By 1812 the Americans were at the end of their tether, and on June 5th 1812 Congress voted in favour of war. This was the first time that the US had declared war on another sovereign state. The next two years saw regular US incursions into British Canada, some successful but most short lived. Because of the war efforts in Europe, the British could not afford to send any additional troops to North America and therefore a defensive strategy was taken. To help the British it was decided that Canadian militia were to be drafted in, as well as local Native American forces.Share
At sea, the British had complete supremacy (with a few notable exceptions) and quickly set up blockades of American ports. In New England these blockades were much less strict, allowing trade through in return for the regions’ more favourable attitude towards the British. In fact, it was in the New England states where the Federalist party was in control, a party which favoured closer ties to Britain and were generally against the war.
By 1814 the war in Europe was over, and the British were able to send in reinforcements. The first point of call for these reinforcements would be Washington DC, an area on the eastern seaboard which was seen as relatively undefended. A total of 17 ships were dispatched from Bermuda and arrived in Maryland on August 19th. Once on the mainland the British quickly overwhelmed the local militia and continued into Washington. Once the army had reached the city, a flag of truce was sent, but this was ignored and the British were instead attacked by local American forces.
The British quickly defeated the insurgency and as punishment, set fire to both the White House and the Capitol. A Union Flag was subsequently raised over Washington. Although other government buildings were destroyed in the process (including the US Treasury and the headquarters of a newspaper seen as inciting anti-British propaganda), the British decided to leave the residential areas of the city intact. (Read more.)