War of 1812

The War of 1812 saw the United States pitted against the British again. This time the issue was trade restrictions by the British and the Royal Navy’s impressment of American sailors. Britain feared US trade would interfere with their war with France. Great Britain also wanted to establish a Native American state in the Midwest so they could maintain ties in the country. They promised the Native Americans territory, which is why nearly 10,000 Native Americans fought on the side of Great Britain.

The war lasted three years and ended with the United States as the ultimate victors, but not without extreme loss. Battles with the British, Canadians and Native Americans were costly, and at the end of the war the nation’s capitol in Washington, DC was set ablaze. The war ended on February 17, 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. The US victory boosted national pride and patriotism in the fledgling country.

Timeline (1793-1815)

1793

France Declares War on Great Britain
February 1, 1793

1794

Battle of Fallen Timbers
August 20, 1794

The Battle of Fallen Timbers set General Anthony Wayne against a Native American force. Wayne's victory set the stage for settlement of present-day Ohio.

1785

Treaty of Greenville
July 22, 1785

The treaty followed the Battle of Fallen Timber, where the American army defeated a Native American force led by Blue Jacket of the Shawnee. While leaders of various Native American Nations signed The Treaty of Greenville relinquishing claims to land south and east of a boundary from the mouth of the Cuyahoga River to Fort Recovery and Laramie, many Native Americans refused to honor the agreement. When white settlers began moving into the contested area, the Nations went to war.

1803

British Begins Impressing American Sailors
1803

Great Britain begins impressing American sailors and forcing them to work on British Ships.

Louisiana Purchase Finalized
April 30, 1803

This purchase added 828,000 square miles to the western frontier of the United States, doubling the size of the country.

1804

Napoleon Crowned Emperor of France Following a Coup d'État
December 2, 1804

1806

Madison Delivers Report to Congress on British Naval Interference
January 1806

Secretary of State James Madison delivers a report regarding British interference and impressment of sailors to Congress.

Non-Importation Act Passed
Spring 1806

Jefferson passed this act hoping it would establish the US as neutral traders during the Napoleonic Wars. The effort failed.

Napoleon Issues Berlin Decree
November 21, 1806

Napoleon issues blockade of British goods into European countries allied with or dependent on France, imposing the Continental System on Europe.

1807

Great Britain passes Orders in Council
January 7, 1807

Thus restricting international trade with France.

British HMS Leopard Fires Upon American USS Chesapeake
June 22, 1807

This act caused an international incident and inspired many Americans to call for war.

Jefferson Imposes Embargo on Great Britain
December 1807

The embargo closed all US ports to export shipping and placed restrictions on imports from Great Britain. The embargo did little but cause economic disaster for American merchants. The embargo was lifted in 1809.

1809

James Madison Inaugurated President of the United States
March 4, 1809

1811

Affair of the Little Belt
May 16, 1811

The American frigate USS President fires on the British sloop HMS Little Belt, disabling the ship and killing many seamen. The British refuse compensation for this situation, which contributes to increasing tensions leading up to the War of 1812.

Major General Isaac Brock Appointed Administrator of Upper Canada
October 9, 1811
War Congress Convenes
November 11, 1811
Battle of Tippecanoe
November 11, 1811

This battle is considered the first battle of the War of 1812. It took place in present-day Indiana and set Native American warriors, led by Tecumseh's brother The Prophet, and William Henry Harrison's army on the banks of the Kethtippecannuck River. The Native Americans were fighting American encroachment on their territory, as granted in the Treaty of Fort Wayne in 1809. The Native defeat led Tecumseh to align his warriors with Great Britain in the war.

1812

America Declares War on Great Britain
June 18, 1812
Baltimore Erupts in Riots Protesting the War
June 1812 - August 1812

Supporters of the war saw opposition as a treasonous act. The most vocal protests came through newspapers and mobs on the street. On June 22, a mob destroyed the printing offices of an anti-war newspaper run by Alexander Contee Hanson. When the paper reopened, a fight broke out and two men were killed. Hanson surrendered to the police but he and his supporters were hauled from the jail and beaten by protesters. The Baltimore riots lasted until August.

General William Hull enters Canada
July 12, 1812

This is the first of three attempts to invade Canada by the United States.

