Thirty years after the American Revolution, the United States was plagued by the impressment (forcing into service) of American sailors into the British Royal Navy. Americans also suspected that Britain was backing Indian raids on the frontier.
On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Britain. Americans were encouraged by the fact that Britain was deeply committed in a war with Napoleon Bonaparte that strained the resources of the crown. That summer, American troops attempted to invade and conquer Canada. The campaign ended in defeat and the withdrawal of the Americans. The attempts to invade Canada during the spring and summer of 1813 were somewhat more successful, yet eventually ended in stalemate.
In April 1814, Napoleon was overthrown, freeing some 14,000 experienced British troops for battle in America. Many of these troops came to the Chesapeake region, where they harassed citizens, burned towns and farms, and overwhelmed American naval forces and militia. American forces suffered a defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg, allowing British troops to enter the nation's capital. The White House and many public buildings were burned.
Less than three weeks later, American forces, primarily made up of the citizens of Baltimore, prepared Baltimore City's defenses. Marylanders fought the British army during the Battle of North Point and helped repulse the British navy during the Battle of Baltimore.
As dawn broke on September 14, 1814, after the 25-hour British bombardment of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key saw the Star-Spangled Banner flying over the fort's ramparts. The sight inspired Key to write the words that later became the National Anthem.
Following the Battle of New Orleans in early 1815, James Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, that officially ended the war.
The War of 1812 confirmed the legitimacy of the Revolution and served as a crucial test for the U.S. Constitution and the newly established democratic government. The young nation battled against the largest, most powerful navy and emerged with an enhanced standing among the countries of the world.
Content Courtesy of the National Park Service.