War is defined as “an openly declared state of organized conflict, typified by extreme aggression, societal disruption, and high mortality” (Wikipedia). War is usually between two different groups or parties that disagree about certain issues. This report is about the early stages of the United States of America (U.S.A) and the non– familiar wars that shaped the country the way it is today.
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The French and Indian War started before the U.S.A was a country. This war helped the expansion of territories. It showcased George Washington in his first military leadership role. The war gave the colonists the passion to fight the British for our freedom later on in the Revolutionary War. As Reverend Samuel Johnson of Connecticut declared, “It is truly a miserable thing that we no sooner leave fighting our neighbors, the French, but we must fall to quarreling among ourselves” (Shmoop).
The Mexican-American War was about the encroachment of the Americans on Mexican land especially in Texas and California. The Mexican-American War produced and developed future officers and leaders of the War Between the States. The War also expanded the United States yet again. It inflamed the slavery issues in these territories as well. As Ashbel Smith former secretary of state for the Texas Republic stated, “the Mexican War is part of the mission of the destiny allotted to the Anglo-Saxon race on this continent. It is our destiny, our mission to Americanize this continent…. The sword is the great civilizer” (Pinzler).
These wars are sometimes forgotten or barely mentioned in United States history. They created future leaders and presidents of the United States. Their significances are stepping-stones to our military power, territory expansion, and our pride for our country.
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War started in 1754 and lasted until 1763. Wars between France and Britain were first fought in Europe. There were three phrases that led up to the French and Indian War. The first phase was from 1690- 1697 and it better known as the King William’s War. The second phase was Queen Anne’s War it is was fought in 1702 and lasted until 1713. The last phase before the French and Indian War was King George’s War and it was fought between 1744-1748. “Following the third of these conflicts, French authorities in North America began to establish a string of forts in the Ohio country west of the Allegheny Mountains”(US History). In 1755, France held most of the territories in America. It covered places from Canada and the stretch of land from the Mississippi River all the way to Louisiana. A group of Virginians received grants for land plots in the Ohio Valley. This land was supposed to be used for fur trading. This made tensions rise because the natives favored the French. They thought that the French traded more fairly and they did not threaten their land like the British. “In 1753, a small group of men were dispatched to the disputed territory by Virginia lieutenant governor Robert Dinwiddie. The intent was to deliver a letter of protest to French officials” (US History). They refused and on May 28, 1754 Washington and his forces broke out in battle and inflicted heavy casualties. Washington also took many captives. Then on July 3rd of that same year, the French forces struck back. After a day long battle, which was the first of the French and Indian War George Washington, signed terms of surrender and returned defeated. The French and Indian War had now officially begun.
The French and Indian War involved troops from Austria, England, Great Britain, Prussia, Sweden, and France. These troops and their leaders were involved in wars throughout Europe, India and North America. In early 1755, England sent two regiments to the colonies to protect them from the French and Indian invasions. Then in 1756, preparations were made for battles across the American frontier. The English planned to move up Lake Champlain and surrounding areas. The Canadians joined the war during the Battle of Oswego on August 10, 1756. The Canadian militia took over Fort Oswego. This capture interrupted the shipping off nearby Lake Ontario. Americans suffered greatly from the loss in this battle. Fort Duquesne was a failed attempt by General John Forbes’s British- American Army. He had 6,000 men recruited in Fort Cumberland in Maryland and an extra 2,000 led by George Washington. There was no reason that he could have not won. But on September 14, 1758 he falls to the French in the Battle of Fort Duquesne. On July 6- 26 in 1759, the French surrender to 2,500 British men in the Battle of Fort Niagara. This was a 20- day siege and then finally the British made the French surrender. This was one of the final battles in the Americas during the French and Indian War. “Then in 1759, the British won the Battle of The Plains of Abraham, which allowed them to occupy Quebec” (US History). In 1760, they captured Montreal, and this completed their takeover of Canada. This ended the war in North America. For the French they had Louis Joseph de Montcalm and for the British they had General James Wolfe. Both of the leaders were killed during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. In 1762, Spain entered the war as a French ally, but it suffered great defeats from the British. The British captured Havana and Manila in 1762. The Spanish started to rethink who they should be allies with.
