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War of 1812 Timeline: 1775 - November 1811

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1775 - 1783


The American War of Independence.

Frustrated by British rule, 13 American colonies severed all ties by declaring their independence.  This act of secession led to a bloody and prolonged war between British forces and American Patriots.  Following the 1783 Treaty of Paris which ended the war, many Loyalists facing persecution fled to Britain and her dependencies.  The conflict marked the beginning of a century of conflict, both military and political, between Great Britain and the United States highlighted by the War of 1812-1815 and numerous boundary disputes.  Independence also triggered a struggle between Americans and First Nations for control of lands north of the Ohio River.  Both groups eventually clashed as increasing numbers of American settlers entered the region.  The contest for these disputed lands continued into the nineteenth century.



The Provincial Marine, a freshwater naval force, is established to patrol the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. 

After securing North America following the Seven Years War (1756-63), Britain required a marine service to supply and maintain contact with its posts throughout the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain.  Created by Sir Guy Carleton for these purposes, the Provincial Marine replaced the St. Jean naval yard with one on Ile aux Noix (1812), Lower Canada and established yards at Kingston (1789) and Amherstburg (1796), Upper Canada.  With war in 1812, the Marine engaged in conveying troops and supplies in armed vessels, a duty which proved critical during Britain's 1812 summer campaign.  Although proficient at this task, it was ineffective as a naval force against the U.S. Lake Ontario fleet.  In May 1813 Royal Navy professionals assumed command of the Provincial Marine.



American Loyalist refugees begin to settle in British North America. 


13 July 1787

The United States Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance which allows for the establishment of new states in the territory north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. Despite provisions in the legislation for the fair treatment of First Nations in the region, American encroachment on First Nations lands continues.



The British establish a naval yard in Kingston, Upper Canada, which becomes their major warship building facility on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.

Kingston became the nucleus of British naval activity upon Lake Ontario when the Provincial Marine established their base at Point Frederick for the important transshipment of goods to and from the Great Lakes as well as a shipyard.  The Americans, never feeling strong enough to take Kingston, considered the port a constant threat and attacked only once during the war when their squadron chased HMS Royal George into the town's harbour.  At the yard many warships, including the Royal Navy's St. Lawrence, were constructed for Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo's squadron.  During the war, the naval yard was home to hundreds of sailors and employed just as many skilled labourers, many of which were brought from Quebec due to labour shortages in Upper Canada.


Humiliated by the terms of the four treaties (Fort Stanwix, 1784; Fort McIntosh, 1785; Fort Finney, 1786; Fort Harmar, 1789) signed with the United States, which allow American settlement in portions of the Ohio Valley, a confederacy of First Nations from that region commence a war to retain their homelands. The conflict will continue until 1795.


October 1790

A confederacy of Miami, Shawnee, Lenape (Delaware) and Nishnabek (Potawatomi) fighters under Chief Little Turtle (Michikinikwa) in the territory north west of the Ohio River defeats an American military expedition led by Brigadier General Josiah Harmar.


4 November 1791

At the Battle of the Wabash, a second American expedition into the Northwest Territory this time led by Arthur St. Clair, governor of that region, is defeated by a confederacy of First Nations headed by Miami Chief Little Turtle (Michikinikwa).



The French Revolutionary War commences. Arising from the French Revolution of 1789 then followed by the Napoleonic Wars, hostilities continue until 1815 with only short pauses in 1802-1803 and 1814-1815.

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were a series of campaigns by various coalitions against France.  Already at war with other European nations, France declared war on Great Britain 1 February 1793 for joining the anti-French coalition.  A global conflict on land and sea fought primarily in Europe, it produced numerous battles including French Emperor Napoleon's ultimate defeat at Waterloo by allied armies under the Duke of Wellington and Prussian Marshal Gebhard von Blücher in 1815.  As part of the war, France and Britain implemented trade restrictions which affected neutral nations like the United States.  This led, in part, to the American declaration of war against Britain on 18 June 1812.  With Britain fighting Napoleon, few troops could be spared to defend British North America.


Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe introduces a proclamation to encourage American immigration to Upper Canada. By the War of 1812 almost half of the population of the colony is American born. 


First Nations of the Ohio region seek peace with the United States on the condition that no American settlement is allowed north of the Ohio River.  American negotiators refuse to consider that line as the boundary and the war continues.


20 August 1794

Battle of Fallen Timbers, Northwest Territory. A third American military expedition into the territory, this time better trained and led by Major General Anthony Wayne defeats a confederacy of First Nations led by Miami Chief Little Turtle (Michikinikwa).

19 November 1794

The Jay Treaty: The Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation is signed and establishes the means to determine the boundary between British North America and the United States.

