Bicentennial of the War of 1812, and why you should give a care
By DONNA VICKROY email@example.com June 4, 2012 10:50PM
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:20AM
All set to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812?
I know what you’re thinking — “huh?”
Few of us remember, let alone commemorate, James Madison’s declaration of war on June 18, 1812. But we should.
That encounter brought us “The Star Spangled Banner,” our current White House and the notion that a common man could rise to the presidency. More important, the war’s end gave way to the Era of Good Feelings, when Americans finally came together as a strong united front.
“Most people remember the Revolutionary War and then skip ahead to the Civil War,” said Matt Gavin, history teacher at Richards High School in Oak Lawn. “The War of 1812 may have been glanced over in history class. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal.”
If you’re struggling to get a handle on this chapter in American history, here’s a quick review:
Those bullying Brits refused to respect the newly formed United States. They stormed our naval ships and “impressed” our sailors into duty on their ships. They encroached upon our borders, riling up the Native Americans to fight us in the West. That kept us from expanding. They also did damage to our economy by messing with our trade.
John Duckhorn, a history teacher at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, said, “There were a lot of guidelines and treaties that came out of the Revolutionary War that weren’t being followed. The British refused to recognize us as an independent nation.”
Many, but not all, believed America had no choice but to take the British down again.
President Madison’s declaration of war divided Americans, with those in the Northeast favoring battle and those out West believing we ought to stay out of it, Duckhorn said.
There were many skirmishes; some went to the Brits, some to us.
In August 1814, the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., was captured and burned.
On Sept. 13 that year, the city of Baltimore endured a 25-hour bombardment at the hands of the Brits. On the following morning, when he saw the American flag still waving above the chaos, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” Even though it was set to the tune of a British drinking song, or maybe because it was set to the tune of a British drinking song, it went on to become our national anthem.
The Brits finally pulled out of the Chesapeake area and headed south to New Orleans.
A month before the historic Battle of New Orleans, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, declaring an end to the war.
If only those in the Crescent City had gotten word.
Unaware that a peace treaty had been signed, although not yet ratified, the Brits attacked in January 1815. But they suffered defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson, aka Old Hickory, who apparently ran through the briar and the bramble, not to mention the bayous, to win one of the nation’s most beloved battles.
“That effort put Jackson on the national radar,” Gavin said.
It made him a hero, and later, a president. No one seemed to care that he hailed from the backwoods or that he’d won a battle that wasn’t supposed to take place.
Despite the fact that the United States did not accomplish many of the goals it set out to attain, the victory boosted national self-confidence and pride and led to great expansionism.
And that, Gavin and Duckhorn agree, is something to remember, if not celebrate.
Source: history.com. To see a timeline of the War of 1812, visit www.nps.gov/history/1812/timeline.html