1812 Bicentennial: A matter of respect: The Second War for Independence

Written by Frank Kuron 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Respect — Rodney never got any, Aretha spelled it out and most of us just expect it. Probably one of the most flagrant examples of disrespect is bullying, and like some of you, I received my share as a kid. It made me angry, resentful and retaliatory. However, in a strange way it forced me to toughen up and stand my ground. Perhaps retaliation is not always a wise move, but I have to admit that one day in high school biology, when I put hydrochloric acid on the seat of one clueless bully, the result was a glorious hole in his trousers and a whole lot of satisfaction in me.

Well, when bullying happens on a national level it usually stirs those same emotions. Two hundred years ago, on June 18, the young United States of America had had enough bullying from Great Britain. The Brits were placing embargoes on our foreign trade. Money was lost and vital goods were not received. They boarded our ships, uninvited, and kidnapped our sailors, forcing them to work on British vessels — it was called impressment. And in order to protect their lucrative trading posts, they incited Native Americans to wreak havoc on the frontier. We decided to stand our ground and retaliate with our first-ever declaration of war.


First approval came from the House of Representatives and then from the Senate. Only then did President James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” sign the historic document. The war that ensued is forever remembered by the year in which it commenced, but it actually lasted into January 1815.

Few people think about the War of 1812 in the same honored light that shines on the American Revolution or World War II, but it did produce its share of extraordinary historic events. At Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key wrote what became our national anthem, Washington, D.C., was burned by British hands and Commodore Oliver Perry did the unthinkable when he defeated a British fleet on Lake Erie.

Great leaders on all sides gave their lives in this fight. Arguably one of the greatest Native Americans, Tecumseh, was killed at the Battle of the Thames. Sir Isaac Brock, the revered British General, was killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights, and Zebulon Pike, after whom that mountain peak is named, fell while attacking York (Toronto).

Also, up-and-coming stars of history were born out of this conflict. Andrew Jackson, in the Battle of New Orleans, and William H. Harrison, leader of the Northwestern Army, both went on to the highest office in the land. Richard M. Johnson, leader of the Kentucky militia, went on to the second highest. And get this ­— dozens of elected men, politicians, got out of their cushy chairs, strapped on a powder horn and went to fight in the war they voted for. Can you imagine any politician, anywhere, today, ever putting his own life on the line in combat while still in office?

Tributes to the men who served during this two-and-a-half year conflict will begin soon across our country, as well as in Canada. Locally, the Way Public Library in Perrysburg starts things off by joining a statewide observance of this war’s commencement on June 18 at 11:30 a.m.

The outdoor ceremony will take place around the library’s flagpole, and at noon the historic Perrysburg Exchange Hotel bell will be rung, echoing simultaneously with others across the state. Join the mayor for a special 15-star flag-raising, a bagpipe performance and a reading of the war declaration.

You can even grab a free hot dog and soft drink — that’s better grub than the soldiers ever had to eat!

On June 20 at 7 p.m. Perrysburg’s native son, Douglas Brinkley, prominent historian and author, will speak about the significance of the War of 1812 and Northwest Ohio’s role in it at Way Library. (He’ll also talk about his new biography of Walter Cronkite, selling and signing copies of the book afterward.)

Then on Sun., June 24, at 4 p.m. you can take a guided walk through Fort Meigs Union Cemetery. Re-enactors will be featured at the gravesites of 15 War of 1812 veterans.

Have some free fun and learn why the heroes of 1812 deserve your respect!



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