Named for the lead American negotiator, the Jay Treaty, which entered into effect 29 February 1796, settled unresolved issues from the American Revolution and helped avert hostilities between Great Britain and the United States.  The British agreed to withdraw their troops from posts on American territory in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain regions and, as a result, constructed several forts to replace those surrendered.   The accord also sanctioned cross-border commerce although trade disputes would later become an issue in the lead-up to the declaration of war in 1812.   The treaty's terms expired in 1803 and attempts at a new agreement failed leading to heightened tensions between both nations.


3 August 1795

The Treaty of Greenville, between the United States and a confederacy of First Nations, following the Battle of Fallen Timbers, allows American settlement into the greater portion of the Ohio Valley.  The distressing loss of their homeland will prompt some of these nations, including the Shawnee, to ally with the British when war is declared in 1812.


1796 - 1799

Forts George, Amherstburg and St. Joseph are constructed by the British to replace recently relinquished posts in American territory.

  As part of the terms of the 1794 Jay Treaty, Great Britain relinquished to the United States several western posts.  In consequence, the British constructed three forts to maintain their strategic position upon vital Great Lakes transportation routes.  Opposite Fort Niagara, Fort George was constructed to control the important river supply route between Lakes Ontario and Erie.  After the surrender of Fort Detroit, Fort Amherstburg and its navy yard were established to monitor action upon the Detroit River.  To counter the U.S. military presence at Fort Mackinac in the upper Great Lakes and to protect the fur trade, Fort St. Joseph was built on St. Joseph Island.  Unfortified until 1799, all three posts served as centres for the military and British Indian Department.



16 November 1798

Off the coast of Cuba, sailors from a Royal Navy squadron board the sloop USS Baltimore and press 55 crew. Fifty are subsequently freed, but there is much American outrage at this violation of their country's sovereignty.



Arrival of British reinforcements to Quebec City, Lower Canada: 1st Battalion of the 41st Regiment.



Arrival of British reinforcements to Quebec City, Lower Canada: 49th Regiment accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Brock.


8 August 1803


The Regiment of Canadian Fencibles is formed. Initially recruited in Britain, the regiment has soldiers from Upper and Lower Canada and will serve in both provinces during the War of 1812.


April 1806

As part of the ongoing war between Britain and France, the Royal Navy blockades the French coast to exert economic pressure on the enemy.


British and French navies violate American freedom of the high seas. 

During the Napoleonic Wars both the British and French endeavoured to cripple one another's economy through a series of acts imposing trade restrictions on neutral shipping.  British and French vessels thus seized American merchant ships carrying supplies to their opponent.  Because of these violations of the principles of freedom of the high seas, the United States responded with a series of laws like the 1807 Embargo Act.  British ships also intercepted and searched United States Navy and merchant vessels ostensibly seeking British deserters, seized many including American citizens and forced them to serve in the Royal Navy.  "Free Trade and Sailor's Rights," became an American war cry by 1812.

21 November 1806

Napoleon issues the Berlin Decree, making it illegal for France's allies to trade with Britain. This and subsequent decrees become known as the Continental System.

31 December 1806

The Monroe-Pinkney Treaty between Britain and the United States is concluded. It offers the Americans concessions for trade but not on impressment. Due to this, President Thomas Jefferson refuses to allow the Senate to ratify the treaty.



Arrival of British reinforcements to Quebec City, Lower Canada: 100th Regiment, 10th Royal Veteran Battalion.

22 June 1807

The British warship HMS Leopard opens fire on USS Chesapeake off Cape Henry, Virginia.

Between 1796 and 1812, the Royal Navy removed as many as 10,000 men from American trading vessels and pressed them into naval service, usually on grounds that they were British deserters. But the most famous case of impressment involved an American naval frigate. On 22 June 1807, HMS Leopard opened fire on USS Chesapeake off Cape Henry, killing three men and wounding 16. A boarding party from Leopard then mustered Chesapeake's crew and forcibly removed four deserters. After Chesapeake limped back into Norfolk, its citizens rioted; as word of the encounter spread, more Americans joined the chorus of condemnation. Although President Thomas Jefferson resisted pressure to declare war, he did close American ports to British warships, and the incident badly frayed Anglo-American relations.

24 August 1807

Trade between British North America and the United States is suspended, but Saint John, New Brunswick, and Halifax and Shelburne, both in Nova Scotia, are designated free ports in which American shipping is welcome.

11 November 1807

To increase the economic pressure on France, the British government issues orders-in-council forbidding foreign vessels, even neutral ones, from trading with European ports unless they first call at a British port and pay customs duties.

