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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Katie Yenna
After winning our independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War, we were trying to figure out how to function as our own nation. We were rebuilding our military and navy, finding people to trade with, and organizing our government – We were busy! Meanwhile, Great Britain had their hands full fighting Napoleon in France, but they still had time to pick another fight with us. That fight officially began in 1812, but why did it happen? Read on to find out.
There were several causes to the War of 1812, or as some call it, the “Second War for Independence,” and most of them involved England antagonizing the newly formed United States (fun fact: before the Revolutionary War, our country was called “The United Colonies”). Part of our issues came from England placing limitations and special taxes on U.S. merchant ships trying to trade with any country seen as an enemy of Great Britain. They wanted to cut off supplies that might be sold to France, giving them the advantage during the war. In 1807, Great Britain even passed a law called the “Orders in Council” that required U.S. ships to obtain a special permission to trade with certain countries. Keep in mind, we were now an independent nation and England no longer had the power to control what the U.S. was doing with other countries.
Artillery uniform jacket worn during the War of 1812, Tennessee State Museum Collection.
Another reason for the declaration of war was the British impressment of American seaman (those in the navy) into their military. They were struggling to keep their troop numbers up during their war with France and needed more people to fight for them. So, they began taking American men from their ships and forcing them to fight for Great Britain. On top of this, the United States was becoming more and more irritated with the British for encouraging Native American hostility toward settlers living in what was known as the Northwest Territory (which formed the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois after the Revolutionary War).
British officers inspect American sailors taken against their will, Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Out of all this came a declaration of war by President James Madison on June 18, 1812 against Great Britain. Before it was all over, the United States had invaded Canada (which still belonged to Great Britain), the White House was set on fire, and Andrew Jackson became a household name. After several years of fighting, a peace delegation met in Belgium on Christmas Eve in 1814. Eventually, the Treaty of Ghent was signed by both the United States and Great Britain. This officially ending the war. This treaty meant the removal of any remaining British troops from the United States, the return of all conquered lands to their own country, and strict boundaries set between Canada and the U.S. This war was important because we were able to establish ourselves as a true independent nation. We showed that we were ready to represent ourselves on the world stage. It also finally helped us cut all ties with the British Empire and begin to truly form our own nation, our own way.
Treaty of Ghent, 1814, Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.
Independence - a nation or country has control over itself and how it does things.
Revolutionary War - occurred in colonial America between 1776-1783, for independence from Great Britain.
Napoleon - a French statesman and military leader, he was later the Emperor of France from 1804-1814.
Antagonizing - to cause someone irritation or cause someone to become hostile.
The United Colonies - a name used to call the original 13 colonies of the United States as it was emerging as a new nation before the Revolutionary War.
Merchant - a person or company involved in trade, especially someone who trades with foreign countries.
Impressment - the taking of men into a military or a navy by force with or without warning.
Hostility - unfriendly behavior toward someone.
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) - from Tennessee, the 7th president of the United States; he was also a lawyer, statesmen and military leader.
What two countries fought against each other during the War of 1812?
Who else was Great Britain at war with when the War of 1812 started?
What treaty ended the War of 1812?
Based on what you read above, do you think calling the War of 1812, the “Second War for Independence” sounds fair? Why or why not?
Do you think the reasons leading up to the war could have been resolved without declaring war with England? If you think the answer is yes, what would you have done differently to avoid a war and resolve the issues between the United States and England? Write your own peace treaty on behalf of the United States.
4.17 Identify major causes, events, and key people of the War of 1812, including:
Battle of New Orleans
Burning of Washington, D.C.
Francis Scott Key
5.37 Describe Tennessee’s involvement in the War of 1812, including: Andrew Jackson, the Tennessee volunteers, and Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
8.31 Explain the causes, course, and consequences of the War of 1812, including:
Use of impressment and trade restrictions between the U.S. and Great Britain
Roles of Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison
Significance of the Treaty of Ghent
Rise in nationalism in the U.S.
Katie Yenna is the Education Outreach Coordinator at the Tennessee State Museum.