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The Confederate Lawyer
March 14, 2011

Virginians, New Englanders and Indians
Part II: War

by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

GLEN COVE, NY — In the first part of this series, I discussed the British policy of arming and encouraging the Indian tribes allied with Shawnee chief Tecumseh to attack Americans and kill and scalp women and children. This policy led inevitably to war — a war that was unpopular with New Englanders, who had lived free of Indian attacks for a century and who did not want to abandon their trade with Britain and Canada to protect their fellow Americans in the West.

In June 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. Britain and France were almost constantly at war from late in the 1700s until 1815. During John Adams’ administration (1797-1801), the United States came close to war with France. Although the government of France was truly wicked, the United States heeded the advice of Washington and stayed out of a purely European conflict. War with Britain was avoided until the British encouraged and helped Tecumseh.

The British goals in the war were to move the American-Canadian border to the south and to guarantee a large Indian nation on the east bank of the Mississippi River. America’s goals were to stop the seizure of its seamen and to bring the blessings of liberty to Canada. Republicans were deeply divided on whether Canada should be annexed.

New England, the stronghold of the Federalist Party, opposed the war. The Republican Virginian Jefferson had served two terms as President, and the Republican Virginian Madison was elected as his successor in 1808. Madison’s election, and subsequent reelection in 1812, did not sit well with New Englanders. The war interfered with New England’s economic interests, and the region continued to trade illegally with the Canadian enemy during the war. Most of the money in the United States was in New England banks, which refused to make war loans to the federal government. New England did not send troops to the War of 1812 and collaborated with the British Army during the war.

In virtually every important battle in the war, British regulars, Upper Canadian militia, and Indians fought side by side. The British liked to have Indians in every battle because they created fear in the Americans of scalping or mutilation. British officers sometimes watched Indians torture and kill American prisoners. They even allowed Indians to torment a captured general before turning him over to the British. The Upper Canadian Assembly authorized the British army to try by military tribunal any Canadians who cooperated with Americans; those who were hanged were then disemboweled, quartered, and their heads put on stakes. A scalp was found on display in the chamber of the Upper Canadian Assembly, but historians disagree as to how it got there.

On the other side, the Kentuckians were effective at fighting Indians on their own terms and frightening the British.

The Canadians, Indians, and British captured Detroit and held it for about a year. They captured Buffalo, burned it and the surrounding villages, and withdrew. The British also captured Washington, D.C., and burned key government buildings before withdrawing, but they failed to capture Baltimore. The Indians massacred American women and children near the site of present-day Chicago.

The Americans were largely unsuccessful in attacks on Canada but won most of the naval battles and captured the entire British fleet on Lake Erie. During a successful American campaign in 1813 to retake large parts of the Michigan Territory, Tecumseh was killed. Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians in the Mississippi Territory west of Georgia.

For much of the war, peace negotiations were conducted in Ghent. The five-member American delegation included only one New Englander, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, who had already left his father’s Federalist Party, and only one Westerner, Henry Clay of Kentucky. The New Englanders treated every temporary hardening of the British position as just punishment to the United States.

In 1814, the leaders of the governments of the New England states met in what was named the Hartford Convention, which repudiated the apportionment compromise of the Constitutional Convention. The Hartford Convention demanded one-term limits on the Presidency and a new Constitutional prohibition on two consecutive presidents from the same state. It also demanded a two-thirds vote in both houses to declare war. Implicit in the Hartford Convention resolutions was a threat to tear the Union apart, but it is doubtful they would have carried out this threat unless the war ended in a humiliating American defeat.

Before the delegates from the Hartford Convention could reach Washington, D.C., two events occurred. A peace treaty that was little more than a simple ceasefire was negotiated, and the status quo before the war was restored. Before the treaty could be ratified, 6,000 British regulars attacked New Orleans; they were defeated by 1,000 Americans under the command of Andrew Jackson. Many reasons have been given for this surprising victory: The British underestimated the Louisiana militia; the British advanced across an open field against a fortified position; the British advanced across an open field under heavy artillery fire; and the Blessed Virgin heard the prayers of New Orleans for deliverance from the British. In any case, it was a spectacular victory.

Due to peace and the victory at New Orleans, the Hartford Convention delegates became laughingstocks. From that point, New England Federalists were known as Hartford Convention candidates and wiped out electorally. Federalists were seen as defeatists and traitors. Historians say that the Indians lost the War of 1812, but the truth is that the New Englanders lost it as well. A third consecutive Virginian Republican, James Monroe, was elected in 1816, resulting in 24 consecutive years of Virginian control of the presidency.

New England never forgave the South and the West for its humiliation and loss of power, and 15 years later started a campaign to recover its position. Under the guise of the “New Awakening,” it invented a new anti-Southern ideology built on lies about slavery. Eventually, New England spearheaded a war of aggression that killed 600,000 Americans and split the country asunder more seriously than the Hartford Convention ever could have done.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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