23 March 2011

War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration

Next year marks the start of the Bicentennial Commemoration of the War of 1812. Our Navy is partnering with non-profit organizations and cities around the nation to put together a commemoration program that will celebrate and honor our contribution to the war and the lasting impact it has had on our Navy and our nation. This commemoration program will not only educate the public on the importance of our Navy’s contribution to the war, but will also demonstrate – through Fleet Weeks, Navy Weeks and other special events – the great talent and capability of our Sailors today.

In keeping with our Navy’s commitment to commemorate the War of 1812 and preserve our rich history, I intend to establish a drumbeat on this blog where we can discuss key battles and events and the lesser known facts that I believe shaped the war and in many cases have had a lasting effect on our Navy and nation.

I personally find the War of 1812 to be a very interesting part of our history and look forward to discussing it with you. It’s a war widely known as the “second war of independence” during which our undersized military took on the world’s largest empire and greatest Navy. From USS CONSTITUTION’s (“Old Ironsides”) defeat of HMS Guerriere to the Battle of Baltimore (which inspired our national anthem), to the Battle of New Orleans, our Navy scored decisive victories that continue to inspire us today.

But along with the tales of triumph and glory, there are those of serious economic challenges, military defeat and political division so severe that it threatened to break apart our young nation.
When we declared war on Britain in 1812, our nation had an Army of less than 10,000 and a Navy with 16 ships; we were in a deep economic depression – an unintended consequence of the Embargo Act of 1807 – that was crippling our economy and threatening the livelihood of our nation; and there was a strong minority in Congress staunchly opposed to war with the British Empire. We were clearly unprepared to take on the world’s greatest navy of 1,500 war vessels manned with the battle-hardened Officers and Sailors of the Royal Navy. In fact, the United States was viewed merely as a distraction for Britain, whose real focus was on defeating Napoleon’s France. But our Congress mustered the votes, issued the declaration for “Mr. Madison’s War” on 18 June 1812 and we went to war with what we had.

I look forward to digging into the war’s key battles and discussing the Great Lakes Fleet, our strategy of using American Privateers (who captured over 500 British vessels from 1813-14) and even some of the peculiarities of the war; such as, our greatest and arguably most impactful land battle of the time (New Orleans) which occurred two weeks after we had signed the Treaty of Ghent ending the war (poor communications can also be attributed to the start of the war). The outcome of the battle had absolutely no impact on the war, but was significant because it instilled in our nation a renewed sense of nationalism and pride.
There is much that I look forward to talking about and certainly hope you will join in the discussion.
Stay tuned for updates on the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration.
All the best, JCHjr


CDR Fritz said...


I look forward to this discussion. Having grown up in Toledo and learning to sail on Lake Erie, including frequent trips to Put-in-Bay and Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, I can honestly say that the War of 1812 influenced my decision to join the Navy.

Another fine naval practice of last century also contributed to my decision to join the Navy - the Navy's Great Lakes cruises. I can remember as a child going down to the Port of Toledo to visit the ships - LSTs and shallow draft FRAM II DDs, etc.

Unfortunately, the Navy's Great Lakes cruises have died, a victim of many causes - the end of the Cold War, the downsizing of the fleet, etc. And it is really too bad because these cruises helped to build bridges back then while today there is a widening civil-military gap and a growing distance between American citizens and their Navy. Would Great Lake cruises today solve all these problems? Of course not, but sustained engagement is how you build a reservoir of good will.

I look forward to the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration, and perhaps it will be able to build some bridges.


CDR Fritz

Anonymous said...


And don't forget us up here on Lake Ontario either!! After all, why was DC burned? In revenge for the "sacking" of York, Upper Canada (aka, Toronto)!

Looking forward to the history lessons.


Anonymous said...

"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be."
- Rosalynn Carter

Sounds a lot like YOU!

Tom Behr said...

As the author of a historical novel set in America's 1801-1805 war against Tripoli, Blood Brothers: A Novel of Courage and Treachery on the Shores of Tripoli, I'd love to start or participate in discussions on any of these topics:

*Edward Preble's role in creating the first generation of American naval heroes (Decatur, Hull, Lawrence, Mcdonough, Bainbridge, Porter - and through him, Farragut - an impressive list.

*American naval technology in ship building as a deliberate strategy against larger European navies

*American tactics and weapons as a strategic advantage - especially against the British

*Training of a ship's crew linked to technology and tactics

My "Leadership" quote: "A captain who can only maintain discipline with the lash is whipping the wrong man." Edward Preble

Your thoughts?
Tom Behr