Chapter 10. The War of 1812


During the war of 1812, privately outfitted American warships were commissioned to seize British commercial ships, which they would profit by. British warships, too, took American ships as prizes. The Geneva convention protecting civilians was not adopted until 1949.


By 1812, American settlements had persistently encroached on Shawnee territory and villages below Lake Erie, resulting in a series of border conflicts. The Shawnee were sufficiently alienated, so that British promises to reclaim Shawnee lands were sufficient to enlist them to fight for the British. Tecumseh recruited allies “among the Potawatomis, Winnebagos, Sauks, Foxes, Kickapoos, and Shawnee in Missouri.” While Tecumseh was south to recruit other tribes, Governor William Henry Harrison led an army of a thousand men to destroy the Shawnee village of Prophetstown. The Shawnee lost the battle at Tippecanoe River and abandoned their village, which Harrison burned to the ground, destroying Shawnee food supplies for the winter. In addition, Harrison had corpses from the village cemetery dug up and strewn about. Harrison was given the nickname “Tippecanoe.” When he ran for president with John Tyler, their campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”

Burning of Washington

The British army commanded by General Robert Ross, after defeating the U.S. army and state militias at Bladensburg on 24 August 1814 burned Washington, D.C., including the White House, the Capital, the Treasury, the arsenal, and the dockyard. President Madison and government officials fled over the Potomac, and Madison ordered the bridge to be burned behind him. Four days later, a hurricane put out the fires but it damaged the Patent Office, which the British had spared.

Forces of war

Americans wanted to annex British colonies in Canada. Britain wanted to maintain a hegemony of the seas, which they did partly by stopping American ships, seizing men of English heritage, and forcing them into British service. The British traded arms with the Algonquian peoples around the Great Lakes and these people hindered American expansion. Tecumseh’s Confederacy wanted their own state from Ohio to Wisconsin, which the British saw as a buffer against U.S. expansion and a way to control the lucrative fur trade.

Treaty of Ghent

The peace treaty that ended the war promised to restore to the Indians everything they controlled before the war. Like many treaties with the Indians, these provisions were not enforced.

Winning the battle

Andrew Jackson won the battle at New Orleans eleven days after the peace treaty was signed, though he didn’t find out until later.


The British calculated that trade with the U.S. was worth more than the fur trade with Native tribes, so they forsook the tribes.