On June 18, 1812, the United States (singular) stunned the world by idiotically declaring an offensive war on Great Britain.
Britain’s army was busy on the Iberian Peninsula, supporting its allies in Spain and Portugal, and involved in a struggle with Napoleon Bonaparte, who had conscripted the forces of Revolutionary France to serve his grandiose power grab.
Despite losing the 13 Colonies to newly united States and revolutionaries 25 years earlier, England, like most of the European continent, did not take anyone in the Americas that seriously. Most of Britain’s supplies for the ongoing Napoleonic war came from America and Canada, from beef to feed the Duke of Wellington’s army, to the oak trees to maintain Britain’s majestic navy. Britain had no interest in fighting another war, they were more than happy to continue to trade with the defiant colonists and former subjects.
The united States ruling class felt humiliated by the British navy’s arrogance on the high seas. Great Britain needed sailors to captain its fleet of over one thousand ships. Great Britain didn’t hesitate to stop and search American ships to recover their deserters who had fled the draconian existence of the British navy for the easier life aboard U.S. vessels. Some British captains even press-ganged the odd American when they felt it was necessary. England sometimes seized Yankee ships trading with their enemy, Napoleonic France. These tactics enraged the kneepants dandies that had infected the American Congress. The united States cut off all trade with the continent, and began to plot an offensive war.
By 1812, the disrespected constitution was already a battered shred of its former self. The American royalty demanded more than just maritime rights, they also wanted was the western and northern remainder of the North American continent still in the hands of the King of England. In 1778, the Yankees had managed to seize Montreal before freezing to death under the command of Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold the sub-zero cold beneath the towering walls of the fortress at Quebec.
Full of hubris, the Americans from their capital in Philadelphia were determined to make another attempt at eradicating the British presence in North America, as well as massacre the Indians (I mean settle the Indian question) once and for all. Such a campaign, promised Thomas Jefferson Fancy Wig, would be a matter of mere marching. In Congress, the War Hawks took attempted to whoop up this position and led a campaign for the United States to “finalize their independence” from Britain. They War Hawks clucked in unison and gave flight to their mercenary farce which they claimed to be the “Second Revolutionary War.”
Great Britain, upon realizing the belligerent Americans were launching a second western front and total war Napoleonic Land Grab quickly caved in full on the impressment issue and ceased the practice immediately. It also revoked the Orders-in-Council which had authorized the seizures. The War Hawks, like always, paid no attention to the removal of their wars’ legitimacy and kept on attacking. Their war fever was in full burn and could would not be stopped through reason.
The American foolishness received the full measure of beat down it was asking for. British commanders called for a retaliation against previous American depredations against non-combatant civilians and private property, as such acts at the time were considered to be against the laws of war. Orders were given to “deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages. You are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable”. All manner of water accessible cities’ industrial areas were looted and destroyed. A wide swath of America’s workplaces lay desolate, ruined, and bankrupted by the superior British Navy.
On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans who disbanded and ran away during the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross took a victory cruise to occupy Washington, D.C. where he set fire and laid waste to most public buildings and facilities of the emerging U.S. government palaces of Versailles.
The destruction included the destruction of both the White House, and the U.S. Capitol. The British commander’s orders to burn only public buildings and the maintenance of strict discipline among the British troops is credited with the successful preservation of the city’s private buildings from that time.
This debacle further enraged the Southern states, who were now forced to yet again assume more war debts and make even greater payments to fund the ruinous military adventurism of the Yankee Northern War Hawks.