Monday, June 18, 2012

The War to End All Indian Wars

say hello to Kelsey's little friend at Ft Meigs

The US officially declared war on Great Britain on this day in 1812 launching the two and half year War of 1812. I don't think many people understand the effect this war had on our nation's history. It generally gets only a brief mention in history class mainly for inspiring the lyrics to what would become the US National Anthem.

But it wasn't just a conflict between two nations with a grudge. Tecumseh's Indian Confederacy allied itself with the British in this war and fought alongside British soldiers in battles such as the two 1813 sieges of Fort Meigs near Toledo OH. Tecumseh was even supposedly offered a commission as a Brigadier General in the British army which despite the alliance he refused. Tecumseh's death at the Battle of the Thames in 1813 effectively killed his demoralized coalition. The final US victory in early 1815 resulted in Native Americans without a foreign ally for the first time in over 200 years. There were Indian tribes such as the Cherokee that sided with the Americans in this conflict. For this they were at first tolerated as land owners in Georgia but ultimately we know how that turned out.


War of 1812 vet Pvt Sam Deneen in Reilly OH
I couldn't possibly go into all the details of this forgotten war in a blog post. That would be silly. There are many great books on the subject such as this one.  If you want to watch a shockingly bad and misleading account of the War of 1812, watch the History Channel documentary which focuses a lot on the naval war with the British and hardly mentions the Native American involvement at all. However if you want to see a great account of the War of 1812, watch this great PBS documentary instead.

Now of course this war did not "end all Indian Wars" any more than WWI ended European conflicts. It just changed the game dramatically since the Native Americans were now on their own. The next 80 something years after the War of 1812 would see hundreds of smaller US-Indian conflicts. Rapid American expansion and land grabs beyond the Mississippi River aided by a policies of massacres, forced treaties, removal acts and the reservation system would continue, slowed only somewhat and briefly by the US Civil War. The last major confrontation between the US and American Indians in what be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 part of which was dramatized in HBO's great movie adaptation of the book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.


2 comments:

  1. Wait...do you mean to say that the commercially run television station aired a distorted--biased, even--account; while the publicly funded company ran a more complete and nuanced story? Please cancel my subscription to this commie e-rag immediately!

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  2. I am completely serious when I say that the American produced History Channel doc did not mention Tecumseh one time while the Canadian produced PBS version spent a great deal of time on that early part of the war when the Americans were losing. Maybe the "History" Channel was saving that for the "Tecumseh: Ancient Alien?" special.

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