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War of 1812: Timeline of Key Events 

 

PRELUDE TO WAR

June 22, 1807 | The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
The British Navy’s Leopard stops the U.S. naval vessel Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. Three U.S. sailors are killed and four are captured by the British Navy on suspicion of being subjects of Great Britain. Two of the sailors were later returned (one was executed for treason and one died in jail) and the British paid for damages to the Chesapeake. The incident sparks outcries and raised tensions between the United States and Great Britain.

October 4, 1808 | Baltimore Gin Riots
The British intercept Baltimore-based Sophia and demand a tax on each gallon of Dutch gin carried. When Sophia returns to Baltimore, angry citizens order the gin “condemned to flames.” Thousands of sailors and civilians parade to Hampstead Hill (now Patterson Park) to watch the destruction of 720 gallons of gin.

November 7, 1811 | Battle of Tippacanoe
In the Indiana Territory, U.S. forces clash and defeat warriors of the Shawnee tribe, led by Tecumseh. Americans discover the Shawnee used weapons supplied by the British, further heightening tensions with Britain.   

June-July 1812 | Baltimore Riots
Incited by anti-war editorials in the newspaper Federal Republican, an angry mob destroys the newspaper’s Gay Street office in June 1812. Rioters return when publication resumed from a Charles Street site on July 27. The editor and about 25 supporters are escorted to jail for protection. A mob storms the jail, killing or wounding the occupants.

June 18, 1812 | War Declared on Britain
Furious with the British impressment of sailors, harassment of U.S. trade, and supply of weapons to American Indian tribes, the U.S. Congress narrowly votes to declare war on Great Britain. Over the following months, U.S. troops make several attacks on Canada.

 

THE WAR BEGINS: 1813

Feb-Dec. 1813 |Chesapeake Campaign of 1813
The British blockade the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to disrupt trade and movement of U.S. naval vessels. Over the next months, British forces attack towns throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

April 6, 1813 | Battle of York
U.S. troops attack York (today Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada. The city is looted and burned by American troops. 

Summer 1813 | The Flag Is Sewn
Major George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry, commissions local seamstress Mary Pickersgill to create a garrison flag (30x42 feet) and a smaller storm flag.

September. 10, 1813 | Battle of Lake Erie
A U.S. fleet, under the command of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, defeats the British and takes control of the lake. The British lose a critical supply line to the west. 

 

THE HEAT OF BATTLE: 1814

April 11, 1814 | Napoleon Abdicates Throne
Napoleon abdicates the French throne. With the Napoleonic Wars over, Britain commits additional troops and ships to their efforts in the United States.

June 1814 | Chesapeake Campaign of 1814
With replenished forces, the British continue attacks on towns and farms along the Chesapeake Bay. Commodore Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, a contingent of small armed barges conceived to harass the British, are instead bottled up in the Patuxent River.

August 8, 1814 | Peace Negotiations Begin in Ghent                         

August 19, 1814 | British Forces Land at Benedict
More than 4,500 British troops land at Benedict, Maryland along the Patuxent River. The troops move north to Washington.

August 24, 1814 | Battle of Bladensburg
U.S. and British forces meet at Bladensburg, just a few miles from Washington. The British easily overcome the ill-trained and poorly commanded American forces, many of which flee the battle, leading to the term “The Bladensburg Races.”

August 24-25, 1814 | Burning of Washington, DC
In retaliation for the American destruction of towns such as York, British forces burn many of Washington’s public buildings, including the White House and Capitol.

Late August 1814 | Baltimore Defenses Strengthened
Knowing Baltimore would likely be the next target of the British, the city hastily improves its defenses. In three weeks, a series of earthworks are dug on Baltimore’s east side (through what is now Patterson Park), troops assembled from surrounding states, and the city’s forts are strengthened.

September 7, 1814 | Key Boards Truce Vessel
Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and amateur poet, joins John Stuart Skinner, American agent for prisoner exchange, in Baltimore and sails down the Chesapeake on a truce ship to seek the release of American prisoner Dr. William Beanes. Although Skinner and Key are successful in getting Beane’s release, the British do not allow them to return as they now are aware of the British preparations to attack Baltimore.

September 11, 1814 | Battle of Lake Champlain
The British invade the United States by attacking the garrison at Plattsburgh, New York on Lake Champlain. U.S. naval and land forces succeed in repelling the attack and the British withdraw to Canada. 

September 12, 1814 | British Land at North Point; the Battle of North Point
More than 4,000 British troops land at North Point to attack Baltimore by land. During the Battle of North Point, the British repel the U.S. forces and continue toward Baltimore. Upon seeing the city’s three-mile-long heavily armed defensive earthworks, the British commander decides to wait until Fort McHenry falls and the navy can assist taking the city.  

September 13, 1814 | Bombardment of Fort McHenry
British bomb ships, stationed in the harbor outside the reach of the fort’s guns, begin a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry.

September 14, 1814 | The Bombardment Ends
The bombardment fails to destroy Fort McHenry, and the British fleet withdraws. British land forces also withdraw to North Point to rendezvous with the fleet. Key sees that the American flag still waves over the fort.

September 16, 1814 | Key Released; Spends Evening at Indian Queen Tavern
Key’s truce ship is released by the British and sails to Baltimore. He spends the night at the Indian Queen Tavern and puts to paper lyrics to a song detailing the battle and his emotions.

September 17, 1814 | Handbills of “Defence of Fort M’Henry” Distributed
Friends of Key take the lyrics to the newspaper Baltimore American. The song is typeset as a handbill and hundreds of copies are distributed.

September 20, 1814 | “Defence of Fort M’Henry” Published
The Baltimore Patriot resumes publication of its newspaper and publishes Key’s lyrics on its front page.

October 19, 1814 | First Public Performance of the Song
The first public rendition of the song with Key's lyrics is performed at the Holliday Theater under a new title: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

December 24, 1814 | Treaty of Ghent Negotiated Between U.S. and Great Britain
U.S. and British diplomats agree on terms to end the war and negotiate a treaty.

 

WAR'S END AND ITS LEGACY: 1815 AND BEYOND

January 8, 1815 | Battle of New Orleans
American forces, under the command of Andrew Jackson, win a commanding victory over a British attempt to gain control of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

February 17, 1815 | Madison Signs Treaty of Ghent
At the Octagon House in Washington, DC, President James Madison signs the Treaty of Ghent, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate the previous day. The War of 1812 is officially over. 

March 3, 1931 | “The Star-Spangled Banner” Becomes the National Anthem     
President Herbert Hoover signs the law that makes “The Star-Spangled Banner” the National Anthem.

June 2012 | Bicentennial Commemorations Begin
Baltimore begins its three-year commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

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