Did you grow up during the 1950s? If so, perhaps your first introduction to the War of 1812 may have been Johnny Horton’s classic Battle of New Orleans which scored #1 on the Billboard charts in 1959. Perhaps you also learned about some of the other iconic images from this period: the burning of the White House and Dolly Madison’s last-minute rescue of Washington’s portrait; the penning of the words to The Star Spangled Banner; and the famous exhortation, “Don’t give up the ship,” uttered by the dying captain, James Lawrence, of the USS Chesapeake in 1813 (often incorrectly attributed to Oliver Hazard Perry as it was featured on his personal battle flag). However, like the Korean War, the War of 1812 has become one of the forgotten wars in American history. Considered from a global perspective, what we Americans term “the War of 1812” was overshadowed by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe that occurred between 1793-1801 and 1803-1815. (Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, after all, has nothing to do with the United States, featuring, instead, the Marseilles and the Russian hymn, God Save the Tsar). Ironically, today the War of 1812 bicentennial is clearly eclipsed by the sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War. The bicentennial, however, offers us an opportunity to understand its effect on American history and to learn about records about that are available concerning individuals involved in this conflict.If you have ancestors who served in the military during the War of 1812, we recommend that you read the full article and explore the links she provides.
As a former Connections entry noted, Ancestry.com is offering free access to some of its "War of 1812" to commemorate its bicentennial year. And, of course, all our branch libraries provide access to the Ancestry Library Edition subscription database for you to search for your ancestors on our public access computers.