WAR of 1812


Today, it is called the War of 1812.  Then, it was often called the Second War of Independence.

The War of 1812 was fought from June 1812 to the spring of 1815. Some people say no one won this war, however, it did prove to the British that the United States would remain an independent country. A peace treaty was signed in Ghent, Belgium on December 24, 1814.  However, the war in the field continued until February 1815.

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed the declaration of war and read his message to both houses of Congress. Actually, the vote in Congress was very close.   In the Senate, the vote was 19 to 13. In the end, The United States formally declared war on Great Britain.

The people of the United States seemed divided as well. Southerners and Westerners cheered the declaration of war, some New Englanders called it "Mr. Madison's War". The men fought nevertheless. The soldier's main weapon was the muzzle-loading musket. Something new the British brought to this war were rockets and bombs.

Who would lead this war? The generals from the Rev. War were much older as that war was fought nearly thirty years ago.

Tecumseh, a Shawnee Chief, dreamed of a united Indian nation and wanted to preserve tribal lands. The Chief and his followers (including the Creeks and other tribes) joined the British in the hopes of blocking the westward advance of the United States. Tecumseh was born in 1768 near what is now Dayton, Ohio. This brave warrior died during the Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813.   (Note: the provisions in the Treaty of Ghent regarding the Native Americans were to restore them to their prewar status.)

The invasion of Canada in 1812 would be a disaster. However, Andrew Jackson was victorious in New Orleans. Oliver Hazard Perry triumphed on Lake Erie and Thomas Macdonough on Lake Champlain. O.H. Perry, born August 23, 1785, was known for "We have met the enemy and they are ours." It was thought at that time the United States armies would do well fighting the British on land. While the armies, in the beginning did not do well, the navy surprised everyone. Out at sea, everyone thought the United States Navy would not perform well. This was not the case.   They chalked up many brilliant victories. One such example was the Constitution commanded by Isaac Hull. The Constitution was later nicknamed "Old Ironsides." In a battle at sea, the Constitution "sank" the Guerriere in the Atlantic Ocean in 1812. The Guerriere was one of the most hated vessels in the Royal Navy, commanded by James R. Dacres. Hull's victory inspired other American skippers. There were many battles at sea. All were not victorious. One of those was when the United States lost the Chesapeake in a battle with the Shannon on June 1, 1813. But out of that battle came a phrase uttered by Captain James Lawrence that is still used today: "Don't give up the ship!" These words inspired other seamen.

This has been a very brief recount of the War of 1812. There were many great battles fought. This War of 1812 ~ Major Battles Website lists the major battles of the war along with some information about them. Much has been written about the major battles of the War of 1812 and I have not addressed most of them here.


In August 1814, Washington had been pretty much evacuated. Some stayed, but most left the city before the British arrived. During 12 days in August, the British had marched fifty miles inland, set fire to the Capital Building, the White House and other public buildings. Dolly Madison saved the "Declaration of Independence". When she left town, she took that and many other important documents that would have been burnt if not for her.


The governor of Maryland, at the time, was the Honorable Levin Winder, a Federalist. Maryland was bitterly divided on the war.

Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner

Fort McHenry proudly flew a very large flag. It was thirty by forty-two feet. Made by Mary Pickersgill and her daughter, Caroline. This flag had eight red and seven white stripes (each were two feet across), plus fifteen stars (one for each state in the Union). It took about 400 yards of bunting to make. Since the flag was so large, Mrs. Pickersgill had to piece it together at the malt house in Brown's brewery. The flag cost $405.90.

Francis Scott Key, a lawyer from the Georgetown area of Washington, DC, while aboard the Minden, watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry that started at dawn on September 13, 1814. This battle and Fort McHenry's flag inspired Mr. Key to write a poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry". People began singing this poem to a popular English tavern song, "To Anacreon in Heaven". Today, we know it's name as "The Star Spangled Banner."

Dorchester County, Maryland

There was a much lesser know little "battle" that I came across that was fought in Dorchester County. I mention this because some our ancestors were involved in this battle. Robert G. Stewart wrote about "The Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815."

Even though war was declared in 1812, Marylanders did not seem to become alarmed until 1813 when the British blockaded the Chesapeake and the Delaware Bays. The Maryland's 48th Regiment of Militia of Dorchester County was formed.

This is the Dorchester County, Maryland Roster for the 48th Regiment of the 12th Brigade.

The H.M.S. Dauntless was anchored off James' Island. What alerted the local people was that sailors from a Tender to the British ship had come ashore on February 5th, 1815 and stole supplies from one of the farms. They had reason to believe they would be back for more. The Militia was ordered to readiness. Keep in mind there was ice in the Chesapeake Bay at the time. On February 7th, 1815 at the Ice-Mound, a group of men under the command of Joseph Stewart made their way over the ice to the ship. There was a battle. After about two hours of engagement, these Maryland men captured the British Tender. The British prisoners were taken across the Ice and marched ashore. These prisoners were sent to Easton, MD. The British prisoners were later returned to England.

Joseph Stewart and his men petitioned both houses of Congress on February 24, 1815 for their prize in capturing the British Tender. On December 14, 1818, each man involved received $42.90 in prize money.

And Finally

The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814, however, it had to be ratified by both parties. On December 27th, it was ratified by the Prince Regent. It wasn't until February 17th, 1815 that the Senate unanimously ratified the treaty. The following morning the President formally promulgated peace.

The war raised America's reputation in Europe. As for the Native American's, they were urged to accept peace. The American people seemed more united then ever despite the fact that there were no clear winners. This was a war that nobody won. However, America stood up, fought and held her own.

1812 THE WAR NOBODY WON by Albert Marrin
A Signal Victory The Lake Erie Campaign 1812-1813 by David Curtis Skaggs and Gerand T. Altoff
Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 70, Nov. 4, Winter 1975, page 372.
"The Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815", by Robert G. Stewart.

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