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"How Britain Won the War of 1812" Topic

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1,039 hits since 2 May 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0102 May 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

The Royal Navy's Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815

"Overturns established thinking about the Anglo-American War of 1812-15.
Named one of the 20 Notable Naval Books of 2011 in the US Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine, May 2012
The War of 1812 between Britain and the United States was fought on many fronts: single ship actions in the Atlantic; a US invasion of Canada, which the Canadians heroically resisted; the burning of the new US capital, Washington, by the British, the President's house subsequently painted white to hide the fire damage; and an unsuccessful attack by the British on New Orleans. The war is usually seen as a draw. However, as this book demonstrates, it was in fact a British victory. The United States achieved none of its war aims, and the peace, concluded in December 1814, met Britain's long-term maritime needs.
This book reassesses the war, showing how the British achieved success through an effective commercial maritime blockade which had devastating consequences on the vulnerable, undeveloped US economy. Neutral vessels were included – one of the causes of the war had been the United States' objection to British interference with US ships in Britain's war with Napoleonic France – and Britain's refusal to concede this point enabled the strategy of commercial maritime blockades to be reused by Britain to good effect in subsequent wars, including those of 1914-18 and 1939-45"
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foxweasel02 May 2017 4:16 p.m. PST

This'll put the Fox in the chicken run, stand by for some outraged posters!

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP02 May 2017 4:21 p.m. PST

WELL !!! Whoever wrote this certainly did not grow up listening to his little 45 record over and over -- The battle of New Orleans, by Johnny Horton.

Russ Dunaeay

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2017 4:28 p.m. PST

The War of 1812 was a Draw/Wash, except for the lives lost of course.

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP02 May 2017 5:07 p.m. PST

Me too Russ. I thought the pirates beat the British in New Orleans!

21eRegt02 May 2017 5:09 p.m. PST

Well, Britain did reverse the Orders in Council that "allowed" them to stop and search American ships for alleged deserters. Of course they did that before war was declared and we went ahead anyway, but… details.

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

Tchaikovsky was the only winner of the war of 1812! Well and Johnny Horton of course.


Blutarski02 May 2017 7:31 p.m. PST

This book's publication was carefully timed to coincide with the bicentennial of the war and is one man's opinion.

The War of 1812 was IMO a conflict that the USA had no possible hope of winning, that Great Britain had no really compelling reason to wage, and that neither side really "won" in the classical sense of the term. It was ultimately an embarrassment for both sides: for the Americans, their comic opera failed attempts to invade Canada and their inability to raise the British trade blockade that ultimately smothered US trade; for the British, their dramatic early defeats at sea and ;later on the Great Lakes, their failed attempted invasion of New York, their failure to capture Baltimore, their ultimate embarrassment before New Orleans and the huge losses visited upon British merchants by American privateering. Each side essentially drove the other to the treaty bargaining table, whereupon suffering business interests on both sides ultimately prevailed upon their respective political leadership to end the foolishness.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

BTW here is a more measured review of the book in question:


Glengarry502 May 2017 8:49 p.m. PST

The real losers of the War of 1812 were the First Nations who lost their last best chance to form a united front against American expansionism with the death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. Abandoned by the British, who sought rapprochement with the United States, from then on they would be little more than an irritant to the American's relentless drive to the Pacific.

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP03 May 2017 4:08 a.m. PST

It's a fallacious argument that ignores the territory gained by the United States as a consequence of the war.

TMP link


wminsing Inactive Member03 May 2017 5:36 a.m. PST

Yes, the 'UK got what it wanted and the US didn't' argument only looks at the publicly stated goals of both sides and not the implicit issues that actually got them into the war in the first place (hint: it wasn't impressment). As Glengarry said, the main losers were really First Nations/Native Americans, and then the British whose native policy was broken by the war. In that sense the US got precisely what it actually wanted out of the conflict.


Tango0103 May 2017 10:43 a.m. PST



attilathepun47 Inactive Member03 May 2017 10:47 a.m. PST


You make a fundamental error in stating that the United States "had no possible hope of winning" the War of 1812. Although the U.S.A. was not allied with France, Napoleon was not apparently anywhere near defeat in June 1812 when Congress declared war. Nobody at that point could have predicted the utter disaster Napoleon would encounter in Russia, so it would have been a reasonable supposition that Napoleonic France would continue to fully occupy the British Army in Europe. On that basis, the occupation of Canada seemed quite achievable, given the overwhelming numerical superiority of the U.S. population over that of Canada.

