THE WAR OF 1812

Burning Of Washington 1814

On June 18th, 1812, the United States declared war on Britain. This declaration was the start of what would be known as the War of 1812, probably because that’s just so much easier to say than the more accurate ‘War of 1812-14’.
It was sparked by American resentment to some of Britain’s high-handed responses to the Napoleonic Wars, among them the blockade of American ships and the searching of same in order to find possible British deserters and get them back in the ranks, which sometimes resulted in American-born sailors being press-ganged into the British navy. Since Canada was a British colony (and right next door to the United States), it quickly got caught up in the ensuing conflict.
Being busy with the aforesaid Napoleonic Wars, Britain couldn’t spare much manpower for this new scuffle, so, as regards numbers, the Americans had a big advantage and Thomas Jefferson expressed the opinion that taking over Canada would just be “a mere matter of marching”.
He was wrong. Strong leaders like Upper Canada’s administrator, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, as well as Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Procter, Governor George Prevost, and Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, made it a little more difficult than that. In fact, it was the Canadians and British who marched most effectively – all the way to Washington, where, on August 24th, 1814, they burned down the White House and any other public building they could toss a torch onto.
Thanks to peace initiatives set in motion by the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, who wanted to establish peaceful trade with both sides, a peace treaty was finally signed in the Belgian city of Ghent in December, 1814. Under its terms, the Americans had to abandon plans to extend their borders into Canada (which weren’t working out to well for them anyway), and the British had to accept the fact America was a country in its own right, and not just an uppity colony.

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