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    The Bicentennial of the War of 1812

    Today marks the Bicentennial of the War of 1812....18 June 1812.

    In the coming weeks I hope to start posting some recommended reading. But first off here are a few observation of your's truly on that long forgotten war.

    Winners.

    1. British Canada, particulalry the Enlglish of Upper Canada. The success of the Provincial Regulars with a leavening of the British Regualr regiments in defeating American invasions established Canada as a nation....it just took half a century for the paperwork to catch up.

    2. The US Navy. Yes, I know by mid-war it was bottled up in east coast ports. But it showed it was the one professional NATIONAL security force and its prestige grew in this war, especially with its success on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.

    3. The Westerners. Called Warhawks for pushing the war, the western states and territories of the US grew politically more powerful and pulled America's vision westward and away from the Eastern Seaboard and Europe. It laid the groundwork for Henry Clay and the American System.

    4. The US Army Regulars. Despite an abysmal opening the Regulars learned and and applied those hard lessons. Training and tactics were improved. The curriculum at West Point was dramatically improved as a result. A small but professional corps was established which fought well in the wars of American Expansion up to the Civil War.

    5. Southerners & Slavery. The clearing of the threat to Mississippi and expansion westward across the deep south and opened the Mississippi River to navigation. This allowed cotton to explode along with the slave population needed to work it.

    Losers.

    People of the First Nations. They bargained on the British being able to defeat the Americans and keep the expansion in check. What had previously been treaties to keep whites out of their lands became treaties of removal. The success of the Warhawks gave rise to political leaders (Harrison, Jackson, Tyler, etc) who wanted to increase white populations so territories could become states.

    The Natives lost bigtime.

    Draw

    1. New Englanders. The war had been disasterous to the New England shipping industry since the RN bottled up or destroyed merchant fleets. The war was extremely unpopular, so much so that most states had real problems meeting enlistment quotas, municipalities would charge servicemen for nonpayment of taxes while away fighting, etc. Commerce was disrupted and many New Englanders openly traded with the British. And the talk of seccssion at the Hartford Convention hurt the area politically for decades. However, with the adoption of the American System and growth of the industry New England and the north would become the manufacturing center of quality goods which were traded to the south and west.


    2. The British. While the British secured the eastern border with the US they lost their influence and control in the upper Mississippi watershed. They lost some of the markets for their manufactured goods to the North but made up for it with the import of Southern cotton over the decades to come.

    So those are my first thoughts going forward.

    I encourage all Wabbits to join in and perhaps if enough care we can get the War of 1812 its own subcategory if the interest is there.

    Enjoy,

    AR
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    What's your view on the opinion that the War of 1812 was just an extension of the Napoleonic Wars? Did the fact that Britain was at war already mean that the British Army was stronger, since it had learned lessons that it could implement on the battlefield in the US, or did it mean that the British Army was weaker because they were fighting a battle in two entirely separate theaters, two entirely separate logistics chains, chains of command, etc....?
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    BR,

    Did the fact that Britain was at war already mean that the British Army was stronger, since it had learned lessons that it could implement on the battlefield in the US, or did it mean that the British Army was weaker because they were fighting a battle in two entirely separate theaters, two entirely separate logistics chains, chains of command, etc....?
    NA was a backwater for the british. it was only after napoleon receded as a threat that the british really tried dealing with the americans. even then they didn't really try very hard, although the power imbalance was such that it took the americans several lucky breaks to fight the british to a draw.
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    But the question still stands, was the campaign against Napoleon a benefit or detractor to the British Army? Were they strong and the US truly had some lucky breaks, or they were weak, which allowed the US the successes it did.
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    the war started as a by-product of the Napoleonic Wars, which worsened outstanding american grievances against the british.

    from the american POV napoleon was a great distractor for the british. while the continental war was going, the Brits sent only their B or C team over to fight the americans. afterwards, they were exhausted enough where they didn't really try very hard to beat the americans. which made sense, because their war goals were a hastily-cobbled together grab-bag of small desires, and were thrown out the window when they realized the amount of work that would be needed in actually decisively beating the americans. so napoleon was definitely bad for the british; little benefit/lessons learned there that was applicable for fighting the americans.

    for your second question: both.

    the outstretched pinkie of the british fist was more than enough to cause america a lot of problems. it was a combination of lucky breaks, skillful use of what power the americans did have (well, except for the whole canada thing), and most of all, napoleon that allowed the americans to fight to a stalemate.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Luck on our part too. We had two real strategic thinkers, Brock and Tecumseh, on our side who dealt crippling blows to American initiatives. Brock with less than a company of men took the Michigan territories and Tecumseh turned the First Nations into a real force to be reckoned with. Without these two men, I can't see us standing to against American numbers for long. We would have won our share of battles but Brock and Tecumseh denied the Americans staging grounds.

