Talk:War of 1812/Archive 7

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British Victory

How was the war of 1812 anything other than a British victory? From the British viewpoint the United States launched the aggression in an attempt to capture land while Britain and her armed forces were busy defeating Napolean. Britain's only aim in the war was to defeat the invaders and restore the status quo before the aggression, which it acheived.

It is said that America achieved its objective of stopping the British boarding its ships, however this stopped anyway because the British defeated Napolean and therefore had no need to interdict American supplies heading for Napolean's army or search for British deserters hiding on American ships.

To further illustrate the point, if Mexico declared war and invaded the United States and America responded by repelling the invaders, launching a counter attack and razing Mexico City to the ground I think most Americans would consider that a slam dunk victory.

That is precisely how the British feel and the analogy is about as perfect as you can get.

Diplomatic course of the war?

It is rather difficult to follow the diplomatic course of this war in the article up until the treaty of Ghent.

I am particularly interested in the sentence from the "Causes of the war" subsection which says:

"After war was declared Britain offered to withdraw the trade restrictions, but it was too late for the American 'War Hawks', who turned the conflict into what they called a 'second war for independence.'"

This sentence is unsourced but it led me to try to follow how the war had proceeded diplomatically and I found that there is practically no other information in the article about any of that. Would it be appropriate to add a section outlining the diplomatic course of the war? Does anybody already know of a good source that gives a thorough treatment of the diplomatic side of this war? What peace offers were made by each side at various points of the war? Did the British have any demands at all for peace or were they prepared to offer peace at any moment on the basis of restoration of status quo antebellum? Did the Americans ever formally demand territorial concessions from the British? This information really seems to be lacking and would do a lot to shed light on what kept the war going and what allowed it to end.Zebulin 20:24, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Yeah it would be interesting to have some (unbiased) info on the diplomatic side of things.

Another (possibly more) important point would be to state that British impressement was stopped before the war even started?? one of the main reason the whole war was fought, and thousands of people killed, wasn't even valid?Deathlibrarian 23:16, 23 April 2007 (UTC) Deathlibrarian 23:16, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Impressment was one of the officially stated reasons for the war. All the more reason to suspect ulterior motives (westward expansionism and driving the British from North America spring to mind). Would also explain why the "Doves" were mostly in New England, even though their shipping was greatly affected by impressment and trade restrictions. Hawks in western Virginia and Kentucky - lotsa shipping from there, eh oy huh ;)? Bear in mind, even if territorial expansion was an (not "the") objective (or a big bonus), any nation in its right mind wouldn't say so in the declaration of war! Even Hitler claimed that Poland attacked first. (...and no, I'm not comparing any American politician to Hitler.) Given that the UK settled for status quo ante bellum at the end of the war, even though it held territory, I think it's likely that was their position throughout. Does that help? Esseh 23:54, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Completely agree with you man. The US was constantly trying to expand and take land in other areas, can't see why the Canadian border would be any different. If Impressement was the main reason the US went to war, then why didn't the US stop fighting when they realised that the UK had stopped Impressment? The UK had stopped impressment before the war started, it took a few months for the news to reach the US, but the US kept up hostilities (ie their efforts to annex Canada) for two years.Deathlibrarian 03:13, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

So the british had no demands and simply stopped fighting once the americans stopped fighting? I think this along with a source needs to be added to the article.Zebulin 03:17, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

OK, they settled with the Treaty of Ghent, and and so-in withdrew from already occcupied areas of Maine and Lousiana. In any boundary dispute after that, the UK settled without resorting to arms (Treaty of 1818, Webster-Ashburton Treaty, Oregon Treaty and whatever the treaty was that settled the Alaska panhandle boundary. In all of the latter cases they ceded territory (more than once to the chagrin of Canadian residents) rather than resort to arms. I suggest, rather, that you, Driftwoodzebulin, supply a source that shows that the UK did not want to stop fighting, or had demands beyond the cessation of hostilities and status quo ante bellum. The UK gained and kept nothing but some revenues from Castine, Maine (see Dalhousie University). Napolean was finally beaten, and the UK were very tired of war. Esseh 06:07, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

