Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This week, the 200th anniversary of the opening of the War of 1812 between Britain and America has passed almost unnoticed.

It seems extraordinary for such a crucial war to have slipped into oblivion. In many ways, it was the war that made America – by repelling their old colonial masters, they fully established the independence from the mother country that had been formalised nearly 40 years before. What better way is there of showing you're free of an old master than by beating him in battle?

The official result was really a draw, as agreed in the Treaty of Ghent, but it certainly didn't feel like that to any Briton who took part in the Battle of New Orleans - the disastrous final conflict of the war, where Sir Ned Pakenham (an ancestor of mine, incidentally) lost the biggest military defeat in American history to date, to Andrew Jackson, later American President.

America came of age with the War of 1812 – it was the first time they'd declared war on anyone, let alone their own mother country. The road to American international dominance began with the war – Britain would eventually give way to its old colonial possession.

A world-changing war, then - how strange that we've all forgotten about it.

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