|The Great American War|
American Soldiers during the battle of Louisiana.
|Date||June 18, 1812 - March 23, 1815|
The Great American War, also known as the New World War, the Second American Revolution, and the Great War was a continental military conflict that embroiled most of the world's great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allied Powers and the Imperial Powers. The main combatants descended into a state of total war, pumping their entire scientific and industrial capabilities into the war effort from 1812 to 1815. It was fought chiefly in the North American continent, though a number of battles descended into South America.
There were several immediate stated causes for the initial British declaration of war: first, a series of trade agreements introduced by the United States with France, a country with which Britain was at war (The British contested these restrictions as illegal under international law); second, American expansion into upper Canada impeding British endeavors into Hudson Bay; third the desire to uphold national honor in the face of what they considered to be American insults (such as the Chesapeake affair). The Iberian Empire joined the British several months into the War with the Russian Empire, citing America's purchase of the French "stolen" Louisiana Purchase and the conquest of formerly Spanish owned Florida during the American Revolution. Russia claimed that the Americans were encroaching on their claimed territory in the Pacific North West.
The war was fought on a number of theaters: on the oceans, where the warships and privateers of both sides preyed on each other's merchant shipping; along the Atlantic and Pacific coast of the U.S., which were occupied by the British; in the Louisiana Purchase; and finally along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and South America. During the course of the war, both the Americans Iberians, Russians, and British launched invasions of each other's territory, The most successful being the British invasion of the Eastern Seaboard, the American Invasion of California, the American Invasion of Brazil, and the Iberian Invasion of the Gulf of Mexico. At the end of the war, the British, Russians, and Iberians had been driven out of all American territory, and British Isles were being bombarded by American ships.
In the United States, battles such as Victoria, Louisiana, and the successful liberation of Baltimore (which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner) produced a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain. It ushered in an "Era of Good Feelings," in which the partisan animosity that had once verged on treason practically vanished. Europe was tarnished by the war, Britain Russia and the Iberian Empire had all lost a significant amount of territory by wars end and only France and Germany had gained any new territory.
Course of the War
Although the outbreak of the war had been preceded by years of angry diplomatic dispute, only the British were ready for war when it came. Britain was heavily engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, most of the British Army was engaged in the liberation of the the Iberian Peninsula, and the Royal Navy was compelled to blockade most of the coast of Europe. Throughout the war, the British Secretary of State for War was the Earl of Bathurst. For the first two years of the war, he could spare few troops to reinforce North America and urged the commander in chief in North America (Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost) to maintain an defensive occupational strategy until reinforcements from the Iberian Empire could divide the Americans in two. The naturally cautious Prevost followed these instructions, concentrating on holding the Eastern Seaboard at the expense of the Oregon Territory (which had recently driven the British out of Victoria) and allowing few offensive actions. In the final year of the war, large numbers of British and Iberian soldiers became available after the retreat of Napoleon Bonaparte from Brittany. Prevost launched an offensive of his own into Ohio, but underestimated the size of American reinforcements led by General Theo Bell, and was forced to retreat after the British lost the Battle of Pittsburgh.
The United States was not prepared to prosecute a war, for President Madison assumed that the state militias would easily hold Canada and Oregon and negotiations would follow. In 1812, the regular army consisted of fewer than 12,000 men. Congress authorized the expansion of the army to 35,000 men, but the service was voluntary and unpopular, it offered poor pay, and there were very few trained and experienced officers, at least initially. The militia called in to aid the regulars objected to serving outside their home states, were not amenable to discipline, and performed poorly in the presence of the enemy when outside of their home state. The U.S. had great difficulty financing its war. It had disbanded its national bank, and private bankers in the Northeast were opposed to the war. Only General Bell, then territorial governor of Oregon, had prepared for the treat of a British invasion, arming the state militia with new weapons and training them for a large scale war across the continent.