P.S. Make sure to read the sentence in the history of Dalhousie U. about the stated objectives of the University's founder. Pretty funny for a colony that "wasn't free", wouldn't you say? Esseh 06:10, 26 April 2007 (UTC)
Please clarify. You just said "I suggest, rather, that you, Driftwoodzebulin, supply a source that shows that the UK did not want to stop fighting, or had demands beyond the cessation of hostilities and status quo ante bellum." Apparently in response to my statement that if "the british had no demands and simply stopped fighting once the americans stopped fighting" that this fact deserves mention with a source in the article. I have searched for all manner of sources on the war aims of both sides but why pray tell do you think the only sources deserving addition to the article will be those which demonstrate "that the UK did not want to stop fighting, or had demands beyond the cessation of hostilities and status quo ante bellum." Do you have some reason to believe those are the only sources I could find? Are you holding out on us? why not just provide the sources yourself if you know of sources that support the notion that the UK did not want to stop fighting. Unless of course you're bluffing and such sources do not exist. I reiterate my desire to see some material added to the article that clarifies that the UK had no war aims and I have no idea why you think this fact is unimportant. Hopefully I misunderstood you.Zebulin 07:36, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

Kudos to Driftwoodzebulin!

Hi DZ - good job policing the vandalism of late. I did notice that you weren't warning the vandals, though. Just for you, here's my template:
{{subst:uw-vandalism1|PageName|other text instead of "Thank you" (optional)}} ~~~~. Change number for level. I find it handy, instead of remembering. (I have a good memory, but it's short...) Stick it anywhere needed (... um... sorry that didn't sound right - you know what I mean...) Esseh 00:02, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

A little something...

For those who have stated herein that Canadians were not free, I would like to offer the following quote:

Canada's political relation to Great Britain, and, indeed, to all other countries, has been essentially altered by Canada's quite voluntary engagement in the war. Were feudal terms not largely inapplicable, one might aver that the vassal has become the suzerain's ally, political equality connoted. But, indeed, Canadians were never vassals. They have ever been Britons, whatever their individual origins, retaining the liberties of their political birthright. While in a certain tutelage to their own monarchs' immediate Ministries, they have continually, slowly, consciously, expanded their freedom from such tutelage, substituting for it self-government or rule by their own representatives, without forsaking but rather enhancing their allegiance to the common Crown. This has long been the symbol of their self-government, even as it is to old country kinsmen the symbol of rule by themselves.

The citation? E.W. Thomson, in The New York Times, April, 1915. Read it here. How much changed in the view over a mere 103 years! Just a bit of food for thought. Esseh 07:15, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

P.S. This was published while Canadians were being gassed during the Second Battle of Ypres. Esseh 07:19, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

I would think that anyone that states "Canadians weren't free" would just indicate how little they understand the relationship between Britain and her loyal colonies at the time. They similiarly misunderstood the relationship back in 1812...the US thought that the Canadians would rise up and join their "US liberators" when they crossed the border. Wrong then, wrong now. Deathlibrarian 12:19, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

A little something extra...

The other day, I happened across a couple of interesting quotes, from a presumably reliable US source:

The seat of anti-British fever was in the Northwest and the lower Ohio Valley, where the land-hungry frontiersmen had no doubt that their troubles with the Indians were the result of British intrigue. Stories were circulated after every Indian raid of British Army muskets and equipment being found on the field. By 1812 the westerners were convinced that their problems could best be solved by forcing the British out of Canada.
While the western "war hawks" urged war in the hope of conquering Canada, the people of Georgia, Tennessee, and the Mississippi Territory entertained similar designs against Florida, a Spanish possession. The fact that Spain and England were allies against Napoleon presented the southern war hawks with an excuse for invading Florida. By this time, also, the balance of political power had shifted south and westward; ambitious party leaders had no choice but to align themselves with the war hawks, and 1812 was a Presidential election year.

