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What Were the Major War of 1812 Battles?

By David Bishop
Updated May 17, 2024
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The War of 1812 was a conflict between the United States and England. This war was fought for several reasons, including British support for Native American tribes, the impressment of U.S. sailors and a U.S. desire for more territory to the west and north. The U.S. was engaged in operations against Great Britain and her Native American allies for more than two years encompassing a number of land and naval engagements. The major War of 1812 battles were the Battle of Queenston Heights, the Battle of Lake Erie, the Battle of the Thames, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the Battle of New Orleans.

The Battle of Queenston Heights, when U.S. forces attempted to cross the Niagara River and establish a foothold in Canadian territory, was one of the first major War of 1812 battles. The U.S. crossing was disputed by British artillery and infantry along with Native American forces. The U.S. was not able to get its entire force across the Niagara because of navigation problems, and British forces were able to counterattack and eventually force the surrender of most of the units that did make it across. The battle was a decisive victory for British forces and helped them maintain control of Eastern Canada through the war.

The Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames were the two major battles that resulted in the U.S. cutting off supplies and reinforcements for the British and their Native American allies, and it led to the eventual defeat of the British in the western theater. During the Battle of Lake Erie, U.S. vessels under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry forced the surrender of British naval forces on the lake. This battle allowed the U.S. to control Lake Erie for the remainder of the war and also control the flow of supplies to the western front. The ensuing Battle of the Thames in 1813 saw the decisive defeat of British and Native American forces in the west and the death of the Indian leader Tecumseh and his Native American federation.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was another one of the major War of 1812 battles, this one fought between U.S. and Native American forces. This battle took place as part of a larger campaign in response to the massacre at Fort Mims. An army commanded by Andrew Jackson pursued and engaged the Creek Indians at a fortified settlement along the Tallapoosa River, killing hundreds and taking many prisoners.

The last of the major War of 1812 battles actually took place after the U.S. and Great Britain signed a peace treaty effectively ending the war. News of the treaty did not reach the combatants from Europe until after the Battle of New Orleans had ended. During this battle, a large force of British troops attempted to seize the city of New Orleans and gain access to the Mississippi River. While the British had early success in landing and establishing a garrison, they were unable to make headway against U.S. forces and were eventually forced to withdraw. This battle was one of the U.S.'s most successful engagements against the British during the war.

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Discussion Comments
By Melonlity — On Feb 27, 2014

Bear in mind that this war is the one that turned Andrew Jackson from a politician to a candidate who had a real shot at the presidency. The same is true of a lot of wars, really.

One thing odd about the War of 1812 is how little it's covered in history classes in public schools anymore. This war marked the start of a number of significant things -- the border between Canada and the U.S. became well defined, Native Americans really took it on the chin as they were British allies and Americans felt little sympathy for them as the nation expanded into what had been Indian territory, the treaty ending the war was the first step in the good relationship the U.S. has with Great Britain, etc.

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