• Bombs bursting in air over Baltimore in 1813

    War of 1812

A new nation, in peril

Thirty years after the American Revolution, the young nation faced more questions than answers. What did it mean to be an American? Could a government built on democracy survive?


The War of 1812 forced Americans to confront their identity -- as individuals, and as a nation. Many of the questions asked two centuries ago we still struggle to answer today.

Library and Archives of Canada, © Canada Post Corporation, Maryland Historical Society

In 1812, Americans pondered fundamentals questions of national identity and destiny that resonate today.

Conflict between the United States and Great Britain boiled over, left unresolved following independence. Angered by British interference in its commerce and the capture of American sailors, the United States declared war and invaded British Canada. The war lasted three years, with combatants on both sides representing the great diversity of the North American continent: Europeans, Americans, Native Americans, and Americans of African descent -- both enslaved and free.

The War of 1812 is among the least known wars in American history. It was a small war, fought for obscure reasons along the fledgling republic's frontiers, but its consequences were far-reaching. The conflict helped to shape American identity, yet served not as an end, but as a harbinger for much greater change to come.

The National Park Service invites you to explore this important moment of transformation in American history: its causes, its aftermath, and its legacies.

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