Useful Notes: War of 1812

The War of 1812 (1812-1815) is one of the most popular wars to ever grace North America. The Americans think they won it, the Canadians think they won it, and the British have no idea they fought in it. It's also one of the Americas' more unusual wars: It's called the War of 1812—but it lasted nearly three years. America's casus belli for declaring war on Britain was the latter's forced conscription of American sailors to fight in the Napoleonic Wars—which, in a fit of tragic irony, had all but ended even as the declaration of war was in transit across the Atlantic. The war's most famous battle was fought weeks after the ink on the peace treaty was dry. In the United States, it has been called the Second Revolutionary War. In Canada it is remembered as the war in which Canadians stopped the U.S. from trying to annex them, and as said, the British don't even remember it happened.

Why is that the case? Well, the Brits had a certain Frenchman to deal with at the time. Compared to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812 was a sideshow for the British Empire. There were 150,000 troops on the field when Emperor Napoleon I won at Austerlitz in 1805, for instance, than there were English-speaking soldiers in all of the Americas in 1815 (that's 87,000 for those keeping track). Napoleon's 1813 defeat by the Sixth Anti-Napoleonic Coalition at the three-day battle of Leipzig, the greatest gunpowder-battle ever (at the time), involved more than 600,000 soldiers with over 2,000 artillery pieces; the one-day Battle of New Orleans, the largest battle of the War of 1812, involved just 15,000 men and 16 cannons. Outside of the United States, the year 1812 itself is most strongly associated with Napoleon's catastrophically unsuccessful invasion of Russia, the decimation of his Grande Armée there (i.e. the decisive turning point in the war against him), and Tchaikovsky's famous overture (with the cannon fire at the end) commemorating Russia's part in these events.

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     The British Civil War Part 3: The Re-Liberationating 

The war was essentially an attempt by the USA (and more specifically, the 'War Hawks' of her inland states) to conquer British and Spanish North America (modern-day Canada and the present-day US state of Florida) and prevent the Amerindian tribes from forming a country (that could oppose westward expansion by the USA) while Great Britain was busy helping the very-nearly-conquered Kingdoms of Portugal and Spain fight 'The (Iberian) Peninsular War' against The Empire of France. However, they needed a casus belli for doing all this - if they started a war (of conquest) without one they could be accused of being an aggressive/expansionist country (not that that kind of thing really matters, e.g. Napoleon's annexation of The Low Countries and The Rhineland). Thankfully, the wider war played right into their hands in this respect as well. Traders in the US had become rich from war profiteering; basically, selling food and guns to both sides in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Both sides had declared an embargo upon each other, and commissioned privateers and used their navies to raid each others' shipping. However, after their sound victory at Trafalgar in 1805, the British were suddenly in a much better position to confiscate American trade bound for France — and they did just that. Moreover, the expansion of the Royal Navy left them short of sailors.

Scraping the bottom of the manpower-barrel after two decades of near-constant warfare, the Royal Navy stepped up the conscription of sailors into the navy in domestic ports and began to search US vessels they encountered for deserters — easily identifiable by their RN tattoos. Some ten thousand men were thus taken from American merchant vessels and pressed into RN service. note  The facts were, the Royal Navy had completely ignored the usual diplomatic channels and was basically ignoring the government of the United States, which they hadn't even asked for permission to do this. This is partly because The Admiralty could well be told to sod off if they did ask ('it's easier to say sorry than to ask, be denied, and do it anyway', etc., etc.), but also because as far as they were concerned all the people involved were all British nationals anyway and it didn't matter if they technically didn't answer to the same government note  - sort of like East and West Germany, or Germany and Austria. The USA's overall/central government also had real troubles being taken seriously abroad and particularly at home. Although the USA was by now officially a union of statesnote  most of its own citizens still thought of it as a union of states (i.e. not a country, but an association of independent countries akin to the present-day EU).

The traders and coastal states of the USA which actually owned and operated the ships in question had mixed feelings on the prospect of a war — on one hand, they were raking it in by selling to both France and the rest of Europe, and thus an end to war-trade was the last thing they wanted, although on the other hand the "theft" of their employees and the irksome nature of dealing with Britain's multiple "paper blockades" in the West Indies played havoc with their profit margins — and it was on those reasons and their platform of 'resisting British oppression' and 'ending the tyrannical impressment of foreign neutrals to fight their wars' that got the 'War-Hawks' into the elected positions. They were backed up by a new generation of young Americans who had not experienced the hardships of The American Revolution and the economic crisis that accompanied and followed it, and were eager to prove their (patriotic) worth and wage a Second American Revolution/War of Independence to drive the British from the continent. That thing with USS Chesapeake and HMS Leopard also didn't help paint a positive picture of the British.

Far to the south, in the Federal territory of Mississippi, the Indian tribes were uniting under a charismatic new leader; Tecumseh. Seeing this, the 'War-Hawk' generation suspected a British Conspiracy To Prevent American Westward Expansion, and clamoured for war with Great Britain. The British Cabinet viewed with favour the establishment of a neutral state of American Indian peoples in the Mississippi territory, but didn't actually have enough confidence in their fighting ability to back them (though they did sell them some weapons). The western states of the Union (in what we would now call the Midwest) would have nothing of Britain's "Conspiracy To Encircle Them With Colonies And Prevent America's Peaceful And Democratic Westward Settlement." The same states of the southern and western United States also considered capturing British North America easy pickings and the next logical step after the Revolutionary War. Many people in said states — not the ones actually affected by the disruptions to the thriving war-time trade — considered Canada an easy prospect, famously put by one official as "a simple matter of marching."

     The War on Land 

The war was fought on multiple fronts, most notably ground combat between infantry and ongoing naval confrontations within the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. The British forces in North America were notably stressed, being undermanned and lacking much support from the main British Isles, which was still involved in the Napoleonic Wars. However, British General Isaac Brock and the Native leader, Tecumseh, proved capable leaders who arranged a powerful defence, even if they were lost all too soon. They also managed to bolster their ranks against the far more numerous Americans by recruiting former slaves, Loyalists from the Revolutionary War and befriending many Native peoples. The dangerously-overtaxed British Navy was forced to commit a full fifth of its shipsnote  to blockade the American coast and defend British shipping. The Royal Navy also conducted raids on American naval bases and port towns, one of the largest of which saw all the government buildings in Washington, DC burned down (including The White House).

The confrontation continued until late 1814 when spiraling military costs, fatigue, and general lack of enthusiasm for the stalemate-war caused the forces to enter peace talks. The Treaty of Ghent was the result, the agreement relegating all captured land back to whoever had originally owned it. The treaty was signed December 24, 1814 and took effect February 18, 1815, though the biggest battles of the war occurred during the peace talks and in the time it took for news about the treaty to filter down. Most notable of these was the Battle of New Orleans, a US victory which effectively secured the (gateway to the) Mississippi river system for them.

