Information on the War of 1812 used below came from the following sources:
America’s Revolutionary War against Great Britain ended on September 3, 1783, but hostilities between the two nations remained at heightened levels. After licking their embarrassing wounds, Great Britain put more energy into building their military strength. By 1800, the British Navy was considered to be the most powerful navy in the world which was being used in their war with France and to block all American trade with France and French colonies. The French likewise did their best to block all trade between Great Britain and America. The dual blockades were financially devastating America who was still recovering from the financial costs of the Revolutionary War.
Whenever a British naval ship encountered an American merchant ship, the British would seize the American sailors and force them into British service, a policy known as impressment.
In addition to the trade blockade and impressment, British agents were inciting many American Indian tribes to resist any attempts of American expansion to the west. This led to the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811 between Indiana Governor William Henry Harrison and Shawnee leader Tecumseh. Harrison and his army prevailed, leading Tecumseh to seek British aide.
Between the trade blockade at sea originated by the British, the British incitement of the Indians and the illegal inscription of Americans into British naval service, led President James Madison to be the first president to ask Congress for a declaration of war against the British. It was not a popular idea but eventually, Congress voted to declare war against the British. Madison signed the declaration on June 18 1812.
America’s first action in the war was to attack the British in Canada, but those early attempts proved disastrous for the underprepared American forces. On August 16, 1812, Tecumseh and British Officer Sir Isaac Brock soundly defeated Michigan William Hull and Detroit was surrendered to the British.
The first real American victory came in September 1813 when Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie and took control of the Northwest Territory. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Harrison re-captured Detroit.
The War of 1812 continued with victories on both sides with perhaps one of the greatest British victories was the burning of Washington DC on August 24, 1814. On September 11, 1814, Captain Thomas MacDonough of the US Navy, won a crucial victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain, forcing British forces to abandon their post and retreat back to Canada. This victory played a key role in bringing the US and British peace negotiations taking place in Ghent, Belgium to a conclusion.
The Treaty of Ghent, to end what some referred to as the Second Revolutionary War, was signed on December 24, 1814. Although the treaty had been signed it took two months to arrive in back in America. In the meantime, a large British force attacked New Orleans on January 8, 1815. However, General Andrew Jackson was well prepared and in a matter of several hours easily defeated the larger British forces. British General Pakenham was killed and the remaining British forces quickly retreated. Although it was a huge victory for Andrew Jackson and his troops, the reality that nearly 2,000 British troops were killed, wounded or missing along with 8 Americans killed and 13 wounded all took place after the treaty to end the war had been signed in Europe.
Finally, the US Senate voted to ratify the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, officially ending the War of 1812 and handing the British their second defeat at the hands of America in just over 30 years.