2012 marked the 200 year anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights, which took place 30 minutes away from Wilson, across the Niagara River in Queenston, Ontario. It was the first major battle of the war, between the United States and England. From Lewiston, you can see Brock's Monument across the river, which was erected in honor of General Isaac Brock, the British general who died at the Battle of Queenston Heights. To celebrate the Bicentennial of the War, many activities took place in the Niagara region, on both sides of the border: http://discover1812.com .
1. The War of 1812, an Introduction
The War of 1812 is sometimes called the "Second War of Independence" or the "forgotten war", and it is likely the strangest war in U. S. history, against Great Britain. The British were already at war with France, with whom the U. S. had a successful trade route. As part of their war strategy, the British created a blockade of French ports, and forced ships bound for France to stop first in Britain to be inspected and pay fees. Additionally, the British navy was always in need of more sailors, so they would seize American ships and take seamen from them, some of whom were U.S. citizens. This practice was called impressment, and it caused the U.S. to resent Britain and was a major cause for declaring war.
The War of 1812 could also be called the "war of poor communication." In today's society, it's hard to imagine life without instant messaging and email. In 1812, however, messages between two countries took weeks or months to deliver, mostly on horseback. Messages between continents could take even longer. (The telegraph and Morse code were not used until 1837). Two days before the United States declared war, Great Britain agreed to repeal the naval laws which were chiefly responsible for the conflict. Speedy communication could have avoided the war altogether and would have definitely eliminated the biggest battle, the Battle of New Orleans that occurred 15 days after a The U.S. and Great Britain had signed a peace treaty officially ending the war.
The United States, still a fledgling country, risked national disaster by again going to war with powerful Great Britain. Support for the war in the U.S. was divided, with the West and South eager for a fight, while the New England regions called for cooler leadership and strongly opposed going to war. (The New England territories had enjoyed succesful trade with Europe previously, and did not want to endanger future commerce). In the end, the U.S. declared war, citing impressment of American soldiers and trade interference as its two main reasons. Even though the war was about freedom of the seas with Europe, much of the fighting happened between the U. S. and Canada. Canada was Britain's main possession in North America, and some Americans (especially in the northwest) were trying to expand their holdings and take more land from the Indians living there. The Indians resisted, and many Americans believed they had support from the British. That resistance, coupled with the U. S. resentment of British naval laws, led to many conflicts with Canada. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war but restored U. S. and Canadian territories to pre-war status, and established a commission to settle Northwest Territory boundary disputes. Both the Americans and British claimed victory.
The war had many ties to New York State and the Niagara region. Infact, one of the largest battles (Queenston Heights) happened in Canada, right across the Niagara River, near Lewiston. The following websites highlight many of the local links that we have to the War of 1812.
2. The Battle at Queenston Heights
The first major battle of the War of 1812 happened right in our backyard, across the river from Lewiston, NY. If you look across the Niagara River to Canada, you will see a monument towering above the treeline. It was built and dedicated to honor British general Isaac Brock, who won the Battle at Queenston Heights for the British, but lost his life in the process. Go to the link below and scroll down to read the following sections before answering the questions on your worksheet.
- 'Battle of Queenston Heights' (three paragraphs with the same title)
- Walking Tour of Brock's Monument (all five stations)
- Brock's Monument
- Upper Canada
3. The Hamilton and Scourge
Did you know that two American ships that were used during the War of 1812 lie at the bottom of Lake Ontario... less than 30 miles away?
6. Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812
Did you realize that each star on the original 'Star Spangled Banner' flag was about two feet in diameter, and each stripe about 24 inches wide?
7. Treaty of Ghent
On December 24, the Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the war. Because communication is poor, the war in the field continues until mid-February.
Video clips about the War of 1812