A bit more, from the same source:

The Strategic Pattern[:]

The fundamental strategy was simple enough. The primary undertaking would be the conquest of Canada. The United States also planned an immediate naval offensive, whereby a swarm of privateers and the small Navy would be set loose on the high seas to destroy British commerce. The old invasion route into Canada by way of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River led directly to the most populous and most important part of the enemy's territory. The capture of Montreal would cut the line of communications upon which the British defense of Upper Canada depended, and the fall of that province would then be inevitable. But this invasion route was near the center of disaffection in the United States, from which little local support could be expected... (Boldfacing mine, text from Center of Military History, U.S. Army).

Esseh 21:42, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Seem, after all, that territorial conquest was one of the causes of the war - albeit unstated officially. Any thoughts? Esseh 23:32, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Honestly these two statements seem to refute the notion that territorial expansion in Canada was a casus belli for the war of 1812. The first text plainly suggests a US motivation was a desire to end perceived material support for native american adversaries by any means available. It does not suggest any desire to settle or conquer Canada independent of that context. The second statement makes clear immediately that the conquest of Canada would be a *means* of prosecuting the war ("the fundamental strategy" not "the fundamental goal").Zebulin 00:15, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
Hey Driftwood. I read it a bit differently: "after every raid... stories were circulated..." spread by "land-hungry frontiersmen" sounds like classic propaganda to me. As even you say, it was "perceivec". The goal? Expansion north-westward into the Ohio valley, but also into what is now Northern Ontario, the Prairies and so on.
And don't overlook the use of the word "conquest". My dictionary defines the word as 1 the act or an instance of being conquering; the state of being conquered. 2 a conquered territory. b something won. (Granted, I'm using a Canadian Oxford ;) Hardly incidental, certainly from the POV of those being incidentally conquered!
Remember also that the prevailing view in the US was that Canada was under the yoke of foreign oppression. Thus, by driving the "hated" British out, Canada would "naturally" become part of the US. Ultimately, that's why New England largely opposed the war, even though it was primarily their shipping and sailors that were being harrassed. They'd gain no new territory, and were already on friendly terms with their Canadian and British cousins in the Maritime provinces. Esseh 00:37, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

On a totally different tack - is it possible that many of the Southern states were outraged by the British abolition of slavery, and subsequent British naval attacks on slave ships? I have read nothing about this, but just happened to see Article X in the Treaty of Ghent. Why was slavery even mentioned in this Treaty? (And boy, did the Americans ever violate that section, and Article IX about not harrassing the Indians) Esseh 01:06, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

The British didn't abolish s lavery until 1834. They abolished the slave trade in 1807, but the US followed suit the next year, iirc. Article X of the Treaty is about the slave trade, and ought to be read in context with concurrent British efforts to get a condemnation of the slave trade included in the final act of the Congress of Vienna. And the U.S. did not, so far as I'm aware, violate the abolition of the slave trade all that much. There were still some slaves illegally smuggled into the deep south, I believe, but that's not really the same thing. john k 07:59, 14 June 2007 (UTC)


Is there a real purpose to this section? Wiki articles typically do not have such an overview after the intruductory paragraph. Would seem structurally better to do straight from the introduction into the "Causes" Epeeist smudge 13:30, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

I agree. Thought it was rather odd. It should at least be condensed. The article seems redundant. Mcflytrap 14:17, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Consequences -Great Britain (and probably the rest)

