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Posts Tagged ‘War of 1812’

On August 1, 1779, Francis Scott Key was born on his family’s plantation in Maryland.  He studied law at St. John’s College, and it was in his capacity as lawyer that he witnessed the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.  Key had been aboard a British ship negotiating the release of American prisoners when the British initiated their attack on Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814.  He was retained on board and witnessed the bombardment from the HMS Tonnant where he remained watchful throughout the night for signs that the American flag was still flying over Fort McHenry.  At dawn he reported to the prisoners below deck that the flag was still there.

Painting of Francis Scott Key, oil on canvas by DeWitt Clinton Peters, 1902. Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society via Maryland Digital Cultural Heritage.

Six days later, Key published a poem called “Defence of Fort McHenry” in the Patriot, which he had composed on his return to journey to Baltimore. The poem with written to correspond with the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  Once set to music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Key’s patriotic song gained popularity throughout the United States.  Key continued to practice law and write occasional poetry until the end of his life in 1843.  It wasn’t until 1931, however, that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the American national anthem through a Congressional resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Printed broadside of the Defence [sic] of Fort M’Henry [sic], 1814. First printed version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the song by Francis Scott Key. Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society via Maryland Digital Cultural Heritage.

You can learn more about the War of 1812 through Opening History, which includes such collections as the Paul Hamilton Papers from the University of South Carolina, the War of 1812 collection from the Maryland Historical Society, and the War of 1812 collection from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

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An 1813 cartoon hails American naval victories over Great Britain in the War of 1812 in its depiction of President James Madison successfully fighting King George III. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

On March 16, 1751, James Madison was born into a prominent family in Port Conway, Virginia. Madison, who would become the fourth president of the United States, graduated from the College of New Jersey, today Princeton University, in 1771. In 1776, as the nation declared its independence from Great Britain, the 25-year-old Madison helped draft the Virginia Constitution and was a member of the Continental Congress. His greatest political role, perhaps surpassing even his presidency, came in helping to craft the new United States Constitution in 1787. Madison authored both the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Plan, which provided for the three branches of government critical to the political structure we know today.

As president, Madison’s greatest challenge came with the War of 1812. The war stemmed from several causes, including American outrage over British impressment of sailors. As the British need for sailors grew during the Napoleonic Wars, British ships began searching American vessels and forcing deserters and even those born in Britain who had immigrated to the United States into the service of the Royal Navy. There were also tensions over American expansion, as the British helped arm American Indians in the Northwest Territory in an effort to prevent the United States from controlling the region. Popular support for the war was weak, especially in New England and along the Canadian border. In 1815, after several major victories and defeats on both sides, Britain and the United States made peace with the Treaty of Ghent. After his presidency, Madison retired to Montpelier, Virginia, where he died on June 28, 1836.

Opening History offers several collections related to James Madison and the early history of the United States. The Library of Congress Cartoon Prints, American, collection offers depictions of Madison and the Founding Fathers, while the LOUISiana Digital Library’s America at War collection contains primary materials on the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans.

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220 years ago, on September 29, 1789, the U.S. War Department first established a regular army with a strength of several hundred men.

United States military history is one of the subject strengths of the Opening History aggregation of digital collections, with over 40 digital collections focusing on this subject. For example, America at War digital collection chronicles the military history of the United States from the 1760s through the Vietnam War and provides an insight into how Louisiana impacted and was impacted by national and international engagements.

The item featured below, courtesy of America at War collection, is a letter from Brigadier General (U.S. Army) to Major Edmund P. Gaines, Recruiting officer, 24th Regiment of Infantry, U.S. Army, written in May of 1812.

Letter, Brigadier General James Winchester (U.S. Army) to Major Edmund P. Gaines, Recruiting officer, 24th Regiment of Infantry, U.S. Army

Letter, Brigadier General James Winchester (U.S. Army) to Major Edmund P. Gaines, Recruiting officer, 24th Regiment of Infantry, U.S. Army

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