Mini Research Project
The War of 1812
Matt was in history class. The teacher was droning on and on about some forgotten war, and he was bored out of his mind. After trying to find patterns in the multi-colored dots on the ceiling and doodling in his notebook, the teacher decided to show a movie. It was even more boring than the lecture. Matt took this opportunity to lay his head on his desk, and, slowly, he nodded off.
Before he knew what was happening, Matt found himself on the deck of a ship. He could hear booms and crashes in the distance, but it was dark and foggy so he could barely see anything outside the ship. Standing near him was a man with a grim look upon his face. “Hey, HEY!” Matt yelled so that he might be heard over the noise. The man turned to face him. “Are you addressing me?” he asked tersely. Something about the stranger made Matt decide to be polite, no easy task for a boy who held the record in his school for both the most detentions assigned in one day (6) and the most visits to the principals office in one week (13). “Yes, Yes sir,” he said, “I was wondering if you could tell me what is going on?” If Matt’s voice rose ever so slightly, that was because he didn’t want to be misunderstood. “I am afraid I do not have any idea,” the man replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.” “But do you know where we are!?!” Matt was in a panic. “I’m afraid I do know that much. We are in Chesapeak bay, outside fort McHenry. The British are trying to bombard the fort. They have just returned from burning the capitol in Washington on August 24th and 25th. It is now September 14th; I am not sure of the time exactly but I would guess at around 4:00 am. I just hope the American troops made it through the night.”
Matt looked around at the other soldiers on the ship. He thought he recognized the uniforms from another boring lecture. They were red, the mark of Great Britain. “If you are for America,” he asked, “why are you on a British ship?” The man smiled sadly. “I am afraid that is quite a long story. I came out here to try to release one of my good friends, a doctor William Beanes. I arrived on this ship on the seventh, and have been held captive ever since. The British promised us release, but we had to stay on board until after this battle because we found out about the bombardment.” “Why are you even HAVING battles?” Matt almost screeched, “Why don’t you stay at home and be peaceful instead of trying to kill each other!?!”
The man’s eyes flashed. “I see you are just a boy, so I shall explain. France and Great Britain have been at war constantly for the past decade. In 1805, Napolean’s army was defeated at the battle of Trafalgar. Napolean realized that he could not attack Britain directly, so he attempted to cut of the majority of her trade through the Berlin and Milan decrees of 1806 and 1807. Britain then, in retaliation, passed a series of Orders in Council, declaring a blockade of all French ports.
Britain then added that all neutral ships must pass through British inspection before trading with France or they would be seized. Napolean, however, ordered neutral ships not to stop at the British ports for inspection, otherwise he would get his troops to seize any of our ships which had done so. Our ships would have been seized either way, though Britain was a larger threat. Whenever Britain seized our ships, they would also impress our soldiers and force them to work for Great Britain. Britain was also encouraging the Indians to uprise in the west. Jefferson attempted to stop their trade by issuing the Embargo Act, but it hurt our economy more than their’s. We didn’t want a war, but they seized more and more ships, and the Indians were becoming dangerous. The War Hawks, led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, were becoming extremely demanding. After a bitter struggle, Congress declared war in June of 1812. We have been fighting ever since, for two years now.”
All this time Matt was listening in a kind of half stupor. He was in America in 1814. “Great. Just Great,” he thought to himself, but out loud he said “...but who are you? Can’t we do anything?” The man looked at man and answered, sighing, “You may call me Francis. I am a lawyer, and believe me, I have tried. The British have already burned Washington, and if they take Fort McHenry I fear all is lost. I just pray we make it until dawn.”
Matt stood there, unable to take it all in. Francis said no more. All through the night the listened and prayed that America would hold out. Slowly, the light of dawn crept over the horizon. Through the mist Matt could faintly make out the flag of America, still flying high. “We won!” Matt shouted, “We won! Can you see it! Oh, say, can you see it!?!”
Francis just stood there, staring, with tears of joy in his eyes. “Something is coming to mind,” he said, “If only I had some parchment.” Matt looked around. He realized he still had his history notebook in hand(blank, of course). “I have some paper!” he shouted, ”Here, you can have it.”
Francis wrote and wrote. When his work was finished, he signed his name. Matt looked and saw... “Francis Scott Key”
Matt woke up in a puddle of drool. His classmates were laughing as he wiped the spit of the desk with his sleeve. On the way home on the bus, he opened his history textbook for the first time to see what had become of his friend. He found a section on The Outcome of the War of 1812.
“America and Great Britain,” he read, “Eventually tired of war. Neither side was profiting by it, in fact both armies suffered major losses. The Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, declared peace between the two nations. It stated both countries would return the land they had captured. The Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks afterwards on January 8th, 1815. Though the two nations were supposedly at peace, the armies had not heard of the treaty and went to battle once more. Led by Jackson, American troops won the battle, and, therefore, despite the treaty, won the war.”
Matt closed his textbook. He had millions of questions that it didn’t answer. Maybe, just maybe, he would ask his teacher about the War of 1812 tomorrow.