Although this section does mention rate of fire (estimated as roughly 3-4 times that of comparable French and Spanish vessels of the time), it seems to suggest that the Royal Navy was having trouble because of this: in fact it was this very factor which was cited, and still is cited, as the decider in many of the RN's engagements of this period, including Trafalgar, Copenhagen and The Nile - accuracy doesn't really come into it when your MO is close-range broadsides. You see those battle scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean? That's actually how it worked. You sidled up to the other lot and let fly, and if there was anything left you might board it, or come around for a second pass. The morale of the tars is also mentioned as being low due to conscription (press ganging is the term), but whilst this might seem an obvious result of impressment, the fact is you could go from cabin boy to senior officer in relatively little time. Low morale would be better explained by the ongoing peninsular war and having to fight Napoleon's allies/business partners (he'd literally just sold Louisiana) who'd interfered in the affairs of Europe for decades (French Revolution, anyone?), weren't well liked to begin with (1776 tax break) and could reasonably be said by the man of the time in the street to be a root cause of Napoleon's rise to power.

As to numbers of seamen available, Peninsular War. Seriously. Don't try to analyse this conflict in isolation.

The war of 1812 is not little known in Britain! We burned down the damn White House, you don't forget that you frame it tastefully and make the US ambassador walk past it on his way in. The war is actually taught at GCSE and A-level history standards (and above), although whether it is offered depends on availability of relevant materiel and personnel to a given school/college. I believe one of the causes cited when I was studying it was actually slavery, as the cheaper prices offered by free labour to grow and produce cotton threatened Britain's historic dominance of the textiles industry (in Europe), around which the majority of today's major British cities (and a few forgotten ones) had made and kept their fortunes, for about 600-700 years prior to this conflict. Incidentally, fighting a slave-trading country when you yourselves have recently got on the wagon, so to speak, is a political masterstroke.

Finally, and it is finally, the British Navy got whupped hard in its first engagement of the First World War, as anyone who's ever seen a shiny destroyer will have heard. So we're four years out on that, too. 22:09, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

Articles Like ThisGive The Whole Wikipedia Project A Bad Name

In any other similar situation where a nation invades another country in an attempt to capture land but is repulsed, it is deemed to be a defeat for the aggressor. Take for example the Falklands War, Argentina launches an invasion of British territory and raises it flag. Britain sends a task force and restores the situation to 'status quo ante bellum'. Do we regard this as a draw? Not unless you subscribe to the 'Alice in Wonderland' school of history.

Americans may want to call it a draw, but the British achieved their aim aim of repelling the invader.

Argentina had territorial claims on the Falkland islands. The US was not making territorial claims on the british empire. Are you saying that if a country invades another country/empire and doesn't get territorial concessions at the end of the war then it automatically lost the war? I don't remember that the Uk gained any territory from Russia in the Crimean war and yet nobody seriously suggests that the Uk therefore lost the war. Just because the Uk invaded Russia does not mean it was seeking to annex Russian territory. Just because the US invaded the british empire in the war of 1812 does not mean it was seeking British territory.Zebulin 22:55, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

Until I came to wikipedia, I never realized the number of bizarrely jingoistic Canadians there are out there. The war was a stalemate. Sure, the United States was not able to conquer Canada, but my understanding is that a) annexing Canada was never an explicit war aim, b) in terms of the actual war aims, relating to freedom of the seas and impressment and so forth, the treaty was pretty entirely inconclusive; c) The Americans more than held their own at sea; and d) by 1814, the British war aims had expanded beyond merely "repelling the invader" to rather more ambitious efforts at an invasion of the United States, with the possible aim of at least border rectifications to the British advantage, and these further aims were entirely defeated by the Americans. This argument gets more and more tiresome each time it's made. The war was not a clear victory for either side. I think the error of thinking it an American defeat comes out of looking at the war from an entirely Canada-centric perspective. Certainly, the U.S. lost the parts of the war that involved Canada. But while vague American ambitions in Canada were certainly a major reason for the war, they were not the whole reason for i t, and certainly not the main reason - the annexationist War Hawk stuff was never adopted as official policy by the Madison administration, and the administration's reasons for war seem to be more fully involved with the naval issues. At any rate, I suggest in the future we just ignore this nonsense. john k 07:55, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

The US was not making territorial claims on the british empire - What exactly do you mean? One of the war aims was to incorporate Canada into the United States and "free it" from British rule. That sounds like one big territorial claim to me. Sometimes maintaining the status quo is a victory cos u defend urself . However, in this situation it seems that the British were eager to exploit there successful defence of Canada through their offensive actions in America so then again there is reason to consider an American victory in that perspective. Tourskin 07:57, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Which source is this from? A war aim was to incorporate Canada into the US? Are you sure you don't mean they wanted to seize Canada as a bargaining chip?Zebulin 13:21, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

sources for strength in Infobox?

