June 18, 2012, marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812 (1812–1815). Although largely unpopular at the time and virtually forgotten today, this conflict, which pitted Great Britain against the newly independent United States, was in fact a critical turning point in American history. This excerpt from the preface of Dr. Spencer C. Tucker's The Encyclopedia of The War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History discusses the impact this conflict had on the future of the
The War of 1812 is an often overlooked conflict in American history. Sometimes called the Second American Revolution, it was in fact noteworthy for that which did not happen. The
United Stateswas not defeated by Great Britainor forced to cede territory but did not realize its primary war aim of the conquest of Canada. Indeed, the War of 1812 was probably the most important factor preventing the absorption of Canadaby the United States, for the war fostered Canadian nationalism while simultaneously heightening nationalism in the United States. Fortunately for both sides, it was a small war in human cost, paling in comparison to the vast losses of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleononic Wars, and the American Civil War.
In addition to its impact on Canadian and American nationalism, the war is important from a number of other standpoints. The U.S. Navy firmly established its reputation from the very beginning of the war, and this led to substantial increases in the size of the navy afterward. The U.S. Army, on the other hand, began the war poorly trained and saddled by inept leadership, but by war’s end professionalism had taken hold, and the U.S. Army was able to compete with the British Army on an equal basis. The experience of war also demonstrated the importance of the nascent
United States Military Academyat West Point, which had been established only a decade earlier and whose graduates greatly distinguished themselves in combat. With the cutoff in British manufactured goods and military demands, the war also hastened the Industrial Revolution in the United States.
Politically, the conflict advanced the fortunes and reputations of individuals such as Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, both future presidents. It also contributed directly to the demise of the Federalist Party, the end of the first two-party system, and the inauguration of the so-called Era of Good Feelings.
A Senior Fellow in Military History for ABC-Clio Publishing since 2003, Dr. Spencer C. Tucker has been instrumental in establishing ABC-CLIO as the premier military history reference publisher in the country. Spence's interest in military history began while he was a student at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and was enhanced by a Fulbright Fellowship in
and while serving as a captain in military intelligence in the Pentagon during
the Vietnam War. Although he concentrated on Modern European History in his
graduate studies, he became interested in all periods of military history.
Spence taught at the university and college level for 36 years, 30 of these at and the last 6
as holder of the John Biggs Chair of Military History at VMI. Spence is
particularly excited to be the editor of ABC-CLIO's award-winning series of war
encyclopedias, which includes The
Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History. Texas Christian