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The War of 1812 Magazine

Issue 9: May 2008




By John R. Grodzinski

Welcome to Issue 9 of the War of 1812 Magazine!

We welcome to this issue four new contributors, Dale Pappas, Scott S. Sheads, Morgan D. Shields, and John Tures, offering excellent articles on Fort Mims, an aspect of the Battle of Baltimore, Horseshoe Bend and the Baltimore Volunteers. Donald R. Hickey also offers “The 25 Best Articles on the War of 1812,” as follow-on to his article about the 25 best books of the war. There are also other features, including a review of Robert Malcomson’s new book on the American raid on York (Toronto) in 1813.

Thank-you to all our contributors for their support of this publication!

2008 – ah, well, 200 years ago, 1808. What a year! In Europe, events unfolded that would ultimately lead to the abdication of Napoleon and also affect events in North America.

On August 1st, a British expeditionary force under Arthur Wellesley landed at Mondego Bay, Portugal, beginning the Peninsular Campaign that would continue to 1814. This force would eventually be commanded by Sir John Moore. During 1808, Wellesley enjoyed his first victories over the French at Roliça and Vimeiro, while Napoleon took Madrid in December.

Trade continued to dominate Atlantic affairs. Napoleon issued the Bayonne Decree on 17 April 1808, in response to the American Embargo Act of 1807. The Decree declared any American vessel entering a French or allied port to be treated as a British vessel that would be immediately impounded.

In North America, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost arrived at Nova Scotia to assume his duties as lieutenant governor and commander in chief of the province. His appointment was brought on by the diplomatic fall out from the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair of 1807. Prevost was an experienced officer and also brought a brigade of 3,000 reinforcements with him, including the 1/7th, 1/8th and 23rd Foot, while depositing the 13th Foot at Bermuda. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Pakenham, who was later killed at New Orleans, commanded the 7th, while Major Thomas Pearson, who later played a key role in several War of 1812 battles was with the 23rd Foot. All three regiments briefly left Nova Scotia in 1808 and 1809 for the Martinique operation and in 1810, the 7th and 23rd moved to the Portugal, while the 1/8th was sent to Quebec and then into Upper Canada, where it fought in many actions during 1813 and 1814. During 1811, Prevost became the Governor in Chief of British North America and led the British forces in the War of 1812.

In the United States Democratic-Republican candidate James Madison won the presidential election with 69.71% of the Electoral College votes from 17 States. His first term of office began on 4 March 1809. Meanwhile, the "Chesapeake - Leopard" Affair brought a significant expansion of the US Army with the formation of five new infantry regiments (3rd-7th Regiments), the Regiment of Rifles, a Regiment of Light Artillery and a Regiment of Light Dragoons, bringing the total strength to 9,921 all ranks.

In December 1808, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered in Vienna. While Ludwig van Beethoven was initially intrigued by Napoleon, dedicating his third symphony to him, he grew to despise the Emperor once his ambitions became clear. In December 1813, Beethoven premiered another piece in Vienna, Wellington’s Victory, Opus 91, dedicated to the British victory at Vitoria.

What a year indeed – and so much more was to come.

As always, I offer my thanks and appreciation to Robert Burnham for his endless work in maintaining the Napoleon Series Website and in hosting our Magazine.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue!