Origins of the War of 1812
For many Americans, the War of 1812 remains an enigma; tucked between two wars fueled by fierce passions – the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In the case of the War of 1812, its causes were sparked more by special interests than national zeal.
New Englanders, who were making a fortune supplying the British in their fight with Napoleon, remained staunchly neutral. Native Americans saw the war as a clear-cut case of settlers trying to do a huge land-grab. Expansionists dreamed of adding Canada and Florida to the national coffers. Opponents called it ‘Mr. Madison’s War’; the pro -War Hawk Congress called it a battle for national pride and freedom on the high seas.
When the War Hawks were elected to Congress, they made the most of the pockets of discontent. The British in Canada were active in encouraging Native Americans to continue their attacks along the frontier. And, between 1803 and 1812, British captains impressed over 5,000 America sailors.In addition, merchant ships and merchant cargoes were seized for allegedly violating the British blockade of Europe.
War was finally declared in 1812, and lasted until 1814. The Battle of New Orleans catapulted Andrew Jackson to national prominence and the presidency. Francis Scott Key wrote what would become our national anthem, and the U.S.S. Constitution sailed into history as ‘Old Ironsides’. Most significantly, British troops would never again fight on American soil.
Free Genealogy Records
How do you know if your ancestor was of military age in 1812? Generally, soldiers in this war were born anywhere between 1752 and 1799. The good news is that military records are available on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and Fold3. You’ll need a subscription to access those on Ancestry, however you can find free Louisiana War of 1812 Pension Lists at FamilySearch and both free and paid at Fold3.com. Here’s where to find some of the free records:
In the USGWar Archives, you can also find a list of American soldiers killed or wounded at the Battle of Chippawa, 1814, Niagara, Upper Canada, during the War of 1812.
FamilySearch also has a free Index to the War of 1812 Service Records as well as an Index to Pension Application Files. And, on one of my favorite sites, you can search for your Illinois War of 1812 soldier.
If you don’t know much about the types of records available, the National Archives has an excellent articles on type of records available for the War of 1812, as well as what those records include. (Be sure to read the section on Bounty Land Warrants as you’re going to also run into them when doing Revolutionary War research.)
Fold3.com Free & Fee Records Relating to the War of 1812
Free records at Fold3.com include:
- Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index
- Heitman’s Register and Dictionary of the US Army
- Navy and Marine Corps Officers, 1775-1900
- War of 1812 Milestone Documents
- War of 1812 Pension Files
If you need to access the War of 1812 Service records, you’ll need a Fold3.com subscription. If this is all of the information you need from the Fold3 site, get a Free 7 Day Trial and do as much research as you can during your free 7 days.
More Free War of 1812 Information
If you can’t find any information about your ancestor, at least pop over to Archive.org and browse through the many publications about the war. Even if you don’t find an ancestor, you’ll learn far more about America’s Forgotten War than you ever knew existed! You can even watch, or download, a free 20-minute movie about the War.
You may also enjoy reading the extensive works by Theodore Roosevelt on the Naval War of 1812. Just search War of 1812 (or use the link above) and you’ll see Roosevelt’s works, which are downloadable. And, if you want even more, how about downloading the 1916 issue of The Mentor, which gives deep background into the War of 1812.
Winners and Losers of the War of 1812
The Battle of New Orleans ended the war, and send British troops packing home. But in truth, the biggest losers were the Native Americans whose lands were opened up for basically uncontrolled settling.
And, the biggest winner was Canada, who secured its status as a British colony and put an end to dreams of an American-dominated continent.
If you have War of 1812 ancestors (or think you might), leave a comment – would sure like to know who in your family served. One of my Dimmitt family served from Maryland – but I’m still doing more research on him.