Two centuries ago tomorrow, the United States declared war on Great Britain, its first war as a nation, its first declaration of war in American history.
The declaration of war under President James Madison was a bold and unfortunate gesture, as America was ill equipped to fight the greatest naval power in the world, and our former colonial masters.
The war would see the burning of the White House and Capitol Hill in August, 1814, our first internal invasion, followed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, and the attack by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001.
The war would have its heroes, including Andrew Jackson, who won the major battle of the war at New Orleans, a few weeks after the formal ceasefire, but before knowledge of it was available.
The War of 1812 has been called the Second War for Independence, with America turning inward after the war, and expanding across the continent, and not engaging in war with a foreign power from Europe again until the brief Spanish American War of 1898, and made only a major commitment to overseas warfare a century after the War of 1812, during the last 19 months of World War I.
The War of 1812 has also been called the “Sorry Little War”, since it was not a bright moment for America militarily, and James Madison is regarded as a weak wartime President, despite the greatness of his career otherwise.
While relations between America and its former colonial master would be tense much of the time for the next century until World War I, we would never again fight Great Britain in war, and since World War II in particular, our greatest friend and ally has been Great Britain!
While not a war of significance long term as the Civil War, or the two World Wars, and not a war with territorial gains, as with the Mexican War and the Spanish American War, it is appropriate that we commemorate this bicentennial event in a respectful manner!