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Chapter 12

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Chapter 12: "The Second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism"

~ 1815 - 1824 ~

On to Canada over Land and Lakes

Due to widespread disunity, the War of 1812 ranks as one of America's worst fought wars.

There was not burning national anger, like there was after the Chesapeake outrage; the regular army was very bad and scattered and had old, senile generals, and the offensive strategy against Canada was especially poorly conceived.

Had the Americans captured Montreal, everything west would have wilted like a tree after its trunk has been severed, but the Americans instead focused a three-pronged attack that set out from Detroit, Niagara, and Lake Champlain, all of which were beaten back.

In contrast, the British and Canadians displayed enthusiasm early on in the war and captured the American fort of Michilimackinac, which commanded the upper Great Lakes area (the battle was led by British General Isaac Brock).

After more land invasions were hurled back in 1813, the Americans, led by Oliver Hazard Perry, built a fleet of green-timbered ships manned by inexperienced men, but still managed to capture a British fleet; his victory, coupled with General William H. Harrison's defeat of the British during the Battle of the Thames, helped bring more enthusiasm and increased morale for the war.

In 1814, 10,000 British troops prepared for a crushing blow to the Americans along the Lake Champlain route, but on September 11, 1814, Thomas Macdonough challenged the British and snatched victory from the fangs of defeat and forced the British to retreat.

Washington Burned and New Orleans Defended.

In August 1814, British troops landed in the Chesapeake Bay area, dispersed 6000 panicked Americans at Bladensburg, and proceeded to enter Washington D.C. and burn most of the buildings there.

At Baltimore, another British fleet arrived but was beaten back by the privateer defenders of Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner."

Another British army menaced the entire Mississippi Valley and threatened New Orleans, and Andrew Jackson, fresh off his slaughter of the Creek Indians, led a hodgepodge force of 7000 sailors, regulars, pirates, and Frenchmen, entrenching them and helping them defeat 8000 overconfident British that had launched a frontal attack.

The news of this British defeat reached Washington early in February 1815, and two weeks later came news of peace from Britain.

Ignorant citizens simply assumed that the British, having been beaten by Jackson, finally wanted peace, lest the "awesome" Americans beat them again.

During the war, the American navy had done much better than the army, since the sailors were angry at British impressments.

However, Britain responded with a naval blockade, raiding ships and ruining American economic life such as fishing.

The Treaty of Ghent

At first, the confident British made sweeping demands for a neutralized Indian buffer state in the Great Lakes region, control of the Great Lakes, and a substantial part of conquered Maine, but the Americans, led by John Quincy Adams, refused. As American victories piled up, though, the British reconsidered.

The Treat of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, was an armistice, acknowledging the draw in the war and ignoring any other demands of either side.

Federalist Grievances and the Hartford Convention

As the capture of New Orleans seemed imminent, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island secretly met in Hartford from December 15 1814 to January 5, 1815, to discuss their grievances and to seek redress for their wrongs.

While a few talked about secession, most wanted financial assistance form Washington to compensate for lost trade, and an amendment requiring 2/3 majority for all declarations of embargos, except during invasion.

Three special envoys from Mass. went to D.C., where they were greeted with the news from New Orleans; their mission failed, they sank away in disgrace and into obscurity.

The Hartford Convention proved to be the death of the Federalist Party, as James Monroe trounced their last presidential nomination in 1816.

The Second War for American Independence

The War of 1812 was a small war involving some 6000 Americans killed or wounded, and when Napoleon invaded Russian in 1812 with 500,000 men, Madison tried to invade Canada with about 5000 men.

Yet, the Americans proved that they could stand up for what they felt was right, and naval officers like Perry and Macdonough gained new respect; American diplomats were treated with more respect than before.

The Federalist Party died out forever, and new war heroes, like Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, emerged.

Manufacturing also prospered during the British blockade, since there was nothing else to do.

Incidents like the burning of Washington added fuel to the bitter conflict with Britain, and led to hatred of the nation years after the war, though few would have guessed that the War of 1812 would be the last war America fought against Britain.

Many Canadians felt betrayed by the Treaty of Ghent, since not even an Indian buffer state had been achieved, and the Indians, left by the British, were forced to make treaties where they could.

In 1817, though, after a heated naval arms race in the Great Lakes, the Rush-Bagot Treaty between the U.S. and Britain provided the world's longest unfortified boundary (5527 mi.).

After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Europe sank into an exhaustion of peace, and America looked west to further expand.

Nascent Nationalism

After the war, American nationalism really took off, and authors like Washington Irving and James Fennimore Cooper gained international recognition.

The North American Review debuted in 1815, and American painters painted landscape of America on their canvases, while Americans for Americans were now writing history books.

Washington D.C. rose from the ashes to be better than ever, and the navy and army strengthened themselves.

Stephen Decatur, naval hero of the War of 1812 and the Barbary Coast expeditions, was famous for his

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