     The Naval War 

One notable exception to the general indifference towards the war in America is in the United States Navy, which sees the war as a defining moment in its history.

At the outset of war, the United States Navy had few warships to speak of, with most of what it did have laid up in ordinary, and no ships-of-the-line—this was partially due to the relative youth of the service, but mostly because of the government's anti-military stance during Thomas Jefferson's administration. Without purpose-built ships for fleet engagements, the U.S. Navy couldn't hope to fight the Royal Navy on equal terms. Indeed, the heaviest ships in the American arsenal were the Navy's first six frigates, specifically designed by Joshua Humphreys to be "super frigates." Because of this, when the War of 1812 broke out, commerce raiding was prioritized over any clashes with the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy's own strategy was to try and blockade as much of the American coast as possible in order to prevent American warships and privateers from getting to sea, as well as to deprive America of its economic livelihood by preventing merchant ships from leaving port (and capturing those caught at sea). However, the concurrent Napoleonic Wars and demands of a global empire meant that the full might of the Royal Navy could not be brought to bear on the United States, especially considering the amount of coastline available to the Americans. Priority was placed on major ports, especially any where American warships were berthed. The Royal Navy was successful in bottling up some of the United States Navy for periods of time, but never all of it—in fact, there were multiple times in which American warships and privateers managed to slip out of port in spite of the British squadrons posted to stop them.

While the blockades were crippling to the United States economy (practically recreating the problems caused by the Embargo Act of 1807) and British commerce raiding was able to all but annihilate the merchant marine, the Royal Navy's inability to decisively defeat the U.S. Navy or to stop American privateers resulted in serious economic pain for the British Empire as well. Americans gave as good as they got when it came to commerce raiding, seizing roughly as many British merchant ships as the British had of American merchant ships. This caused insurance rates for the British to triple compared to the darkest days of the Napoleonic wars, even for as short a jaunt as between Liverpool and Ireland. During the war Lloyd's of London based their insurance rates for a merchant ship traveling between the British Isles and either Canada or the West Indies at about 1/4 the value of both the ship and the cargo because they did not expect more than 3/4 to actually make it across the Atlantic without being either sunk or captured.

Adding to that is the fact that U.S. Navy warships won multiple warship duels ("single-ship actions") against those of the Royal Navy. USS Constitution, in particular, demonstrated the worth of Humphrey's unorthodox frigate design by fighting and defeating four other British warships—two of which were fought at once, with their combined number of guns nearly equaling her own—and taking a fifth without much of a fight. While these victories did nothing to appreciably diminish British naval power (the Royal Navy had well over 700 warships, after all) they had a powerful psychological impact on the British (and did much for American morale and perceptions of both nations worldwide). It was enough that the Naval Chronicle, a British periodical dedicated to the Royal Navy, began loudly calling for peace.

Without appropriate context, it may be hard to understand why the U.S. Navy's victories had such an impact. Prior to the conflict with America, the Royal Navy had most of Europe quaking in fear. British gun crews were renowned for their speed, allowing British warships to attain up to three times the rate of fire as their opponents. This allowed the Royal Navy to easily emerge victorious from battles in which they were outnumbered and/or outgunned, from single-ship actions like the defeat and capture of the Foudroyant (a French 80-gun ship-of-the-line) at the hands of HMS Monmouth (a 66-gun ship of the line) to fleet engagements like the Battle of Trafalgar itself. From 1793 to 1815, in fact, the Royal Navy captured 229 frigates from the French, and only lost 17 to them in turn. Such was British strength that, in 1807, the Royal Navy successfully besieged neutral Denmark's city of Copenhagen in order to take almost all of the Royal Danish Navy into possession, just so that Napoleon couldn't do it first.

By the time of the War of 1812, the Royal Navy's reputation led to a demoralized, self-defeating attitude among most naval powers. It also became a source of hubris for the British, who had come to see their naval hegemony as the natural order of things. To wit, a periodical called the British Naval Register had proudly declared, "The winds and seas are Britain's wide domain—and not a sail, but by permission, spreads!" During the War of 1812, this was mockingly quoted in American periodicals alongside lists of captured British ships.

     Glorious Victory! 

With the acceptance of the treaty, everything more or less returned to how it had been previous to the confrontation. Neither side retained any land it captured, bar the USA's annexation of Spanish Mobile/'Florida', and despite the damage done to the US economy the only party that suffered in the long-term was the Natives - who lost their bid for their own neutral state during peace talks. With the death of Tecumseh, and the mutual agreement of the US and British governments, there would not and could never be an Amerindian state that could prevent the ethnic cleansing and conquest of their lands by the US. Although the Amerindian population would continue to increase, US propaganda would increasingly portray them as a 'dying race' that was going extinct as a way of justifying the ongoing seizure of their lands and attempts to integrate them into US society that would eventually end with them all being 'second-class' US citizens with lesser rights than ethnic-Europeans under the law (until the 1960s, when they were granted equal rights).

Losses are estimated at 5000 deaths on the British side and 15,000 on the American side; though most Canadian militia and Native losses went unrecorded, fairly important when some of the most important battles of the war were fought by the Natives. It also doesn't take into account the large number of British sailors who defected or deserted. No compensation was paid by either side for damages though the British did pay $1,204,960 in damages to Washington to reimburse the slave-owners whose slaves defected to the British side or escaped in the confusion of the war.

Today the war is largely forgotten due to its lacklustre outcome; other than being the source of the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", the war is barely remembered there. In Canada, however, it was a defining event that fostered a quiet determination to remain British and distinct from the United States. After the creation of the Canadian nation, the outcome of the war became a point of national pride where the seeds of Canada's creation were planted. In Britain, of course, only historians remember it. That and people who watched Hornblower. As for the actual outcome of the war, the only clear losers were the Amerindians, whose last best attempt at uniting in the face of European Expansionism had failed. Their populations devastated and displaced by the US campaign, they were no longer able to form a serious check to the western expansion of the United States. The United States also secured New Orleans right at the last second — if the war had dragged on another few months and The Cabinet had deemed it worthwhile to take New Orleans back, the relatively small and over-stretched US Army would not have been able to defend the town. As it was, they were very fortunate to capture it when they did, as it meant that there would be no foreign checks to US expansion through central-northern America either.

Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series, summed up the war very well: "What was to be expected in each theatre was inverted, with the exception of the major battles: The British inflicted a string of defeats on the numerically superior American Army, but lost the Battles of New Orleans and Plattsburgh. The US Navy inflicted a series of defeats on the far more powerful Royal Navy, but failed to prevent them raiding the Chesapeake and burning Washington."

A more comprehensive article and links to other related articles can be found on The Other Wiki.

Not to be confused with the other war of 1812.


