Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

Did we lose or win the war of 1812?

15 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I am more inclined to say the the war was ultimately a "success"; I'm not sure "won" is the right word though.

    One major difficulty in discussing this question is that so many who answer it have mistaken ideas about why the war was started/what the goals were.

    Much of this has to do with the notion that war must be about

    "taking territory" (or at least that this particular war was). By that measure NO ONE won the war, since at the war's end all territories were returned to whoever controlled them before the war.

    But, in fact, gaining territory was NOT the objective of either side!

    More specifically, two major mistakes are often made here:

    a) "the British were trying to retake their former American colonies (and failed)" No, that was NOT the British objective!

    b) "a key American war-aim was to take Canada (perhaps annex it), and they were repelled" No. While there were those who desired this, this was NOT the reason for attacking the British in Canada and the government never stated any such thing

    In other words, our Canadian friends are operating under the misapprehension that we declared war on THEM and/or on the British in order to annex Canada. But that simply is not the case.


    The main (and stated) objectives of the U.S. are listed below. Note that each of them was, in fact, accomplished, though not necessarily all because of the war itself!

    1) impressment of U.S. sailors. This was actually settled before war, with Britain largely acquiescing (though with slow communication the Americans did not yet know this)

    2) interference in American TRADE, and hence with American sovereignty/independence.

    This was mainly the result of the wars between Britain and France (and Americans suffered at the hands of BOTH powers). Once that war ended, the British no longer interfered in the same way. Thus the American objective was achieved, though not necessarily by the war!!

    3) "Indian question" -- in the Northwest frontier wars. the British supported the Indians

    this was THE reason for invading the Canadian territories. (Though some in the Western states wanted to annex the Canadian colonies, this was NOT the reason for the invasion, and the U.S. government never pushed for it.) Note, that the U.S. was indeed successful in reaching this objective. After the war the British were never again involved in assisting Indians vs. the U.S.

    Although Britain was NOT attempting to retake its former colonies, all three of these issues DO have to do with the exercise of American independence/sovereignty, which was being treated rather lightly by the European powers.

    Thus it is understandable that Americans regarded this as a "second war of Independence" even if it was not that in the STRICT sense. And this overarching objective -- of asserting its own sovereignty in issus of territory ("Indian question") and trade, America WAS successful.

    SOME of the American success was an INDIRECT result of the war. In particular, the cutting off of trade with England ended up strengthening U.S. independent manufacture...leading to greater ECONOMIC independence.

    Another indirect result -- the expansion of the American navy in order to conduct the war contributed in other ways to America's ability to assert its sovereignty. One prime example -- immediately after the War the U.S. Navy was able to fully and finally address the problem of the Barbary Pirates in the quick and very successful SECOND Barbary War (1815). In short, by the end of 1815, and in part THROUGH the War of 1812, the U.S. finally DID accomplish the sort of freedom to sail the seas and trade as it wished -- something it had hoped to gain through the American Revolution but never quite achieved.

    Further, after the War of 1812 the U.S. was bolder to proclaim (and act on) its refusal to allow ANY European interference in the Western Hemisphere (note esp. the Monroe Doctrine).

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Well, it really depends, firstly, who you call "we" and secondly, what constitute a victory in your opinion...

    For starters, the Brits walked on washington and even burned down the white house! The Americans, on the other hand, totally failed to invade Upper Canada, and this although up to 1/3 of the population was composed of Americans who were totally unafiliated to the Brits (and hence to the old school loyalists) and who would theoretically have been welcoming to their compatriots....

    Now, if you look at the reasons for the war, it sounds like the British originally wanted the right to search American ships for potential deserters. This, to the best of my knowledge, never happened. The same way, the United States remained independant in spite of a peace treaty mostly, seemingly, to the advantage of the British.

    To conclude, it's not so much that the British won, but more like that they failed to win anything from the war.

    If the United States failed to win anything from the peace treaty, they, on the other hand, came out of it with fortified borders and a country recognized as a real and important nation on the international scene as well as a force to be reckoned with.

    Strangely enough, the only ones who came out with something concretely positive in this war, seems to have been the Canadians. From the moment the Americans failed to invade Canada, then a definite border had been created. This also helped the otherwise heterogenous population of Ontario and parts of Quebec to unite under a strong national identity and a strong sense of being different from the British.

    This explains why the war of 1812 doesn't take many pages in US history books and is mostly not mentioned in Britain, while it is seen as absolutely instrumental in Canadian history: It is the war that forged their nation.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Source(s): wikipedia, of course!
    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 1 decade ago

    Americans won parts of the know Americas, but Parts of the Great Lakes where still in the Hands of Britain untill 1820's. I would have to say yes, the Americans won the war of 1812. But, it took a long time to kick the Brits off the soil.


    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 1 decade ago

    Two part answer:

    One reason the US went to war was that the British were taking American sailors to force them to fight against Napolean. This stopped so ... that was a victory.

    As for the actual war, the US invaded Canada. They burned Toronto, Canada burned Washington (the WhiteHouse used to be yellow - so thank us for that) and Canada took Detroit.

    In the end all the territories lost were returned and although the Canadians/British won more battles many like to point out that the last battle was won by the US.

    So who won the war depends on your view of victory:

    Was the US left alone by the British Navy? - yes - American Victory (Napolean was defeated already)

    Did the US succeed in conquering Canada? no - Canadian victory

    Did the US win the last battle? yes - American victory

    Did the US win more battles? no - Canadian victory

    Who had more territory destoryed or captured? maybe both - tie

    ... but maybe the real answer is yes the US did win the war eventually by overrunning Canada with Walmarts :)

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    That depends if you are an American or a Canadian. If you're an American then you lost! The war of 1812 was to take Canada as another state. It didn't work the Americans were beaten back and they lost the war.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Star G
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    We beat the English again in 1812. Some say no one won, but that is the politically correct crowd. The British attempted to invade, we beat them back. We also moved on Canada and were beaten back. However our borders remained intact, and showed we could go toe to toe with the mighty British Army and Navy. This proved that the United States was a power to be reconed with and that the Revolutionary war wasn't just a fluke. So, in that way we won.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 1 decade ago

    The United States won a strategic victory by defeating the English at New Orleans. Technically the war was already over but they didn't know that. That defeat caused England to lose access to the Mississippi river and all the land west.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    Britain won. The US had a number of reasons to go to war, to stop impressment, they tried to gain Canada and they wanted to stop orders in council concerning trade. By the end of the war, they had achieved none of these things, they had been soundly driven out of Canada, their economy was in ruins, and the US Navy was confined to port by the British Navy, which was 10 times its size. On top of that, the British wandered down and burnt down the Whitehouse. If that isn’t defeat for the US, I’m not sure what is.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The treaty allowed England to take anything it wanted, but Jackson's victory at New Orleans scared them from ever asserting themselves here again.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    the US invaded us, we whupped their sorry asses, beat them back across the border burned washington and pissed on the ashes of the white house. Somehow the US counts that as a victory. Much like thier victories in Vietnam and Iraq

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.