Deadline Now: The War of 1812 Bicentennial
Friday, March 23, 2012
Deadline Now examines the enduring legacy of the War of 1812. Key events and battles of the War occurred in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Jack Lessenberry's guests will be Patricia N. Williamsen, Executive Director of the Ohio Humanities Council, as well as Fort Meigs Director Rick Finch, and Randall Buchman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Defiance College.
Here are Jack Lessenberry's "Final Thoughts" for this edition of Deadline Now:
Few other nations took the United States very seriously when the War of 1812 began. We then consisted of a band of eighteen mainly rural states and territories, which had, all told, maybe seven and half million people, all of them at least a month by ship from the main centers of western civilization. Nobody was too sure whether this experiment in democracy would last, and to some extent, our fledgling nation wasn’t taken especially seriously.
When we declared war on Great Britain less than thirty years after winning independence, that mighty empire at first appeared to take our hostility as a minor inconvenience.
What is striking today is how much that war was like some of the smaller wars we’ve had in recent history. When the United States declared war, it was very much a politically polarizing affair.
The minority political party, the Federalists, firmly opposed the war, and every one of their congressional representatives voted against it. New England was firmly against the war.
Those in favor of it thought Canada was there for taking, that conquering and annexing it would be a cakewalk. Well, it was anything but. Instead, British forces came down and captured Detroit with Americans barely putting up a fight. Later, British troops invaded Washington and burned the White House.
But in this part of the world, Fort Meigs held off and decisively defeated two British attacks.
And at sea the British assumed the Royal Navy would make short work of any pitiful little colonial boats. But instead, the United States won a series of naval victories, the most important of which may have been Oliver Hazard Perry’s decisive triumph in Lake Erie, which cut the British supply line to her native American allies.
The war eventually ended in more or less a draw. U.S. losses were heavier than those of the enemy. But the War of 1812 left Americans newly confident of their permanent independence and taught Washington that it needed a permanently strong navy.
And ironically, it led to a system for resolving border disputes with Britain and Canada which eventually helped evolve into the friendship and alliance all three nations have today.
Obviously, this is a war worth knowing more about -- and this is the year to start doing just that.