Tropes involved in the War of 1812 include:

  • The Alcoholic: American Generals James Wilkinson and Wade Hampton were a laudanum addict and a drunk respectively. Their joint invasion of the Canadas ended very poorly, due to their mutual addictions and inability to cooperate.
  • The Alliance: The American invasion of the Canadas was opposed by a mix of British regulars, colonial militia, French-Canadian voltigeurs (elite militiamen drawn from hunters and trappers trained in native traditions), and native tribesmen from Tecumseh's Shawnee Confederacy, and the Grand River Iroquois tribes.
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Even today, Canadians have a far dimmer view of James Madison, remembering him as the president who ordered the invasion of Canada, and the burning of York (modern Toronto) during the War of 1812. When British troops later burned Washington D.C., it was in direct retaliation for the burning of York.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • Battlefield successes launched the presidential careers of William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson.
    • Isaac Brock was knighted for his capture of Detroit and other early successes, but the news did not reach Upper Canada until after his death at Queenston Heights.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Used in several major battles.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Oliver Hazard Perry and General Zebulon Pike for the Americans, General Manley Power for the British.
  • Badass: General Isaac Brock on the British side and Andrew Jackson on the American side, as well as the Native leader Tecumseh.
  • Badass Army:
    • The infant U.S. Navy was this from day one, having in the first year of the war captured three frigates and lost none of their own. Against a navy that could completely wipe out other European navies in a single action.
    • The British regulars who frequently defeated American forces many times their own size during the early days of the war, and were man-for-man the best fighting force in North America.
    • The American Army, for its part, began to approach this status in 1814, when, under the guidance of men like Brown, Scott, and Macomb, it started to give the British a run for their money.
  • Badass Boast: Oliver Hazard Perry after the Battle of Lake Erie:
    "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
  • Badass Bookworm: In addition to being a Four-Star Badass, Isaac Brock was noted for his tendency to spend plenty of his leisure time reading up on topics ranging from military tactics and science to ancient history. By the time of his death, he possessed a sizable library of books, including works by Shakespeare, Voltaire and Samuel Johnson.
  • Badass Crew:
    • The Indiana Rangers.
    • Joshua Barney's flotilla crew.
    • Andrew Jackson's militia and pirates in New Orleans.
    • The York Volunteers, in the opinion of Isaac Brock.
    • The voltigeurs under Colonel de Salaberry.
    • The crew of USS Constitution.
    • The crew of HMS Shannon.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Isaac Brock and Tecumseh.
  • Battle Cry:
    • "Don't give up the ship," the dying words of James Lawrence and the motto on the battle flag of Oliver Hazard Perry.
    • "Revenge the General," by Canadian forces lead by John Macdonell in the second charge at Queenston Heights, after the death of Isaac Brock.
  • Big Bad: Either Sir George Prevost (the Governor-General of British North America) or President James Madison, depending on which side of the war you were on.
  • BFB: When American forces landed on the north shore of Lake Ontario and advanced on the city of York, the seriously outnumbered British forces under General Roger Sheaffe retreated in response, but not before setting off the powder magazine at Fort York in the midst of the American column. The resulting explosion could be seen, heard and felt 100 kilometers away and wounded or killed 260 American troops note  (out of the force of 1600 to 1800) and was the largest man-made explosion on Canadian soil until the Halifax Explosion in 1917.
  • Bling of War: It was a common naval practice for warships to fly multiple naval ensigns, one from each mast, in the likely event that one or more of the masts was shot to pieces (a ship that is not flying any naval ensigns could be interpreted as having "struck her colors," or surrendered). Some ships, like HMS Shannon, opted for only one. Which prompted this exchange between Captain Broke and a crewman during Shannon's battle with Chesapeake
    British Seaman: May we have three ensigns, sir, like she has?
    Captain Phillip Broke: No. We've always been an unassuming ship.
  • Boring but Practical: Roger Hale Sheaffe, who succeeded Brock, lacked his predecessor's flash. However, his methodical war plans and attention to detail allowed him to defeat the Americans at Queenston Heights, where Brock had succeeded only in getting himself killed.
  • Brick Joke: Laura Secord and her husband, James Secord, heard of an impending American attack in 1813 due to the fact that they were forced to house and feed several American soldiers at their home in Queenston, Ontario. As a member of the Canadian militia, James was only at home because he was still recovering from wounds sustained during the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812 (during which he had helped to carry recently-deceased General Isaac Brock's body away from the battlefield).
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: While the War of 1812 is a huge part of Canadian national identity (and, while less well-known, still important to Americans), most Britons don't know of the war at all. It just sort of slips down the back of the historical memory-couch to join the Anglo-Dutch and Carnatic Wars.
  • Canucks with Chinooks: While the actual defense of Canada (and raids on the U.S., including the burning down of Washington D.C.) were actually conducted by British regulars with relatively little role played by the actual Canadian militia, Canadians have effectively adopted the British army in Canada during the war and claim their victories as their own, to the point of CBC viewers picking British General Isaac Brock as one of greatest Canadians in history in 2004 (notwithstanding the fact that Brock really did not like being stationed in Canada). In addition, the role played by the Canadian militia has been greatly played up and this "militia myth," that the Canadian colonists were largely responsible for repelling the Yankee invaders, has been an important component of Canadian nationalism.
  • The Captain:
    • Stephen Decatur, Oliver Hazard Perry. Lesser-known but every bit as badass is Commodore Joshua Barney.
    • On the British side we have British Captain Sir James Lucas Yeo, who commanded the Lake Ontario squadron, and had a distinguished career of foreign service behind him.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Isaac Brock and Roger Hale Sheaffe were a variant on this, with Brock acting as A Father to His Men while Sheaffe played the tyrannical taskmaster.
  • Colonel Badass: Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry, a Francophone officer in the Royal Army who, with volunteers from Quebec and native assistance halted the Americans' invasion of Quebec (then "Lower Canada") in November 1812. He later played an important role in several other major battles, including Crysler's Farm and Chateauguay. His actions at the latter prevented the fall of Montreal, and saved Upper Canada. At one point his force of just over 400 men turned back 4500 men under General Wilkinson.
  • Cool Ship:
    • The U.S. Navy's original six frigates—United States, Constellation, Constitution, Congress, Chesapeake, and President. These "super frigates" were designed by Joshua Humphreys to be America's capital ships in lieu of ships-of-the-line, given that the United States did not yet have the industry, population, or government support to build adequate numbers of such ships. The frigates were intended to outmatch any ship lighter than a ship-of-the-line while still having the speed to evade any ship which was. Only two of them, Chesapeake and President, fell to the British—meanwhile, Constitution defeated four British warships and got a fifth to surrender without a fight. For a non-British warship to defeat and destroy or capture that many British warships—especially without ever being defeated and captured herself—was a feat unheard of in those days.
    • HMS St. Lawrence was the first and only Royal Navy ship-of-the-line (a 112-gun first-rater, no less) ever to be built and operated in freshwater. She never saw battle after being launched in 1814, but her mere presence was enough to keep the U.S. Navy off of Lake Ontario entirely while they scrambled to build an equal or better vessel in response.
  • Command And Conquer Economy: In a rare Real Life example, both sides at the Battles of Lake Erie built the majority of their ships right at bases constructed for the purpose on the lake shore, using wood harvested from the surrounding forests, and then proceeded to fight over the lake. This was done because oceangoing ships could not enter the lake from the St. Lawrence river. This also occurred at Lake Huron to a lesser extent and for the same reasons.
  • Common Knowledge:
    • Many Canadians can tell you that the War of 1812 was when the Canadians burned Washington, D.C.. Except that there were no Canadian forces involved in the Baltimore Campaign, and it was the British who burned Washington, D.C..
    • Averted entirely by the British. A possibly apocryphal tale was that a British general saw a painting of the Burning of Washington in the Pentagon in World War II, and asked "Who the devil ever did that to you chaps?" His embarrassed escort had to explain, "You guys did."
  • Cool Versus Awesome: A rare David Versus Goliath example—the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy were two of the best at the time. The tiny U.S. Navy kept up with the Royal Navy at a time when no other maritime power could.
  • Courtroom Antics: Prize Law was an innate part of the laws and customs of war at the time. One American privateer was able to sue for the ransom of one capture in a British court. And was granted his suit. This no doubt proves that lawyers are Pirates.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome:
    • The entire war is played up as this in Canadian history, while for the Americans this is mostly only true for the U.S. Navy's exploits.
    • The siege of Detroit included Tecumseh having his men repeatedly circle the fort, tricking the Americans into thinking that the Native numbers were much greater than they were. Detroit's surrender gave the Natives and British a tremendous amount of supplies, along with a major psychological victory.
    • More humorously, the British torched Washington, while the Americans burned down York, later to be known as Toronto. Given the loathing Americans and Canadians have for their respective cities, a Deadpan Snarker could claim that the War of 1812 is one where both sides did the other a favor.
    • The defense of Fort McHenry stemmed the Royal Navy's raid on the Eastern seaboard. After being turned back the fleet sailed to New Orleans ... where Andrew Jackson, four thousand troops, and some badass pirates made excellent use of trenches and a swamp to hold back a force of 11 000 Royal Marines, who decided that the casualties required to take the place weren't worth the trouble and left. In fact, the defense of Fort McHenry was so awesome, they wrote a poem about it. That poem later became a song which any American citizen has no doubt heard many times.
    • Battle of Lake Erie: After the Lawrence, Perry's flagship, had been beaten into submission with 4 out of every 5 men killed or wounded, Oliver Hazard Perry took down his battle flag, rowed through a hail of cannon fire, reached the Niagara, and steered it through the British line, decimating their fleet in 15 minutes.
    "Dear General: We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry"
    • While the British were approaching Washington, Dolly Madison stayed in the White House until the very last minute, rescuing valuable items including a famous painting of George Washington.
    • The Battle of Plattsburgh. Master Commandant Thomas MacDonough's fleet, equipped with spring lines which allowed his ships to turn while anchored, allowing faster firing and reloading of the cannons, successfully drove the Royal Navy off of Lake Champlain and forced them to retreat back into Canada.
    • The Battle of Stoney Creek was a desperate last stand in the eastern part of what is now Hamilton, Ontario. It was the farthest into Canada the American troops had come, and the British general was so convinced it was hopeless that he sent any men who could go home away. With half as many forces remaining, poised to retreat to Burlington Heights and then to Fort York, the British and Native troops suddenly turned around and swarmed the American encampment in the middle of the night. The two generals in command of the American force were captured when they blundered into groups of British soldiers. During the subsequent American retreat, the new commanding officer was so freaked out by the Native militia that was hounding them from the forest that he ordered a retreat all the way back to Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake (a two-hour drive by highway now, a couple of days walk then).
      • Going slightly meta, this battle later became the first, and now the largest, War of 1812 re-enactment in Canada.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The overall war subverted this in two primary ways. The British expected to curb stomp the U.S. Navy and put an end to the United States as a maritime power. The British public greatly wanted to see the United States humbled, or even conquered and made a colony once again. Instead, they found out firsthand the worth of Humphreys' innovative frigate designs and the grit of the crews manning them (as well as those of the lesser warships). American commerce raiding hit British mercantile interests quite heavily in the pocketbook.