This War had significant people on both sides. On the British side you had the Earl of Loundoun. He was an “appointed commander-in-chief of the British forces in 1756, Loundoun presided over, and caused, many devastating failures for the British” (Sparknotes). Then there was Major General Edward Braddock and he was with the
British. He was the 1st general to arrive from Britain. He was killed in the Battle of Fort Duquesne. The British had Lieutenant General Robert Dinwiddie as well. He was the colonial leader of Virginia in 1754. He was concerned about French troops approaching the Virginia border. He sent 22 year old George Washington to try to reach an agreement with French forces. Then there was the famous George Washington who was on the British side of this war. He was asked to resign after The Battle of Fort Necessity. He then returned to the war as a volunteer under British authority. He learned how to be a leader during this war. He then became our first president and really put his leadership skills to use. William Pitt was a strong force in the British military. He assumed leadership in 1756. His new policies were aggressive and were crucial parts in turning the tide in Britain’s favor in the second part of the war. The last significant person on the British side was James Wolfe. He was the Major British general who lead his troops to the victory during the Battle of Quebec. The French had key people as well in this war. Louis- Joseph de Montcalm was commander-in-chief of the French forces in North America. He was a respectful general but also was feared. He was killed in the Battle of Quebec. The other person significant to the French was Marquis de Vaudreull. He became governor of Canada in 1755 and he replaced Marquis Duquesne.
The tide in the war changed in 1756 when William Pitt became the British Secretary of State. The war finally ended in 1763 with The Treaty of Paris. In this treaty, France agreed to give Canada and all French territory east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans to England. All French territory west of the Mississippi along with New Orleans went to Spain. The war brought a victory to England. An effect that the war had on them was that they suffered tremendous financial losses. Even with all the losses the “british territorial claims greatly expanded in America”(Feldmeth). The colonies in America also were affected by this war. They gained self-confidence and military experience. They awakened to the idea of the need of colonial unity in order to fix common problems. Lastly the colonies “saw the danger of the French and certain Indian tribes and removed from their frontiers, thus lessening their dependence of the mother country” (Gordon). This caused thirteen North American colonies to break away from England and start the beginning of the United States of America. The French and Indian War’s long spiral of events eventually led to the start of the Revolution.
War of 1812
The next war that had a heavy impact on the United States was the War of 1812, which lasted from 1812 till 1814. It took place in Eastern and Central North America, Atlantic and the Pacific. “The basic causes of the War of 1812 were: 1) English interference with American trade, especially in the seizure of American ships, 2) English impressments of American sailors, 3) American resentment of England, dating back to Revolutionary days, 4) American belief that the English in Canada were arming the Indians and inciting them to raid American frontier settlements, and 5) American ambitions to annex Canada from England, and Florida from England’s ally, Spain” (Gordon). The United States attempted to change policies by using economic means. That did not work and on June 18, 1812 President James Madison signed a declaration of war that he passed through Congress. Ironically, Britain two days earlier had announced that it would revoke it orders. But it was too late and the War of 1812 had begun.
Important battles and events of the war included America’s attempts to conquer troops in Canada. All of the attempts failed and that participated greatly to America’s frustration during the war. Some events are even talked about to this day. They had affected history in a big way. One of those events was the British capturing Washington D.C and burning several Government buildings. The British troops then advanced to Fort McHenry at Baltimore. Fort McHenry was still standing after the bombardment. This event inspired Francis Scott Keys’s Star Spangled Banner. There were several battles as well during the war that affected its outcome. The first major battle was at Queenston Heights. It occurred on October 12, 1812. The outcome was that General Brock was shot and killed. Brock’s death was a major blow to the British. He inspired troops with his confidence. Sheaffe, his successor could not command the same respect. He was already known to many of the troops in Upper Canada as a harsh disciplinarian. The Battle of Queenston Heights was a huge boost to British morale. On August 24, 1814 something major took place that affected the British morale as well. “It was “the” battle to protect the heart of America, and the Americans failed” (Ducote). There were many reasons why the Americans lost this battle. The general lost confidence in his men and also in his own capabilities. Citizen soldiers also lost their nerve on the battlefield. This lost greatly impacted Washington D.C in the case that it left it exposed so the British could attack. Madison was forced to flee and the British came and burnt down the White House, Capitol, Treasury, and the War Office. Then the next day after they burnt down everything and collected what they wanted they went back to their ships and acted like nothing had happened. One of the most important battles for the U.S in the War of 1812 was the Battle of Plattsburg Bay. On September 3, 1814, Sir George Prevost and his troops crossed over the border into New York State. ” While the British army moved down the western side of Lake Champlain, the American troops fell back to Plattsburg and prepared to make a stand” (GalaFilm). The British getting ready for battle moved slowly down the lake being led by Captain George Downie. Brigadier General Alexander Macomb commanded the U.S forces. The Americans were outnumbered but they also had the support of Thomas Macdonough and his fleet of U.S ships. For two hours the British and U.S ships were in battle and fifteen minutes in George Downie was killed. Then a few hours later the British realized that they had been beaten and they surrendered. For the United States, it was a great morale booster. The last battle that was important in the War of 1812 was The Battle of New Orleans. This battle took place on December 23, 1814 till January 26, 1815. General Andrew Jackson commanded American forces. He defeated the invading British army who had intended on seizing and taking control of New Orleans. They wanted the land acquired by America in the Louisiana Purchase as well. The ironic part was that the Treaty of Ghent was signed the day after the battle had started. But news of the peace would not reach the troops until February. The battle is often regarded as the greatest American land victory of the war. It had no impact on the final settlement though.
