The War of 1812 Lesson Plans

The War of 1812, sometimes referred to as America’s “second war of independence” or “Mr. Madison’s War”, saw the young nation once again squaring off against the mighty Great Britain. While no boundaries changed, the war was critical for establishing America’s place in the world. The relationships, policies, and events during the war proved essential in defining America as a nation that could hold it's own.

Student Activities for The War of 1812

Discussion Questions for The War of 1812: “Mr. Madison’s War”

  1. What were the major causes of the War of 1812? What were the major effects?
  2. Why is the War of 1812 also referred to as “Mr. Madison’s War”?
  3. How did this war shape James Madison’s presidency?
  4. How did the war highlight relations between Great Britain and the young United States? Between the U.S. and Native populations?
  5. What strategies, technologies, and battles defined the War of 1812? How was life in general affected?
  6. How were politics and policies defined before and after the outbreak of war?
  7. What major figures, both military and political, emerge from the War of 1812?
  8. How did the War of 1812 eventually end? How did this affect future relations between the several groups involved (U.S., Britain, France, and the Native Americans)?

The War of 1812 Background

As a young nation, America in 1812 was still trying to find its footing in the world. Only 29 years after victory in the American Revolution and a mere 23 years removed from the writing of the Constitution, the United States had yet to establish itself in the world. Despite defeating Britain, the greatest naval and military power of the time, the problems between the two countries continued. As Americans expanded westward and settled their newly sought territory, Great Britain continued to hold military positions throughout the Great Lakes region and Upper Canada.

Relations between settlers and Native Americans was marred by violence, attacks, and conflict over land. Great Britain was making bold attempts to control trade and what little naval capabilities the United States had throughout the Atlantic. With mounting pressure from western farmers and cries of abuse from the British, President James Madison declared war on June 12, 1812.

As it was in the Revolution, all odds were against the Americans. With a small army and navy and no foreign aid, the War of 1812 would come as a serious test for the young nation not only to defend itself and its commerce, but also everything it had gained in the past quarter-century. In the end, the nation would prove itself, war heroes would emerge, and control over their newly acquired territory would be strengthened.

Students will be able to explain and analyze the events that led to the outbreak of war between Great Britain and the U.S. In addition, they will be able to analyze and synthesize the effects of the war, and how it helped define early American history. By analyzing these events and the major figures, policies, and relations among Natives, Americans, and the British, students will gain a critical perspective into the small, but pivotal War of 1812.

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