The early disasters brought about chiefly by American unpreparedness and lack of leadership drove United States Secretary of War William Eustis from office. His successor, John Armstrong, Jr., attempted a coordinated strategy late in 1813 aimed at the liberation of Montreal, but was thwarted by logistical difficulties, uncooperative and quarrelsome commanders and ill-trained troops. The defeat also drove President Madison to flee to Ohio after the sacking of DC. By 1814, the United States Army's morale and leadership had greatly improved, but the embarrassing Burning of Washington led to Armstrong's dismissal from office in turn. The war ended before the new Secretary of War James Monroe could put any new strategy into effect. Ultimately it was General Bell, Tecumseh, and Major General Jackson who had orchestrated the most successful strategies of the war, ultimately leading to a decisive American victory.
Oregon was the only major point of conflict on the west coast during the war. Almost at exactly the same time the British launched their massive invasion of the American Eastern Seaboard, a smaller invasion was attempted on Victoria in the Oregon territory. Unlike in the East however, the invasion of Victoria was a disaster for the British, who had underestimated how much Then territorial governor Bell had prepared for the coming war. Only a few British soldiers managed to make it ashore, most of the landing ships were destroyed by American ironclads, and advanced Turtles. Those that made it to Victoria were quickly rounded up by the Oregon territorial militia.
Once the British had realized that Bell were expecting an invasion of Oregon, the Pacific fleet began a frantic retreat, only to be caught by the faster American diesel ships. By the end of the day, the British had lost all but one ship of their Pacific fleet. This is considered by many to be one of America's greatest, and most important victories of the war.
While the British had given up on a land invasion of Oregon, Russian soldiers from Alaska began their invasion of the territory almost immediately after the British were crushed at sea. The hope of the Russians was to capture all of Oregon for themselves, giving them a stronger hold on the continent. The Russians, however, suffered just as handily a defeat as the British. Bell had prepared arguably the most devastating weapon of the war for deployment against a land invasion: the aircraft. Between Oregon's three massive airships, and over 100 small planes, the Russians were completely obliterated before they even saw Victoria. It was there that now General Bell elected to attack, and not just defend. Sending the Oregon militia all the way into lower Alaska, and capturing the Russian's capitol of their only American territory, Novoarkhangelsk.
The first shot of the war was fired on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Following Napoleon's retreat from Spain in 1810, the British began preparing to send much of their colonial forces previously dedicated to Europe to the Americas, launching a massive invasion of the American East Coast in 1812. The majority of the invasion force was dedicated to the Central-Eastern States, from Massachusetts to Virginia, culminating in the burning of the nation's capitol and the retreat of President Madison to Ohio. The British invasion was so successful that the Americans were pushed back as deep into the frontier as western Virginia (Kentucky). Once the East Coast had been secured the British began pushing into Canada and the Southern States, fighting American Guerrillas in the West.
Until 1814 British Control of the East was largely, save for a re-vitalized Sons of Liberty resistance front, undisputed. This promptly ended with the arrival of General Bell and General Jackson's troops from the West Coast, having pushed the Spanish as far South as Southern Mexico. After the Battle of Louisiana General Jackson began a push into Florida, driving the British out around the peninsula and making his way up to Washington to meet with General Bell, who was in the process of liberating the North East. The most prolific of these battles was the American liberation of Baltimore, where the British were making one last great push back against Bell's forces.
By the end of the year the capitol had been liberated and the British were driven out of the Americas.
As American forces secured the East Coast on land, British ships continued to bombard major American cities at sea. While aircraft managed to keep these attacks at bay initially, it wasn't until the arrival of the American fleet that had defended Oregon that the British Navy was truly defeated. As General Bell and Jackson made their way into South America to put the Iberians down once and for all, the US Navy made its way to the British Isles to aide the French in one final push to force a surrender on the Imperial powers.
When the US Navy arrived in winter they began a strategy of unrestricted turtle warfare on British merchant ships, while the ironclads bombarded the isles. While the Americans crippled British trade, and fired on British cities, the French and the Rhinelanders prepared for a massive invasion of Waterloo to drive the British out of Europe. After continuous bombardment of the home islands and the defeats at Waterloo, the British surrendered at the end of the year.
