War of 1812: Forgotten History (03:06)
Little is known of the War of 1812 by the average American or British citizen. The conflict holds particular significance in the histories of Canada and of the Native American nations. Legends surrounding the war are often all that remain in the public consciousness.
1800 to 1810: Prelude to War (03:37)
To stymie the growth of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire, Britain seized American sailors and taxed unallied trade vessels. American merchants sought to remain neutral, to sell to both sides. When the USS Chesapeake refused to allow the crew of the HMS Leopard to board, the British ship fired on it.
1810 to 1811: Calls for War (07:34)
William Henry Harrison had successfully made treaties with the Indians to gain over 100 million acres, but Tecumseh, a Shawnee war chief, refused to cede land to the governor and sought to unite the tribes. Harrison sent an army to attack Tecumseh's home of Prophetstown while he was away. A discovery of British weapons allowed the “War Hawks” to apply pressure to President James Madison.
June 1812: Declaration of War (06:05)
President Madison was convinced that Canada and Britain would easily be defeated by a U.S. military invasion. Federalist and Democratic-Republican disagreements over the wisdom of declaring war result in the Baltimore Riots, in which a newspaperman and his supporters either injured or killed. Government blunders culminate in the loss of Fort Mackinac without a single shot being fired.
Summer 1812: The Americans Invade (12:18)
The American invasion consisted of attacks on three separate fronts. Facing a better-equipped and larger army, the Canadian military made an alliance with the Native Americans. General Isaac Brock and Tecumseh used trickery and U.S. General William Hull’s fear of Indians to capture Fort Detroit in only a few hours.
Summer 1812: Second and Third Invasions (05:59)
Despite a lack of boats to cross the Niagara limiting their numbers, General Stephen Van Rensselaer’s troops captured the strategic high ground above Queenston Heights. General Isaac Brock’s death inspiring the Canadian soldiers and the tactics of the Iroquois left the American regulars stranded without reinforcements. General Henry Dearborn's march on Montreal failed when American troops fired on each other and refused to enter Canada.
1812: The War at Sea (02:52)
The British Navy was far superior; however, the USS Constitution’s thick hull repelled attacks by the HMS Guerriere, allowing it to defeat the frigate. The U.S. ship would win two more battles against the British—an unprecedented military feat which reinvigorated the American people. The American government commissioned privateers to disrupt English maritime trade.
Autumn 1812: Campaign in the West (05:59)
William Henry Harrison’s private army marched for Fort Detroit, burning Native American villages along the way. Weak from fever and lack of supplies, the army was ambushed at Frenchtown by Colonel Henry Proctor’s British forces and Indian allies. After the battle, many prisoners were killed in response to Harrison’s aggression, while others were integrated into the tribes.
Spring 1813: The British Invade (06:44)
The British blockaded the coasts, stifling American trade. William Henry Harrison built Fort Meigs and waited out General Henry Proctor and Tecumseh’s combined forces. Another American army crosses the Niagara River but is defeated due to confusion and the British night raid having the element of surprise. Historians reflect on the weapons of the time.
September 1813: Showdown on the Great Lakes (09:38)
The dying words of the captain of the USS Chesapeake during its capture by the HMS Shannon became an inspirational slogan for American forces. The British and Americans were locked in a naval arms race to secure Lake Erie as a tactical position. Britain’s loss of Lake Erie forces Henry Proctor’s troops to fall back, resulting in battle with William Henry Harrison’s forces and the death of Tecumseh.
September 1813: The Americans Invade Canada - Again (07:36)
Two American armies marched for Montreal. Wade Hampton’s forces retreat from Canada after losing the Battle of Chateauguay, despite outnumbering the Canadians five to one. American troops lost the Battle of Crysler’s Farm after the commander, James Wilkinson, fails to show up. Laura Secord became a national hero after traveling 20 miles through the Canadian wilderness to warn British forces of an attack.
December 1813: A Winter of Horrors (04:23)
Many standard wartime conventions were broken and civilians and prisoners on both sides were mistreated, tortured, scalped, and taken captive. American troops burned the capital of Upper Canada, sparking a Canadian retaliation. President James Madison pursued peaceful options.
Summer 1814: Blood on the Niagara Border (05:20)
The American army showed its experience in the Battle of Chippawa, defeating the British artillery. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane is one of the bloodiest battles of the war, resulting in the death or desertion of nearly one third of the American, British, and Canadian soldiers and the wounding of most generals. Great Britain’s victory in Europe over Napoleon frees up more troops to deploy elsewhere.
Summer 1814: The American Capital Burns (10:22)
Bolstered by freed slaves, British forces met with little resistance at the Battle of Bladensburg. American refugees fled Washington D.C. as Dolly Madison ensured that a portrait of George Washington would not be captured. George Cockburn and his regulars burn the White House. With the United States government near bankruptcy, American farmers sold their goods to the Canadians.
Autumn 1814: Secession Threat in New England (09:10)
Great Britain sought to use negotiations to seize the lands that would be Maine and Minnesota and to establish Indian lands to stop America’s westward expansion. Governor General George Prevost’s advance ended with the Battle of Plattsburgh, and the unsuccessful British assault on Baltimore inspires Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner.” New England stopped its talks of secession, and the British gave up their intentions for a Native state.
Winter 1814: New Orleans (06:58)
Great Britain advanced on New Orleans to take control of the Mississippi River. Andrew Jackson used martial law, intimidation, and an alliance with pirates to gather a militia army to stand against Edward Pakenham and his regulars. By the time news of the Treaty of Ghent reached America, two thousand British soldiers lay dead at Chalmette Plantation.
1815: Peace (04:26)
The Treaty of Ghent established that the war was a stalemate and that boundary lines would remain as they were. The United States and Canada celebrated the end of war and their achievement during it, and President James Madison experienced popularity. The British abandoned Fort Mackinac, and Native American lands were seized and slowly disappeared.
Credits: The War of 1812 (01:01)
Credits: The War of 1812
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