    Meanwhile, the Americans had expected to dish one out in British North America, but the British had an experienced army, with experienced generals, as well as militiamen and native allies all fighting for their homes—whereas the Americans' invasion forces were untrained volunteers with guerrilla ex-revolutionaries as generals (until those were mostly shot and then replaced with competent men who whipped their troops into shape). So despite the Americans having a huge numbers advantage, they tended to lose dramatically more men in any given battle, even the ones they won.
    • Another overall subversion happened again after the defeat of Napoleon. With British forces now freed up from fighting in Europe, it was possible to send a greater bulk of the Royal Navy and British Army to, as the British expected, put the Americans in their place. Three major raiding-campaigns were launched in the space of a year, but all of them were turned back.
    • Played straight with the battle between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, in which Chesapeake engaged Shannon as she attempted to leave Boston Harbor. Chesapeake was widely considered in the U.S. Navy to be the "runt of the litter" among Humphreys' original six frigates note  and had already suffered a humiliating curb stomping by HMS Leopard prior to the war. Whereas Chesapeake was fitting out with an untested, inexperienced crew, Shannon boasted one of the best crews in the Royal Navy, led by the innovative Captain Philip Broke. It was over in a matter of minutes.
    • Played straight in the Battle of New Orleans (which actually happened after the war technically ended). 55 Americans died, 185 were wounded, and 93 were missing, with a grand total of 333 casualties and losses at the end of the battle. On the other side, 386 British died, 1,521 were wounded, and 552 were missing, with a grand total of 2,459 casualties and losses. The reason for the high casualties is because Andrew Jackson put his army in a position that made all of his flanks covered by swamps, thus forcing the British to attack head on, because they couldn't wade through the swamps. Pakenham forgetting to give the marines siege equipment may also have had something to do with it. American morale soared after the battle, and was even made the subject of a popular American song called ''The Battle of New Orleans''.
    • To make up for New Orleans, the Brits had the Battle of Frenchtown. The British had 25 dead and 161 wounded, plus 3 dead native allies, whereas the Americans had 410 dead, 87 wounded and 547 captured. Unfortunately, 30 to 100 of the wounded American prisoners were executed by the Native forces allied with the British.
    • The Battle of Bladensburg where experienced British troops went up against American forces made up of militia units. Due to major tactical blunders, the Americans were in poor position to fight or defend, and the militia units quickly fled in a retreat that turned into a rout. It left Washington DC completely undefended, leading to its' torching. The rout is still considered the "greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms." It was so bad that major post-war reforms led to relying on a permanent professional army instead of civilian militias from then on.
  • David Versus Goliath: A complicated example at sea. In the over all picture the U.S. Navy and Army was the David but it was often the Goliath in a given engagement. This is actually fairly common in warfare but worth remarking on:
    • Joshua Humphreys' innovative frigate design gave the U.S. Navy six (in reality, five) frigates which could outclass anything that wasn't a ship-of-the-line (and outrun those that were). After USS Constitution defeated her second frigate, the British Admiralty ordered that only lone ships-of-the-line or squadrons of ships be allowed to engage these "monster frigates."
    • Overall, the U.S. Navy constantly struggled with a lack of consistent government support for its continued existence. During the interim years between the war with Tripoli and the War of 1812, President Thomas Jefferson's administration eschewed the building of ships-of-the-line or frigates to defend America's shores in favor of gunboats, keeping in line with his desire to stay out of foreign wars and to not give the Royal Navy the temptation to raid the country for its warships as it had done to Denmark at the Siege of Copenhagen.