Blutarski03 May 2017 1:58 p.m. PST

Fair comment, Attila, but I disagree. That is how it may have wishfully appeared to certain segments of American leadership at the time, but events proved them wrong. American belief in the viability of seizing Canada rested upon superior numbers of raw militia. They may have had numbers in their favor, but in 1812/1813 they lacked the necessary unanimity of purpose, military leadership, organization, logistical assets and most importantly the money to prosecute such an ambitious undertaking. By the end of 1813, Napoleon and France were fundamentally done for and by 1814 England was in a position to substantially reinforce Canada.

There are various "what if" scenarios that would be interesting to explore, but my personal opinion is that, whatever transpired, the crushing superiority of the RN and its ability to smother and paralyze the economy of the USA would have, at the end of the day, driven the Americans to the peace table, with the likely result of everything reverting to "status quo ante".

Strictly my opinion, of course.


Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP03 May 2017 6:02 p.m. PST

This is the third time Armand has posted about this same book.

TMP link
TMP link

I think he's playing a game that starts, "I know! Let's you and him fight!"

- Ix

Charlie 12 Inactive Member03 May 2017 7:04 p.m. PST

That, or just an inordinately short attention span…

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP03 May 2017 9:24 p.m. PST

I was giving him the detriment of the doubt.

- Ix

Blutarski04 May 2017 4:48 a.m. PST

"the detriment of the doubt"

LOL – a lovely phraseological play on words there YA!


Tango0104 May 2017 10:58 a.m. PST

Is the age… (smile)


Brechtel19806 May 2017 4:08 a.m. PST

The Royal Navy isn't the entire viewpoint of the War of 1812.

With that overall superiority at sea, American warships and privateers were still getting out.

Further, three British invasions of the United States-at Plattsburg, Baltimore, and New Orleans, were all defeated in 1814-1815, and the British lost two of the three engagements in the Niagara, the third being a hard-fought draw, before the Americans decided to withdraw back to Buffalo for the winter.

These events and British defeats changed the dynamic at the peace conference in Ghent with the British dropping their demands for US territory, prodded by the Duke of Wellington.

So, the status was to keep the situation as it was before the war. That's a draw…

It's also over-priced:


Blutarski06 May 2017 5:08 a.m. PST

The great differentiator with respect to the War of 1812 was that, unlike the Revolutionary War, the United States lacked a powerful backer such as France to provide funds, support, arms, troops and a powerful navy to help prosecute a long war. The War of 1812 lasted only two and a half years before the northern states began clamoring for peace due to the dire economic situation produced by the blockade.

Also, +1 re vastly over-priced.


Toronto48 Inactive Member07 May 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

The current thinking on the war of 1812 is pretty consistent as stated in several studies including



The British won because the war did not effect their main effort against Napoleon. it was also a defining moment in US British relations as any future war would be costly so it would be best to negotiate

The United States won because they did not lose and established that they would not be conquered easily

Canada won because they repelled all US invasions and that greatly encouraged the growth of a separate Canadian identity

The First Nations lost as they no longer had the protection of a foreign power and were left on their own against the American and Canadian governments

Brechtel19809 May 2017 4:44 a.m. PST

The War of 1812 did affect the British effort against Napoleon as Wellington's army in Spain in large part relied on American food stuffs for logistic support.

The Canadas (plural) was a group of British provinces that were not a nation, but still British colonies. The Canadas were defended by the British Army and the Royal Navy, not Canadian troops (with a few notable exceptions). The overwhelming majority of Canadians mobilized for the defense of the Canadas were used in supporting roles, not in combat.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP09 May 2017 1:35 p.m. PST

The losers were the Native Americans.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP09 May 2017 1:37 p.m. PST

"…you might as well sign a peace treaty with the United States now. I think you have no right to demand any territory from the United States. The failure of the British military campaigns in America gives you no right to make such demands."

Duke of Wellington

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