British Force Surrender of Fort Mackinac
July 17, 1812

A combined force of British, Canadian and Native Americans launch a surprise attack on the American garrison. This was one of the first battles of the war to gain control of Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Battle of Brownstown
August 5, 1812

Captain Bush was leading an American relief column to Detroit when he heard Tecumseh and British regulars were at the village of Brownstown. He requested troops be sent to protect his supply column and General Hull agreed, sending two hundred Ohio militia. Three miles north of the village, the militia was ambushed and forced to retreat. They lost 18 men, had 12 wounded and 70 were missing. The Native Americans lost a chief.

General Hull Returns to Detroit
August 8, 1812
Surrender of Fort Detroit
August 15-16, 1812

The British bombard the fort until General Hull surrenders Fort Detroit without a fight. British General Isaac Brock allowed the militiamen return to their homes on the frontier. Regular troops were taken to Canada as prisoners.

USS Constitution Defeats the HMS Guerriere
August 19, 1812

The two ships fired upon each other for half an hour, from 6:00 to 6:30pm. The British surrendered at 7pm, having lost 23 men, including second lieutenant Henry Ready, and tending to 56 wounded, including Captain Dacres. The Americans lost 14 with 7 wounded.

Battle of Queenston Heights, Ontario
October 13, 1812

Americans, under the command of General Rensselaer, invaded Canada at Queenstown. They were spotted and the British engaged even though they were badly outnumbered. The British prepared for retreat until they were reinforeced by two companies of British militia. The US and British fought and the Americans took control, forcing the British into retreat. But when the New York militia refused to cross into Canada, the regular army troops could not hold the ground without them. The British reappeared, outflanking the Americans and forcing them to surrender. During the battle, British Major General Isaac Brock was killed. American General Van Rensselaer resigned his command over the American loss.

Skirmish at Fort Erie
November 27, 1812

This was a second American attempt to invade Canada along Frenchman's Creek. They made several attempts to cross the Niagara River, but all failed. Brigadier General Alexander Smyth was allowed to quietly retire after this failure to take Canada.

William Henry Harrison Formally Resigns as Governor of Indiana Territory
December 28, 1812

Harrison takes the rank of Brigadier General and enters the war effort.

USS Constitution Defeats HMS Java
December 29, 1812

This was the third American frigate victory in the war and the most impressive. Following this battle, Britain orders their single frigates to not take on bigger American ships, instead imposing a blockade on the American coast.

1813

Great Britain Declares War on United States
January 9, 1813

Fearing lost territory in Canada, Britain declares war on the US.

John Armstrong Replaces William Eustis as Secretary of War
January 13, 1813
American forces Seize Frenchtown
January 18-22, 1813

The British and Native American forces repel the Americans at Frenchtown, Michigan, in another attempt to take Fort Detroit and move forces northward into Canada. The Americans are forced back, but are not allowed to retreat, setting up the tragic events of the following day.

River Raisin Massacre
January 23, 1813

After James Winchester and the Americans surrendered after the Battle of Frenchtown, the Native American forces massacred the wounded American soldiers under their care. Somewhere between 30-60 American soldiers were killed in the River Raisin Massacre. This event inspired a rallying cry of "Remember the Raisin" that spurred American forces during the war.

Battle of Ogdensburg
February 20, 1813

A small battle the British won, removing all American threat to their supply line for the rest of the war.

James Madison Has 2nd Presidential Inauguration
March 4, 1813
Oliver Hazard Perry Takes Command of Flotilla at Lake Erie
March 27, 1813

Following the fall of Detroit, Daniel Dobbins argued for a US naval presence in the Great Lakes. Madison agreed. Dobbins began constructing four gunboats on Presque Isle on the lake. Work on the fleet began in September 1812. Perry arrived in late March to take command of the fleet, but work was halted because of "lake fever." The fleet was not completed until July 1813.

Attack on York
April 27, 1813

Major General Henry Dearborn reluctantly replaced the slain General Pike in the US push toward Canadian expansion. American forces landed three miles west of York and started a series of attacks. The 1st Rifle Regiment met resistance from a group of Native American warriors, but the Americans kept sending troops to reinforce the line. The US outnumbered the British on the ground and increased pressure by adding bombardment from Captain Isaac Chauncey's Lake Ontario fleet. The Americans overtake York, capturing and burning it (now Toronto). York served as the provincial capital of Upper Canada.

Raid on Frenchtown/Attack of Havre de Grace
April 29, 1813

The raid on Frenchtown was part of a British naval operation in the Chesapeake Bay, under the command of Admiral George Cockburn. After a successful raid, Cockburn moved upriver, ready to fight any town that showed resistance to the British. Havre de Grace was a town that resisted, firing shots at Cockburn who retaliated by calling a flotilla of 16 ships. The American militia managed to depart before the attack, leaving 40 soldiers to hold the town. The British landed on May 3, killing one American and burning the town. This incident inspired hatred of Cockburn along the Atlantic seaboard.