      As a result, there were no American ships of the line, a handful of relatively powerful frigates, and almost two hundred gunboats intended to work in cooperation with the coastal fortifications (which, in the timeless fashion of government procurement, were never completed anyways). Many of the less-famous naval battles involved British warships sinking or chasing off American gunboats.
  • Deadpan Snarker: One British officer leading a raiding party captured two militiamen. When they said they were just out to shoot squirrels he asked if their bayonets were for charging the squirrels.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Mutually, and how. Remember the Battle of Plattsburgh? Stand by the side of the road on Upper Cornelia Street (where the big-box stores are) in that city on a summer Saturday and count the Quebec and Ontario license plates...
  • Deus ex Machina: As British troops were burning Washington DC, a goddamn tornado touched down in the city, for the first time in known history, causing a Mass "Oh, Crap!" amongst the occupying British forces. The wind was so strong that it lifted cannons into the air.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • For the British, there was the fact that the tiny, nearly non-existent U.S. Navy defeated multiple British warships, and managed to evade utter destruction or remain contained for very long. Many Britons of the day were stunned—they had grown comfortable in the belief that no other navy on Earth could stand up to the Royal Navy.
    • For the Americans, it was that the Canadians fought back against the invasion of British North America, and effectively at that. Many Americans were similarly stunned—they had assumed that, because many native-born Americans lived in British North America, the territory would jump at the chance to throw off the British yoke.
    • Tens of thousands of slaves used the opportunities the war provided them to escape from their owners, often incurring great risks and hardship. This put a dent into the then still widespread belief that slaves were generally content with their lot.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • To some extent, American General William Hull, who surrendered Detroit due to a deathly fear of Natives which Isaac Brock exploited ruthlessly. Though in fairness, he was a man lacking in military experience who thought the Natives would torture the civilians, including his wife and children. See General Failure below.
    • Militia were also mocked by regular soldiers during the war on the American side. They were only distinguished from real soldiers by the speed with which they fled the battlefield.
  • Divided States of America: New England threatened to secede from the Union over the issue of the war due to how it was wrecking their economy. The War Hawks feared Britain would carve out an Indian nation in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to serve as a buffer between the America and British North America. (There is ample evidence that Britain did indeed have this on the agenda.)
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Winfield Scott was hated by his men for his obsession with drill and order of battle. However, it was that same obsession that allowed him to turn American militiamen into soldiers capable of standing up to British regulars. On the British side, Roger Hale Sheaffe was almost pathological about drill and order, fining men for the slightest violations of the dress code, and flogging anybody who treated their task with anything less than the utmost seriousness. At one point Brock had to save Sheaffe from a revolt amongst his own officers.
  • The Empire: In America, the war is remembered as a fight against the British Empire. In Canada, it is remembered as a war against a United States seeking to annex British North America.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Don't give up the ship!" Captain James Lawrence's dying words, shortly before USS Chesapeake was taken by a boarding party from HMS Shannon. His good friend, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, later named his flagship USS Lawrence, put the phrase on his battle flag, and used it as his Battle Cry at the Battle of Lake Erie. He won the battle.
    • The last words of General Brock, killed by a sharpshooter during the Battle of Queenston Heights, was said to be either "Push on brave York volunteers!" or "Push on, don't mind me." "Push on" is now used as the motto of Brock University in Niagara Falls, Canada.
  • A Father to His Men: Isaac Brock, Andrew Jackson, Techumseh and many others on both sides.
    • Special mention ought to go to Captain Broke of HMS Shannon during the action against USS Chesapeake: when the combination of fortuitous wind and damaged rigging resulted in the latter ramming and pinning the former stern first, Broke unsheathed his Scottish Broadsword, called for any man brave enough to follow him, and was the first man to board the American ship, arguably one of the most dangerous positions to be in during such an action.
  • Fighting Your Friend:
    • In 1810, when HMS Macedonian was visiting Norfolk, her captain John Carden bet a fur beaver hat to his friend (and captain of USS United States) Stephen Decatur that if their two ships ever met in battle, the Macedonian would emerge victorious. As fate would have it, the two ships fought each other off of the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira during the war—and the United States won the fight.
    • In more general terms, many families were divided with relatives fighting in both the British and American forces, particularly among residents of areas near the border between Canada and the United States.
  • Foil: In an odd Real Life example, Isaac Brock and Roger Hale Sheaffe were this to one another. Brock was outgoing and friendly, A Father to His Men, had a good relationship with the press, and was known for his Hot Bloodedness and need to lead from the front. Sheaffe was cold and bitter, with a streak of the drill sergeant, a penchant for leading from the rear, a 0% Approval Rating with the press, and a strategist's eye for the big picture. Despite this they got along well together and made an effective team, with Brock saving Sheaffe's career after a revolt among his officers, and Sheaffe avenging Brock at Queenston Heights.
  • Four-Star Badass:
    • Isaac Brock was one, leading his men from the front. Depending on who you ask, Gordon Drummond, whose claim to be "The Saviour of Canada" is at least as strong as Brock's might qualify, facing off against the best officers the United States had to offer (see below) and blunting their invasion of Canada. William Henry Harrison's men saw him as one as well.
    • While the Americans started the war seriously lacking in leadership on land, this situation did not last. By 1814, their forces were commanded by Jacob Brown, Alexander Macomb, and Winfield Scott, all of whom were brave, capable men, and who would go onto have distinguished careers in the American Army, all three eventually serving as Commanding General of the Armies of the United States.
  • General Failure: Given that most of Britain's better officers were in service in Europe, and that American Army was both in its infancy and filled with political appointees and militia generals, this is to be expected. Some notable examples include:
    • General William Hull. The Governor of Michigan, Hull marched his army a few kilometers into Upper Canada, panicked when he encountered actual resistance, and ended up surrendering Fort Detroit to a force that was several times smaller than his own. His own men were contemplating a coup d'etat against him by the end. Hull was court-martialed and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad for his actions at Detroit, but was pardoned by James Madison. Hull's superior officer, Henry Dearborn, was no better, not having seen combat since the days of the Revolutionary War.
    • Downplayed in the case of Stephen Van Rennselaer, who led the Americans to defeat at Queenston Heights. While Rennselaer was a political appointee (one of his enemies gave him the job in the hopes that he would embarrass himself) and had no combat experience, he was aware of the fact and tried to compensate for it by bringing in his experienced cousin, Solomon Van Rennselaer to act as his aide. Unfortunately Solomon was wounded during the first few minutes of the battle at Queenston, and Van Rennselaer's supposed right-hand man, Alexander Smyth, refused to cooperate with him, ruining their plans; Van Rennselaer resigned afterwards. Smyth himself was a classic example; in Winfield Scott's words Smyth "showed no talent for command and made himself ridiculous on the Niagara frontier."
    • Generals James Wilkinson and Wade Hampton were even worse. Wilkinson was a laudanum addict and traitor (seriously, he was a spy for Spain), and Hampton a drunk. They hated each other, and were jointly assigned to lead the 1813 invasion of Canada over the protestations of actual competent soldier Winfield Scott. They spent the entire time feuding with each other, and were at one point, defeated by a force that was a tenth the size of their own.
    • General William H. Winder who was supposed to defend Washington, but could not control his men at all, may have been the best example of this trope. He squandered any numerical advantage he might have had, allowing the capture and burning of the American capital. In contrast, Samuel Smith, the commander of the militia at Baltimore managed to throw back the same British invasion force.
    • On the British side there was naval officer Commander Popham who, having been explicitly instructed by Captain Yeo to not sail up a creek, proceeded to sail directly up that creek, stranding his ship and enabling a significant American naval victory.
  • The Generalissimo: Lieutenant-General Prevost was both Commander-in-Chief and Governor-General of British North America, making him in effect, a military dictator, albeit one whose powers were limited by London. On a smaller scale, Major-General Brock was both the military commander in Upper Canada, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, and the head of the provincial legislature, whom he regularly worked around, eventually declaring martial law. His successors, Roger Hale Sheaffe, Francis De Rottenburg, and Gordon Drummond would have similar powers.
