War of 1812
Someday I’m going to be hunched over in a library finishing a dissertation somewhere and I want to laugh over its origins. So here, have a little Twitter geek rant on the occasion of the bicentennial of my favorite thing.
I STILL DONT KNOW WHAT THIS WAR WAS ABOUT like we learned US history every goddamn year in elementary school and by the time we got to This Fucking War I had peaced the fuck out
Other things I never learned:
- why I’m supposed to remember the Alamo
- did we go to war with Mexico or something?
- why did no one tell me the Louisiana purchase was like THE ENTIRE MIDWEST
- Wait so Texas was, like, annexed???
- French Indian War wtf
- Most of American history
- holy fuck I hated US history
I learned the Revolutionary War every year for like twelve years. Honestly after that mess it’s kind of a miracle I ended up loving history this much. I feel you.
But in case you actually want to know those things now that you are free of said mess, here are some brief answers. :)
1. The War of 1812 was about different things for different groups.
-Naval conflict: for Britain, the War of 1812 was really just one of the many fronts on which they were fighting the Napoleonic Wars, a series of European conflicts that had expanded Britain’s navy to the point of naval conflict with the U.S. (Essentially, a bunch of sailors deserted Britain to work on private U.S. ships as merchants to escape this military service and make money. Britain was unhappy. War.)
-Land conflict: for American Indian groups, who were largely British allies, the War of 1812 was yet another battle for preserving their territories. (Britain aimed to promote the creation of a “neutral” Indian state as a buffer between the U.S. and British Canada. American settlers were unhappy. War.)
-Political conflict: Britain tried to restrict U.S. trade with France, which was a jerk move. This combined with territorial “infractions” (their “interference” by promoting Indian sovereignty in what is now the Midwest) and trying to essentially draft naturalized U.S. citizens into its navy meant the U.S. felt Britain did not take its national sovereignty seriously, and so for Americans, this was a “second war of independence” of sorts. (National honor and blah blah, but also it’s straight up money: sea trade and Indian land.)
-Oh, and for Canadians, this war was about defending themselves from American annexation. War hawks alongside American settlers who wanted in on that Great Lakes trade were looking to invade Canada after seizing all those Indian lands.
So tl;dr: the War of 1812 was about American expansionism, British imperialism, and all the people that could piss off. The Indians lost and Canada won. It was a total mess and that’s why I am fascinated by it.
2. “Remember the Alamo” because at the Battle of the Alamo (1836), the Mexican army (led by Santa Anna) killed literally all of their opposition — the people fighting for the independence of Texas as its own republic separate from Mexico (to which it belonged at the time). The battle was obviously a terrible loss for the Texan revolutionaries, largely landowners from the U.S., but they ended up winning the war (known either as the Texas Revolution or the Texas War of Independence). ‘Course it got annexed by the U.S. ten years later, so.
3. Which brings us to…yes, we went to war with Mexico or something. The Mexican-American War lasted from 1846 to 1848. The U.S. annexed Texas in 1846, figuring “hey, everybody who lives there is American anyway,” and Texans themselves agreed. But Mexico still considered Texas part of its own territory despite the revolution declaring itself independent ten years earlier. Plus the U.S. was expanding westward, and Mexican California was looking vulnerable, and the Indian raids by Navajo and Comanche groups among others were leaving Mexicans pretty down, so we went to war. But Mexico was a total mess (the aforementioned Santa Anna was a dictator who left the government in shambles) so they lost pretty badly and hence the southwestern United States came to be what it is now. (And now you know why California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas have those Spanish names! Woohoo!)
3. The Louisiana Purchase was a huge deal and if you want to have it blow your mind even more consider that it cost less than 3 cents per acre and it basically happened because Napoleon was pissed off about the slaves winning in Haiti and wanted out. (I’m oversimplifying but I am always looking for a reason to mention Toussaint L’Ouverture.)
4. Yes, Texas, totally annexed. Except the people who lived there were from the U.S. anyway (and by that I mean the white elites, lol), and their economy was rubbish and being a state couldn’t hurt, so they actually agreed to it, not that anyone there admits it now.
5. The French and Indian War is such a wtf. It’s easiest to understand as the North American theatre of a world war called the Seven Years’ War, which was between a lot of different countries. But the ones that took the fight to America were Britain and France, and Spain sorta got hit just standing there. British America (allied with the Iroquois Confederacy, the Catawaba, and the Cherokee) and French Canada (allied with the Wabanaki Confederacy, the Algonquin, the Mohawk, the Lenape, the Ojibwa, the Ottawa, the Shawnee, and the Wyandot) fought each other for territory and, I don’t know, street cred. In the end, Britain grabbed Florida from Spain, France gave the “Louisiana Purchase” territories to Spain in compensation (boy were they annoyed when Napoleon sold it to Jefferson anyway), and Britain got everything France had in America east of the Mississippi. Hence Québéc. (Though France retained these random islands called Saint Pierre and Miquelon.) The name is because from the Anglophone point of view, this war was when we were fighting the French and various Indians were involved. It’s a stupid and unspecific name but that’s what we do in Anglophone conflict-naming. Anyway, the war is important because it established Britain as the North American colonial power.
6. I can’t really teach most of American history in a Tumblr post but if it makes you feel any better, most of it happened before 1492 or whenever and so most of us don’t learn about it at all either wheeee
7. Again I feel you. Hopefully I’ve clarified some of the question marks. :)