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There were many significant people in this War. “It generated a cast of new American heroes, including two future presidents” (Shmoop). One of those men is Andrew Jackson. He commanded American forces at New Orleans. He then became our Seventh President and preserved the Union when South Carolina wanted to secede. William Henry Harrison our ninth President also commanded forces in the war. An additional major person that affected this war was Harrison Gray Otis. “As a leader within the Federalist Party during the War of 1812, he participated in the Hartford Convention, a meeting of New England Federalists called to coordinate the region’s opposition to the war” (Shmoop). He was a symbol for Federalist discontent throughout the war. The President at the time of the War of 1812 was James Madison. He is known for making the first war that was heavily influenced by the American Public. He said that we needed the war because Britain was blocking U.S ports and the British refusing to repeal an order that forbad certain countries to trade with European countries. The Secretary of War under Madison was John Armstrong. He served in the Continental Army during the Revolution. In the War of 1812, he was criticized for his performance. He had to cope with a small army, aging officers, a small fleet of ships and unpredictable funds. There was a great deal of struggle from New England governors who were unwilling to meet Armstrong’s troop requests. After being criticized by people for a time he finally resigned on September 4, 1814. Native Americans also played a part in the war. A major Indian was Tecumseh, and he sided with the British to fight against U. S forces. At the Battle of Thames in 1813 Tecumseh was killed and the British and Indian forces fell to the American militia. Thames is located in present-day Chatham, Ontario in Upper Canada. His death led to the destruction of the Native American coalition, which he led.
The War of 1812 reaffirmed American Independence. This war was the second time we had gone into battle against Britain and it was the second time that we came out victorious. After this war, no other country would question our independence or our army as a whole. The war also resulted in the death of the Federalist Party. The war came to an end with The Treaty of Ghent. Although the Treaty of Ghent addressed none of the original grievances that started the War of 1812, most Americans considered it a success. The treaty was used to bring the hostility between England and the United States to an end. It included conditions such as all land territory and prisoners be returned to the respective side. After the War of 1812 had ended and the treaty was signed people in the United States were full of pride. This is the reason it was nicknamed the “second War for American Independence.” Americans also turned their attention away from affairs in Europe. They started to be more concerned in their own domestic affairs and also conquests and settlements of the West. Another result that the War of 1812 had was that industrialization was greatly encouraged. “The war cut off the imports of foreign goods, thus creating a demand for American manufactures” (Gordon). The Federalist Party dissipated after the war. They disappeared because that were ridiculed and accused of treason after the Hartford Convention. They expired as a political party because no Americans wanted to be linked to them anymore. Overall historians argue that the war was actually just a waste of time, lives, and resources.
Mexican- American War
In 1846, war broke out between Mexico and America and it lasted until 1848. The pressing issue that caused this war was the annexation of Texas in 1845. Mexico decided not to negotiate, the United States prepared to take Mexico by force and take what they could. There is one certain event that happened before the declaration of war that changed the way Texans and Mexicans felt about each other. This event was the Battle of The Alamo. “The battle of the Alamo was part of the annexation of Texas from Mexico, which took place ten years before the Mexican American War. This annexation is believed to be one of the major factors leading up to the war” (UEN). The Alamo was used for both the Revolutionaries and the Royalists during Mexico’s ten-year struggle for independence. People remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against impossible odds and a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason, the Alamo is known as the Shrine of Texas Liberty. A boundary dispute was also a cause of the Mexican War. The U. S said that the southern border of Texas was formed from the Rio Grande. Mexico disputed that the boundary traditionally was at Nueces River, which was farther north. Then there was the question about California as well. President Polk wanted to expand the country to the Pacific Ocean. This was a showing of Polk wanting to abide by Manifest Destiny. The last big cause of the Mexican- American War was monetary claims against Mexico. The U.S had a promise with Mexico and its government. The promise was to pay $3 million to cover claims of citizens who lost property during turmoil and revolts. “Mexico defaulted on those payments and the American creditors pressed their government for action” (US History). The U.S declared war on May 13, 1846 and after a couple of battles Mexico declared war on July 7 of that same year.
