Second war of Independence, or a bunch of crap

In 1811 at Tippecanoe in Indiana William Henry Harrison, well known now for being one of the shortest Presidents, fought with Tecumseh, the great Shawnee leader who was trying to unite the mid west Natives against US encroachment.

After this battle, which Harrison won, Tecumseh and many others in the Native groups frustrated by American settlement went back to the British. Tecumseh who has received recognition on both sides of the border, here and here for examples, would form a partnership with the British.  It would be a monumental event which probably turned the whole of the coming war.

As often is the case the War itself was dressed in mythology, much of the memory of the war was formed in two iconic moments for Americans and two for Canadians.  In each case the prime beneficiary of these events were people who many would not now look at that fondly.

For Americans, if they even remember the war, most of it would be tied up in two events that transcended the War itself.  The battle at Fort McHenry, near Baltimore gave America a National Anthem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” as Francis Scott Key originally labeled it.  Or The Star Spangled Banner as known today.  While the banner was still there, so too were the British who would go on to do more damage as we will see later.

The other major battle of note for America was the battle of New Orleans where the American forces defeated the British under Andrew Jackson.  It created a national hero and eventually a US President.  For this reason, it has taken on greater significance that it may have possible deserved.  Especially for a battle officially fought after the peace treaty had been signed.  (Communication being what it was they did not find out until a month after the battle.)

Of course for Canadians a mythological painting and quote used to be commonly seen in school text books.  This painting, shows the dying General Brock, leader of the British Army in Canada calling to the York (Toronto) Militia and telling them, “Push on brave York Volunteers.”  This cemented the idea for Canadians in the Victorian period of all of Canada pushing out the American invasion.
Of course this is a fanciful presentation makes good propaganda and created a national hero of a man who more or less hated the fact he had been relegated to the backwater colony of Upper Canada (Ontario) while most of the Army were fighting in Europe against Napoleon.

General Isaac Brock was such a hero to the establishment in Canada that they put up one of the few monuments for a war hero in Canada.  A pillar now stands near the place where he died, and he is still remembered fondly enough to finish in the top 30 of the Greatest Canadian contest held a couple of years ago.  Even today he is noted as the “Savior of Canada”.

With his death the defense of Canada, started to falter. After victories at Mackinac Island, Detriot and the Queenston Heights Brock’s death had a stilling effect, the Canadian forces (British regulars and Natives) lost some major battles after that.

With the end of the military conflict in France, Wellington’s armies were suddenly turned against US.  These Regulars landed on the coast of Maryland, and with a three pronged attack on the United States in New Orleans and upper state New York were seeking to force concessions from the USA at the peace tables later in 1814.

The British troops first sought to damage morale of the public so  turned to Washington.  The troops took the city with relative ease burning down most of the major public buildings.  Most famous was the White House which was gutted.  The USA would take 50 years to rebuild the Capital.  However, a few days later was the Battle of Baltimore, where the the Flag was still there…

Canadians have to some degree seen these battles as a major turning point as the colonies of British North America were described as having unified to fight the foe, of course little of the militia forces were actually trusted by British regulars so they were not normally used.  As well from 1812 to mid 1813 the British forces achieved almost total victory on land against the invasion of Canada but by for most of the rest of the war lost as much as they won, helped in part by the naval supremacy of the US Great Lakes fleet.

In fact the country of Canada really did not begin to come into form until the end of the control of the government by the elites in the 1830s and 40s.

For the US this so-called Second War of Independence did not achieve militarily what they did through negotiation.  Most of the war saw the US military struggling with old Revolutionary War Generals make pretty fundamental mistakes which cost them most of the momentum.  Many of the American aims for the war, which did not include expansion into Canada, were resolved before the US military was successful.

However, the memories of Brock, Fort McHenry, New Orleans, and the burning of Washington lived beyond the war, in some ways while the War fell into the hazy past these incidents continued to grow in importance to both countries.


9 Responses to Second war of Independence, or a bunch of crap

  1. Thanks, Jon. I love bite-size pieces of history about events I have only the most foggy awareness of. You’ve taken a lot of those foggy bits and names and put them into a narrative for me.

