War of 1812

Reenactors dressed in British 1812 uniforms at Fort Niagara

The War of 1812 started on June 1, 1812 when President James Madison asked Congress for permission to go to war with Britain.

In the western New York region in June 1813 British ships raided a store of hundreds of barrels of flour and pork at Charlotte that was near the mouth of he Genesee River. They then went to Sodus where they again captured more pork and flour. The British ships arrived again on Sept. 11, 1813 and it was thought that they would again raid Charlotte. Before that could happen, the American fleet appeared and a running battle took place westward across Lake Ontario.

In April 1813 the Americans attacked York in Upper Canada (now Toronto). The US troops set fire to the buildings of the Legislative Assembly. The Government Printing Office was vandalized and the printing press was smashed. Other Americans looted empty houses.

On the Niagara frontier there was Fort George across the Niagara River from Fort Niagara both near where the river empties into Lake Ontario. The American Army captured Fort George in May 1813. Then it was recaptured by the British in December 1813. Then the British captured Fort Niagara and sent the population of western NY into panic. They wouldn’t return Fort Niagara to the US until after the war was over.

May 1814 saw the British fleet return to Charlotte. This time things were different. A militia of 32 men from Rochester soon got to Charlotte. They were joined by others from around the area. The British sent a boat ashore to negotiate again for the stores and the local militia refused. A few cannon shots were exchanged and the British just sat off shore until the next day. By then a militia of close to 600 men had arrived from Canandaigua. The British sent another boat ashore to negotiate for the stores and this time Gen. Porter, who was in command of the militia, refused the offer. The British must have considered it wasn’t worth the struggle as they soon sailed off.

In August 1814 the British burned most of the public buildings in Washington, DC including the Presidential Mansion sending the President Madison fleeing to Virginia. The British said they were retaliating for the burning of York.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Dec. 24, 1814 which was ratified by the British Parliament on Dec. 27, 1814. It wasn’t signed by the US Congress until Feb. 17, 1815. In between that time occurred the Battle of New Orleans where Andrew Jackson routed the British. His win was to later catapult him to the Presidency. After the war, the border between the US and Canada returned to exactly where it had been before the war.

Photo: © 2004 – Matthew Trump