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The War of 1812 (1809-1815)

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New Orleans

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How were the Napoleonic Wars tied to the War of 1812?

Before the war, France had started the Continental System, which closed European ports to ships that stopped in Britain. Britain then issued the Orders in Council, which, using Britain's dominant Navy, prevented ships from trading with Europe if they didn't stop in Britain first. The result hurt American traders, and Jefferson tried to impose his own sanctions on France and Britain with the Embargo Act of 1807 and then the following Non-Intercourse Act. This only damaged the US economy further and got no immediate results. Ultimately, Madison would try Macon's Bill No. 2, which led to further animosity between the British and the US, and was ultimately a major cause of the war of 1812.

Why was Macon's Bill No. 2 a failure?

Madison tried to play "hard ball" with France and Britain, promising to side with one if they would drop restrictions for the US. Napoleon, however, tricked Madison by falsely promising to drop restrictions, leading to a US declaration of war on Britain in 1812.

Who were the War Hawks? Why were they so pro-war?

The War Hawks were a contingent of young congressmen, mostly representing the South and the Western frontier (then places like Kentucky and Ohio). The War Hawks were too young to have fought in the Revolutionary War, and, tired of their father's stories of war, wanted their own war against the British. Claiming that they opposed Impressment and trade restrictions, the War Hawks probably used these as excuses to go to war for more "adventurous" reasons.

Why did the US lose so many battles at the beginning of the War of 1812?

The US army then consisted primarily of untrained amateurs and militiamen. In the invasion of Canada, American commanders foolishly split their forces into three branches, rather than concentrating an attack on Montreal. Further, the nation was not unanimously behind the war: New England was especially opposed to it. Finally, the outstanding and meticulous leadership of Britain's Isaac Brock gave the British many early victories despite being outnumbered in the war on the US-Canada front.

What happened to the Capitol and the White House in 1814?

After Bladensburg, Washington had to be evacuated. Some American advisors suggested blowing up the American Capitol and White House, so the British wouldn't get access to government documents. Madison, however, believed that the symbolic value of Britain burning the Capitol and White House would further outrage and unify the nation against Britain. Sure enough, General Robert Ross played into Madison's hands by torching the government buildings.

What was Francis Scott Key doing on a British ship during the bombardment of Fort McHenry?

Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, had gone under a flag of truce to negotiate for the release of an American held prisoner by the British, Dr. William Beanes. Key was detained briefly because Cochrane did not want him giving the British position away, and while watching the attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore's harbor, Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner on the back of an envelope.

Why did Andrew Jackson win the battle of New Orleans?

Primarily thanks to luck. Jackson made several blunders, but the swampy geography coupled with the late arrival of Ross's replacement, Packenham, helped him gain a decisive victory.

Why was the Battle of New Orleans unnecessary?

The War of 1812 was already officially over when the battle was fought. The Treaty of Ghent had been signed weeks before, but news traveled slowly across the Atlantic in those days. In fact, even the city of Washington learned of Jackson's victory before it heard about the treaty. Many Americans therefore mistakenly believed that Jackson's victory had forced the treaty.

Why did Czar Alexander I encourage US-British negotiations at Ghent?

Alexander was afraid that Britain's resources were being depleted by the War of 1812. Facing the threat of Napoleon's Russian Campaign, Alexander knew he would need Britain's help in Europe, so he wanted Britain to disentangle itself from its American commitments as soon as possible.

Why did the Hartford Convention end the Federalist Party?

The Hartford Convention met secretly in late 1814 to discuss New England's grievances regarding the war. Although the formal demands of the convention were moderate, it was widely known that some members of the convention advocated secession. Thus, the Hartford Convention, in which the Federalists foolishly came up with complaints against the war just weeks before the war was over, so badly tinged the Federalists with suspicion of treason that they never recovered. After losing the next Presidential election, the Federalists dissolved.

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