Today we are looking at the War of 1812. This is a longer documentary with a run time of 1:53:16 and was produced by Buffalo Toronto Public Media.
In June 1812, the young United States declared war on Great Britain. This war lasted for two years and the United States fought against the British, the Canadians, and the indigenous populations. This is a war that is largely forgotten in both the United States and Britain. However, there is one place where the war is remembered: Canada. Legends grew up after the war. 1812 was a tiny war by the world’s standards and yet it has a big impact on a continent.
There was a long prelude to the start of the War of 1812. The British were in a struggle against Napoleon. The only way Britain could defeat Napoleon was by cutting off supplies to his shoulders. The United States was neutral during this war, making money off of both sides. The British had enough, announcing to the world that any neutral ships would have to stop in Britain and pay a duty before being allowed to move on. Eventually, impressment became the policy meaning that the British started taking British-sounding people and forcing them to serve in the Royal Navy. Eventually, they started seizing sailors off the shores of the United States. However, war was not declared at this time, feeding American resentment. A new generation of Americans was not going to stand by and let this happen.
In the meantime, William Harry Harrison was purchasing land from the indigenous people. He would come to loggerheads with Tecumseh, an indigenous leader who wanted to form a confederation of First Nations. Harrison would eventually lead an attack on Tecumseh’s home base in Prophet’s town. However, the Indigenous people fought back, surprising Harrison’s army. Harrison reported back to Washington a great victory. His troops discovered that the Tecumseh’s men had British-made weapons. This angered the American people and caused a headache for President James Madison. President Madison was a man at home with his books, while his wife Dolly Madison was a sociable and politically astute woman.
President Madison put forth his arguments for war and Congress voted for it. For Britain the news of war was unwelcomed. They were busy with Napoleon. King George III was insane. A British Prime Minister was assassinated. Canadians did not want a war. In the United States, the west was thrilled with the war. While people in New England were less than enthused. They were busy making money off of British trade.
The American Army was not prepared for the war. Yet they were ordered to invade Canada from three positions. There were no real roads into Canada, transportation was done best by water, and there was a lack of communication between the three American armies. There was additional discussion on the generals who were in charge of both armies. The war would commence and the documentary does reenactments of the war.
The war was starting off to be a debacle. There were many losses along the way and the British were blockading American shores. Trade and the economic system were closing up. In 1813, the Canadians were marching into Ohio. However, the Americans were prepared for this invasion. Fort Meigs was established and it was ready to undergo a fight. Harrison established the fort and was not going to surrender.
As the war progressed the Americans continued to suffer defeats. There were naval battles on the Great Lakes. The British wanted to keep control of Lake Erie. If they could keep control of Lake Erie, they could control the flow of supplies. The Americans and the British went on a furious ship-building spree on Lake Erie. It was on Lake Erie that the British would suffer defeat and every single British Ship would be surrendered to the Americans. The Americans seized control of Lake Erie and the Canadians would retreat. To learn more about the War of 1812, continue to watch this documentary.
This is a surprisingly well-produced documentary about the War of 1812. It had a really good flow to it and the tidbits about the British being more worried about Napoleon were good. I got a kick out of the “incompetent officers” lines from time to time. Overall, this would be a good documentary to show in an American history classroom.
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