North Carolina - The War of 1812

Dolley Payne Madison (1768-1849)

In the early nineteenth century North Carolinians were quite aware of England's continued friendly relations with the Indians on the frontier. Outposts in Canada stocked guns and ammunition with which they supplied the various Indian nations. England's provocation of the young nation of the United States of America increased markedly between 1793 and 1812, when England and France were at war. Both nations disregarded the rights of neutrals and stopped American ships on the high seas in search of their own nationals who might be evading military service.

In 1807, a British ship fire on an American ship, boarded it, and removed four sailors, three of who were American. Attempts to negotiate these differences with England failed, but in time France stopped this practice. The Embargo Act of 1807, stopping all but coastal trade harmed the United States more than it did England or France, and it was repealed two years later. Subsequently, a non-intercourse act prohibited trade with the offending nations, but it was generally ineffective. President James Madison finally recommended that preparations be made for war.

The War of 1812 had little effect on North Carolina except that people were divided in their support. Many said that the United State had withstood the insults of both England and France for years, and that no new incindences had occurred. Others agreed that the freedom of the seas should be defended. Some of the state's congressmen supported President Madison, while others rejected his call for assistance. Recruiting teams found men eager to serve and the state contributed several important heroes to the war.

Click Here for more information on those who served in Military Units and the US Navy from North Carolina.

Within the state of North Carolina there were only two minor skirmishes between the British and locals. For five days, July 12-16, 1813, the British landed troops and occupied the small towns of Okracoke in Hyde County and Portsmouth in Carteret County - both on the barrier island of the outer banks.

President Madison's wife, Dolley Payne Madison, was a native of North Carolina. In Washington, DC, as the British were entering the city from the opposite direction, she delayed her departure from the Executive Mansion long enough to collect the presidential silver and executive papers, and to cut a portrait of George Washington from its frame. She tosse these into the foot of the carriage in which she and the president escaped before the British burned the residence. Later, the blackened walls were painted white and the mansion became known as the White House.

Benjamin Forsyth of Stokes County was a lieutenant colonel in the US Army in 1814, when he distinguished himself along the northern border. He was killed at Odelltown in Canada and, like General Francis Nash of the Revolutionary War, he came to be regarded as a hero. The state presented a handsome sword to his eight-year-old son and awarded him $250 a year for seven years.

Otway Burns of Onslow County was a ship captain and a shipbuilder. During the War of 1812, as a licensed privateer operating up and down the Atlantic Coast, he brought in large quantities of supplies useful to the war effort.

Captain Johnston Blakely lived in Wilmington and in Pittsboro; after attending the University of North Carolina, he began a naval career. As the commander of several warships he sailed boldly around England capturing and destroying British shipping efforts. On the last occasion, after seizing a valuable cargo and placing a prize crew aboard to take it to America, he sailed east. Soon, smoke was seen on the horizon but the fate of Captain Blakely and his ship was never determined. The North Carolina General Assembly gave his young daughter a handsome silver tea service and provided funds for her education.

Another native hero was General Andrew Jackson, a native of the Waxhaw region along the North Carolina-South Carolina border. He read law in Salisbury and was licensed to practice in the state, living in Greensboro for a time before moving west to Tennessee. In the War of 1812, he became the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, where he won a great victory with few American losses. Because of the long time it took for messages to cross the Atlantic Ocean, this battle was fought after the terms of peace had been agreed upon.

The War of 1812, which lasted more than three years, settled almost nothing. The British no longer stopped American ships on the high seas, but neithr Canada nor Florida was taken by the United States as many people had expected. On the other hand, General Jackson's campaign in the South shattered England's standing among the Indians and opened large tracts of land in Georgia and Alabama to white settlement. This fact alone probably had the greatest subsequent impact on the state of North Carolina as a consequence of the War of 1812, because immediately thereafter the state saw mass emigrations to the newly-opened "free" lands in the south and west, and these were to continue for many decades thereafter.

At the conclusion of the War of 1812, the Federal government initiated a new round of tariffs, beginning with the Tariff of 1816, which increased the price of British goods so that American goods could compete with them. After the Revolutionary War, the Federal government operated financially primarily as a result of tariffs since at that time there was no income taxation. The Tariff of 1816 was officially enacted to protect American manufacturers, but once again it advanced the nation's position towards protectionism and hurt the South more than it helped the North. This new tarrif, along with other miscalculations of the early Federal government led to the Panic of 1819, which harmed the South even more and was another step in increasing the rift between Southern and Northern factions that began as soon as the nation was formed.

Click Here for a good summary of the War of 1812 provided by the US Army historians.


 


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