17 December 1807

Napoleon issues the Milan Decree, declaring that any vessel touching at a British port will be deemed British property and therefore subject to seizure. American trading vessels in European waters are now liable to seizure by French and British warships.

22 December 1807

The United States Congress passes the Embargo Act.

On 11 November 1807, to increase the economic pressure on France, the British government issued orders-in-council forbidding foreign vessels from trading with Europe without first calling at a British port and paying customs duties. On 17 December, Napoleon replied in kind with the Milan Decree, declaring that any vessel touching at a British port would be deemed British property and therefore liable to seizure. This economic warfare led to the seizure of 947 vessels belonging to the United States during the years 1807-1812. By forbidding American exports to all foreign countries, the Embargo Act was designed to force Britain and France to relax their restrictions on American shipping. Instead, it boomeranged and damaged America's own maritime commerce, which was heavily concentrated in New England.


Summer 1808

The fortifications of Quebec City, Lower Canada are strengthened.

Quebec City was the centre of military and civil administration in British North America and, as a port open to ocean-going vessels, the gateway to the heart of the continent.  Its protection was therefore paramount.  Fearful of future hostilities following the American Revolution, Gother Mann, commander of the Royal Engineers in Canada, devised a plan to strengthen the town's defences.   Elements of the plan, under Mann's replacement, Ralph Bruyeres of the Royal Engineers, were realized and included: ravelins and outworks covering the St. Louis bastion; a new line of defence consisting of four Martello towers; and several powder magazines.  The British would continue to reinforce the town throughout the war and beyond including the addition of a Citadel (1820-31).


1 March 1809

President Thomas Jefferson authorizes the Non-Intercourse Act, effectively repealing the Embargo Act and allowing the resumption of all trade except with Britain and France.  

4 March 1809

James Madison is inaugurated as president.  The War of 1812 will become known in the United States as "Mr. Madison's War."

May 1809             

Arrival of British reinforcements to Quebec City, Lower Canada: 1st Battalion of the 8th Regiment.



Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry returns to Canada; he becomes aide-de-camp to Major-General Francis de Rottenburg.

1 May 1810           

By Macon's Bill No. 10 (after Representative Nathaniel Macon), Congress restores trade with Britain and France, but promises to stop trading with the enemy of the first power to remove its restrictions against neutral shipping.

11 September 1810               

The New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry, formed in 1803, is made a regiment of the line and numbered as the 104th Regiment of Foot.

2 November 1810

Announcing that France has rescinded its decrees against neutral shipping, President James Madison gives Britain three months to follow suit.



The Royal Newfoundland Fencibles arrive in Quebec City, Lower Canada.


Creation of military quarters on St-Louis Street in Quebec City, Lower Canada.


Major-General Isaac Brock is appointed Administrator and military commander of Upper Canada.  The appointment as head of both civil and military affairs allows Brock to more efficiently mobilize the colony's defences.

2 March 1811

President James Madison forbids trade with Britain.

1 May 1811            

The Royal Navy frigate HMS Guerrière stops the American brig Spitfire off Sandy Hook, New Jersey and presses an American sailor.

16 May 1811 

Mistaking the sloop HMS Little Belt for HMS Guerrière, USS President opens fire on Little Belt off the North Carolina coast, killing nine British sailors and wounding 23.

September 1811

British orders-in-council restrict American trade with the British West Indies.

13 September 1811 

The new Governor General, Sir George Prevost, arrives at Quebec City, Lower Canada.

4 November 1811

The Twelfth United States Congress opens.

The Twelfth Congress was notable for the presence of about a dozen newly elected congressmen from the southern and western states. Collectively known as the War Hawks, they were among the first generation of Americans to come of age since independence. They detested impressment and violations of American neutrality on the high seas. In addition, they saw the conquering of British North America as a way to end alleged British support of First Nations, and thus to clear the way for American domination of the northern fur trade. Ironically, the country's leading maritime region -New England - was opposed to war with Britain, but with the War Hawks in control of the House and the Senate, armed conflict began to look increasingly likely.

7 November 1811 

After the Battle of Tippecanoe, a force of regulars and militia led by Major General William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory, burns the Shawnee settlement of Prophetstown. 

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War of 1812 Timeline

Section 1: 1775 - November 1811
Section 2: January 1812 - June 1812
Section 3: July 1812 - September 1812
Section 4: October 1812 - December 1812
Section 5: January 1813 - March 1813
Section 6: April 1813 - June 1813
Section 7: July 1813 - September 1813
Section 8: October 1813 - December 1813
Section 9: January 1814 - March 1814
Section 10: April 1814 - June 1814
Section 11: July 1814 - December 1814
Section 12: January 1815 - 1871

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