  • Graceful Loser: Always the case with surrenders, to the point that Isaac Brock's motif was tricking major American fortifications into surrendering. Averted by General Hull who upon surrendering spent most of his time accusing his subordinates of letting him down.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The British forces were bolstered with local militia, escaped Loyalists, former slaves and Native Peoples. Similarly, the American defenders at New Orleans included Kentucky frontiersmen, Creole aristocrats, free men of color, and frickin' pirates fighting for their new nation.
  • Guile Hero: Brock and Tecumseh's early victories over the numerically superior Americans relied entirely on bluff and deception, with the battle for Fort Detroit being the most glaring example.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Isaac Brock's charge at Queenston Heights. His death was a direct result of the fact that he always led his men into combat.
    • Brock's aide, John Macdonell, promptly followed him after another failed charge up Queenston Heights. Roger Sheaffe, who subsequently arrived from Fort George with reinforcements, took note of this and used a circuitous but better-covered route to set up his own successful assault, ending the battle.
    • Similarly, Tecumseh's death in the Battle of the Thames resulted from fighting alongside his followers.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • Although Isaac Brock didn't think much of the Canadian colonists as militia, Canadians largely don't care and have adopted him with Tecumseh as the "Saviors of Canada" and among its greatest military heroes. In reality Brock was no genius—he was a solid, capable officer who was confronted by thoroughly incompetent opponents during the early part of the war. Other officers, like Roger Hale Sheaffe and Gordon Drummond could make equally good claims on being "The Saviour of Canada", but since Brock died in action, he became the hero of the piece.
    • There is also the "militia myth". Basically, no, Canadian militia didn't beat back the invasion of British North America; they helped certainly, but were usually too busy farming to do much fighting, where the heavy lifting was done by a combination of British regulars and native allies.
    • A partially hilarious example is that of Laura Secord. Yes, she did warn the British of an impending American attack, but modern depictions of her paint her as a crusading hero or master spy, when in reality she was basically a housewife who chanced upon overhearing some valuable military intelligence and made a dangerous trek to alert British forces. She is, not unreasonably, considered the Canadian equivalent of Paul Revere.
    • Canadians tend to boast that they were the ones who burned down Washington DC, when in reality the soldiers that sacked the city were Napoleonic War veterans shipped in from Spain and France.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Sir George Prevost is on the recieving end of this in many older Canadian histories for having dared to disagree with the sainted Brock. While Prevost was overly cautious, and did bungle the Plattsburgh offensive badly, he was also a competent war leader whose overall grasp of strategy and ability to reconcile the French and English speaking parts of the colonies played a major role in British success. William Hull sometimes receives one in American takes on the war; while it is true that he was a General Failure extraodrinaire, not all of the problems in his infant army could be justly blamed on him.
  • Honor Before Reason: In both the Royal and U.S. Navies, ship captains often put gallantry and chivalry before pragmatism.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Happened on both sides of the war—
    • Rivalries and miscommunications between the U.S. Army and Navy led to a number of missed opportunities, especially in 1814, when Commodore Chauncey refused to support Jacob Brown's invasion of Upper Canada.
    • On the British side, disagreements over who was subordinate to whom, and whether Captain Yeo was required to answer to the commanders in Upper Canada or even to Sir George Prevost caused considerable friction and similar missed opportunities. Averted in Bermuda, where excellent cooperation between Admirals Cochrane & Cockburn, and General Ross enabled the burning of Washington and the attack on Baltimore.
  • Instant Death Bullet: The means of General Isaac Brock's demise in the Battle of Queenston Heights. Any accounts of Famous Last Words are almost certainly apocryphal, as he was shot in the chest (likely the heart) and died immediately.note 
  • Invaded States of America: The most successful real life example (not counting the American Revolution). In response to the Americans invading the British Empire's territory in North America and torching Toronto, the British launched their own raids on Maryland (resulting in the capture of Washington DC and torching of numerous federal-government buildings), New Orleans, and New York. All the raids were turned back in the battles of Plattsburgh, New Orleans, and Baltimore—in New Orleans' case, the battle technically occurred after the war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent, but word had not yet arrived from across the ocean.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Burning of York (today's Toronto) in 1813 by Americans, and the retaliatory Burning of Washington by British forces in 1814.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Part of British Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe's motif, most notable at his retreat during the Battle of York. It never won him friends, but it did let him keep his army intact.
  • La Résistance: After the capture of Fort George on the Niagara River in May 1813 and the subsequent Battle of Stoney Creek, a force of fifty British soldiers under Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, along with hundreds of Native allies, carried out raids up and down the Niagara peninsula and kept thousands of American regulars and militia off balance and unwilling to advance. With prior warning of a coming American attack, courtesy of local resident Laura Secord (yes, that Laura Secord), FitzGibbon and his detachment were able to enlist the help of a large Caughnawaga and Mohawk force to trap and capture over 500 American soldiers in the Battle of Beaver Dams (now located near present-day Thorold, Ontario). The American forces eventually retreated to the eastern side of the Niagara River in December 1813.
  • Large and In Charge: Isaac Brock stood six-foot-three or four, Winfield Scott six-foot-five. Tall by modern standards, they would have been absolutely enormous at the time, and were heavily built men to boot, with Scott weighing in at 300 pounds.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The American frigates. They could outrun any British battleship, and they carried 44 guns to the British frigates' 36. It also helped that their hulls were strong enough to No Sell light cannon fire and that their main batteries were 24lb cannons while British frigates were typically armed with either 18lb or 12lb cannons.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: The death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames forever ended the dream of a united Indian confederacy.
  • Magnetic Hero: Isaac Brock again, who was responsible for swaying many of the Native Peoples to fight with the British. His ally Tecumseh was another example: he had built an entire Midwestern native confederacy, which collapsed in his absence.
  • The Men First: Isaac Brock, to the point of leading his charges against the enemy. It cost him his life.
  • Might Makes Right: In response to the horrendous performance the Royal Navy had given against the U.S. Navy (almost a hundred ships in the Americas, including seventeen ships-of-the-line verses a fleet of fourteen, where their most powerful ships were allegedly piddling frigates), the British newspaper Evening Star gave this urge to the Admiralty:
    "All the prating about maritime rights, with which the Americans have recently nauseated the ears of every cabinet minister in Europe, must be silenced by the strong and manly voice of reason [...] and must be beaten into submission!
  • Mildly Military: The U.S. and Canadian militia, neither of which had much in the way of a military tradition.
  • Modern Major General: It's been claimed that one of the reasons the Americans didn't conquer British North America was because a number of their generals were appointed more due to political reasons than actual military talent. Then again, that's how it worked just about more-or-less everywhere. An academy-trained officer corps selected on merit alone is a 20th-century ideal, one that has yet to be fulfilled in its entirety.
  • National Anthem:
    • "The Star-Spangled Banner" was famously inspired by the defense of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.
    • On the Canadian side, the second verse of "The Maple Leaf Forever" references 1812 (particularly "Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane") in much the same way.
  • Naval Blockade: The British blockade of the American coast, possibly what gave General Winfield Scott the idea to do the same thing with his "Anaconda Plan" during The American Civil War.
  • Not So Different: It's hard to tell, but it's doubtful the distinctive American twangs had caught on by this stage. When American prisoners of war were paraded around for the benefit of the (paying) public, the general reaction was disappointment. They all looked and sounded some sort of British, this being on account of the great majority of Americans being either emigrants or the descendants of emigrants from the Isles.
    • This near-identical appearance is also what some Royal Navy officers used as an excuse to impress native-born American seaman.
    • There was also little in the way of cultural differences between the two sides. There is a reason why one recent book on the subject is entitled The Civil War of 1812.
