Where Are All the Celebrations for the War of 1812—Which Ended on Christmas Eve?


This Christmas Eve marks an American bicentennial—the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. It’s hardly surprising that this event has been eclipsed by holiday hubbub. As the historian Alan Taylor has written, “The War of 1812 looms small in American memory.”

Does this war merit greater remembrance? The War of 1812 was ostensibly about securing American independence against the persistent threats of Great Britain. In the decades after the Revolution, Britain contested U.S. commercial rights in the Atlantic, forcibly commandeered (“impressed”) U.S. sailors, and seemed to obstruct U.S. expansion in the West. In June 1812, Congress officially declared war for the first time in its history.

But that war was unnecessary—perhaps the first ill-advised U.S. war of choice. The War of 1812 was a series of military disasters, and its greatest U.S. victory came in the Battle of New…

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