OT: War of 1812

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri May 28 01:29:07 UTC 2010

The War of 1812 was essentially a stalemate. Neither side won or lost
(except the Native Americans, who lost, as usual). The war was essentially
fought by mistake, considered a nuisance by Britain which was preoccupied
with Napoleon, and politically divisive in the US.

No territory changed hands as a result of the war. Both sides successfully
repelled invaders. The Canadians repulsed the American invasion, but the
Americans did manage to burn York (Toronto). The Americans, in turn, turned
back the Canadian counter-invasion at the Battle of Plattsburgh. The British
invasion of the Chesapeake region managed to sack Washington, avenging York,
but was defeated when it tried to take Baltimore (Ft. McHenry and the
Star-Spangled Banner). And the British invasion of the Gulf coast met with
defeat at New Orleans (yes, after the peace treaty had been signed, but it
was a major defeat for the British nonetheless).

On the seas, the British lost in the Great Lakes, but blockaded American
ports, severely impeding American trade. But the Royal Navy was severely
embarrassed in single-ship engagements with the American frigate
Constitution and her sister ships, which outclassed any frigates the British

The Treaty of Ghent ended the fighting, returned the forces to pre-war
borders, and gave the Americans fishing rights in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
in return for American recognition of the boundary with Canada. Impressment
of American sailors by the British, which had been the proximate cause of
the war, had ended with Napoleon's defeat and was not part of the peace

Hawthorne, who was 8-10 years old when the war was fought, may not have
written about it, but saying it was "unimportant" is incorrect. The war was
wildly unpopular in New England, which suffered mightily under the British
blockade, and was on the verge of secession from the US when the war ended.
And later on in the 19th century, the war was the source of much patriotic
fervor in the US and popularly, albeit unfairly, considered a great American
victory. (Perhaps New Englander Hawthorne was reluctant to feed the
propaganda machine by writing about a war that was unpopular in his region.)

The longest and probably most important legacy of the war was the settling
of US-Canadian border disputes. It's hard to underestimate the long-term
political importance of the defined and peaceful border over the last two

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Dan Goncharoff
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2010 2:57 PM
Subject: Re: OT: War of 1812

Just pointing out that the guys fighting along with Col. Jackson didn't
know the war was over, and thought they were still fighting it.

Wasn't this the war about which some wag once said, "we lost the war and
won the peace"?


> At 5/27/2010 03:37 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> "In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Col. Jackson down the mighty
Mississip?"  No, that was actually
> after the war was over, and it's not exactly a saying.

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