1812 Walter Borneman
Submitted By gknavaroli
March 24, 2013
About the Author: Walter Borneman
Walter R. Borneman is very admirable and smart person. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Western State College of Colorado (1974, 1975) and wrote his master’s thesis on a town characteristic of the western mining frontier. He was the heritage coordinator for the Colorado Centennial-Bicentennial Commission (1975-76), and the assistant to the director and acting director of the Colorado Historical Society (1977-80). Borneman received his law degree from the University of Denver (1981) and from 1982 to 1985 represented the Colorado Historical Society in the reconstruction of the Georgetown Loop Mining and Railroading Park in one of the West’s premiere national historic landmark districts. His books have won awards from the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of New York, the Tennessee Library Association and Historical Commission, and the Colorado Humanities Program. His commentary has appeared in Investors’ Business Daily, the Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle. “My overriding goal in writing history has been to get the facts straight and then present them in a readable fashion”, “I am convinced that knowing history is not just about appreciating the past, but also about understanding the present and planning for the future”, says Mr. Borneman. He truly has a passion for the information he is teaching which,in my personal opinion is very respectable. Borneman is best-known in Colorado’s mountains as the co-author of A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, the history and standard routes of Colorado’s 54 peaks above 14,000 feet, which was in-print for twenty-five years. He served as the first chairman of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (1996-99) and is on the board of the Colorado Mountain Club Foundation.
Mr. Borneman’s books on American history include Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land (HarperCollins, 2003); 1812: The War That Forged a Nation (HarperCollins, 2004); 14,000 Feet: A Celebration of Colorado’s Highest Mountains (with photographer Todd Caudle; Skyline Press, 2005); The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America (HarperCollins, 2006); Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America (Random House, 2008); and Rival Rails: The Race to Build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad (Random House, 2010).
1812: The War That Forged a Nation
By: Walter R. Borneman
In order for the reader to truly obtain a grasp on the seriousness and true brutality of the war of 1812 it is important for the reader to learn about the events that happened that led to this terrible time. These events had a major impact on the young nation and its people which caused problems for the nation down the line. In the year 1805, Aaron Burr, Vice President to Thomas Jefferson, a runaway due to his actions against Alexander Hamilton is found on Blennerhassett Island, Louisiana, in the spring, he just committed murder on the act of a duel for the position of governor of New York. Burr would find himself in a heap more trouble as time went on. Burr would make his way to Andrew Jackson’s estate where he would request the construct of two boats, every politician Burr visited during this period he would request a number of boats made and from the Blennerhassett family as well as men. Burr seemed to be preparing for a takeover of the South but rather was readying himself for a possible Spanish assault from Florida. To shorten a long story Burr would be accused of treason to the Union and would be put on trial. His motives of origin would be discovered in the end and he would be acquitted. Around the time of 1807, Great Britain had set up a small law which gave them the right to stop any ship neutral or allied so as to inspect its sailors for British naval deserters. “Two days before a grand jury indicted Aaron Burr for treason, the thirty-eight-gun frigate USS Chesapeake sailed eastward from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, bound for station in the Mediterranean. When she was barely beyond the three-mile territorial limit and in international waters, the fifty-gun British frigate HMS Leopard pulled alongside her. The Leopard’s captain demanded the right to search the Chesapeake and detain questionable British deserters. In the wake of the broadside that followed, the United States was almost plunged into what might have come to be called the War of 1807.” The Brits were at war with Napoleon and they needed all the men they could get and America was not about to stand in their way. But as this issue arose so did the prospect of “Once an Englishman, always an Englishman,” which therefore would mean the capture of a whole crew was perfectly fine with the English Navy as well. American became infuriated with this situation. When the HMS Leopard approached the US flagship the idea was to occupy the deserters and go, as far as the British were concerned they came on right cause which was to retake what was lost but the Americans did not like this and Captain Charles Gordon of the USS Chesapeake would not allow for such a degrading thing occur. Gordon would refuse British passage on the ship and in return the British would fire their broadside directly into that of the Chesapeake. The British would soon board Gordon’s ship and commandeer the three men whom they searched for and left. Gordon sailed back into harbor and uproar was heard from across the Union and which would continue particularly with many young frontiersmen. That people that were creating the disturbance and would not stop until the British were defeated were the courageous men and women of the people from the western frontier. The same people who accepted the accused Aaron Burr of treason. They did not accept him because of his anarchy against the state but because he viewed the United States as an empire that could control the Spanish territories of Mexico and Florida to the South and the British territory of Canada to the North. They saw this empire being constructed and believed that the only way to do this was to respond with actions of war to the current violent events with the British. The people of the west were young, independent folk who were politically liberal, they lived off challenge and adventure. These people cried for war. The current government, that is under Jefferson, was playing on the side of dealing with Aaron Burr first. The war was almost absolute except for the internal struggle caused by Burr. If not for Burr’s actions against Hamilton the War of 1812 would have occurred roughly five years earlier. During the years 1810 to 1811, the location of which these happenings took place at is