    It was by no accident that the tide of war turned against us when we lost Brock and the First Nations were on the ropes when they lost Tecumseh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    it was only after napoleon receded as a threat that the british really tried dealing with the americans.
    Actually yesterday (June 24th) was the bicentennial of Napoleon's invasion of Russia. The left-wing newspaper i read celebrated it by recounting the extent of his failure in detail on a two-page special article in their weekend issue.

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    I have just completed Alan Taylor's excellent The Civil War of 1812 and have come to realize that while I have considered myself a pretty good student of US military history I don't know shit about this war!!! The book mostly dealt with the politics of the war and actions against Canada.

    First impressions.

    a. The North American Anglo Saxons of the early 19th Century were truly a contemptible bunch!!! Understanding we were still talking about absolute wilderness but it was a me-first society on both sides of the border.

    b. In Upper Canada (Ontario) the landed gentry had total control and were absolutely loyal to the crown. They were at the top of the heap as they were through much of the Empire. They held seats in the very limited assembly and all of the judgeships and magistrate positions. Next were the Loyalist populations. Those were those who Americans who had moved to Canada after the Revolution, some in fear of their life, and stayed loyal to the crown. They were considered to be rusted and were rewarded with militia commissions, clerkships, and sheriff offices. They were allowed to operate newspapers so long as they were totally loyal. Their loyalty was rewarded with extensive grants of land and the permission to operate land speculation businesses. Next down the tier were the Late Loyalists. This group emigrated to Canada from the US in the 1790s. Some moved because they did not like the way American democracy was going….many saw it as a mobocracy. Most moved for the free or cheap land (200 acre plots went for 6 cents per acre) and to escape the crushing inflation and depression facing the US in that decade….thanks in a large part to Great Britain’s financial policies intended to cripple the US economy post-Revolution and to try to keep it a financial vassal of England if not in fact a political one.

    The Quebecois were few and far between in Upper Canada….they were mostly concentrated in Lower Canada. The First Nations were spread to the west

    c. In the US the population and governments were much divided along the hard lines of the Federalists and Republicans. (Sound familiar?) EVERYTHING in daily life was viewed through that political prism. Politics in early Republican American was a full contact sport. The Federalists were concentrated in New England, New York East of Lake Ontario down through the southern tier, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and most of Maryland. The Republicans were through the Southern states, and the new states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio as well as western New York….in other words those states along the frontier. These were hard divisions. The Federalists seemed to believe that closer ties with Britain, to include friendly relations with Canada, was in America’s best interest. This was anathema to the Republicans who wanted a weak central government, greater ties to Republican France and an expansion into Upper Canada. There was also a strong sentiment to destroy the First Nations which were seen as a threat to expansion. Central to the Republican weak central government was an unwillingness to provide any tax revenue to even pay for the war. The result was the Federal Government with the Republicans in power had to borrow money from Federalists bankers.

    d. The way to become an American general was to be a toady to the Republicans. This resulted in a lot of dead American soldiers and disgruntled subordinates. The Continental Army of 1779-1783 would look with sneers of derision at the rabble that attempted to take Canada. Only with the emergence of a corps of young combat officers did the US Army become adequate. Both armies were brutal to the civilians in any area where they operated. If you were a civilian you had no rights on either side of the border. Soldiers simply took what they wanted and all you got was worthless script. Local economies collapsed all along the Great Lakes because the area was picked clean of supplies by marauding armies.

    e. The American strategy, what there was of it, sucked. To appease/give political patronage to westerners the Madison Administration decided the best way to attack Canada was to attack along either side of Lake Erie….Detroit and Niagara areas. That is like trying to kill an elephant by attacking its tail! If the Americans had taken Montreal they would have cut off all British forces in the Great Lakes and broken the Native Confederation which was Britain’s allies. The problem with that was you had to attack from the Vermont/New York St Lawrence border area. Why was that a problem? Because the Americans in that part of the country were openly trading with the Canadians across the ST Lawrence River! The American leaders in the area were all Federalists who wanted to see Madison fail. Oh, remember that I mentioned the Madison Administration paid for the war through borrowing? Well most of the loans came from wealthy Federalists from that area who were building their fortunes trading with the Crown’s forces!!! They did not want any American army traipsing through the area and disrupting their sweetheart deal!