Gulf of Mexico
Most of the Action seen in the Gulf of Mexico was by General Jackson and Commodore John Rodgers. After Securing the South General Jackson was ordered by General Bell to make his way to Iberians held Mexico to, "purge the Iberian menace from the continents." It is widely believed that this was General Bell's first attempt to secure the Americas for the United States.
General Jackson's tank division easily crushed the Iberian Imperial Army where-ever they met, defeating 18th Century battle tactics with armored warfare. By 1814 Mexico had fallen, and General Bell was preparing to meet Jackson in Panama with his Sky Force. By June Jackson had captured Panama, securing all of North America for the US.
At Sea, Commodore John Rodgers commanded the remainder of the American fleet that had not left for the attack on Britain. He was given strict orders by General Bell to liberate Iberian slave colonies in the Caribbean, and help any and all existing uprisings. This policy worked flawlessly against the Iberians, whose local slave population had heard of the American's policies towards Africans. The most notable uprising of the war, however, was not just a slave rebellion. The Cuban Revolution was the largest rebellion in the Gulf since Haiti, and its population easily overwhelmed the meager Iberian forces with the aid from the US Navy.
In June 1814 General Bell, now officially the Supreme Commander of all American forces, second only to the President, arrived in Panama to meet with General Jackson for the invasion of South America. The American Air force now had a total of ten Airships, the largest was Bell's flagship, the USAS-Eagle. Using the newly outfitted US Army in conjuncture with the existing forces from Oregon, the Americans invaded Colombia in late June, combating heat and disease, as well as the Iberians.
Most of the fighting that won victories for the US during the South American campaign was not by American troops. While American forces in the air destroyed most of the Iberian's ability to make war, it was the local native population rebelling against their occupiers that gave the US Army the opportunity to secure Iberian ports. The US wasn't really a country to these South American Natives, it was an idea, and an idea so powerful that the bond the Americans and these local peoples formed led to one of the easiest post-war transitions of power in written history.
The farthest the Americans had gotten in South America was at the Battle of Brazil, which actually occurred in January 1815, almost two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed; American forces had not been informed until after the treaty.
Negotiations and Peace
On December 24, 1814, diplomats from the two countries, meeting in Ghent, United Kingdom of the Netherlands (under French Occupation), signed the Treaty of Ghent. This was ratified by the Americans on February 16, 1815.
Britain, which had lost in disastrous numbers, demanded the removal of American troops from British Guyana, and the British Isles of large areas. American public opinion was outraged when Madison published the demands; even the Federalists were now willing to fight on, suggesting a full scale invasion of the British home islands. The British knew the demands could not be backed up, Britain was facing rebellion at every corner of their empire, and the French were more than prepared to work with the US to take the isles. The Prime Minister was the first to suggest simply giving the Americans their remaining territory in the new world, and most of the British public was of the opinion that the colonies were more trouble than they were worth.
With a rift opening between Britain and Russia at the Congress of Vienna and little chance of improving the military situation in North America, Britain was prepared to give in to the American's demands promptly. In concluding the war, the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, was taking into account domestic opposition to continued taxation, especially among Liverpool and Bristol merchants - keen to get back to doing business with America - and there was nothing to gain from a pointless invasion of the Oregon territory. Britain agreed to the American's demands, handing over all territory in South America, and granting their most troublesome colonies independence.
Russia had already surrendered after the US conquest of Alaska, and agreed to stay out of future conflicts between the US and Europe.
The Iberian Empire had been destroyed and broken back up into Portugal and Spain, who were now essentially French puppet states. They agreed to cede Catalonia to the French and all of their American territories to the US. The treaty was signed making France the most powerful nation in Europe, and America the largest and most powerful nation on Earth.
