THE WAR OF 1812: ITS OPERATIONS1
THE fighting of the War of 1812 is a story so well known to Canadians and Americans, having been so often told, that it would be tedious and superfluous to repeat it here. Moreover it would be out of place in this study of Canadian-American relations, to which it would make little or no contribution. But it is very pertinent to try to find the explanation and significance of what happened in this war, which calls for an analytical rather than a descriptive treatment.
Most Canadians are prone to ignore the fact, which Americans can never forget, that the War of 1812 was oceanic as well as continental. The distinction is fundamental. It should not be confused with that between naval and military operations, which in this war is purely artificial. The naval operations on the Lakes, which were completely separate from those on the sea, were subsidiary to the military operations around the Lakes and therefore should be considered with them in an examination of the war on land. The struggle on the sea stands by itself and was of vital importance. It conditioned the war on land but was not conditioned by it.
The nature of the war on the sea had often been predicted. The United States Navy being then negligible and the Royal Navy invincible, no battle between fleets was possible. Each side therefore sought to reduce the other by crippling its commerce in the only way it could, the Americans by raiding and the British by blockade, the natural method of warfare between a strong naval power and a weak one.
The United States had no ship of the line, nor any use for one. The American task called for numbers rather than size, speed rather than strength. Numbers could scatter to prey more widely, and speed spelled safety from capture by superior force. The marauders appeared on every sea, and were particularly active where the lines of communication from all over the world converged upon Great Britain. British trade and shipping suffered severe damage. Most of it was inflicted by privateers,____________________
For documents, see A.S.P.M.A., Vol. I ( Washington, 1832); William Wood (ed.), Select British Documents of the Canadian War of 1812, 3 vols. (Publications of the Champlain Society, 1920-23); and E. A. Cruikshank, Documentary History of the Capaigns upon the Niagara Frontier, 1812- 1814 ( Lundy's Lane Historical Society Publications, Vol. III, Parts I-VIII, 1902-7).