George C. Daughan holds a Ph.D. in American History and Government from Harvard University. He spent three years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. He taught at the Air Force Academy and was also director of the MA program of international affairs there. Subsequently, he held a professorship at Connecticut College, and also taught at the University of Colorado, the University of New Hampshire, and Wesleyan University.
His books include 1812: The Navy's War.
From Daughan's Q & A with Ray Routhier:
Q: What was the cause of the War of 1812?--Marshal Zeringue
A: One of the direct causes was that the British were impressing our sailors. Their fleet needed 145,000 men, and the desertions from the British navy were in the thousands. So they were taking sailors off ships of other nations. The country was outraged for years, but the British refused to stop.
No. 2 was that the British were interfering with our trade, forcing all our trade to go through British ports and pay a license fee.
And the third thing was that the British were using the Indian nations to terrorize settlers in the West. The Indians' cause in the greater scheme of things was justified, but the British aid was further proof that the British did not accept the U.S. as a sovereign nation.
When the U.S. declared war, Great Britain was in the midst of a war with Napoleon, and things didn't look good for them. President Madison figured the English would be under pressure to come to terms with us. But Napoleon was defeated in Russia, and things did not go well for the U.S.
Q: So where does the navy come in?
A: The British mounted a large-scale invasion from two places, Canada and New Orleans, along with large-scale raids up and down the coast. They raided Washington and burned the capitol. They invaded from Canada with 10,000 men, but felt they needed to control Lake Champlain to do it. The U.S. Navy won a great victory on Lake Champlain and stopped the invasion.
Later, the British turned to Baltimore, and the American navy stood against them. (At another battle) when the U.S.S. Constitution defeated a British frigate, this...[read on]