"A Forgotten Conflict" - The War of 1812 remembered...

Battle of New Orleans - TSLA Collection
The Tennessee State Museum recently announced its new exhibit and programming schedule recognizing the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The exhibit, "Becoming the Volunteer State: Tennessee in the War of 1812," opens today, Thursday, February 16th, and will be on view in the museum’s Changing Galleries. Admission is free. I'm planning a visit to the museum very soon, and I'd encourage you to do the same.

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. It is a conflict that has been declared America's "second war of independence," and gave birth to our "Star Spangled Banner." Here in Tennessee, the War of 1812 made Andrew Jackson a national political figure, and earned the state's nickname, "The Volunteer State." Yet outside of the community of historians and history enthusiasts, very few of us really know the details about this important event in United States history. As The Wall Street Journal noted recently, the War of 1812 "is a hard and confusing story to tell," which has "muddled the marketing message for organizers and fund-raisers trying to whip up enthusiasm for the bicentennial." Couple this knowledge with the fact that the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 has been overshadowed by the Civil War Sesquicentennial, and the general public is left with only a vague recollection of the war, gleaned from our high school history books...




This humorous video illustrates a serious point... Americans know very little about the War of 1812, and its bicentennial commemoration deserves more recognition than it is getting, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few of the online resources that are available to help tell the story of the war.

The War of 1812 in Tennessee

Here in my home state, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has compiled a "Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812," prepared by Dr. Tom Kanon, along with a new online exhibit entitled, "The Volunteer State Goes to War: The War of 1812 and Indian Wars." Here you'll find a good synopsis of Tennessee's role in the War of 1812, along with a bibliography, and digital images from TSLA's collections. The Tennessee State Library and Archives also has a list of "Materials at TSLA Pertaining to the War of 1812," featuring information about relevant microfilm and manuscripts, as well as a compilation of "Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812."

War of 1812 Pension Application Files

Elsewhere, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Fold3, and the National Archives are teaming up to help fund an effort to digitize the War of 1812 pension files. According to their website, "This initiative seeks to raise $3.7 million before the bicentennial of the start of the war and finish digitization before the bicentennial of the war's end in 2015." With 7.2 million images in 180,000 files, there is much digitization to do, and some of the work has already made its way online.

Maryland's Star-Spangled 200

The State of Maryland is by far the most invested in the War of 1812 bicentennial observance. The StarSpangled200.org website is rich with information about upcoming events, travel guides, and information about the history of the War of 1812, as well as teachers guides, and links to other historical groups which are commemorating the bicentennial of this conflict.

The Naval War of 1812

The United States Navy's Commemoration site for the War of 1812 provides a wealth of content, including an interactive timeline, a daily "200 Years Ago Today" history feature, and a link to a military history of the conflict.

Oh Canada!

Our neighbors to the North have also put together a collection of online resources. The Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council celebrates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 in the Niagara Region and Niagara Frontier. Their website includes links to news, events, a history of the War of 1812, and a trip planner. The Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council has also partnered with Brock University which has created a website documenting thousands of images of artifacts and records dealing with all the aspects of life during the 1812.


I'm sure I have just scratched the surface on the online educational resources that are available on the War of 1812. I'd be very interested in locating more sites, with a particular emphasis on interactive or social media engagement. If you know of any, please comment or contact me by e-mail. I'd love to see more efforts like these that recognize this important event in American history.



Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, author, and founding editor of The Posterity Project. He is the past president of the Society of Tennessee Archivists, and is the Director of Public Services for the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

1 comment:

Chuck Sherrill, Library Director said...

Love the video! Tennessee is fortunate to have Dr. Tom Kanon at the State Library and Archives as our foremost expert in the War of 1812 and that period. Anyone with questions (like the poor guy in the video) can ask Dr. Tom!

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