The War of 1812 is not as well-known to students today as, for example, the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. Known to contemporaries as the "Second War of Independence," the War of 1812 in fact lasted from 1812 to 1815. Like the Revolutionary War, it was fought against England.
One of the major issues that brought about the war was the practice of "impressment," or forcing men to serve in the armed forces through violence. The British Royal Navy vigorously practiced this method of replacing its sailors by taking United States citizens from American ships during the early part of the nineteenth century.
Britain's repeated attempts to limit American trade with France (with whom Britain was at war) also caused tensions that eventually boiled over into war. Most of the battles of the first two years of the war were fought on the U.S.-Canadian border in locations such as Detroit and Niagara, as Canada was then a British territory. Once Napoleon was defeated in 1814 and the war with France was over the British were free to turn more of their attention to the United States.
In August of 1814 the British captured Washington, D.C. and burned both the Capitol and the Executive Mansion (the White House). In September they turned their attention to Baltimore, but were repelled. It was in watching this valiant defense that Francis Scott Key (pictured above) was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," today the United States' national anthem.
The war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent in December of 1814. However, unaware of the treaty, Andrew Jackson led a successful defense of New Orleans against British assault in January of 1815. Officially, neither country won the war and U.S. relations with England for the most part returned to neutrality, with neither country accomplishing the objectives that had started the war in the first place.
Located on the first floor of Hornbake Library North, the Maryland Room serves as the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives. All materials from our collections must be viewed in the reading room.
The Maryland Room is open to University of Maryland students, faculty, and staff; faculty, students, and staff from other colleges and universities; local, national, and international scholars; and members of the general public. You do not need an appointment to view materials in the Maryland Room.
Materials accessed in the Maryland Room are only available to view in the reading room, and do not circulate. For directions, hours, and other information, please visit the Maryland Room homepage.