army, led by General John Floyd, went to the heart of the "Creek Holy Grounds" and won a major offensive against one of the largest Creek towns at Battle of Autosee, killing an estimated two hundred people. In November, the militia of Mississippi with a combined 1200 troops attacked the "Econachca" encampment ("Battle of Holy Ground") on the Alabama River.[134] Tennessee raised a militia of 5,000 under Colonel Andrew Jackson and Major General Coke and won the battles of Tallushatchee and Talladega in November 1813.[135]

The Georgia militia withdrew to the Chattahoochee, and Jackson's force in Tennessee mostly disbanded for the winter. In January Floyd's force of 1,300 state militia and 400 Creek Indians moved to join the U.S forces in Tennessee, but were attacked in camp on the Calibee Creek by Tuckaubatchee Indians on the 27th.

Despite enlistment problems in the winter, the U.S. Army forces and a second draft of Tennessee state militia and Cherokee and Creek allies swelled his army to around 5,000. In March 1814 they moved south to attack the Creek.[136] On March 26, Jackson and General John Coffee decisively defeated the Creek Indian force at Horseshoe Bend, killing 800 of 1,000 Creeks at a cost of 49 killed and 154 wounded out of approximately 2,000 American and Cherokee forces.[137] The American army moved to a fort on the Alabama River. On August 9, 1814, the Upper Creek chiefs and Major General Andrew Jackson's army signed the "Treaty of Fort Jackson". The most of western Georgia and part of Alabama was taken from the Creeks to pay for expenses borne by the United States. The Treaty also "demanded" that the "Red Stick" insurgents cease communicating with the Spanish or British, and only trade with U.S.-approved agents.[138]

British aid to the Red Sticks arrived after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in April 1814 and after Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane assumed command from Admiral Warren in March. The Creek promised to join any body of 'troops that should aid them in regaining their lands, and suggesting an attack on the tower off Mobile.' In April 1814 the British established an outpost on the Apalachicola River at Prospect Bluff (Fort Gadsden). Cochrane sent a company of Royal Marines, the vessels HMS Hermes and HMS Carron, commanded by Edward Nicolls, with further supplies to meet the Indians.[139] In addition to training the Indians, Nicolls was tasked to raise a force from escaped slaves, as part of the Corps of Colonial Marines.[140]

In July 1814, General Andrew Jackson complained to the Governor of Pensacola, Mateo Gonzalez Manrique, that combatants from the Creek War were being harbored in Spanish territory, and made reference to the British presence on Spanish soil. Although he gave an angry reply to Jackson, Manrique was alarmed at the weak position he found himself in. He appealed to the British for help, with Woodbine arriving on 28 July, and Nicolls arriving at Pensacola on 24 August.[141][142]

The first engagement of the British and their Creek allies against the Americans on the Gulf Coast was the attack on Fort Bowyer September 14, 1814. Captain William Percy tried to take the U.S. fort, hoping that would enable the British to move on Mobile and block US trade and encroachment on the Mississippi. After the Americans repulsed Percy's forces, the British established a military presence of up to 200 Marines at Pensacola. In November, Jackson's force of 4,000 men took the town in November. This underlined the superiority of numbers of Jackson's force in the region.[144] The U.S force moved to New Orleans in late 1814. Jackson's army of 1,000 regulars and 3,000 to 4,000 militia, pirates and other fighters, as well as civilians and slaves built fortifications south of the city.[145]

Gulf Coast

American forces under General James Wilkinson, who was himself getting $4,000 per year as a Spanish secret agent, took the Mobile area—formerly part of West Florida—from the Spanish in March 1813; this would be the only territory permanently gained by the U.S. during the war.[146] The Americans built Fort Bowyer, a log and earthenwork fort with 14 guns, on Mobile Point.[147]

At the end of 1814, the British launched a double offensive in the South weeks before the Treaty of Ghent was signed. On the Atlantic coast, Admiral George Cockburn was to close the Intracoastal Waterway trade and land Royal Marine battalions to advance through Georgia to the western territories. On the Gulf coast, Admiral Alexander Cochrane would move on the new state of Louisiana and the Mississippi Territory. Admiral Cochrane's ships reached the Louisiana coast December 9, and Cockburn arrived in Georgia December 14.[148]

On January 8, 1815, a British force of 8,000 under General Edward Pakenham attacked Jackson's defenses in New Orleans. The Battle of New Orleans was an American victory, as the British failed to take the fortifications on the East Bank. The British suffered high casualties: 291 dead, 1262 wounded, and 484 captured or missing whereas American casualties were 13 dead, 39 wounded, and 19 missing. It was hailed as a great victory across the U.S., making Jackson a national hero and eventually propelling him to the presidency.[151] The American garrison at Fort St. Philip endured ten days of bombardment from Royal Navy guns, which was a final attempt to invade Louisiana; British ships sailed away from the Mississippi River on January 18. However, it was not until January 27, 1815, that the army had completely rejoined the fleet, allowing for their departure.[152]

After New Orleans, the British tried to take Mobile a second time; General John Lambert laid siege for five days and took the fort, winning the Second Battle of Fort Bowyer on February 12, 1815. HMS Brazen brought news of the Treaty of Ghent the next day, and the British abandoned the Gulf coast.[153]

In January 1815, Admiral Cockburn succeeded in blockading the southeastern coast by occupying Camden County, Georgia. The British quickly took Cumberland Island, Fort Point Peter, and Fort St. Tammany in a decisive victory. Under the orders of his commanding officers, Cockburn's forces relocated many refugee slaves, capturing St. Simons Island as well, to do so. During the invasion of the Georgia coast, an estimated 1,485 people chose to relocate in British territories or join the military. In mid-March, several days after being informed of the Treaty of Ghent, British ships finally left the area.[154]

Postwar fighting

After peace was declared, Nicolls and his men returned to Prospect Bluff. The British post at Prospect Bluff was handed over to the Seminoles.[155] In April 1815 the locally recruited companies of the Corps of Colonial Marines were disbanded.[156] The greater part of the Royal Marine garrison at Apalachicola were embarked aboard HMS Cydnus on 22 April 1815,[157][158] and Edward Nicolls embarked the brig HMS Forward at Amelia Island on 29 June 'for passage to England'.[159] The legacy of the Negro Fort would subsequently lead to the first of the Seminole Wars.

In May 1815, a band of British-allied Sauk, unaware that the war had ended months before, attacked a small band of U.S. soldiers northwest of St. Louis. Intermittent fighting, primarily with the Sauk, continued in the Missouri Territory well into 1817, although it is unknown if the Sauk were acting on their own or on behalf of British agents.[129] Several uncontacted isolated warships continued fighting well into 1815 and were the last American forces to take offensive action against the British.