The USS Constitution as it fought the British warship HMS Guerriere off the coast of New Jersey in 1812. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
War of 1812 Timeline - Major Battles
It had only been twenty years since the first battle for independence had been fought and won over the British Empire with a new Constitution and the presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams in the books. But hostilities and disagreements between the fledgling nation, the United States, and Britain, had not abatted. By 1812, another war would be fought, for four more years, with the White House burned and strife from New England to Michigan, from Canada to the South. Many of these battles are not well known, even the burning of the new capital city is below the radar in american history for most, but this war, unlike the American Revolution, would solidify the nation as separate from Great Britain and capable of defending its territory. This time, the War of 1812 would hold its sovereignty. The battles listed below are considered the major battles of the War of 1812 by the staff of americasbesthistory.com, some protected by National Park Service sites, state parks, and others still to be protected.
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- Battle Timeline
July 17, 1812 - Capture of Fort Michilimackinac Island (Fort Mackinac)
Troops: USA 60; British/Indian Allies 600.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 0; British/Indian Allies 0.
United States garrison surrenders without a fight, in no communication for months with Washington, with two arriving ships Fort Dearborn unaware of the War's start and formal declaration of war on June 18, surrendering to British troops days later.
July 17, 1812 - Capture of USS Nautilus (New Jersey)
Troops: USA 1 ship; British 1 ship.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 1 ship; British 0.
HMS Shannon, while blockading American ports, captures first ship of the war, the USS Nautilus off the coast of New Jersey.
July 19, 1812 - 1st Battle of Sacket's Harbor, New York
Troops: USA 1 ships, 1 shore battery; British 5 ships.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 0; British 8, ships damaged.
First battle of the war with first shots fired results in U.S. victory repelling the attack of the British Navy against the town and shipbuilding yard.
August 13, 1812 - Capture of HMS Alert (New Jersey)
Troops: USA 1 ship; British 1 ship.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 0; British 1 ship and cargo.
USS Essex captures first British ship of the war after eight minute battle.
August 15, 1812 - Massacre at Fort Dearborn
Troops: USA 93, including civilians; Indian Allies 400-500.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 52, additional 41 captured; Indian Allies 15.
While attempting to evacuate Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Fort Wayne, American soldiers and civilians are attacked by Indian allies of the British in fifteen minute battle. Indians destroy Fort Dearborn after battle.
August 15-16, 1812 - Battle of Detroit
Troops: USA 2,182, including militia; British 730, Indian Allies 600.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 7, additional 2,493 captured; British 2.
Bombardment of Fort Detroit from Canadian side of the Detroit River and the feint of Tecumseh's warriors pretending to be a larger force cause General Hull to surrender before reinforcement could arrive.
August 19, 1812 - USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere
Troops: USA 1 frigate, 450 sailors; British 1 frigate, 272 sailors.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 14; British 93, 257 captured, frigate.
Important morale boost occurs in battle southeast of Newfoundland when the USS Constitution sinks the HMS Guerriere.
September 4-15, 1812 - Siege of Fort Harrison
Troops: USA 50 with 1,000 reinforcements on September 12; British Indian Allies 600.
Casualties: USA 28; British Indian Allies, NA.
Garrison soldiers under future President Zachary Taylor near present day Terre Haute, Indiana, hold out larger Indian force until reinforcements from Vincennes arrive, dispersing the attacking force. First land victory of War of 1812 for USA.
September 5-12, 1812 - Siege of Fort Wayne
Troops: USA Garrison troops 100, relief 2,200; British Indian Allies 500.
Casualties: USA NA; British Indian Allies 25.
Garrison troops, gaining news of approaching troops from a scouting party, hold out until Major General William Henry Harrison and his reinforcements arrive. Harrison would order punitive raids against the Miami Indian tribe after the attack.
October 9, 1812 - Capture of HMS Caledonia and HMS Detroit
Troops: USA 100; British 2 ships.
Casualties: USA NA; British 2 ships.
Small group of American troops cross Niagara River into Canada and capture two British ships near Fort Erie. HMS Caledonia recommissioned into US service; HMS Detroit set on fire when British troops approached.
October 13, 1812 - Battle of Queenston Heights
Troops: USA 3,550; British 1,300, including natives.
Casualties: USA 270, 835 captured; British 106, 22 captured.
First major battle in the War of 1812 ends in British victory when American forces surrender in their attempt to invade Upper Canada (Ontario) when British reinforcements arrive.
October 18, 1812 - Capture of HMS Frolic, USS Wasp
Troops: USA 1 ship, 135 sailors; British 1 ship, 110 sailors.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 11; British 90.
USS Wasp captures the HMS Frolic in Atlantic Ocean battle, but succumbs to the HMS Poictiers while trying to make repairs. HMS Frolic was too damaged in initial battle to be salvaged.
November 28, 1812 - Battle of Frenchman's Creek
Troops: USA 770; British/Upper Canada 650.
Casualties: USA 79, 39 captured; British/Upper Canada 57, 34 captured.
Raid by American forces across the Niagara River to prepared for larger attack. American victory wasted when larger invasion was cancelled.
December 17-18, 1812 - Battle of the Mississinewa
Troops: USA 600; British Indian Allies 300.
Casualties: USA 58; British Indian Allies 38, 42 captured.
General Harrison attack Miami tribe Indian villages in retaliation for the attack on Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison.
December 29, 1812 - USS Constitution vs. HMS Java
Troops: USA 1 frigate, NA sailors; British 1 frigate, 475 sailors.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): USA 66; British 124, frigate.
Constitution destroys the British ship in two and one half hour battle off the coast of Brazil.
Note: Photo above: Image of the Battle of Queenston Heights, John David Kelly, 1896. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Casualty and troop strength numbers from Wikipedia Commons via various sources.