War of 1812/Archive 7
Location {{{place}}}
United States
Regular Army: 35,800
Rangers: 3,049
Militia: 458,463*
US Navy & US Marines: (at start of war):
•Other vessels: 14
Indigenous peoples:
British & Provincial Regulars: 48,163 (4,500 for most of the war)
Militia: 4,000
Royal Naval & Marines: (at start of war):
Ships of the Line: 11
Frigates: 34
•Other vessels: 52
Provincial Marine: unknown
Indigenous peoples: 3,500
Casualties and losses
Killed in Action: 2,260
Wounded: 4,505
Disease and other: 17,205
Civilian: presumably 500
Killed or Wounded 4,400
Disease and other: unknown
Civilian: unknown
  • Most militia never participated in fighting and campaigning, or even left their home

Does anybody know which if any of the sources for this article support these various numbers?Zebulin 23:17, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

Many of them were taken from this paper; see discussion above under Troop Strengths. I don't know where the '4,500 for most of the war' number comes from. Casualties and Naval numbers I'm less certain about. --Noren 23:30, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks! I don't know how I forgot about that discussion. I'm going to remove the '4,500 through most of the war' comment in the hopes of drawing out whoever found that info to provide a source.Zebulin 23:40, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

I suspect it was put there to highlight the fact that the UK didn't send large numbers of regulars to defend the initial push or somesuch or to show they didn't have an advantage for most of the war in numbers. Either way, don't we use the 'peak' strength in the info boxes anyway? Narson 09:29, 8 June 2007 (UTC)


i didnt see anything about how americans completly deny that this war ever happened. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 19:24, June 8, 2007.

Hm, I'm an American, and I don't deny that it happened. If you have reliable sources to the contrary, feel free to include them. -Ebyabe 23:37, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
We Americans don't deny the war happened. What we deny is that the war was a British or Canadian victory, for several reasons:
(1) The Treaty of Ghent restored the frontier to status quo ante bellum, when the British negotiators wanted uti possedi;
(2) There were three frontiers to the war from the American point of view: the Canadian frontier, the oceans, and the South. We won the South, did not disgrace ourselves ship-for-ship on the oceans, an once Winfield Scott and Jacob Brown took over command in the North, performed very well invading Canada's Niagara frontier. (We can even argue that the U.S. "won" the field at Lundy's Lane, but had to retire because of losses of the two commanders. It's a weak argument, but it was a hard-fought battle.)
(3) Our decisive victories on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain forced England to reconsider plans for offensive thrusts into the Northwest Territories and into New York State.
(4) Even the burning of Washington was balanced by the successful defense of Baltimore.
(5) The victory at New Orleans, though not technically during the war, was decisive as well. The nation that holds New Orleans controls commerical traffic on the Missisippi-Missouri-Ohio river system. If Britain won, I doubt the U.S. would have gotten it back. Yes, th British took Mobile, Alabama, but that is not one of the key ports of America.
(6) We accomplished our key war goal, which was to have Britain leave us alone. The British taste for intervention in American affairs dropped. One can argue speciously that memories of the War of 1812 deterred British intervention on the side of the Confederacy in 1862. No, we did not annex Canada, but we kept England out of American affairs, and that was itself a significant goal, much as the Argentines celebrate repeling the British at Buenos Aires in 1811.
So you can see from the U.S. point of view, the war was not a miserable failure, if not a smashing success. The American Eagle held off the claws of the British Lion, to use the words of that day. It was a draw, and a draw is a victory in the eyes of the weaker party. -- GABaker 1632 UTC 12 July 2007.

