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The War of 1812 (1809-1815)

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Chesapeake  -  In 1807, off the Virginia Coast, the USS Chesapeake was approached by a British vessel, the HMS Leopard, which asked to board and reclaim 4 deserters. When the Chesapeake refused, the British vessel opened fire, in violation of international law and outraging the entire United States.
Constitution  -  Also called "Old Ironsides", this US Naval ship surprised the world when it defeated the HMS Guerriere in waters off Bermuda on August 20, 1812.
Democratic-Republicans  -  Party of Jefferson, opposed to the Federalists and their program of strong central government and loose interpretation of the Constitution. The Democratic-Republicans were a major political force from 1801-1825.
Embargo  -  An economic sanction that prevents goods from being shipped out of one country in order to hurt the economy of another country or countries.
Embargo Act  -  Jefferson's 1807 response to British activities like the Chesapeake Incident. Intended to hurt Britain and France, who were both interfering in US shipping, the Embargo Act caused economic discomfort in the US and was repealed on March 1, 1809, to be replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act.
Federalists  -  The political party of Alexander Hamilton, which advocated a strong central government and loose interpretation of the Constitution.
Fort McHenry  -  American island fortress that guarded Baltimore's Harbor. In 1814, it withstood British bombardment, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner.
Impressment  -  Technique the British used to staff their ships. Sailors from other countries would be captured and forced to work for the British navy in a "press-gang" crew. Though certainly a British technique, it was not as prevalent as exaggerated by American propagandists.
Macon's Bill No. 2  -  Madison's 1810 ploy to get either Britain or France to lift trade restrictions. Under Macon's Bill No. 2, if one country agreed to free trade with the US, sanctions would be re-imposed against the other nation.
Non-Intercourse Act  -  After the repeal of the unpopular Embargo Act, this 1809 law restricted trade only with Britain and France.
Orders in Council  -  British laws requiring all ships wishing to trade with Europe to stop in a British port first. (Impossible under Napoleon's Continental System.
Secession  -  When a state or states leaves the union based on the argument that if the union no longer represents the interests of the state, it has a right ("States' Rights") to do so as a sovereign entity.
Star-Spangled Banner  -  America's National Anthem, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814: "Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light, / What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? / Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight, / O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? / And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, / Gave proof thro' the night, that our flag was still there. / Oh say does the star-spangled banner yet wave / O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" (There are several other verses)
War Hawks  -  Young group of politicians, representing mostly southern and western frontier states, coming to power in Congress in the 1810s. The War Hawks were tired of their fathers' stories about "whipping the British" in the Revolution and were anxious for war themselves. Henry Clay, elected Speaker of the House, was the most visible leader of the War Hawks.

People

John Quincy Adams  -  Sixth president of the United States (1825-1829) and leading formulator of American diplomacy.
Isaac Brock  -  General who commanded the British forces in Canada during the War of 1812.
Henry Clay  -  Kentucky Congressman and senator throughout the first half of the 19th century. During the War of 1812, Clay was Speaker of the House and a leading War-Hawk.
Thomas Cochrane  -  British Admiral who commanded the Royal Navy's actions in the War of 1812, particularly the naval aspects of the assaults on Baltimore and New Orleans.
William Henry Harrison  -  Ninth US President. Major General Harrison became famous for his victory over Tecumseh at Tippecanoe
Andrew Jackson  -  Also known as "Old Hickory", Jackson was the 7th US President (1829-1837). Jackson became popular thanks to several Indian campaigns against the Creek Indians and his stunning victory over British forces at New Orleans in January of 1815.
Thomas Jefferson  -  The 3rd US President (1800-1808), Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and a leading American political philosopher. Despite the unpopularity of his 1807 Embargo Act, he was followed in the presidency by his hand-picked successor, James Madison.
Francis Scott Key  -  American Lawyer detained by the British who, after seeing the American flag remain atop Fort McHenry during its nighttime bombardment in 1814, was inspired to write the Star-Spangled Banner.
Thomas Macdonough  -  US Naval Officer who embarrassed the British by winning the Battle of Lake Champlain (near Plattsburg) in 1814, using cables to swing his boat around in a crucial moment in the battle, presenting the enemy with a fresh broadside. His victory prevented a British invasion of New York.
James Madison  -  Founding Father and 4th US President (1809-1817). Madison had been Secretary of State for Jefferson, and as president he continued many of Jefferson's policies. The War of 1812 took place during Madison's presidency.
Edward Packenham  -  British General who was to replace Robert Ross after Ross' death at Baltimore. Packenham's late arrival in the New World severely hampered the amphibious invasion of New Orleans.
Oliver Hazard Perry  -  An American naval officer, Perry's small fleet won a celebrated battle against the British on Lake Erie.
The Prophet  -  Named Laulewasikau, a Shawnee visionary and brother of Tecumseh.
Robert Ross  -  British general who commanded land forces at the battle of Bladensburg in 1814, defeating General Winder and opening the road to Washington, which he burned, sparing many private residences. Ross was killed in the assault of Baltimore.
Tecumseh  -  Shawnee chief and leader who organized an intertribal confederation to fight against white encroachment in the Ohio Valley. He was defeated by Harrison at Tippecanoe. He died at the Battle of the Thames, while siding with British in the War of 1812.
William Winder  -  General who commanded the disorganized American forces at Bladensburg, leading to a complete route by the British.

Events

Bladensberg  -  August 24, 1814 battle in which British (under Ross) routed the Americans (under Winder) so quickly that it came to be called the "Bladensburg Races". This battle opened the way for the British to march to Washington, which they burned.
Treaty of Ghent  -  Signed on December 24, 1815 in the Belgian town of Ghent, the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812, returning the situation between the US and Britain to its status quo ante bellum (the way things were before the war).
Hartford Convention  -  Meeting in late 1814 of discontented New England Federalists to discuss their grievances with the War of 1812. Some members contemplated secession, but the Hartford Convention was generally more moderate than that. When the war soon ended, the Hartford Convention suggested to many that the Federalist Party was full of traitors, and the Federalist Party fell into decline as a result.
Battle of Horseshoe Bend  -  Also called the Battle of Tohopeka; 1814 battle in which Andrew Jackson crushed the Creek Indian resistance once and for all, ending his Indian campaign and becoming a national military hero.
Battle of the Thames  -  October 5, 1813 battle in which General Harrison won a decisive victory over the combined British and Indian forces in Ontario, Canada. Tecumseh was killed in this battle. This victory helped make Harrison even more popular after Tippecanoe.
Tippecanoe  -  November 7, 1811 victory by General Harrison, in which he destroyed the headquarters of Tecumseh's Indian confederation. Although the US forces suffered heavy losses, Harrison was considered a victor and a hero, and he used the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" in his later successful bid for the presidency.

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