Monday, January 2, 2012

Military Monday: War of 1812, Part II- The Early Battles

This week I am continuing my discussion of the War of 1812.  Click here to view Part I- The Causes.

For two and a half years, Americans fought Against the British, Canadian colonists, and native nations.  In the years to come, the War of 1812 would be celebrated in some places and essentially forgotten in others.  But it is a war worth remembering—a struggle that threatened the existence of Canada, then divided the United States so deeply that the nation almost broke apart.  Some of its battles and heroes became legendary, yet its blunders and cowards were just as prominent.  (

The year was 1812.  The United States of America was under pressure from several directions- the British who were seizing American ships and forcing soldiers into the British Navy, France and Britain who were in battle with each other and made efforts to impede the U.S. from trading with the other, and Indian tribes led by Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa who were trying to protect their lands by attempting to block U.S. expansionism.

Under increasing pressure, the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, issued a war proclamation against Britain in 1812. However, America was not ready for a war. Congress had not properly funded or prepared an army, and a number of the states did not support what was referred to as "Mr. Madison's War" and would not allow their militias to join the campaign. Despite these setbacks, American forces attempted to fight off and attack British forces. The U.S. met defeat much of the time both on land and at sea, but its well-built ships proved to be formidable foes.  (

There is so much information available online about the individual battles of the War of 1812.  I am just hitting on some of the "highlights" here as time will not allow me to expound upon each of them.  A brief summary of the early battles in the War of 1812:  

August 16, 1812:  British capture Fort Mackinac- Michigan, U.S. lost fort as British invade American territory.

Fort Mackinac was founded during the American Revolution. Believing Fort Michilimackinac at what is now Mackinaw City was too vulnerable to American attack, the British moved the fort to Mackinac Island in 1780. Americans took control in 1796. In July 1812, in the first land engagement of the War of 1812 in the United States , the British captured the fort. In a bloody battle in 1814 the Americans attempted but failed to retake the fort. It was returned to the United States after the war. The fort remained active until 1895. During these years Mackinac Island was transformed from a center of the fur trade into a major summer resort.  (

1812:  Invasion attempts of Canada- U.S.-Canadian border, 3 attempts of U.S. to invade Canada all fail

January 1813:  Battle of Frenchtown- Michigan, Kentucky troops repelled by British and Indians in bloody fighting. American survivors killed in Raisin River Massacre.

The Battle of Frenchtown (Battle of the River Raisin in Monroe Michigan) was the largest battle fought on Michigan soil. This battle was a major defeat for the Americans and was one of the bloodiest engagements during the War of 1812. The massacre of some wounded soldiers the following day shocked and enraged Americans throughout the Old Northwest Territory. This incident soon became know as “The River Raisin Massacre” and the rallying cry was “Remember the Raisin”. (

April 1813:  Battle of York-Toronto, Canada;  U.S. troops took control of Great Lakes, burn York. This action later returned by British burning of Washington, D.C.

The British lost 150 killed and wounded and 290 captured. American casualties numbered 320, most of these due to the explosion of the grand magazine. Despite this, the victory was worth the trouble for the United States. The British burned one ship at the docks and another was seized by the Americans. Large quantities of their naval store were destroyed. All this allowed the American Navy to strengthen its control of Lake Ontario, and impede British operations on Lake Erie, whose supply suddenly diminished. (

September 1813:  Battle of Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay; British naval attack repulsed by Capt. Perry

On September 10, the British under Commodore Robert Heriot Barclay and the Americans under Perry met in battle near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Perry's flagship Lawrence engaged her counterpart, while Niagara, for unknown reasons, did not close the enemy. Nevertheless, the Lawrence held fast and continued a heavy bombardment. After she was completely disabled, with most of her crew wounded or killed, Perry transferred by boat to the undamaged Niagara, sailed her into close action, broke the British battle line, and forced Barclay to surrender. In the aftermath, Commodore Perry wrote his famous report to General William Henry Harrison: " We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop. (

October 1813:  Battle of Thames, Ontario, Canada; Tecumseh killed in U.S. victory.  NW Indians weakened by battle.

The British commander General Proctor knew that that the Americans controlled Lake Erie his position was untenable. Proctor led his British and several Indian troops out of the area in retreat. 50 miles to the east of Detroit, Proctor decided to make a stand. When American scouts reported that the British lines were extremely thin, Harrison decided on a daring strategy: a cavalry assault by the Kentucky troops directly on the British lines. The British were not prepared for this type of assault and when the first wave of horseman quickly rode through the British lines, and then turned on the British from the rear, British troops quickly surrendered. The American forces then went on to defeat the Indians allies, killing most of them including Tecumseh.  (

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. It has been interesting reading your posts regarding this often forgot war. Like you, I am very interested in the "why" behind the events in my ancestors lives. I recently watched an interesting program from the History Channel about the War of 1812 for exactly the same purpose. Thank you for sharing!