The United States faced out against the world's strongest naval force, Great Britain, in the War of 1812. The conflict was sparked by British restrictions on American trade and America's ambition to expand its territory. Although the United States lost the war it led to important changes for both countries.
In terms of numbers involved, the War of 1812 was a small war. Both nations had populations of about 3 million people then, so around 1 percent of each country went to war. However many more men served in the army and navy so this percentage is actually much higher!
In terms of death toll, the war claimed over 200 lives on both sides. This does not include the thousands who died from disease before either nation's military could engage the other in battle.
Britain banned American ships from trading with Canada which forced the Americans to look elsewhere for supplies. The British blockade of ports along the Atlantic Coast prevented most foreign ships from entering American waters which cut off trade with Europe and South America. This caused serious problems for America at the time because her economy was based largely on trade and almost half of all exports went to Britain!
So, with no way to get food or products made from oil or coal, many people in America began to protest against the government's inaction.
The War of 1812 had a significant impact on foreign ties between the United States and other European countries. As Americans attempted to travel west over their newly acquired country, the British would prove to be yet another impediment. The United Kingdom would now have to acknowledge the United States as an international power. This new status was given to them by treaty after the war ended in 1815.
This conflict also demonstrated the need for nations to work together to protect their interests abroad. In the years following the war, several other countries including France, Germany, and Italy would join Britain and America in opposing Napoleon's empire. These alliances would later form the basis of how Europe has functioned since then: united against the French emperor, but divided among themselves.
In addition to demonstrating the need for nations to work together to protect their interests, the War of 1812 also helped American settlers expand westward into unexplored territory. After winning the war, President James Madison signed a bill that granted land to those who fought in the battle lines (or served in government positions after the war started). This act encouraged more people to move west because they knew they could get land there if they were lucky enough to survive the dangers of the new country.
Also worth mentioning is that the war helped establish the United States as a world power. Before the war, America had been less than 10 years old as a nation.
The Roots of the War of 1812 The Royal Navy also infuriated Americans by its practice of impressment, or seizing seamen from American commerce ships and compelling them to serve on British behalf. After Napoleon intimated that he might lift the prohibitions, President James Madison halted all commerce with Britain in November. When London responded by banning American products, the war broke out.
Britain was no match for America - at first. The Americans had little money, few soldiers, and their territory was divided among four nations. But they did have courage and commitment, and they made the most of these handicaps. In battle after battle, from Baltimore to New Orleans, they proved themselves worthy successors to the heroes of 1814.
After two years of fighting, both countries were exhausted and ready to make peace. But it took another year before an agreement was reached, by which time both sides were again ready to fight. This time, America's allies came to its rescue. A joint force of British and Canadian troops under the command of General William Henry Harrison defeated the last major offensive by the British and their Indian allies at the Battle of Thames River in October 1813. Although Harrison died of pneumonia a month later, the war had ended successfully for America, even if it was not her intention.
Why did the United States do so well in the War of 1812? First of all, it should be said that the Americans fought excellent battles.
The British attempts to restrict US trade, the Royal Navy's impressment of American seamen, and America's ambition to expand its territory all contributed to the war's causes. However, the main reason for the conflict was economic: Britain needed US dollars to pay for items from Europe, while the Americans wanted free trade and an end to the war.
In addition, there were political reasons as well. The British government feared that if it was seen to be too weak against America, then other countries might follow suit. Therefore, they decided that in order to protect their interests, a strong army needs to be kept on hand. This means more money which only foreign trade can provide. Thus, the war was actually fought so that Britain would still have a strong economy even after fighting two other major wars (against France and Germany) over a period of several years.
Finally, both nations had territorial disputes that led to violence. Britain claimed ownership of most of the present-day states of North America, while the United States believed that Great Britain had no right to claim land beyond what was given to it by the Treaty of Paris. These claims led to attacks by both nations on each other's shores with neither having any intention of settling down until peace was restored between them.