the Indiana territory under Governor William Henry Harrison, a man who served under Washington’s army, and whose father signed the Declaration of Independence. Harrison was a tough man who through the army commanded Fort Washington which later became his territory’s capitol, Cincinnati. Harrison, while undertaking his part as the Secretary of the Northwest Territory would make land deals with the Indians, he took on the job of divide and conquer. These tactics lead the Indians to dislike the Americans even more than they already had, by the Time the War of 1812 took place a majority of them sided with the British just as they had during the American Revolution. Harrison drew arms of assault against the Indians which would turn into defense as the followers of Tecumseh would assault the camp Harrison made just outside Prophetstown. Harrison defended his position just three miles below the Tippecanoe River. With many casualties he defeated the Indians and the next day would take Prophetstown and burn it to ash. Even though it was a minor battle it would later be considered one of the most important between whites and Indians. The Battle of Tippecanoe would make the final decision of which side to choose quite simple for the Indians, this left them in the hands of the British. Thomas Jefferson’s presidency would lead the American nation directly into the war. His Embargo Act would make the US suffer rather than the British and cause more hatred to Great Britain. The reason, other than the Burr incident, as to why the war did not come earlier is because of the attention the British Empire wished to place upon the United States. Britain was preoccupied with Napoleon and his world takeover and was trying to keep England in one piece, but at the same time they would pull over American ships and take their soldiers and sailors to support the war effort. Even the French took part in this assault on American ships but was much ignored for the British were an ill favored enemy that America still had quarrels to bargain with. The Embargo Act had two measures to meet, in Jefferson’s eyes. For one he wanted American ships off of the seas so as to protect his sailors and two he tried to force British and French commerce to come to a halt. “Characterize the Embargo Act as you will, it had a disastrous impact on the American economy.” Exports dropped from a strong $108 million (1807) to $22 million (1808) and imports went from $138 million to $57 million in the same time period. At the end of Jefferson’s presidency it would be repealed and replaced with the Non-Intercourse act which demanded no trade to Britain or France anywhere else was legal. Even with the act the ships that tried to trade with France were attacked by the Brits and the ships that Napoleon wanted, well, just became his, so in turn no real change was made. By the year 1812, James Madison had taken over for Jefferson and decided to change things to his liking. First, he passed a bill to strengthen the regular army (RA) increasing to 30,000 under a one year plan added on to the already effective 4,000 officers and men. Congress would authorize an additional 15,000 into the RA and states to have an 80,000 force militia ready at a moment’s notice. But these plans only gave to be less than half true coming short exceptionally much. The Navy was in the same condition. On June 1, 1812, a declaration of war was announced to the houses of congress. On June 17 the declaration passed the second house and was in effect. In the United States there was no preparations, no way to be sure except to fight and the first order of business was Canada. The war hawks were itching for a fight and they target was Lower Canada. In the British province resided many different nationalities some of French descent which mostly were located in Lower Canada (modern-day Quebec). This assault would be much a failure. As American men made their way up into the Canadian frontier through the Detroit River they were not challenged to fight by the British or their Indian allies rather they experienced a relief in enemy lines. The Americans led by William Hull would make their way toward Fort Malden where they outnumbered the enemy two to one but the loss came in from the woods. The American commander thought his enemy fled but rather hid in the forest until the proper striking time. Hull was forced back to Detroit in the end and the first battle of the war was an American loss. The next battle would take place with the British in the offensive shoes and leading an assault on Fort Mackinac from Fort St. Joseph. The British commander was a Captain Roberts who would form a force of 46 regulars, 180 Canadians, and 400 Indians to sail west in canoes barges and the brig Caledonia. On the island Mackinac the American commander Lieutenant Hanks was oblivious to the declaration of war and was nowhere near prepared for the assault with only 57 regulars on hand. The morning of the attack Hanks was warned of the British convoy and began to prepare but he was outmanned and soon to be outgunned. Hanks was given the option of surrender to which he abided and he and his men were left to fight another day. Hanks reported back to Hull who in turn would send an abandonment of Fort Dearborn and cause the downfall of the northwest region, which would later be a struggle to retake and also a struggle to defend the Northwest Territories. A new assault would take place under General William Harrison; he had the duty of retaking Detroit and Fort Dearborn. His force would consist of 850 men under the command of Major Winchester. They would do no better than the defense force at Fort Dearborn before the retreat. The other two prongs of the assault didn’t fare so well either. General Van Rensselaer during an 1813 campaign into Canada took his force of thirty five hundred along the Niagara River leading them up to the part of the river between Lewistown (the side he was located) and Queenstown Heights. Van Rensselaer had come across an issue though to his traveling across river which was that he had no oars to his boats, some treacherous trick of leaving all of the oars on one boat that went down stream or pure stupidity? It is unknown, but he would attempt to continue the fight. Two days in the cousin of General Van Rensselaer, Solomon Van Rensselaer died after making a charge with only two hundred regulars and a Captain Wool took command. A young Lt. Colonel named Winfield Scott would make the charge on the heights with a light brigade, to aid the men under Wool. The general now assured of a victory would attempt to send in the New York militia who would not cross the border, now with no reinforcements Scott was left to retreat only to find no boats to make it back across river. By this time the British have retake