Sign up ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My daughter was recently studying this in high school, and somehow I had always assumed that it had only lasted a year. Apparently it ran on for at least a couple of years, but her textbook only touched on key points. It didn't actually identify the final date on which hostilities ceased. Does anyone know the date and terms that were agreed upon by both sides?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There were actually TWO endings to the War of 1812.

The first, and "official" ending, was the signing of the peace Treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814, which would have made a nice Christmas present. It called for a cessation of hostilities, the exchange of lands and prisoners, and the appointment of a joint commission to study U.S. Canadian boundary issues.

The ACTUAL ending of the war was the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815 (news traveled slowly in those days, so neither side knew that the war had ended). It was a complete, lopsided victory for the defending American forces, under General Andrew Jackson that helped catapult him to the Presidency. The British suffered some 2000 casualties (one fourth of their total), including the commanding general Edward Pakenham.

This battle was regarded as "sealing the peace." Even the "Iron Duke" of Wellington didn't want to fight the Americans after this.

share|improve this answer
Actually, according to Wikipedia the Treaty of Ghent wasn't ratified by the US before February 18, 1815 which would make that date the actual ending of the war. – Wladimir Palant Oct 12 '11 at 15:27
The Americans also surely realized that as the Napoleonic War was winding down, the British would be able to spare capacity to focus on the Americas, something the fledgling country would have been ill-equipped to handle. In both the Revolution and the War of 1812, we outlasted the British - we didn't really "defeat" them. – Affable Geek Feb 29 '12 at 14:08
It appears that Wladimir is almost correct. The treaty was ratified on February 16, 1815, according to the Library of Congress which cites an original source document. – called2voyage Mar 13 '14 at 21:26
I would be interested to see a source on the attitude attributed to Wellington. There is nothing in the reading I have done about him to suggest he would be reluctant to take on any fight he thought necessary to the benefit and welfare of Great Britain, just as he would not be likely to squander lives or resources on an unnecessary campaign. – memphisslim Jan 24 at 0:17

The War of 1812 had six official endings: one for at land and five for at sea. The Treaty of Ghent states: "All hostilities both by sea and land shall cease as soon as this Treaty shall have been ratified by both parties as hereinafter mentioned." The American Senate ratified the treaty on February 16th, 1815, making this the earliest defensible date for the end of the war.

Consequential fighting on land lasted right up until ratification, well past the Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson and the British invasion force knew that the war hadn't ended with the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson refused to rescind his order for martial law in New Orleans until he received some indication that peace had been reached by negotiators in Europe (Brands p. 287).

The British, realizing the vulnerability of the Gulf coast, sailed away from New Orleans to American-occupied Spanish-owned Mobile Bay. The Second Battle of Fort Bowyer (February 7-12, 1815) was the last land battle between the British and Americans.* It was the beginning of a British campaign to take Mobile from the Americans. Despite Jackson's boast that "ten thousand men cannot take it," the fort surrendered to the British after a five-day siege.

With Fort Bowyer captured, the British prepared to march on Mobile itself. They postponed their attack upon receiving news of the Treaty of Ghent, and they withdrew from the area altogether when they learned that the American Senate had ratified the treaty on February 16.

How important was the Second Battle of Fort Bowyer? The Mobile area was the only territory that changed ownership due to the War of 1812. Because it was Spanish-owned, Mobile was not covered in the Treaty of Ghent. It's possible that if the British force had been able to take Mobile before news from Ghent arrived, then the Americans would not have acquired Mobile until later in their history. Mobile would became the second largest cotton-exporting port in the United States, so a long-term consequence of the acquisition of Mobile was the intensification of slave agriculture in the deep South.

Five Endings for the War at Sea: The Treaty of Ghent specified five specific dates after which prizes taken at sea would be invalidated. Ships further from the North American Coast could keep prizes up to 120 days after ratification. For details for the five ending dates for the various naval theaters, see "Article the Second":

Immediately after the ratifications of this Treaty by both parties as hereinafter mentioned, orders shall be sent to the Armies, Squadrons, Officers, Subjects, and Citizens of the two Powers to cease from all hostilities: and to prevent all causes of complaint which might arise on account of the prizes which may be taken at sea after the said Ratifications of this Treaty, it is reciprocally agreed that all vessels and effects which may be taken after the space of twelve days from the said Ratifications upon all parts of the Coast of North America from the Latitude of twenty three degrees North to the Latitude of fifty degrees North, and as far Eastward in the Atlantic Ocean as the thirty sixth degree of West Longitude from the Meridian of Greenwich, shall be restored on each side:-that the time shall be thirty days in all other parts of the Atlantic Ocean North of the Equinoctial Line or Equator:-and the same time for the British and Irish Channels, for the Gulf of Mexico, and all parts of the West Indies:-forty days for the North Seas for the Baltic, and for all parts of the Mediterranean-sixty days for the Atlantic Ocean South of the Equator as far as the Latitude of the Cape of Good Hope.- ninety days for every other part of the world South of the Equator, and one hundred and twenty days for all other parts of the world without exception.

* There were some isolated skirmishes between American forces and British-allied Native Americans after peace had been declared, but these were of less significance.

share|improve this answer

protected by T.E.D. May 27 '14 at 19:36

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.