May 29, 2012

A review of the War of 1812 (non-Canadian-centric version)

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:08

The DiploMad appears to be blogging again, and for proof, here’s a neat little capsule of the War of 1812 without the Canadian aspect being treated as the most significant campaigning area of the war:

The war was brought about by British arrogance and American stupidity. The British were not reconciled to an independent United States, and could not take the place and its bombastic pronouncements about liberty seriously. They basically ignored the USA’s assertion of being a sovereign state, and proceeded to treat American ships and seaman as some sort of Brits gone rogue. The USA, for its part, could not understand that the British were in what they saw as a life-and-death struggle with Napoleon Bonaparte. We did not respect that. We reckoned we could trade and make deals with France, such as the spectacular Louisiana Purchase which filled Napoleon’s coffers and served his aim of helping create a huge potential rival to Britain, without raising British concerns or provoking them into action.

[. . .]

The British, despite the war in Europe managed to put together a more than credible military and naval force against the distant United States. The Americans, in turn, showed a talent that would serve us well in future wars by getting our act together at the last minute and putting on a damn good defense of the country. The US army, however, remained plainly horrendous throughout the war with its corrupt and politicized officer corps, and its half-baked, ill-planned and even worse executed invasion of Canada. The US also set the precedent of burning York — today’s Toronto — which led to the British burning of the nascent US capital which the army failed to defend. The army partially redeemed itself in the Battle of New Orleans, under the otherwise reprehensible Andrew Jackson (Note: Why is he on our $20 bill?)

The US navy, however, proved completely different, and did an amazing job of fighting off the much larger British navy, wreaking havoc on it, carrying the war into British waters, and even eliciting a warning from the Admiralty to the Royal Navy to avoid one-on-one combat with US ships. The US navy also fought a superb campaign on the Great Lakes which resulted in the British fleet withdrawing from those waters.

Minor quibble: the Royal Navy withdrew from Lake Erie, not from all the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario was still the scene of a major fleet-building contest with vessels of up to 130 guns under construction or entering service when the war ended.

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