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A Short History of the War of 1812

A Short History of the War of 1812

Northwestern Ohio and Southwestern Michigan were the locations of some of the most significant battles fought in what is sometimes referred to as "The Second American Revolution."

The War of 1812 was primarily fought between the British, along with their Native American allies, and the Americans and their allies. The war pitted the relatively new 36 year old nation against another some 800 years old historically recognized as a potent world power.

There were multiple causes behind the War of 1812. Some historians claim that Jefferson's acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 planted the seed of westward expansionism in settlers bringing them into direct conflict with Indian tribes residing there. The Battle of Tippecanoe occurred in November 1811 and though the American forces were able to defeat the Indians, Tecumseh and his followers made their way to Fort Malden in Canada enthusiastically welcomed by the British.

Impressment was the British practice of stopping ships on the "high seas" and taking American sailors, who the British still recognized as British subjects, from their vessels and forcing them into the British Navy.

This pirating of Americans led to the passage of the Embargo Act that prevented the United States from trading with any foreign countries.

The president's attempt of early isolationism was not enthusiastically accepted by merchants, thus leading to the passage of the Non-Intercourse Act allowing U.S. trade with any nation other than Great Britain and France .

War was declared in June 1812 and it within two months the American forces were reeling from stunning defeats. Fort Michilimackinac surrendered to British forces in July, but August would be even worse for the Americans.

Fort Dearborn , located on the Chicago River, was ordered evacuated and its residents transferred to Fort Wayne in August 1812. Despite the fact the fort was surrounded by Potawatamis, loyal to Tecumseh, and protest voiced, the unsuccessful escape cost the lives of 54 Americans, including 12 children.

Two days later, the Americans were shocked when news came of the surrender of Fort Detroit . Though militarily superior in numbers, General William Hull was duped into believing his forces were greatly outnumbered and that conflict was futile. Without consultation and the defenders firing a single shot in defense, Hull capitulated and gave up Fort Detroit .

January 1813 would prove disastrous to the Americans as well. With the fall of Detroit , the invasion of Canada was supplanted with the new task of winning back the Michigan Territory . Word reached Brigadier General James Winchester at the Maumee River Rapids, currently Perrysburg , Ohio , that the village of Frenchtown was being ransacked and held by the British and Indians. The general and troops, mostly Kentucky volunteers, set off in bitter cold and were able to dislodge a small British force, however fighting the elements and the enemy led to fatigue which would cost the soldiers and civilians dearly.

British forces and their Indian allies, under the command of Colonel Henry Proctor, attacked the American forces on January 22, 1813. Outmatched numerically and in weapons, Winchester reluctantly surrendered his entire command hoping to avoid unnecessary killing. Little did he know that early the following day the Massacre of the River Raisin would occur, etching it forever in the annals of military history.