    Of course, the greatest thing to come out of all these events was Jimmy Driftwood’s “Battle of New Orleans” —

    Well, we fired our cannon ’til the barrel melted down,
    So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.
    We filled his head with cannon balls and powdered his behind,
    And when they tetched the powder off, the ‘gator lost his mind.


  2. Jon W says:

    Ardis, thanks.

    I can do you one better on song lyrics though…

    Oh, come back, proud Canadians
    To before you had TV,
    No hockey night in Canada,
    There was no CBC (Oh, my God!).
    In 1812, Madison was mad,
    He was the president, you know
    Well, he thought he’d tell the British where they ought to go
    He thought he’d invade Canada,
    He thought that he was tough
    Instead we went to Washington….
    And burned down all his stuff!

    And the White House burned, burned, burned,
    And we’re the one’s that did it!
    It burned, burned, burned,
    While the president ran and cried.
    It burned, burned, burned,
    And things were very historical.
    And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies
    Waa waa waah!
    In the War of 1812!

    Now some hillbillies from Kentucky,
    Dressed in green and red,
    Left home to fight in Canada,
    But they returned home dead
    It’s the only war the Yankees lost, except for Vietnam
    And also the Alamo… and the Bay of… ham.
    The loser was America,
    The winner was ourselves,
    So join right in and gloat about the War of 1812

    And the White House burned, burned, burned,
    And we’re the one’s that did it!
    It burned, burned, burned,
    While the president ran and cried.
    It burned, burned, burned,
    And things were very historical.
    And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies
    Waa waa waah!
    In the War of 1812!

    In 1812, we were just sittin’ around,
    Mindin’ our own business, puttin’ crops into the ground.
    We heard the soldiers coming and we didn’t like that sound.
    So we took a boat to Washington and burned it to the ground.

    Oh… we… fired our guns, but the Yankees kept-a coming,
    There wasn’t quite as many as there was a while ago.
    We fired once more and the Yankees started running,
    Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, oh, oh….
    They ran through the snow and they ran through the forest,
    They ran through the bushes where the beavers wouldn’t go.
    They ran so fast, they forgot to take their culture,
    Back to America, and Gulf and Texaco

    So, if you go to Washington, its buildings clean and nice,
    Bring a pack of matches, and we’ll burn the White House twice!

    And the White House burned, burned, burned,
    But the Americans won’t admit it
    It burned, burned, burned,
    It burned and burned and burned
    It burned, burned, burned,
    Now, I bet that made them mad
    And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies
    Waa waa waah!
    In the War of 1812

  3. Jon W says:

    Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie is the name of that group… btw.

  4. Derivative drivel.

    But hey, thanks for giving all that land to my ancestors Jeremiah Lapp and James Rankin, Loyalists who ended up in Upper Canada for defendiing the honor of your king.

  5. Jon W says:

    Hey my mom had relatives who were daughters of the American Revolution and United Empire Loyalists. So talk about confused.

    But honestly, if you look at the history most people on both sides of the border were in effect tired of the whole thing. In one story when General Hull (American) first invaded Southern Ontario he sent out a proclamation to the people asking them to join him. The people for the most part ignored him.

    The Maritimes and the New England states for most of the War spent it in a mutual non-aggression agreement I think until the Wellington regulars arrived and captured most of Maine. For most people in Canada, including the new Canadians like my family basically they would farm and ignored the war.

    Until both sides started burning cities, Newark, York and Washington, most civilians were not involved. There was also instances where militia troops in the USA refused to cross the border, claiming it was against their enlistment and in sizable amounts ignored their own leaders. (Encouraged because of the tendency in the early US military to vote for their officers and non-commissioned officers.)

  6. I don’t know what, if any, of this is taught as local history in the US border counties where these things occurred, but I know none of it was ever taught in the schools I attended. It wasn’t until I started doing family history, and a little later doing Mormon history where I had to sort out the backgrounds of some folks, before I heard anything about any of it, other than Dolly-Madison-saving-the-treasures. While ignorance can hardly be called a good thing, I do think it’s remarkable that indignation has to be manufactured, for the most part. In some parts of the world, this border conflict would have festered through generations.

    Really, thanks for pulling so many bits and pieces into a coherent narrative for me.

  7. justin allen says:

    i hate this

  8. Jon W says:

    belated thanks Justin for your um comment.

  9. 1 says:

    Hi to all, the contents present at this site are genuinely
    remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.

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