180. The period of time from 1812 into the year 1815 is of particular importance because events therein could have smothered the “infant USA” in the crib. This is not currently understood in America because our educators and textbook authors have apparently failed to consider motives, plans, opinions and events that were occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. As an attempt is made to lay these on the table, remember that trans Atlantic communication required three to six weeks, dependent upon types of sailing vessels and weather conditions.
181. By many accounts, the “War of 1812” should have never happened. But it did.
182. As the war began, certain things were true.
183. The greatest number of Britain’s forces were already at war with Napoleon.
184. New England states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire hated the war because it impacted their trade with Europe. They hated Pres. Madison for his part in initiating the war. They resented the southern states because New England’s control of Congress was reduced due to the slave populations in those states. They aided the war effort as little as possible. There were riots in protest.
185. When battles did begin in earnest,the outcomes did not weigh heavily in favor of the US. Some Americans who got the idea of conquering British held Canada were repulsed after having burned public buildings in the Canadian capitol.
186. 1813, Britain proposed a meeting to treat for peace in Ghent, Belgium.
187. April 1814, Napoleon abdicated, and the full European naval and military force of Great Britain became available for use against America.
188. June 1814, American treaty officials were in Belgium, but, for whatever their reasons, the British did not arrive for another six weeks. A months long period of proposal and counter proposal began, and there seemed to be an act of chicanery afoot with the British continuing to insist on the inclusion of a term (uti possidetis) which meant each party would retain the area occupied at the time of ratification of a treaty.
189. August 20, 1814, British forces encountered a farce of resistance and began burning public buildings in Washington DC. Peculiarly, tornado type winds and rain struck DC quenching what flames that remained and killed two soldiers. As they prepared to leave, some 30 other men were lost in an explosion while destroying a store of American munitions.
190. Although the British failed to take Ft. McHenry at Baltimore, American public morale deteriorated.
191. Nov.26, 1814 Powerful British forces were assembling at the island of Jamaica, and arrived off the coast of Louisiana by Dec. 9.
192. Dec. 15, 1814 – Jan. 5, 1815 Massachusetts, having earlier toyed with the thought of separation from the Union over a matter of tariffs, participated in a convention at Hartford, Connecticut that included representatives from other New England states. The Hartford Convention delegates considered a “separation of sovereign states”, but decided to present a list to Congress that would amount to revising the US Constitution in their favor. That might possibly result in secession by the southern states which would have been ok with the New Englanders. They were well aware that the British were planning to attack New Orleans. The loss was assumed to be inevitable and thereby turn public opinion heavily in agreement with them. Personal searches have not found that the general population of the New England states voiced grave concern regarding the possible loss of the Mississippi.
193. The details of Andrew Jackson’s defense of New Orleans are extremely deserving of personal inquiry, but for this purpose a minuscule description must suffice.
194. The British possessed a vastly superior number of trained and experienced combatants who were led by two of the most battle proven British commanders. But, as their unfortunate luck would have it, the Red Coats could have been tagged as the “Bad News Bears of Britain”. Even British historian, Winston Churchill,described the final frontal assault as, “…one of the most unintelligent manoeuvres in the history of British warfare”.
195. The naval commander arrived first, failed to convince the pirates of Barataria Bay to join the British, failed to attack a still preparing Jackson and then let his guard down. This allowed Jackson to execute a night raid on the camp of an advanced party.
196. The military commander arrived, and the leaders quarreled among themselves.
197. Earthworks collapsed that would have allowed a large force to access the Mississippi under the cover of darkness and float down the river to out flank the defenders. A few forces were able to access the river, but the current swept them several miles off target.
198. Ladders that were prepared for scaling the American ramparts did not arrive when they could have been put to use.
199. Jan. 8, 1815, the British finally mounted their major attack under cover of a dense fog that originally obscured the view of the American marksmen. As luck would have it, the fog began to lift, and the British were clearly exposed.
200. Historical recordings of comparative casualties vary in exact numbers, but all agree on the almost absurd preponderance of British losses.
201. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, there were opinions, objectives and orders issued that are not addressed in our educational classrooms.