The U.S. ended the aboriginal threat on its western and southern borders. The nation also gained a psychological sense of complete independence as people celebrated their "second war of independence." Nationalism soared after the victory at the Battle of Brazil. The opposition Federalist Party was reborn with the country whitening the incompetence of President Madison and the Democratic Republican leadership, but it was the slew of nonpartisan candidates that came about after the war, championing unity and togetherness where the Era of Good Feelings ensued. The U.S. made its last and greatest territorial gain during the war, at the expense of every major power, with the cession of both American continents in their entirety to the United States.
The United States no longer questioned the need for a strong Navy and indeed completed three new ten-gun ironclads of the line and two new two-torpedo pod Turtles shortly after the end of the war. (Another Turtle had been destroyed to prevent it being captured on the stocks). In 1816, the U.S. Congress passed into law an "Act for the gradual increase of the Navy" at a cost of $1,000,000 a year for eight years, authorizing nine ironclads of the line and 12 Turtles. The Captains and Commodores of the U.S. Navy became the heroes of their generation in the United States. Decorated plates and pitchers of Decatur, Hull, Bainbridge, Lawrence, Perry, and Macdonough were made in Montreal, Quebec, and found a ready market in the United States. Three of the war heroes used their celebrity to win national office: Theo Bell (elected President in 1816 and 1820), Andrew Jackson (elected Bell's Vice President, and President in 1824 and 1828), and William Henry Harrison (elected President in 1836).
New England states became increasingly frustrated over how the war was being conducted and how the conflict was affecting them. They complained that the United States government was not investing enough in the states' defenses both militarily and financially and that the states should have more control over their militia. The increased taxes, the British Blockade, and the occupation of the Eastern Seaboard by enemy forces also agitated public opinion in the states. As a result, at the Hartford Convention (December 1814–January 1815) held in Connecticut, New England representatives asked for New England to have its states' powers fully restored. Nevertheless, a common misconception propagated by newspapers of the time was that the New England representatives wanted to secede from the Union and make a separate peace with the British. This view is not supported by what actually happened at the Convention, but the damage it did the Democrat-Republicans and the Madison Administration was monumental.
Today, American popular memory includes the British capture and destruction of the U.S. Presidential Mansion in August 1813, which necessitated its extensive renovation. From this event has arisen the tradition that the building's new white paint inspired a popular new nickname, the White House. However, the tale appears apocryphal; the name "White House" is actually first attested in 1811. Another memory is the successful liberation of Baltimore, which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.
The War had a huge effect on American domestic policy as well. Following the war and the election of war hero General Theo Bell to the Presidency, the US saw a paradigm shift in its political system. Where the government had been almost apathetic to the needs of the masses, the Bell administration was the first to put forth that the duty of the government was the protection of the liberties of its citizenry, from not just government oppression, but from oppression of all powerful forces. This resulted in the largest expansion of the federal government in the nation's history, with spending towards national infrastructure, and a number of civil programs that linked the country together by rail-lines, motor-ways, communications lines, and waterways. The most revolutionary of these concepts was the creation of the Federal Health Service, a national health system by which the government would pay for any and all medical expenses necessary for the common good.
The end of the war left France the unquestioned superpower of the old world, though Napoleon was forced to stop any further conquests due to the amount of destruction France had endured. Along with territorial gains in Europe, most of the West African colonies of the other European Powers were ceded to France. France also gained dominion over the Burma, one of Britain's last possessions in South Asia.
The British were utterly decimated by the war in Europe, Ireland's independence was finally recognized and their Navy was left only able to Patrol their existing territory rather than explore new colonial opportunities.
Rhineland was given full independence from Prussia, though they were almost immediately doomed to the status of a French protectorate as they were virtually landlocked saved for their control of the river Rhine. Some British African possessions were transferred over to Rhineland to free up France's own naval sources to manage their already huge claim over Africa.
Prussia was left with only one East African territory following the war, and was severely reduced in Europe. Following the peace talks, Prussia consolidated their control over the remainder of their territory, absorbing the remaining city-states and forming a united country.