The Siege of Fort Meigs
May 1, 1813

British General Henry Proctor began a siege of Fort Meigs in present-day Ohio. On May 1, the British began firing upon the fort. They kept up the bombardment for five days until 1,200 Kentucky militia arrived. These reinforcements met British reinforcements and battled on both sides of the Maumee River. May 5 was the bloodiest day of the siege with the Americans losing 600 men. Despite American losses, the Native American forces lost interest in the siege and withdrew to launch an attack on Fort Stephenson.

Battle of Fort George
May 27, 1813

This was the first American victory on the Niagara front during the war. It followed General Henry Dearborn's strategy of following an attack on York with an attack on Fort George, the British fort at the north end of the Niagara River. The Americans began the attack with a bombardment followed by landings. They outmaneuvered and outmanned the British, who retreated.

Battle at Sackets Harbor
May 29, 1813

The war on the Great Lakes was at a stalemate. Both sides had flotillas, but neither was willing to engage directly, sticking to small skirmishes. The Americans tried to break the stalemate with their attack at York. The British retaliated by attacking Sackets Harbor. The British flotilla was caught by contrary winds, preventing them from landing at the harbor, but their approach spooked the shipbuilders who set fire to their naval stores to prevent them from being captured.

USS Chesapeake Captured by British Frigate HMS Shannon
June 1, 1813

British Royal Navy Shannon captures the USS Chesapeake, a 38-gun sailing frigate. They put it into service until 1820 when they break her up and sell her timbers. Captain James Lawrence dies days after the capture.

Battle of Stoney Creek
June 6, 1813

Brigadier Generals William H. Winder and John Chandler and their combined 3,400 forces encamp at Stoney Creek. A British scout reported the encampment was poorly guarded. They planned a stealthy attack, but the Native American warriors were too noisy and the Americans rallied to battle. The skirmish was fraught with confusion, captures and mistakes on both sides. In the end, the Americans returned to their encampment and burned excess provisions and equipment before retreating to Forty Mile Creek.

Battle of Craney Island
June 22, 1813

After the Chesapeake campaign, the British turned to Norfolk. They wanted to control the Elizabeth River and attack the USS Constitution. To do this, they needed to control Craney Island, a 50-acre flat island on the western side of the river's mouth. The attack was a joint Royal Army-Navy operation. Both sides had difficulty with the shoals and heavy brush on land, but a US gun and artillery kept the British at bay. US captured a barge of British wounded and damaged two more. It was an American victory.

Battle of Beaver Dams
June 24, 1813

An American defeat on the Niagara front that helped the British recover from the defeats of Fort George and Stoney Creek. The Americans were planning a surprise attack on Stoney Creek, but were overheard by a Canadian woman who reported the plan to the British. The Americans had 100 casualties that day.

Burning of Hampton, Virginia
June 25, 1813

Following losses at Craney Island, the British turned to Hampton Roads for revenge. They burned it to the ground and committed heinous acts. Americans, particularly those of the Chesapeake region, condemned the savagery.

Battle of St. Michaels
August 10, 1813

British Admiral Cockburn targeted St. Michaels because it housed a militia battery charged with defending the town and its shipyard. After a short skirmish on land, the British began to bombard the town from the bay. It failed to destroy the shipyards or inflict much damage on the town. The militia returned fire. Rumor has it, the town saved itself by dimming its lights and placing lanterns in trees beyond town borders, which is how they got the name "the town that fooled the British."

Attack on Fort Mims, Alabama
August 30, 1813

In the first battle of the "Creek War" of 1813-1814, 700 Creek Indians destroyed Fort Mims, killing 250 and taking more than 100 captives. The killing of women and children prompted the US to take military action against the Creek Nation, which controlled much of what is now Alabama.

Battle of Lake Erie
September 10, 1813

Captain Perry defeats the British at the battle of Lake Erie. He led nine Americans ships to engage a squadron of six British warships. The battle waged for hours and Perry's ship Lawrence was wrecked. He transferred to the Niagara and kept fighting, firing at the British broadsides and forcing them to surrender.

