Brief summary of the war
The War of 1812 was a conflict between the young United States and Great Britain that lasted a bit over 30 months. While neither country expanded its boundaries, the war settled some presssing issues and proved that the United States Navy was an effective fighting force. Engagements took place on both land and water, with significant action on the Great Lakes, the northern part of Lake Champlain, the Canadian border and New Orleans.
There were various causes of the war, some more pressing than others. At the time, Great Britain was fighting Napoleon and expanded its navy to over 600 ships. It needed more experienced sailors and turned to impressment to acquire them. American ships were boarded and any naturalized men or deserters who were born in Britain were seized. Some native born Americans were also taken. These actions greatly angered the Americans. Great Britain also provided arms and support to Native American tribes who were resisting American expansion into the "Northwest Territory" ( Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana). The American settlers blamed Great Britain for the raids on their homes. There is debate among some historians whether the issue of the American desire to expand into Canada was a direct cause of the war.. It is clear American forces invaded Canada. This military action was resisted and ultimately not successful.
Many Americans were against the war, especially members of the Federalist Party and residents of New England. The young country was poorly prepared to fight the vasty more experienced British forces, especially on land. United States forces had little success in Canada. They were badly defeated at the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1813 They did however win control of Lake Erie and General Harrison led them to victory at the Battle of the Thames in October, 1813. Eventually the Americans won control of western Ontario. In 1814, the British attacked and burned the White House and other buildings in Washington. They could not take Fort McHenry and the city of Baltimore, but they controlled most of eastern Maine for the duration of the war.
Americans had greater success on the water. Ships like the "Constitution" ( Old Ironsides) and "The United States" defeated British ships. Victories on the Northern parts of Lake Champlain are still noteworthy, especially the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814. The United States Navy held its own during the war and gained the respect of a vasty superior British force.
Perhaps the best known battle of the War of 1812 is the Battle of New Orleans, fought after the Treaty of Ghent was signed. It was a major American victory and made Andrew Jackson a national hero.
By late 1814, both sides were weary of war. After concessions made by both sides, a treaty was signed and ratified within the first few months of 1815. All occupied land was returned and the prewar boundaries between the United States and Canada were restored. Americans believed they had restored their honor and had the satisfaction of knowing that by and large they held their own against a more powerful foe. The Canadians took satisfaction in knowing that they had prevented the United States from gaining territory. Both countries had a sense of pride. The British were just glad the war was over.