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War of 1812

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American commander Oliver Hazard Perry defeats the British at the Battle of Lake Erie

The War of 1812 was fought between the British Empire and the United States from 1812 to 1814 on land in North America and at sea. More than half of the British forces were made up of Canadian militia (volunteers) because British soldiers were fighting Napoleon in Europe. The British defeated the attacking American forces. In the beginning, the war increased levels of nationalism in both Canada and the United States.

The Americans declared war against Great Britain because the British began taking American ships by force. The British were also seizing American sailors at sea and forcing them to serve in the British Navy because of the big wars in Europe.

The War

Fighting began when the United States started to attack the Canadian provinces in 1812 and 1813, but the British successfully defended the borders. In 1813, British and American ships fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. Americans under Oliver Hazard Perry won, giving America control of Lake Erie. American forces raided and burned Toronto, then called York.

In 1814, more British soldiers arrived in the United States. They burned Washington D.C. and also attacked Baltimore. During this battle an American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, wrote a poem. The poem was later used to give the words to a new national anthem for the United States: "The Star Spangled Banner." The final battle of the war took place in January of 1815. The British attacked New Orleans and lost against General Andrew Jackson. This Battle of New Orleans took place after the peace treaty had been signed.


The two countries signed the Treaty of Ghent, which was supposed to end the war, on Dec 24, 1814, in Belgium. Fighting continued into January, 1815 because the combat forces didn't know about the treaty. Both sides thought they had won the war, but no great changes took place because the Americans failed to conquer Canada. The British stopped impressing sailors because the Napoleonic Wars were finished.

Most Americans heard of the victory in the Battle of New Orleans before they heard of the treaty. The Federalist Party, which had opposed the war, became disliked and disappeared.