The War of 1812 is one if the least written about and studied wars in US history. Sometimes referred to as the “Second War of Independence” its primary cause was the British impressment of US sailors. Freedom of trade and the open seas were also a concern. Several major battles throughout the War of 1812 all played a large role in the course of the war.
From the British perspective, the war was primarily seen as a smaller theater of the Napoleonic wars. The British government prioritized the defeat of Napoleon and the French army and thus tied up a majority of their forces in Europe until 1814.
Thus, they relied heavily on the Canadian colonies and their Native American allies to raise the manpower. Using their powerful navy to blockade US ports, the British could keep the fighting contained to the Americas.
Perhaps the most well known aspects of the war is that the British burned down the White House, as well as the British bombardment of Baltimore led to the creation of the nations anthem: the Star Spangled Banner.
In addition, a source of American pride is in one of the final engagements of the war: the important Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson handed a decisive defeat to the British and turned into a national hero.
5 Major Battles of the War of 1812
5 major battles of the war include those fought at the Battles of New Orleans, Plattsburgh, the Thames, Lundy’s Lane, and the defense of Baltimore.
Historians differ regarding total casualties during the war, but some have estimated them to be ~11,300 for the US and ~8,600 for the British. When examining the major battles of the War of 1812 it is astonishing to see how concentrated the overall British casualties are to a few battles.
Most noteworthy is the Battle of New Orleans, upon which they suffered ~2,000 casualties: almost a quarter of the entire war.
Technically, the battle took place after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, meaning the war was already over. The treaty that ended the war in December 1814 took so long to cross the Atlantic and reach America that the nations were already at peace when the British suffered their stunning loss in February 1815.
At Plattsburgh, the naval battle was a decisive US victory which prevented a planned British march on New York City. It also helped the American positions during the negotiations at Ghent to help end the war on better terms.
At the Battle of the Thames, US forces defeated and killed Tecumseh, striking a major blow to Native American forces. Tecumseh’s Confederacy dissipated in the absence of its charismatic leader, though the Native American threat did not evaporate completely.
The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was an especially bloody battle for both sides fought near Niagara, NY. Though technically the battle ended as a stalemate, heavy losses forced the Americans to withdraw.
The defense of Baltimore was centered on a land battle (North Point) and sea battle (Fort McHenry). The defense of Baltimore was eventually successful, and a major detriment to British Invasion plans for the region.
To learn more about US history, check out this timeline of the history of the United States.