... and here's another historic anniversary you don't hear much about ...
The year 2012, if my math skills haven't completely deserted me, marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
From an historic perspective, the War of 1812 is not considered "one of the biggies" among the many wars in which the United States has been involved. Many people can recite facts about the "Big 4" - the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI and WWII - and others also vividly recall the Korean,VietNam and Gulf conflicts (or wars), but the War of 1812 is somewhere down the list, with the Spanish-American War and Mexican War.
For those of you (like me) who need a refresher course on TWO1812, here's what Wikipedia has to say about it : "The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain's ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honor after humiliations on the high seas, and the possible American desire to annex Canada . Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British at first used defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and ended the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship. In the Southwest, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large invasion armies. The British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed all three British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.
The war was fought in three theaters. At sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other's merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. American successes at sea were characterized by single ship duels against British frigates, and combat against British provincial vessels on the Great Lakes, such as at the action on Lake Erie. Both land and naval battles were fought on the frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The South and the Gulf coast saw major land battles in which the American forces destroyed Britain's Indian allies and repulsed the main British invasion force at New Orleans. Both sides invaded each other's territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other's territory, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.
In the United States, battles such as the Battle of New Orleans of 1815 and the Battle of Baltimore of 1814 (which inspired the lyrics of the United States national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner") produced a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain. It ushered in an "Era of Good Feelings," in which partisan animosity nearly vanished.
Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity, having repelled multiple American invasions. Battles such as the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Crysler's Farm became iconic for Canadians. In Canada, especially Ontario, memory of the war has immense national significance, as the invasions were portrayed after 1815 by advocates of the Crown as an annexation attempt by Americans seeking to spread republican and democratic ideas.
In Canada, numerous ceremonies are scheduled in 2012 to commemorate a Canadian victory. The war is scarcely remembered in Britain today, as it regarded the war as a sideshow to the much larger war against Napoleon raging in Europe; as such it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States."
In retrospect, it seems to me that the War of 1812 was kind of a hangover from the Revolutionary War. The young American nation still felt the need to fight somebody and establish their independence once and for all. In so doing, the U.S. declared with certainty that they were indeed an independent nation, not beholden to England in any way. I believe - though I concede I might be wrong - that this was probably the last time the United States and England ever fought on opposite sides in a military conflict.
One other thing that came out of the War of 1812 was memorable music. As mentioned above, the War of 1812 produced the Star Spangled Banner, and - like it or not - the hard-to-sing melody has been our National Anthem for many years. And on a lighter note - in 1959, some 144 years after the fact, Johnny Horton recorded a number one hit, "The Battle of New Orleans," about that January 1815 skirmish, one of the last battles of the War of 1812.
So sing along with me, if you will - "In 1814 I took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp; we took a little bacon and we took a little beans, and we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans..."