Happy Defenders Day!
Today is Defenders Day: “The Day Dundalk Saved America.” The Battle of Baltimore is today remembered as a pivotal moment in the War of 1812. And that war, turns out, was a crucible of the national psyche.
It was America’s first war of choice, the first one we didn’t win and the first time the U.S. Capitol got burned to the ground. It also gave us some great memories though—the Star Spangled Banner, Chasseur (AKA “The Pride of Baltimore”) capturing all those British merchant vessels, the Battle of New Orleans (alas, after the war was over) and the sense of righteous invincibility that dominates the country to this day.
If you want to understand how and why American foreign policy has ever since been conducted as if by a pre-adolescent boy throwing a tantrum, get familiar with America’s First Really Stupid War.
Q. Why did it start?
A. The British were fighting Napoleon’s France™, and some of our stuff got blockaded. Also, the British navy was such a sucky employer that tons of sailors deserted, mostly to U.S. merchant ships. The Brits took to shaking down U.S. ships and snatching back their sailors—plus a few Americans too. Also, we hated those fuckers generally ‘cause they fought us in 1776. In short, they hated our freedom!
Q. What did we want?
A. Canada (and no more pesky Indians standing in the way of Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny & Excellent Surfing Beaches)
Q. How did we fight?
A. Pretty much like we do now: dirty, with private contractors mostly indistinguishable from pirates.
Q. How did it end?
A. After Britain beat Napolean, France and England became allies and England stopped snatching sailors. Neither Britain nor the U.S. had won and much of the reason the fight started had ended. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814.
Q. Why do Americans celebrate it when everyone else involved considers it a footnote?
A. Cuz ‘Merica, that’s why.