The War of 1812 is probably America's least known historical event. Many history texts, especially for younger grades don't even include it. The nice thing about studying it this year (and even this month as it started in April) is that it is the 200th anniversary, so there is a bit more about it out there now. I gave the boys a brief overview of the war, noting that our country had only been independent from Britain for thirty years at this point and so, in a way, this was the second war for independence. The British imposed trade restrictions brought about by Britain's ongoing war with France, and began making the sailors work on British ships. Warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other's merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. The British also supported American Indian tribes against American expansion. This third reason was the one that was in the forefront for the first two years of the war, but by 1814, with the defeat of Napoleon (1812 Overture), the British were able to put more time and energy into its involvement with America and captured and burned Washington DC. American had victories, however, in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.
The Battle of Baltimore of 1814 wasn't really a battle at all, but rather a bombardment that lasted for 25 hours, inspiring the lyrics of the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." I played it for the boys and we looked at the wording, clarifying anything they weren't sure of.
By 1814, both sides were weary of a costly war that seemed to be nothing but a stalemate. They both sent delegations to a neutral site in Ghent, Belgium, where a peace treaty (named after the city) was signed. Both sides had to ratify it before it could take effect however, and so meanwhile both sides planned new invasions.
The Battle of New Orleans took place in 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, led by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory the United States had acquired with the Louisiana Purchase.
The Battle of New Orleans
The boys played a computer game The War of 1812, A Sailor's Life for Me, which I didn't think taught them much about the war, but they enjoyed playing it.
James Madison, Jr. was the president during this time. He was called the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution, and one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it. He is notable for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution. His wife, Dolley Madison, was notable for her social gifts and helped define the role of the First Lady. Her success as a hostess contributed to increasing the popularity of Madison as president.