Who won the war of 1812? That is perhaps the most complicated question you could ask concerning the war. There were four major participants in this war arranged into two sides. It was a war that the United States declared against Great Britain and her North American allies and colonies. The war and it’s result went down differently for each participant.
The United States started the war and it’s aim was to stop Britain from impressing it’s sailors (A war time practice of boarding neutral ships and forcing any English speaking sailors into the royal navy), stopping trade across the ocean to France and inciting Native unrest in the Great Lakes region. The States aimed to stop the latter and increase it’s territory by wiping out Native rebellion and by invading Canada.
By the time the war was over in 1815, the US boundaries were unchanged but impressment had stopped due to lack of need (Napoleon had been defeated in Europe). Native unrest was quelled for the most part and Tecumseh was dead but warfare with the tribes continued for 50 years. Canada had not been conquered.
None of the American war aims were actually solved by the war. The one thing they did win however was a national identity. The victory at the Battle of New Orleans convinced the Americans that they could repel a full on British invasion despite it having occurred after the war was over. Directly from this forgotten war the United States also published a new national anthem which was written about the successful defense of Fort McHenry. In Great Britain and Canada they won steadfast allies in every global conflict in the next 200 years.
Great Britain lost men and resources but little else. They maintained the status quo. The only peace demand they had to give up was the creation of a First Nations state buffer zone as proposed by Brock and Tecumseh. They won due to their successful defense of the Canadian Colonies. Their possessions in North America were unsuccessfully invaded several times. The only land in Canada that was occupied by the invaders were Essex and Kent counties in southwestern Ontario; which were given back in the treaty of Ghent returning the border to that of a prewar state.
Canada did not have much say in this war as it was not yet a nation but the Americans and Loyalists living in Upper Canada at the time would identify Americans as invaders that burned down their houses and destroyed their crops. Canada was not conquered by the US and was allowed to develop into the nation it is today. By the end of the war Canadians did not yet have a country and didn’t really have much of a national identity as a result. What they did know is what they weren’t. They weren’t Americans.
The First Nations had a unique culture that did not believe in land ownership as the Europeans and Americans did. Instead they believed in common ownership and use by the whole which lead to land loss and removal issues with the Americans. Under the leadership of Tecumseh, the majority of First Nations of the great lakes had joined the British in the hopes of gaining a permanent homeland surrounding the lakes. In negotiating the treaty of Ghent the only peace condition dropped by the British was the creation of this native state in “Indian country”. This land was absorbed by the United States which is now parts of Pennsylvania and New York as well as the entire areas of modern Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Great Britain, Canada and the United States all came out of this war as winners in their own ways.
The only real losers of the war were the First Nations.
If you wish to learn more about Tecumseh’s struggle please stay tuned to www.twistedstudio.ca.-Dave Rocha Twisted Studio Literary Director