Important events and battles took place during the Mexican- American War. One of them was Taylor’s campaign in Northeastern Mexico. General Zachary Taylor led an army of 2, 499 men towards Fort Texas. But along the way Mariano Arista and his army of 3,400 Mexicans intercepted him. Taylor’s men however were successful and forced the Mexicans to retreat. This was better known as the Battle of Resaca de la Palma and it took place on May 9 1846. July 7 of that same year was another important win to the Americans. They fought in The Battle of Monterey and won and gained Monterey as a place to store U.S Navy vessels. An important win for the Mexicans that year was on September 22-30 and the Siege of Los Angeles. General José Marià Flores led Mexican and Californians troops and they retook control of Los Angeles. Los Angeles was an area of struggle for both Mexico and America. On January 8, 1847 in The Battle of Rio San Gabriel there was a series of battles for control of Los Angeles. Then the next day there was the Battle of La Mesa, which was the last conflict before U.S forces entered Los Angeles. U. S forces defeated the Mexicans and gained back control. Another hot spot for fighting was in Mexico City. On September 13 and 14, fierce fighting broke in what is known as the Battle for Mexico City. Mexican politicians surrendered the city to the U.S after a year of battle.
“Despite early popularity at home, the war was marked by the growth of a loud anti-war movement, which included such noted Americans as Ralph Waldo Emerson, former president John Quincy Adams and Henry David Thoreau” (The History Guy). Other key people in the Mexican- American War start with the president of the time, which was James Polk. He was the eleventh president of the United States. However two days after he took office, relations between Mexico and the United States went downhill because of the annexation of Texas. Manifest Destiny is usually linked to Polk. Manifest Destiny was “nineteenth-century belief that the United States had a mission to expand westward across the North American continent, spreading its form of democracy, freedom, and culture” (New World Encyclopedia). Franklin Pierce was our fourteenth president and also was a brigadier general in the Mexican War. He led 2,400 troops in The Battle of Mexico City. Besides Pierce, Polk relied on General Winfield Scott during the war. Scott led the invasion of Mexico City in September 1847 and he became the first American officer to ever lead an invasion of a foreign capital. Scott was bold and daring in his strategies. The war made Scott a national hero and he commanded the southern attacks during the war. Another commander during the war was General Stephen W. Kearny. He commanded the Army of the West. In August of 1846, he and 1,600 troops occupied Santa Fe and he helped to organize a new civil government for New Mexico. General Zachary Taylor was important during the Mexican- American War. He commanded the campaign in the north and he later became the twelfth president. ” President Polk ordered General Taylor to approach the Rio Grande after the U. S annexed Texas in late 1845″ (Shmoop). He had successes with campaigns at Palo Alto and at Resaca de la Palma. His victory at Buena Vista made him a hero and well liked. Taylor was nominated for President on the Whig ticket because of his popularity. He assumed office in 1849. The key person on the Mexican side of this war was Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna. He was the president of Mexico and a general. He capitalized on post- independence Mexico because he sided with the dominant splinter group. He was always appearing in pivotal nineteenth century event that concerned the American plans for expansion of Texas. He was seen as the leader in the famous Battle of The Alamo. “When war did break out in 1846, the then exiled Santa Anna returned to Mexico and took command of a Mexican army” (Shmoop). After the chaos and casualties during the invasion of Mexico City by the Americans Santa Anna resigned and left the government leading to a collapse.
The end of the Mexican- American War was on February 2, 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. The land of current California, Nevada, Utah and parts of states bordering those were handed over to the United States Mexico also accepted Texas and its new southern boundary. Mexico also received $15 million from U.S for damages that had been done. Lasting effects that the Mexican- American War had was gains in territory for the United States. An internal conflict over slavery was also brought up and affected the downfall of the Mexican government. Mexico for a while did not like America and was not very polite. Mexico lost vast amounts of land and they were bitter and their government was collapsing because of uprising that took place during and after the war. U.S was affected in a way that they benefited and got hurt because of the war at the same time. The gained many territories but the aftermath in Congress was dreadful. There was the building of hatred between the North and South and it about the practice of slavery. This war featured the first major amphibious landing by U.S. forces in history. “Many historians have regarded the Mexican War as an ignoble exercise of power fueled by the Southern slave owners’ expansionist needs” (US History).
According to Benjamin Franklin, “There never was a good war or a bad peace” (AntiWar). This was true about the French and Indian War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War. The French and Indian War’s biggest casualty were the Native Americans. The end of the War of 1812 brought harmony and friendship to the U.S.A and Britain. The Mexican-American War gave U.S the territories from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and in between. It fostered the issue of slavery in these new territories and that was one of the main reasons for the United States Civil War as well. These wars should be analyzed and reviewed because of the essential parts they play in the foundation of the United States of America.