The War of 1812 was a war between Britain and the United States fought primarily in Upper Canada. It had many causes, few which involved British North America. The results of the war include the fact that there was no clear winner or loser among them. The only real losers in the situation were the Natives in the region. They were driven out of their lands and customs. None of the borders was changed by the war, though many attempts were made. The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, did nothing to advance the state of the countries. It went so far as to end the war and put things back the way that they were, but the main causes of the conflict were not addressed or dealt with. In order to evaluate the significance of this war, Canadian victories and losses, as well as overall results, must be analyzed.
Most Canadian victories came in the form of preventing American attack from being successful. This is the main Canadian reason for believing they won this war.An example of this occurred on 12 July 1812, when General Hull and his troops crossed into Canada. Their invasion was promptly met and turned away by opposing forces.This also happened in the Battle of Raisin River on 21 January 1813. American General Winchester surrendered to British Colonel Proctor, losing 500 prisoners.Perhaps the most significant of Canadian victories was the burning of Washington. When the British forces won the battle of Bladensburg, it opened the door to Washington.The Capitol Building and the White House were destroyed but luckily, for the Americans, torrential rains put out fires in the rest of the city. To the Canadians from 1812-1814, this was reason enough to believe that they were victorious. To Canadians now it seems a shallow way to claim triumph.
Notable role models were born out of this war for Canadians. Sir Isaac Brock was a prominent figure. He was Commander of Forces in Upper Canada and later added Administrator to his title. Being engulfed by politics proved too much for Brock, who left to join forces in the march upon Detroit (August 1812). He led troops to victory here, but lost his life in the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. To this day, Brock is well renowned throughout Canada as a fearless leader and important to the history of the country. Another hero rising from the conflict was Swanee Chief Tecumseh. Along with his brother Lolawauchika, the Prophet, Tecumseh was the (man) responsible for the growing threat on the western frontier He was steadfast in his beliefs that Natives should never be forced to give up any of their customs or their heritage.He was valiant in protecting his people and led them courageously in battle; even though he did not have to engage in the fighting himself, he joined his troops. He was killed in the Battle of Moravian town on 5 October 1813. After his death, survivors retreated and later signed a cease-fire with the Americans. Another highly regarded individual as a result is Laura Secord. When she overheard American soldiers, she rushed to tell someone in charge of the British force. On the way, she came across Natives who blocked the oncoming troops. Because of her dangerous trek, the Americans were turned away at Beaver Dam.
With the American offences being stopped, and heroic men coming forth, Canadian nationalism was on the rise. Since most of the war had been fought in Upper Canada, retaining of the vast majority was as much a moral victory as a material one. The end of the war brought significant immigration from the United States into Upper and Lower Canada. Canadians resented this because they still regarded Americans as the enemy. Being banded together in the War of 1812 forced the people of the Canadas to feel as though they were a unified nation. The English-speaking Canadians could better understand the French-speaking Canadians and vice versa. They had no trust for the Americans who were arriving at their doorsteps.
There are also many reasons to believe that Canadians and the British lost the war. The United States did not lose anything (and they gained some) parts of Upper Canada and control of two Great Lakes.In Battles such as Thames and Baltimore, the United States conquered the British and Canadian troops. In the Battles of Chippewa and Horseshoe Bend, the American militia defeated the Swanee and Creek Natives respectively. They were against the Natives because of their alliance with the British forces. The death of Tecumseh was seen as a great achievement to them because it led to the end of battles versus the natives. The Americans, for the most part, were victorious on the water as well. The USS Constitution defeated the British vessel Guerriere on 19 August 1812 and the Java in December of that year.They also took over British ships and Canadian territory in the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of Plattsburgh.
Another reason that Canada is said to have lost this war is that the war hit Upper Canada the hardest. The Niagara Peninsula was taken by the Americans and they idealized that it could be used as a sort of base for them. Instead, guerilla warfare ensued, which to this day Americans are reluctant to mention. York was burned by Americans. It is believed that Upper Canada only survived the war because of the tremendous support from the British forces. This may be true, but without the British, the Canadians would not have been in the war to begin with.Upper Canada was also changed dramatically in terms of economics. Farms became battlefields and goods that were once in high demand were replaced by war goods. Their economy eventually improved because of these war goods, but for those merchants that increased their profits, there were farmers and other Canadians who lost everything due to the effects of the war.
The war was officially ended by the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 1814. The Americans were pleased with the terms, much more so than the British North Americans. The treaty forced peace between nations and ordered all territory to be returned.This proved that the entire war had been fought for no purpose. Each side lost nothing except the soldiers that fought for them. American losses are estimated at eleven thousand, three hundred, while the British numbered around eighty-six hundred. A formal count of casualties is impossible because of the crude counting system of the early nineteenth century.The treaty left out major issues that were key in the causes of the war. The Natives had no representative at the treaty meetings. The fisheries issue was put off for future negotiations and disarmament of the Great Lakes by Americans was not involved. The primary goal was to achieve peace quickly and end the fighting.
It is difficult to look back at this war in analysis. Anything throughout all the battles that possibly should have been altered is rendered irrelevant by the Treaty of Ghent. On the side of the Americans, it can be regarded as a selfish confrontation. They wanted to conquer Canada so they could have more territory, and they wanted to show Britain one more time that they were their own country. They failed in their taking of the north, but gained great confidence in the militia. Their poorly organized and relatively small army and navy had come to a stalemate versus the well established and well trained British forces. This in itself was a great moral victory. It proved to the world that America could hold their own against major world powers and that they really were independent. It is ironic that they felt so much liberty was gained by the fighting of this war, and yet Americans immigrated to Canada in mass numbers after its conclusion.
Because its results cancel out its events, the War of 1812 was labeled insignificant. Looking back today, this statement is probably true. In terms of land and power, nothing was different at the end of the war from the beginning. At the time however, the war gave those involved a sense of importance and increased their allegiance to their country. There are many reasons to speculate that Canada was the victor in the conflict as well as evidence that they were the loser. Either way, this crisis remains unimportant to the history of everywhere except minor value in North America. Nothing in terms of strategy or a lesson was learned from this war and the main causes were not resolved.
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