June 18, 1812: War of 1812 Begins When US Declares War On Great Britain


newspaper notice of the declaration of the War of the 1812On June 18, 1812, Congress passed and President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. Frustrated by Britain’s maritime practices and support of Native American resistance to western expansion, the U.S. entered the war with ambitious plans to conquer Canada, a goal that was never realized.

Opinion in the U.S. was split on on the war, although majorities in both the House and Senate voted for war, they divided along strict party lines, with the more liberal Democratic-Republican Party in favor and the more conservative Federalist Party against.

Although the war ranged around the world, especially at sea, New York State was a primary location for military activities as the United States organized invasions of Canada and the defense of America’s northern borders.

Map of War of 1812 Northern TheatreNew York supplied some 78,000 men, including 63,790 infantrymen, 2,415 cavalry soldiers, 8,830 artillerymen, and 2,861 miscellaneous troops. Some 2,000 of those soldiers were African-American. Members of the Six Nations Confederacy (Haudenosaunee/Iroquois) fought on both sides of the war.

Hiram Cronk, who was thought to have been the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, died in 1905 at the age of 105. This film shows his funeral procession through Brooklyn which included a hearse escorted by veterans of the Civil War

The New York Almanack covers the War of 1812 extensively. You can read all those stories here.

Here is a brief timeline of War of 1812 events, with a particular focus on those relevant to New York and the nation at large.


June 18 US Congress declares war on Great Britain; declaration signed by President James Madison.

The Battle of Queenston Heights by eyewitness James B Dennis, depicts the American landing on October 13 1812July 12 US invades Canada from Detroit; five days later US Fort Michilimackinac in MI surrenders to British.

August 16 Fort Dearborn IL surrenders to British Gen. Sir Isaac Brock.

August 19 USS Constitution defeats HMS Guerriere near Boston.

October 13 British General Isaac Brock (1769 – 1812) is killed in battle with US forces at the Battle of Queenston Heights (Canada) where the second major US invasion of Canada is stopped. Troy’s Capt. John E. Wool (1784 – 1869) was shot through his thighs at this battle but recovered to lead a regiment at the Battle of Plattsburgh and latter serve during the Mexican War and early in the Civil War.

December 3 US Secretary of War resigns; Secretary of State (later president) James Monroe becomes acting Secretary of War as
well. Later in month, Secretary of the Navy also resigns.


January 22 British forces and Indian allies attack US troops at River Raisin MI; Americans surrender and British withdraw due
to heavy casualties and expected arrival of more US troops. The next day Indian allies return to plunder and burn River Raisin area, killing and kidnapping wounded American troops who had been left behind under British guard. “Remember the Raisin!” becomes an American rallying cry.

March 27 Oliver Hazard Perry takes command of US fleet being built for Lake Erie.

April 27 US captures York (now Toronto) (Canada) and burns government buildings.

May 1 British attack Fort Meigs OH; the Siege of Fort Meigs ends on May 5th with the withdrawal of British forces.

May 27 US captures Fort George near Ontario (Canada)

Tammany Society Celebrating the 4th of July, 1812, 1869 by William P. ChappelMay 29 British attack Sackett’s Harbor, the main US Navy base on Lake Ontario between US and Canada, but withdraw without

June 1 HMS Hannon defeats USS Chesapeake off MA coast; Chesapeake captain’s dying words are “Don’t give up the ship!”

June 5 US defeated at Battle of Stony Creek (Canada) near Lake Ontario.

August 4 Perry’s US fleet enters Lake Erie.

September 10 British fleet captured or destroyed by Perry’s ships during Battle of Lake Erie, during which the entire British Upper Great Lakes Fleet surrenders. Perry flies a battle flag with the words, “Don’t give up the ship!”

September 27 US Gen. (and later president) William Henry Harrison arrives in Canada.

October 5 Harrison’s troops defeat British and Indian allies at Battle of the Thames (Canada); leader of Indian independence movement Tecumseh killed in battle.

October 26 At Battle of Chateauguay, British and Indian allies defeat US troops whose goal was to attack Montreal (Canada).

November 11 Outnumbered British forces defeat US troops at Battle of Crysler’s Farm (Canada). The Americans abandon the St. Lawrence River Campaign.

December 10 US troops force British to evacuate Fort George (Canada); nearby town of Newark burned by US without warning, though US Secretary of War had given permission for destruction only if civilian inhabitants warned.

December 18 Fort Niagara NY captured by British.

December 19-31 Forts and towns throughout NY attacked, burned, and plundered by British.

December 30 British blockade of US ships extends from NY to Louisiana.

Attack on Fort Oswego, New York, May 18141814

The April 1814 abdication of Napoleon allows the British to send additional forces to North America and reinforce the Royal Navy blockade, crippling the American economy.

May 6 The Battle of Fort Ontario, a partially successful British raid on Fort Ontario and the village of Oswego, ends with the British sizing valuable supplies, including seven cannon, and several small schooners before destroying the fort.

May 22 Andrew Jackson (a future U.S. President and founder of the Democratic Party) is appointed to command US Seventh Military District (present-day LA, MS, AL)

May 30 British blockade of US ships extended north from the city of New York to include New England.

June 28 USS Wasp defeats HMS Reindeer near the English Channel.

July 5 US defeats British at Battle of Chippewa (Canada) along the Niagara River.

July 25 US and British fight to a draw in Battle of Lundy’s Lane near Niagara Falls in one of the bloodiest battle of the war. This battle and the previous Battle of Chippewa demonstrate that American troops could hold their own against British regulars.

August 13 British begin siege of Fort Erie (Canada) against US occupiers.

August 24-28 British defeat US forces at Battle of Bladensburg MD, advance on Washington DC, burn public buildings
including White House and Capitol, and capture Alexandria VA. The President, Congress, and many residents are forced to

September 4 US Secretary of War resigns; James Monroe becomes acting secretary again.

September 11 US ships defeat the British Lake Champlain fleet at Battle of Plattsburgh), ending British
attempts to invade the northern United States.

September 13-14 British ships bombard Fort McHenry in unsuccessful attempt to capture Baltimore MD. Inspired by battle, Francis
Scott Key writes what will become known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

September 21 Siege of Fort Erie (Canada) ends as British withdraw and US forces hold fort.

November 5 US forces abandon Fort Erie (Canada) and withdraw to NY; before departure they blow up fort.

November 24-29 British fleet gathers in Jamaica, then sets sail for US Gulf Coast.

"The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814" by Charles Amédée Forestier - the leading British delegate Lord Gambier is shaking hands with the American leader John Quincy Adams (Smithsonian American Art Museum)By mid-December of 1814, British forces were camped a few miles below New Orleans and Andrew Jackson’s US troops were preparing to defend the city from invasion. Several smaller battles occurred before the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815, ended the British attempt to capture one of America’s most important ports and the key to the continent’s interior.

Although peace terms were agreed upon in the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent, the war did not officially end until the peace treaty was ratified by the United States Congress on February 17, 1815.

Illustrations, from above: A newspaper notice of the declaration of the War of the 1812; A map of War’s Northern Theatre; “Tammany Society Celebrating the 4th of July, 1812,” 1869 by William P. Chappel (the Tammany Society regularly celebrated both the Fourth of July and Andrew Jackson); The Battle of Queenston Heights by eyewitness James B Dennis, depicts the American landing on October 13 1812; “Attack on Fort Oswego, New York, May 1814“; “The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814” by Charles Amédée Forestier – the leading British delegate Lord Gambier is shaking hands with the American leader John Quincy Adams (Smithsonian American Art Museum).

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