Five Places to Explore the War of 1812 in the US

Every Friday I’ll take on a fun travel-related topic on Friday Five!  This week let’s talk about places where you can explore history by visiting places that were important during the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was somewhat of a second war of Independence.  Benjamin Franklin was said to have stated the following after the Battle of Yorktown: “The War of Revolution is won, but the War for Independence is yet to be fought.”  British support for Native Americans in the Northwest Territories aggravated already strained relations.

Although no territory changed hands, it was a more important war in American history than most Americans understand.  It lasted 32 months from the time that America declared war, which is longer than the US involvement in World War I.  The US Capitol and White House were occupied and burned, and

I’ve found that Canadians have a higher respect for the war, framing the war as defending their borders from their much larger neighbor – America.  It and their heroes of the war are celebrated, even though the United States has woefully forgotten that the war existed at all.

The breadth of this war is amazing to me.  On the American side of the war there were battles all over – from the Great Lakes region down to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.  Here are a few of the sites that stand out today :

#5 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Visiting Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve just outside of New Orleans will give you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the men who fought at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

The American victory against the British here would help set the stage for Andrew Jackson’s rise to the presidency and build him up as a hero. Americans took great pride in the victory and for decades celebrated January 8 as a national holiday.  Unfortunately, this battle occurred after the Treaty of Ghent which marked the official end of the War of 1812.  Information traveled a lot slower in those days, and the news of the peace treaty hadn’t yet been received.

Website : National Park Service – Chalmette Battlefield

#4 – Lafayette, Indiana – Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum

While this battle happened in November of 1811, this is considered a catalyst of the fight against the British which began six months later.  Usually classified as one of the opening battles of the War of 1812, Tippecanoe was a battle fought between a confederation of Native American tribes and the American Army lead by Gen. William Henry Harrison.  After the battle, Harrison acquired the nickname “Tippecanoe”, which was popularized in the song “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” during his winning presidential campaign of 1840.

If you are interested in seeing examples of the long guns and rifles used in the War of 1812, this is the place for you.  They have 51 items on display and many other items of historical interest at their museum.  There are also hiking paths for outdoor lovers.

Website – Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum

#3 – Plattsburgh, New York – War of 1812 Museum and Battle of Plattsburgh Interpretive Center

Also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, the Battle of Plattsburgh was the final attempt by British troops to invade the US via the Canadian border.  The American victory here ensured that no land would exchange hands at the Treaty of Ghent which happened soon after this incursion.

The Battle of Plattsburgh interpretive center holds displays depicting the battle scenes, as well as information about the leaders of both sides.  The War of 1812 Museum holds an art gallery of pieces depicting various parts of the war and rotating exhibits on relevant topics.

Website – The Battle of Plattsburgh Museum

#2 – Washington DC – Multiple Public Buildings

After defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, the British occupied Washington DC and set fire to many of the public buildings.  They destroyed the White House, the US Capitol building and most of the US government buildings in the city.  Luckily, the British commander ordered that only the public buildings were to be torched, and most private buildings escaped the attack.  This was seen as retribution for the burning of parliament buildings in Toronto by the Americans in an earlier battle.

In the White House, you can find the large portrait of Washington that servants cut from the frame and carried with them as they ran from the British as well as other items that Dolley Madison saved from the British.  You can also see the Octagon house where Madison lived throughout the rest of his term while the new White House was being constructed.

Website – NPS’ Star Spangled Banner Historical Trail (While 560 miles long, the trail winds through DC and takes you to public buildings of interest and the Congressional Cemetery where soldiers of the War of 1812 were laid to rest.)

#1 – Baltimore, Maryland – The Flag House

Did you know that our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written about the War of 1812?  Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics while gazing at a flag during the Battle of Fort McHenry.

The flag that Mr. Key was inspired by was made by Mary Pickersgill.  Her home, which was also her place of business, was preserved and is now called The Flag House Museum.  There are exhibits about life during the War of 1812, as well as characters in period dress during their Living History reenactments on Saturdays.

Website – The Flag House Museum