Battle of the Thames
October 5, 1813

Also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, this battle was a decisive victory for the Americans. The British arrived with 600 regulars and 1,000 Native American troops under Tecumseh's command. They were outnumbered and quickly defeated by the Americans. By battle's end, Tecumseh was killed, destroying the Indian alliance in Ohio and the Indiana Territories.

Andrew Jackson Establishes Camp at Fayetteville
October 7, 1813

Jackson encamped in Tennessee to recruit American forces to combat the Creek Nation in Alabama.

Battle of Chateauguay
October 26, 1813

The Americans plan to attack Montreal, but are thwarted in Chateauguay by the British and French Canadians. This defeat started changing the US approach to Canada.

Battle of Crysler's Farm
November 11, 1813

This battle prevented a US capture of Montreal. The battle was fought on farms along the Lawrence River. Americans withdrew after losing 400 and having 100 taken prisoner.

Battle of Autossee
November 29, 1813

Part of the Creek War of 1813-14, this battle saw 900 Georgia militia and 400 US-allied Creeks, led by General John Floyd, take on a contingent of Creeks from the Red Stick faction. This attack was in retribution for the Battle of Fort Mims. The US was trying to destroy Red Stick strongholds. Their surprise attack when a Red Stick sentry spotted the troops. A battle ensued. When the American victors left, they were ambushed by Red Stick reinforcements when they stopped to bury their dead. Floyd withdrew and did not engage the Creek Nation again.

Capture of Fort Niagara
December 19, 1813

British take Fort Niagara following a surprise attack on the fort. British Colonel John Murray's forces killed 500 and wounded or took prisoner another 422 and captures stores, 27 cannons and 3,000 stands of arms. The British held the fort for the rest of the war.

1814

Winfield Scott Promoted to Brigadier General at 26
March 19, 1814
Battle of Horseshoe Bend
March 27, 1814

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend effectively ended Creek resistance to American advances into the southeast, opening up the Mississippi Territory for pioneer settlement. The Battle slaughtered more than 800 of 1,000 Red Sticks warriors. The remaining Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson giving up 20 million acres to the US. The remaining Native Americans were forced onto reservations in Oklahoma on the "Trail of Tears."

Napoleon Abdicates
April 4, 1814

Napoleon abdicates his throne and is exiled to Elba off the coast of Tuscany thus allowing Great Britain to focus on the war in America

Americans Capture Fort Erie
July 3, 1814

American troops under Major General Jacob Brown the Niagara River and capture Fort Erie.

Battle of Chippewa
July 5, 1814

The British, riding recent successes, engage American forces at Chippewa. They are badly outnumbered and suffer a significant defeat. British casualties are 604 to the American 335.

Battle of Lundy's Lane
July 25, 1814

One of the fiercest battles of the war. US General Jacob Brown established his troops at Queenston while British General Phineas Riall moved toward Lundy's Lane, where he was met by reinforcements led by General Gordon Drummond. As US troops advanced toward Canada, fighting broke out. Both sides had heavy losses (British 878 to 853 for the Americans). Drummond, Riall, Brown and US General Winfield Scott were all severely wounded and Riall was taken prisoner. American troops dropped back and the British did not pursue them.

Peace Negotiations Begin in Ghent
August 8, 1814
Treaty of Fort Jackson
August 9, 1814

Also known as the Treaty with the Creeks was signed at Fort Jackson in Alabama following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Attack on Stonington
August 9, 1814

Four British ships anchor off Stonington Point and aim guns at the town. Captain Thomas M. Hardy sends an ultimatum to the town to surrender the town to them in one hour. The town rallied, manning the town's three cannons. Unfortunately for the British, Captain Jeremiah Holmes and 16 others from Mystic joined the town's defense. Holmes was a master gunner and had a grudge against the British who had impressed him years earlier. Fighting continued for days until the British gave up and set sail with heavier losses than the brave town that stood up to the barrage.

British Reinforcements Arrive at Chesapeake Bay
August 14, 1814

General Robert Ross arrives in command of a reinforcement consisting of 4,500 veteran-British troops.

Battle of Bladensburg
August 24, 1814

The American defeat at Bladensburg left Washington DC open to British invasion.

Burning of Washington, D.C.
August 24, 1814

The British burn Washington, DC in retaliation for the burning of York. President James Madison flees the Capital.

Abandonment of Fort Warburton
August 27, 1814

A British fleet of 10 ships approached the fort, manned by just 26 guns and 56 men. The British began bombardment and the garrison retreated. Shortly after, the British blow up the fort and turn toward Alexandria.

