1:54:10 The War of 1812 is “the war we don’t know too much about” in America. The same holds true in Britain, where the conflict on the North American continent was a sideshow — the United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812, the same month that Napoleon invaded Russia. Only two groups have deep memories of the war fought in North America between 1812 and 1815: Canadians and the people of the native tribes.
This documentary shows how the glories of war become enshrined in history. How failures are quickly forgotten and how inconvenient truths are ignored forever. With stunning reenactments, evocative animation and the incisive commentary of key experts, The War of 1812 presents the strange and awkward conflict that shaped the destiny of a continent.
British major general Sir Isaac Brock captured Detroit without a fight.
It is the war of “Don’t give up the ship,” the war that gave America its national anthem, saw the White House burned, and made a folk hero of a rough-hewn Tennessee militia commander who would ride his popularity to the presidency, forever changing American politics.
But it also had elements Americans would just as soon forget, and indeed, for the most part they have. During the first two years, United States troops often did not perform well and frequently their commanders were buffoons; the garrison at Detroit surrendered without a fight. The New England states continued commerce with the enemy and threatened to secede. Accepted rules of warfare were violated, giving free reign to fire and sword and terror among civilians north and south of the U.S.–Canadian border. And in the end, the war appeared to be a stalemate: not an inch of territorial boundaries changed.
But as the new documentary The War of 1812 from PBS makes clear, the conflict is one that should be better remembered and more thoroughly studied. The United States could have lost its northern Atlantic seaboard and a sizeable portion of what is now the Midwest—or could have annexed part of Canada—if just a few things had gone differently. The war also marked the last best hope for the native tribes to retain sovereignty over lands east of the Mississippi.