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The War of 1812: A Second Fight for Independence

Even though the United States had won independence, the British still treated it like a colony.

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The American Revolution won freedom from British rule, but England continued to treat the United States like a colony. France and England were at war, and the British wanted to use Americans against the French. Under President James Madison, the United States went to war with England again. Many people still think of the War of 1812 as the second war of independence.

Causes of War

The British tried to stop the United States from trading with France. They often captured American sailors and forced them to serve in the British Navy. They also helped the Native Americans to fight against the United States.

A Back and Forth War

Early in the war, the Americans did not do well against the British or the Natives except for ship-to-ship fights. Even though the British Navy was the most powerful in the world at the time, American ships managed to win most one-on-one battles. But the British Navy stopped fighting American ships one-on-one and started using larger groups of ships to outnumber the U.S. forces.

In 1814, the old American commanders were replaced with new ones, who did much better. The United States began winning back some of what it had lost to the British. Then the British won their war with France, freeing them to send more people to the war in America. The British entered the Chesapeake Bay and burned Washington D.C., then made it as far as Baltimore before American troops stopped them.

Ghent and New Orleans

The United States was almost out of money, so President Madison started peace talks at Ghent, Belgium. The Treaty of Ghent officially ended the war on December 24, 1814, but the news didn’t travel fast enough to stop the fighting. The British invaded New Orleans in January but were defeated by Major General Andrew Jackson on January 8.

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