    Ugh….I felt like I needed a shower when I was done with that book!
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    It takes a dedicated historian like the author of that book to dig through the jingoism and back-slapping that dominated normal historical texts about the early USA, to find the reality of the situation.

    Early Americans were a ruthless and greedy bunch, especially w/regards to the Natives. To be fair, the political correct movement of the last 50 years has totally whitewashed native American aggression vis peaceful farmers and settlers on the frontier. There were many brutal and horrific attacks by natives, to include mass rapes, torture, and other distasteful acts. The U.S. Army vs. Native Americans was seen by many (if not most) as a just war. The Natives might have been called domestic terrorists today.

    Also, the "peaceful native living in harmony with each other, and Mother Earth" is another B.S. image. Native tribes brutally warred with each other, and also used Ma Nature by whatever means necessary to advance themselves.

    It is interesting to postulate what might be today if the U.S. efforts in Canada had been successful from the outset, and the war itself ending in a clear U.S. victory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    What's your view on the opinion that the War of 1812 was just an extension of the Napoleonic Wars? Did the fact that Britain was at war already mean that the British Army was stronger, since it had learned lessons that it could implement on the battlefield in the US, or did it mean that the British Army was weaker because they were fighting a battle in two entirely separate theaters, two entirely separate logistics chains, chains of command, etc....?
    I do not see it that way at all. The Napoleonic Wars had, at best, a tertiary effect on the reasons for the war. The US did not go into that war with a mind to help France. You may recall we had an undeclared naval war with France in 1798 so we were not looking to help France, particularly when it had ceased being a democracy.

    The war was caused by homegrown pressures of a desire of expansion over the Appalachians into the Mississippi watershed and off of the eastern seaboard. It was also believed, erroneously, that Canada and its English-speaking populations were eager to throw off British rule and join the US. While the impressment of US merchant sailors was given as the casus belli, it was really a fig leaf. The US was trading with Great Britain and very little with France. There was little to gain by fighting the British on that front.

    Now British experience on The Peninsula translated little to the War of 1812. Geography was massively different on scale and type. And the British Army had almost 150 years of experience to draw on for fighting in North America. The forces they brought to the US which did have Peninsula experience went 1-2-1 in combat with US forces (won Bladensburg and Washington, lost at Baltimore/FT Henry and New Orleans and I will give the British Army a draw for Plattsburgh). The US Army overcame a badly flawed national doctrine of reliance on militia forces with no standing regular force which resulted in many early disasters. Regulars, backed by long service volunteers like the Kentucky Mounted Rifles at the Battle of the Thames, had worked hard to become a hard center for militia forces to rally on for land battles.

    So the results were a status quo ante bellum with no real influence from events from the European mainland.
    Last edited by Albany Rifles; 26 Jun 12, at 13:34.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    I do not see it that way at all. The Napoleonic Wars had, at best, a tertiary effect on the reasons for the war. The US did not go into that war with a mind to help France. You may recall we had an undeclared naval war with France in 1798 so we were not looking to help France, particularly when it had ceased being a democracy.

    The war was caused by homegrown pressures of a desire of expansion over the Appalachians into the Mississippi watershed and off of the eastern seaboard. It was also believed, erroneously, that Canada and its English-speaking populations were eager to throw off British rule and join the US. While the impressment of US merchant sailors was given as the casus belli, it was really a fig leaf. The US was trading with Great Britain and very little with France. There was little to gain by fighting the British on that front.

    Now British experience on The Peninsula translated little to the War of 1812. Geography was massively different on scale and type. And the British Army had almost 150 years of experience to draw on for fighting in North America. The forces they brought to the US which did have Peninsula experience went 1-2-1 in combat with US forces (won Bladensburg and Washington, lost at Baltimore and FT Henry and I will give the British Army a draw for Plattsburgh). The US Army overcame a badly flawed national doctrine of reliance on militia forces with no standing regular force which resulted in many early disasters. Regulars, backed by long service volunteers like the Kentucky Mounted Rifles at the Battle of the Thames, had worked hard to become a hard center for militia forces to rally on for land battles.

    So the results were a status quo ante bellum with no real influence from events from the European mainland.
    I was actually looking at this from the entire opposite direction, from the British side, not the US side. I know the US couldn't care less about France at that point, I was wondering more if the British army was helped or hampered by the effects of the war in Europe
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    No, we were blessed with exceptional officers

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    What the Colonel said. The Canadian politicians took defense matters much more seriously than their American counterparts.
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