June 2012

The 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

The Battle of Lake ErieThe Battle of Lake Erie

The Battle of Lake Erie
U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (standing at center) and his naval forces defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. This battle is one of several that will be reenacted to commemorate the War of 1812.

Two hundred years ago, on June 18, 1812, the United States went to war against Britain. The conflict, known as the War of 1812, began because many Americans were angry at Britain. In the early 1800s, the British were selling guns to Native Americans to help them in their fight against American settlers in the West. The British were also stopping American ships at sea to prevent them from trading with Britain’s enemies. They even took sailors from American ships and forced them to work on British navy ships. At the urging of President James Madison, Congress declared war.

Once the war began, Britain used its powerful navy to blockade American ports. However, the much smaller U.S. Navy defeated the British in several important battles, such as the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813. In August of the following year, the British army attacked Washington, D.C. and burned much of the city. When the British attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore, an American named Francis Scott Key wrote a poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” to honor the American defense. The poem later became the words to America’s national anthem. After more than two years of fighting, neither side was clearly winning. In December 1814, the United States and Britain signed a treaty to end the war.

Many cities in the United States have events planned to celebrate the bicentennial, or 200th anniversary, of the War of 1812. Starting with New Orleans in April, the U.S. Navy has been making special port visits this year to commemorate the war. Reenactments of major battles are planned over the next three years in cities such as Baltimore and New Orleans. Other events will celebrate the 200 years of peace and friendship that the United States and Britain have shared since the war ended.

Image credit: ©Christie’s Images/SuperStock/Getty Images
Question 1
When did the War of 1812 begin?

Question 2
Who wrote the words to America's national anthem?

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