This Day in History
Surprise Attack

War of 1812 Begins
June 18, 1812

On this day the United States declared war against the United Kingdom. In one sense it can be said that the struggle for American Independence did not come to an end until the War of 1812. It is not at all clear whether the Americans won that war on the battlefield or on the seas, but it is certain that they won it strategically, politically, and even philosophically. The American plan to invade and annex Canada was frustrated; the American capital was burned; the American navy and merchant marine all but swept from the seas. Yet American victories in the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of Lake Champlain made clear that the British could not hope to recover any part of the Northwest, and the stunning defeat of the British at New Orleans - statistically the worst defeat in their history up to that time - enabled Americans to claim both military and moral superiority. After the Treaty of Ghent - ratified in February of 1815 - not only Britain but all of Europe left the United States strictly alone. Within a few years Monroe was to proclaim a doctrine which in effect told Europe to keep its hands off both of the American continents, and in time Americans could believe that even this extreme Monroe Doctrine had been vindicated in history.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.