Thursday, June 7, 2012

The War of 1812

It started on June 18, 1812.  Some called it the second war for independence.  But two hundred years ago today, resentment against the British, who were impressing American sailors into their navy in order to fight against Napoleon's French army, was rampant.  England had no right to do such a thing, but the British still looked upon America as a rebellious colony, part of its ever-expanding empire.
The war marked the beginning of the rise of the United States navy as well as the beginning of the Leathernecks, or United States Marines.  Today, I want to look my favorite characters of the period we know as the war of 1812, a war which America had no chance of winning, but with God's help won anyway!

President James Madison

He was our fourth president and a great leader throughout the war, but he was also influential during the War for Independence and immediately after.  He closely documented the meetings where the founding fathers framed the Constitution, leaving us today with invaluable information about these meetings that would otherwise be nonexistent.  He was also the coauthor of the Federalist Papers, a series of essays which persuaded the Americans to adopt the Constitution as the basis for all United States laws and government.  The other authors were John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury.

First Lady Dolley Payne Todd Madison

She was the wife of James Madison and has been called America's most popular First Lady.  As a girl she was a Quaker, and she had two sons with her first husband, John Todd.  Tragically, John Todd and her younger son died in a yellow fever epidemic.  A little over a year later, she married respected politician James Madison, in 1794
Mrs. Madison is best known for saving important papers and a famous portrait of George Washington when the British army attacked  Washington, D.C.

General Andrew Jackson

This old fighter is one of my favorite  presidents.  Even though that is what he is most famous for, he was an outstanding general during the War of 1812, winning the decisive Battle of New Orleans when his army was outnumbered by British troops.  Even though he was known to be a strict officer, his command loved him, and he earned the affectionate title 'Old Hickory' because he was as 'tough as an old hickory stick' on the battlefield.

Mary Pickersgill, Caroline Pickersgill, Margaret Young, and Eliza Young

Now here are some unsung heroes.  True, they did not actually fight in the war, but they did sew the huge flag requested by Major George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry, the fortress that protected Baltimore Harbor.  The flag had to be so large that 'the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance.'  Mary Pickersgill, a widowed flagmaker, her twelve-year-old daughter, and her two young teen-aged nieces, Margaret and Eliza, sewed this huge banner by hand.

Francis Scott Key

He gave us the greatest gift that came from the war.  This young man was a lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Baltimore.  In 1814, just before the decisive Battle of Baltimore, he and another man boarded a British ship in order to get a captured doctor.  Although the British said that the doctor would be released, they told Key and his colleague that only after the attack on Fort McHenry would they release the prisoner.  As he watched the attack from an enemy ship, Key was inspired to pen these words when he saw the American Flag still flying in the early morning hours:

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

This year, the 200th anniversary of the Second War for Independence, let's remember what others sacrificed for our freedom.  God Bless the USA!

Thanks for reading!

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