On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a war bill into law, declaring war against Great Britain. Two centuries later, the War of 1812 has come to be known as “America’s Forgotten War.” The National Park Service aims to change that conception as it coordinates a variety of programs, initiatives and activities to mark the bicentennial of the conflict.
The commemoration officially begins on June 18, on the anniversary of the declaration of war, at a number of park and partner sites. In Put-in-Bay, Ohio, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial will host a mock “re-declaration of war” and counterparts at Parks Canada’s Signal Hill National Historic Site in Newfoundland will muster to “do battle” via Skype. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine will participate in the national launch of the War of 1812 Bicentennial with a ceremony that includes performances by the US Navy Band and by the Band of Her Royal Majesty’s Marines and the unveiling of results of “Cast Your Vote – 1812,” an interactive, online program that presents varying perspectives on the war and asks participants to vote for or against war with Great Britain. Fort McHenry’s commemoration of the anniversary of the war’s beginning is part of a week-long Star-Spangled Sailabration in Baltimore, and one of leg of a journey that will take more than 40 tall ships and naval vessels past NPS sites in New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, and Boston this summer.
More than 25 national parks, national heritage areas, and national historic trails interpret the War of 1812. While Americans today are familiar with the more legendary symbols of the war, NPS sites have planned a variety of programs that not only celebrate the penning or our National Anthem and Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans, but also explore the full diversity of the war’s participants, their motives, and their actions, as well as the causes, consequences and legacies of the war.
A variety of national and multi-park initiatives are also planned for the commemoration, including an in-depth subject website, a War of 1812 park handbook and brochure, temporary exhibits to raise awareness at major park visitor centers and partner sites; online lesson plans and exhibits; and a host of commemorative programs and special events.