On December 24, 1814, British and American diplomates signed the Treaty of Ghent, bringing about an end to the War of 1812, the only war in which America and the United Kingdom took aim at each other. In the War of 1812, caused by British restrictions on U.S. trade and America’s desire to expand its territory, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain. By terms of the treaty, all conquered territory was to be returned, and commissions were planned to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.
This event plays a role in my current Work in Progress, Captain Stanwick’s Bride, which will release February 19, 2021.
The United States declared war on the United Kingdom on June 12, 1812. The issues included the British economic blockade of France, the impressment of thousands of neutral American seamen into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier.
The Western and Southern states were more inclined for war. They believed they should take advantage of the UK being preoccupied with Napoleon on the European Continent, they could claim territory in both Canada and British-protected Florida.
My new novel begins with the Battle of Thames in October 1813. With the U.S. navy’s victory at the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813, Brigadier General Henry A. Procter, the British commander at Detroit, ordered a hasty retreat across the Ontario peninsula. Major General William Henry Harrison and 3,500 U.S. troops and militia pursued the retreating British forces. They were supported by the U.S. fleet, which held command over Lake Erie. The forces met early on October 5, the British having abandoned their breakfast, near Moraviantown on the Thames River. The British were outnumbered more than 2 to 1. They had 600 regulars and 1,000 Indian allies under Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader, and the war chief Roundhead of the Wyandott tribe. The American infantry and cavalry drove off the the British and then defeated the Indians, who were demoralized by the deaths of Tecumseh and Roundhead in action. American control was re-established in the Detroit area, the tribal confederacy collapsed, and Procter was court-martialled for his poor leadership. Many British troops were captured, including the hero of my tale. The defeat destroyed the Indian alliance and broke the power the tribes had over the Ohio and Indiana territories. Many of the tribes abandoned their association with the British forces after this defeat.
In the months following the American success on Lake Erie, the U.S. launched a three-point invasion of Canada, none of which were successful. Yet, for a time, they were more successful on the lakes marking the Canadian border and a series of victories along the coast, but, eventually, Britain regained control of the sea and blockaded the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.
With Napoleonic initial capture in 1814, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and they meant to be done with the “nasty little fly in the ointment.” British troops marched on the U.S. capital of Washington City on August 24, 1814. The British troops, under Major General Robert Ross, knew success at the Battle of Bladensburg and marched on the U.S. capital. They set fire to multiple government and military buildings, including the Presidential Mansion and the Capitol building. President James Madison and other government officials had already fled the city after the British defeat at Bladensburg.
On the day following the attack, a sudden, exceedingly heavy thunderstorm, some say, possibly a hurricane, arrived, putting out the fires. It also spun off a tornado that passed through the center of Washington City, supposedly setting down along what is now called Constitution Avenue and lifting two cannons into the air before dropping them several years away. After the storm, the British returned to their ships, many of which now required repairs due to the storm. The occupation of Washington lasted 26 hours.
On September 11, 1814, the British forces were driven back by the American naval forces under Thomas Macdonough at the Battle of Plattsburg in New York on Lake Champlain. Sir George Prevost and his troops were forced to abandon its part of the British invasion of the United States and retreat into Canada.
“On the morning of September 12, 1814, a British force of 9,000 men landed at North Point, Maryland, with the intention of marching inland and capturing Baltimore. Brig. Gen. John Stricker, commander of the 3d Brigade of the Maryland militia, was ordered to delay the British advance so that the defense entrenchments around the city could be completed. The 5th regiment was assigned the task of holding the American right flank. Despite two hours of artillery and rocket fire, the 5th Maryland stood their ground. After inflicting some 300 casualties, the 5th was order to fall back to a new position in front of the Baltimore trenches. The British army, exhausted by the fighting and surprised by the stubborn defense of the Maryland militia, withdrew, while the British navy failed to silence the guns of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.” (National Guard)
The fall of Fort McHenry, the battle taking place on September 13-14, 1814, was vital to the British plan, as the British Navy could not properly assist the land forces. However, Fort McHenry withstood the twenty-seven hours of bombardment, an event that would inspire Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would eventually become “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The British fleet soon withdrew, ending their invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.
“The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the war. Although the treaty said nothing about two of the key issues that started the war–the rights of neutral U.S. vessels and the impressment of U.S. sailors–it did open up the Great Lakes region to American expansion and was hailed as a diplomatic victory in the United States.
“News of the treaty took almost two months to cross the Atlantic, and British forces were not informed of the end of hostilities in time to end their drive against the mouth of the Mississippi River. On January 8, 1815, a large British army attacked New Orleans and was decimated by an inferior American force under General Andrew Jackson in the most spectacular U.S. victory of the war. The American public heard of the Battle of New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.” [Treaty of Ghent]