American History 1785 - 1849

United States History The War of 1812

In May 1811 an American ship called the President attacked and defeated a small British warship called the Little Belt. Many Americans were happy about this. Americans wanted to show the British they would not back down.

It had been 37 years since the Revolutionary War, so most of the soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War were too old to fight in a new war. The American army had only six thousand trained men. Most of these were spread out fighting the Native Americans.

Old Ironsides


A large army was sent to capture Canada, but they were beaten easily by the British army. Some American ships had early victories. Oliver Perry won a big battle on Lake Erie. The Constitution won a victory over a large British warship in the Atlantic. The Constitution earned the name Old Ironsides because the British cannonballs seemed to bounce off the wooden sides of the ship.

The British landed in Maryland and marched to Washington. The President and the Congress had to run from the city. The British burned the Capitol, the President's home, and other government buildings.

The British sailed up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore, Maryland. The British bombed Fort McHenry. The British bombed it all night. A young lawyer named Francis Scott Key was on board one of the ships. He was trying to get the British to free an American who they held prisoner. He watched the battle all night long. In the morning he wrote the Star-Spangled Banner about what he saw.


An agreement was made to end the war in 1814.

Neither side wanted the war. An agreement was made to end the war in 1814. Nobody won the war and no one lost. The question of the border between the United States and Canada was settled. Many felt the war earned America a new respect in the world.

Word was slow to reach the port of New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson beat a large British army there after the war had ended. On January 8, 1815 Andrew Jackson had his men dig trenches and wait for the British. The Americans waited for the British to march up. Many were armed with long squirrel rifles. In half an hour, the battle was over. Over 2000 British were killed. The Americans lost only eight men.


Return to the History Pages