Interesting Facts of the War of 1812
Early in the War of 1812, Britain did not fear the United States. This was poignantly illustrated by the remarks of George Canning, Britain's Foreign Secretary, who stated that the American naval fleet amounted to "a few fir-built things with bits of striped bunting at their mastheads." (pp. 131, Langguth, A. J. Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence). After decisive American naval victories in the following years, he must have come to regret those words.
In August of 1814, Sir George Prevost commanded a force of thirty thousand veteran British troops in Montreal. As they moved towards Plattsburgh, New York they constituted the largest force Britain had ever sent to North America- greater in number than armies of Cornwallis and Burgoyne during the American Revolution. (pp. 330, Langguth, A. J.).
Hampton Roads built four forts during the lead up to the War of 1812: Fort Tar (where Monticello Avenue, Norfolk currently lies), Fort Barber (Church Street in Norfolk), Craney Island (now a Naval Fuel Depot), and Fort Norfolk (still stands at the foot of Colley Avenue in Norfolk). Fort Nelson, built during the Revolutionary War, was also used.
The Virginia militia had a medical requirement of two teeth. Each man was required to have one tooth on the upper jaw and one on the lower in order to tear cartridges of the flintlock muskets that were used up to 3 times minute! (Steve Forrest, Norfolk Historical Society)
The US Regular troops ran out of the blue dye for their military uniforms and had to switch to drab wool uniform with green trim. (Steve Forrest, Norfolk Historical Society)
of the US Army in 1812-15;
Hats grew taller and taller throughout the war. The theory was that the opposing force would find the heights of the men intimidating when face-to-face in battle. (Steve Forrest, Norfolk Historical Society)
During the war, all US lighthouses on the Chesapeake Bay turned off their lights because the British navy blockaded US ships and the lights would only be guiding enemy ships. (Secretary Albert Gallatin's Announcement, Niles Weekly Register, p. 51)
Captain Hanchett, King George III's natural son, led one of the amphibious assault columns against Craney Island, using the barge "Centipede" as his flagship. "A shot crashed diagonally through the stern or after-thwart, wounding several men, cutting the legs off one, and severely wounding Hanchett in the thigh." Later in Halifax, Nova Scotia he died of his Craney Island wounds in November 1813.
(pp. 72-103, Hallahan, John M. The Battle of Craney Island: A Matter of Credit.)
phrase the "rocket's red glare" after
the British fired Congreve rockets
against the United States in the
War of 1812. (Reproduced from a
painting by Charles Hubbell,
The "rocket's red glare" referred to in the Star-Spangled Banner was first seen in Virginia when the British used the Congreve Rockets to fire upon the USS Constellation at Fort Norfolk. (George, Christopher. Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay.)
During the Battle of Hampton, the first casualties on the British side were actually French POWs (prisoners-of-war) who were offered the choice between British prison or fighting in the United States. (George, Christopher. Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay.)
One of the first modern uses of the torpedo was by Mr. Mix in Lynnhaven Bay. The first torpedo was essentially a glorified floating barrel, full of explosive, which was carried by a small boat as close to enemy ships as possible and then set afloat. (http://www.old-merseytimes.co.uk/torpedo.html)
The War of 1812 was very nearly the war of 1807, the year of the USS Chesapeake-Leopard Affair. Americans were so enflamed by this incident that there were wide appeals to the US Congress to declare war. However, a scandalous trial of former Vice-President Aaron Burr for his duel with fellow-politician and prominent Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, distracted the politicians and public so much so that no declaration was made. (pp. 21-22, Borneman, Walter. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation)
On May 16, 1811 the USS President mistook a small British sloop, the HMS Little Belt, for the British frigate the HMS Guerrière and fired killing nine British soldiers and blasting the sloop to pieces. Infuriated by the incident and determined to not let the Americans forget it, the Guerrière's Captain James Richard Dacres emblazoned the words "Guerrière, not the Little Belt" on the fore and mainsail. (pp. 82, Borneman, Walter. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation)
As British troops set fire to the capital city, Dolly Madison bravely loaded what official state papers she could into a carriage and saved Gilbert Stuart's painting of George Washington. She later wrote to her sister- "This process (of removing the picture from the frame) was found too tedious for these perilous moments… so I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out." (pp. 230, Borneman, Walter. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation)
portrait) by Gilbert Stuart, oil
on canvas, 1796. National
Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
The historic district of Norfolk, Ghent, was named after the signing of the Ghent peace treaty. "On 24 December 1814, the Treaty of Ghent (also known as the Peace of Christmas Eve) was signed in the Netherlands, ending the War of 1812. It is said that, because one of his ships had the distinction of bringing the signed treaty to America, Drummond renamed his property "Ghent" to commemorate the event, though an earlier landowner, Jasper Moran, is also credited with the name. Both gentlemen have streets in Ghent bearing their names." Peggy Haile McPhillips, Norfolk City Historian