Alexandria Raid
August 28, 1814

In the shadow of smoke from the fires in DC, the town of Alexandria allowed the British to take what they wanted without resistance to keep the town intact.

Battle of Plattsburgh
September 6, 1814

Battle on Lake Champlain. This was an American naval victory against the British fleet. It helped bring about the end of the war by securing the northern American border.

Battle of Lake Champlain
September 11, 1814

This was another American naval victory. A newly built US fleet under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough took on a British squadron and won. This forced the British to give up their siege of the fort in Plattsburgh and retreat to Canada on foot.

Battle of North Point
September 12, 1814

The British attacked Baltimore. The British Navy engaged more fully in the war now that the Napoleonic Wars were over. Anticipating the British strategy, Major General Samuel Smith sent 3,200 men and six cannon to delay the British. The Americans made a stand at North Point. British Major General Robert Ross was killed and his command took heavy losses. The British halted their advance.

Battle of Fort McHenry
September 13, 1814

While Ross' troops, now under the command of Colonel Arthur Brooke, retreating, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane turned his fleet up the Patapsco River toward Baltimore's harbor to face American defenses at Fort McHenry. Hampered by shallow waters, Cochrane was limited in the size ship he could send in. By early morning, bombs were bursting in air, but on land the British were surprised to find 13,000 Americans troops waiting. Unable to find an entry point, the British withdrew, but not before suffering heavy losses.

Francis Scott Key Pens "The Star Spangled Banner"
September 14, 1814

Amidst the fighting at Fort McHenry, Key writes the first lines of the poem that would become "The Star Spangled Banner" and later America's national anthem.

Battle of Malcom's Mills
November 6, 1814

The Americans, under command of Brigadier General Duncan McArthur, advanced up the Thames River in Canada with 700 troops. He planned to attack the Grand River establishments that supplied the British. Unable to cross the Grand, he launched an attack at Malcom's Mills and overwhelmed the British.

Battle of Pensacola
November 9, 1814

While Spain still maintained control over Florida Colony, the Napoleonic Wars had depleted its strength. Great Britain, who helped Spain during the war, wanted to occupy Pensacola for strategic operations. Their goal was to create a force to march on New Orleans. Andrew Jackson arrived in Florida on November 6 with 4,000 men and asked the Spanish Governor to surrender. He refused, so Jackson sent his troops through the town, overwhelming the British. Spain surrendered and the British fled after destroying Fort San Carlos and the powder magazine.

Peace Delegates Reconvene at Ghent
December 1, 1814
Delegates to the Hartford Convention Meet
December 14, 1814

The Hartford Convention was a series of political meetings where the New England Federalist Party aired their grievances on the war.

The Treaty of Ghent Signed
December 24, 1814

Americans and British diplomats agree to the terms of a treaty and return to the status quo from before the war.

1815

Battle of New Orleans
January 8, 1815

News of the Treaty and end of the war was slow to reach America though, which is why the two sides met in New Orleans in one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the war. Andrew Jackson and a force of militiamen, frontiersmen, slaves and Native Americans fought the British and won. The battle lasted from December 24, 1814 to January 8, 1815. It increased Jackson's legend as "Old Hickory."

The Hartford Convention Concludes
January 5, 1815
US Senate Ratifies the Treaty of Ghent
February 16, 1815

The Peace Treaty is ratified and President Madison declares the war over.

USS Constitution Engages HMS Cyane and Levant
February 20, 1815

Not realizing the war was over, the USS Constitution engages two British ships, the HMS Cyane and Levant. The British anticipated this engagement and fired their guns at the approaching Constitution. Their efforts fell short. The three ships went broadsides and the ships began firing. The Cyane, having taken heavy damage, tried to sail away but was caught by the Constitution and surrendered. When the Constitution turned toward the remaining Levant, Captain Douglas struck his colors, signaling surrender.

Dartmoor Prison Massacre
April 6, 1815

Seven American prisoners were killed and 32 wounded in the "Dartmoor Massacre" at Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England. The war was over, but the Treaty of Ghent had not included a clear plan for releasing prisoners. American prisoners remained at Dartmoor Prison for months following the Treaty. The warden of the prison instituted a food ration and the Americans rebelled. When they gathered outside their perimeter, inexperienced guards began shooting.

Battle of the Sink Hole
May 24, 1815

Despite the end of the war, the British forged an alliance with the Native Americans with the intent of terrorizing Americans in the West, but the Americans fought back. It was the last official battle of the war. The battle was indecisive and both parties withdrew.