Amaricans came back the way they were because they didn't concure any land. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 19:41, June 13, 2007.

Ooooookay. Could someone translate, please? -Ebyabe 00:05, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

IN response to this see my sub heading below: Why the British won the war of 1812.

I think if the word denial is going to be used...its most aptly to be used for Americans who deny they got their arses kicked.
The Americans wanted to take over Canada, but they didnt
The British wanted to prevent the takeover of Canada, they succeeded

who failed? who didnt?

Repeated text?

There's goodly portion of text from the Causes of War section duplicated in the introduction. I'd fix it, but I'm not sure about the best way to go about it (I'm more comfortable doing minor copyedit and editing technical articles). Angus Lepper(T, C, D) 07:44, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Please amend in Overview "eventfully" to "eventually"

Origins of the War

This "war hawk" stuff has to go. No problem mentioning that the goal of *some* leaders was expansion, but the way it is written has anger written all over it. Hardly neutral. Mcflytrap 14:21, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Politically Incorrect

The proper term for reffering to an indigenous group of people is Aboriginal. I don't know how to petition to have to changed so I thought I would do so here.

Either term is fine. Individuals may have varied reactions to either term but as both are non-specific general terms I don't think there is need for concern with respects to either of them constituting offensive terminology.Zebulin 16:58, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Tactical Draw???

Who put that in and why? It was definatly not a tactical draw. In reality, it was a tactical victory for Britain, but since this article seems to have a US bias I would be content to just have nothing there, but this tactical draw must not stand! lol. But seriously if I changed it to tactical victory Britain, I wouldn't stand a chance against everybody, so even though I think the article is a bit biased, I would still rather the reader decide for himself who won, so I will take it out soon. P.S. someone will no doubt tell me to point out specific biases in the article so here's one right off the bat... Tactical draw. Also I don't have the time or complete expertise to go over the entire article so please don't ask me to change it. Zildjianrulez 00:18, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

This sums it up "This was a war in which nothing changed, no territory was lost nor gained by either side. None of the points of contention were addressed by the Treaty of Ghent, yet it was a war that changed much between the United States of America and Great Britain. Never again would the U.S. think that it could always beat Great Britain nor did Great Britain ever again fail to treat the U.S. as a national power in its own right. The Treaty of Ghent established the status quo ante bellum; that is, there were no territorial changes made by either side. The issue of impressing American seamen was made moot when the Royal Navy stopped impressment after the defeat of Napoleon. The United States of America saw that further war with Great Britain was ruiniously expensive to its young economy, while Great Britain realised that another contest with the United States of America would probably cost her Canada." Your crying foul but won't point out where? ok... --Xiahou 00:30, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

I removed it and returned it back to how it was. God knows how a war's result can be tactical victory unless the war consisted of a single battle (And even then, it doesn't really sit right). I think Status Quo Ante Bellum is all we need to have. Because it lets the reader make their own mind up. Was Status Quo a victory for the British? Was it a draw? Was it possibly a victory for the Americans, who consider that they got their non-terratorial war aims with no terratorial loss? Infoboxes should not be used as a catchall. They are simple 'at a glance' information. Lets keep the controversies out of them, and if necessary, point people to the appropiate controvesy section in the article. Narson 09:36, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for removing it and I agree completely Narson. As I stated before I think it is best to have nothing and let the reader determine for himself what the result was. I am not looking to start a conflict and I think the article is sufficient. The only specific thing I am crying foul about is the tactical draw, but that has been changed so everthing is good enough now. Zildjianrulez 10:41, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
Agree. Given that war ultimately decided nothing, calling the outcome anything besides "status quo ante bellum" veers into POV territory. Let's leave it at that. 07:00, 4 August 2007 (UTC)