  • The Neidermeyer: Governor of British North America Sir George Prevost is often treated like this in the history books, though this is more due to his wanting to maintain a defensive stance, than any real inability on his part. Prevost had had a distinguished career in the British Army, pre-war, and did a solid job of holding the Canadas together during the war. He did, however, lead the British forces to defeat in the Battle of Plattsburgh, resulting in his disgrace after the war had concluded.
  • Never Live It Down: The White House being burned down.
  • Odd Friendship: Brock and Sheaffe as noted under Foil.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Various examples on both sides. Brock, Sheaffe, Rottenburg, Drummond and Prevost are all good British examples. On the American side, Stephen Van Rennselaer (otherwise something of a General Failure) was congratulated on being one of these when he ordered his cannons to salute Brock's funeral.
    • A special mention goes to General Ross, who commanded the troops who burned down Washington. He was ruthless in his destruction of public property, as by the rites of war, it now belonged to him as the victor. However, he refused to condone the destruction of private property, and even American historians (the few that care to study the war, anyway) agree that during his short occupation of the city, he treated the populace well and ordered his men to do the same.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • "Those are Regulars, by God!", British General Phineas Riall's (possibly apocryphal) reaction at the Battle of Chippewa to Winfield Scott's gray-coated brigade pressing forward through shot and shell. (Gray was the color of militia uniforms; there was no blue cloth available for uniform coats when Scott's brigade was outfitted. West Point cadets wear gray uniforms in memory of this incident.)
    • Mass "Oh, Crap!": On the part of the American residents and politicians in Washington, when they realized that their defenders had fled and there was nothing between the British forces and the capital.
    • A whole ship load of Oh, Crap came from the crew of HMS Guerriere, as they watched their cannon balls bounce off the side of USS Constitution, prompting one of the American gunners to yell out "Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!". Needless to say, the Constitution's next volley did not bounce off of the Guerriere. To sum it up in the British captain's own words:
    Captain Dacres: "Well, Sir, I don't know. Our mizzen mast is gone, our fore and main masts are gone — I think on the whole you might say we have struck our flag."
  • Peace Conference: The war's eventual resolution.
  • Pirates: Canadian, American, and British privateers all played a big role in this war.
    • The Liverpool Packet is Canada's most successful privateer of the war, having taken 50 American prizes.
    • The Baltimore privateers were famous or infamous depending on which side you were on.
    • Jean Lafitte and his crew were a more literal example of pirates, who helped the Americans in the Battle of New Orleans.
  • Pop Culture Osmosis: Many modern Americans think the 1812 Overture, published in 1880 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, had something to do with this war ... even though the song is actually about the Battle of Borodino during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Much of the Canadian militia (but not the British regulars), and some of the American forces, specifically the Indiana Rangers.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: The wanted pirate Jean Lafitte earned a full pardon for the indispensable service his artillery provided at New Orleans.
  • Red Baron: A number of figures, ships, and units had some badass nicknames to go with their badass reputation.
    • USS Constitution, of course, is famously known as "Old Ironsides," which she earned after her victory over HMS Guerriere—coined by one of Constitution's sailors, who famously shouted "Her sides are made of iron!" after one of Guerriere's cannonballs bounced off of the hull.
    • USS Constellation had the nickname "Yankee Racehorse" from her service history during the earlier Quasi-War—namely, from how she ran down and defeated the fastest ship in the French navy, L'Insurgente. The Royal Navy made damn sure to keep her bottled up in port.
    • The Canadian privateer Liverpool Packet was also known as "New England's Bane." Given she captured 50 American merchant ships, this was not without good reason.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Both Isaac Brock and his aide John Macdonell, who died during unsuccessful, hastily assembled charges during the battle for Queenston Heights. Later the reinforcements arrived, and under the command of Roger Hale Sheaffe undertook a meticulous and better planned advance that easily recaptured the Heights.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The whole war, which changed nothing, and ended in a peace treaty that basically involved re-establishing the status quo ante while both sides agreed to forget about the whole thing. The British had already agreed to stop impressing Americans into the British Navy before the war started, although the U.S. Congress didn't know that. The tensions between Britain and the United States caused by the British blockade of Napoleonic France became a moot point when Napoleon was defeated in 1814.
  • The Siege: The Siege of Fort Erie was the bloodiest battle ever fought on Canadian soil.
  • Similarly Named Wars: Napoleon's invasion of Russia is known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812.
  • Spin-Off: Spun off from the Napoleonic Wars and had its own spin-off in the form of the Red Stick Creek War.
  • The Strategist: Isaac Brock built up a reputation for this during the first few months of the war. As an example, he forced the surrender of a major fort by having his men march at twice the regular distance as standard, creating the illusion that there was twice as many soldiers. Similarly, in another battle he had his troops loop back while en route to an enemy fortification to give the impression of extra forces, forcing another surrender.
  • Tempting Fate: Thomas Jefferson's "mere matter of marching" quote.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The American army under Winfield Scott and Jacob Brown during the 1814 Niagara Campaign where they managed to inflict serious losses on the British defenders before being driven back.
  • Under Dogs Never Lose: The British Canadian forces inflicted greater casualties against a larger opposing army without much support from Britain. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy managed a string of victories over British warships, and avoided complete destruction in turn—something which severely shook a Royal Navy that had grown accustomed to steamrolling its maritime enemies.
  • We Win Because You Didn't: The Americans never "brought Britain to account" over impressment, failed to annex Canada, and resumed trading with (and being invested in by) Britain at the war's end. Both Canadians and Americans like to think the war was a victory for them—for Canadians, because America failed to annex British North America; for Americans, because Britain failed to reconquer the United States (or at the very least carve out parts of American territory for both itself and its Native American allies). Nowadays the the outcome of the war is generally agreed as a stalemate. Really, the only real losers of the war were the Native Americans, who lost Tecumseh—their last best chance at checking American expansion into Indian territory—and even more of their lands.
  • You Are in Command Now: John Macdonell after the death of Isaac Brock. Unfortunately, it didn't last too long. Succeeded in turn by Roger Sheaffe, who through a more meticulous and cautious attack managed to entirely thwart the American attack at Queenston.
  • You Shall Not Pass:
    • Pulled by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and by Joshua Barney's now-shipless flotilla against the British forces advancing on Washington after the Battle of Bladensburg while American militia fled past them in terror.
    • Additionally done by the British regulars and Canadian militia defending the Niagara peninsula throughout the war. The American forces only got as far as Stoney Creek, in the eastern part of modern-day Hamilton, Ontario. Subverted, however, as the American army managed to cross the lake and burned York (now Toronto) to the ground.
  • Zerg Rush: A major part of Napoleon-era military tactics. The Royal Marines in particular tried it twice against entrenched troops backed by cannon at New Orleans, albeit the surrounding swampland afforded few alternatives.
  • 0% Approval Rating:
    • General Roger Sheaffe, who succeeded Isaac Brock as the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario) after the Battle of Queenston Heights, was never very popular with the citizens he worked to defend. However, this got drastically worse after his retreat in the Battle of York, which allowed the Americans to walk in and sack the town (modern-day Toronto) practically unopposed. Lost on the furious citizens was the fact that Sheaffe's forces were hugely outnumbered by the Americans, and that in withdrawing his forces and blowing up Fort York's magazine he denied the Americans a total, decisive victory and saved the lives of the British regulars under his command. Regardless, Sheaffe lost his military and civilian offices as a result, and was reassigned to Montreal before being recalled to Britain.
    • Sir George Prevost, the Governor of British North America (future Canada), ran into this towards the end of the war. As a result of his failure in the Battle of Plattsburgh, as well as feuding with British and Canadian officers, he was thrown into disrepute as the war ended. He died of illness in January 1816, before a court-martial could be convened to clear his name.
    • General Alexander Smyth openly disrespected the militia general who was his superior officer and casually declined to bring his detachment to participate in the Battle of Queenston Heights. When he took charge of the American forces on the Niagara frontier later that year, his few attempted attacks were a complete failure, and after feuding with the officers under his command he was removed and his name was eventually struck from the rolls of the U.S. Army.