the heights and Scott is only left to surrender. The last assault of the three pronged attack never even made it to Canada due to not enough troops to make an impact and with everything west of New England taken down defensively the troops would be needed to defend the area they resided. After these happenings the Naval War, dealing with the USS Constitution, comes into play. While General Hull experienced some difficulty in the field the nephew of the disgraced elder was a hero on the seas. Lieutenant Hull took the command of being on the USS Constitution in 1798, with a crew of 400 and the third largest frigate in the fleet the warship was not to be reckoned with. After being changed back and forth between commands on other ships he found himself back on his original ship in 1810 now as the master. On August 19, 1812, the Constitution took on the HMS Guerriere in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As Hull’s ship approached the Guerriere he held his fire until he was sure of accuracy. The Constitution took some of the volleys but did little damage. After the two ships came close enough for the British to make a clear broadside the ship took the beating and was given the name “Ironsides” after a crewmember claimed that the sides were made of iron. As Hull’s ship approached the British one and as the yardage between the two frigates was roughly twenty five Hull made the first broadside of the fight which was continuous until he has passed the British frigate. He had done enough considerable damage for the Guerriere to raise her colors. The aftermath of the battle led to more important news. Hull wished to port his prize but due to the damage there was no hope of revival, so he transferred the crew to the constitution finding the there were ten impressed Americans on board forced to work for the British. The end result of the British frigate was a burial at sea. Although much defeat was shown in the battles of Canada the USS Constitution and United States would bring a morale boost to the American side. The land battles were rough but the sea was slowly being reclaimed. Although devastating was the Northwest and in general the Canadian Campaign but the most deeply struck attack was that on the capital. Washington D.C. would burn to the ground before the end of the war to be specific it was 1814. This dropped morale to an all-time low in America. But to boost morale again was the withstanding American fight at Fort McHenry, the battle which Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner”. The fight was more of a bombardment as the British guns had longer range than the forts defenses. The fort withstood the attack until the British left after realizing a land assault would not succeed. The Treaty of Ghent was underway only three months after the bombardments in Baltimore Harbor. The treaty declared a stalemate as the war was nothing but costly and drawn out. The war was proven to be as declared a stalemate but in effect America won what she was looking for, rite of passage on the Atlantic which was granted. Britain returned territory and attempted to claim land for the Indians in the treaty by making lands reserved for them out west. Neither side gained nor lost territory, the land areas were brought back to pre-war mapping and were left at that. Even though the war was over, some fighting still occurred, mostly in New Orleans. Andrew Jackson’s forces were unaware of the peace and were protecting the United States from a takeover and British southern invasion force. The result was a great victory in which Jackson would return a glorified hero and would force his way into the presidency for being a war hero. The Battle of New Orleans occurred January 8, 1815. The battle would consist of Jackson using every resource at his disposal to defend the city and hold onto the Louisiana Territory. Jackson’s men, consisting of around 4,000 with some coming and going, would be defending the area around the city. The first assault was made by Jackson with support from the naval schooner Carolina there was much confusion drawn into the British ranks but two hours into the battle and the tide would turn causing Jackson to retreat up the Rodriguez Canal. Two days later both sides had set up fortifications on their positions. Jackson took some cannons from one of the navy sloops along with a couple of Marines and positioned them on a ridge to the right of his front rampart, across the Mississippi River. This would give the Americans time to defend the main position and to give more rounds to the field also outflanking the British attack. When the battle came under way on January 8th the men on both sides were eager and fresh ready to defend, ready to assault. Jackson though had also taken arms with the pirates nearby. They would help him much during the battle. The British main objective was to take the cannons and turn them again the Americans but soon after their commander fell the plan was shot and the main assault took place on Jackson’s side of the field. Behind the rampart were more cannons who had been firing at the British at point blank range cutting through bodies and tearing limbs. Lines of firing squads shot over the rampart and would fall back so that a new line ready and loaded could get a shot. The British right flank would begin to crumble first as their acting commander was shot down and the middle would come to assist leaving the left open to assault. But as every commander the British had was shot down just yards before the American mud ramparts the lines began to turn to chaos and into total disorganization. British General Lambert had the field but what he saw was nothing to be reckoned with and he held back his reserve forces and took a loss. An American victory raised morale and was the finale to the War of 1812.
The aftermath of the war was that America was now recognized officially as a nation of superior power in military strength and in leadership. The war also led to national pride and patriotism. In the Indian territories the reservation of land in the Treaty of Ghent was never enacted nor brought up again. In Britain the war would barely be noticed due to the more major conflict the British had been facing with Napoleon. Great Britain would remain the nautical power for another century even though much of the battles won by the American side were at sea. The overall view of the war was positive in the American side and Neutral for almost everyone else except the Indians who negatively viewed the war due to the loss of lands and tribesmen.
Borneman, Walter R. 1812 the War That Forged a Nation. New York: HarperCollins Publ., 2004. Print.
"War of 1812 -." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Mar. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812>.