Prospects and Strategy

The United States was unprepared for war with Britain in 1812. The country was badly split with War Hawk factions of the South and West eager for the conflict, and trade-conscious New Englanders adamantly opposed.

Furthermore, the nationís armed forces were weak; the army numbered only about 7,000 men and they were stationed at far-flung posts. The navy had constructed excellent ships, but they were few in number. As a final hurdle to success, the U.S. military leaders had done little planning for the coming conflict.

The hurriedly assembled American war plan called for an invasion of Canada, the thought prevailing that a quick seizure of Montreal would bring Canadians streaming to the American side and provide a quick end to the conflict. Indeed, there was some reason for optimism, including:

  • Many former Americans lived in Canada and were expected to be supportive of the invasion
  • Many Canadians were unhappy with the British government's heavy-handednes (it did not necessarily follow, however, that discontented elements would welcome the U.S. government as an alternative)
  • The best of the British soldiers were engaged in the warfare against Napoleon and not available for service in North America.
The major military activities of the War of 1812 occurred in the following theaters: Antiwar sentiment in the United States was epitomized by the Hartford Convention of 1814.

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