In popular culture:

  • The Alternate History Decades of Darkness has this time period as its point of divergence. Thomas Jefferson dies early in 1809, leading to war tensions ramping up earlier, a "War of 1811", and New England seceding as a result, taking New York and New Jersey with it. The war ends with a British/Yankee curb-stomp victory that sees Chicago (sorry, Dearborn) becoming Canadian and Michigan becoming New England territory.
  • An episode of Due South has a Canadian general reference a Curb-Stomp Battle that the Canadians won during this war. A battle that the American police chief he was yelling at never heard of.
    • Another episode has Constable Fraser addressing an American elementary school class describing the war similarly, stating that the Americans invaded Canada, and "we sent you packing."
  • The first book of Eric Flint's Trail of Glory series, The Rivers of Warnote  is an Alternate History story set during the war.
  • College Humor spoofs the relative obscurity of this war in the mock trailer of a fictitious War Of 1812 movie, where the characters can't even figure out what the war is being fought over and against whom.
  • The Alternate History short story "Empire" by William Sanders has Napoleon moving to the United States and coming into American military service. He then promptly backstabbed it (with the help of the likes of Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston) and carved out his own Empire of the Louisiana. Said empire is embroiled in wars against America and the Spanish colonies, which expand but later weaken it. The novel is set in an alternate War of 1812 fought between the British and Napoleon's Empire, leading to the defeat and dissolution of the Empire and the Duke of Wellington darkly commenting in the end that "perhaps we shall see about the damned Yankees and their so-called United States of America."
  • Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie made a song called "The War of 1812", which is often misattributed to The Arrogant Worms. It recounts an inaccurate and pro-Canadian version of the events.
  • Several novels of the Aubrey-Maturin saga have Aubrey and Maturin and the Royal Navy fighting against the U.S. Navy during the war. Aubrey is even on board HMS Java in one of the books, during her fateful battle with USS Constitution. The film adaptation of the series, Master and Commander, draws elements from several of the books (including some that have to do with the War of 1812), but instead opts to pit Aubrey against a French privateer instead.
  • Horatio Hornblower is noteworthy for not featuring this conflict, due to C.S. Forester being quite aware of the size of the American audience for his books. Presumably to avoid either pitting Hornblower against the Americans and to also avoid doing a retread of Hornblower and the Hotspur by instead having him work blockade duty in Europe, Forester gave Hornblower a small squadron of ships and dispatched him to help the Russians break the French Siege of Riga in Commodore Hornblower.
  • A singer named Johnny Horton had a big hit with "The Battle of New Orleans" in 1959.
    We fired once more and they begin to runnin'
    On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Alternative Title(s):

War Of 1812