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"The Surprising Strategic Consequences of The War of 1812" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2022 4:06 p.m. PST

"…Indeed, the wars of the French Revolution were an existential struggle for Britain. They lasted 23 years, claimed 300,000 British lives and cost more than one billion Pounds Sterling. At various stages in the wars Britain allied with Austria, Russia, Prussia and Spain, subsidized seven coalitions, and in the end had to defeat Napoleon twice because as you know, he escaped from exile on the Island of Elba in 1815 and tried to start all over again. But during the climactic years of that world war, the British landed in another conflict that would determine the future of North America. Yet most American historians who tend to focus myopically on their own country often fail to understand this critical war, which while today, assuming the conflict is even taught in schools anymore, it's usually dismissed as a mistake. After all, the Congress declared the War of 1812 only after several weeks after the British had rescinded the ostensible casus belli. News hadn't come across the ocean yet.

Then the war was fought to a draw. Then it climaxed in an anodyne treaty, which simply restored the status quo antebellum. And then an anticlimax in the battle of New Orleans, which was fought two weeks after the peace treaty had been signed over in Europe. In short, a war, so apparently meaningless, has to be named for nothing but the year in which it began.

Theodore Roosevelt, who was a serious amateur historian in his youth once wrote a history of the war of 1812. And he expressed the conventional wisdom that quote, "The battle of New Orleans was a perfectly useless shedding of blood since the piece had already been signed."…"

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rmaker19 Nov 2022 8:28 p.m. PST

Once again the fallacy that the Battle of New Orleans was useless since it came after the signing of the peace. This overlooks two things.

One, the end date of the war depended on where you were. If you read the treaty, the war was still on in Louisiana.

Two, the treaty specified status quo ante, but that is a slippery statement. The Congress of Vienna had declared all territorial changes due to the French Empire and Republic invalid. Thus, Spain was still, under that clause, the rightful owner of Luisiana, and the transfers, first to France and then to the United States, were illegal. Had the British won at Chalmette, they could quite legally claim that the American title to the territory was null and void and give it back to Spain.

42flanker20 Nov 2022 1:53 a.m. PST

If the British attack had succeeded at New Orleans, what difference would that have made once the news arrived from Europe?

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2022 7:01 a.m. PST

Interesting question – while the Treaty of Ghent had been signed, had the Brits won a smashing victory one wonders how inclined they might have been to hang onto it – it's not like the US at the time had the means (and probably not the will) to expel them

Brechtel19820 Nov 2022 11:39 a.m. PST

The war wasn't over when New Orleans was fought as the treaty had not arrived in the US yet, and Congress had to ratify it to put it into effect. That didn't happen until mid-February 1815.

And the British came not only to fight, but to take New Orleans and then administer it with the people they brought with them to accomplish it. The British defeat there was significant in more than one aspect.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2022 3:01 p.m. PST



mildbill20 Nov 2022 9:00 p.m. PST

The war caused Canadians to think of themselves as a nation for the first time and gave them a sense of identity. The milita also fought well enough to gain respect of the British Army. Even the French Canadians backed fellow Canadian effort to avoid US subversion.

Brechtel19821 Nov 2022 5:15 a.m. PST

Most of the Canadian militia served in a supporting role.

With very few exceptions, such as the Glengarry's, the fighting was done by the regular British units in Canada.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2022 7:42 a.m. PST

Very true as to militia by and large but conceptionally the idea of Canada was firmly ingrained by the war

While most of the militia did as noted the the French Canadians did fight very well- the Canadian Voltigeurs did very well at the Battle of Châteauguay, and although raised as militia they were on the army list as regulars

Brechtel19821 Nov 2022 9:53 a.m. PST

Canadian troops in their entirety, militia and regulars, did not shoulder the fighting. A few units did, but as noted it was the British regular units that bore the brunt of the fighting.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2022 10:10 a.m. PST

From my reading, the war cemented in place the identity of Canada as a separate nation that was not going to be absorbed into the USA. Canadians therefore regard it as a signal event in their own history, successful resistance to the ambitions of their big and aggressive neighbor to the south.

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