5. The War Helped Lead To Canadian Independence
One of the many factors leading to American prosperity in the past 200 years is the presence of a friendly, stable country to the north. Canada and the United States share a 5,525-mile-long border, the longest international border in the world. At one time, the United States eagerly eyed the land to the north for expansion, and the War of 1812 provided many opportunities for American troops to march into this English-controlled territory and stake a claim. Yet the British repelled many attacks by poorly trained and under-supplied American troops, solidifying its hold on the country. These battles in turn gave rise to an anti-American sense of Canadian nationalism that eventually led to an independent Canada, beginning with the formation of the Province of Canada in 1840.
4. The War Opened Way To America’s Westward Expansion
Many Americans in the early 19th century were eager to explore and settle the frontier west of the original 13 colonies, but they faced a major threat from hostile Native Americans. Many Indians sided with Great Britain in the War of 1812 in hopes of preventing the further advance of these American settlers. Col. Andrew Jackson — whose heroics in this war propelled him to the U.S. presidency — led a rout of Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 in what is now central Alabama, opening the deep South for settlement. To the North, American militia forces defeated the great Native American chief Tecumseh and his confederation, securing the Great Lakes and Midwest regions for settlers and ending Great Britain’s hopes of creating an independent buffer state of Native Americans between the United States and Canada.
3. The War Led to Rise of U.S. Military Power
Contrary to popular belief, the United States did not win the War of 1812; at best, the war was a stalemate. Embarrassing defeats by poorly trained militia instilled a sense of urgency in the young republic that it needed a stronger military. In fact, some governors in New England — which strongly opposed the war, and hinted at secession — refused to raise a militia. The shortcomings of these militia led to a movement to use trained military troops, instead of militia, for national defense. The United States Military Academy at West Point adopted strenuous standards for officer training that paid dividends in future U.S. military engagements, including the conflict with Mexico in the 1840s and later, the Civil War.
2. The War Ushered in an Era of Nationalism for the U.S.
Francis Scott Key penned a famous poem, Defence of Fort McHenry, while watching British warships shell a Chesapeake Bay fort during the War of 1812, although it took more than 100 years before that poem, in the form of The Star-Spangled Banner, was declared the U.S. national anthem in 1931. There were much more immediate signs of American patriotism following the war. Unexpected naval victories over the superior British fleet, and the outrage Americans felt when British troops burned the White House and U.S. Capitol, helped foster a sense of national pride, uniting city and frontier residents, North and South, and even bringing a halt to divisive politics in Washington. For the first time, many people began to think of themselves as Americans first, rather than Virginians, or New Yorkers, etc. Such was the country’s mood at the time that the years following the war are often referred to as the “Era of Good Feelings.”
1. The War Helped Establish the U.S. as an International Power
For the second time in 30 years, the United States had fought one of the world’s greatest military powers, and held its own. With American commercial vessels now free to sail the seas without fear of being stopped and boarded by British sailors, international trade and commerce grew. Whereas the fledgling United States struggled to control Indian, British and French influences on its own frontier before the war, a few years later the young republic had the international status — and bravado — for President James Monroe to issue the Monroe Doctrine, in effect declaring that the U.S. would oppose any new European efforts to colonize North or South America. For a war that at the time was a stalemate at best for the U.S., the War of 1812 left an immediate and lasting legacy on the young nation.