War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebrations and The Star Spangled Banner

This June marks the bicentennial of the beginning of War of 1812. I saw there were some wonderful events this next week in Boston (I wish we could go!); I’ll share a few details about that below if you live in that area. Anyway, I’ve heard a few things about the War of 1812 on the radio lately and decided I should share some of that information with the kids as we celebrate Independence Day next week.  You might not want to do a full project on the War, but you might bring some highlights into the conversations you have with your kids this week or over the coming year.  

So what was the War of 1812?

On June 18, 1812  the United States declared war on Great Britain. Why?  The answer is a bit long but the main reasons were 1) to protect the young nation’s freedom of the seas and right to trade and 2) to prevent young U.S. sailors from being impressed (forced) into the British navy. The Americans also hoped to push the British out of North American once and for all.

The British were quite preoccupied with their battles with France over in Europe for the first couple of years of the war. Some fighting took place in Canada and the Great Lakes region.  But once Great Britain overthrew Napoleon in April 1814, the war came to our shores.  The British sent over three large armies. Hoping to humiliate President Madison (the 4th President of the United States) and in retaliation for the burning of the Canadian capital, York (now called Toronto) the British set their sights on Washington D.C.

Just before the White House was torched on August 24, 1814, Dolley Madison had to make some pretty quick decisions about what to take and what to leave. One of the items she chose to take was a full length portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.


The Star Spangled Banner and the Battle of Baltimore

A month after the White House was burned, Fort McHenry, where the star spangled banner flew, was attacked.  The Chesapeake Bay was a center of trade, commerce and ship building in the early 19th century. Because of that it became a target of the British military.

Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland was finished in 1805 and helped to defend the Baltimore harbor from British attack. During the bombardment of the fort on September 3, 1814 Francis Scott  Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner.  Below is a photo of the flag from a exhibit in 1964.  Notice that there were only 15 stars!  Early during its history pieces of the flag were cut off as souvenirs so a linen backing was added in 1914 as a backdrop.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bicentennial Celebrations in Boston is this week: 

If you want to delve into the celebrations of the War of 1812, more than 5,000 U.S. Navy member and other visitors are expected as dozens of ships arrive for the 1812 anniversary in Boston. The tall ships arrive between 9am-12pm on Saturday, June 30 and can be viewed all week (tall ships schedule here).

Photo courtesy of shutterstock.

On Independence Day they expect tens of thousands of visitors for the annual Independence Day celebrations on the 4th of July. If you are in the Boston area here is a schedule of events from June 28th through July 6th.

Bicentennial Celebrations in Maryland:

Last week (June 13 – 19, 2012) there were a number of celebrations in Maryland to kick off the anniversary of the War of 1812.  This upcoming week are some living history performances all around Maryland — Exploring the War of 1812.

And if you live in the area you can always make a visit to Fort McHenry National Monument itself.

Bicentennial Celebrations Elsewhere:

I know there are other celebrations of the War of 1812. You might want to click on this link and look at the U.S. map to see what celebrations are in your area in the coming year.

Here is a comprehensive calendar of events related to the War of 1812.

Resources about the War of 1812:

If you plan to study the War of 1812 there are some wonderful lesson plans out there:

Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration:

White House Historical Association — lessons on Dolley Madison and the War of 1812

Good Sites for Kids: War of 1812

Smithsonian Institute: Star Spangled Banner (and War of 1812)

Fort McHenry National Park website — http://www.nps.gov/fomc/historyculture/index.htm


As for us, I’m hoping to take the kids to the outdoor drama, Tecumseh (in Ohio) later this summer. Tecumseh was a Shawnee who created a large tribal confederacy that opposed the United States in the Ohio Valley region during the War of 1812.  I’d also love to take the kids to Fort McHenry at some point.

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